Thursday, August 7, 2014

Are You Hooked? #20

TITLE: Capturing the Last Welsh Witch
GENRE: Adult paranormal

Ella blinked several times as golden sunlight streamed down upon her and the sounds of birds chirping surrounded her. That wasn't right, normally she was in a warm bed, with the aroma of coffee wafting up from the kitchen and Aidan was there, but right now a blast of frigid air hit her, and she shivered.

Had she died again?

In the distance, she could hear water gurgling and knew she needed its healing energy. She peered at an upside-down view of a blurry world and trees as tall as tower blocks. She was lying on her side on the cold and damp earth with grass stuck to her lips. Lifting her head, she shook it trying to clear her mind and vision, and forced herself upright meaning to stand up but a wave of bile rose up in her throat stopping her.

Damn it, why was she so groggy? And why couldn't she remember anything about last night? Usually, those last moments of her life were etched in her brain, but nope, as hard as she tried nothing? Right now, she was lying in a flimsy dress that was torn and dirty in the middle of what looked pretty much like a forest with no recollection of how she ended up there. Frosty kisses from the early-morning breeze touched her bare shoulders, and as she hugged herself, pain throbbed all over her body.

She lifted a shaky hand to her head, and paused, staring at the dried blood that covered them.



  1. I like your sensory details.

    When you say "but right now" it takes me out of the story. I would remove it and start a new sentence with "A blast..."

    I LOVE the line, "Had she died again?" It's a great hook because it really piques my curiosity. I want to know more about how water can provide healing energy to Ella.

    Isn't her view sideways, not upside-down if she's lying on her side? And how tall is a tower block? I have no idea what that means.

    The last sentence of the third paragraph is complicated to parse. If you ended it after "upright" and rephrased the last part in a new sentence, I think it would be easier to understand on the first read. Maybe you can tell us her physical reaction in response to the bile (like, did she fall on hands and knees?).

    The punctuation in the sentence that ends "as hard as she tried nothing?" is confusing to me. I was expecting a comma after "tried" and a period, not a question mark.

    You don't need "right now" in the fourth paragraph either. It throws me from the story. Additionally the rest of that sentence, other than what she was wearing, is repetitive.

    Your description of the air/breeze seems inconsistent. In the first paragraph "a blast of frigid air hit her" and in the fourth paragraph "frosty kisses..." sounds like it's a pleasant (but cold) breeze.

    In the fifth paragraph, "she lifted a shaky hand" (singular) and then stared "at the dried blood that covered them" (plural).

    I'm certainly intrigued! Best of luck with your revisions.

  2. Oh, so intriguing! You had me at "Had she died again?" Quite frankly, that would make an amazing opening line, with just a small shifting of paragraphs. You do a wonderful job setting the scene for us, as well.

    That being said, I would watch out for use of passive voice and clunky descriptions. A good example is the sentence: "In the distance, she could hear water gurgling..." To pull the reader in better, why not cut out the unnecessary "could?" With clearer language and more immediate pacing throughout, I think you could have a really special opening here.

  3. Yes, I'm hooked! That is a great way to break the "starting with MC waking up" rule and do it well.

    You lost me on the swear word. No, I'm not saying delete it - in adult books it's usually invisible, so most agents won't think twice about it. But it tells me you are not afraid to get a little gritty and grit's not my thing.

    I suggest a different punctuation for "as hard as she tried" sentence:

    Usually, those last moments of her life were etched in her brain. But, nope, as hard as she tried... nothing?

    About the question mark: if you want to do this, I suggest pointing out that Ella is searching for clues. Then you can use the same details (the flimsy torn dress, the forest) but show how nothing is sparking a memory of the night before or helping her determine whether she was dead again. (Love that idea.)

    I agree about the last sentence being confusing. I think you mean both her hand and her head are covered in dried blood, but as she can only stare at her hand, I suggest focusing on that. She'll find out soon enough there's also blood on her head. Or she can feel the dried blood and realize what it is because it's on her hand, too.

    Intriguing premise. Good Luck!

  4. I agree with the others; I'm definitely intrigued, and am eager to read on. (For what it's worth, I didn't even realize there was a swear word, and had to go back to try to find it.)

    Again, as others have said, the "Had she died again?" line is the real hook-y one. I like having it sneak up on me like it does, though I would consider cutting that first paragraph down some.

    Perhaps something to suggest the "wrongness" of the situation without saying it outright, like "No warm bed, no aroma of coffee, no Aidan; just a blast of frigid air." Then go to your killer hook.

    I also got confused with the upside-down view from lying on her side, and would cut the question mark at the end of the third sentence of the "groggy" paragraph.

    I like the tone and direction of the story so far. Good luck with your revisions; I'd love to see more!

  5. This did not hook me. The reason is not the writing, but that I feel like I've read this dozens of times. After reading the first line, it was no surprise to me she woke up disoriented in a forest and doesn't know why. And that bums me out because I never want to read a story and go, yup, waking up in a forest again. It's not the writing, it's where the scene starts for me that is overdone. I've seen it on this very blog and I've seen people say "another wakes up in a forest first page." I don't think anyone wants that for their story!

    The first line veers a bit purple for my taste (sunlight streamed upon her feels a bit cliche), though the lines "had she died again?" and the dried blood show a lot of promise. As does the title. Welsh Witch? I want to know about her. I'm sure a good story is here. I would encourage working toward a more unique start, especially if you plan to query. You want your story to stand out, especially when paranormal is not in demand in the market.

  6. “Frosty kisses from the early-morning breeze touched her bare shoulders, and as she hugged herself, pain throbbed all over her body.”

    I like the frosty kisses line, but
    I wondered why it took so long for her to feel the pain. I would have expected that to come up much sooner.

    “Had she died again?”

    I don’t know why, maybe from reading this site, but I feel like I’m seeing the character self-aware of dying or previous deaths quite a bit.

    “but right now a blast of frigid air hit her, and she shivered.”

    I’d consider moving the verb up in the sentence, “She shivered as a blast of frigid air hit her.”

    I’m not sure how she knows the water has healing energy, but then again, for me, witches don’t generally carry a connotation of healing.

    I got a little confused by some of the description, but after a second read through it made sense.

  7. I become hooked at the fourth paragraph where I see her and something bad has obviously happened. I'm not exactly feeling the outside but being told about it so I wonder if that could be ramped up even in this POV or if you'd want to try for a more interior one with first person?

  8. Unfortunately, this didn't hook me and, for me, it was the writing. It took 250 words for you to say the MC woke up in a forest with blood on her. You could say that in a sentence. You could say it descriptively in a parg. There is just so much here you don't need. You could cut all of parg 3 and not lose anything. We have 3 descriptions of the wind - a frigid blast, frosty kisses, early-morning breeze - and the wind has no bearing at all on what's happening.

    Consider what is important here. She wakes up in a forest, wonders where she is, how she got there, and if she may have died again. She raises a hand to her head and discovers blood on her hands. That's all you need to tell us. Even if you include some description, it shouldn't take more than a parg or two. We just don't need the chirping birds and looking at things upside down, the wind or anything else that doesn't have any bearing on the facts that do matter. ANd without all the fluff, we get to the heart of the story quicker. Less really is more.

  9. I like "Had she died again" as an opener. That would be great. I also love the "frosty kisses" sentence. This is good but I think she'd feel the pain sooner, as she lifted her head. Does she remember the dress, if not I'd like more detail. I think you could make this a bit tighter but are going somewhere interesting.