Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Hook Me

Alright #PitchWars peeps.  I want you to sum up your book in a ONE sentence hook.  And I will comment on how I think you can improve it.

To start you off, here's an example from my book:

"When sixteen year old Lucy's brother washes up dead on their Scottish island, she's determined to find out what happened - murder, accident, or legend come to life."


Now it's your turn...go! 

103 comments:

  1. Thanks, Fiona! Here's my hook:

    THIMBLERIG'S ARK

    After having vivid nightmares of floods and unicorns, Thimblerig the groundhog comes up with the ultimate con: convincing some sucker animals that he can save them from the disaster to come - for a price. But when the flood comes, Thimblerig has to really save them, or he loses everything.

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    1. Okay, this is pretty smooth. It tells me it's most likely a younger reader's book. I do think you can trim your hook. I get how floods can be a disaster to come, but can unicorns? Without having the context, this comes off a little too unsure on the query. I'd drop the unicorns. You could also change "comes up with" to "devises". You want to be as concise as possible in a hook and really make every single word matter (because it does).

      Also, technically "convincing" would be better as "convince" and I think you can do without "that" as well. "disaster to come" could become "impending disaster".

      Lastly, "loses everything" could be more specific. What is "everything" to Thimblerig? Home? Friends? Possessions?

      All you need is some concision and specificity here. Otherwise, you're good to go!

      Delete
  2. Here's mine.

    After fending off drunken losers, Zoe finally meets the girl of her dreams—as long as she can ignore the fur and fangs. When she’s blackmailed, she must give in or expose the girl she loves to the world.

    P.S. Both of yours look great.

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    1. First off....cheeky! This is a two sentence hook lol. However, let's see what we can do to work with this...

      The problem with your hook is it's not specific enough. I actually think the blackmail part is your hook - what is she blackmailed about?

      "Zoe meets the girl of her dreams, but when she discovers she has fur and fangs and is blackmailed into X, she must choose - give in or expose her lover to the world."

      Obviously, I don't know what your book is fully about, but I'd love to see a more specific hook (feel free to post again!).

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    2. This is my other pitch. I'm still debating between which of the two stories to enter.

      Reincarnation's a bigger bitch than the goddess hell-bent on killing Saekina, but this time, she might be out of lives.

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    3. I love the punch this packs. All I'd like to see is it being a touch more specific in terms of what their reason for the conflict is. Also, if it's a unique mythology base, then hint at that too (as diversity it hot right now!).

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    4. Hmm. Not sure how to squeeze all that in there. There is diversity in it. The main character is a woc and bi, though neither have anything impact on the plot, so they're not mentioned. I'd like to think the mythology of the world is unique.

      conflict: Goddess is trying to kill Saekina because she's worried she'll remember certain things from a past life..

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    5. Reincarnation's a bigger bitch than the goddess hell-bent on preventing Saekina from accessing her past life’s memories, but this time, she might be out of lives.

      It got a lot wordier.

      Delete
    6. Reincarnation's a bigger bitch than the goddess hell-bent on killing Saekina, but this time, if she remembers why, she might be out of lives.

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. (Oops. Missing some punctuation there...)

    Sixteen-year-old Pearlene enlists the help of the healing preacher who failed to cure her mama to bring down the demon who made Mama sick in the 1st place.

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    1. This feels like it runs on a little and tries to cram so much in that it's hard to get the power behind the hook. Also, I think it raises a slightly concerning question - like, why use a preacher who couldn't help the last time?

      "You could try reorganizing it a little: Sixteen year old Pearlene gives a second chance to the preacher who failed to heal her mom--if he can rid the demon making momma sick."

      Obviously, I don't know your story, so finding the right angle is hard. Is she out for revenge? Is it to cure her mother? I'd love to see this hook reworked.

      Delete
    2. Reworked! Good gravy I hate this part :)

      When a demon-boy leaves her best friend looking like road kill on the steps of First Baptist, sixteen-year-old Pearlene’s sole hope of getting even is the only expert in town: the healing preacher who failed to heal her mama.

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    3. Well why didn't you say so? This is MUCH better. Yes. This is good. Yes. Very nice.

