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See if the above poster hooked you:

Every time someone doesn't read the first part of this post, Rick Santorum eats a kitten and your post may be frowned upon.

Idea stolen from Critique Circle.

The writer will post no more than the first 500-1000 words of their work (unless you desperately need to finish a sentence, I guess). If it's a script, the first four pages should suffice, since 1000 words is about four pages in most books.

The reader is pretending to be an editor going through the slush pile, and will stop reading the excerpt if they lose interest. The reader will post to say if they stopped reading, why/ why not, and offer suggestions. The critique doesn't have to be detailed, but please at least offer some advice.

Every time someone doesn't follow the second part, Rick Santorum eats five kittens and your post has a 90% chance of being ignored.

FRIENDLY REMINDER: As the title of the thread implies, if someone posted an excerpt before you, please critique it before posting your own. If you skip someone, you lose the right to whine if someone skips over you. People that have been skipped, feel free to post a polite reminder if you're getting concerned. Reading 1000 words and leaving a few comments shouldn't take too long. And look at it this way: if you critique it yourself, you don't risk waiting forever for someone else to do it for you (this thread takes occasional naps) and you don't have to hope the critiquer doesn't have an excerpt of their own to post right after.

A SHORT NOTE: By hook we mean the first thing the reader sees of the story, not necessarily some sort of inciting incident. Your beginning can be slow and steady, but it still counts as the hook because readers can still be interested by something that moves slowly as long as something is there that gives the reader a reason to keep going. So if you have a prologue that meets or surpasses the word limit, don't stick your first chapter underneath it.

DISCLAIMER: This isn't a hardcore critique thread, so don't try to milk a detailed critique for your first chapter. That's why we have the word limits. Just think of this as a preliminary screening process for serious problems so you can get started on making your first impressions sparkly and awesome.

edited 20th Aug '12 7:46:48 PM by SnowyFoxes

This post has been blanked upon request.

edited 20th Dec '13 3:46:12 PM by BestOf

I'd say I'm being refined

Into the web I descend

Killing those I've left behind

I have been Endarkened
 252 Mr AHR, Tue, 15th Jan '13 3:52:04 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
elf: leaps into action. good inner voice. bit quick paced. But dream kinda made it rather...gimmicky, and kinda detached me from the whole thing. so hooked at first, but unhooked by the end.

polarity: you seem to be going for mysterious vibes, but not very hookish. it doesn't realyl catch me.

collen: lots of telling instead of showing, mostly because of how the POV works. but yeah, nothing really hooking.

DA: Meandering, but pretty good. I'd say semi-hooked.
 253 Collen, Tue, 15th Jan '13 5:51:22 PM from it is a mystery
vilent waler
The book's really old and I'm not even writing it anymore. My newer stuff is much better, so it doesn't even matter anymore.

 254 Masterofchaos, Tue, 15th Jan '13 5:57:02 PM Relationship Status: In Lesbians with you
I don't have a Christmas icon yet
[up] I wanna see your new stuff, collen. :D

Okay...so here's from the completely finished first book of The Chaos. This is from chapter two. Please be honest; I always want to improve.

After walking two or more blocks away from his house, the brown skinned teenager kept staring at the full moon. He missed the times where he and his dad would have their walks together, spending their quality time with each other. He had wished that they could do that again, right before he left.

He closed his eyes, imagining himself being a younger kid again, being held in his father’s arms as he spun him. He felt a smile crept on his face, and he sighed.

He was abruptly pulled out of his past by a scream. He opened his eyes, and looked around, trying to find a source. No one.

The scream came again, this time much closer and louder. He heard footsteps, coming from around the corner. Before he had the chance to see the person, he felt himself get knocked down. His back hit the pavement, and he winced in pain.

“I’m sorry…p-please help me…” A familiar voice said.

Nick looked up, and saw Adam, in tears. From the looks of it, he was badly bruised, and has a small cut on his cheek. When Nick tried to talk, Adam looked back, and his eyes widened.

“No…no…please…no…” He begged, crawling backwards, “Please…I don’t know him! I don’t know anybody! I just got here!”

Nick saw the woman, who’s knife had a drip of blood, taking a step closer to the frightened boy. With no hesitation, she lifted the boy by the neck and started to strangle him.

