Three Awesome Shows and Magic that Fails

Rather than give you a third post on NaNoWriMo this week, I think I’ll save it for later in the month, so I can include an update on my progress as well.

So instead let’s talk about something totally random: TV shows. I love TV shows so, so much. I might even be tempted to say that I like them more than movies. Because TV shows get me more grounded in a story. We’re able to have so many more characters (and get to know them more!) than what is possible during a 2 hour movie. We are better able to see these characters grow and develop over the different seasons. We get to see hundreds of different plotlines form. We get to spend more time with characters we love—until they’re killed off, that is. But really what I think is super awesome about TV shows is that they give me an experience close to the one I have while reading a book because both modes of entertainment are able to give me the aforementioned things.

So, on to what this post is about:

Image from Collider


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A discussion of three TV shows that use magic: Once Upon a Time, The Vampire Diaries, and Merlin.

Just from knowing this, it can be easily seen how much I enjoy fairytale retellings, hot men in leather, and bromances, respectively.

But it’s not just fairytale retellings, it’s the brilliance that Once Upon a Time uses to thread all these fairytales together and make them all a part of the same story. And I absolutely LOVE that they base them off of the Disney versions. OUaT perfectly balances the present story with flashbacks. And the flashbacks are told out of order, but it works so well. Fans can easily follow the progression of the story. And it makes it that much more exciting! (Hey look! I just started a sentence with a conjunction.)

Vampire Diaries. I think one of these days I’ll have to do an entire post on it because I love it so much. The thing is that people hate on it without watching because they think “Oh, it’s just another stupid vampire story. That story has already been told 100 times.” To you people, I say, “FALSE.” Vampire Diaries has one of the most complex and intricate and UNIQUE plotlines I have ever seen. And just when you think the danger is over, a bigger bad guy believably (and the key word is believably) comes into the picture. And a love triangle with hot vampire brothers, need I say more?

Now what can I say about Merlin? I love the stories involving King Arthur, and I especially love this retelling because it’s not about Arthur. It’s about Merlin. Sometimes the sidekick gets the shaft, okay, usually the sidekick gets the shaft. And in this show, Merlin frequently gets the shaft from others, but we, the viewers, know what really goes on. We see how Merlin saves Arthur’s life time and time again unbeknownst to any of the other characters. And Merlin and Arthur have the cutest little bromance. Their friendship is awesome, and I love the bickering.

Now, those were all examples of things that these shows did right! Now, because I can do whatever I want, I would like to discuss one common thing that each of these shows (dare I say it) does wrong. And that is the way in which they use magic.

I love magic in shows, but sometimes it frustrates me. ESPECIALLY when magic, well, when magic magically saves the day. When the magic is not fully understood by viewers, it is completely unsatisfying when it solves a problem. On the opposite end, it can be said that it’s unsatisfying to know a rule of the magic and then not see the characters utilize the magic to solve a problem.

Allow me to use an example from each of the aforementioned TV shows.

First, Once Upon a Time (sentence fragment!). During the Hansel and Gretel episode, Hansel and Gretel have bested the child-eating witch and lock her in her own oven. Once this happens, the evil Queen Regina (who also made an appearance in the Tricia’s List of Bad Guy Motivations post), who has been watching all this go down from her handy dandy mirror, throws a fireball through the mirror and burns the witch in her oven. Now I ask the obvious question: If the queen can throw fireballs through her mirror, why does she not exact vengeance on everyone in this way? The answer is simple: if she did this, OUaT would not be a very exciting story. But the point is that the creators have established a rule and then ignored it. Frustrating.

Now, Vampire Diaries. How many times does Bonnie use her witchy powers to solve a previously unsolvable problem? How convenient that when Elena or Jeremy are about to die, Bonnie has a witchy solution, but if say (*spoilers coming!) Jenna or Alaric dies, there is no such solution. Come on, Bonnie, it’s all or nothing.

And Merlin! Talk about a messed up magic system. Did we not establish in the first episode that the thing which makes Merlin unique from all other magic users is the fact that he does not have to utter a spell? Instead his eyes just do that weird light up thing. But later we see examples of other magic users not uttering spells to use magic. And now Merlin sometimes DOES have to say a spell in order to use magic.

