Monday, July 26, 2010

Hook Victorine #9

Here are the first 400 words of Child of the Mist (Gem of the Galaxy) by Kae Cheatham.

No more running away, the young woman thought as she jogged through the dense forest. Her quiet pace was matched by a young ocsoni with silky black hair springing several centimeters over its dense fur. This time I’m running to something. My destiny, perhaps.

I’m new to this story and this world, and I like how the author plops me into it here, instead of explaining what an ocsoni is. I would like a little more description of it, but I’m sure that will come. Right now I’ve got a jaguar image in my mind, with some kind of long hair on the head like a main or something.

I’m not in love with this thing a lot of authors do, and that’s starting off with this distanced POV. Since were in the young woman’s POV, just say her name instead of ‘the young woman’. That pulls me in closer, and I like to know whose head I’m in as I read.

Leaves of saplings cloaked her while she negotiated the path around house-sized trunks of mature trees; large leaves blocked light from the late afternoon sky, keeping the forest cool. She didn’t carry much: a small pot for water, a solbey plate to cook on, a warming net for cold nights, an extra pair of leggings and boots. For weapons: a sheathed knife—the blade as long as her forearm—and a whiprod she had taken off the guard she killed when she escaped one-hundred-and-thirty days ago. Running. Hiding. Stopping long enough to have that awful baby, and then…

Oh my, she had a baby and then what? Did she leave it somewhere? She called it awful, and that’s a bit disturbing to me. I know this is fiction, and no real baby is in danger. But it’s still disturbing to me, and it makes me not like the main character. I’ll keep reading, but with a frown on my face.

Continual anger churned through her. No more running. I’ve ruined their plans, and now I’ll attend the business I was born to. This her continual thought without a concept for success.

Personally, I’d rather be shown the anger here, instead of told that anger churned through her. She could clench her fists or her teeth, or narrow her eyes. Or we could gather the anger from the other things that she’s thinking.

“We must be close to the wall,” she quietly said to her furry companion. “I don’t know what I’ll do with you when I go inside, but…” She pushed back a tendril of poorly-cut hair. When her sable locks became more than a finger’s length, she hacked them off and muttered, “For you, mother.” The childish look this gave her totally belied her intense nature.

I like how the author describes her hair here. I’m wondering why she cut her hair for her mother though.

Her pup companion slowed, neck hairs up and nose testing the wind. She stopped, also sniffing the breeze. Nothing. Fear skittered along her slender limbs. Faucrin Rudeg’s henchmen could be waiting in ambush. She fingered the hilt of her knife while studying her surroundings. In the dense foliage and shoulder-high mushrooms sprouting between trees, the only sign was of a bush fox recently passed. “They can’t possibly know where I am,” she murmured to the pup as she stroked its head. She was certain the Xirophans wouldn’t relinquish her to her government. Many tribes had hidden her from the Rudegs. The last tribe had given her a map—told her about the way in.

Ah, a pup. So this is more like a dog creature. I like the descriptions here. Nice job.

The ocsoni, still tense, whined and strained to dash forward as she tied the pup’s shoulder harness to a thick sapling. She removed her pack and secured it out of his reach. “Stay, Ton,” she ordered. With whiprod fastened to her purple jerkin, she stealthily climbed fifty meters into the dense canopy and leapt from one tree to the next, barely ruffling the huge leaves.

I am interested in what she’s going to do here, but I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the woman talking about her baby in that way. I assume since she was in prison, she was mistreated and that’s why she is talking this way about her child. But a baby is innocent and shouldn’t be punished for whatever happened before it was born.

I think the descriptions flowed nicely, and the beginning had no boring back story, so I applaud the author for this. My one big concern is that the baby got left somewhere to die. And if I were to guess, that child would show up again somewhere later in the book... probably angry. Overall, the writing is fairly clean with only a few nit picks on my part. I think the author did a good job.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hook Victorine #8

Here are the first 400 words from The Gazelle, by S. Wolf.

