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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

Hilarious injoke
The opening of my story that takes the Turkey City Lexicon and fucks it so hard as to cause broken hips.

Melvin Ponerson was faced with an uneasy task:

Three hundred thousand of His Majesty's limited edition autographed trading cards would need to be forged, stamped, and sent through the Royal Electronic Dispatching System by dawn.

The time was now 2:43 AM and not a single one had been prepared in the proper manner.

Under normal circumstances, Melvin would call upon his skill as an Elite among the kingdom's cubicle dwellers; he could put aside any petty distraction, such as eating, sleeping, breathing, etc. and focus entirely on what lay before him. In doing so he had the ability to finish a week’s worth of work in under sixteen point eight two seconds. Flat.

However, there were two things which hindered Mel from actually doing so. The first was that frankly, there are never any normal circumstances. Ever. Period. The second was a bit more problematic, for as of 1:57 AM that same mornight, Mr. Ponerson had no hands.

If you find the text above offensive, don't look at it.
Well, I definitely want to see where that's going.

...It's at this point I regret that one of my current WIPs is a webcomic, another hasn't had anything at all written of the actual story, and the third one has changed so much since I last wrote any of it that if I posted it here, it wouldn't represent the work at all.

edited 27th Nov '11 4:08:33 AM by AirofMystery

 28 fanty, Sun, 27th Nov '11 4:26:05 AM from ANGRYTOWN
Woefully Ineloquent
^^ That was so weird it was almost confusing, but also very intriguing and amusing. I would definitely read on.
Individual liberation is an illusion.
 29 d Roy, Sun, 27th Nov '11 6:42:41 AM Relationship Status: Hounds of love are hunting
[up][up][up] I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a comedy.

 30 Mr AHR, Sun, 27th Nov '11 8:50:09 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
. Also, it's really difficult for me to judge your work because I'm just not a script reader. Sorry.

Story of my life.
 31 chihuahua 0, Sun, 27th Nov '11 9:53:15 AM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
@USAF 713: Thank you. Although I would like to ask why you don't prefer my short paragraph style.

I prefer it because it makes for breezier writing, disencourages Wall of Text, and the fact that I take the "one subject per paragraph" rule quite well. My NaNoWriMo yielded some larger paragraphs for Info Dumps though.

 32 Mr AHR, Sun, 27th Nov '11 11:16:45 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Thelostcup: The first three sentences hooked me, but the last two kinda lessened the impact. Make of that what you will.

edited 27th Nov '11 11:17:01 AM by MrAHR

 33 Snowy Foxes, Sun, 27th Nov '11 12:26:48 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
OBJECTION! Here's Wonderwall
They put me in bed at nine, as usual, but the hot summer night makes me fidgety. The windows and my bed curtains are open in hope of a breeze and I lie on top of my sheets, holding my doll in one hand. It's too warm to hug her.

My big brother didn't tell me a story tonight. That's why I don't want to sleep. He's been sitting next to the pond in the garden since after supper. Damian gets to go to bed anytime before midnight, so Mama and Papa didn't say anything when he said he'd be out there for a few hours. I get off the bed and look out the window. Pixies are floating around him, so I can see him. They cast different colors of light on him— blue, pink, yellow, green—and he looks funny. He unbuttoned his waistcoat and rolled up his sleeves because it's so warm outside. He's even using his necktie to wipe the sweat on his forehead, which makes me giggle. Mama hates it when he does that.

I lean on the windowsill and wave at him. "Damian! Are you going to come tell me a story?"

"Close the window and don't come out!" he yells back.

"Why?"

"Bianca?" Damian looks behind him in the lavender bushes and then back at me. "Can you wait two hours?"

Two hours! That'll be almost the longest I ever stayed up. I don't want to wait that long for a story.

