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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

 126 Midnight Rambler, Sat, 21st Jan '12 4:21:02 PM from Germania Inferior
JEZUS MARIA PANIE KURWA BOŻE
Now for my own story... (no, I didn't skip anyone; see my previous two posts, which, conveniently, happen to be on the previous page). The OP said that this was limited to the first 1000 words of your story. Since this story is 979 words long, I figured I'd just post it in its entirety. It's a little something I wrote a year or so ago, and it always brings a smile to my face when I re-read it. I hope it makes you smile, as well.

I apologise in advance if I've mixed up informal phrases from different places and/or times. I'm not a native English speaker, so I don't know all about these things.


Boy, did I need a drink. I found myself a quiet spot not too far from the temple, and took a gulp from the jug of wine which I’d bought while aimlessly wandering about. It tasted good. I took another gulp, and another, very quickly, as if I wanted to drain the thing as fast as I could. Anyone who saw me must have taken me for a maniac – and they might have been right, too. God, what a night it had been!

Some fella came walking across the square – straight at me, apparently. I’d be damned: it was John. How on Earth had he found me? Then again, eleven guys walking around like zombies in a town like this would have to work pretty damn hard not to run into each other at some point. ‘Why, hello there, Johnnyboy’, I mumbled. He sat down beside me without a word. For some time, neither of us said anything.

‘Judas is dead’, he suddenly said. It didn’t come as all that much of a surprise to me.

‘You killed ‘em?’ I asked in a deadpan voice.

‘No. Wouldn’t have thought of it – hell, any of us might’ve done the same. No sir, Judas hanged himself.’

‘So he did, then.’ John was right: any of us might have betrayed the man. He hadn’t made that little prophecy to us for nothing; he understood people all too well. Which had been one of the reasons for us to follow him around.

Anyway, apparently old Judas hadn’t been able to live with what he’d done. ‘Makes me kinda sad, y’know. He was always one of the brightest of the band.’

‘Yup. Could probably have talked the boss out of the trouble he’s in now, if he hadn’t been the chosen one to rat ‘em out.’

I smiled faintly. ‘What happened to the money, anyway?’

‘Heard he threw it back at the High Priests. I bet they’re gonna buy themselves some snappy new robes.’

‘’Scuse me, ’ said a young lady who’d walked up to us in the meantime, ‘weren’t you involved with this Jesus? I think I’ve seen you with him sometime...’

‘I’m sorry, miss, ’ I replied without missing a beat, ‘you’re confusing me with someone else. I hardly even knew about ‘em before he came into town a couple days ago.’

‘Same here’, John added.

‘I’m sorry, I must be confused, indeed. Well, I only saw this Jesus and his crew from far off, so it’s not really all that strange.’ She walked off to mind her own business. Mission accomplished. I grinned at John. ‘Heh. Best to keep a low profile now, eh? Here, have some wine.’ I handed him the jug.

‘Thanks. And yeah, you’re damn right. Town riled up like this, anything can happen. I’m in no mood to face a lynch mob.’

‘So the town is riled up, then?’

‘You bet. Tell ya one thing, Pete, we badly underestimated these High Priests when we came here. They fight dirty, you know. They’ve got all Jerusalem hollering for the blood of our little friend.’

‘And the Romans?’

‘Couldn’t care less. All they know is, he’s trouble. And for them, that’s enough to nail a man up. They don’t like trouble, y’know.’

‘Smart bastards, as always.’

‘Yeah. Well, to be fair, the governor did try and sneak ‘em out. He had plenty of excuses, too, what with it being Passover and all. But the crowd, they wanted him dead. Badly. They got the governor to release some little critter of a murderer, called Barabbas.’

‘So, I guess things are looking pretty bad for our little magician.’

‘To say the least, yeah. The shit’s really hit the fan for him. He’s been beaten, spat on, flogged... and as we speak, they’re marching him up to this hill - what was it called again? Golgo... Golga... Gelgo... Anyway, no place he’s gonna get out of alive.’

I sighed. ‘Too bad. Guess there’s no hope of getting him out now, eh?’