Another example. We have seen Merlin do various things with his magic. He has caused branches on trees to break, caused various items to move around, etc. Yet, in one of the newer episodes, when Arthur and Merlin get stuck in a net made of rope, they’re helpless for some reason. I kept waiting for Merlin to simply break the rope, but he never did! And don’t you try to tell me that he couldn’t risk using magic around Arthur. We both know that he could have made it look like a stroke of luck. No, it’s clear that the thought doesn’t even cross his mind.

That being said, do I still love all of these TV shows? Absolutely. But just think about how much more awesome they could be. That’s what kills me.

But this also motivates me to write my own TV series someday. Yeah, that’s happening.

Do you have any suggestions for magic shows that do or don’t work?

The Benefits of NNWM

Forgive me if this post seems redundant of Megan’s, but I was going to talk about NNWM and she totally stole my thunder. So instead of changing my topic this week entirely, I decided I would talk about it anyway.

While Megan is braving the waters of NNWM for the first time this year, I am something of a NNWM veteran. I’ve done it (successfully, no less) for the last two years and I always enjoy myself immensely. Even though I am a college student and am fighting the uphill battles of term papers and midterms, NaNo November always has a special spot in my heart. So despite the fact that I often wake up on December first feeling like I’d been run over repeatedly by a semi-truck for the past thirty days, I am here to impart what I think are the benefits of NNWM.

Benefit the first: You learn that you can write a book.
My first year doing NNWM, I was sitting down to write with a bright shiny idea and a very rough outline. Prior to that November in 2010, I had written drabbles and snippets of scenes and the occasional snatch of conversation. I had written a few short stories for creative writing classes, but I had never sat down and plowed my way through an entire coherent long-format work. So even though 50K is about the size of a novella or a middle-grade novel, it was way more than I had ever written before that. But I did it.

I daresay that I rocked it, even.

Which is not to say that I wrote anything spectacular. In fact, I would say that the 50k I wrote during that month should never be seen by human eyes ever again. But that’s the beauty of NNWM. In order to write that much in such a short time, you have to shut off your internal editor. You have to stop telling yourself that you suck and that you can’t write anything until you don’t suck. You just have to go for it.

But let me tell you–finishing up that novel, writing those last words and submitting them to the NNWM word-count validator, that feels pretty great. It’s empowering. You just wrote a freaking book! How cool is that?

Way cool, is the proper answer.

And since my first NNWM, I’ve learned that I crank out words and stories. I’m no longer bound by intimidation. I’ve proven to myself that I can write a book–even if that book will stay safely buried on my hard drive forever– and that’s a pretty impressive thing.

Benefit the Second: It’s a crash course in time management.
Here’s a funny thing about me: the more busy I am, the more productive I usually am. NNWM forces you to micromanage your schedule. I usually end up sitting down and mapping out my daily schedule by the hour, carving out time little by little to write. And because I also have papers that are due and tests that need to be studied for, I have to make time to write and do my homework. The result is that I’m usually far more on top of my assignments than I am at any other time of the year.

I might be alone in this, but I kind of thrive with that kind of insane pressure.

Of course, that high level of stress does have it’s drawbacks. Case and point, I was so overloaded with school and work and life this past weekend that I didn’t write my two papers and I didn’t prepare for my colloquy with my professor, and instead I spent most of Saturday watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory and Veronica Mars. My body and my brain had crashed completely and I needed a weekend of vegging to recoup.

But the fact is, in order to succeed in NNWM (and you can succeed–don’t let anyone tell you differently), you need to manage your time. You need to be prepared to come home from class or work or whatever and sit down and write to meet your daily word count goal. If you set time aside for it–I usually give myself an hour and a half per day to get it done–then it’s more likely to get done. And if you set time aside for all the OTHER stuff you have going on, you can get that done too.

Benefit the Third: Creation is energizing.
Okay, so maybe that’s not completely true, but I like to think it’s mostly true. Creativity does have it’s toll. Your mind can burn out, which is why you need to have time to do whatever it is you do to recharge.

But I think by and large, creating things gets your mind working in different ways. Being creative is a habit. I don’t believe that it’s something dictated by muse or inspiration. If you make a point of creating something every day, your brain will start to get in the habit of it. It will expect to be have to be creative–and it will rise to the challenge.

