Writing a Hook Line for Your Novel

Its All In the HookI was seated at my local Starbucks coffee house the other day and fell into conversation with an artist. I was asked, as our conversation went on, “So what is your novel about?” I started to think about all the threads that run through my current novel and was at loss for words. This is a common enough question that I will face as an author and it is one that should be addressed even before a novel is finished. What I needed was a one or two sentence summary of what my story is about, one that is designed to capture the interest of a reader or listener. It is known as a “hook line” and beyond its use in conversation, it also serves as a pairing with the book cover in online catalogs to entice readers to buy your book.

What are the Elements of a Hook Line?

    Characters – Who is the main character of your story? What does that main character want? What is his/her main goal?
    Conflict – Who is the antagonist of the story? How does this villain stand in the way of the main character obtaining their goal?
    Originality – What makes your book different from others? What is the unique element of your story that makes it stand out?
    Setting – State the location, the time period or perhaps the genre if it is not obvious.
    Action – Your hook line needs to have an action that catches the reader’s attention. A little detail can go a long way.

Examples of Good Hook lines from movies, also known as Loglines:

BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (Clint Eastwood, 1995) – An Iowa housewife, stuck in her routine, must choose between true romance and the needs of her family.

FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (Sergio Leone, 1965) – A man with no name and a man with a mission hunt a Mexican bandit for different reasons.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY (John Schlesinger, 1969) – Naïve Joe Buck arrives in New York City to make his fortune as a hustler, but soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with the first scoundrel he falls prey to.

LONE STAR (John Sayles, 1996) – A small town Texas sheriff, despite warnings not to, investigates a convoluted case, when a brutal predecessors’ remains turn up 40 years after he was supposedly run out of town.

What are some common elements in these compelling loglines from famous movies? First, they mention the main character in some way. The main character is the star of the movie or the novel and needs to be someone that the reader can be interested in or they will not read the book. You do not always need to mention this character by name, but rather find a way to describe them to make them stand out as unique in the reader’s mind. Next, notice that in the examples, the location of the story is mentioned: Iowa, Mexico, Texas, or New York City. This helps to give the reader an idea of where or when this story takes place. Observe that the conflict that the main character will face is hinted at. A housewife must choose, a man hunts a bandit, an innocent man becomes a friend of a scoundrel, or a sheriff investigates a murder. This is exciting action. Hopefully enough of a conflict to interest a potential reader. Finally, an element of originality should be offered. This helps to off-set your hook line in the book catalog from all hundreds of other offerings in the book store.

The next time I am at the coffeehouse and someone asks me what my novel is about, I might answer this:

Alice dreams of romance, and when her handsome prince arrives, she follows him through the looking glass into a world of Victorian steam-powered engines, a mad queen, an assassin, and a charming rogue. Will she have the courage to be the heroine that Wonderland needs and find her heart’s desire?

What will be your answer?

Author Interview: Belinda D’Alessandro

I am happy to feature an Australian author this week, getting away from only seeing American authors for a change. Belinda has an interesting history and like many of us, begin writing as a hobby, but has now gone pro with her writing to the point where she is starting her own publishing house. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did.

Author Belinda D'AlessandroI’m Belinda D’Alessandro. My dad was born in Italy and moved to Australia when he was seven. My mum was born in Australia. My maternal great-grandparents were from both Scotland and Ireland and I have extended family in Italy, New Zealand, the United States and Canada.

I grew up in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast of Australia, and earned a law degree from Bond University in 1992. I worked in the legal profession for 15 years and I moved to Sydney, Australia in 2000 to take a clerkship with a Federal Judge and after he retired, I ran my own law firm for a number of years.

I started my own publishing company in 2007 and worked with other authors (with freelance book design services) to help them get their books published as I was publishing my own. I currently have a “second” job in banking and finance industry… well really to keep my cats, Violet and Charlie, in the lifestyle to which they wish to become accustomed – as “royalty” of the house.

When and why did you begin writing?

I started writing my first novel, Discovering Wounded Justice: Cruel Menace, as a hobby in 2007 while I was running my own law practice (which I’d started two years earlier), as a bit of an outlet during my “off hours” when I wasn’t working as a lawyer. But then it snowballed and I just had to write it; had to finish. The legal profession is a tough profession for anyone.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I suppose it didn’t hit me that I was an “author” until I saw the finished proof of my first book in my hand. But, looking back over my life, my parents got me started as a writer. My dad helped to start reading as a kid. English was his second language and he always challenged me to find better ways to express myself. My mum started her working life as an English teacher and she helped me to understand the beauty and precision of language.

