Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A perfect day for masochism. Wanna Critique?

FINAL upload of critiques was made at: Feb. 2nd, 5:00PM PST
Update: UNCLE!!! (screamed Goblin)

I have finished all requested critiques, and (quick! before anyone else comments!) I am officially stopping now. Sorry if you've only just found your way here, but I will be doing NO MORE CRITIQUES for the entries on Nathan's contest.

This has been so much fun! Thank you all for the courage it took to let a complete stranger rag on your work; I've learned a lot, I've got a wonderful warm glow-y feeling from all the thank-yous I received, and I'm very hopeful I've made a few new blogging buddies! This has been a great (if mildly overwhelming) experience.

And lemme tell ya, the quality of the work I read was surprisingly strong! I really did enjoy reading your openings, so thank you again for the opportunity.

#124, Ice Magic, Fire Magic, I belatedly realized I screwed up and posted someone else's critique in your slot. I've fixed that now. Sorry for the mix-up!

#265, Symmetry, I've posted your critique now. Thanks for the heads-up; I hadn't noticed there were two openings named Symmetry either!

#114, True Fiction, I've added your critique now. Sorry for the omission!

If anyone else notices an error, or if I omitted you by accident, let me know and I'll make it right.

(Original post)
Nathan Bransford is holding a contest for first pages, which is extraordinarily generous of him. Matching this generosity is Chro, who decided to critique every one of Nathan's entries on her/his blog. Like a snivelling clinger-on, I shamelessly snitched Chro's idea. I also decided to critique every entry (or try to; 300 entries by Tuesday morning, and the contest doesn't end until Wednesday night). I did, however, decide to restrict my comments to just a few sentences (for sanity's sake.)

Here's how it went:

Edit 1: ZOMG; what the heck have I signed myself up for? Am I insane? Am finished the first 33.

Edit 2: Am finished to 70. Yup; I'm insane. This was not a good thing to decide to do. At least Nathan can console himself with Bourbon; I don't even drink.

Edit 3: Oooops... One-or-possibly-more anonymice have grumbled at Nathan about "mirror sites" posting critiques of their pages, and I have just gotten a very nice email from Himself asking me to please cease and desist this practise.

He is quite right that getting permission first is always a good thing, so I've deleted the original critiques. However, since some writers do appreciate feedback, I'm offering a new deal:

1) If you would like me to do a (very short!) critique of your page, as posted on Nathan's site, then leave me a comment on this entry saying so. This is an opt-in process; I won't comment on your work unless you give me permission.

2) Those of you who have already commented to say thank you, or to express a hope that I get to yours, I'm assuming you're giving me permission. If you would prefer that I don't post a critique of your work, then let me know!

1. The Chaser - This is nicely improved since I read part of it on the Crapometer; it's nice and gothic but still a bit purple in places. Rane and Drahmia's conversation does seem like disguised info-dumping, however--i.e. the characters are speaking only to inform the reader of the backstory.

2. Water Lilies - Nice writing! Good tension, too; I'd read on. Descriptions of the wife's skin, etc. seems a bit too saccharine but otherwise I really liked this.

3. Tweed & Scissors

4. The White Rock

5. Katie

6. No Ghosts Are Out Tonight

7. Anonymous Bran Fan's entry

8. Love Undelivered - Good writing, but you start with something inhuman, switch to dry backstory, and only really get to where the emotional connection lies in the last paragraph. Maybe start with Mark's feelings? The reader needs to know why we should care about the building, and "telling" us why it matters doesn't provide us with that emotional connection.

9. The Read Thread

10. Prophecy's Child

11. Even the Smallest Creature

12. Soul Jar - Very pretty writing, but it borders on the distracting when it's in the first few sentences. I didn't like the initial scene because it begins and ends so fast it felt like wasted time. The story actually starts in the hospital when she is floating above her body knowing she might be dead. I'd recommend getting to that point faster, because that's a great moment--Marta has something to really worry about there, and you've done a great job of putting the reader in her shoes so that we care too.

13. The Donegal Manuscript

14. CelticQueen's entry

15. Noises From the Quiet House

16. Mardott's entry

17. This Brief Freedom - Beautiful writing, and I think you show us the protagonist's tension very nicely. The only concern I had is that I really wasn't sure what the time period was for quite a while.

18. The Length of Shadows

19. Superwench83's entry - What a cool scene! I really liked this and would definitely read on.

20. MadTheodore's entry

21. The Interrogator's Child

22. Emergence of the Fey - The writing is good, but the first scene seems pretty static because there's no real conflict. Zalandar gives an order; Jex obeys. There's also very little detail about what's really going on, what Jex will do, what "our usual manner" is. It all works to leave the reader uninvolved in the story. The second scene has similar flaws. Try to put some interpersonal conflict into the story? You need something juicy to hook the reader's interest.