Because here’s what I love about NNWM: as much as you’ve outlined, as much as you’ve planned for this month, you will hit a point where you will say, “Screw this. It’s not working. I’m going to make something crazy happen.” Now the crazy something you make happen might not be the best storytelling and it might not be the best plot development, but it will probably be one of the most creative and hare-brained thing you have ever thought of.

Putting yourself under the pressure of NNWM forces you to drop assumptions of what good writing and storytelling is. It’s not worth it to fuss around with the plot you wanted to write when you have word-count deadline and that plot isn’t working. You have to come with new ideas that propel the story forward. You have to be creative.

And I think that sort of creativity is powerful. It energizes. It moves you forward. Simply put, it’s pretty dang awesome.

Benefit the Fourth: The spirit of competition compels you.
So again, this might be something that applies to me and not you, but I have a HUGE competitive streak. I do best when I have someone to beat or when I have to prove myself to someone. When things get hard, I have a tendency to work harder to prove to myself that I won’t be beaten by the hard thing.

And NNWM is perfect for people like me. If you’re signed up on the website, you have bar graph that tracks your progress each day and you have this beautiful red diagonal line that shows you where you’re supposed to be. For me, that red line is a challenge. It taunts me. It tells me I can’t conquer it.

Which just makes me want to conquer it more.

Benefit the Fifth: No matter what, if you try, you win.
And I think this above all is my favorite benefit, and this is the one I share with people trying NNWM for the first time. If you’re not a consistent writer, if you’ve only been able to write a couple hundred words of any given story in the past, so long as you try–and try hard, no namby-pamby trying here–you’ve written more than you would have otherwise.

Because let’s face it, any substantial amount you write is better than nothing. Writing 5K words is better than writing 1K. Writing 10K is even better than that. And getting to 50k? I mean, dang, if you’re writing a YA novel, you’re more than half-way done!

The only thing that will stop you from writing a book is not writing. And every year, NNWM encourages you to put aside your excuses and your fears and to bury yourself in words and stories and just write. And if you don’t make it to 50k, that’s totally fine. Because in the end, you wrote something.

And that makes you awesome.

 

It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here

NANOWRIMO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve known about NaNoWriMo since 2006. My best friend and at-the-time roommate told me about it. At the time, I was very unsure about the whole writing thing. I had half a dozen notebooks I’d filled with story ideas, poetry, fragments of scenes, even lines I thought sounded cool. But writing a novel? I was just nineteen! I didn’t know how to write. So, I didn’t write a single word that first year.

November 2007 rolled around. I swore I’d write.

I didn’t.

Etc.

What stopped me? November is a tricky month for students because it’s right before finals. At the same time, I had no conception of how much/how little work writing 50,000 words is.

Winter 2012 rolled around and I enrolled in Brandon Sanderson’s Writing Fiction class. I was scared. I almost dropped out. Thanks to the cajoling of the aforementioned best friend and The Plotless’s own Tricia, I stuck it out. And wrote 50,000 words over the course of the semester.

NaNoWriMo is upon us again, and I thought I would do it. I mean, I know I can write 50,000. I have a lot more confidence and a bit more skill than before. Plus, I’m not in school anymore.

But hey, I might as well admit it here. I’m not sure writing 50,000 words is what my fledgling writing career needs right now. So, I’ve had to step back and think how to make NaNoWriMo work for me.

So, here are my goals. I’m committing them to you. (Hold me accountable!)

(1) Write 25,000 words of a new manuscript and

(2) Revise 25,000 words of an old one.

For those of you tackling this year’s WriMo, here are some tips that helped me get my first 50,000 out (sometimes, when I talk about that particular accomplishment, it sounds like I had a child. I understand writing 50,000 words of a rough draft is not equal to having a child. My apologies).

  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. No one is going to read what you write unless you want them to.
  • Don’t be afraid to write something bad.
  • Turn off your inner editor.
  • Anticipate and plan for days where you won’t get your writing done.
  • Hold yourself accountable.
  • Visualize success: and please, you’re a writer. Make your daydreams awesome.
  • Turn off your inner editor.
  • Stop believing in writer’s block. Your new reality is “butt in chair, fingers on keyboard.”
  • If you’re not having fun while writing, make it fun. Skip to scenes you’re looking forward to, write out of order, throw in an extra kissing scene, make a character say something embarrassing. You get the idea.
  • Turn off your inner editor (so important, I said it three times!).