The final colors of the day were draining over the horizon, as the pair watched through the smattering of tiny sand fly corpses dotting the windshield.

I like the colorful language, but personally, I’m not a huge fan of the distanced POV. But that is just me.

Their conversation had been engaging since she had joined him in the car several hours ago, but when the evening sky blossomed into a fiery display of reds and oranges, they shared it in silence. Now, all that remained of the majestic show was a thin ribbon of fire that snaked its way behind the looming mountains.

Nice descriptions. I’m not very hooked yet... but I’ll keep reading.

Thomas glanced over at his lovely passenger, her obvious delight in the spectacle adding to his attraction towards her. Her being here, watching it with him, enhanced his own enjoyment. What made it especially poignant for him, was knowing that this would be the last sunset she would ever see.

Oh, here we add in some ominous feeling with that last sentence. Is he a killer? A vampire? This does make me want to read more.

I’m also glad we pulled out of the distanced POV to Thomas’s POV. Personally, I would rather just open in Thomas’s POV. He’s the more interesting character here anyway, and I don’t think it adds anything to create this narrated beginning, only to switch into Thomas’s mind in a few sentences. But I do tend to like starting in third person limited, so you can take this with a grain of salt.

One thing that I think would strengthen this would be to take out the ‘telling’ and change it to ‘showing’. I’ll give you an example. ‘Her obvious delight’ is telling us she is delighted. I’d rather see this. How does he know she’s delighted? Maybe her eyes light up and she’s smiling. Let the reader come to their own conclusion about her delight.

After the last colors faded to gray, Thomas said, “I'm getting some water, would you like another bottle?”

“Love some,” Kat replied, and then asked, “Don’t you have anything stronger?” She leaned forward and resumed her preoccupation with the car radio, which she had been fussing over since they had driven out of range of the San Antonio stations two hours ago.

I like her fussing with the radio. This tells me she’s kind of flighty like that. I can also see him coming up behind her with a pistol as she fiddling with the dial. *Evil grin*

“Nope, just water,” he replied as he reached between the seats to the cooler in the back. “Besides, you’re a bit under the drinking age anyway.”

“That’s cold Tommy,” she said as she rotated the tuning dial, the radio responding with varying levels of static. “I thought we were friends.”

I wonder if there’s a knife in the cooler.

“Nice try,” he grinned as he held the steering wheel in one hand and groped behind him into the cooler with the other. “But we're in the middle of the Texas desert, and the last thing I need is some redneck state trooper tossing me in jail for giving alcohol to a teenager.”

“Probably a smart choice,” she said, still focused on the radio, but then turned and looked at him with a grin, “Your cellmates would just love a pretty boy like you.” She pursed her lips and blew an exaggerated kiss in his direction.

“You got that right,” he said, returning the smile. He pulled his arm back, holding two bottles of Evian still dripping from the ice in the cooler. Taking a moment to examine them, he placed one in his cup holder, and handed her the other.

Awe, no knife. The thing keeping me going here is the one sentence about this being the last sun set she will ever see. I’ll keep reading to see what he meant by that. The rest wasn’t too interesting, but I can cope with the mundane stuck in with the eerie feeling that he’s going to chop her into little pieces at any minute. Nice job!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hook Victorine #7

Here is the first 400 words from Dead Forever: Awakening by William Campbell.

WE REMIND: Events depicted in this record occurred during the use of language systems other than English. In consideration of the reader, all representations of character thought and speech have been translated to the nearest English equivalent in use at the time of transcription.

Fun beginning! I do like how we jump right into this strange world with this simple notice. Nice way to get the reader’s attention.


Blackness, crashing, every touch is a searing impact. Extreme motion without purpose or destination—chaos. Up and down have become mere concepts in this nightmare of heat and confusion.

Interesting... I’m not sure what’s going on but I’m intrigued by this. As long as it’s not a dream. Please, don’t start your book with a dream. Waaaaay too many people do it. Literary agents blog about it all the time... don’t start with a dream or someone waking up. Alright, off my soapbox now.

