Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Fun - Tropes and Hooks and Christmas, Oh My!

Pink Heart Society regular, Donna Alward, joins us today to talk about tropes and hooks and all those things that get readers caught up in a book...

It's Friday, which means it's THE WEEKEND and it's time to think about cutting loose a little bit. I love Friday. Sometimes I do my weekly cleaning so I have the weekend "off". Quite often around 8 or so it's time to say fuggedaboutit and open a bottle of wine (see below) and chill with a book or a movie or something I've taped on the DVR. Right now I have about 30 hours of stuff I haven't watched thanks to deadlines and season starters (and that's a whole other post. Maybe two. Trust me). And we won't talk about my TBR...

Which made me think about what kinds of books and shows I like to watch, and why, and that led me to thinking about different tropes and hooks in stories and why they resonate with readers.

And that led me to thinking about my upcoming release, Christmas at Seashell Cottage.

Bear with me here.

Here's what happened. St. Martin's bought my Jewell Cove trilogy (which was cause for much champagne and cake) and then this past winter, my editor asked if I'd be interested in doing a shorter Christmas story for digital release, set in Jewell Cove. Of course I said yes! Christmas at Seashell Cottage is right around 50,000 words (series romance length) and it made sense for the characters to be someone we've met already - at least the heroine, Charlie. Dave, on the other hand, is a bit of a mystery man. A mystery man that Charlie has been fantasizing about just a wee bit...


But what was the hook? What was going to set this book apart?

Now, I'm a girl who likes a challenge. Once, several years ago, I mentioned I didn't like amnesia hooks. And then my critique partner challenged me to write one and I did. Amnesia is still not my favorite hook but I did enjoy writing that story (Remember Me, Cowboy).

So the my editor mentions that they were in a meeting and the words "baby in a manger" came up.


And in the words of Ted and Barney: CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.

So yeah. Christmas at Seashell Cottage features a baby in a manger. An abandoned baby, to be precise, and a mystery man, and a by-the-book young doctor, and a small town full of Christmas spirit (including the annual Christmas festival).

Here's what I think makes a hook or trope really work (or not): plausibility. So if I take on a hook that seems far-fetched or whatever, the trick is to make it REAL like it could actually happen. And the emotions around it have to be real too.

So there you go. Now it's time to challenge YOU! What sorts of tropes or hooks do you love, hate, or love to hate?

Find out more about Donna Alward and the rest of her Jewell Cove series at her website, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Hate the heroine that is so stupid as to walk into trouble by going to a place no sane person would go!

  2. I lOVE the baby in a manger idea and agree completely that if you can find an unusual hook and make it happen in a believeable way it gives a book that extra edge. I think any trope or hook can work as long a motivation is there eg I don't like secret babies where I don't understand the motivation for keeping the baby secret but if I understand and empathise with the reason then I don't have an issue with it. Enjoy the wine Donna!

  3. Nina, that's why secret babies are so hard to write. There has to be a really, really good reason for not telling the father! But when they are well done...wowsers!

    1. "But when they are well done...wowsers!"

      Now, does that apply to the stories or the secret babies. :D

  4. i don't like Amnesia or identical Twins seperated at birth (one good one evil)... i do like secret admirer hooks though..who is sending the flowers,gifts etc