I close the window and go in the hallway. I'm going to find out what he's doing that's going to take two hours. Maybe he's meeting a girl, and that's why he wouldn't tell anyone what he was waiting out there for. Maybe, right when they're about to kiss, I can jump out and scare them. My brother reads minds, but his full attention will probably be on her, not his surroundings. I giggle to myself and run quickly but silently to the end of the hall. I slide down the banister until I reach the atrium. The marble floor makes my feet cold because I didn't bring my slippers, but it's not so bad. I enter the dining room and rub my feet on the carpet to warm them up. Then, I go in the kitchen and from there, the herb garden. Pixies come to light my way to the pond, orbiting my head like a colorful halo.

Damian isn't on the stone bench anymore. If I called out for him, he'd know that I came and he'd be angry. And so would his girl. I look everywhere— behind the willow tree, in the bushes— straining to hear voices.

"So it's true, then? What your father is trying to do."

I go still and hold my nose so the pungent lavender bushes that I'm crouching in don't make me sneeze. I hardly ever hear Damian this angry. His voice isn't raised, but you just know—

"You can see it in my mind. There's no point trying to hide it."

Angelus! Why is Damian so angry with his best friend? And what's Angelus even doing here? My parents forbade the Pallone family from coming to Rona after Lord Pallone began attacking the humans. The whole council voted against it and he did it anyway. Did Damian let him in? He'd get into so much trouble....

"All you need to know is the engagement has been cancelled, " Damian says curtly. "The House of Kartal gives us its full support if you attempt to take my sister by force. My father's family will more likely than not be on our side as well."

"Sad. Bianca will miss me." Angelus's voice is heavy. I creep closer to the voices. Angelus and Damian seem to be somewhere right ahead. "And won't you?"

"I thought I would."

I barely keep myself from screaming when I hear a gunshot and Angelus's yelp of pain. A flock of pixies scatters from the copse of trees right in front of me. They're closer than I realized.
 34 fanty, Sun, 27th Nov '11 12:53:36 PM from ANGRYTOWN
Woefully Ineloquent
^ I loved the prose and it was exciting to read, especially the first two thirds. But the last third threw a lot of stuff at the reader and made me mildly confused. And also slightly sceptical about the story. I would probably read on to see if the story turns out to be better than the mental projections my mind started building while I was reading the last third.
Individual liberation is an illusion.
 35 Snowy Foxes, Sun, 27th Nov '11 12:58:38 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
OBJECTION! Here's Wonderwall
What were those mental projections?
 36 fanty, Sun, 27th Nov '11 1:05:32 PM from ANGRYTOWN
Woefully Ineloquent
Hard to explain, partly because of that mildly confused state, but basically, all the ways in which this could end up being some kind of standard fantasy story, or some weird fantasy-romance-conspiracy-thing, and so on, started coming to my head.
Individual liberation is an illusion.
 37 Snowy Foxes, Sun, 27th Nov '11 1:06:51 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
OBJECTION! Here's Wonderwall
Ah, I see. I'll keep that in mind as I continue.
 38 Tera Chimera, Sun, 27th Nov '11 5:10:18 PM from somewhere out there
Cool Celtic Composition
This one is technically from a webcomic-in-progress, but I wrote it in prose; I don't really like a script format.

Roost, Canton Province, Carthian Empire
5:48 AM

Jonathan Sandusky jammed another piton into a crack and hoisted himself up another foot. He glanced back down the massive rock wall and wished he hadn’t; the ground reeled almost a hundred and fifty below him.

“Okay, calm down, ” he muttered to himself. “It’s simple. Get in, kill Roland, get out.” He stared back up the wall and snorted. “Simple my ass.” He gritted his teeth and pulled himself up another foot.

After a little more climbing, Jonathan managed to pull himself just above the elevated monorail entrance. He glanced at his watch; he still had a few minutes before the train approached the automated checkpoint. He jammed a piton into a crack and carefully balanced on it, his chest heaving as he gulped in deep breaths. Climbing up the citadel wall had been harder than he expected. As he rested, Jonathan looked over the skyline of Roost. The sun was due to rise in a few hours; with luck, he could be out by then.

