2-Sentence Hook?

Can you actually hook a reader in two sentences? I have problems with my elevator speech and that’s a lot longer than two sentences. However, the answer is yes, and I know from experience, you had better hook your reader, or literary agent, right away if you want to make a sell.

The next question for me, is how do I write a 2-sentence hook? My story is complicated, and I don’t even know where to begin.

A 2-story hook has three components. These not only provide the gist of your story, but also an abbreviated outline of what you are trying to accomplish.

  1. Character –  Who is your hero or heroine? You don’t want to give that character a name in your 2-sentence write up. Give them an identity.                     Not Anne, but a young orphan girl.                                                                                Not James, but a young boy born into slavery.
  2. Core Desire – What does your character really want? To be loved, respected? To become famous or rich? What is motivating your characters actions? This is something I’ve discussed in previous blogs. It has to be relatable.
  3. Obstacle – The inciting incident threatening the core identity of your hero/heroine. It doesn’t have to be a big problem, but it does have to be big in your character’s mind.

You can embellish your hook by adding more description or upping the stakes (the clock is ticking).

A young corpsman involved in an IED explosion in Afghanistan loses his memory and struggles to regain his identity.  He is misidentified and placed in the home of total strangers.

My first attempt at a 2-sentence hook. It leaves a lot of questions, but I guess that is the hook. Hopefully your reader will want to know more.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

2-Sentence Hook?

Avoid Speed Bumps

1490400252235When you’re writing a novel, you want your story to keep moving forward from beginning to end. If your reader stops at any point while reading, you have set up a speed bump and created an opportunity for your reader to slip out of their suspension of disbelief.

You want them to continue at a nice, smooth pace until the end, accepting every coincidence and slightly questionable story line. They should be lost in the story not in your words.

Common Speed Bumps of Aspiring Authors

Beautified Prose/Written-eese

“The firedrop from the pommel of Tambre’s sword shot past the shimmering silver mist of her involuntary dispersal.”

Now that was a pretty sentence, but you can’t tell me it didn’t slow you down and make you think about what the author was actually trying to say. If you’re like me, you had to read it several times

Trying to impress others with your words is not the way to go. Be natural, be yourself, and it would probably help if you closed the thesaurus as well.

On-The-Nose Writing

Prose that mirrors real life without advancing your story.

Paige’s phone chirped, telling her she had a call. She slid her bag off her shoulder, opened it, pulled out her cell, hit the Accept Call button and put it to her ear.       

“This is Paige,” she said.

“Hey, Paige.”

She recognized her fiancé’s voice. “Jim, darling! Hello!”

We don’t need to be told that the chirp told her she had a call, that her phone is in her purse, that her purse is over her shoulder, that she has to open it to get her phone, push a button to take the call, identify herself to the caller, be informed who it is.  I think you’re getting the point.

Narrative lumps

Prose that comes out of nowhere and does nothing but describe, is known as a ‘narrative lump’. It can bring your story to a stand still and pull your reader out of the action. Instead of progressing through your storyline, they find themselves on the outside looking in.

I’m not saying you can’t use description. Description is good and helps your reader visualize characters, settings, and much more. But it should be used sparingly. It should add to and enhance your sentence, not distract and overtake it.

One word of caution when using research material to make your story more authentic, remember your research and detail are the seasoning for the story. Don’t make them centerstage. You don’t want to overwhelm your readers with unnecessary information.

Head Hopping

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash. You should never have more than one POV character per scene.

You should also avoid run-on sentences, close the thesaurus (I think you know what I’m getting at), and purchase a copy of ‘The Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White-I’m just saying 🙂

 

-Jan R

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avoid Speed Bumps

Past Or Present?

past-present.jpgHave you thought about what tense you will be writing your story in? To be honest, I never thought about tense from that perspective. I knew the tense in my sentences had to be in agreement, and I made sure I was producing grammatically correct prose, but I never thought about the entire novel being written in a specific tense.

While there are many different tenses in the English language. You will only find two being used consistently in novels. The story will either be written in the Past tense or the Present tense.

As in many other aspects of writing, there is no wrong choice with the tense you decide to use. It’s more of a preference. There are pros and cons to each, and the tense you use may even boil down to the genre of your work.

The present tense isn’t a fan favorite, because it’s not how we tell stories. Think about when you talk to friends and are sharing an experience. It’s in the past tense.

Present tense can sound contrived and unnatural, at least at first, but one thing present tense has going for it is it makes you feel like you are right there in the middle of the action. There’s uncertainty and suspense. Events are unfolding as you read, anything could happen.