“I don’t care.” She said, “No matter what you do, I won’t spare your life.”

“P-Please…leave me alone!” Tears streamed down his face, “I want…I want my brother…”

“Well, I don’t see him anywhere. Looks like he’ll be coming home with a missing brother. So sad, yet so satisfying.”

Nick started to slowly get up, trying to think. He could call the police, but what were the chances of them arriving on time? Not only that, the woman would slit his throat before he had the chance to speak. At the same time, the kid was in danger, and so far, he was slowly losing his breath. With that knife, she’ll finish Adam off sooner or later.

Without hesitation, Nick charged and knocked the woman down, forcing her to release her grip from the red-head. Adam coughed, before spitting.

“Come on!” He screamed, grabbing Adam’s hand and running off into the streets. At the same time, the woman reached into her pocket and scowled.

smile I wanna see Collen's new stuff too.

Also, if this is from chapter two, MOC, then it's not much of a hook, is it? tongue Regardless, "the brown-skinned teenager" brings to mind the Turkey City Lexicon Burly Detective Syndrome. Overall, I find it hard to make larger-scale comments on it, though, because any complaints I might have like "this hasn't been properly set up" would be potentially irrelevant in light of the first chapter. It feels a little wooden and immature, but maybe, just maybe, if I'd started on chapter one I wouldn't have thought so.
I'd say I'm being refined

Into the web I descend

Killing those I've left behind

I have been Endarkened
 256 Masterofchaos, Tue, 15th Jan '13 6:12:23 PM Relationship Status: In Lesbians with you
I don't have a Christmas icon yet
[up]

That is true...although chapter one is basically just introducing the characters. I just wanted to get to the "actiony" chapter to try to hook people.

But thanks for your comment!

edited 15th Jan '13 6:12:39 PM by Masterofchaos

If you think you need an "actiony" chapter to hook people, maybe that should be your first chapter? Also,

A SHORT NOTE: By hook we mean the first thing the reader sees of the story, not necessarily some sort of inciting incident.

I'll take your word for the honesty thing. I'm hard to please when wearing my critic hat, but probably less discerning than any actual agent, so—

Mostly when reading it, I felt confused and like I was missing context I should have, which is possibly the reality of the situation. It wasn't the "ooh, a mystery, wonder what's going on" sort of confusion; not sure how to explain it, maybe I just wasn't feeling an implied promise that everything would be explained later. Without context I don't know if that's a major problem.

The events happening were also jarring in the this-hasn't-been-set-up way, even in context of the immediate events. It makes sense that Nick wouldn't expect Adam or the woman after him, but the feel of the narrative is more like "he was standing there, and then randomly a scream happened and Adam ran into him, and randomly there was a woman with a knife". It's possibly because the narration and Nick's actions for the majority of the passage are fairly passive, so it doesn't feel like action? It also doesn't flow particularly well, which might be the primary culprit, since, while the events could work together fine, mostly, they don't feel connected.

Additionally, the passage is riddled with minor grammatical/structural/etc nitpicky things; as a consumer I wouldn't necessarily stop reading for those alone, since I'm used to reading fanfic and glossing over such things, but they're noticeable if I'm looking with a critical eye. Overall, not hooked.

edited 15th Jan '13 11:25:59 PM by greedling

You will not go to space today.
 258 Leradny, Tue, 15th Jan '13 11:31:26 PM from Alameda, CA
Master of Chaos: This could be better, especially on the technical side.

Don't capitalize dialogue tags. It's somewhat obtrusive, especially for short ones like "he said". If there is a period, you use a comma to lead into a tag, or leave out a tag. For questions, exclamations, ellipses, or interruptions, you don't even have to replace the punctuation.

Several grammatical errors were also a little jarring. Just keep an eye out for them. "He felt a smile crept on his face", "he was badly bruised, and has a small cut on his cheek", "who’s knife had a drip of blood".

You also tend to use passive verbs, or repetitive words, which drag your sentences down. For example: "...he felt himself get knocked down. His back hit the pavement, and he winced in pain." We know that the point of view character feels things, and we know wincing means pain. The reader only wants to know what is being felt. Cutting it down for more directness would result in something like "he was knocked onto his back and winced as the pavement scraped away some skin."