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    4. Bahaha. Oh bless you. Thanks for doing this!

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    5. That is much better. I love the first part especially. Adds so much to this.

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  5. Hunter and friends, transformed into amateur detectives when they suspect their famous high school footfall coach could bring disgrace to their team, school and beloved small town, are driven in directions they never could have anticipated before stumbling upon truths they never saw coming.

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    1. This has got really good personal stakes in it. But the "driven in directions" and "truths they never saw coming" is a little vague. I think you could make this a tighter focused. (something like "Hunter and his friends turn amateur detectives when their famous high school coach threatens to bring disgrace to their team and small town; now it's up to them to solve the case before X happens").

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    2. You're so right! Thank you. I've revised that sentence more times than I can count and you showed me just what I was struggling to achieve. Amazing how challenging that important sentence can be.

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    3. Could the "X" be as simple as ...before somebody dies?

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    4. You know the answer to that question, don't you? *nods* It can be that...but...I have an inkling you think you can make it stronger. And you could. This is a very good hook but can you personalize the "somebody dies" part? Can it be something like "before one of his friends are killed" or "one of the people he protects gets killed" or something to that effect? Make it as personal as you can.

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    5. Perfect.....before one of his friends are killed.

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  6. Oops! I published too quickly and left out thanks!

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  7. Zoe meets the girl of her dreams—if she can get past the fur and fangs. When she’s blackmailed into x, she must choose–give in or expose her lover to the world.

    X is where I have the problem. I don’t know how to get it in there. What happens is her parents are sending lawyers after the classmate who threatened her. He’s pissed, and when he learns about The Beast, he tells Zoe to call off the lawyers, or he’ll expose The Beast.

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    1. Ah okay this is much clearer to work with. I think you need to find something along the lines of:

      Zoe has finally met the girl of her dreams, but when a class rival discovers her new girlfriend is part beast, he threatens to reveal all, leaving Zoe with only two options: give in to his demands or let the truth be exposed.

      Delete
  8. Here's mine:

    When seventeen year-old Nova Gordon learns the existence of greek gods, she must come to terms with who she truly is, her growing feelings, and what she did to piss off the Goddess of War before the goddess makes good on her name.

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    1. You have a lot in here for a hook. You've covered a huge scope but I think you need to narrow your focus a little.

      I'm guessing this query means she is a Greek goddess of some form herself? (let me know if I'm wrong there). I like that she doesn't know what she did (this is good).

      I would be inclined to rework this. Your story is basically: Learning you're actually a goddess is tough; learning the Goddess of War is out for your blood and you don't know why is even harder.

      See what I mean? You don't need to cover growing feelings, who she truly is, or any of the extraneous stuff. Whittle this right down to its core.

      Delete
  9. Wow you are so awesome! Thank you for doing this!

    Seventeen year old Lux dares to to run away from the primitive island she's stuck on to find answers about the devastating disaster that allegedly wiped out her home and her people, but before she can push her boat into the water, she's kidnapped by pirates.

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    1. I love a lot of what is here. Primitave island? Disaster? Pirates? Check, check, check (I want this). However, you need to spit shine the hook just a tad as it's too much like an opening of a query as opposed to a hook.

      I'd be really to the point and cut out some of the descriptive phrases, such as "devastating" (we know it is if it allegedly wiped out her people), and "push her boat into the water" could go (as lovely as it is, it doesn't add to the hook). "she's stuck on" could go, as she's running away and it's her home so we will know she's stuck. So it would become:

      Seventeen year old Lux dares to to run away from her primitive island to find answers about the disaster that allegedly wiped out her home and her people, but before she can escape, she's kidnapped by pirates..."

      I left the ... in that version as I think you could put in a hint about the consequences here.

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    2. Yay! Thank you so much!! I love what you eliminated with it.

      Yes, I agree I need some of the stakes in there. Hmm.,. how about "As they sail father and father from both the island and her homeland, Lux will have to choose between the life she's always wanted or a chance at love in a new world." ?