A flickering glow bleeds from the void—flames.

I’m still confused by this, but it’s okay because I want to know more. If I don’t get grounded in a scene pretty quickly though, I’ll get bored and move on.

“Put it out,” a woman shouts.

Yes, thank you, I hope we’re going to get grounded in a scene now.

My skin is burning. Snapped alert by a blistering surface, I spring up only to tumble over and smack the floor. Or was it the ceiling? The two have traded places, and again, flipping end over end.

Boy this sure reads like a dream. I suspect it is. The funny thing is several of the previous authors confessed to me that their beginnings were dreams too. I don’t want to say that you’re totally sunk if you start with a dream, just be aware of what is out there. (And what is out there are a lot of books starting with dreams. A lot.)

From thick smoke, flames snap out like whips, steel panels glisten white-hot, creak and moan, melting conduits dangle and sway. The upending eases but the compartment is spiraling—we’re falling. A warm flow trickles down my forehead, into my eyes. I reach for my scalp and the wet mess leaves my fingertips bloody. Something hard and I became far more intimate than we should have.

Ha ha ha, funny. I actually have a line in my book that is quite similar to this last one. I guess great minds think alike.

Someone darts through the smoke. Then back again, and she stops to look at me.

“Put it out.”

Since the main character keeps mentioning heat, I’m assuming the “put it out” is about a fire. I’m getting glimpses of what is going on, and despite the fact that many books begin with dreams, I will admit this one is well written. The reader gets the feeling of a dream, and I can’t find any nit picky things about the writing.

She is strangely familiar. Rusty hair in a high ponytail, determined stare, her cheeks are heated rosy. A woman of such beauty she may be a goddess, casting a disapproving glare as if provoked and contemplating wrath if I don’t get up and . . . do what?

I like this description of her.

Dread strikes. Something bad is going to happen, and worse—it happens to her.

There’s a change in tense here that I might reword. I might say: Something bad is going to happen, and worse—it will happen to her.

“Hurry!” she cries.

The fire. I came here to put out a fire. An extinguisher is here somewhere. In a cabinet, but the door won’t budge. The hinges are melted, the handle is hot, now my palms are charred.

Failure obscures all fear. I don’t know which is worse—the fear, the failure, the dread—or knowing that I’m completely useless.

Towering flames rise at her back. She rushes to reach me, her arms outstretched. The goddess is drained of wrath, stricken by sorrow, streaming tears and hollow. Her hopeless stare won’t let go, yearning for a last embrace, and testament to our fate—there is no tomorrow.

Again, this is well written. I am interested in what will happen after the main character wakes up.

“We won’t survive,” she says. “Don’t get lost. Remember, I’ll find you. I’ll find you!”

I can’t tell if she’s mad here, and is saying she’ll find him to harm him, or if she is saying this out of love. I’m guessing she isn’t mad, but I can’t quite tell.

Rapt by her mesmerizing gaze, I am spellbound, the threat of incineration a distant concern. Her eyes—so clear, so light, so blue.

Tender blue eyes, that may never forgive me.

I’m wondering if this is a dream about the future, or the past. I admit I would read on, even though I’ll keep telling authors to not start with a dream. Not that you can’t get published with a book that opens with a dream. A very popular series opens with a dream in the second book. I was surprised by this. And I don’t want to say anything bad about the book because I did enjoy it. I’ve just seen dream openings so much that I tend to get put off by them.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hook Victorine #6

Here's the first 400 words of Erich's Plea, by Tracey Alley.

Slade could feel the warmth of the rising sun on his face. The subtle scent of the sacred oak trees filled the air. All around him was the slow chanting of the druids who made this forest their home. Opening his eyes Slade saw his druidic mentor standing before him, a guide to this sunrise initiation ceremony. Karel’s wise, heavily lined face was hidden by the coarse linen cowl he wore but Slade could sense the gentle smile underneath the rhythmic chanting.