‘Not unless you’re some kind of Samson who can take on all of Jerusalem and the Roman garrison.’

Well, I knew that, of course. It’d been a dumb thing to ask. We were both silent for a while, until another Little Miss Detective appeared to ask us if we’d been friends with this Jesus guy. ‘Huh?’, I said, acting all surprised. ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. You must’ve gotten us wrong.’ That was enough to get her to stop bothering us, it seemed.

‘So, I guess this is it, then, ’ I said.

‘Yeah, with Judas and Jesus gone, we don’t really have much to show anymore, eh? So what are you gonna do, then? Back to fishing?’ John started laughing like mad.

‘Yeah, I guess. I’m afraid I won’t have any of those net-filling miracles anymore, though.’ I was laughing like mad, too.

John slapped me on the back. ‘Well, Pete, old boy, ’ he said, ‘I’ll be off. See ya!’ He rose and started walking, just like a leper after Jesus had done one of his magic tricks.

‘No doubt. If you run into this Barabbas fella, ’ I called after him, ‘bring him my congratulations!’

‘Will do, ’ he laughed. I watched him for a while, until I was tapped on the shoulder by yet another little lady.

‘Weren’t you friends with this Jesus? I bet you’re feeling pretty bad now, ’ she said.

‘Nope, ’ I sighed, knowing I wasn’t being all that convincing. ‘In fact, I’ve never heard of him.’ The jug of wine was empty. I stood up and walked away, leaving her confused. It was getting dark already, a little too early, it seemed. I heard a rooster crow somewhere far away; why the hell was the stupid bird making noise at this time of day? Then suddenly, I grinned. One more of the old bugger’s prophecies come true.

edited 21st Jan '12 4:25:43 PM by MidnightRambler

"...and by 'the real world' I mean continental Europe."

– Me
Seeking for Light
Midnight Rambler: I'm really not sure what I think. On the one hand, it was interesting, and I think you did a good job characterizing the characters through the dialogue, but on the other hand, you play... rather fast and loose with the canon. And John and Peter seem a bit too happy considering the circumstances. And a bit too emotionally removed from Jesus—you've written it more like Jesus was "that kinda strange dude who I liked to spend time with now and then 'cause he was interesting" rather than "an extremely close friend for whom I gave up everything to accompany on a several year long road trip".

edited 21st Jan '12 8:21:06 PM by Nocturna

 128 Midnight Rambler, Sun, 22nd Jan '12 5:11:07 AM from Germania Inferior
JEZUS MARIA PANIE KURWA BOŻE
[up] Yeah, I know their attitude towards Jesus doesn't make sense. And I deliberately screwed with the canon here and there because I liked it better this way. But please note that this isn't meant to be taken seriously. I wrote it last Easter, when the reworkings and parodies of the Easter story were flying around in all media like every year. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be funny if the Apostles thought and talked like cynical American gangster-types?' and decided it would. So I wrote this. It's silly comedy, not complex psychological drama.

edited 22nd Jan '12 5:12:31 AM by MidnightRambler

"...and by 'the real world' I mean continental Europe."

– Me
 129 The Bat Pencil, Sun, 22nd Jan '12 7:49:53 AM from Glasgow, Scotland Relationship Status: I'm just a hunk-a, hunk-a burnin' love
So this is the first 1315 words of the Harry Potter Fic I'm doing. This is only my second draft of the story, and this opening chapter wasn't in the first draft at all so I just want to know if you all think this is going to work, what I can improve on, etc.

I realise the idea was only post 1000 words but there was some important stuff at the end I wanted to include.

Also, if copying this directly here from Word leads to formatting issues (paragraphs melding together, for example) give me a few minutes to tidy it up.