23. Jacob, Underwater - Pretty great! You get us straight into the story and the tension is excellent. I'd read on. I would, however, like to see less description of Nicky running, however, as I think it kills the pace a little.

24. Roadie - This is really good, in that you show us a character with a problem, and it's even a problem most people can immediately empathize with. I also really liked your sensory details. Nice work!

25. Overboard - This is engaging and likeable, although the conversation with Angeline reads as an "As you know, Bob" conversation. I would want to see something resembling a plot open up soon, but I would read on.

26. June's Entry

27. Fateful

28. Sunshine Kids Make Money - I've read this before on the Crapometer, and I enjoyed it a lot then also, but my criticism stands: there's no plot, so I wouldn't read on indefinitely. As cool as this is, pure stream-of-consciousness won't hold my attention forever.

29. CB, 2004

30. The Ishmael Blade

31. LesleyLSmith's entry

32. Hot Money

33. Miss Java's entry

34. The Standout

35. Mon Ami, L'ennemi - I liked the hints that Marcelle is chafing at her situation in life; it give a nice tension to the story. However, I did find the piece hard to get into. Partly, I was confused at how quickly the scene and characters were changing, but I also didn't connect emotionally with anyone.

36. Demonhead

37. Acts of Junia

38. Jan 28, 12:12PM Anonymous' entry

39. MJ's entry

40. Luc2's entry - This is pretty good, in that you introduce us to the characters, the world and the conflicts pretty quickly. I think you could describe the world a bit more clearly, however, in that Larynd's musings don't really give me a good picture of where she is or what she's doing. I also had a bit of trouble empathizing with anyone here, and although Larynd's conversation with the figurine did give her a human element, the content of that conversation seemed a little pointless. I had trouble getting into the story.

41. Gold Miner's Daughter - Good writing, but there's no story yet, in that there's no real conflict here. Could you maybe make the reader see what the stakes are for Andie if her father dies? We can guess at them, but you should try to make us feel her worries. The danger isn't made clear enough for it to be gripping.

42. Death Defying - Really nice writing, and this is a solid scene in that it gets the stakes across to the reader well, and it viscerally shows the reader what the protagonist is feeling. I think this works well!

43. The Haunting Department

44. Quick and Dead - The writing is nice, the voice is zippy and engaging, but you rely far too much on the character's voice to hold the reader's interest. Where's the story? I would suggest cutting a lot of this and getting into the plot soon.

45. First Born

46. The Woes of Edward Allen - The writing is good, but you start with a false dilemma, and so I feel a bit cheated. Why not start at a moment of real danger?

47. The Devil's Footstep

48. Olive Frame

49. Toymaker

50. Julcree's entry - The writing is very nice, but you alternate between introspection and backstory. There is no hint of a plot to come, and so I wouldn't read on simply because there's nothing here to make me curious about what happens next. Also, the protagonist is not sympathetic enough to draw me into the story on the strength of her personal charisma.

51. Gumbo Ya Ya

52. Larisa's entry - Good writing and a really nice voice. I think you make Corason very lively, but you are telling rather than showing, and there's no story yet. I found myself impatient to know what the point was. The only hint of a plot is when the POV character studies her eyelids, and that happens awfully late in the piece.

53. The Refugee - I like your writing, but you do a lot of telling at the beginning of this, and there's no hint of a plot anywhere. Presumably that's going to happen soon, but a lot of what you have here seems unnecessary. You could cut your entire first paragraph, for example.

54. A Place of Whispers

55. The Hollow Crown

56. The Dollar Club - You have a great voice, but this is all telling and backstory. I'd suggest paring it down to a minimum and getting to the actual story a lot faster.

57. Flakes Bloom

59. Walter's entry - Beautiful writing, and the inner conflict you build in the last paragraph in particular would keep me reading. Nice work!

58. The Third Sin - You do a great job of painting these characters clearly (especially "Saddam Hussein's stunt double"; that was awesome!), but the description goes on too long and I don't have any clear idea of what is going on and why. I could stick with it much more easily if I knew why these people were here. Try to set up your plot a bit faster?

60. A Kiss of Ashen Twilight

61. Ride-Along - Whoo-hoo! I really like this; you do a great job of setting the scene, introducing the (very, very crazy) POV character, and you set up some awesome tension. Will he kill the nice officer or not? Great work!

62. Billy & Betsy - This is nice, but it's all telling and backstory. It would be nice if you could intersperse all this information with the tension that will (presumably) arise when Billy realizes he's in the same room as Betsy. Show us the two at each other's throats, rather than telling us about their mutual loathing.

