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Hooks 115, 121, 128, 129, 131


Hook 115

Courtesan Istrel Addar hasn't trusted Kyr's mage-controlled government since her sister was kidnapped for a magical experiment. She's spent the years since then actively organizing the underground attempts to undermine the mages' political hold, and almost expects any day that the mages will catch up with her and have her killed for treason, in one of those quiet, nasty little executions no one ever hears about. So when a mage-created, not-quite-human creature called a Ghost appears on her doorstep asking for her help to hide from its creators, Istrel's first instinct is not to believe it or trust it – Ghosts aren't people, only dangerous killing machines. But then a friend is executed for
treason, and the Ghost offers her a chance at revenge. Still not sure if she trusts the thing, Istrel is forced into a dangerous double game,
hiding from both the mages and her own underground leaders in order to bring the mages down... without getting herself or any more friends killed in the process.


Whoa, I'm still stuck on "sister kidnapped for magical experiments"...I want to know more about that.

There are a lot of story elements here, but it's unclear from the hook how they relate to each other and link up to form the actual story. If Istrel's main goal is to bring the mages down, then how is she attempting to do that? That she's organizing an underground resistance is cool but a bit vague – what does it do, how does it go about resisting? And once Ghost shows up on her doorstep, it seems like stuff is happening to Istrel and she's just reacting to it. Who is the friend who got killed for treason and how does Ghost offer her revenge? And so now she's after revenge and not just bringing down the mage gov't, or both? And why is she hiding out from her own people?
How is this a 'dangerous double game'?

You've got a bit too much stuff going on here. My advice would be to streamline this hook -- give us a few more details about Istrel and Kyr and the mage gov't so we have a better sense of the protag. and
worldbuilding here -- and then establish more clearly what Istrel's central problem is (there's a lot going on here). If the central spine of the story really is the executed friend/Ghost thing, then bring that into sharper focus and show us how one relates to the other. Also, Istrel's motivations sounds pretty basic -- anger over her sister, revenge over her friend -- which is understandable, but someone who's leading underground movements is generally motivated by other
things as well, like justice and opposition to tyranny, and those would make Istrel a more admirable heroine. Also, is there a specific antagonist trying to thwart her, or is it just the collective mage

I like some of the things here -- the evil mage gov't, the courtesan revolutionary, Ghost. But I don't get the sense that the writer is in enough control of her story yet, or even if he/she knows exactly what
that story is. Keep working. Pass.

Young Adult Fiction.
Hook 121

Fifteen-year-old Suzanne Parker hates her new life. She used to
have wicked friends, a reputation, and a boyfriend old enough to buy
beer. But Suzanne's parents freaked when they caught her shooting up
one afternoon and moved her to the bland suburb of Benowa. All she
has now is her dog, her silent cell phone, and a jock named Gabriel
who keeps asking her to lunch.

At her old school, if some joiner like Gabriel had turned around in
history class and asked her out, she would have thought it was a sick
joke. But Suzanne doesn't have any friends in Benowa, and her old
friends have basically forgotten she exists, so she figures she might
as well find out what Gabriel wants.

The answer is unbelievable. Gabriel – football player and member of
the Student Council – is a witch. Like, he can control the weather
and make things appear out of thin air. And he wants her to join his
coven. Gabriel says something bad is coming to Benowa and Suzanne is
the one who can help him fight it. It totally figures that the one
"normal" person she knows is more cracked than a saltine.

But when Suzanne meets gorgeous and mysterious Morgan at a club, he's
got a similar tale: he's a witch, too. He promises to give her old
life back, and more…but first she has to show him that she's
dedicated. By helping him kill her parents.

Suzanne hates her parents – who doesn't? – but there are limits.
Now she has to save her mom and dad from Morgan without
cluing them in to the fact that their attempt to protect her has gone
drastically wrong.

And if she has to join some stupid coven to get Gabriel's help, well,
she's done worse.