Bad dreams. Almost every sleep was now peppered by bad dreams. Nightmares of a hundred faceless boys and girls, men and women, pointing and laughing at him. Sometimes he would fall over, sometimes he would realise he was naked. Sometimes Dumbledore was there, calling him a coward. Other times every girl he knew would be taunting him from the arms of boys much smarter, braver and more handsome than himself. Draco Malfoy would sometimes steal his wand and sometimes it was Harry Potter. During the really bad dreams, Severus Snape would be standing over him in his grandmothers hat, deriding everything about him. Mum and Dad would turn away from him, ashamed of him…

But right now, Neville Longbottom was fast asleep, wrapped up safely in his bed sheets. The bright August sun shone through the glass window, bathing Neville’s bedroom in a hue of golden light. Neville Longbottom lay sleeping in his bed beneath dark red blankets, his face pressed into a pillow. Occasionally he would snort and snore and roll around as his alarm clock, embedded into the chest of a model Griffin that sat on his bedside cabinet, stretched and yawned loudly.

On the old tree that stood outside of Neville’s first-floor window, which had not yet began to shed its green leaves as summer gave way to autumn, sat a gathering of birds singing and chirping into the morning sun. A gentle, cooling breeze glided past them and through the open bedroom window. The curtains ruffled and Neville grunted in his sleep as the cold air met his face.

The clock struck half-past eight, and the model Griffin raised its head, opened its beak and roared loudly. Neville groaned and buried his head deeper into his pillow, but the Griffin ruffled its feathers and roared again, louder this time.

“Five more minutes, ” Neville said sleepily into his pillow as his grandmother rapped upon his bedroom door.
“Early start Neville, remember!” she called.

The Griffin alarm clock, after roaring once again, stretched its wings and leapt from the bedside cabinet onto Neville’s bed. It climbed onto his pillow, held down around his head tightly by both of his hands, and crept slowly towards his fingers…

Neville yelped and bounded out of bed as his alarm clock clamped down hard on the pinkie finger of his right hand. He caressed it gently as the enchanted model Griffin its place upon the bedside cabinet, with a content look upon its face, having done its job.

Neville rubbed his sleepy eyes and blinked into the bright sunlight shining on him through his window. Yawning, he pulled himself off of his bed and reached for the bedroom door handle. He stretched his long arms as he walked down the hallway towards the bathroom, accidentally knocking a framed picture from the wall as he did so.

“What fell?” his grandmother called from downstairs.
“Nothing, ” Neville called back as he hung the frame back on the wall while an irritated-looking wizard in the picture shook his fist at him. “Sorry, ” Neville mumbled.

Ten minutes later, with his teeth brushed and hair combed, Neville stepped up to the tall wardrobe in his bedroom. He pulled open the doors of the wardrobe, to which he had attached a scarlet and gold Gryffindor scarf and a moving photograph of a mighty lion (which was currently asleep), and began rummaging for clothes.

He had removed his shirt before remembering to turn his photograph of his mother and father to face the wall as he always did. As he grasped it he saw that even they were both still asleep, his mother’s head resting upon his father’s shoulder. Nevertheless, after watching them for a long moment, he turned it to face the wall anyway.

As he turned back to the wardrobe he caught a sight of himself in the bedroom mirror. He saw how his stomach, flabby and overweight, bulged over his trousers even though they were loose fitting pyjamas. For a moment he stood straight, head held high and gut sucked in; “still fat”, he thought to himself. He was getting a spot on his chin, too.

Turning away from the sight of the mirror Neville reached for clothes as his grandmothers voice urged him to hurry up from downstairs. Neville arrived downstairs in his jeans and sweater as the clock in the kitchen struck eight twenty-five. His grandmother, a tall, thin and bony women with a stern, strict look on her face that Neville had rarely seen differ, immediately marched out of the kitchen, comb in hand.

“Did you comb your hair?” she said. “You haven’t combed you hair right.”
“Gran, I did-” Neville began to say as he squirmed beneath the rough tugs of his grandmother’s comb.
“There, that’s better, ” his grandmother said. “Much more mature looking.”

Neville followed his grandmother down the hall towards the kitchen. The walls of the Longbottom home were covered in black and white photographs of squat, round-faced members of the Longbottom clan that had long since passed away.

Uncle Algie and Aunt Enid were still snoozing in their frames, each slumped in a cosy-looking high chair. Further down the hallway hung a picture of Alfred Longbottom, slumped over his writing desk while holding a bottle of Manticore Mead; beside him hung Cousin Stanley, a man with a long beard who was nursing a black eye after another long nights drinking with Alfred.