As for the dialogue itself, villain phrases like "I don't care", and "So sad, yet so satisfying", really took me out of the reading. You could delete those with no impact on the dialogue. Having someone tell the others what they feel is corny. No one actually says what they're feeling unless they're arguing or explaining why.

I also found the premise itself a bit rushed. You have the point of view character thinking about his dad, who is absent for some reason, with a bittersweet tone. But since the action arrives within a few paragraphs, the reader has no time for that to sink in.

Also, why would a woman strangle someone before slitting his throat or stabbing him with a knife she has clearly used before? I felt like the strangling was only an excuse for the boys to have a chance to escape.

But since Nick doesn't seem too tired, you could just have them start running back to Nick's house. Which is about "two blocks away". And the woman has no idea how far they're going so they could round a few corners to lose her, or even go to a friend's house nearby. And Adam could call the police while Nick locks the doors and windows.

The Story of the Dog's Blood Bandanna
Nothing grows in the Ash Fields. Any cities are built well out of sight of the grey, powdery flatlands, and few shepherds will brave the north winds even for the rich white grass. North winds would bring the smell of smoke, strong enough to parch throats and blind eyes, yet without a trace of heat from the fires which bore them. Therefore the north winds are called alito di draghi: dragons' breath. Roads lead north only when the air is still, and all head south when the dragons sigh.

Moriana is the closest city due south. One can tell the prosperity of a house in the north quarter by the colors. As ash coats anything which stands still, dark north walls and clothes were for the rich. The poor swept pale limewater over the ash and wore pigeon gray.

A shepherdess named Velia walked home from the pastures, with the wind shoving at every step. Locks of dark hair stuck out from under her headscarf, too slippery to hold ash, but the rest of her face was covered by thick clothes except for one slit around her eyes. She coughed through her gray scarf, and the gray sheep bleated their misery. She put up a hand wrapped in wool and searched in vain for a fountain.

There was no water to be found. Velia had taken a wrong turn in the fog of ash, onto the street where the witch of Moriana lived.

edited 15th Jan '13 11:32:01 PM by Leradny

 259 Wolf 1066, Wed, 16th Jan '13 2:16:14 AM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
That's certainly got me hooked, Leradny.

I can see and nearly smell the scene, I get a good idea of the setting and people.

I'd definitely be interested in reading that story.

Here's something from one of my WIP:

When I opened my eyes for the first time in forty years, the first thing I saw was a robot.

I was expecting a human, a doctor or perhaps a technician, to be in charge of waking us up. I thought that perhaps the robot was an assistant to the doctors and technicians and tried to see if there was anyone else present, but the sides of the Cryogenic Unit blocked all but a view of the ceiling and the robot's oval “head” section.

I then realised that the tank I was lying in was tilted far enough to the right that I was hard up against the side and it felt like my feet were higher than my head – not enough to make me slide towards the end of the tank, but enough that I could feel it.

“What's going on?” I asked.

“You are safe.” The robot's voice was a passable synthesis of a human male's voice. A little too devoid of inflection and emotion to pass as truly human, but acceptable.

“We've arrived?” I asked.

“There has been a problem.” It would have been nice if the robot had been able to inject a measure of reassurance into its voice. “The ship arrived at the destination but failed to achieve the proper orbit and crashed. You are one of those who survived.”

It felt like a blow to my stomach and I jolted involuntarily. There was a tightness throughout my chest and I found it hard to breathe. I suddenly felt cold, although I had felt perfectly comfortable a few moments before.

I struggled with the words, scarcely able to believe them.

Part of my mind was repeating “you've got to be fucking kidding” while another part of my mind was providing me with the implications of a large colony ship, never intended to land on a planet, entering a planet's atmosphere.

My horribly graphic imagination supplied me with images of the ship plunging through the sky, burning and breaking up, like I was watching a disaster movie.

“How many survivors?” My voice was little more than a hoarse whisper as my mouth was dry and I couldn't salivate for the life of me.

“I have only found five.” The same inflectionless voice, but my mind made it sound dramatic. There had been ten thousand colonists in cryogenic suspension and the ship had had a crew of ten.

edited 16th Jan '13 2:16:29 AM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 260 cityofmist, Wed, 16th Jan '13 9:01:45 AM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
[up]This seems pretty good. I quite like your style of writing - it's quite undecorative and basic but I think that works well for the sci-fi genre you're obviously writing in.