Can you share a little about your current book with us?

The protagonist, Alyssa Giordano, is a first generation American, who’d been taught by her grandmothers and her mother that women were the equal of men and there was nothing that they couldn’t do. And Alyssa’s grandfathers, and her father, knew who really “ran” things.

A year into her career, Alyssa’s boss, Duncan Kennedy accuses her of some unethical behaviour and sacks her after she’d rejected his advances.

Alyssa finally gets her career back in order, she finally starts her own law practice and finds that roles are reversed. Kennedy is labeled a swindler and a leading journalist, a woman no less, holds his fate in her hands. But he vanishes in a cloud of lies and creditors before he can be brought to justice.

As Kennedy dies an untimely death, Alyssa’s faith in justice returns and she begins to believe she is rid of the man who almost destroyed her. Until the day he walks back into her life… and tries to take it.

What inspired you to write this book?

I started writing it as a way of dealing with the struggles of being a woman in the legal profession, a profession that, although things are changing for the better, was in some ways still a man’s game when I first started. My grandmothers, and the struggles they faced, also inspired me. My dad’s mum came to Australia 5 years after my grandfather did, with small children in tow, and they spoke no English when they got to Australia. My mum’s mum was in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II and when she returned to Australia from overseas service and married my Poppy, they both ran a sheep farm in Victoria. They’re both very strong women and had to struggle in different ways. They just have an essence about them, quintessentially Australian. They just take the knock on the chin, without complaining, and get on with it.

Do you have a specific writing style?

There are times when my writing style takes a “splatter-gun” approach, when an idea pops into my head and the words flow. Other times, I structure and outline like there’s no tomorrow.

How did you come up with the title of this book?

The title came to me last. After I finished the first draft, I saw the potential to write a number of books with the same protagonist, Alyssa Giordano, a lawyer who “discovers” justice doesn’t always fit in with the law. I wanted the series titles, “Discovering Justice” to represent that.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Although my book is set in New York, I’ve written it with a bit of an “Aussie” attitude and spirit: toughen up and just get on with it – you can do anything you set your mind to.

Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Yes, I did draw on some of my own experiences working in the legal field for the book, but unlike the protagonist of the novel, Alyssa Giordano, I’ve never had a former co-worker try to kill me. I’ve worked with both good and rotten lawyers, and learned just as much, if not more, from the bad ones as I did from the good ones! Let’s just say the location and some of the names were changed to protect the guilty.

What authors have most influenced your life?

Tom Clancy – I love a bit of espionage. I’ve also read some of Ron Miller’s work in the “girl detective” genre. He’s an illustrator and author of over 50 books, mostly in the educational field but he also writes science fiction and in the crime thriller genre. He’s also given me some invaluable advice about what it takes to make a book, well, look like a book!

Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?

I designed it myself, after taking some advice from Ron Miller, who I mentioned before. I chose a stock image from GettyImages from the Imagezoo collection as I had a limited budget at the time.

I understand that you are also a small print publisher. How did you get started in publishing? What are your plans for the future of your publishing company?

As I started writing my first novel, I also started my own publishing company (BDA Books) at the end of 2007 to publish it. I signed with another Australian author, Ray Bird, to publish his debut novel Why, Old Lady, Why?. It is due to be released in October. And I have a number of submissions on my desk to consider, so hopefully I’ll be able to sign with other authors very soon.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Keep reading! And search out independent authors!

Discovering Wounded Justice Cruel Menace book coverBelinda D’Alessandro
Sydney Australia

Discovering Wounded Justice: Cruel Menace, published by BDA Books

Cover illustration: GettyImages / Imagezoo

Purchase Discovering Wounded Justice: Cruel Menace at:


No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

Monday. Monday. So good to be. At least, that is how the Association’s song starts! As usual, I’ve picked out a handful of articles that I found interesting in the previous week related to writing. I hope you find them as insightful as I did.

Why Writers Need to Leverage Technology

Why Every Kid Knows Maths: The Myth of Talent

How Mundane Routines Produce Creative Magic

Why Use Pen Names if Not For Privacy?