Before Neville had even stepped into the kitchen, the familiar smell of breakfast had met his nostrils. He could hear the sounds of enchanted pots and pans and plates scrubbing themselves clean in the kitchen sink while his grandmothers favourite singer, “Magical” Marvin Mim, sang old fashioned songs over the wireless.

Feeling suddenly ravenous, Neville reached for a loaf of bread but his grandmother suddenly snatched it out of his hand.

“No time for that, ” she said. “No dawdling; the sooner we get there, the sooner we get back!”
It was then that Neville caught sight of the latest edition of the Daily Prophet, a newspaper whose front page was covered in large, imposing headlines and a black and white photograph of rather dishevelled-looking men and women that Neville did not recognise. The headline, written in an eye-catching black font, read: “UNDESIERABLES ARRESTED!”

Neville grabbed the newspaper with his right hand and dragged it across the table, so that he could read it. Beneath the headline was a black and white photograph of Auror’s from the Ministry of Magic wrestling with people whose faces Neville could not see. “Auror’s arrest suspected dark wizards, wand thieves” the caption beneath the photograph said.

“Now don’t you worry, ” his grandmother said, from across the table while reaching to snatch the newspaper away. “I’ve already read that, none of your school friends were mentioned.”

Neville breathed a sigh of relief as his grandmother slid the newspaper away from him and threw it in the bin. Everyday since last week Neville had been going through the same routine. First the latest edition of the Daily Prophet will be lying on the kitchen table. The headlines will talk about some new arrests in the night. Neville will grab the newspaper, expecting to see a friend being arrested by an Auror, waiting for their name to be added to the list of captured “Undesirables”.

But it hadn’t came yet. Dozens of strangers, unknowns, faces Neville had never been before, yes, but none of his friends. Not yet. There were so many familiar names, too many, on the list of people being hunted by the Ministry of Magic. Muggle-borns, friends of Muggle-borns. Harry Potter, friends of Harry Potter. His school friends. People in school he only knew by sight or by name. People he had met before in Diagon Ally. People who knew his grandmother. People who had known his parents. People who had been kind to him. “Mudbloods“. “Blood-traitors“.

edited 22nd Jan '12 8:06:44 AM by TheBatPencil

And let us pray that come it may (As come it will for a' that)
 130 The Bat Pencil, Sun, 22nd Jan '12 8:03:15 AM from Glasgow, Scotland Relationship Status: I'm just a hunk-a, hunk-a burnin' love
@Rambler: firstly, I forgot to post this in my last post. Sorry.

Ok - what pushed me out of it a bit was the lack of detail. Given the way everyone is talking and the lack of refining detail on where they are, what folk look like and what they're doing, it makes it hard to follow because I don't really know what's going on beyond the almost uninterrupted lines of dialogue. It could be ancient Jerusalem, it could be anywhere, anywhen. It all sort of jumps in without clearing up some things.

Not that I'm an expert, mind you.

edited 22nd Jan '12 8:04:54 AM by TheBatPencil

And let us pray that come it may (As come it will for a' that)
 131 Midnight Rambler, Sun, 22nd Jan '12 12:52:06 PM from Germania Inferior
JEZUS MARIA PANIE KURWA BOŻE
Ok - what pushed me out of it a bit was the lack of detail. Given the way everyone is talking and the lack of refining detail on where they are, what folk look like and what they're doing, it makes it hard to follow because I don't really know what's going on beyond the almost uninterrupted lines of dialogue. It could be ancient Jerusalem, it could be anywhere, anywhen. It all sort of jumps in without clearing up some things.

Well, it's supposed to be obvious that this is Fan Fiction of The Bible, specifically of the Easter story. The fact that this only becomes apparent a few paragraphs in (depending on how Bible-savvy you are) is part of the comedy.
"...and by 'the real world' I mean continental Europe."