My novel is written in past tense, as are most. When you read a book in past tense, you know the person is sitting in the library writing memories and there’s no stress. They didn’t die, or they wouldn’t be able to share their story.

Following is a great example of a passage written in the past and present tense. You decide which one you like better.

Past

Jessica counted silently to five then made her move. She opened the window slowly and slid into the room, her finger to her lips to keep the child quiet. “Sarah, it’s Jessica, remember me?” She whispered

The young girl shook her head.

“We have to get you out of here away from the bad man.” Jessica motioned her toward the window.

“But he said he would hurt me if I moved.”

“He will if we don’t get you out of here now.”

Present

Jessica counts slowly to five then makes her move. She slides the window open then enters the room holding her finger to her lips to keep the child quiet. “Sarah, it’s Jessica, remember me?

Sarah shakes her head, her pigtails bouncing.

“We have to get you out of here away from the bad man. You must be very quiet.”

“That bad man said he would hurt me if I moved,” Sarah whispered.

“He will if you don’t come now, quickly.

So what do you think? Take a section of your novel and write it in both tenses. Which one do you think works best?

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Past Or Present?

Inner Conflict

write-character-edgeYour novel is made up of outer conflict and inner conflict. The outer conflict is what we observe. It’s the plot, the incidents inciting action and moving our story forward.

An outer conflict could be war, divorce, medical issues,  political instability… The sky is the limit. All you need is a good imagination and the ability to pull it all together.

In order for the outer conflict to work, the protagonist has to engage. The outer conflict usually starts out at one level, and the stakes are raised, making a bad situation worse until it’s almost impossible to overcome.

You want action and excitement, but remember, the inner conflict is what will connect your reader to the protagonist and pull them into the story. By showing the protagonist’s inner conflict, you are allowing your reader to see things through his/her eyes and to empathize with him/her.  You are creating that emotional bond. You’re building a relationship between your protagonist and your reader.

Inner conflicts could be the desire to be loved, the need to be understood, stress due to financial issues, guilt, jealousy, fear of failure, pride…

Something else to think about.

-Jan R

 

 

 

Inner Conflict

Point Of View?

1404775735Have you thought about the point of view you will be using when you write your novel? Whose head will you be in?

You may be wondering what I’m talking about. What is the point of view? To put it simply, it’s the voice with which you tell your story.

There are three commonly used points of view in novels. They all have their pros and cons, but if you’re a newbie, omniscient isn’t the way to go. Even accomplished writers struggle with transitions.

Omniscient/ 3rd person omniscient-

  • He/She
  • God-like. You are all knowing and all seeing. You have the ability to look into everybody’s head at once.
  • This can and usually does result in head-hopping.  If you’re not skillful enough to create a smooth transition from one person’s thoughts to another’s, and odds are you are not, don’t use it.
  • Editors and agents will guess you’re new right away because you don’t know what you’re doing.

3rd person limited

  • He/She
  • Places you in one person’s head at a time.
  • You can transition into other character’s heads, but you should limit viewpoints to one per scene, preferably chapter, ideally novel.
  • If you can limit the point of view to the protagonist, you’ll have a stronger story. Harry Potter and the Hunger Games have one viewpoint, the protagonist.
  • If you’re writing a romance, consider writing it from the female point of view.

1st person-

  • I/Me
  • You’re in one person’s head for the entirety of the novel.
  • It’s how we narrate stories we are sharing with our friends.
  •  Your reader becomes the character and believes everything is real.
  • The reader is drawn into the story much quicker than with other points of view.
  • 1st person forces you to stay in one point of view, which makes it a great choice for new writers.

I didn’t mention 2nd person point of view because it is rarely used in novels. 2nd person is you/your and is commonly used in instructional writing.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Point Of View?

It’s Your Story (Revisited)

3aefcc38a20542bd3ee999eca594de5eI’ve shared this blog before, but it’s been a while, and a message I think needs to be heard. As new writers, we sometimes listen to everybody but ourselves. Our friends and critique partners mean well, but if you let them, some will try to take over your novel and mold it into what they think it should be.

I was sitting on my couch reworking a scene in the novel I’m writing and stopped right in the middle of it. What am I doing? I asked myself. The purpose of the rewrite was to make some changes based on a critique I received from a critique partner.

The person that critiqued my book is very good at the craft, and I respect her opinion. There were others who critiqued the piece and loved it, offering a few comments here and there to correct grammar or replace a word. So who was right? The three people who loved it, or the one who thought I needed to go back and make some significant changes.

The more I looked at the changes this person suggested, the more I realized she had her own idea of the way the story needed to go, and I had mine.

With this being said, she’s made some great suggestions. Because of her, my story is more believable, my dialogue more natural, and my POV more consistent. Her critiques have been invaluable.

