By studying examples of one sentence hooks, I’ve found a similarity that ties them together. Each sentence has four elements that can be broken into the following formula (Cyndi’s Tip Sheet – One Sentence Hook Sheet)
Character Flaw + Character Job + Action + Goal
Creating the elements can be shown as follows, but keep in mind that when you design your sentence (pitch-hook) you will want to use the character that has the most to lose in your story. This method can also be used in developing secondary characters.
Where to start (example):
Question: Publicly, how does your hero act?
Answer: Extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous.
Using the Enneagram Institute’s description of personality types, he must be The Enthusiast (#7).
As a #7, his basic fear is: Of being deprived and in pain.
Now go back into the Enneagram and read what happens to a character when they are at their worst (Level 9) and pick a character flaw.
Character flaw: Claustrophobia
Using the flaw of claustrophobia, create a one sentence backstory to explain why he fears confined spaces (what caused him in his past to dreadfully fear being confined – deprived and in pain?):
Backstory Example: He fell into an abandoned water well when he was six years old, broke his arm as a result of the fall, and wasn’t rescued for three days.
Okay, now that we know why he’s terrified of confined spaces, make him revisit his fear of being trapped to get his goal. This is the Action tag.
Action: He descends into a Yucatan cenote (underground cavern spring).
Next, we need to find out what his goal is.
Question: What would my character find in a cenote?
Answer: Fish, eels, snakes, some legendary albino crocodile.
Now assign him a story goal.
Goal: To prove existence of a legendary albino crocodile.
We’re almost done.
Your character needs a unique job and one that only he can do to get to his goal—otherwise any character could descend into the cenote and return with his crocodile.
If your character is going after the legendary crocodile, he might be one who study reptiles.
Job: a Herpetologist (someone who studies reptiles).
Finally, restate the one sentence story summary with all the elements in order and you’ve got your one sentence pitch or hook that’s FULL OF CONFLICT. (Try to keep your sentence to fewer than fifteen words).
A claustrophobic herpetologist descends into a Yucatan cenote to prove a legendary albino crocodile’s existence.
Add prior to this hook a well-known visual when pitching for a SUPER VISUAL HOOK:
In my Avatar meets Romancing the Stone contemporary romantic comedy, a claustrophobic herptologist descends into a Yucatan cenote to prove a legendary albino crocodile’s existence .
Additional step for fun:
Go back into the Enneagram and read what happens to a character when they are at their best (Level 1).
Character Attribute: Become awed by the simple wonders of life.
This is what will happen at the end of your story–your character will become awed by the simple wonders of life. If you are writing a romance or HEA (happily ever after), he will discover the rare crock, but, perhaps, omit that fact to protect the beast from being hunted further. He will simply be too fascinated by the discovery . . . and he’ll get the girl, of course.
I’d love to read some of your examples using this method and hope this example removes some of the mystery out of creating the perfect hook.