See if the above poster hooked you:

Total posts: [360]
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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

@AHR (and others): Well, if you've got a plan, by all means, go for it. I'm a traditionalist in my storytelling methods, and so inherently give traditionalist advice. Still, it's better for your stories to understand my advice, weigh it appropriately, and choose to accept or disregard it, than to blindly follow it.
152 MrAHR22nd Mar 2012 05:01:55 PM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Well, I mostly meant that I'm trying to go on plot fumes before I establish the characters, especially since three panels at a time is a very hard way to establish characterization.

edited 22nd Mar '12 5:03:35 PM by MrAHR

153 Mukora22nd Mar 2012 05:04:31 PM from a place , Relationship Status: I made a point to burn all of the photographs
@KC: Yeah, confusion about the Rifts seems to be the main complaint from everyone I've shown it to, so it's definitely an issue to look in to.

There is a scene later that serves as a more "traditional" introduction to them, but I think having that scene happen with no previous mention of them would be even more confusing.
"It's so hard to be humble, knowing how great I am."
155 MrAHR23rd Mar 2012 08:07:33 AM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I'd say...yes. Hooked, if not hugely so, mildly so.
156 JHM24th Mar 2012 07:25:23 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Feotakahari, you are a man after my own heart: You made me fall in love with a grey blob in less than ten sentences. In all seriousness, if you were in my immediate vicinity, I believe that I would be unable to contain my affection. Most likely, I would glomp you without warning. I might even be so overcome as to kiss you. I exaggerate only slightly. That was adorable, and horrific, and great.

P.S. Wow. I don't know what came over me there. But yes. I was hooked. Very much so. I'll admit to finding the dialogue of the two strangers less promising—pardon, "magic levels"?—but your whole premise and approach is just so cool that such things ultimately do not detract.

edited 24th Mar '12 7:29:58 AM by JHM

157 SnowyFoxes24th Mar 2012 07:32:20 AM from Club Room , Relationship Status: I know
Drummer Boy
JHM x feotakahari OTP


I couldn't resist.
The last battle's curtains will open on stage!
158 JHM24th Mar 2012 08:16:38 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
Oh dear. I really do sound like I'm aiming to jump his bones now, don't I...?

*blushes; runs away*
I'd say...yes. Hooked, if not hugely so, mildly so.

That... concerns me. Any specific pointers or complaints?
160 MrAHR24th Mar 2012 08:30:44 AM from ಠ_ಠ , Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I am very picky when it comes to my prose. I'm a naturally fast reader, so usually if the pacing is not just right, I'll skim automatically, even if I don't actually want to. I do this a lot with certain writers (Tamora Pierce, my all time favorite guy, Douglas Adams).

That's a fault of mine though.

Anyways, your writing struck me as good, but I kept going into skim mode way too prematurely. So yeah. It would be a hook, probably, if my method of reading wasn't messed up.

edited 24th Mar '12 8:33:02 AM by MrAHR

161 feotakahari24th Mar 2012 06:20:56 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
@JHM: Coincidentally, I just stalled on my attempts to actually program* the blasted thing*. My bad?*

Edit @ [down]: At this point, it's not really a story so much as a premise, formed off of two ideas. The first is that, since RPG protagonists are often Jack-of-All-Stats types, the mimic class might work well as a protagonist rather than a gimmicky side character. The second is that it would be interesting if an RPG actually justified why the protagonist starts off with no apparent personality, only developing one through interactions with other characters. (I've got a bit of setting detail, a party of seven characters, and an idea of who the midboss and final boss would be, but not much about what would happen along the way. Besides, I'm not sure if standard tools like RPG Maker can implement Relationship Values in quite the way I intended, and it's a little early in my programming career to design a game from scratch.)

(If there's going to be a lot more discussion of this, I'll spin off a separate thread.)

edited 24th Mar '12 7:53:57 PM by feotakahari

That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
162 chihuahua024th Mar 2012 07:07:13 PM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
You're doing an RPG?

Can you please tell us more about your story?

163 Mukora24th Mar 2012 10:44:47 PM from a place , Relationship Status: I made a point to burn all of the photographs
I'd be very interested in seeing your ideas in detail.