I think the beginning could be reworked a little bit. It seems off that this narrator has just woken up from forty years' cryogenic sleep and is immediately thinking perfectly straight and going 'oh, this is surprising, because I would have expected it to be this'. A slower pace and some disorientation would be more effective, in my opinion. I might also suggest just saying 'unit' instead of 'Cryogenic Unit' and allowing the reader to figure out for themselves what's going on; specifying in the second paragraph that the character has been cryogenically frozen seems like you're overexplaining, and most people could figure it out quite easily, especially the kind of people who read sci-fi.

I don't mean to be rude, but this bit:
It felt like a blow to my stomach and I jolted involuntarily. There was a tightness throughout my chest and I found it hard to breathe. I suddenly felt cold, although I had felt perfectly comfortable a few moments before. I struggled with the words, scarcely able to believe them.

I really don't like. Sorry, but it's screaming Show, Don't Tell in a rather amateurish way. A description that extended and detailed of the character's physical reaction seems exaggerated and contrived. I would suggest that you pick one of 'It felt like a blow to my stomach and I jolted involuntarily', 'There was a tightness throughout my chest and I found it hard to breathe', or 'I suddenly felt cold, although I had felt perfectly comfortable a few moments before' and then focus on the narrator's thoughts and emotions rather than the fact that they feel like someone's hit them.

@DA Student, I know you're a few people back but I really liked yours! Some of your descriptions, like the one about 'great minds think alike' vs. 'assembly line', feel really fresh and noticeably interesting without being at all contrived.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
 261 Wolf 1066, Wed, 16th Jan '13 1:56:54 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
Thank you, cityofmist, you raise valid points.

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 262 Dimanagul, Thu, 17th Jan '13 5:48:22 AM from Pittsburgh, PA
Library of useless facts
@Wolf: As someone that struggles with passive voice when I write first drafts, I can spot something pretty quickly. You might have better luck with this if you got rid of the I was... filtering and just show things. Example: "The cold lifeless eyes of a robot greeted me when I woke; I expected to see a human."

Looking past that it's an intriguing situation and a strong start.

First 1000 words in my novel. Countless revisions and ultimately a fresh start brought me this: Rest of the chapter is here on Gdocs.

The flame in Naida’s palm flickered against the mist. The fire provided light on the path and served as the embodiment of her whim. Mist tore small wisps of black smoke from the flame. She used the other half of Geldbane’s gift to urge the cool murk away.

The haze served as a dire warning. She walked the familiar trail between the two forests; Each were home to a fearsome dragon.

A dream from the night before had led her there. It brought a clear message; Someone needed her help in the forest clearing ahead. In a trance, they had wandered into the trees. That trespass would mean death.

Naida halted. A faint shuffle burned in her ears. The sound of leather creaked, plates of metal shifted against one another. Darkness closed around her slowly. She realized she had only heard the sound of her own armor against her body. In her distraction, the forest devoured her guiding flame.

This is foolish. Naida turned to head back to Eswin against obligation nagging her to continue.

Naida tensed. A form appeared amongst the mist. Naida and the figure stood still, mutually frozen. She reached for the hilt of her sword. No time for doubt.

“Who goes there?” The figure’s familiar tones of the Gelban accent synchronized with the sound of his sword being drawn. She rested her left hand firmly on the hilt of her sword and shifted her weight. She checked the blade in the scabbard and drew a thumb against the dulled backside of her blade. She inverted her grip on the sword. No one needs to die today. Her instinct kept her calm, soothed her, and guided her.

“Answer me. Are you alone?” The man said. Fear and inexperience lurked in his voice. His outline came into view. He was armored, but lacked a helmet.

Naida said nothing and held her ground. The mist thickened between them as he approached.

“This is my last warning.” Bravado came to his voice. “You will tell me your intent right this instant or you will be taken into the custody of—“

Naida closed the gap between them quickly and drove a swift boot to his abdomen. He doubled over with a gasp. She drew her sword and twirled it into a proper grip. She struck him with a controlled overhead swat and knocked him unconscious.

Naida stepped forward slowly. Azure colored light plate covered his body. A steel emblem on his back was emblazoned with two dragons facing one another, one azure and one emerald.