Jonathan noticed the headlights of the monorail approaching. Somewhere, down in the city, a deep bell boomed out the time. Jonathan winced at the memories the sound brought up.

“Get it together!” he told himself. “That’s the reason you’re here! Suck it up and keep going!”

The door in the wall rumbled open, and Jonathan hung himself from the piton, ready to drop to the track below. As soon as the monorail was out from beneath him, he let go and began sprinting through the gate. The doors were already closing, threatening to crush him. However, he made it through with plenty of time to spare and climbed down the inner wall from the track to the courtyard.

From the safety of some bushes, Jonathan examined his surroundings. A few guards patrolled the area, but nothing serious. After all, who was going to infiltrate the courtyard? The cliff the citadel rested on was almost completely vertical. Jonathan chuckled at this oversight.

Jonathan slowly made his way across the courtyard. The guards were ready to change shifts, and weren’t very alert. In spite of this, Jonathan didn’t take any unnecessary risks; he moved slowly and took his time. Eventually, he reached his objective: a narrow, chute-like structure in the wall’s design. He planted his feet against one wall, his back against the other, and began pushing himself up.
"The Uncertainty Principle isn't about uncertainty and it isn't a principle; other than that, it's perfectly named." — David Van Baak
 39 Kyle Jacobs, Sun, 27th Nov '11 10:36:16 PM from Connecticut/D.C.
Nice Guy
I can do one better. For your viewing pleasure, pages 1-14 of Remus. I'm starting a hiatus to rework a few things, practice my art, and build up a buffer, so any critiques of the intro would be appreciated. Please bear in mind that it's the start of a long series, so certain elements are supposed to be cryptic. Also, for those of you who want to work on filling out the tropes page, I'd appreciate the help.

[up]I'd definitely like to see where you go from there. It's a well done infiltration scene that would likely work well as a comic. However, I'd need to see a script to get a better idea of the pacing you're going for - prose doesn't translate well to comics unless you're sticking with one paragraph per panel, which gets messy fast. If you want me to work on adapting it to a script for you so that an artist might be able to work with it, shoot me a PM.

edited 28th Nov '11 9:51:37 AM by KyleJacobs

Read Remus! Has nothing to do with wolves.
 40 Voltech 44, Mon, 28th Nov '11 11:11:19 AM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
So I took a look at a few of these posts, and here’s what I’ve come up with. I wouldn’t take what I say too seriously; just think of it as “food for thought.”

@theoneguy: To be honest, it’s a little hard getting invested in a section that — at first — isn’t much more than a Christmas list. Likewise, it’s really hard to get anything meaningful conveyed when everything is packed into those dense blocks of text; it almost comes off as whining/rambling at times. HOWEVER, that’s not to say it was a complete failure; there’s definite meaning in those words, and I got a sense of the character and the plight. I can see why you chose the format you did and the style/idea you want to pursue throughout the whole piece…it’s just that it needs a little more work to get to the ideal. I hate to put it in such binary terms, but for now I have to say “not hooked” — but don’t let that deter you at all.

@USAF: I don’t read much (read: any) historical fiction on a regular basis, but I am a pretty big fan of history in general. I feel like there’s a definite grasp of the characters, setting, and events that transpire and are to come; it helps that you give some pretty thorough descriptions. I can see why people might be turned off, though — at times, it feels more like I’m reading a textbook instead of a story, and as a result that there’s going to be a lot to keep up with (like there’s a pop quiz incoming). But I suppose that’s the nature of the beast — necessities that are as important as any scene setup. So I’m going to go ahead and say “hooked.”