Good beginning here. I get a great feel for the setting and the genre. I like the descriptions, and feel like they’re not overwritten. It’s a slow start, but I don’t mind that too much as long as I get something to grab onto soon.

Karel had once been a mercenary soldier, selling his skill with a blade to the highest bidder. Then Karel had turned his back on his former profession and joined the ranks of those who served the gentle woodland goddess Freyita. After years of service he was now her high priest and Archdruid of the Sacred Grove.

I’m not a huge fan of back story in the first chapter. I’d rather gather some of this through dialogue or in small bits. I’ll keep reading though, we’re barely in, and I’m interested in the ceremony.

The other male and female members of the Grove, who represented virtually every race in The Kingdoms, formed a chanting circle around Slade and Karel as they welcomed Slade into their circle.

Ah, yes, back to the ceremony. Good.

Once the ritual was completed Slade would be presented with the druidic ring with its wide, silver band engraved with oak leaves and begin his new life.

This is just my opinion, but I’d rather read what is happening at the moment, than what will happen in a minute. So, if it were me writing this, I’d describe this as it happens.

Slade felt as though his heart would burst with pride. Joining the druids of the Sacred Grove had been his dream for more than a year. Finally he had succeeded and it was a triumph he had earned solely on his own merits, owing nothing to his birth.

“Owing nothing to his birth” sounds like maybe Slade is of royal birth, or of some importance. This is a good thing to stick in here. Just a hint, with not too much explanation.

From this day on Slade would renounce his former life. He would give up the right to continue the training he had begun with the warrior-monks of the Black Lotus and dedicate his life instead to serving Freyita. Slade’s decision involved more than just giving up an old profession. He had also given up his name and his birthright. No longer would he be known as Einreich Gudmundson. No longer would he be the Crown Prince of the vast northern kingdom of Vestland. He would no longer be Erich’s designated heir, in spite of his position as a second son, to the centuries old High Throne.
Slade knew he had disappointed his father, High King Erich, in his decision to leave court. Nevertheless his father had allowed it, would even have attended this ceremony had protocol allowed. Knowing he had hurt his father pained Slade deeply but he knew it was the right decision for him.

Well, we do get some explanation here... which I would love to come out later in the story. I’m just a huge fan of ‘hook me first, explain the whole background later’. As it stands right now, I’m curious to know more about Freyita and why he wants to serve her, but I wouldn’t call it a strong hook for me. I probably would keep reading for a little while, hoping that the action would take off.

Thanks so much for submitting your first 400!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hook Victorine #5

Here's the first 400 words of Courtesan, by D. A. Boulter.

"They are going through your files."

Interesting first line. I’ve heard it said by some that you shouldn’t open your novel with dialogue unless it’s intriguing, and I think you’re successful with this one.

Jaswinder Saroya stared at the blank screen of the tele-vid and attempted to put a face to the distorted voice. Even as she heard the sharp click of disconnection, she realized it didn't matter. She moved. Before the tele-vid reset she had taken three steps towards the bedroom.

Wow, that name is a mouthful. I’m not sure I’m in love with it. I really like names that are easy for me to pronounce in my head. This one has a hard time rolling off my mind’s tongue. Is it Ja-swine-der? Or Jaz-wind-er? Sa-roy-a? Or Sar-oh-ya? I’m not sure, and that does annoy me a little bit. But I know a lot of readers who love creative names, so it could just be me.

I like the distorted voice, and the tele-vid. This gives me a good idea of the setting and we jump right into it, instead of giving me long back story about where and when we are. Great job with that.

Harold Preston, no doubt.

Oh, so she knows who the voice belonged to? I thought it didn’t matter. If she knows the voice, I would mention this sooner, and cut the parts about not being able to put a face to the voice, and it not mattering. If she just realizes who this might be, then I would take out the “no doubt” part. Because if there’s no doubt, she would have known it before now.