Smooth writing. There is a definite sense of story here -- how it sets up, complicates, resolves.

Be careful about the 'shooting up' thing. If she's shooting up the implication is that she's gone way beyond naughty rebel to something much more serious --like drug addict -- even amid people who take drugs on a recreational basis, shooting up is regarded as a whole other level that most of them aren't willing to go to. So this seems to set up a whole other kind of book. Does she absolutely need to shoot up -- can you achieve the same purpose with a lesser offense -- especially since the issue of drugs doesn't seem to come up again (if I came across my kid shooting up -- forget 'life change', that kid would be in rehab.
Period. Smoking a joint or doing Ecstasy would not upset me nearly as much -- although I certainly wouldn't be thrilled.)

Perhaps the main issue here is that Suzanne just doesn't seem interesting. I'm all for a good bad girl, but who wants to spend time with someone so relentlessly negative? Give us a more textured sense
of character -- the vulnerability behind the tough exterior, the private emotional wound -- it's fine for her to start out as a bitch, but we need to see from the beginning how she's a bitch with potential to grow and transform, so we can look forward to watching that
transformation take place. We know what she hates, but what does she care about? As long as you show someone caring about some person or passion or idea outside of herself, the reader will forgive that same character many negative traits.

I have trouble with the 'all she has to do is help him kill her parents' bit for the same reason I did with 'shooting up' -- it's just this huge, dark idea that doesn't seem to sit well with the flippant,
sarcastic-teenager tone of the hook (and a lot of teens actually don't hate their parents, so the fact that Suzanne would be so flippant about this -- "doesn't everyone?" once again stresses how narrow and
self-involved her worldview is). For the sake of all things storytelling, WHY does this guy want her to kill her parents? What's in it for him? Or for her? Plus, if her parents are the thing that's at stake here, why don't you flesh them out a bit? -- Give us a
brief but actual sense of who the mother is, for example, so that she's not just a plot device – true suspense comes from being emotionally invested in the characters, and you need to prove in the hook that
you're capable of getting us to invest in them.

It sounds to me that beneath the edgy supernatural trappings this story is about a girl's difficult relationship with her parents -- she starts off fighting them but ends up fighting *for* them. Good.

There's a great deal of emotional power there. So I would advise you to restructure the hook around her relationship with her parents -- perhaps one parent in particular -- and then complicate all that with the supernatural elements, etc. If you did that – and gave me a more complex sense of Suzanne's character -- I would definitely like to see the hook again. Pass for now, but keep working it out.

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Hook 128

Our story begins in the marketplace of a kingdom called Adantark, where everyone bustles around, buying food and clothing and all sorts of
other necessities. There is a little girl, her hair as bright as her smile, clutching her aunt's hand as she makes her way through the market. They are looking for someone – the boy that this girl's aunt
is to tutor along with her own niece. That boy is the prince of Adantark.
When the two young women find him and begin their lesson, our story begins. How does the story continue? The girl and the prince go off to play, learning from each other as children often do. And as time passes, the children aren't quite children anymore, though their bonds
are as tight as ever. By adolescence, the two are inseperable.
But the prince has his obligation to the kingdom, and so when he is ten, the prince and his father embark on a journey around the land. During that time, his friend Elise gradually becomes acquainted
with a rougher crowd, seeking the comfort of friendship that she shared with Prince Nealan prior to his departure. And though she does find a
community, she also finds herself with nowhere to turn when her "friends" partake in dangerous and illegal acts. Elise has nothing to do but to go along with it... until she finds herself wanted by
the law.
At thirteen, Elise is a wanted criminal, and is brought back to the palace to serve as a slave for crimes against Adantark. Her name is not known, only her face, and she becomes merely a maid in the palace.
When the prince returns, five years after leaving, he does not recognize her.