– Me
 132 cityofmist, Sun, 22nd Jan '12 1:43:31 PM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
It is obvious. The second you say 'Judas', at least.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
Obsidian Proboscidean
@ The Bat Pencil. I think I'm hooked. I liked how there was detail, but it didn't get in the way or seem to slow the story down. It mostly seemed to focus on what was important: Neville's thoughts. The suspense-building was good, too.

I liked the fact that it was showing instead of telling, is what I'm trying to say.

Here's another Sim story I'm working on:

You could’ve said that magic was in the air, but nobody would’ve believed you.

The night was well underway as the white Smord cruised down the Road to Nowhere. The windows, halfway rolled down, let in the breeze as well as the perfume of downtown Strangetown. Sims, mostly those over eighteen, were scattered across the sidewalk, walking, talking, kissing, or just standing around.

The brightly colored lights and pounding music soon gave way to the darkness and silence of the suburbs. The various smells of food, cigarette smoke, and Sims dissolved into the scent of wet dirt.

The driver, a boy named Nervous, pushed a clump of black hair from his face as he steered the car around the blocks. The two backseat passengers, Loki and Vidcund, were chatting about the movie the three had just finished watching.

“I still think the ending would be better if the whole movie wasn’t just a dream, ” Loki said, tweaking his blond Dalí mustache. “It’s kind of lame.”

“I disagree. I think it makes a very interesting point; if something that seemed so real can be a illusion, how do we know what’s reality and what’s a dream?” Vidcund pushed his blond bangs out of his face.

“Sometimes I wish this were a dream. Then I could bring down the gas prices a little, ” Nervous commented, flicking the turn signal.

“That’d be great, if it’s a lucid dream, ” Loki remarked. “Otherwise, you’d be walking down the street, and you’d look down and realize you’re naked.”

“Nobody would need telescopes to peep anymore, ” Vidcund snickered.

Nervous smiled until he saw a glint in the side mirror. “What the hell?”

Loki glanced out of the window. “What’s that car doing?”

He’d barely gotten the sentence out before the car was jerked off the road. He clenched his eyes shut and braced himself as the car spun. Nervous yanked the wheel to avoid the other car.

Vidcund tried to shut his eyes, but they were frozen open with terror. He could have sworn he saw a flash of red hair from afar. Then, he and Loki were flung from the car into the circle of light at the end of the block.

—-

Getting his bearings while airborne was damn near impossible. It didn’t help that he could only see darkness for miles.

“How am I still moving?” he wondered as he felt himself jerk to the left. He could feel his blond hair whip against his face as he continued to fly down the dark tunnel. He tried to see if he could change direction again, or at least look around, but try as he might, he couldn’t even move his toes. He also couldn’t flinch when he floated toward a blinding white light and a cool gust of wind.

“There’s some blue-no, wait, they’re closing again.” A voice echoed from high above. He tried to identify the speaker, but he began to sink away from the light and deeper into darkness. Soon, he could only see the light from the stars—or whatever those blurry white spots were. More voices, echoing and overlapping, swirled in his head as he began to float again, this time toward a warmer light.

—-

“I’d grab that person’s flashlight, ” Loki thought, “but I think I might fall off the ground.”

He’d had his eyes closed not because of the light, but because he wasn’t sure he’d want to see what was in front of him. He was certain that whatever it was, it would be in duplicate or in rotation or insane. Opening his eyes to see it might worsen the dull ache in his head.

He could hear approaching footsteps. “Is that Vidcund or Nervous?” he wondered. He wasn’t curious enough to open his eyes and risk his head exploding.

“There’s a witch in this ditch!”

Loki’s eyes flew open. Nervous!

To his surprise (and delight), his headache didn’t worsen. In fact, the pain left when he unclenched his jaw and let go of the grass to which he’d been clinging.

“Wait a minute…”

There was no flashlight. Loki was sitting in the grassy crater of a meadow. The bright blue sky was cloudless. Behind him, a cluster of trees huddled over a spring. Over the edge of a crater, he could see a dirt road leading to a town in the distance. To his right, lying next to the crater was a blond figure in a blue gingham dress and red shoes.

Loki scanned the landscape. “How long have I been out?”

“A couple of minutes.”