He had warned her, and that warning had prompted her precautions. She pulled the ready-case from her closet, opened it for a quick last check, then reverently placed the disks containing her notes and research into a hidden compartment. She gave her portable computer a wistful glance. It belonged to Plender University and she couldn't justify taking it.

Tele-vid makes me think of the future, but the word ‘disks’ makes me think of the past. I’m probably off here, but I might call them Data Units or Data Sticks... or something more futuristic sounding. But that’s my only nit pick. The adverb isn’t horrible, so I’ll leave it alone.

"They are going through your files."

Is she hearing this again out loud? Or thinking about it? Because if she’s thinking it, I would put it in italics instead of quote marks.

She shuddered as she closed the case. Preston's impromptu lecture spelled out the possibilities: people from the university; government agents; colonists (either side), or the Interplanetary Corporations.

Fear pushed down the annoyance at the arrogance implied by the invasion of her privacy at Plender University, pushed down the anger at the realization that her home would be next. She wanted to meet these unknown intruders and give them a blast they'd never forget. Instead, Jaswinder grabbed her overcoat and ensured her long black tresses stayed inside. Looking around her bedroom, she sighed. The rooms had served as a warm and comfortable refuge, as opposed to the sterile officiousness of her university office. She caught her gaze in the mirror and it surprised her to find no trace of the fear she felt. She laughed harshly.

I’m interested to know who is looking through her files... but for me this lacks some sense of danger that I feel it should have. As of now, I don’t know what is in those files, and I don’t have a sense of why she would have to pack and leave. I’m sure there’s a good reason, and I’d love a little peek at it, just to whet my appetite.

The call had not come unexpected. And, expecting it, she had prepared as thoroughly as she had prepared any of her experiments. A few days earlier might have caught her unready, but today she just flowed from step to step.

To me, this is an unnecessary explanation. If she’s packing and leaving, and she already mentioned the warnings, I can assume she has planned for this. But I’m kind of a “skip the unnecessary parts and get to the good stuff” kind of person.

At the door, she turned and gave the room one last look. She would miss the neatly made bed with its perfect pillows, which had taken an eternity to find. Hopefully it wouldn't be for long. She would miss the stuffed tiger, sitting in its place on the night table, a gift from an old friend. She would miss it, but someone might remember and tell. When the fuss had blown over she would return, or send, for it.

This part doesn’t help build the tension, in my opinion. I’d rather learn a little more about the danger she is in. I don’t know her very well yet, so I’m not emotionally involved. The fact that she’s leaving her stuffed tiger doesn’t mean much to me right now.

As she hurried into the kitchen it came to her that rivals, recognizing the possibilities inherent in her research, might also break into her files.

Ah, I have a feeling we are now getting to some of what I wanted to know. I would read on and see if I get a peek at what it is she’s trying to protect. And what the danger is if the files get into the wrong hands. Nice start, and I would say that I am hooked for now. If I go on and read, and don’t get more danger, I might put the book down. But for now, you got me!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hook Victorine #4

Here's the first 400 words from Cameo the Assassin (Book One), by Dawn McCullough-White.

Her eyes were wide, nearly sightless orbs staring into the sky.

Nice first sentence. If I were to get nit picky (which I always do) I would say to take out the ‘were’ to make the sentence more active. The adverb isn’t the worst in the world, so I won’t pick at it. I like the feeling this brings right here at the beginning. If she’s nearly sightless, something must be wrong. I’ll read on to see what else is happening.

She watched as the clouds drifted overhead, gasping.

This reads to me like the clouds are gasping. I know that’s not what the author meant, but I would suggest a reword. I also would take out the “She watched as”, because if she’s staring at the sky, obviously she’s watching it. It kind of repeats what the previous sentence already set up. However, the imagery is powerful, and makes me wonder what happened to this woman, that she’s staring and gasping.

She could hear her own blood bubbling at the corner of her mouth as it slithered out and slipped in a gob onto her neck.

Oh, she’s bleeding. She must be on her back or something. I might mention this. She also can’t hear her blood slip in a gob onto her neck, and it sort of reads like she does. I might say she feels it. Otherwise, good chilling picture this sets up. I want to read more.