I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish with "the story begins...where everyone bustles around buying things" (and since we know what a market is and what people do there, you've just wasted precious words on needless information -- words that could have
gone, instead, towards telling us something specific and unique about the characters about whom we're supposed to care) or "how does the story continue?" --As a voice, it doesn't work, comes off as precious and condescending. (And again, you're wasting valuable wordspace that should have gone towards fleshing out the characters, the world, the central conflict, etc.)

If your story truly begins with the girl and prince meeting, I'm not sure how interesting much of this section will be when there doesn't seem to be any real conflict or tension -- the girl and prince meet,
become close friends, skip and play, lah lah lah. This seems like backstory. It seems the *real* story begins when the prince goes off with his father and the girl falls in with a bad crowd and gets in trouble --because that's where all the conflict and drama is,
that's where things are truly at stake, that's where the protagonist (I'm assuming the protag is the girl)undergoes a dramatic transformation. So that's where your 'hook' is -- the first paragraphs are merely backstory. Junk some of that backstory and spend those
words instead on fleshing out the 'rough crowd', since that seems to be the story's antagonist. Show us who that 'rough crowd' is -- maybe there's a leader? Stuff like this shouldn't be left so vague -- vague
things are not interesting. Specific details and images are interesting.

Another problem here is the seeming passivity of the heroine. Not only does fiction generally require a hero/heroine who takes positive action but the portrayal of a poor victimized girl who (one assumes)shows poor judgment and is unable to stand up for herself to the point where she gets caught up in a life-destroying crime -- will have female readers
everywhere rolling their eyes in disgust and throwing the book across the room. If she's going down, she should be fighting it all the way; show us how she takes action and isn't just a victim or a TSTL (Too
Stupid To Live) heroine.

Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Hook 129

The year is 2018, and it has been nearly a decade since civilization ended at the hands of the undead grey men—all that remains are small bands of survivors huddling in isolated towns. Darrell Williams and his four year-old daughter Lela drift downriver after escaping from Stantonsburg, which has been overrun. They find shelter at an abandoned
factory just outside of Alden Ridge, where Elaine Levine-Ward and several other survivors have been living ever since That Day. No one notices the menace that has drifted downriver with them.

When Darrell arrives, the rest of the factory's inhabitants have not yet returned from scavenging sulfur at an abandoned farm. Elaine coerces Darrell into an expedition to find them—but the rescue ends
in disaster. After nine years of constancy, the grey men are suddenly becoming more violent and aggressive, and frighteningly persistent. Soon other dark creatures—some of them human—begin creeping into town. Darrell and Elaine's only hope of saving Alden Ridge from Stantonsburg's fate is to somehow discover the secrets behind the rise of the grey men, and the fall of the modern world.


Sounds like a nice creepy post-apoc tale, and the writing seems smooth. I do indeed want to know why the gray men rose and the modern world fell.
Unfortunately this is more a recitation of plot events (they go downriver, they find other survivors, there's an expedition that ends in disaster, etc.) than a sense of what the story is actually about. It
feels like you're standing too close to the forest so all you can point out are trees-- you need to stand back and give us a better sense of the shape of the forest itself, the overarching scope, the throughline,
of the story. If Darrell and Elaine need to save Alden Ridge from Stantonsburg's fate (which was what, exactly? 'overrun' vague. Details would be good here), and they need to discover the secrets behind why their world is the way it is, then that should form the focus and body of your hook -- right or wrong, that's the sense of story I'm getting here, because it's the last sentence of your hook that engages and intrigues me. The rest feels like lead-up. Also, give us some
sense of characterization, who Darrell and Elaine are. Right now they're just names. And I'm assuming Darrell is the protag?

Also, how and why did this woman Elaine 'coerce' him into what seems a rescue mission? If she's forcing him to do something he doesn't want to do, that doesn't really seem like a promising start to a relationship--and Darrell doesn't seem particularly heroic. Which is
fine if that's how he starts out the story – caring only for himself and his kid -- but he needs to change and grow through the story, and the reader needs a better sense of how he does that.

Some potential here, but not ready yet. Pass.


Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Hook 131

When facing the ultimate evil, does the end always justify the means? Taken from her people, transformed, and shorn of her memories, Luna has
been groomed to be the ultimate champion of the land. Luna is sure that her destiny is a mistake or a cruel joke. Only fourteen years old, she can barely control her magic, let alone use it to save anyone. Her teacher, Queen Blossomai, taught Luna history, magic, and how to fight. She also taught Luna about Gamort, Blossomai's evil brother, who now
threatens the land. Blossomai sends Luna and fellow champion Phoebus in search of magical stones. Once these stones are joined through Luna's magic, they will possess the power needed to defeat Gamort.

Accompanied by their large feline companions, Luna and Phoebus travel through the land, finding the stones and learning about the people they are to save. The more Luna sees of the land and its inhabitants, though, the more she questions everything she was taught. How can she decide what truly is good or evil if all she has ever known is just one side of the story?


Can't really see the story here. Does it start when Luna is taken from her people or when she goes in search of the magical stones? If it's the latter, then you've spent much of the hook describing backstory. Cut to the story -- give us a vivid sense of who the protag is, what she wants, the obstacles she faces, how she resolves the problem. Wandering around the land and questioning what you've been taught is all very nice -- and I like the idea of a student questioning things and figuring them out for herself -- but I don't see suspense or drama here. A story needs to have not only an overarching conflict (Luna vs Gamort) but line-by-line tension as well --how is Luna at risk day-by-day as she goes on her journey? What will keep the reader interested in her story and curious and invested enough to follow page by page? Also, having your memories shorn is a pretty serious thing. Isn't Luna curious about the past she can't remember, does she want to go in search of it? Many a young heroine would. How does the bad guy
threaten the land and why? What's truly at stake here -- is it just Luna's philosophical beliefs? We need more urgency, need to see how the stakes keep rising.

Also, the story elements here feel too vague and familiar. The Magical Objects, the Queen and her evil brother. The challenge of working with concepts like these is to find a way of making them fresh, vivid and
new. Nothing in the hook as it is now indicates to me that there's some truly interesting worldbuilding going on here. Find those interesting, well-chosen details to put into your hook == specific, concrete
details (what does it mean to be a 'champion of the land'?) that will bring the vague ideas behind your story into sharper focus and convince the reader that this isn't just another arrangement of fairy tale

Pass, because I get the sense from the hook that the manuscript needs more work and thought.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 23rd, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
Hi, #129 here. I just wanted to say thanks for the feedback, and for holding a contest like this! Best of luck to those moving to the pages round.

Apr. 23rd, 2007 09:09 pm (UTC)
131 Here
Thank you for the great feedback! The worldbuilding comment is something that has come up before, so obviously that needs to be addressed. I'm seeing things I could have done with this hook that would have made some of your concerns more clear. This was a thesis project, so the comment about needing more work and thought was somewhat surprising (as it's been workshopped and polished within an inch of its life!), but I can see now that I was too vague about some plot elements. I think I should have focused more with getting the character's voice to shine through first, then plot second (all the really good hooks I've read here had VERY strong voice).

Again, thank you!!!!!
Apr. 23rd, 2007 09:55 pm (UTC)
This has promise, but I have to admit, I agree with the judge about "shooting up" business, and the line about everyone hating their parents didn't sit well with me either.
Apr. 24th, 2007 04:46 pm (UTC)
Re: 121
I'm 121. The consensus seems to be that the voice of the hook is too flippant for the seriousness of some of the events described in the hook (the drug use and threat to her parents). That's something I'm going to have to work on in its next incaranation. Thanks for taking the time to respond.
Apr. 24th, 2007 12:24 am (UTC)
Hi, I'm 128
Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with your comments that my protagonist is something of a Mary Sue. She's not. If that wasn't evident in the hook, that's one thing, but you really don't know anything about her from the hook, anyway. This is supposed to get you to read the book, but it's not the book itself. Therefore, you don't need to know whether or not my character is Too Stupid To Live; in my opinion, you just need to know that she's there.