@Snowy Foxes: I’m definitely feeling this segment. If your aim was to invoke a sense of “childish whimsy” and “fantastic mysticism” then I’d say you pulled it off fairly well…and then (as others have pointed out) the last third pops in and shakes all that up. It definitely raises some questions, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want answers to them — which, IMO, is always something that a story should strive for. Not to say the segment’s perfect; I want to say that I understand and know Bianca, but there are some instances where she could be either nine or nineteen (and the mystic ambiguity doesn’t help matters). All things considered, it’s weird to hear a child (?) use words like “pungent” and “forbade” so readily, especially if these are supposed to be her thoughts. A small gripe, of course; I say “hooked” on this one.

So I guess it’s time for my beatdown, huh? All right, here's 994 words from my first full chapter. I'm pretty sure there's a lot of work to be done; I've been told that the first part of the story's a bit of a slow starter, and I'm still wondering if I've got a handle on the mechanics therein. So I'll just post this, and let you guys say what you will. Enjoy...I hope.

(Since I apparently can't use the quote feature to save my life, I'll just have you all look this way...)

edited 28th Nov '11 11:22:10 AM by Voltech44

Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
 41 fanty, Mon, 28th Nov '11 12:33:22 PM from ANGRYTOWN
Woefully Ineloquent
^ The first nine lines were very weird. I could see an opening like that working in a film or a comic... but in a novel? It's just way too weird and doesn't work in the medium at all. Or, at least, it didn't work for me.

Once the ordinary prose starts, it gets more interesting, but you lost me on the third paragraph. After about three sentences, the extremely extended description of the main character started getting a bit tedious. When reading books that were mandatory reading at school, those were exactly the sort of paragraphs I'd simply skip over, because I don't really need to know every tiniest detail of what the main character is wearing. Not hooked!

edited 28th Nov '11 12:38:18 PM by fanty

Individual liberation is an illusion.
 42 Voltech 44, Mon, 28th Nov '11 5:39:31 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
[up]Well, shoot. I guess I should've known better than to make the description so huge, but thanks for your opinion anyway. I'll be sure to do something about that ASAP.
Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
 43 Kyle Jacobs, Mon, 28th Nov '11 6:02:46 PM from Connecticut/D.C.
Nice Guy
Anyone have input on the first few Remus pages?
Read Remus! Has nothing to do with wolves.
 44 Mr AHR, Mon, 28th Nov '11 6:10:55 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
As an artistic asshole, the noses would make me backspace. The anatomy is really wonky.

So yeah, no hook, if only because I am picky with art.
 45 Schitzo, Mon, 28th Nov '11 6:20:25 PM from Akumajou Dracula Relationship Status: LA Woman, you're my woman
#sadboys
I'd also say the art is offputting. As far as this being some kind of political thriller is concerned, nothing I've read so far caught my eye aside from the transition from the speech on tv to the rioting.
ALL CREATURE WILL DIE AND ALL THE THINGS WILL BE BROKEN. THAT'S THE LAW OF SAMURAI.
 46 Riotous Rascal, Mon, 28th Nov '11 7:41:42 PM from AUSTRALIAAAAAAAAAAA
Well played, old chap!
Thread hop time!

Re: Thelostcup - Very 'hook'-ish. Is that a word? It certainly hooked me. The style reminds me of a somewhat Beiger version of Douglas Adams, specifically his Dirk Gently books. Have you ever read them by any chance?

Re: Snowy Foxes - This is very good. The way you've characterised your first-person narrator through her descriptions is very well-executed indeed. It's a bit light on world-building details, but that's excusable since it's an introduction, and presumably that would come later. I'd definitely be interested in reading this.

