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On hold - Hook: Burning Heart (epic fantasy)

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#1 CM_Fick

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Posted 06 March 2017 - 01:50 PM

Update in #7

 

Hello all, 

 

Here are 2 hooks I'm currently working with and I would like feedback on which is worded better. For any of you who've assisted with my query, I'm currently looking at working on an Ember-centric approach that includes Vashti as a named character. 

 

Version #1

The four elements are not just inanimate objects -- they are semi-sentient constructs that maintain the balance in the world. Ruled by this balance, and given life by the elements, Ember and Vashti are fundamentally opposite at their core. Created by the dark, Vashti's only purpose is to do her master's malevolent bidding, while Ember, created by the light, is free to choose her own path.

 

[Ember paragraph begins here]

 

Version #2

The four elements are not just inanimate objects -- they are semi-sentient and vital in maintaining the balance between light and dark. In a world ruled by this balance, and given life by the elements, Ember and Vashti are fundamentally opposite, despite their identical composition. Created by the dark, Vashti's only purpose is to do her master's malevolent bidding, while Ember, created by the light, is free to choose her own path.

 

[Ember paragraph begins here]

 

I'll happily return the critique if you point me in the right direction. Thank you in advance! 



#2 natwoodruff

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Posted 16 March 2017 - 02:54 AM

Why are they crossed out?  Not sure if that was intentional or not. 

 

I read a lot of fantasy (my fave!) and I don't think there needs to be as much world-building as you've included here.  Perhaps you can write, "The four elements are essential in maintaining the balance of power in the world.”  It’s a simple enough set-up for most to understand.  Then you can spend more time explaining Vishti and Ember’s roles/dilemma. 

 

You also use a lot of language that reads like something out of a science textbook and that gives me the impression that your novel will sound the same.  Phrases like “semi sentient,” “inanimate,” “fundamentally,” or “identical composition” all seem to hold your story at arm’s length and make it sound very clinical.

 

I can totally relate to the struggle of explaining epic/high fantasy.  Those stories tend to be very complex, so I don’t envy you!  I hope I’ve been of some help.

 

Nat

 

PS I’ve left my own hook to be picked apart, it’s under the title “Hook for New Adult Fantasy Novel” or something like that, and was posted on 16th March.  Thanks!   


Help a girl out?  I'll be happy for critiques. 

 

Hook: http://agentquerycon...-fantasy-novel/

 

First 250: http://agentquerycon...-adult-fantasy/

 

 


#3 punitrastogi

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Posted 17 March 2017 - 05:18 AM

I think the versions you have written are more like the beginning of a synopsis, rather than independent hooks.

But that might just be me.

 

I still think that the dilemma between choosing a new direction and doing what their inherent nature wants them to do, is something that can be used as a hook.

You can use one or both of the characters for that.

 

Hope it helps.

 

Please do take a look at my hooks given in my signature, if you have some time.



#4 CM_Fick

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Posted 18 March 2017 - 04:20 PM

Why are they crossed out?  Not sure if that was intentional or not. It was intentional as I moved the query in an entirely new direction - from 2 POV to 1 - and hadn't come up with a new hook, so I just crossed out the old ones until I could get the new one worked out. It's below

 

For the parts highlighted in blue: do they add value to the hook? or are these 2 parts just taking up space?

 

REVISED HOOK

As a greater elemental, Ember can move continents and influence the weather; she can turn the earth molten in one breath, and quench it with the next. But after emerging from the portal she sealed a millennia earlier, her intimate connection to the elements is severed. No longer in perfect harmony, both within herself and the world around her, Ember must learn to find a new balance in order to stop the destruction of the Unseelie King, once and for all. 

 

Without the blue:

As a greater elemental, Ember can move continents and influence the weatherBut after emerging from the portal she sealed a millennia earlier, her intimate connection to the elements is severed. No longer in perfect harmony, Ember must learn to find a new balance in order to stop the destruction of the Unseelie King, once and for all. 



#5 natwoodruff

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 08:21 AM

For the parts highlighted in blue: do they add value to the hook? or are these 2 parts just taking up space?