Also, a remark about my writing style: I didn't exactly know what a hook was supposed to be, and wrote it as though it could've been in the book rather than just a synopsis. So I tried to make it more fancy than it would be otherwise, and it came out condescending. I will rework that part. However, I still disagree with what you said about Elise. I know for a fact that she isn't a Mary Sue, so, that's that.
Apr. 24th, 2007 01:40 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, I'm 128
Hi - I'm not the judge; I'm just a random commenter.

It does you no good as a writer to be defensive. You won't see what you need to fix if you refuse to consider other people's opinions. Is your ego so important to you that you'll sacrifice your writing career to it?

Also, it's incredibly rude to argue with a critique-giver. The judge is a volunteer, donating their time and expertise to you out of pure generosity of spirit. The only classy response for you to make to free critique is "Thank you."

Even if - in fact, especially if - you think the critique-giver has it all wrong, all you should say is "Thank you." Whether your character is a Mary Sue is beside the point; the judge thought she came across as one, and that's that. You saying otherwise doesn't change the judge's opinion; it just makes you seem immature.
Apr. 24th, 2007 04:24 am (UTC)
Re: Hi, I'm 128
128, I'm wondering, are you perhaps a member of the YA age group yourself? Your writing is quite good if so, but like your response to the critique, it has some maturing to do before it's ready for publication. The advice you were given in the critique and the reply above is good, and I hope you'll stop and think about it.

Even very mature writers (and I've been around for a very long time) dislike criticism, but we learn to bite our tongues on the first, defensive response and take time to think about why the critiquer said what they did. Even if they're dead wrong, there's still something in the writing that made them misread. And that's our cue to revise and make our intentions clearer.

There's another thing, too, that you should think about. Agents and editors will have "questions" as they may put it, about the work you submit, and if you want to get it into print, you will need to answer those questions to their satisfaction. You may disagree with their points, but usually they turn out to be right or again, your writing needs to work a little harder to hit the target.

This is a taste of the real world as published authors know it.
Apr. 24th, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Hi, I'm 128
First, you got some excellent advice in the comments above (as well as from the judge). I also really recommend you read this article (http://hollylisle.com/fm/Articles/editors2.html) on writer Holly Lisle's site. Your initial reaction is very common (I've been there, obviously so has she) but following the rules is extremely important.

Second, I don't think the judge was calling your protagonist a Mary Sue at all. I honestly don't see it.

Thirdly, I have to say that "you really don't know anything about her from the hook, anyway" was actually the problem for me. I don't know what Elise's goal in the book is going to be, (or even how she feels about all the stuff that is happening to her), and I don't see her taking any action to accomplish whatever it is. If I knew more about her and what she intends to do, I might want to read more.

Hope this helps, and good luck.
Apr. 24th, 2007 07:15 am (UTC)
Hook #115, Hook #128, Hook #129, and Hook #131, I agreed closely with the judge. Thanks for sharing your work so we could all learn from it! Best wishes in your revisions.

And for Hook #121:

Despite agreeing with what most of the judge said, I was rooting for you to send in pages. It sounds weird and dramatic, and I would be willing to spend time with a really negative f*ckup MC if she had the snappy voice you used in the hook, and grew as a person during the book so that by the end she was positive but still funny.

Apr. 24th, 2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
Heh, thanks.
I'm 121. I have to say that while I agree with the critique of the hook completely, my MC does start out as a sarcastic f*ckup who hates her parents and shoots up. I'm encouraged by your response though, because she does come around and become more likable and relatable as the story progresses. Now I just have to convey that in the hook!

Thanks for the words of encouragment.
Apr. 24th, 2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
Author of 121
Thank you to the judge who took such time with the critique, and to the other posters who commented on the hook. As this is the first hook I've done (the book is in final revisions and so not quite ready to be queried), I really appreciate hearing how Suzanne is coming off in the hook.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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