For a moment she felt nothing, her eyes went dark, and she felt herself suck in the air once more.

Her vision probably went dark, instead of her eyes going dark. But again, this is a good image here. I want to read on to see what happens.

Never had simply breathing given her such happiness, at least, not as far back as she could remember. Maybe this is exactly how she felt with the very first breath of her life.

I like how Dawn compares death with birth here.

At her throat was the dead head of Adrian, his blonde hair was tousled gently about her.

I would try to get rid of both ‘was’ verbs, I just think it might read better. I might say “At her throat sat the severed head of Adrian, his blonde hair tousled gently about her.” I changed ‘dead’ to ‘severed’, because I liked the image better, but it might not be accurate. I figured the head was severed, but I’m not positive.

It was the first gentle thing he had done with her all day.

The first gentle thing was to die, and lie on her throat? Interesting. This makes me think he’s a kidnapper or an abusive boyfriend.

His blood was mingled with hers now, predator and prey, dead and dying lying in the beauty of the summer meadow.

Again, I’d take out ‘was’ here. It would read fine, in my opinion, to say, “His blood mingled with hers now...” Ah, and here we find out he was the predator. I wonder what happened to lead up to this.

Somewhere beside her lay sandwiches and colorful plates. Ivy had wanted pretty plates and had made certain that the silver was polished very well.

This makes me think they were having a picnic, and things got out of hand... as often happens at my picnics.

The last she had seen of her little sister had been her lifeless form, knocked hard into the Faettan soil.

This must be a fantasy novel. This beginning is quite sad and bloody. And violent. I’m usually a huge fan of action, but too much gore grosses me out. I’m saddened by her little sister, and I’m wondering if she’s still alive.

She was a few feet away now, a little body lost in the sea of tall grass ... like her own ... and like that of the young lord with his head still on her breast.

The sun was warm on her face, illuminating exactly what had taken place only a little while ago, showing all of Faetta true darkness in the brilliant light of day. Somewhere, drifting in on the summer's breeze, was the sound of people passing on the ridge, chatting about their lives as she was dying just down the hill, in the meadow.

Again, I’d try to reword some of the ‘was’ verbs in here. It’s just a weak verb. You can’t cut every one, nor should you, but sometimes it’s easy to substitute a better verb.

Her eyes were fixed; the transformation of the day into dusk was recorded behind those lenses. Her body rigidly awaited death.

Ack, this is a little disturbing. But I would keep reading, so I think the author successfully hooked me. If the character here dies, I would get disappointed and probably put the book down. Unless this is a ghost story, then I would read more. I’m hoping for a rescue though, for her and her sister. One thing I might suggest to the author, since this is in the woman’s POV, we probably should know her name. All in all, I would keep reading, so I’d say great job, Dawn!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hook Victorine #3

 This is the first 400 words of Thrill of the Chase, by Christina Crooks.

Powering up through the gears, Sarah felt all the muscles in her body tighten with readiness and excitement before the two turns.

I like this beginning.  I only have two nit picks.  (And I’m famous for nit picking, so just ignore me.)  The first nit pick is the word ‘felt’.  Since we’re in her POV, we don’t really have to know she felt her muscles tighten... if her muscles are tightening, we know she’s feeling it.  So, if I were to reword, I’d say, “Powering up through the gears, all the muscles in Sarah’s body tightened…”

Now the second nit pick is there is just a little bit of ‘telling’ in here.  Now the best case would be for us as readers to be able to figure out she’s excited by her muscles tightening.  I *think* we could figure this out, so I would try to get rid of the telling part, and just say “Powering up through the gears, all the muscles in Sarah’s body tightened before the two turns.”  This shows excitement and readiness, so we don’t need to be told that.  But, like I said, super nit picky and this is just the first sentence so I’ll go on to read more.