      I know some mentors are looking for diverse YA and I'm wondering if I should include anything to hint that its diverse. Its set on a Asian-Pacific Island and is steeped in Middle Eastern culture. (Though the culture is more of a character rather an issue)

      Thanks again!!!

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    3. I see hints of me in you! I was a great fan of long descriptions lol. It's hard to cull your darlings, but it makes for stronger prose. Okay, so working with what you have now, here is what I would do:

      "Seventeen year old Lux dares to to run away from her primitive island to find answers about the disaster that allegedly wiped out her home and her people, but before she can escape, she's kidnapped by pirates, and now she must choose: the life she hoped for, or a chance at love in a new world.

      You can definitely include that it's diverse. You do that in the second paragraph of your query. Normally, you hook your reader with the first sentence, expand in the paragraph, and flesh out conflict and stakes in the second paragraph.

      Middle Eastern is awesome! And it is an issue but issues sell. ;-)

      And I hope you send this my way. Also a tip - make sure you go through your ms before PW and cull your description. I know you're going to be a wordy one!

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    4. *I'd say "forced to choose" actually.

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    5. Wow, thank you so much! I'll definitely take your advice!! You are on my list for mentors :) I hope you're a fan of romance as well?

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    6. I can definitely take some romance in a book. I don't work on straight romance books, but I expect most YA will have a healthy chunk. I really look forward to reading your sub!

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  10. Daniel Smith is content with his life as an agent with the Information Retrieval Unit (IRU) until flashbacks and memories from another man begin to pervade his life.

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    1. Ooh, this is interesting. I'm guessing the information he gets is from people's brains? If so, can you work that in? If not, how do the two things connect?

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    2. Thanks Fiona. Here is another go:

      Daniel Smith is content with his life as an agent with the Information Retrieval Unit (IRU) until flashbacks and memories from another man begin to pervade his life; He doesn’t realize that his own memories have been wiped with an information retrieval—yet.

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    3. I can see where you're going with this, but it's gotten a little unwieldy. So I'd consider a different take on it. Here's my suggestion:

      The Information Retrieval Unit harvests memories, but when IRU Agent Daniel starts having flashbacks of another man's life, he must...X"

      Obviously, you fill in the X in as few words as possible. What must he do? Go on a search to find his own memories? Go on a mission to discover who the other man is? Tell us in as few a words as you can.

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    4. Thanks Fiona! Right on target as always!

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  11. And thanks so much for doing this! You helped me hone a pitch from a different novel for another contest, and it helped immensely!

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    1. Glad that I could help you with your previous pitch. I adore pitching. It's one of my favorite parts of the game (and editing). Don't ask...I'm odd like that!

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    2. I love pitching as well. There is an art and science to it! :)

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  12. Thank you so much for offering the time to do this, you rock!

    Here's mine (too long, I know, but there's so much that feels like it needs to be included so that my NA novel doesn't come off as romance).

    When an accident leaves Astrid temporarily homeless, jobless, and plagued by bizarre dreams, she slowly realizes she forgot most of the previous day, which she spent with an oddly charming stranger... but as she starts to remember and search for him, she wonders if he ever really existed.

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    1. Maybe try something like "When an accident leaves Astrid homeless, jobless, plagued by strange dreams (how are they strange?), and a lost day spend with a charming stranger. As she starts to remember him, she wonders (why?) if he really exists.

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    2. (One more thing: the book is set in 1999 in Boston/Cambridge. Should I try to work that in somehow?)

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    3. I like you. You know the essence of what isn't working in your pitch and you're keen to show your diversity. I can help you with this though.

      This is one of the ones that's easier for me to show you an example of how I would tackle it.


      Unable to remember the previous day, Astrid searches for a mystery man who crops up in her dreams, but the more she learns about her accident, the more she doubts he ever existed.

      You've actually got a tough pitch there, as this one isn't high concept (high concept is easier to one line pitch). I'd love to see a query blurb on this so I can get a fuller handle on your plot. This might help toward making the pitch more high concept in tone.

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    4. The dreams are surreal and most feature the stranger. She questions whether he existed because she's not sure if she is actually remembering or if the memories are tied to her dreams.