Loki looked up to find a young, black-haired man wearing a green and orange outfit that looked like a cross between a boy scout’s uniform and a kilt. He bore an unnerving resemblance to Loki’s adoptive brother.

“Nervous?” Loki barely managed to get out.

The young man cocked an eyebrow, confused. The feeling was mutual. “Oh. I guess you’re not Nervous, ” Loki said sheepishly.

“No, actually, I’m pretty calm, ” the youth answered. “My name’s Nereus. I thought you and your friend would be nervous; that looked like a brutal fall.”

“Yeah...Sure.” Loki looked around. A few feet away, the blond man began to sit up. He brushed his hair away from his face, revealing green tinted glasses, a long pointy nose, and a black-lipsticked mouth.

“Vidcund, maybe, ” Loki said, wondering if this was another doppelganger.

Vidcund sat up and looked down at the surrounding patch of poppies. “Wasn’t it nighttime when we crashed?” He looked around at the green fields, the forest, and the seemingly medieval, yet bright, village in the distance. “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Then he turned around and saw Loki, sitting in the ditch with someone who appeared to be Nervous in a boy scout kilt.

“And curiouser still.”

Loki scrambled out of the ditch with the man and over to Vidcund. “Are you really Vidcund?” he asked hopefully.

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Vidcund stood up. Both he and Loki turned to see the young man, staring at them with great interest.

edited 25th Jan '12 6:59:59 PM by BlackElephant

I'm an elephant. Rurr.
 134 burnpsy, Tue, 7th Feb '12 12:56:32 AM from Ontario, Canada Relationship Status: Abstaining
The Eternal Fool

edited 8th Feb '12 4:18:48 AM by burnpsy

 135 Evergreen 215, Sat, 18th Feb '12 11:24:14 AM from Unnamed Arctic City
Prime Elite
[up][up]At about the first break, I stopped reading. It felt like things were happening too fast, with not enough description or explanation. I didn't understand anything that was going on, and there didn't seem to be a way to make a logical leap from the first section to the next within reading the first sentence or two.

Edit: Just fixing a typo.

edited 18th Feb '12 11:25:06 AM by Evergreen215

God's in his Heaven all's right with the world
 136 Belfagor, Wed, 21st Mar '12 1:26:46 PM from Nonantola, Italy
@ Black Elephant: The story is well written but, as said above, the events take place too fast and it's actually a bit difficult to follow them properly. If you add more details, I think it will intrigue more the reader.

I proceeded with deleting my fanfic, since I agree it was boring. At least I did that before losing too much time on it. Thanks for he criticism.

edited 22nd Mar '12 2:10:01 AM by Belfagor

OMNIA RESOLVITUR DIALECTICE
 137 cityofmist, Wed, 21st Mar '12 1:34:21 PM from Meanwhile City
turning and turning
No. The first two lines were bad enough that I stopped reading immediately.
Scepticism and doubt lead to study and investigation, and investigation is the beginning of wisdom.
- Clarence Darrow
 138 Snowy Foxes, Wed, 21st Mar '12 3:18:54 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
Teehee.
^ Pretty much. It sounds like you're trying too hard to be quirky. The first paragraph is also too expository.

I'm quite afraid that this is one of the most boring beginnings I've ever written.

"Remember to be at the restaurant with him by six whether he likes it or not, " Damian says.

"Yes." I force myself to look at my brother's face instead of watching the city of Himmelburg pass by in the carriage window. The white bandages over his empty eye sockets create an unsettling illusion of blankness, unfriendliness. The constant monotone doesn't help.

"If you really don't want to explain why you decided to disappear, I could do it at supper."

I clench my fists. "Please don't. That's my responsibility."

"But you don't want to."

I wish I could tell him to get out of my head, but even if I dared, he could still be digging around in my mind and I wouldn't know.

He tugs on his stiff collar and leans forward slightly. "You know you won't be able to do it."

No, I can't look at him any longer. I bow my head and stare at the ruffles and lace on my skirt. It makes me look like a child, and my height doesn't help. Damian's plan to make me appear nonthreatening certainly works. It also has the unfortunate side effect of humiliating me, but that's not important.

