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Hook me in 200 words or less.

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Eilyfe, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Headmaster

    May 27, 2014
    I stole this idea from another forum, and thought it might be interesting for DLP.

    What is this? A thread where you post the start of your WiP (max. 200 words) and have others critique it (is it enticing? why? why not?).

    Why should I care? Oftentimes the very beginning of a story is where a reader decides whether to read on or not. Fanfiction gets some leeway since no one has to pay for the content, but there, too, a good opening that hooks the reader is important. If you know how to nail the opening page, all other pages will follow. Nothing's quite as effective, by the way, as critiquing and analyzing what works and what doesn't -- it ought to boost your level quite a bit. Both sides benefit.

    Why 200 words? At that length, people might be more amenable towards offering criticism than if it were a whole scene/chapter. Also, the first page of a novel often starts about one third down the page, which gives you roughly 200-250 words depending on how dense your paragraphs are. Good training, no?

    I won't start it, but I'm sure someone has a WiP squirreled away somewhere and wants its beginning evaluated.

    (I have no idea in which sub-forum to put this, since I want it to be open for all fandoms and also original stories.)
  2. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Tactical Tomato DLP Supporter

    Nov 11, 2009
    Sounds like a cool idea. Here's my offering:



    Required for immediate start at


    All necessary training provided

    Reasonable rates, Hazard Pay when applicable

    Philistines need not apply​

    Bartimaeus read the roll of parchment over one last time, standing on the marble steps of The Library. The young man looked decidedly out of place in the gentrified part of the city, his leather sandals and roughly woven tunic and trousers setting him apart from the well to do folk going about their day in their coats and frocks and top hats. He rolled the job advertisement back up, tucking it into his belt. The tall, dark wooden doors of the cathedral loomed over him, and he squared his shoulders. He hadn’t walked all the way from the poor quarter to stand in the street all day.

    The solid doors did not yield easily, and he set his wiry frame against them. He felt slightly foolish as he wrestled with them, sure that he could feel eyes upon him as he struggled. Perhaps they opened the other way? They gave way suddenly, and with a lurch, Bartimaeus stumbled across the threshold. The doors closed behind him with a thump.

  3. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Headmaster

    May 27, 2014
    Green = Nice phrasing
    Orange = Commentary
    Struck-through = Obvious
    Blue = My suggestions

    I like it! I can imagine this perfectly, and the crazy writing on the parchment makes me want to read on. As an opening I think this works well -- all my nitpicks have been of a stylistic nature.

    One thing you might want to consider is digging deeper into his motivation in that first paragraph. I get the sense that he's poor and desperate enough to take a job at this crazy (perhaps dangerous) place -- but why? What's he going to do with this money that he couldn't do before without it?

    With the last sentence of the first paragraph you have a stellar opportunity to insert some of his motivation. Is he gathering coin for a wedding ring? For his sick mother? For dastardly adventures in the brothels surrounding the cathedral? (Because it might be just that kind of place.) Give me a reason to care and I'll root for Barty for quite a while with that opening.
  4. ElaraSilk

    ElaraSilk Squib

    Oct 1, 2015
    High Score:
    It took months for me to work out why Mr Burleigh was always humming.

    First, of course, one noticed that he was always humming. Leaning oddly hunched over his desk at the office - humming. Propped in a corner of the pub, alternating swigs of mild and gasps of a fag - humming. Stalking down the street in his tweed suit, measuring out his steps with the dark wooden cane - humming.

    Excuse me, perhaps I should start again.

    After three years as draughtsman to Isaac Honeycut, I thought I was set. He sketched parts, I drew them out properly, and then Mr Honeycut and his ‘lads’, Arthur and Terry would jigger them up. Well, I say lads. Terry was a lad, barely out of school, but Arthur must have been in his forties.

    Then Mr Honeycut passed. Run down by a tram in Bristol, of all things. I mean, you hear about it happening, but it’s hard to imagine. That wonderfully eccentric man, bustling along the pavement absorbed in thought, then abruptly crossing the road when he realised he had missed his turn, totally unaware of the tramcar bearing down on him, driver frantically ringing his bell but unable to stop.
    --- Post automerged ---
    A promising start.
    We get some setting of place and time from the detailing, like the clothing, the name Bartimaeus and so on. That kind of light touch worldbuilding is good, tends to draw my attention.
    Having Barty literally reading the advert on the doorstep felt a bit forced - the ad is short and memorable, unless you really want to mention the roll of parchment at this point, I would have him remember the wording as he walks up to the doors (and maybe, if it's appropriate for him as a character, worry about being identified/misidentified as a Philistine)
  5. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Headmaster

    May 27, 2014
    (1): The italics read weird to me; I'd leave them out. I like the start though: it's a nice hook, and I do want to know why he was always humming.

    (2): Good imagery, though I think some readers from the US might stumble over the fag. But that's not a problem per se.

    (3): The repetition of humming has a nice effect and works the first few times, but I feel it's one time too many at the end. I do like the picture you paint of Mr Burleigh though.

    (4): This whole second part after Mr Burleigh threw me off. You introduced the mystery with Burleigh, the hook is about him, but the rest reads like a completely different story. It feels disjointed, as if you changed tack right in the middle. There are many new names and, to be honest, they distract and also slightly annoy me. The interesting opening made me curious but what I'm getting after that isn't what I want - namely, you guessed it, Burleigh.

    Rereading the phrase "Perhaps I should start again" all I can say is, no, please don't. Either give me Burleigh and stick with him, or give me Honeycut and stick with him. At least until I've had enough time to get to know those people.

    That's a purely structural issue though, but it makes this very confusing to read. The hook however was great, and your prose reads well, so there's that.