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The Hook and the Hitch

Boliva Fishing Hut

“I need to show you something.”

He led me through the screen door, around the barn, down a slope with slabs of limestone set into the hill, and along a narrow path winding through a thick stand of beech.

When we finally broke through the last of the trees I felt the wind, saw the circling sea hawk, and tasted the fear of the sudden drop as the ground disappeared before us.

A hollow feeling shot through my stomach and legs.

We stood on a cliff overlooking a bay of dark water surrounded by steep cliffs slanting toward the afternoon sun.

“Do you see that little fishing hut down there?”

When I strained I could make out a little two-door, two-window house with a light blue roof, possibly metal.

“Yes.”

“You can live in that hut. Fish from the shore. Drink water from the spring behind the hut. Build a garden. Everything you need to get away … to rest … to live a simple life.”

Something in me stirred.

“Any visitors?”

“A few. A fisherman may come into this bay. Trappers may come down to fish. But people just like you. People who understand you and where you came from.”

I was hooked.

I imagined climbing cliffs every morning, writing in the afternoon. During the summer I could swim in the bay and sleep under a blanket of bright stars at night. In the winter I could trap beaver and dog sled through the forest.

“What’s the cost?”

He smiled. “A dollar a day?”

I let out a deep breath. “So, what’s the hitch?”

He shrugged. “It’s haunted.”

This short story illustrates two important copywriting concepts. What are they? See the answer here

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Image source: Fishing hut on Isla Del Sol in Lake Titicaca

Comments

  1. I have no idea what the two concepts are, I just want to know what happened next?

  2. Will Eifert says:

    I’m not 100 percent sure what the two concepts are, but–

    This sounds a lot like the perceptual contrast that Cialdini writes about. When you focus first on the strongly positive aspects of life in the cabin and mention the downside with a “shrug” as if it is insignificant, the target might be more likely to take the hook.

  3. Hmmm, let’s see … the Hook and the Hitch?

  4. Gotta be the hook for sure…the first line kept me reading.

    So Demian…what are the 2 concepts ;)

    • So the hint is hook and the hitch:

      Hook: the ultra-unique angle that makes a product, service, or idea stand out … tied deeply into the emotional condition of the prospect. In this case, the hut in sheer seclusion providing a sanctuary for the main character to recover.

      Hitch: it’s the catch … your hook is so unbelievably cool there has to be a catch. This is the reason why … in the case of the story … the reason why the hut is so inexpensive. It adds credibility to the hook.

      Makes sense?

  5. Nick Fielden says:

    I think I might know the copywriting concepts you say the piece illustrates; but before I come to them, there are a couple of general writing rules that I believe you have overlooked. The first is to ensure your facts are correct: mahogany is a tropical tree; the photo would suggest Isla Del Sol, Lake Titicaca is in a temperate zone. In addition, you refer to trapping beaver and dog-sledding – not tropical activities. (Nor common Bolivian pursuits, I imagine, but artistic licence is permitted.) Secondly, a writer should ensure his script is proof-read. Your companion refers to visitors, saying, “A few. Fisherman may come into this bay. …” If you mean a single fisherman, you need to insert a preceding article. If you have in mind a boatful of them, then you need to correct the spelling.

    On the matter of the story, its title is almost a copywriting metaphor in itself – to ‘hook’ the reader. Your opening sentence, your headline, does just that. It contains a degree of urgency (the imperative, “I need to…”) and a promise (“show you something.”) – something the speaker hopes will stir your – the listener’s – curiosity. The text proceeds to lead you towards the object, and upon arrival the benefit of taking that long walk is revealed: the climbing, the swimming, the blanket of stars; and the beach hut is let at a peppercorn rent, no less. But the push becomes a pull – you’ll have unwanted company.

    On a separate matter, and a propos your early death-wish (‘The Dirt On Me’, below), the child in the rear seat of the car apparently does not share your reckless view of life, and is crying out for a seat-belt to be fitted on her.

    By the way, I admire your work very much. (From which movie of some thirty or thirty-five-odd years ago I have quoted, and who was the actor speaking? Clue: it starred a brilliant aging actor in his final great part. No, he didn’t speak those words.)

    • In my fantasy it’s gotta be frigid and not tropical, so my bad on the mahogany … so I’ll take that photo if it were on the coast of Norway or something. Giving me the dog sledding, the beaver hunting. Obviously led you astray with the photo. Maybe not the best choice. However, if you want to be technical, the narrator (a stranger visiting a strange place) may not have a clue what he’s talking about … thinking about what he would want … even if it’s not possible. The story still works, so the author is right. :)

      The Godfather? The Graduate?

      • Nick Fielden says:

        Agreed. The photo is fine for beaver-hunting – just not mahogany habitat. The story works in other respects. Look forward to the second instalment. Hope you don’t mind my comments – I’m rarely one for gushing compliments. By the way, I hoisted myself by my own petard when it came to proof-reading. But if it went unnoticed, I’m damned if I’ll point the finger.

        Yes, The Godfather. Robert Duvall, the Corleone counselor, Tom Hagen, spoke the words to the movie director, Woltz, at his studio. The morning after Tom’s return for dinner, Woltz enjoyed an equine surprise for breakfast.

        How about the copywriting concepts? Your turn to stick the boot in!

        • I wasn’t thinking second installment, but heck, you are the third person who said something … maybe I’ll make something out of it.

          Here’s the two concepts:

          Hook: the ultra-unique angle that makes a product, service, or idea stand out … tied deeply into the emotional condition of the prospect. In this case, the hut in sheer seclusion providing a sanctuary for the main character to recover.

          Hitch: it’s the catch … your hook is so unbelievably cool there has to be a catch. This is the reason why … in the case of the story … the reason why the hut is so inexpensive. It adds credibility to the hook.

  6. Daniela says:

    I might be oversimplifying, but I would say something like “Everything has a cost”. The hook is the amazing thing being offered, the hitch is the price (not necessarily a money price).

    However, if you are already “hooked”, you won’t immediately dismiss the opportunity. You will start to consider the pros and cons.

    Following my interpretation, I would make the same question that Kathleen. What happens next, after the hitch has been exposed?

    Other interpretation might be “A great hook isn’t enough”…
    So, enlighten us, is any of this two right?…

    (I hadn’t seen the word “hitch” in a context like this before, so I could be misusing it).

    • You are spot on Daniela! See some of the comments above where I expand on the points in the story. But you got the idea.

      And geesh, I didn’t intend to keep the story rolling, but if you feel like it’s a cliffhanger that deserves more, I’ll have to figure out the next steps. :D That should be fun. Thank you!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The Hook and the Hitch by @demianfarnworth – A gem of a flash fiction piece that he later uses to illustrate some copywriting techniques [...]

  2. [...] A good metaphor will stick in the mind of your reader. An extended metaphor will grow in their mind. Like The Hook and the Hitch. [...]