"Stop complaining. Short skirts keep out of your way."

I sigh. This isn’t the time to be arguing about my clothes. "I'll tell him by tomorrow, " I say, trying not to sound whiny or desperate. "Please—"

"We'll see."

I bite my tongue and resume gazing listlessly out the window. From the clothes the people are wearing and how well the buildings are maintained, I can tell that it's not a bad district, just bordering the bourgeoisie area. Still, why wouldn't Wilhelm use the dormitories provided by the conservatory? Aren't they free?

The carriage stops. I don't waste a moment getting away from Damian and almost trip on the steps leading up to the door. I take the slip of paper from my handbag and check the address again before ringing the bell.

A small woman with curly blond hair answers within seconds. "Yes?"

"Are you Mrs. van Pfeffer? I'm visiting Wilhelm Ritter."

She looks me over and dusts her hands on her apron. "Room 5. Come with me."

I quickly glance over what I can see of the ground floor, which is just the communal sitting room, but I don’t stop and look closely because it might seem rude, so I follow her up the stairs.

"Thank you for your help, " I say. Mrs. van Pfeffer nods and scurries back downstairs. As soon as she's gone, I take a closer look at the hallway, and I lean over the railing of the landing to look at the sitting room. The wall panels have obvious chips and scratches, the furniture is worn out, and the carpet is thin and faded. Cheery little paintings of fruit bowls and the countryside hang on the walls. A grandfather clock sits at the end of the hall. The other end has a large window. The place is clearly old, but it’s clean and warm. Friedrich Ritter must have looked everywhere to find a pleasant but inexpensive place for his nephew to stay.

I knock on the door with the brass 5 on it. "Wilhelm? It's me." Hurried footsteps make their way to the door. It opens a crack. I can see only his eyes and glasses and a sliver of his body, just enough to tell that he's keeping his clothes clean. That's a good start. Eva will be pleased.

"Cut that out and let me in."

edited 5th Jul '12 9:37:01 PM by SnowyFoxes

Detectives have bad posture because they always have a hunch about something.
 139 Crystal Glacia, Wed, 21st Mar '12 3:32:51 PM from Cedarpointland
listen
It feels more like an excerpt from the middle of the book, I think.
 140 Snowy Foxes, Wed, 21st Mar '12 3:36:00 PM from ´ ಠ/// Д ///ಠ` Relationship Status: Heisenberg unreliable
Teehee.
Is that really bad?
Detectives have bad posture because they always have a hunch about something.
 141 chihuahua 0, Wed, 21st Mar '12 3:37:37 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
It was a dark and stormy night. No, it wasn't; actually the weather was quite fair, and it was only eleven p.m.

Isn't 11 PM close to midnight anyways?

In any cases, I think this line had been parodied one too many times to death, so...

 142 Crystal Glacia, Wed, 21st Mar '12 3:47:52 PM from Cedarpointland
listen
[up][up] ...I don't know, someone else might think so; but I think I was hooked because I've seen your characters in action before.

I fail at critiquing.
 143 Mr AHR, Wed, 21st Mar '12 4:23:43 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I was half hooked. Sort of. It didn't not-hook me, but didn't really give me a clear reason to keep on reading.

If I have a comic strip, how many strips count for a hook?

Because maximum six strips minimum three would be nice here

edited 21st Mar '12 4:37:30 PM by MrAHR

 144 feotakahari, Wed, 21st Mar '12 11:41:48 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
^ Read six strips. Wasn't repulsed, but wasn't hooked either. In general, I think it's a bad sign when the only way a story's beginning differs from that of a dozen earlier stories is that the characters are aware of how cliche it is. Six strips in, nothing other than that self-awareness has appeared to distinguish your story from any other. (Of course, six strips in, I'm not even sure what the plot really is, so you may have set yourself too hard a challenge.)

Writing this off the top of my head, so it'll probably come out significantly below my normal standards, but I feel like I ought to get it out of my head and into written form:

In the month that it first attained some measure of self-awareness, the blob of grayish slime that would be known as Gracie asked three questions.