If you do make a thread, it should probably be in Video Games, though.
"It's so hard to be humble, knowing how great I am."
164 Lockedbox26th Jun 2012 12:13:19 AM from Australia , Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
definitely hooked, but when the hunters arrived on scene I was taken out a little. The blobs thought process and the story of its existence where very well done and I empathized with it a lot. I quite liked the "where is mother" segment. The hunters dialogue, however, was very exposition-y. It's short, and doesn't overly detract from the piece but I feel that a little smoothing out and some more work on the descriptions would greatly improve it, and should only count for minor tweaking in the long run. Phrases like "magic-levels" just make me tilt my head and think "really? that's the best they could come up with?" which is not the reaction I think you were going for. Also, I couldn't understand why the blob's transformation was negative, as you established earlier that the blob could do so naturally, and that mimicry was all part of it's hunting technique, so some more specific explanation on how or why it's transformation into a human is different from it's previous transformations, would be helpful here. Even a short sentence detailing how the blob shifts, and experiences something that it has never experienced before (and consequently cannot understand why) would be a bit better than the sudden screaming that we get. I'm hardly an authority on literature, but that's how I feel.

I'd like to nominate part of my story next smile I wrote it a year ago and I think I've improved a lot since I started, but the "hook" is debatabley the most important part of a work of fiction so I feel I should update it if I can. Advice on how to improve its "hooking" ability and pacing (preferably without sacrificing it's descriptions) would be much appreciated. waii

To Lauchlan it felt like an elephant and a rhino were dancing the fandango on his head. No, scratch that, a whole herd of elephants and rhinos. How drunk did I get last night?

Lauchlan delicately cracked open his good eye to survey the damage, but the bright light of the room transformed the fandango into a stampede and with a grunt he hastily screwed his eye shut tight and turned away from the source of light, only to smack his nose into something. A hair-covered something, much like a human head. Shit.

Now don’t panic, Lauchlan; it could just as easily be an overly friendly dog, he thought, desperately attempting to calm the painful panic that was building in his hangover-fogged brain. The hair felt human enough against his face, if a bit greasy and had a distinctive smell that was almost teasing in its familiarity. Lauchlan sniffed deeply and held it in his nose, his cloudy mind struggling to give a name to the pungent aroma. It smelt of herbs, alcohol, wood smoke and there was something else there too that was bitter and nutty which Lauchlan couldn’t identify.

Curiously Lauchlan turned his head to the other side and sniffed. The smell was still there. It must be soaked into the blankets, he thought. The smell was oddly soothing too, but why would that be? Lauchlan breathed it in deeply as his foggy mind slowly processed the information, complaining all the way. It wasn’t the smell of food, it wasn’t the stink of industry, it wasn’t the smell of textiles and it definitely wasn’t the overpowering stink of perfumes; it was far too bitter and medicinal. Wait, medicinal? A light switched on in Lauchlan’s brain (much to his displeasure) as he finally identified the smell as the smell of an apothecary, but blanched in horror when he remembered that a shrewish widow more than twice his age ran the only apothecary that he had ever visited. Oh, good lord, please tell me I didn’t, thought Lauchlan in horror as the elephants and rhinos began to dance again in panic.

Lauchlan braved the burning brightness of the room to examine his bed partner. Squinting, the room slowly swam into focus and he could see the head of his partner curled up against his shoulder. Her face was obscured by the pillows of the unfamiliar bed and by Lauchlan’s own body, which the little woman had curled into, her face tucked under Lauchlan’s right arm and shoulder. Her hair was still visible, though; it was short for a woman, and black. Not the old apothecarist then. Thank God. But, who was this? Lauchlan couldn’t remember meeting any women at the celebration of the night before, he hadn’t even chatted to the overworked barmaids. In fact, he could remember next to nothing of the celebration at all. His last clear memory was being strong-armed into a shot-drinking contest by his best mate Jasper and two of his friends, pitting him against a stranger who had been at the bar for most of the night. He had already had a pint or two of beer by that stage, if his memory served, but any attempts to probe deeper into the events of the night before were met with a painful resistance from his hangover.

Lauchlan tried to gently shift away from his bed partner’s face so that he could get a better look at her, but the contours of the pillows caused her to shift with him and the bed quickly became too narrow to shift any further. Now pinned between the bed’s edge and the out-cold mystery woman, Lauchlan noticed something scratchy rubbing against his shoulder, the same shoulder that the mystery woman was snuggling into. For a moment his foggy mind passed it off as cheap linens but then he realised that if it were the linens that were scratchy he would be feeling it all over, so what was it? He didn’t want to wake up mystery woman just to scratch his shoulder; odds were she would be as hung over as he was. Not pretty. So he struggled to ignore the scratchy, itchy feeling and cast his good eye around the room in an attempt to distract himself.