He wore the armor of a royal guard, probably a scout.

It had been ages since she had seen the azure armor; Barton had only worn his for show. Naida clicked her tongue and sheathed her sword. A high pitched whistle pierced the air. She turned the scout over carefully. A reed whistle was secured to the front of his armor. She tentatively reached for it, but was startled by a second whistle. This one more urgent.

Naida didn’t typically question her instincts, but attacking this man was foolish. The royal guard would not be this far north unless there were serious matters afoot; she had just put herself on the wrong side them.

Metal plates clanked in the distance. She turned away and ran. Her mind raced. She tried to remember royal protocols she had heard Barton ramble on about. Alas, none of them had stuck.

Naida tightened her stomach and leveled her breathing. She couldn’t assume they were armored to match the scout; some of them may have been faster. Against her will, memories traced the images of eleven dead men on the ground. Blood oozed from fresh wounds on eleven bodies clad in Azure armor. She tried to blink them away but they only wavered.

Not now...

The hazy image of three Dendargian Honor-Bounds appeared next to them, their blades stained with lifeblood. They stood as silent phantoms with calm cold eyes. They stared at her in quiet anticipation as she ran down the forest path.

Ignore them. Memories cannot hurt me.

The walking nightmare served as a reminder of what she was up against; there would be twelve men in the unit. The vision did nothing to slow her. She had faith in her knowledge and footing; every patch of dirt familiar to her.

A figure stood ahead in the fog. He wore black silk that blades could not pierce. Those cold, brown eyes stared over a black cowl around his face. Like any Dendargian, he had rich brown skin and stood tall and rigid. Naida knew this man well. Any Gelban worth his salt knew of the Desert Scorpion, the man who ended Barton’s life.

She left her sword in her sheath, she knew the vision was false. This was a memory, not her own, a phantom of the past.

“It only takes one man to end a war, ” the phantom said, “You are not that man, Barton.” The phantom held his blade ready, made of red steel further stained by Barton’s blood.

Memories cannot hurt me. Ignore him.

But they did hurt. She had been forced to watch every strike that broke through Barton defenses. She felt his helplessness against the Dendargian hero. In the nightmare, Naida watched the scene through Barton’s eyes. The memory ended when his life came to a close.

Naida’s teeth ground together as she pushed forward. Inches from collision her instinct screamed; This was no phantom. She conquered doubt and shifted into a sudden strafe. She remembered why she had come to the forest in the first place. Gripped by instinct, she grabbed the stranger and shoved him to the brush at the trail’s side.

Hard impact atop the stranger sobered her, only then realizing what she had done. The man winced; she had knocked the wind from him. She turned and considered running but the scout’s fellows were too close. Naida covered his mouth and glared down at him.

She drew a thumb across her throat. He nodded as he got the message.

edited 17th Jan '13 10:36:46 AM by Dimanagul

All Heroes die. Some just more than others. http://dimanagul.wordpress.com
 263 Prime of Perfection, Sat, 19th Jan '13 5:31:55 AM Relationship Status: P.S. I love you
@Dimanagul: I sadly wasn't hooked. I found entire piece bland as a whole. There was far too much narrative near beginning with nothing going on. By nothing, I mean anything that would made me feel "I'm intrigued to find out how this story is going to turn out." As a whole, the entire thing felt average. None of it felt bad at all, it just didn't seem all that good or unique to me either.

Also, your use of punctuation is off in multiple places. The worse case example is the first use of the semi-colon. The semi-colon is a bridge between sentences. You used a misuse I just found grating because it combined two sentences which were best left apart.
The following is first 225 words of revisions I'm presently making to my core work which stars a Classy Cat-Burglar.

"I – the GLORIOUS MADAME RICHMOND – will defeat and reveal to the world the FACE of my great rival: THE GRANDMASTER OF THEFT! The world will soon know what I – the MAGNIFICENT MADAME RICHMOND – has already known: That she is just a GUTLESS, POMPOUS FOOL who is unworthy of her PRETENTIOUS title. To prove she DOESN’T DESERVE anybody’s fear, I’ll risk one of my treasures: UNDINE’S TEAR! SO COME AT ME, 'NOBLE' THIEF! Face me at THREE PM at Acquiro’s Train Station to Montello today. I – the SPECTACULAR MADAME RICHMOND – will see to it that the Grandmaster receives an all-expenses paid one way ticket to JAIL!!!”