She gripped her Mustang’s custom wood-lacquered shift knob with one hand, the thick steering wheel with the other. Though the late-morning traffic was light, she checked her side mirrors twice and carefully scanned from left to right through her windshield, alert for any movement. There were no cars nearby. And, of course, no pedestrians. Nobody walked in Huntington Beach’s industrial-zoned “automotive alley.”

Ah, so I thought she was racing.  Nice fake out.  If you wanted to continue with it a little more, I’d like it even better.

My only other nit pick would by the adverb.  “Carefully scanned” is redundant, in my opinion.  If you say, “…she checked her side mirrors twice and scanned from left to right…” I as the reader can tell she’s scanning carefully for any movement.  Do you ever scan for movement sloppily?  No.  But that’s really nit picky, so I’ll keep reading.  I try not to be too much of an Adverb Nazi.  I’m interested to see where this is going.

Jerking the steering wheel to the right then pulling it smoothly left, simultaneously heel-toeing the clutch and brake pedals with the edge of her running shoe, she felt her car’s tires break free from the pavement’s friction. The car slid sideways.
Now here I do get the impression that she’s racing again.

Maintaining the throttle pressure to keep her wheels spinning, she steered into the same direction she slid. She spotted the large, faded red letters of Big Red’s Auto Performance Shop’s sign out of the corner of her eye.

So, she’s racing to the Auto Performance shop?  Maybe she’s late for work.

Right on target.

The four-wheel drift positioned her to race up the exact middle of the entrance to the shop’s parking lot.

With a satisfying screech of tires, she floored the gas to gather more speed, then whipped her car into the second and final turn.

Another four-wheel drift, pressing her back into the firm, curved racing seats she’d installed. She grinned as she piloted the sideways-hurtling car with an instinctive touch, lifting off the gas pedal and feathering the brakes to bleed off her speed.

The yellow Mustang slid to a halt. It was positioned perfectly in the middle of her parking space.

I liked the racing feeling of this.  My only suggestion would be to take out the indicators that she’s not really in a race, until we get to this point.  Then it would be a better fake out, in my opinion.  But good nonetheless.  We do get a nice grasp on the feeling of the book with this opening.

“Yes!” Energized, she leapt out of the car. Another day’s commute concluded.

I’d take out the word ‘energized’ here, just because we can totally tell from her dialogue and actions that she’s energized, and it’s important to cut unnecessary words.  It tightens up the writing.

Now let me talk about the hook here.  I like the feeling the author has created with the race talk, but now that she’s at work, the little bit of excitement is over.  Now I’m looking for something else to hook me.

Sarah pushed the building’s tinted front door open, humming. She jogged through the shop’s retail area, neither seeing nor expecting to see anyone manning the front desk.

The jogging is a little strange to me.  Usually people don’t jog around the work place.  But I can get past that.  I’m being terribly hard on the author.

 Matt was probably in the back again, complaining to the technicians. He pretended to be a gearhead, but she knew they saw through it. What he should be doing was unpacking and stocking those magazine shipments she saw lining the front wall in boxes, or cleaning the grimy glass display case. He should be sitting on that padded stool answering the ringing phone. Her dad hadn’t hired him to hang out.

Matt must not be Sarah’s love interest.  (Yes, I’ve read the description of this book.)

She shrugged. Matt didn’t know a 9/16th from a hole in the ground, but he wasn’t her main problem.

Hmm, now we get somewhere.  Who is her main problem?  I’m guessing it’s her love interest.  I do like a good unrequited love story, so I would probably go on to read more and see where this goes.  But if her main problem turns out to be someone else, I might lose interest.  So, for me, this is a mild hook right here at the end.  If we get to see some conflict between her and her crush, I would be hooked even more.  Great job, Christina!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Hook Victorine #2

Here's the next installment of Hook Victorine.  This is the first 400 words from New Coastal Times, by Donna Callea.

Same drill.  I'll critique as I go, inturrupting when I feel like it.  At the end I'll tell you if I was hooked.

It wasn’t Yvette Carlyle’s fault that the beach washed away and the condos and hotels collapsed into the sea.