 

REVISED HOOK

As a greater elemental,(I'm not sure if this part is necessary as it seems like it's world-building that could be left for the main part of your query and not really necessary for a hook) Ember can move continents and influence the weather; (I want that power! She's already got my interest) she can turn the earth molten in one breath, and quench it with the next. (I don't think this part adds anything) But after emerging from the portal she sealed a millennia (I think it's either 'a millennium' or 'millennia') earlier, her intimate connection to the elements is severed. (OK, I struggled to understand this part; I'll explain below) No longer in perfect harmony, both within herself and the world around her, (I like this as it tells me more about her inner struggles and hints at deeper desires) Ember must learn to find a new balance in order to stop the destruction of the Unseelie King, once and for all. (Unseelie King? So, we've got some fairies to look forward to in your story? Excellent!)

 

Without the blue:

As a greater elemental, Ember can move continents and influence the weatherBut after emerging from the portal she sealed a millennia earlier, her intimate connection to the elements is severed. No longer in perfect harmony, Ember must learn to find a new balance in order to stop the destruction of the Unseelie King, once and for all. 

I like this approach much better. You focused on Ember with only one mention of her adversary, which was enough to grab my interest.  I think the mention of the Unseelie King probably would have made me want to read more just because I like that kind of stuff.  But your description of Ember makes her sound both mythical and almost superhero-like, so I think your hook could grab other readers that aren't necessarily into fairy stories.

 

The line that stumped me (there's always one!) was, "But after emerging from the portal she sealed a millennia earlier, her intimate connection to the elements is severed."  So, she sealed some sort of portal/doorway a thousand years ago and lost her powers after that?  This time jump doesn’t fit with the first line.  You said, “Ember can move continents and influence the weather.”  But now I’m finding out that actually she can’t and hasn’t been able to for the last thousand years.  So, I don’t know if you want to rework that first line by either changing the tense it’s written in, or rewriting it altogether.

 

This line also throws off the rest of the hook because the other lines following it make it sound like Ember has only recently lost her abilities and is out-of-touch with everything, but actually she’s had a millennium to get used to living without her powers.  That’s a helluva long time.  So I’m not really sure why she’s only now paying attention to the fact that she’s no longer in perfect harmony with herself/the world.  Has something really horrible happened that’s forced her to act, because the last line makes it sound like the Unseelie King has been doing bad stuff for a while, but she’s only just decided to act.  After a thousand years without power, why act now?  Some sort of major event must have happened to make her take action.  But what was it?  Could you fit it into your hook?

 

I tend to ramble when trying to explain things.  Sorry!  I think this hook could be really good and I like the inner struggle that you hint at with your MC.  But I would like to understand why she’s lived so long without power and only just decided to wake up and do something, otherwise it makes her sound like she’s either lazy, apathetic or too passive.     


Help a girl out?  I'll be happy for critiques. 

 

Hook: http://agentquerycon...-fantasy-novel/

 

First 250: http://agentquerycon...-adult-fantasy/

 

 


#6 CM_Fick

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 11:12 AM

I like this approach much better. You focused on Ember with only one mention of her adversary, which was enough to grab my interest.  I think the mention of the Unseelie King probably would have made me want to read more just because I like that kind of stuff.  But your description of Ember makes her sound both mythical and almost superhero-like, so I think your hook could grab other readers that aren't necessarily into fairy stories.

 

The line that stumped me (there's always one!) was, "But after emerging from the portal she sealed a millennia earlier, her intimate connection to the elements is severed."  So, she sealed some sort of portal/doorway a thousand years ago and lost her powers after that?  (she became the seal) This time jump doesn’t fit with the first line.  You said, “Ember can move continents and influence the weather.” (I've been advised not to focus too much on the elements, but people also question what a greater elemental is, so I have to find a way to explain. Which is practically impossible to do in a query.   But now I’m finding out that actually she can’t and hasn’t been able to for the last thousand years.  So, I don’t know if you want to rework that first line by either changing the tense it’s written in, or rewriting it altogether. 