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    5. You are the wind beneath my wings, Fiona. I'm struggling with the query, too (surprise) but have a paragraph I can share. Should I paste it here or email it to you?

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    6. I don't think you need to work in the time and place for your hook. That can go in the rest of your query. :-)

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    7. You can post it here if you're comfortable too, or you can email me on freelance_writer_fm@hotmail.com

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  13. Zoe has finally met the girl of her dreams—if she can get past the fur and fangs, but when a class rival discovers her new girlfriend is part beast, he threatens to reveal all, leaving Zoe with only two options: give in to his demands or let the truth be exposed.

    Not a fan of calling him a rival. He's an asshole who got aggressive when Zoe said no to his advances.

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    1. Okay, so you could change "rival" to "an aggressive classmate" or something of that sort.

      Delete
  14. When Wayne, the zombie, walked into Rita Boone’s used book store, he was not looking for books to read or brains to eat; he was looking for help; his own ghost was haunting him.

    Thank you for your time

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    1. Lol! I love the humorous feel this has! (Please tell me this is humor!).

      I would change the last semi colon to an em dash. Other than that, I love this! No changes for you!

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  15. Fiona: Thank you so much. I am just starting to put my writing out there. This manuscript is a paranormal SF but not the heavy kind, there is a lot of humor.

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    1. I'm so glad you're sharing your work with the writing world. It is a very tough arena but the community is AMAZING. You have a really fun sounding book here, so best of luck with PW!

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    2. P.S. You're a natural pitcher (which you can tell because there are few subs I don't tear apart). This will see you well for your whole career (soooo much pitching involved in publishing!).

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  16. When her sister, Leah, goes from hospice patient to superhero, Izzy is determined to learn why, and when agents come to retrieve Leah, Izzy must take up arms to save her cyborg sister and herself.

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    1. I actually really like this the way it is. Second query today with no changes! Congrats!

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    2. Thanks so much! Such a hard thing boiling it down like this.

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  17. When her brother's kidnapped, Cori battles tiny cannibals & a giant winged serpent to rescue him from the Winter Chief.

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    1. I like the concise nature of this, but something doesn't sit quite right. I think it's because "Winter Chief" is hard for me to place into a context. Could you tell me a little more about your book? I'm pretty sure we could get this hook to be a little stronger, but I need more information on this book first. Thanks!

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    2. Thanks for helping. It's a YA UF with elements of American Indian mythology, hence "Winter Chief". If I used the Lakota term, it would probably be more confusing/foreign.

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    3. Ooh, I think you can work in the American Indian mythology here in order to get it to really pack a punch. For example:

      The Lakota "Winter Chief" has kidnapped Cori's brother and in order to save him she must battle tiny cannibals & a giant winged serpent or risk never seeing him again.

      Delete
  18. An all-female Soviet bomber regiment, armed only with obsolete wooden biplanes, must face off against both the Nazis and the perception that women can't fight.

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    1. I adore this concept, and you have a very strong hook. However, can you give it a personal slant? For example:

      Teamed with an all-female Soviet bomber regiment, armed only with obsolete wooden biplanes, {NAME} must face off against both the Nazis and the perception that women can't fight.

      Other than that, this is wonderful!

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    2. Hmm, I prefer not to open it with two dependent clauses. Perhaps:

      "As part of an all-female Soviet bomber regiment armed only with obsolete wooden biplanes, Valya must face off against both the Nazis and the perception that women can't fight."

      Or simply:

      "Armed only with an obsolete wooden biplane, Soviet bomber pilot Valya must face off against both the Nazis and the perception that women can't fight."

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    3. The first one of these two is the one that works best. I love the sound of this!

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  19. Sixteen-year-old Laney fights to stay out of the media spotlight when her father's former anarchist punk band is nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but her desire to find out who her mother was risks landing her in the tabloids

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    1. Okay then, let's see...I like that you have a strong internal conflict here, but my concern is that the hook doesn't gel together in the way that it should (I think you need to start with the most important part - the mother). If you can start with the search for her mother and the obstacle (that it's the media spotlight) second, this would help the logic and flow, IMO.