As it happens, I have something that's not exactly an intro but rather a horror scene (at least it's intended to be a horror scene) from something I've been working on. This is it. I needed to distribute it as a PDF because it relies a fair bit on formatting (not to a beyond-the-impossible House-of-Leaves extent, though), especially in the latter half of the text.

edited 28th Nov '11 7:52:34 PM by RiotousRascal

Did I ever tell you...the definition of insanity?
 47 Noir Grimoir, Tue, 29th Nov '11 4:02:02 AM from San Diego, CA
Rabid Fujoshi
@ Snowy Foxes. I liked it once I started reading, but if I'd opened this in a store or clicked on the story in an archive, whatever, I wouldn't have gotten the past the first two sentences. They are pretty dull. Just about anything to spice them up would be an improvement. Making a thought the first sentence instead of description would be helpful.

edited 29th Nov '11 4:02:56 AM by NoirGrimoir

SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)
 48 cityofmist, Tue, 29th Nov '11 2:01:15 PM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
@Voltech: doesn't sound like the kind of thing I, personally, am into, but it's pretty interesting, so I guess I'll say 'yes'. To pick out the more off-putting aspects, I'd say the odd formatting (the whole < > thing at the beginning just looks weird and gimmicky), the too-long description of Arc's appearance (I don't like the 'introduce your protagonist with a detailed description of their clothes and appearance' thing, especially not the bit where the colour of his hair complements his eyes perfectly. I'd cut that paragraph down to a sentence or two with just a couple of details), and the occasional weird use of words (I think the most obvious was 'callously'; it means not caring about someone else's suffering, so I'm unclear on how you can 'callously' watch someone walk towards you).

But, yeah. It's reasonably interesting and well-written, so, yes, hooked.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
 49 JHM, Tue, 29th Nov '11 4:18:05 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
@Tera Chimera: While not the sort of scenario that I'm generally "grabbed" by, there were elements of the narrative that made me curious as to Jonathan's motivation. This is a good thing. Writing could use a bit more flourish.

For those so inclined, here are the first few paragraphs of a short story I'm working on at the moment, entitled "At the High House":

When I was younger, my family made its residence in a small town about forty miles north and west of the city in which I now live. I visit sometimes, though more rarely now than I did before. It is a quiet place, small and unprepossessing, with little to say for itself but that it is exactly what it appears.

Mostly.

It is the exceptions that prove a rule. So I speak now of the exceptional.

There is, at the very centre of the oldest part of that town, a great round hill. It is very tall, more so than anything else within the town's borders, wider still than tall and, most of all, very green, being covered with long bright grass where it is not speckled with trees or houses.

The houses here are extremely old. They are small and stout, crouched low as if shrunken and bent by age as a person might be after such time. Their roofs are thatched mostly, and often brown and sunken through disrepair. The mortar between their stones dribbles out slowly, the stones of the walls cracking like grated teeth. There is a strangeness and a loneliness in the air.

Few live on the hill anymore. They fear the high house.

What remains of that estate, with the right view, may easily be distinguished from the others: Furthest atop the hill, most occluded by trees, by far the largest. There was even, once, a slate roof, or several, though they have long collapsed. Even ruined it is out of place, out of element. Yet there it is, as it has been and will be for a very long time.

Strange, empty. Alone.

Before it was ruined, the house was still most often empty. Few stayed long in the old high house, the townspeople say, if they were at all wise, though what wisdom there was in staying there at all is to them already a poor kind. Fewer lived there, long before then. There was no talk of wisdom about them. Usually, there was no talk at all. One never speaks ill of the dead, they say. And that is that to them. What I know now came from a friend of sorts, not from the town but having lived there for a certain time.

He had left in a hurry. When I asked him why, this is what he told me.

edited 29th Nov '11 4:20:19 PM by JHM

 50 Voltech 44, Tue, 29th Nov '11 4:19:24 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel
All Guns Sparking
[up][up]"Reasonably?" Well, that's good enough for me. Time to party!

But yeah, I see where you guys are coming from with the criticism. And I'm glad you're willing to lend your advice; I'm doing what I can to revise/clean up, and I'm discovering that...well, there's a LOT that needs to be cleaned up. (I've trimmed down that long description, for starters.) So thanks for helping me get that straight.

edited 29th Nov '11 4:19:58 PM by Voltech44

Super Blog Link (Arcade Edition ver. 2013)
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