 

This line also throws off the rest of the hook because the other lines following it make it sound like Ember has only recently lost her abilities and is out-of-touch with everything, but actually she’s had a millennium to get used to living without her powers.  (again, she is the seal: explained more in bottom paragraph) That’s a helluva long time.  So I’m not really sure why she’s only now paying attention to the fact that she’s no longer in perfect harmony with herself/the world.  Has something really horrible happened that’s forced her to act, because the last line makes it sound like the Unseelie King has been doing bad stuff for a while, but she’s only just decided to act.  After a thousand years without power, why act now?  Some sort of major event must have happened to make her take action.  But what was it?  Could you fit it into your hook? (See below for further detail on the seal: but the only other greater elemental - one Ember knows nothing about - broke the seal and released Ember from stasis

 

I tend to ramble when trying to explain things.  Sorry!  (I'm this way as well - so no need to apologize! I like having people's reasonings explained.) I think this hook could be really good and I like the inner struggle that you hint at with your MC. (I was told by numerous people that the focus on her inner turmoil with the elements, isn't strong enough to carry the hook - or query for that matter) But I would like to understand why she’s lived so long without power and only just decided to wake up and do something, otherwise it makes her sound like she’s either lazy, apathetic or too passive.  (without going into too much detail, she was the seal between the two worlds. she was - for lack of a better term, in a self imposed suspended animation in an effort to keep the Unseelie King from continuing to access Earth) 

 

Thank you for your input. This was an attempt at satisfying all the questions I've had when writing.

 

You did mention that I should leave out that she is a greater elemental as back-story. I can't. If I try, people are thrown when I bring up that she can (used to) wield the elements and that connection is severed. It's a HUGE part of her journey and such an intricate part of the character, that I need at least the term "greater elemental" to relay that. 

 

The premise is that there are 2 worlds - joined by a portal. One world is supernatural beings and the other is human. One faction in the supernatural world wants Earth for themselves and one is trying to prevent the extinction of humanity. All world building and cannot be added into the query. 

 

The issue is there is a lot of lore, a lot of backstory, and several plot lines with different characters (I technically have 2 mains and the current query only tells 1/2 the story) If this iteration doesn't work, that's fine - I'm not trying to persuade anyone otherwise, but my query's been revised 10+ times and I'm grasping at straws now. 

 

Thanks again Nat, your time is much appreciated. 



#7 CM_Fick

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Posted 19 March 2017 - 08:38 PM

Updated as per comments in my query thread. 

 

REVISED HOOK:

For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, but the fact that she can no longer feel the elements within her is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again, and only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity.



#8 natwoodruff

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 08:02 AM

Thank you for your input. This was an attempt at satisfying all the questions I've had when writing.

 

You did mention that I should leave out that she is a greater elemental as back-story. I can't. If I try, people are thrown when I bring up that she can (used to) wield the elements and that connection is severed. It's a HUGE part of her journey and such an intricate part of the character, that I need at least the term "greater elemental" to relay that.  I think I didn't understand the significance of the term, but it's cool to keep it if it's necessary.  You'd know more than anyone what is most integral to your story.

 

The premise is that there are 2 worlds - joined by a portal. One world is supernatural beings and the other is human. One faction in the supernatural world wants Earth for themselves and one is trying to prevent the extinction of humanity. All world building and cannot be added into the query.  Huh.  Are agents not a fan of world-building in queries?  Sorry, I'm new to this.  I kinda think that what you just wrote sounds really interesting and I dunno why that info can't be included.  However, you mentioned earlier that people have given you negative feedback on including your character's inner struggles in your hook, which is something I admired.  So, I suppose I can only speak for myself and what I personally find interesting when I pick up a book and read its back cover.  Probably best to go with the majority.    

 

The issue is there is a lot of lore, a lot of backstory, and several plot lines with different characters (I technically have 2 mains and the current query only tells 1/2 the story) If this iteration doesn't work, that's fine - I'm not trying to persuade anyone otherwise, but my query's been revised 10+ times and I'm grasping at straws now.  It sounds like you've written a big fantasy epic, so I'd expect it to be complicated.  I feel your pain.  It sucks that a genre we love so much still has to comply with all those rules for hooks and queries, the same as a more straightforward story does, when we really just want our hook to read, "It's complicated, so it's better if you just read the book."

 

Thanks again Nat, your time is much appreciated. 

 

 

Updated as per comments in my query thread. 

