By Hook Or By Book
Were you surprised to discover that the ‘Lost’ writers didn’t know what they were doing after their initial premise played out? The final episode brings a circularity to this shaggiest of shaggy dog stories, but little else. Like ‘The Prisoner’ before it, and ‘The X Files’, it proved to be all hook and no punchline. The difference was that this time around, the writers had cynically assured everyone that All Would Be Explained.
Which finally and irrevocably answers the eternal question; when we’re pitching ideas for books or screenplays, should we sell the hook or the story? I think these days it’s now entirely about the hook. Imagine, if you will, the selling of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘A Handful Of Dust’. No longer would it be about a man whose heritage is reduced to the title by the philistinism of those around him. It would be ‘A rich handsome guy’s wife starts an affair with someone half her age – why?’ Today I have to pitch a book that’s all about the unfolding of the story – and I can already hear the editor’s reaction in my ears. ‘Where’s the hook?’
It’s tempting to just pitch something insanely ludicrous and worry about how it pans out later, as if I was pitching to a network. Thinking about it, is that so very terrible? Book industry folk, help me out here!