Grace Topping is a recovering technical writer and IT project manager, accustomed to writing lean, boring documents. Let loose to write fiction, she is now creating murder mysteries and killing off characters who remind her of some of the people she dealt with during her career. She’s discovering the delightful sweetness of revenge—writer’s style.
Learn more about Grace Topping at gracetopping.com.
You’ve Gotta Have a Gimmick
by Grace Topping
When I decided to write a cozy mystery, a mystery without violence, bad language, or sex, other writers told me I needed a hook. Okay, I said, a good opening line that will hook readers. No, they said, a hook. A hook? I’d always enjoyed reading cozy mysteries, but for someone new to writing them, I didn’t have a clue what a hook was.
If it wasn’t the opening, what was it? It sounded like the scene from the Broadway play and movie, Gypsy, where three experienced burlesque performers advised Gypsy Rose Lee that, “You’ve gotta have a gimmick.” And it had to be different from everyone else’s gimmick.
So I had to come up with a hook, whatever that was, and it had to be somewhat different from everyone else’s hook. Okay, I decided that I would have the victim fall from a laundry chute and land at my main character’s feet. That should certainly hook readers. They told me that was a great entrance for a body, but I still a needed a hook—you know, like have your main character own a bakery shop, walk dogs, make chocolate, run a knitting shop, be a librarian—things like that.
Oh, she should have a business or interest? Okay, I was finally getting the picture. I wouldn’t have called that a hook, but okay, I would come up with a hook—and one that hadn’t already been done hundreds of times. Was that even possible?
I went around for several days humming, “You’ve gotta have a gimmick,” but nothing was coming to mind. Since I hoped to write a series, I decided my hook/business/interest needed to be something I was interested in and enjoyed, something I had some knowledge of, or something I could research and sound like I knew what I was talking about. Easier said than done.
My experience at work was with computer systems related to banking. That certainly would attract a lot of readers. Not. I didn’t have any interest in arts and crafts, writing about food didn’t appeal to me, nor did any of the other things some cozy writers wrote about. What could I use as a hook that would interest me enough to write about it book after book. I really loved to read, but I couldn’t have my main character just sit around and read or quote from favorite books.
When I took a hard look at my life and interests on which to base a hook, nothing struck me as interesting enough to write about. What did I do besides going to work, caring for my family, cooking dinner, doing laundry, and other chores?
By the time I came home from work and finished with all of that, all I wanted to do was sit in a chair and turn on HGTV and mindlessly watch home stagers turn ugly duckling homes into swans that would sell fast and for more money. I loved those programs and eventually started helping friends stage their homes. I actually had a knack for it. Either that or I had watched so many staging shows that I was able to do what I saw the designers do.
That was it—my gimmick, ah…hook. I would have my main character be a home stager, start her own business, and have a body fall from a laundry chute and land at her feet. Perfect. I had my hook. Now all I had to do was write 70,000 words and I would have a cozy mystery.a Rafflecopter giveaway
Staging Wars Book Tour Itinerary
April 5 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
April 5 – Readeropolis – SPOTLIGHT
April 6 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE
April 7 – eBook Addicts – SPOTLIGHT
April 7 – The Book Decoder – REVIEW
April 8 – A Wytch’s Book Review Blog – REVIEW, CHARACTER INTERVIEW
April 8 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW
April 9 – Mysteries with Character – GUEST POST
April 10 – The Book Decoder – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
April 11 – Lisa Ks Book Reviews – REVIEW, CHARACTER GUEST POST
April 20 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW
April 20 – Elizabeth McKenna – Author – SPOTLIGHT
April 21 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – REVIEW
April 21 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT
April 22 – StoreyBook Reviews – GUEST POST
April 23 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT, RECIPE
April 24 – Teresa Trent Author Blog – REVIEW
April 25 – Reading Is My SuperPower – REVIEW