 

REVISED HOOK:

For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, (OK, I like this start. It makes me ask a lot of questions--in a good way--and I feel the need to read more) but the fact that she can no longer feel the elements within her is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again, and only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity. (Excellent finish to your hook!  I get a better sense of what the Unseelie King is up to: he likes passing through the portal to kill humans.  Great villain.  And it makes Ember sound like a proactive hero.  Plus, you set up the stakes of your novel)

 

 

I like this hook a lot more.  Especially since there's nothing that really trips me up about your story, and it's not too vague either, which is something I struggle with when writing my own hook/query.  I would read more mainly because I like the idea of a character that can manipulate the elements, and I really like fairies. ;-)  I'm curious to read more about Ember and how she uses her unique abilities to battle against the king.

 

Good luck!

Nat


Help a girl out?  I'll be happy for critiques. 

 

Hook: http://agentquerycon...-fantasy-novel/

 

First 250: http://agentquerycon...-adult-fantasy/

 

 


#9 npstanford

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 12:21 PM

 

REVISED HOOK:

For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed the portal to Earth is disorienting, but the fact that she can no longer feel the elements within her is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could could once (to make it clear that this is the power she has lost) move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next. But now, the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again, and only Ember stands between him and the annihilation of humanity.

 

 

I think the content and organization of this hook is effective. I especially like the detail in the second. The third and closing sentence seems it could be punchier, though.

 

I do feel though that you are missing an opportunity to press what makes your book unique. From reading your query letter, the most unique part of the story to me sounds like that the protaganist has already once (and just barely) defeated the big bad evil guy, but now has to do it again *without* any of her special destiny powers. This (imho) is the most gripping angle on your story that will set it out from the crowd -- the hero is battered from this previous encounter with evil (stripped of powers and the love of her life) and yet somehow, has to do it all again!

 

I took a swing at it below

A millenia ago, Ember defeated the Unseelie King. It cost her all her power [maybe some great exposition on her powers like you have in the current draft] and the love of her life. Now, a millenia later, the Unseelie King returns (to enslave/destroy/rule the earth) and Ember must confront him once again, but this time without any of her powers.



#10 CM_Fick

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 01:36 PM

I think the content and organization of this hook is effective. I especially like the detail in the second. The third and closing sentence seems it could be punchier, though.

 

I do feel though that you are missing an opportunity to press what makes your book unique. From reading your query letter, the most unique part of the story to me sounds like that the protaganist has already once (and just barely) defeated the big bad evil guy, but now has to do it again *without* any of her special destiny powers. This (imho) is the most gripping angle on your story that will set it out from the crowd -- the hero is battered from this previous encounter with evil (stripped of powers and the love of her life) and yet somehow, has to do it all again!

 

I took a swing at it below

A millenia ago, Ember defeated the Unseelie King. It cost her all her power [maybe some great exposition on her powers like you have in the current draft] and the love of her life. Now, a millenia later, the Unseelie King returns (to enslave/destroy/rule the earth) and Ember must confront him once again, but this time without any of her powers.

Thank you npstanford for your critique. 

This is where this query starts running into issues. 

This (imho) is the most gripping angle on your story that will set it out from the crowd -- the hero is battered from this previous encounter with evil (stripped of powers and the love of her life) and yet somehow, has to do it all again!

 

Ember recovers her powers, but they aren't the same and she can't always control them. This book tells of her journey to get those powers back to accomplish X, Y, and Z. But this isn't a standalone novel, and while there are those who say it should be -- it's not, so she doesn't actually face-off with the king in this book.

 

I have to be careful and walk the fine line between telling this novel only and the scope of the entire series. 

 

I do appreciate your input and will look at tightening the final sentence. If I don't catch your update, PM me and I'll review it asap. 

Thanks again!



#11 newb

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Posted 29 March 2017 - 04:02 AM

 

Updated as per comments in my query thread. 

 

REVISED HOOK:

For Ember, waking a millennium after she sealed sealing the portal to Earth is disorienting, but the fact that she can no longer feel the elements within her is far worse. As a greater elemental, Ember could move should be able to move mountains and call up storms, turn the earth molten in one breath and quench it with the next, but she can't (i like this last part) But now With the Unseelie King is invading Earth once again, and only Ember must regain her powers? to stands between him and the annihilation of humanity.

 

 

Sorry, I think I messed it up a bit. I thought maybe taking out some words can tighten it a bit. Also with the part about the elementals, I like how her gift works, but it seems disconnected to the final sentence about the Seelie King. My suggestion here is poor, but it's just an example of how it can be connected back to the mention of her missing elemental gift?







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