However, I had to remind myself that this is my story. Nobody has a better understanding of the dynamics than I do. Nobody knows it from beginning to end but me. Nobody can tell it better than me.

Weigh comments and suggestions you receive from others and ask this question. Is it making my story better or changing it into something it is not?

Remember: It’s your story.

-Jan R

It’s Your Story (Revisited)

Your Protagonist

protagonist-versus-antagonistYour protagonist is the most important character in the novel. He/she will be in every moment, even if not in every scene.

It’s recommended that you have only one main character in your novel. However, some do have more. Romances, for example, usually have two main characters and are for all intents and purposes, two stories running simultaneously.

Things to keep in mind when developing your main character…

  • Introduce them in the beginning. You want your reader to bond with them more than any other character.
  • Make them active. Nobody wants to read about someone sitting on the couch doing nothing all day.
  • Give them a cause greater than themselves. Dream big.
  • Create conflict around them that battles against their flaws.
  • Make your protagonist complex. Nobody wants a goody-goody two shoes that skips through life with no adversity.
  • Keep your protagonist in character. Be consistent. If you show a change in what one would expect the character to do, you must show a reason.
  • Draw on yourself, friends, people you look up to, to build your character.
  • Create sympathy for your character. You want your reader to care about them and what they are going through.
  • Make them virtuous, clever, and generous. You want your reader to like them.
  • Make your character attractive. I know this isn’t politically correct, but it’s what works.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

Your Protagonist

Underlying Elements

flawopportunityThere are four main dramatic elements to your novel. You probably never thought about it, but if you did it right, they are there. If they’re missing, you need to revisit your work and make some adjustments.

That’s one of the nice things about writing. Nothing is set in stone, and when equipped with time and knowledge, you can change anything.

So back to the blog and the elements that I was referring to.

  1. Passion – yours not the Novels. Write something that you are passionate about. If you’re not passionate, it will come through. What’s important to you?  What are you trying to get across? What do you want to be the takeaway?
  2. Theme – what your reader takes away from reading your story.  Yes, the theme and passion can be the same thing and probably are in a great many cases. Examples of theme would be, belief in yourself or all things work for the good of those who serve the Lord. 
  3. Flaws – your character must have flaws. They don’t have to be exaggerated or grotesque but face it, nobody is perfect. Talk about a boring read.                                  The flaw could be as simple as a lack of confidence or the inability to put the past behind them.  The character doesn’t have confidence,  so the theme would probably be, believe in yourself. Note how they can work hand in hand and build on each other.
  4.  Premise – What if a (flawed character)(encounters some problem) and had to (overcome the flaw) to (solve the problem). You know your story. Fill in the blanks. Does it make sense? Is it enthralling or boring?

One of the things that the agent wrote to me after rejecting my work, was I had a great premise. It was a silver lining to a dark cloud that sprung up after the initial shock of being rejected. And while I thought the passion and theme were there, my characters were not flawed, which means that my passion and theme were probably weak.

Something to think about.

-Jan R

 

Underlying Elements

Plot Vs Story

James_Bond_(Pierce_Brosnan)_-_ProfilePlot versus story? I have to be honest, I thought they were the same thing. I was listening to an instructor this week who set me straight. They are not, and both components are necessary for a successful novel.

The Plot is the physical journey your character takes. It’s the action, the conflict, the spine of the novel. You can restate the plot by asking yourself what happened. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The Story is the emotional journey. It’s everything the character experiences and how they experience it. Its what’s going on in the character’s head in reaction to what’s happening around them.

If you want a great novel, you have to have both. If the story (emotional journey) is missing, the reader will not be able to connect with the characters and understand their motivations. They will simply be placed in one thrilling scene after another.

If the plot is missing, there will be too much emotion and not enough action. Your characters will get bogged down in the muck and your reader will become frustrated.

A great example of plot vs. story was shared by an instructor of a course I have been taking. He was quick to point out that books are more story oriented than movies because you can get into your characters’ heads. He chose to use movies for his example because more people would be familiar with what he presented.

James Bond films, especially the older ones, are long on action/plot with only a touch of emotion.

The Twilight Trilogy is steeped in atmosphere and internal battles. The trilogy is story/emotion heavy with less plot.

Harry Potter is a great representation of balance. There is a lot of action combined with an emotional journey that transforms Harry into the Wizard he is destined to become.

Plot and Story work together. Plot causes a reaction in the character (story), and this reaction leads to further action (plot).

Hope I didn’t confuse you. My intention as always is to give you something to think about and hopefully help you along the way to becoming published.

-Jan R

 

Plot Vs Story