The first is almost impossible to translate. "Will I hunt now?" would be a good start, but the blob was a long ways away from a formal concept of "I." It asked this question once per day, directed towards the larger blob—the mother blob—and it had yet to receive a "no."

Hunting was not difficult for the blob in those days. In its eyeless, earless manner, it sensed creatures as it moved, and it matched their shapes and movements such that they thought it kin. By the time they realized their mistake, it was within striking distance, and their mass was added to its own—first a squirrel, then a badger, then finally a whole deer. The day seemed no different from any other, until the blob returned to its home, and was forced to ask its second question.

Where is Mother? The larger blob had never moved before, and to what would be Gracie, it had seemed as fixed and permanent as a mountain. The only signs that it had ever existed were a barren stretch of dirt where no plants grew, and, of course, the smaller blob itself.

With no concept of time, the blob had no reason to stop searching other than to satisfy its hunger pangs. Had it bothered to count, it would have tracked twenty-six periods of light and darkness before it heard noises it should not have recognized, somewhere in the distance amongst the trees.

"This is pointless. We don't even know why the magic levels around here didn't go down for so long—we'll never figure out why they dropped now."

"It's a little late to argue, " another voice replied. "Let's just take a look and get—hold on, I've got a weird feeling. I think something's watching us."

The blob didn't even question how it knew what the words meant. Somewhere in the back of its mind, these creatures were familiar to it. Almost instinctively, it shifted to match its memories . . .

For the first time in its existence, the blob screamed.

Pain. So much pain. Not just in the arms and legs and head, but in a place the blob hadn't known it carried inside—a place another being might have called the soul.

"What the hell was that?" the first voice asked, a water droplet of relief in the blazing inferno of pain. The creatures would think the blob one of their own kind. They probably wouldn't hurt it, and might even help it. Might . . .

The blob had its first truly intelligent thought in the moment before it blacked out—but even then, it was remembering something older.

Why me?
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 145 chihuahua 0, Thu, 22nd Mar '12 7:38:19 AM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Hooked, I would say. I skimmed a bit, but once I anchored myself, I found myself wanting to know what happens next.

Plus, the concept of a blob named Gracie is a bit cute.

 146 Mr AHR, Thu, 22nd Mar '12 8:00:58 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Feo: Understood, but your comment confused me. Where are they aware of the clichéness?
 147 Killer Clowns, Thu, 22nd Mar '12 4:38:40 PM from the Midwest Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
Easily entertained
@Feo: Certainly not a traditional start, and a bit mystifying. But in a good, intriguing sort of way. As a sci-fi guy, I find myself wondering what sort of creature we have here, but there's also genuine empathy for the poor thing, as well as my wondering where the pain came from.

@AHR: Yeah, the amnesiacs-in-a-white-room opening kinda makes me roll my eyes. But that's something you can overcome. The problem is there's some guys in a room, and I really don't have any reason in the six max strips you suggested to care about them. The amnesia makes it hard, but perhaps a more intimate introduction of at least one of the individuals would be better?

And finally, I attempt to amuse you. (Feedback from those I haven't already gotten myself over with in the CDTs especially appreciated, but all is welcome.)
 148 Mukora, Thu, 22nd Mar '12 4:47:35 PM from a place Relationship Status: Love is an open door
Uniocular
@Feo: I really liked that, and hope to read the rest soon.

Here's mine.

The formatting is more than a bit screwed up, sadly.
 149 Killer Clowns, Thu, 22nd Mar '12 4:52:40 PM from the Midwest Relationship Status: Shipping fictional characters
Easily entertained
@Mukora: Knives are a good way to start a story. evil grin All jesting aside, it has a good feel to it, though your dropping "the Rifts" on us is more puzzling than intriguing. Not sure why, can't quite put my finger on it, but I feel like you could namedrop them a bit more effectively than you did. Also, for some reason, the self-awareness of the main character saying "The story started like all stories, in a bar...” doesn't bug me as much as it normally would.
 150 Mr AHR, Thu, 22nd Mar '12 4:53:06 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
KC: I actually wasn't looking for caring about the characters yet. >_> But ok, will keep in mind if I ever put it in a proper format.
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