The room was small and had no wallpaper or paint, but whoever owned the room had done their best to make it tidy and presentable. The tattered wallpaper, had been sanded back to show smooth, yellowed plaster and old woollen drapes that had been patched many times over framed the single window. The furniture was mismatched and much seemed to have been salvaged and repaired over time; there was a large wardrobe and a desk filled with strange alchemical apparatus; there were two old arm chairs that had been torn and then restuffed and repaired, sitting in front of an open fireplace which still contained the final vestiges of a small fire, and between them was a low table that held an empty whiskey bottle. Dozens of bundles of herbs and roots were hanging from a stand on the mantle in varying stages of dryness and there were jars of powders and other strange substances set on the hearth. The bed had been tucked into the room’s corner with a stool acting as a bedside table.

edited 26th Jun '12 9:32:52 AM by Lockedbox

First 1000 words, please.
"Whenever I feel like I know how computers work, I go to class and leave feeling like I'm wearing my pants on my head, eating paste."
166 Lockedbox26th Jun 2012 05:53:11 AM from Australia , Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
I can't, I'm afraid. The one thousand mark is in the middle of a 300 word paragraph and doesn't make any sense if you cut it there. So I cut it off at the paragraph before.
167 SnowyFoxes26th Jun 2012 09:19:47 AM from Club Room , Relationship Status: I know
Drummer Boy
Really sorry I can't properly critique it, since I'm leaving the house, but I would like to let you know that when you're going to do this:

To Lauchlan it felt like an elephant and a rhino were dancing the fandango on his head. No, scratch that, a whole herd of elephants and rhinos. How drunk did I get last night?

put the last sentence in italics. It's kind of jarring when you're reading third person and all of a sudden, first person. You can figure out that it's his thoughts, but italics help.
The last battle's curtains will open on stage!
168 Lockedbox26th Jun 2012 09:24:42 AM from Australia , Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
In my word file it is, but I'm a bit lost as to how this interface works. I'm a newbie here. May I ask how to italicize in this format?
169 chihuahua026th Jun 2012 09:25:01 AM from Standoff, USA , Relationship Status: I LOVE THIS DOCTOR!
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Alternatively, you can reword it to be 3rd person.

But for italics, look in the "Show Markup Help" menu on the "add post" page.

edited 26th Jun '12 9:25:31 AM by chihuahua0

170 Lockedbox26th Jun 2012 09:35:50 AM from Australia , Relationship Status: YOU'RE TEARING ME APART LISA
Ah! Thanks, I've fixed it now smile
171 Voltech4427th Jun 2012 04:48:16 PM from Alongside a Virtual Weasel , Relationship Status: Non-Canon
All Guns Sparking
All right, I guess I'll post something here...although I'll admit I'm a little wary. I'm working on a new file right now, so I still have a long way to go before it's anything beyond rough (and, you know, good); on the other hand, it'd be nice to get a little feedback before I get too set in my ways, or if I should change course before I drive this story off a cliff.

So here you go. Read on, and I hope you enjoy.


The prisoner slid his finger through the dirt, humming as the dried grains clumped onto his nails. “Name. Name, name, name,” he sang to himself, plastering a smile across his face. “What would be a good name? My, my, this is a bit more difficult than I thought it would be…”

His voice echoed through his cell — through darkness that blanketed him, his dirty nails, and his inevitable grave. And as his pleasant tones faded, he listened to the typical ambiance: his stone chains, rattling against one another with even the slightest twitch. The rustle of the earth as his nails swept through it — a minute sound, of course, but he’d always had those sensitive ears. His calm, measured breaths, unfazed by his virtual blindness. He’d actually started to grow fonder of his breathing in recent years; the motions of his chest and the swirl of air reminded him, day after day, he was still alive. Still an animal punished by his masters.

He let out a heavy sigh and rolled onto his back, his chained wrists acting as a makeshift headrest. “I’m actually a bit embarrassed,” he told the darkness, wearing the same lazy grin he had for years. “All this time trapped in here, and I still can’t come up with a name. It’s enough to make me think I’m losing my touch.” His heel slid across one of the grooves he’d left on the floor. “Well, I suppose it’s pointless to think something so depressing without a point of comparison.” The prisoner laughed curtly. “Knowing that I only have them to compare myself to…now that’s depressing.”

And then, a new sound. Something in the darkness shifted — one slow, grinding motion after another, casting dirt specks from the ceiling to the ground. The motions nearly shook the entire cell; with each rumble, the prisoner’s ears twitched and twitched again, almost as if electrified by such a rare resonation.

