Tag Archive | structure

One Sentence Hook – Adding and Creating Conflict

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.

Happy writing, Cyndi Faria

Story Structure for Fiction Writers

By applying screenplay structure to your novel and incorporating compelling heroes/heroines, internal and external desires, and conflict, your characters will be able to obtain their goals.

One of the quickest ways to see story structure in action is to watch movies. No matter the length of the movie, the five key turning points will happen at the same place (%) in the movie.

I’ve broken down the romantic comedy 50 First Dates, a film by Peter Segal, for my examples. I’m using the hero Henry Roth (played by Adam Sandler). This movie is 100 minutes long—note the minutes at each percentage and what happens.

Each act is broken down into percentages.

ACT 1 (0%-25%)

0-10%: Stage 1 – Setup

  • This stage must grab the reader’s attention.
  • The hero or heroine (H/h) must be likeable: sympathetic, humorous, and or powerful.
  • Showing the H/h in their everyday life the reader must see their character flaws.
 In the beginning:
Henry is a playboy in Hawaii–spending every night with a different, beautiful tourist showing each woman the time of her life–but living a no-strings-attached life and pretending to someone he’s not.
By day, he is a marine biologist working at the local sea world taking care of walrus. 
Flaw: He lacks comittment.

10%: Turning point 1 – New Opportunity

  • In a romance, this is where the H/h meets each other;
  • The protagonist meets the antagonist;and/or
  • The dead body is revealed.
 10 Minutes into the movie:
Henry meets Lucy (played by Drew Barrymore) at a local diner. Their connection and attraction is immediate and funny.

 10%-25%: Stage II – New Situation

  • During this time, the H/h reacts to their new situation.
  • As the conflict builds, the H/h realizes that he must change his plans.

 ACT II (25% – 75%)

Turning Point 2 – Change of Plans (Desire/Goal/Motivation Defined)

  • At the end of this stage, the H/h defines their desire.
  • The story goal is defined.
  •  The H/h outer motivation is revealed.
25 Minutes into the movie:
Intrigued with Lucy and disregarding her memory loss, Henry leaves his old way of life and tries to make Lucy fall in love with him every day.
External Goals:
Henry shares his goal to study walrus’s in Alaska.
Lucy wants to teach art.
25%-50%: Stage III – Progress
  • During the progress stage, obstacles to achieve the GOAL are easily overcome.
  • The H/h could return to their old life.

 50%: Turning Point 3 – Point of No Return:

  • Once the H/h passes the 50% mark there is no going back.
  • They fully commit to their goal.
  • This is when the H/h stop acting from their flaw and are rewarded with sex.
50 Minutes into the movie:
After discovering that Lucy has short term memory loss, integrating with her family, seeing the reality of what his daily life with Lucy would be like, having to reintroduce himself to her and make her fall in love with him all over again every day, he makes the decision to stay. He tells her he wants to have sex.

50%-75%: Stage IV – Complications and Higher Stakes

  • As a result of passing Point of No Return, the conflict heightens and the H/h has a lot to lose. The goal becomes difficult to achieve.
  • As the conflict continues to build, the H/h sees their goal in reach, but at the end of this stage suffer a major setback called the Black Moment.

ACT III (75% – 100%)

75%: Turning Point 4 – Black Moment

  • Black Moment is when the H/h confronts their fears and what they desire most is taken away.
  • They are stripped of their flaws, but they see the truth and accept to move on.
75 Minutes into the movie:
When Henry discovers that her condition is permanent, he is willing to give up his dream to study walrus and take care of Lucy (note: he rejects his no-strings-attached flaw accepting commitment).
Lucy over hears him telling this to her doctor, and then she convinces him to breaks up with her.
He returns to the aquarium, fixes his boat, and decides to leave for Alaska.

75%-90%: Stage V – Final Push

  • In this stage, the H/h must face the biggest obstacle;
  • Conflict is overwhelming;
  • The pace is accelerated;
  • Everything works against the H/h until they reach the Climax.

90%: Turning Point #5 – Climax

  • They must face the biggest obstacle of their journey.
  • The H/h must determine THEIR OWN FATE SEPERATELY
  • Outer motivation must be resolved.
90 Minutes into the Movie:
Henry returns to island. He finds Lucy teaching art (She has obtained her external goal).
She asks him “Why do I dream about you?” (She remembers him).
He asks her to marry him – she says yes. He gets girl.
He becomes self-accepting, genuine, and benevolent.

90%-100%: Stage VI – New Life

  • The H/h objective is resolved.
  • The H/h gets their internal and external goal (if you’re writing a happily-ever-after HEA)
  • But because the H/h has changed, the resolution of the H/h goal is not exactly as they originally expected.
90 Minutes into Movie:
Together they journey to Alaska, where he studies walrus and she creates a memory book (art).

Try applying this method to other movies—it’s fun!

Now open a book and search for the turning points, or better yet, create a story of your own using the Three Act Structure.

Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Writing, Cyndi Faria