 

What are your goals? What are your tips? Give me some good ones, since I’ve never revised a whole novel before!

The Sole Qualification for Becoming an Author

About a week ago, I read a query in which the author made the following statement: “I possess the sole qualification for becoming an author: reading and writing is my passion.” He also described his book as being “the perfect fusion of modern, myth, and the unknown.” At the end he proceeded to inform me that he was in high school. He also told me that he had a “brilliant marketing strategy” which he assured me I would like.

Alright, before I get into this, I’m going to give this kid a fake name. Let’s call this cocky teenager John.

While I gave John the form rejection, you all get to hear in detail why this type of query letter is full of major suckage.

First off, it’s okay to be passionate about your work, but never, ever use the word “perfect” to describe it. Nothing in this world is perfect. Coming off as cocky is not going to impress an intern, let alone a literary agent.

Second, I don’t care how old you are. No one is going to give you special consideration because you’re younger. That’s great that you’ve discovered writing at a young age. And if you do get picked up at an early age, that’s awesome. But honestly, wouldn’t you feel better about yourself if you didn’t give your age? Then you would know that you were picked up out of all of the older, more experienced writers. And saying that you’re really young can also be a bad thing. It can scream “inexperienced!”

And now for the last thing I would like to tackle, this so-called sole qualification for becoming an author. (And, John, reading and writing are TWO things, so that would be two qualifications, not one. Anyway…) This was what really got me. First of all, sure, maybe those are the only things you need to be an author. Nowadays, anyone can publish something on the internet. But if you want to be a SUCCESSFUL author, there are many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many more qualifications. Like being able to take critique, knowing how to revise, being capable of researching, establishing an online presence, working professionally with others. And those are things outside of actually writing the story. When it comes to writing, you can’t just write (see my first blog post, Writers Don’t Just Write). You also plot, develop characters, write satisfying endings, pace the story, find your voice, develop setting. And many authors do these things wrong the first few tries. Yes! I do believe these things can be done wrong. Some people will think that there is no right or wrong when it comes to writing. To that, I say FALSE. This is why we have writing excuses. (www.writingexcuses.com) And this is why we blog.

And because I feel like I didn’t include enough manys earlier, here are some more:

Many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many.

Another Life Lesson from Harry Potter

So I enjoyed writing one of my Harry Potter inspired life lessons two weeks ago SO MUCH that I thought I would do it again. So I bring you life lesson the second: Trust your friends. You don’t have to bear your burdens alone.

I have been blessed with some pretty phenomenal friends over the course of my life. If you don’t believe me, ask me about them sometime. I can gush for a good 6 or 7 hours and have only scratched the surface of how awesome they are. I’m talking really stellar people, who for one reason or another, seem to think I’m worth their time and friendship as well. And while I’ve always been ready and willing to drop everything for any one of those friends, I’ve always been hesitant to allow them to do the same for me.

I know I’m not alone in this. It’s hard to ask for help. It’s hard to trust people. It’s hard to admit that you can’t handle things on or own. It’s hard to confide in someone when you know they’re just going to worry and you want to spare them that.

So I’ve always been grateful that one of the overarching themes of the Harry Potter series is that you need to trust the people around you. Trusting people is a scary thing. It can backfire on you with catastrophic results. Case and point: James and Lily Potter (and I guess you could Sirius as well) trusted Peter Pettigrew to be their Secret Keeper. They trusted that he was still their friend, that he still had their best interests in mind. Really, though, he was a treacherous little sneak and had already sold out to Voldemort. Because James and Lily (and Sirius) trusted Peter, they lost their lives, Sirius lost his freedom, Lupin lost all of his friends in the space of about 48 hours, Harry lost his parents, etc etc.

But with the Peter Pettigrew incident aside, the Harry Potter books teach a lot about trust and learning to rely on other people and accept their help. Because Harry is a typical fantasy hero, he tries to do everything himself. He doesn’t want to put other people in danger, he doesn’t want other people to risk themselves for him, and he doesn’t want to admit that he needs help sometime. After all, the archetypal hero always faces the foe alone. That always seemed silly to me. You know, no man is an island and all that.

