Hook an Agent


Here’s a redux from Miss Snark’s archived website: how to write a great hook for a novel? You would use this short paragraph as you compose a cover letter or a query letter.

How to Write a Great Novel Hook

The indomitable Miss Snark suggested that you structure a hook for your story along these lines:

X is the main guy; he wants to do:
Y is the bad guy; he wants to do:
they meet at Z and all L breaks loose.
If they don’t resolve Q, then R starts and if they do it’s L squared.

  • X: give the main character a specific name and explain what s/he wants.
  • Y: give the antagonist a specific name and explain what s/he wants.
  • Z: this is the setting or context of the story; what event is taking place?
  • L: of course, X can’t get what s/he wants right away! What prevents, stops, slows X in his/her quest?
  • Q, R, L: these are references to what is at stake in the story. Q talks about what happens if X fails — it’s the “so what?” of the story. R is the complications and escalation of stakes — how can you make this matter more?. L discusses the payoff for X (and the reader) when X finally succeeds.

And, my friend DH reminded me of this: how does this stand out in today’s crowded market?

Related Articles about Writing a Synopsis

Synopsis is often used as a synonym for a hook. I see more as a longer document that explains everything in the story, scene by scene.