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    2. Thank you for your feedback! I feel like I always read hooks in the "movie trailer guy" voice. Makes things more entertaining :)

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  20. (also, thank you for doing this!)

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  21. "When a bloodbath masquerading as a revolution against the elite begins, 17 year old Braxton and his no name, no past, gun-toting guardian must depend on each other if they want to make it out alive...and maybe discover a couple harrowing secrets about the city they live in, the rebels and worse of all, themselves along the way. "

    Thanks for doing this!

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    1. Your hook starts off very well for this and really paints the image of what is to come. However, the second part of your hook becomes vague - "discover harrowing secrets" is general and doesn't make the hook strong. Try to be more specific.

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    2. Thanks for the advice! What about this?

      "When a bloodbath masquerading as a revolution against the elite oligarchy begins, 17 year old Braxton and his no name, no past, gun-toting guardian lives quickly turn from soirees, schools and mundane repetition to outwitting blood hungry rebels, relying on each other, and coming to terms with the simple truth that all kingdoms must fall. "

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    3. Okay, this is clearer but it's got a little too long winded. This is what I'd be inclined to do:

      "When a bloodbath masquerading as a revolution begins, 17 year old Braxton and his no name, no past, gun-toting guardian must outwit blood hungry rebels, rely on each other, and come to terms with the simple truth that all kingdoms must fall."

      It is a little long, but I think you can get away with it on this one, as it reads very smoothly and paints an epic scope (as it does sound like the book is epic in nature).

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    4. Oh, lol.

      That is a lot easier and captures a lot of information. Pitch writing really is a skill! Thanks so much :)

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  22. Hi. Thank you so much for helping with pitches. My pitch is for an Adult novel, not YA, but I'd really appreciate it you'd take a look at it.

    Mason didn’t realize a sexy divorcee behind the wheel of a car could end his life quicker than a shank. His chance encounter with Mia accumulated into a steamy affair but then her brother—his parole officer—and his former gang threatened to tear them apart.

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    1. Okay, so I like that this has the prison aspect to it. However, the first thing I notice is that you change into past tense half way through the hook and it lost its immediacy. While your first line is pretty, I think it could be combined with the second (and shortened) in order to pack a fuller punch. For example: A chance encounter with a sexy divorcee could end Mason's life quicker than a shank..." See what I mean?

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    2. Thank you!
      I didn't realize until you mentioned it that I switched to past tense in the second sentence.
      I like your example of combining the two sentences to make it shorter. It does pack a better punch.
      What do you think of this one? (It's a bit longer though)

      Mason’s chance encounter with Mia accumulates into a steamy affair but then his former gang and her brother—his parole officer—threatens to tear them apart.

      Delete
    3. This is looking good. Packs a stronger punch and sums up the novel very nicely indeed. I like it!

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  23. Thank you for this! Mine is YA contemporary. Having serious issues condensing into a single sentence.

    18 year old Ivy decided to attend the same college as her boyfriend, so when he dumps her the day before high school graduation, she's crushed. She flees to her grandparent's island home for the summer, desperate for space, but instead she finds Ren. Ivy must discover if it's possible to find herself without sacrificing relationships.

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    1. I see what you mean about getting this into one sentence. You have a lot of info here, so what we need to do is pare it right back to it's essentials - dumped, island, new relationship.

      So, I would do something like:

      After being dumped by her boyfriend, Ivy flees to her grandparent's island home, but running into Ren leaves her questioning - can she find herself without sacrificing relationships?

      However (and here is the caveat) - the "sacrificing relationships" isn't clear. Why would she have to sacrifice a relationship? Make this clearer and it will be good.

      Remember, some of your details can't fit in your hook; they'll have to go in the rest of your query. Your opening line is simply to bait the agent to read more. :-)

      Delete
    2. That's great, thanks!

      I realized after I sent it that the relationships line was badly put. The idea is that she's now afraid that if she's in a relationship, she has to sacrifice herself; conversely, if she wants to find herself, she feels like she has to say no to all relationships.

      Thank you!

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  24. After a brutal abduction, a Viking Princess must earn the love of her new country before she can gain power and vengeance.

