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Loglines and Hooks With Core Wounds

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Your hook line (also known as logline) is your first chance to get a New York or Hollywood professional interested in your novel. It can be utilized in your query to hook the agent into requesting the project. It is especially useful for those pitch sessions at conferences, lunches, in the elevator, or anywhere else. When a prospective agent or editor asks you what your book is about, your high-concept hook line is your answer. Writing one also encourages a realization of those primary elements that will make your novel into a work of powerful fiction. 

The great novel, more often than not, comprises two stories: the exterior story or plot line, and an interior story focused primarily on the protagonist, one that defines and catalyzes her or his evolutionary arc throughout the novel. For example, a protagonist with a flaw or core wound that prevents her from achieving a worthwhile goal is forced to respond to a lifechanging event instigated by an antagonist, and in the process of responding to that lifechanging event (usually with the help of an ally) she is forced to overcome her flaw. In doing so, she becomes far more capable of achieving her goal in defiance of the antagonist.

The key elements of conflict, complication, and dramatic rising action are all pretty much related and serve to keep the reader's eyes fixated on your story. These days, serving up a big manuscript of quiet is a sure path to post-slush damnation. You need tension on the page, and the best way to accomplish this is to create conflict and complication in the plot, and narrative as well.

Elements of a Hook or Logline (examples below)

    Character(s) – Who is the protagonist? What is his/her main goal? What is their CORE WOUND (see below)?

    Conflict – Who is the antagonist? Is she/he implied or clear in the hook line? What obstacle do they create to frustrate the protagonist?

    Distinction – What is the primary unique element of your story that makes it stand out?

    Setting – for a novel, adding a little about the setting, time period, and possibly genre (if it’s not obvious) is a VERY good idea.

    Action – Your hook line should radiate verve and energy. Which hook as follows catches your interest more? A woman has an affair and runs off with her new beau, OR, a neglected wife begins a torrid affair with an ex-con, soon kidnapping her children to flee the state and join him in Vegas. 
As for "core wounds," consider conscious motivation stimulated by both memory and subconscious pain. The "core wound" drives the character in certain unique ways, perhaps leads them on a journey to prove themselves. Resolution, if it ever comes, will make them happier, healthier, or more in tune with the world around them.  
Every core wound is based on a basic knowledge that we are unacceptable as we are, so we have to adjust and change to be perceived as good.
Fundamental and popular core wounds include loss of a parent, a broken heart, an ultimate mistake (the character could spend a lifetime trying to make amends), a big secret (the revelation of which could ruin or harm the character), or perhaps a perceived terrible failure in the character's past (a primary desire forever denied by a moment's hesitation or a small mistake).

From Psychology Today:

"Core wounds tend to be things like a sense of not being enough, of being unlovable to a parent, of feeling stupid, dirty, unwanted, or ugly. No matter what your core wound may be, you can guarantee that your wound influences who you are and how you behave..."

"Every core wound is based on a basic knowledge that we are unacceptable as we are, so we have to adjust and change to be perceived as good. It influences our self-esteem and the very fabric of our thoughts."

And one core wound is usually enough. As famous screenplay writer Peter Russell points out:

Note that the sample hooks or loglines below are divided into two basic parts: the CORE WOUND and the resulting dramatic complication that drives conflict.

    "The Hand of Fatima" by Ildefonso Falcones
    A young Moor torn between Islam and Christianity, scorned and tormented by both, struggles to bridge the two faiths by seeking common ground in the very nature of God.

    * The protagonist is scorned and tormented, thus the core wound, and as a result he seeks to fulfill an almost impossible task.

    "Summer Sisters" by Judy Blume
    After sharing a magical summer with a friend, a young woman must confront her friend's betrayal of her with the man she loved.

    * The protagonist is betrayed by her friend and thus her core wound, and as a result she must take steps to reach a closure wherein conflict will surely result.

    "The Bartimaeus Trilogy" by Jonathan Stroud
    As an apprentice mage seeks revenge on an elder magician who humiliated him, he unleashes a powerful Djinni who joins the mage to confront a danger that threatens their entire world.

    * Humiliated into a core wound by an elder magician, the story line erupts into a conflict with the entire world at stake.
Note it is a simple matter to ascertain the stakes in each case above: a young woman's love and friendship, the entire world, and harmony between opposed religionsIf you cannot make the stakes clear, the odds are you don't have any. Take note!


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Michael Neff
Algonkian Producer
New York Pitch Director
Author, Development Exec, Editor

We are the makers of novels, and we are the dreamers of dreams.

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