I read that aloud from my laptop, grinning.

“Damn it, you’re doing that creepy smile again, ” bemoaned my subordinate Wynn. He heaved a sigh. “I can already tell it’s going to be another ‘fun’ day.”

“You are nothing if not observant, ” I caustically retorted as I reclined back into the cushy paradise which was my desk chair. I then crossed my legs, planted a gloved hand on chin, and assessed the realities before me. Naturally, my grin remained throughout. Not only did challenges rouse my mind, it proved the cherry on top of an already satisfying morning.

edited 19th Jan '13 5:39:21 AM by Prime_of_Perfection

 264 chihuahua 0, Sat, 19th Jan '13 10:36:07 AM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
[up] Although it's a short excerpt, I'm curious about the next page. It's difficult to gauge whatever your scene will keep momentum, but the challenge alone opens a door to a world of entertainment.

On the other hand, take a look at your dialogue tags, "bemoaned" and "caustically retorted". Said bookisms and tom swifties aren't bad in isolation, but two in a row, especially strong ones like these, are a little too much.

Also, maybe you should clarify whatever the challenge is an email or a public posting.

edited 19th Jan '13 10:37:41 AM by chihuahua0

 265 Scorpio Rat, Sat, 19th Jan '13 2:10:13 PM from Houston, Texas Relationship Status: Reincarnated romance
When horoscopes go wrong
To be truthful, I originally stopped reading right when I saw the all-caps letters. I don't know why, but that immediately threw me off. Maybe if it was a little clearer that this was a letter, I wouldn't feel as if I were being screamed at. After I continued past the first part, the middle hooked me. Your characters already have strong personalities and I liked that. There was no need to explain what they were like at all because I could already picture it, so you did good Showing instead of Telling. And I also agree with Chihuahua 0 about the adverb overuse in dialouge tags. It's very...distracting. It makes me think too hard about what the adverbs mean instead of the actual dialouge.

Here's my first chapter for my fantasy novel I've been slowly working on. There was a prolouge before this taking place 20 years before, but I know that some people skip those when reading books anyway. I wanted to see if my first chapter could hook someone without it. It's about ten words over the limit, but I didn't want it to end in the middle of an action. _________________________________________________- ___________________

Sol shifted on his throne as he looked over the report sent to him by the Sun Region, once the former Solar Empire. For the last few months, the continent’s crime rate had risen rather dramatically and his subjects were getting restless. If the trend continued, he would have to send extra solders there to keep control.

“As long as it doesn’t spread to the Moon Region, ” He mumbled. Looking up from his scroll, Sol realized how quiet the throne room was. Too quiet. The castle was never this silent at high day. The King nervously ran a hand through his red hair before glancing at his wife. Queen Luna sat beside him, staring out the stained glass window.

“Sol, do you know where Tigris is?” She asked, turning around to meet his eyes.

“Of course I do, ” He said with confidence. “She told me after breakfast that she was going to do her studies in her room.”

“And how long ago was that?”

“It’s been about four…hours…, ” He trailed off, what he had just said sinking in. Tigris, of all people, studying for four hours with no breaks? The thought of it was laughable. His daughter wasn’t the type to sit still unless she was forced to. “She’s not there, is she?” It was more of a rhetorical question. Luna merely pushed her dark blue hair behind her ear and turned her gaze to the room’s entrance. As if on cue a panicked solider, fully armored and carrying a weapon, burst through the double doors.

“Your Majesties!” The two knights stationed beside the entrance drew their lances with practiced ease and pointed them at the newcomer. The young man yelped and fell on his backside. Neither of the two royals flinched, the King looking rather bored and the Queen struggling not to laugh at the sight before her. Sol gestured for the knights to let the solider be. He was obviously new to the guard. The solider quickly stood again and bowed before speaking. “Princess Tigris is missing!” That explained why the castle was so quiet. The tensed knights relaxed, used to Tigris disappearing. Sol sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers. This solider was definitely new.

“Do you have any idea where she may have gone?” He asked. The solider shifted on his feet.

“I-I believe she was last seen heading in the direction of the city, Sir.”