I like this beginning sentence. I want to know what she did, and why she’s being blamed for this. You know, “It wasn’t her fault the earth blew up. She didn’t mean to push that button.” It almost has a humorous ring to me; although I’m not sure the author meant it that way.

She’s only one person, after all. And you certainly can’t hold her responsible for all the people who died when the buildings toppled, or all the struggling hordes rendered homeless and dependent, or the total human and fiscal fiasco that’s been at least as bad as (if not worse than) the recent string of other really horrible natural disasters.

Now here we lose the humor, and I’m getting a little disappointed. Maybe I just took the first sentence wrong. I’ll clear the humor out of my head so I can get into the horror of the story. I think Donna has successfully painted a picture of disaster here. My only nit pick would be the words ‘really horrible natural disasters’. The word ‘really’ is a weak word, it doesn’t describe the horror, it weakens it for me. I’m intrigued by this picture of disaster. I’d say it is a mild hook for me.

Not to downplay them. I wouldn’t want to downplay them.

The climate is changing, and not for the better. Everyone knows that now, though maybe Yvette didn’t then. Or maybe she just didn’t think much about it then. And every major catastrophe is —well—catastrophic.

To me, this doesn’t add a whole lot to the story, so I’m starting to get a little bored. I’m still wondering why they’re blaming Yvette for the destruction, even though it wasn’t her fault. I’ll read on to see if it’s dealt with.

But from a purely local and personal perspective, Hurricane Walter really was the worst. Because it happened where we were. Because it seemed to be the beginning of the end for so many— the start of everything falling apart. Because some of the devastation really could have been prevented. By Yvette, had she known. Maybe, a little bit, by me.

Hmm, I’m wondering how anyone could say Yvette might have prevented some of the devastation. What in the world did she do?

Anyway, Yvette is as sorry now as anyone. And you really can’t blame her for everything. Not for the hurricane, obviously. Plus you’ve got to give her this. She’s got spunk.

When we were all holed up on the fourth floor of the old and creaking New Coastal Times building, in the dark and powerless newsroom, as the wind lashed at the windows and the foundation shook, didn’t she come out of her plush private office to give us hope?

The author is doing a good job of making me not like Yvette here. I’m not as drawn into the story as I would like to be, though. I think I’m distanced from it by the narration, and the ‘looking back’ perspective, rather than ‘here we are in the moment... huddling in the dark while the storm is hitting us’ kind of thing. But this is quite subjective, and could just be me. Well, of course it’s just me, everything I say is just me. ;)

Tall, big-boned Yvette, her blonde pixie-cut trimmed to perfection, her eye shadow and mascara and glossy red lipstick as garish as ever, her smile superior, her crow’s feet caked with makeup.

Yep, not liking Yvette at all.

She was never pretty. That was the problem. Or at least one of them, as far as her career was concerned. And despite extensive cosmetic surgery (she was due to have her eyes redone when the hurricane hit) she looked all of her 57 years.

She considered herself a beacon of bravery— an inspiration to us. She could easily have been elsewhere.

Yvette emerged from her recently remodeled fourth floor executive sanctuary, where at least there was light (which we could see under the door), followed by Patty and Paula, her ever-present identical twin administrative assistants.

I wonder why there’s electricity in her office and no where else. That has to be unusual. Looks like we’re pulling in closer now, the narration isn’t so distanced. I do prefer that.

Patty and Paula— helmet-haired petite brunettes who never dressed alike because that might cause confusion— carried battery-powered lanterns …

Awe, I wanted to read more. That’s a good thing! I’d say you were successful in hooking me. Great job! My only nit pick would be how long I felt distanced from the scene. I liked the beginning sentence... and I liked the hint that the narrator is somehow to blame for some of this. The rest of the narration I could have done without. But I’m really an action lover, so I do tend to gravitate to the action part of the story. As far as the writing goes, I think this was well written. In the end, I was hooked and wanted to read more, and that’s what matters most.

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