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    1. Steven, this is actually great. You are one of the very few I wouldn't change. I'd love to read this if it was YA (hint hint)

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    2. Thank you! Thank you! Yes! How? @Stevenrogersvox

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    3. Are you entering Pitch Wars? http://www.brenda-drake.com/pitch-wars/ Enter this! (it's free!) You can also find out more on the #PitchWars hashtag on Twitter :-)

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    4. Yes I am. My book is called Song of the Valkyrie and it is #HistFic It's too long and it starts out slow (but everyone who reads it likes it a lot). It's also kind of YA crossover Adult (or vice versa). Might you be interested?

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    5. I am interested in Valkyries very much so. However, I recommend you look at a way to start your novel as near to your inciting incident as possible. At Pitch Wars, we only get a the first pages to make a decision on (as we do in the agency inbox) so it's important to grab the reader right out of the gate. Too long I can handle, unless it is ridiculously long.

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  25. A pregnant sixteen-year-old pastor's daughter struggles to conceal what happened to her out of fear that it will define her life while her new, misfit gang insists on seeking revenge.

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    1. Okay, I get what you're doing here (and I like it) but the sentence feels a little clunky in style. And I don't know who this gang is getting their revenge on? The boy she slept with? Her father for being angry with her? Her for doing something? If you could clear that up and rephrase, then this would be good!!!

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    2. Thank you so much! Does this fix it?

      A pregnant sixteen-year-old pastor's daughter struggles to conceal what happened to her out of fear that it will define her life while her new, misfit gang insists on seeking revenge.

      Or should I whittle it down to make it less clunky?

      A pregnant sixteen-year-old pastor's daughter struggles to conceal what happened to her while her new, misfit friends plan revenge on the guy who knocked her up.

      Delete
  26. Thanks for this! :D

    Brogan, who has never felt cold, hates that he loves Liane, who has never felt heat - after all, he was sent to drag her to her death.

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    1. I love the concept of hot vs cold here and that he has to drag her to death...buuuuut...I don't know what the concrete plot is about. I need more detail. If you can, tell me a little more about your story and we can get this hook more specific.

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  27. Thanks for investing your time in helping us with our pitching woes, Fiona. :)

    Here's my thing:

    When an autistic werewolf boy's best friend runs away, he flees their owner to find her and bring her home safe.

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    1. I love the diverse feel in here and that you have summed this up so quickly. Werewolf is a tough sell, so the diverse bit helps. However, I do think this could have smoother phrasing. Also, why is the best friend not safe when away? Knowing that would be good.

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  28. Not sure if you’re still doing this and totally understand if you’re not, but if you ARE… Thank you!

    Here’s my pitch:

    “The morning after Brooks rapes her, Audrey Harper is evacuated because of a wildfire she and Brooks set and, in order to make sense of their decent into arson and abuse, she must return to his first of many lies about his older brother’s suicide and recognize her own shortcomings with telling the truth.”

    YA contemporary (hopefully obvious). Feel like I’m leaving so many critical aspects out, like how the present of the story takes place in one day (similar to IF I STAY), how Brooks’s is a volunteer firefighter now fighting the fire he set, how the same morning of the evacuation Audrey’s younger sister faints during a ballet audition Audrey walked on out two years ago because of her denied eating disorder, the several hikes to the flames, and etc etc etc…

    But that said, I’m thinking it’s better to stick with the main bone of the plot. I don’t know!

    Again, no worries if this is over and done (know I’m late to the game, but only just stumbled here)—and major thanks if not ☺

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    1. There is a lot going on in this one line hook and it shows me there is a complex novel here. But I think you’ve tried to fit too much into a one sentence pitch. Remember, your one sentence hook is to entice the reader into reading the full pitch. So you can tone back some of these elements. I’d be inclined to pare this back to something along the lines of:

      “A wildfire causes Audrey Harper to be evacuated the morning after her rape, but no amount of fire is going to stop her finding the answers she needs…even if she did set the fire herself.”

      Or something to that effect. Then you can go on to cover everything else in the main pitch itself. Make sense? (if you're unsure of the difference between a hook and a pitch, I can explain for you - just let me know :-) ).

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