“Was Lady Paige with her?” Luna asked.

“Sir Capricorn said that Lady Paige was with Her Royal Highness when she left.” Luna nodded and sat back. Sol was satisfied with this information. As long as Paige was with her, Tigris would be fine.

“Tell the guards if the Princess doesn’t return to the castle by two, send out a search party.” Sol commanded. “She is most likely at the harbor, so start there.” The solider bowed again before turning to leave. “Wait a moment.”

“Yes, Your Majesty?”

“Where is Prince Drakon?”

“His Highness is in the courtyard with Sirs Leo and Taurus.”

“Right where he’s supposed to be, as usual, ” Sol thought. The King dismissed him. “Oh, Tigris…” he said to no one in particular. “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” ¬

“Paige, look at the ships, they’re huge!” A girl in a deep blue cloak darted around the harbor, plowing through puddles like a child before stopping in front of the ocean. A taller young woman in a brown cloak followed after with less enthusiasm, stepping around the water as she caught up.

“You’ve seen ships before, Tigris.” Paige responded. She spoke with a strange accent that somehow made her sound more refined, regardless of her words. Tigris was fascinated by it when she was younger, pestering her handmaiden to talk for no reason other than to listen to the way she pronounced things. Now it was a sharp reminder of the places she hadn’t been to, the continents beyond the island of Nimbus.

“Yes, but this one’s bigger than the ones from before!” She paused, comparing the ship’s size to its dock mates. The red and blue ocean liner towered over the pier, casting a shadow that threatened to engulf the sailors unloading its cargo. Painted on the side in black were strange, indecipherable symbols that looked nothing like the alphabet Cloud Kingdom used. Protruding from the ship was a smokestack, but instead of black smoke, clouds of steam poured from it into the air. Almost all transport ships were steam powered now because of the lack of fuel needed to run it. Skilled mages could be hired to draw water from the ocean and heat it up, powering the sea vessel the entire trip. The cargo ships tended to look very similar because of this, the only uniqueness between them being color. “Or maybe I just haven’t been outside the castle in a while…” Paige eyed the steam ship critically.

“I think…” Her head tilted to the side as if deep in thought. “The one on the right is just a tad bigger.” She continued to walk down the pier, without waiting for Tigris. “Keep up, will you? We’ve stalled here for an hour.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Tigris sprinted until she was even with Paige’s longer strides.

“Didn’t you come here to see something specific?” Tigris’ eyes lit up as she remembered.

“Oh yes, I heard that a ship from Hava had tigers!” Tigers were by far her favorite animal, not that she had ever seen any outside of a book.

“And how did you know it would be here today?”

“I eavesdropped on some nobles discussing it.” She took off at a run again, weaving around crates, knots of thick rope, and mages lifting boxes with magically controlled wind or earth. “Come on, I don’t want to miss them!” Tigris called over her shoulder as she ran, not looking in front of her anymore. She was so focused on finding the tigers that it wasn’t a surprise when she ran straight into a man wearing a dark, ragged cloak.

edited 19th Jan '13 7:24:20 PM by ScorpioRat

"Only women and cats are allowed inside my armor!"

 266 chihuahua 0, Sat, 19th Jan '13 7:15:25 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
[up] I suggest that you split that up into paragraphs.

 267 Scorpio Rat, Sat, 19th Jan '13 7:24:59 PM from Houston, Texas Relationship Status: Reincarnated romance
When horoscopes go wrong
Sorry about that. Fixed it.
"Only women and cats are allowed inside my armor!"

 268 Prime of Perfection, Sat, 19th Jan '13 11:13:28 PM Relationship Status: P.S. I love you
@ chihuahua 0, the answer is a public challenge. It’s clarified a little later into the chapter. I just felt it better to progressively unravel the world instead of hitting with everything up front.

@ Scorpio Rat, you were being yelled at. tongue The first antagonist, Madame Richmond (aka Narcissa Richmond, though she dislikes being called by her real name), loves doing that. It’s part of her whole Attention Whore & Drama Queen persona. It’s also reason I included the double dashes, colons, italicizes, repeating her name, etc. Figured it helped with showing her persona on top of either annoying the hell out of people & make them look forward to her defeat or laugh at her as an antagonist since not as serious a foe like future ones.