But Harry hardly does anything alone. He was blessed with some remarkable friends–Ron and Hermione chief among them. He has friends who are willing to stand at his side, regardless of how moody he’s being or how many people are targeting him. They care about him. They want to help him. At the beginning of Half-Blood Prince, Dumbledore counsels Harry to confide in his friends, saying that Harry does them a disservice by not trusting them. He goes on to remind Harry that Sirius, who has recently fallen in battle, would not want Harry to shut himself off.

There are plenty of times when Harry tries to shut himself off from his friends. When he thinks that Voldemort’s possessing him in Order of the Phoenix or when he realizes that he’s going to have to go on a country wide search for Horcruxes at the end of Half-Blood Prince. In both instances, his friends refuse to let him retreat. Ron assures him that “we’re with you whatever happens.” I think it’s safe to say that Harry wouldn’t have gotten through the things he did without their assistance. Where would he be without Hermione’s hard work and intelligence? Where would he be without Ron’s heart and humor?

Six feet under, would be the appropriate answer.

Harry’s ability to trust and love his friends is one of his defining features–and it’s definitely one of his qualities that set him apart from Voldemort. Despite all he’s been through, despite the abuse he’s suffered at his aunt and uncle’s hands, despite the number of times he’s seen Hogwarts faculty break faith with the school (ie Quirell, Lockhart, Moody, and (supposedly) Snape), despite the number of times when Ron let petty jealousy or moodiness get in the way of their friendship, Harry continues to trust them. While Harry’s reliance on his friends may have caused more problems for them (and by “may have,” I mean “definitely”), he couldn’t have done what he did without them. Had their situations been reversed, I don’t doubt that Harry wouldn’t have done the same for his friends. He always comes to Ron’s defense when Malfoy starts on Ron’s family. He still hands by Hermione, even though she can be an overbearing know-it-all at times.

The true nature of friendship is selflessness and trust. You help your friends because you want to, because you care about them and want the best for them, and you trust them to do the same for you. I don’t think I can count the number of times when my friends have pulled through for me even (and perhaps especially) when I’m feeling wretched and unloveable. Being able to confide in your friends isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s not a sign that you can’t handle things or that you’re weak. In fact (and I think Professor Dumbledore would agree with me), I would say it’s a sign of great strength. At the end of the day, it takes more strength, more faith, to trust someone than to not.

A Review of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I may be quiet about it, but I am such a nerdfighter (a nerdfighter, if you didn’t know, doesn’t fight nerds. She fights world-suck). DFTBA.

Anyways, the Vlogbrothers, figureheads of nerdfighteria, are very interested in new media and, in particular, new ways to use web video. Enter The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, the brain-child of Hank Green.

Here’s the basic idea: a retelling of Pride and Prejudice through a series of Lizzie Bennet’s personal vlogs. Basically, a you-tubed, modern-day retelling of P&P.

A warning, if rabid fans chance upon this review: I will be candid and honest but ultimately positive.

(Down, potential trolls.)

Here’s a taste:

I give the overall series an A-. I give the romance subplot a C.

The story isn’t over. As of today, I think we’re about halfway through the story. I love it so far, but it has made me think of the limitations of vlogs in telling a narrative.

For instance, writers always hear “show, don’t tell.” But vlogs, in essence, are all about telling. I love blogs/vlogs/tweets/etc. because they get me inside someone’s head, and they’re great for telling anecdotes. But they aren’t always the best for telling a long story.

I’m sure the writers of this web series are more than conscientious about this particular limitation of the form. Though Lizzie tells much of the story, it has a confessional feel. To me it seems like a very juicy first-person narrative where you want the character to tell you exactly what they think, because what they think is usually entertaining. And beyond that, Lizzie and whoever she ropes into it—Charlotte Lu, her bestie, or one of her sisters, who have been restricted to Jane and Lydia (don’t worry about the other sisters. There’s a cat named Kitty and an emo cousin named Mary. Brilliant)—put on silly costumes and entertain us with Lizzie’s version of events.