25 Favorite Portmanteau Words

Quick Scrivener tip: another corkboard gem

Intellectual Property Considerations for Writers

Ebook Authors Continue To See Self-Publishing Stigma Disappear

Polished Roughhewn: Reflections on Hemingway

The Uncomfortable Pantser: When Your Method Doesn’t Fit Your Personality

Writing Space: Lori Freeland

One of my hopes of the writing space series was to highland professional writers who are not necessarily novelists. Lori is a journalist, a published writer of articles and quite an interesting woman. I hope you enjoy her introduction here and also check out her articles elsewhere.

Lori Freeland Writing SpaceI’ll give you three guesses as to where my creativity flows best, but you’re not allowed to laugh. Okay, you can, but just a little. We writers are super sensitive.

Will you find me blogging, editing, or writing stretched out in the garden tub in front of the opaque window in my bathroom? Perched on the high bar stool at the island in my burgundy and chocolate kitchen? Or slumped in the olive-and-cream stripped wing chair in my bedroom?

Which did you pick?

I’d write in the bathtub if I could, that’s where I love to read. Hence my resistance to purchase a Kindle. But electronics and water aren’t the best combination. Sadly, I’ve learned this from personal experience involving a toilet and a cell phone.

My kitchen wins loudest room in the house, what with three children constantly opening and closing the refrigerator and panty door, whining, “There’s nothing to eat,” or “I hate fish.”

Which leaves the wing chair in my bedroom.

I have a thing for being comfortable. Feet pulled up and legs crossed, back pressed against the soft back of my grandmother’s favorite chair, sometimes even a blanket covers my lap. If I’m not comfortable, I can’t think. Or write. And if I’m not comfortable, I get distracted. Plus, my kids haven’t learned to pick the lock on my bedroom door. Yet. That’s always a bonus.

I won’t make you guess my writing tool of choice.

It’s a laptop.

Lori Freeland Writing ToolMy fingers have somehow trained themselves to speed across the keys and match my thought process. I do a lot of stretching with my left pinky to tap delete, delete, delete. Not quite the same feel when you do it with a pencil, an eraser, and a notepad. If that were all I had to work with, no words would end up on the page. No good words anyway. And it’s almost impossible to cut and paste on real paper. Add in the Sticky Note function on Word, and I couldn’t do without my laptop.

Before I began writing, I read. All the time. Different genres from romance, to historical fiction, to FBI thrillers, to Young Adult fantasy. So it’s not surprising that I’m an eclectic writer as well. When it comes to my passions, I’m a little ADD. I need variety to keep up with my attention span.

My blog supports two sides of me. I post inspirational devotions as well as tips for new writers. You can find my byline in articles in various Christian publications and on blogs for Crosswalk.com and Believe.com. I have a short romantic story coming out in an anthology in November to benefit a wildlife refuge in Arkansas and my current passion is the YA science fiction/fantasy novel I’m editing and getting ready to query.

Writers are so different, aren’t they? As artists, we all have our own space, process, and tools. Yet, in a way, writers are all the same. They can’t not share what’s going on inside their heads and that’s how the best stories get out there.

Writer Lori FreelandLori Freeland, a freelance writer from the Dallas area, is an editor for The Christian Pulse, a writing coach for the North Texas Christian Writers, and a coffee addict with three awesome kids, an even better husband, and is pet mom to various animals that have wandered into her house. You can find her at lafreeland.com. Facebook. Twitter.

No Wasted Ink Writer’s Links

I always look forward to Monday’s because that is the day I am able to share with you many of the interesting articles that I’ve been reading the previous week. There is much to choose from today! Enjoy.

9 Warning Signs of an Amateur Artist

5 Tools to Keep Your Writing Fresh

How to Weave a Story that Instantly Captivates Your Audience

Jay Leno On Jay Mohr

Estimate vs. Guess

5 Lessons Learned From Writing 3 Novels

9 Things Authors Do That Irritate Their Facebook Fans

Science Confirms the Obvious: Literature is Good for Your Brain

Self-Publishing Statistics: Women fare better than men at making money from self-publishing

A Writer’s Colony Lesson You Can Apply to You Career

Author Interviews * Book Reviews * Essays * Writer's Links * Scifaiku

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