Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hook Victorine - A Challenge

Here's the challenge: Try to hook me with your first 400 words. I'll put a picture of your book on my blog with a link to it. I'll let you know if I am hooked or not.

What's the catch? The catch is I'll critique it as I go, and I must warn you, I am very nit-picky. I'll tell you exactly what is going through my mind as I read it. If it's good enough to hook me, you win. :)

Author Jenna Elizabeth Johnson was kind enough to be the first to let me rip her first 400 words apart on my blog.

Here's her book:

And now I'll post her first 400 words, interupting as I see fit.  Now, I'll just say here that whatever I say is just one reader's opinion, so take that into consideration.

Gilded sunlight poured over the landscape and pushed through the trees, announcing the break of dawn or signaling the approach of evening. It was hard to tell in this strange, noiseless place.

I like the beginning. Already I have a clear picture in my mind, and it evokes a mystical feeling. Great start!

The colors here were bright, but fuzzy around the edges as if stained and blurred by water. Nothing stirred here; there were no deer, no foxes, no rabbits, not even a solitary bird to disrupt the foggy solitude. All around the trees stood silent, watching and waiting for something profound to happen.

I'm a little confused by this last sentence. All around the trees what stood silent?

And then something did happen.
Far below the wooded hillside in the bare, spacious glen something finally moved. A fair-haired child, barely older than ten, danced into sight. She looked happy and carefree, her laughter alone breaking the unnatural, oppressive silence. She wasn’t dressed like a typical girl, wearing only a plain cotton shirt over a pair of leather pants. Her hair was loose, unbound and falling past her shoulders. It caught the eerie light and reflected it in golden shards that cut through the monotony of this world. She chased after butterflies, doing cartwheels and kicking up clouds of ladybugs with her bare feet.

Nice description of the girl. I'm not so sure whose point of view we are in yet... or if we are in Omniscient. I'm not a huge fan of Omniscient, but I can take it if it's just the beginning of a novel. It's really hard to pull off for the whole thing, IMHO, so I'm hoping we switch to Third Person Limited soon.

It was obvious she felt safe here, even as the atmosphere slowly began to change. The slumbering trees grew more rigid and the pleasant scene dimmed, as if a black cloud had crept in front of the sun. Something sinister was approaching, but the girl was too caught up in her own antics to realize she was no longer alone. She was too busy dancing across the field and making merry, so she didn’t feel the change in the air; she didn’t notice the darkening sky.

I like the picture in my mind here.  Jenna does a good job painting with words. I might cut the 'Something sinister was approaching', because to me that is really 'telling' the reader that, and I would much rather get the feeling of something sinister on my own, if you know what I mean. The darkening sky, and the change in the air should give me that feeling without the author telling me something sinister was coming. Also, I'd cut 'It was obvious she felt safe here' too, that's totally apparent by her playing and cartwheeling, and you don't need to tell the reader what is already apparent.

And then it happened. Something like a dark flame appeared on the edge of the meadow where the dense wood began. It was a figure wearing a blood-red cloak, creeping between the shivering trees, stalking around like a predator hunting down its prey. The creature crawled from the edge of the tree line and drew closer to the girl. But the girl kept at her games, unaware of the menacing threat to her safety.

Again, I really like Jenna's descriptions. I'm not in love with the 'Something like a dark flame appeared'... that doesn't really tell me what it is. I also see some more 'telling' in the last sentence. If she's keeping up her games, obviously she isn't aware of the threat. It's more powerful to not tell the reader that she isn't aware, just show her being unaware.

As the ominous figure moved ever closer, it threw open its arms like a great, blood-stained bat, its crimson cloak curling and flowing behind it as if pushed by an imperceptible wind. The creature began to grow, becoming larger and larger with each step.

I like the feeling Jenna's created here, and I want to know what happens to the girl. I would say this is a pretty good hook for me. I would continue to read, to see what happens. Great job Jenna!

Leave a comment and tell me if Jenna's first 400 words hooked you.


  1. What a brilliant idea! Does the book have to be complete for us to send the first 400 words?

  2. Thanks Sabrina! Nope, the book doesn't have to be complete. I'll just mention it's a work in progress instead of putting a link up to the book. If you know anyone interested, have them send me a message! :o)

  3. Sounds great! I'll send the beginning of a book I am working on. :)

  4. Sounds like a fun challenge. Where can I post my words for a novella I'm working on?

  5. Hi Kristopher, you can send your first 400 to me at vicki.lieske at gmail dot com. I've got about 12 people in line so far, so the sooner you send them, the better. Thanks! Vicki


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