I think it’s an effective way to tell the story while using only vlogs (as opposed to having the camera follow Lizzie and film her every day life). It does mean, however, that several characters are talked about but not introduced on camera. Her mother, for one. Her father, for another.

And Darcy.

This is where the C for romance comes in. I will say that not seeing Darcy, for one who’s entirely familiar with the original story, builds tension. Lots of tension. So that’s good. But if you take away any previous exposure to the story and make the web-series stand on its own, the romance falls flat. How am I supposed to root for an unlikable guy I’ve never met before? How can chemistry exist between two characters if the viewer never sees them interact?

For me, the chemistry doesn’t exist, but I’m willing to entertain opposing views. I think that the writers, again, are aware of this. They’ve done a good job having Lizzie’s friends who do feature on the blog paint an informative picture of Darcy. His snobbishness has hints of shyness. His honorable character is shown through the awesomeness of the people who love him (Bing and Fitz, mainly).

The fact remains that for me, the romance isn’t sizzling. But I’m okay with that. I think, and have always thought, that P&P is about so much more than the romance. And I think the web series gets that. It’s about Lizzie’s mom worrying about the future of her daughters in the middle of an economic crisis. It’s about Lizzie worrying about Charlotte going into business with a reality-challenged Mr. Collins. It’s about Lydia not connecting with anything other than partying (Lydia’s representation could be a post by itself. Short version: I’m impressed). It’s about Lizzie finding out how to be strong and independent  while also accepting other people’s decisions, even when she doesn’t agree/understand.

Etc.

There’s lots to love about this series. Give it a shot, if you haven’t already, and let me know what you think. http://www.youtube.com/user/LizzieBennet?feature=watch

Writing a Good Hook

I wasn’t going to talk about this yet, but the more time that passes, the more I keep thinking about it. And I need to share this with others. It’s killing me.

Let me start by informing you that I intern with a literary agency. I read hundreds and hundreds of queries, and I see the same mistakes being made again and again. But this post isn’t about writing a good query (I promise I’ll do a post on that at some point in the future); it’s about writing a good hook, your 1–2 sentences that sum up your entire book.

But rather than just tell you the kinds of things that I see, let me SHOW you.

Consider the following made up hook:

“In my book, TITLE, we follow MC (main character), a normal high school girl who suddenly becomes drawn to the mysterious MAIN BOY—and MC doesn’t know what to do when she discovers that MAIN BOY isn’t human.”

How do I phrase what I’m thinking as politely as possible?

Could you make your hook any more unoriginal?

Mysterious inhuman boy. Normal high school girl. Let me see how many books that hook could be referring to just off the top of my head: TWILIGHT (of course, you were all thinking that one); HUSH, HUSH; NEED; WINGS.

For the record, let it be known that I do not have a problem with any of these books, nor am I saying that they’re all the same story because they’re totally not. In fact, I really enjoy each of those books. My point is that your hook is not about what makes you like everyone else. Your hook is about what makes you different.

Are books with normal girls and mysterious boys bad? No. In fact, they’re quite popular. Teens (and many adults) love them. But the question you need to ask yourself is what makes my book different from every other book?

THAT is what you need to say in your hook. Because, really, hundreds of books can be boiled down to the same one-line hook. Emphasize what sets you apart. What makes you different than everyone else? Nay, I ask you, what makes you BETTER than everyone else? (Though please don’t phrase it like that in your query.)

Is it okay to write a vampire romance? Yes. BUT ONLY IF IT’S DIFFERENT. (Believe it or not, vampire romances are still being sold.) Is it the mythology that’s different? Is it your main character? Is it the bad guy? Tell me in the hook what the most exciting and most different thing is about your story.

And face the fact that if you can only reduce your story down to a line that exemplifies many other books, YOUR BOOK HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN. Don’t try to tell me that your main girl is the MVP of the basketball team whereas Bella was an awkward klutz. Not different enough.

Now think about this:

“In my book, TITLE, we follow MC, a self-professed hypochondriac who finds herself drawn to the mysterious MAIN BOY—and MC doesn’t know what to do when she discovers that MAIN BOY has contracted the appearance-altering vampiric disease.”

Don’t judge me; it was the first thing I came up with in 10 seconds.

Also, I’m sure there are several more books I missed that could be summed up in my original hook. What else can you think of?