The prisoner stumbled to his feet. “My, oh my. My first guests in ages.” He and walked toward the sound’s source, his cuffed arms swaying and bouncing with each step. “Rather rude of them to keep me waiting for so long; so many preparations wasted, all because of a little tardiness. I’ll be sure to give them a stern talking-to.”

The ceiling rumbled one last time — and with that final motion, the light shone down. A white column, warm and translucent, drew the prisoner’s eyes. Of course, the mere sight of it made his eyes ache; out of sheer reflex, he pulled a forearm over his face. “Mind covering that up?” he called out. “I have my cell looking just the way I want it, and I’d rather not have any guests — late guests, I might add — mucking up my designs.”

“Come into the light.”

“Come on now…you expect me to start following orders now, of all times?” He turned his back on the light — or rather, the deep voice that had beckoned him. “Maybe I’ll just stay here, then. It’s so quiet and quaint, and I don’t have to look at or listen to any of you. Paradise, if there ever was one. You follow?”

“The Circle awaits you.”

“Fantastic. But I think I’d rather dig through the dirt.”

“Your brother and sister would like to see you.”

The prisoner stopped. He turned his head a few degrees, just enough to catch a glimpse of the light from the edge of his vision. “Is that right?” he asked, smirking. “And I suppose judgment is awaiting me as well? Hardly a delightful prospect — I head out to see my family, only to have my skull smashed into paste a moment later.”

A long pause — plenty of time for the prisoner to listen to his breathing again. Plenty of time to hear a few muddled voices converse with the deep one. “There will be…a trial.”

“’We’? I think you’d best rephrase that. It makes you sound like you’re more than just The Circle’s stooge…bit of an oversight, if you ask me.” The prisoner sighed. “But enough of that. My brother, and my sister — are they here? Have they been well? Just the thought of them going without their beloved brother for so long…ah, it brings a tear to my eye.”

“You wish to see them?”

“I wish for a lot of things. I wish for peace and quiet, which I had before you came along…to say nothing of that smell. I wish for fun unimpeded, as well. And since you were so kind to bring up the possibility, I suppose it would do me well to venture out and see my family.” He chuckled to himself, but loud enough for his visitors to hear. “Especially since — as you would have it — it’ll likely be the last thing I do. Am I right?”

More muddled conversing. And then, after a full minute, the deep voice spoke again. “A fair assumption.”

“Heh. As I surmised.” The prisoner’s smile thinned, his fangs alight with malice. “You lock me up for over four billion years, and when it’s finally time for me to leave, you plan to usher me to my execution. If you were going to kill me, I’d have preferred you just do it from the outset. So much wasted time…”

“Regardless, you will comply. If you refuse the call of The Circle —”

“You’ll have to use force. I know how it works…and I suppose you’re all too eager to wrap your hands around my neck.”

“We will abstain from force — but only if you act as we direct. Now, prisoner. Come into the light.”

With chains rattling, he stepped toward the light. While the sight of it made his hair bristle, he could at least stare at the column without fear of blindness — and of course, he wouldn’t have minded seeing his handsome form for the first time in billions of years. Enticed by such vanity, he moved forward without fear; piece by piece, his body revealed itself.


And there you go. The first thousand (or so) words. I'm surprised I could find such a good cutoff point, given my usual pedigree.

At any rate, I hope you enjoyed it...and I hope it doesn't impel a sound thrashing. Because that would suck.
My blog — Read it, and (maybe) become a writing hero!
172 Dimanagul28th Jun 2012 08:33:51 AM from Pittsburgh, PA
Library of useless facts
[down]Edit: No disrespect meant. I had an outdated page sitting on the post screen.

[up]This reminds me of a problem I personally have with writing prologues / first chapters. Snapping into story telling mode and exposition when a stage needs to be set or a hook needs to be places just right waiting for a fish to nibble at the worm.

That said. I love starting the reading in a state of confusion and putting them at eye level with the main character. It is my understanding though it's not a very convincing method of hooking someone.

Here is this prisoner. This is his situation. You don't know yet why he's here. But you want to find out right? He is marching to his fate / judgement / death look, look, read on!

It drew me in because I was fishing for details, I got a few scraps and pressed on. The prospect of additional characters (his visiting family) is one of those scraps. What is this Circle? But if I had to nitpick I'd like to know more about why this guy was rotting in prison. Either from narrative or the Captor addressing him.