Given that I've said that the antagonist is an Attention Whore, protagonist is a Classy Cat-Burglar, and fact this is a public challenge, you all should easily put together what starts the first conflict of story & why.

Also, kudos both of you for that criticism! You've no idea how much that helps. I’ve been working on finding the perfect balance between the way Cassidy narrates and what’s best for the audience. I don’t want it to distract, but I do want it to be there since it’s an extension of who Cassidy is.

Finally, once I’m complete with revisions, I’ll add link if any wish to see the full product. I just felt that if I can’t hook somebody in the first 200 or so words alone, then why should I put the rest of the entry up? They wouldn’t get that far anyway without being forced to if the opening part doesn’t interest them.
 269 Last Hussar, Mon, 28th Jan '13 4:04:02 PM from the place is here.
The time is now,
This has been rattling in my head for 53 hours before I decided to get it down. Its going to be a short story, and it appeared fully formed in my head on Saturday morning.

  • * * * *

"I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die."

What do you do when the man next to you at the diner says that to you? Well, if your dad was a Johnny Cash fan, like mine, you assume he's quoting the Man in Black for some reason. I turned to the stool next to me and looked the speaker. He was wearing what I'd come to think of as 'the flyover uniform'- red check shirt, jeans, work boots, and baseball cap. All shabby, yet hard wearing, like the owner. I guess he was in his 60s, though his face was worn and pockmarked, so he may have been younger. He smelled of cigarettes and hard work. I looked at his ear; he wasn't wearing earphones, so he wasn't talking along to the music- I've been caught out by a Bluetooth wearing fellow train passenger that way before.

"You like Johnny Cash?" I asked.

"He's ok. He had a big effect on my life August '82." That was it, he just stopped abruptly in the middle of a sentence. I waited to see what else would be forthcoming, maybe this was the human interest angle for the column this week. The man just finished his coffee, setting the cup down as though I wasn't there, ignoring me completely. He produced a battered leather wallet from his back pocket, placed a ten dollar bill under the cup, and pushed the saucer across the counter. He stood, and suddenly, without facing me, said in his mid-western drawl "Course, not as big an effect as on the poor bastard I shot, " and walked out.

edited 29th Jan '13 1:42:24 PM by LastHussar

Do the job in front of you.
 270 Wolf 1066, Mon, 28th Jan '13 5:38:25 PM from New Zealand Relationship Status: In my bunk
Wolf1066
[up]I enjoyed that. It definitely has me wanting to find out more.

edited 28th Jan '13 5:39:38 PM by Wolf1066

Dangerously Genre Savvy since ages ago...
 271 Prime of Perfection, Sat, 2nd Feb '13 9:57:59 AM Relationship Status: P.S. I love you
[up][up] Okay, yeah, THAT was hooking. It has a nice build of intrigue, a perfect opening line, the narrator has personality, etc. That I have to give a thumbs up to.
 272 Leradny, Sat, 2nd Feb '13 10:17:22 AM from Alameda, CA
It fell flat for me. I was not at all fooled by the narrator thinking the other guy was just a Johnny Cash fan. If that line comes up in fiction, there are only two ways to go: "The guy is a Johnny Cash fan" and "The guy is a homicidal Johnny Cash fan". You really don't want to drag a joke like that on for 200 words.

I'm not familiar with the song or cliches surrounding it, but I mostly agree with Leradny, since the punchline made itself obvious by the third sentence; I initially thought that was intentional, but it doesn't work well with the rest of it. It would be better to cut out most of the bits surrounding the dialogue so you can get to it quickly. There's probably a window where someone realising where the joke is going feels anticipation for confirmation of that, but you missed it.
You will not go to space today.
 274 Major Tom, Sat, 2nd Feb '13 9:20:41 PM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
TIMBEEEERRRRR!!!!! Yeah fell a little flat for me. Mostly because it's a tad drawn out on the Johnny Cash bit but secondly the alleged Wham Line at the end doesn't feel like a Wham Line.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
 275 Prime of Perfection, Sun, 3rd Feb '13 1:47:20 AM Relationship Status: P.S. I love you
I wish I was familiar with Johnny Cash and the line. Perhaps I should expand my horizons even more, but I'll admit music isn't one of the subjects I'm deep into despite loveo f it.
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