Just my two cents.

edited 28th Jun '12 10:43:51 AM by Dimanagul

All Heroes die. Some just more than others.
173 SnowyFoxes28th Jun 2012 09:10:15 AM from Club Room , Relationship Status: I know
Drummer Boy
The last battle's curtains will open on stage!
174 Dimanagul28th Jun 2012 11:53:34 AM from Pittsburgh, PA
Library of useless facts
(I even triple checked this time to make sure I didn't make the same mistake again...)

Prologue — The End

Ash fluttered about her like fallen snow. Despite the thick grey blanket that coated the landscape and a biting chill pierced her bones. Zammela held onto the remains of the one person that understood her. Yet that man was the one person that ultimately doomed them all.

There was so little left of the once grand City of Water. Stone had been torn from its foundations, and its once grand towers were little more than powered rubble.

Zammela didn't know why she had saved herself. There was so little to live for. Her friends were dead. The world was dead. He was dead.

The sky cast a faint glow in the distance as another light winked out. At this distance it was but a tiny flash, but she knew the truth of it. It was no less devastating than what happened here moments prior. Blood still poured from a gaping wound in his heart. Other than that, he looked serene. He lay silent in death, clad in black iron-silk from head to toe.

With a calm gesture she removed the shroud covering his face with a simple tug. She couldn't understand how he could leave them with a smile on his face. He looked at peace and content. It was as if this was what he meant to do all along. Somehow, despite all this destruction, he had been happy.

Zammela couldn't find rage. She couldn't find sadness. The landscape of grey sapped that emotion from her. Even the final trickles from the City of Water's endless fount came to an end, just as her tears did not fall. There were none left to shed.

Despite this, she could feel magic swell within her. His still corpse served as a life, a gaping void of magic that fueled it. They had fulfilled their purpose, one to destroy. They had succeeded.

A small groan drew her attention in the stillness. Someone else had survived this foul catastrophe. She lifted his head from her robes and worked free. Zam felt irreparably weary; it took so much effort to put up the shield that saved her life.

When she stood, the world spun. She staggered in the direction of the small noise. She came across the charred husk of a woman with two swords crossed at their back. They stirred faintly. It seemed every shred of hair was torn from her, and reddened charred skin matted against their skull. Even now, she refused to die. Brittle and charred, he woman was in no condition to move. She was dying a slow painful death only delayed by her sheer will.

Zammela lowered her head in contemplation and doubled back to his body. It took great effort but she managed to drag him to the wounded woman. It was only appropriate. They should be together in the end.

The burns were so severe that speech was impossible. Life should have been impossible. Somehow water sustained her, and fire kept the spark of life alight. All Zammela could do was join the hands of the fallen so they could be side by side. She caught a glimpse of wound silver warped by heat and sprawled along the ground. Her eye followed it to a small hill of ash buried the ruined remains of a man.

Zammela hoped his death was swift and painless. Something about his life should be succinct and brief at least.

So they were together again just as it began. Even death couldn't separate them. They had greeted the end together, as they had greeted the beginning.

They had fulfilled their purpose, but it couldn’t help feeling like stinging failure.

Everyone was dead, everything was dead; save for one of the two destroyers.

Edit: Posted the Alpha version rather than the edited one. Google Doc User error: User is a moron.

edited 29th Jun '12 5:45:30 AM by Dimanagul

All Heroes die. Some just more than others.
175 JHM29th Jun 2012 12:53:20 AM from Neither Here Nor There , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
Thunder, Perfect Mind
[up] No, though it could have were your writing better edited and less contrived. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but you might want to look over that passage a few more times.

Here are the first few paragraphs of a strange little introductory piece that I wrote for my novel-thing:
When opening books, like familiar doors, one expects to be greeted with courtesy. There will be a title page, the name of the author responsible (if known), and then some publishing information which you will likely skip assuming that you are not an obsessive or a collector. After this there may be a prologue, an introduction, even an authorial preface, sometimes in multiplicity; regardless, the main body of the work generally ensues soon after these perfunctory acts of salutation, at which point one is presented with the expected niceties: A person, a place, an action, an idea. In works of non-fiction, these are usually things that exist or have existed, happened or have happened, at least hypothetically; in fiction, this is also true, but not so much in reality overall as within the context of the story being told. What is, is, even if in certain contexts it is not. As someone cleverer than this humble narrator once said, "So it goes."

Authors are people of a kind, and in telling, kind people. Even when misleading they are rarely truly sadistic; after all, even a plot that does not end is a plot, a character without motive a character nonetheless. Setting is setting, theme is theme, and so on. We are given what we need at the beginning, where all things start.

But what if I decided to be cruel, dear reader?

P.S. I know how insufferably arch it is. That's half the point.

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