63. Tetrahedron

64. Love & Oreos

65. The Gathering Clouds - I really like this as an opening for a high fantasy. It's tricky to start in the middle of battle, and I thought it a bit weird that Martin would strip off any of his armor if the fighting is still going on nearby, but I thought you did a good job of making both this man and the mage seem human and sympathetic in the short space you had. Good work!

66. Ravishing Ravenna

67. Still Life With Flowers - Lovely writing, and I'm definitely intrigued as to what if going on. Whose funeral is being planned? Why is Elaine so disassociated from her environment? I think this opening succeeds very well.

68. Kaige's entry - Some of the writing is very nice, but some of it is a little purple and I noticed a few comma errors. The main concern I had is that this scene is virtually all a flashback, which is not a good place to start a story. It's better to just dramatize the earlier scene, then skip forward in time. I also found the transitions between the past and the present confusing, which is another argument against having a flashback right at the beginning.

69. Samarai Secrets - The writing is good, but given that very little is happening in this scene, I think it should move faster. I didn't find the character's voice to be particularly engaging, so one way to speed things up would be to pare down the interior dialogue. I hope something other than paranoia is going to happen to the protagonist soon?

70. It Burns

71. Roxan's entry

72. Blades of the Fallen

73. Clara Bow's entry

74. Meat Market

75. Sam Hranac's entry

76. Plundered Booty - This is funny and wonderful; you have a great voice. You also have a few issues with commas and grammar, but those can be fixed. This story sounds like a great ride! One thing I wondered about was what the risk to the storyteller was for telling his tale; you might want to hint at that.

77. A Wish to Rule

78. Act of Grace - The first sentence is a great hook and the rest of that paragraph is also strong, although it could be streamlined a little to improve its pacing. The second paragraph slows your pace quite a lot; it's the talk of the ancestors that is hooking my interest here, so although the protagonist's voice is engaging, I would suggest having her talk less about how people interpret her actions and more about why she did it. The last two sentences in the second paragraph have a lot of impact; please keep those! And the last two paragraphs are also awesome. I suspect this story is fantastic; I hope you get it published so I can read it!

79. Suicide Club - I love your subtle way of painting a scene and suggesting depths to the story; as a reader, I find that a strong draw--a nice puzzle. I also like how you craft dialogue with sentence fragments; it's very natural-seeming. I tripped over Bip hissing "Yeah," however, because it doesn't seem like a word you can hiss. Also, saying he failed to not look scared is a POV error; Bip can't see his own face. The scene as a whole didn't pull me in as much as it could have because the conflict is weak; Bip is not being terribly helpful to the officer, but he's not really fighting either. Perhaps you could add a greater sense of dread to the scene, to up the tension level?

80. These Humans All Suck - Absolutely beautiful writing, and I love the non-linear way you craft a conversation; it's very true to life and gives the reader a sense both that these two are intelligent and that they know each other well. Really nicely done! The only thing that was a hiccup for me was that I didn't clue in to Ian being male for a very long time. Maybe put a speech attribute for him earlier in the piece?

81. Mother Trucker

82. Wicked Sensibility - What an awesome beginning; you sucker me with talk about the weather and then whammo! There's a guy in the car. And then he's not what you expect him to be. And then the stakes just keep on rising. This is a very strong opening scene; great work!

83. Anatomy of a Girl

84. Eyes of My Killer - This is very effectively creepy! The piece is really well-written and potent. I assume you will put the reader into the head of a more sympathetic character soon, because we wouldn't want to read the whole book from this man's perspective. However, as a means to increase both the stakes and the reader's inner tension (and thus curiosity to know what happens next), this scene is excellent!

85. The Crime-Fighting Zookeeper Chronicles - This is excellent, in that it's an exotic world, yet I'm never confused about what's going on, and there's tension, humor and an active, likeable protagonist. I don't have anything to quibble with here.

86. Kick Punch Breathe

87. DeadlyAccurate's entry - I love the humor in this! There's a few sentences that didn't seem to flow very smoothly, but I think this opening succeeds very well, even though it's essentially all backstory and telling. The humor provides the hook and keeps me reading.

88. Viva! - I think the juxtaposition of Athena's memories with the unpleasant facts of her life work really well, and that this is an interesting scene, but I think it might not have a strong enough draw to pull a reader into the book. There's nothing here to make us curious to find out what happens next, and the sad nature of the situation could put some readers off wanting to know more. This scene would be effective deeper in the book; I think you might do better to start somewhere else, where there's an obvious conflict or dillemma for the protagonist.

89. Symmetry

90. Grace's entry - This is nice in that you start with conflict, but I found I wasn't getting engaged in the story. I think the problem is that I haven't yet seen anything in Jane that makes me empathize with her, so I find it hard to care that she's in danger. Also, the story seems to really start when the glass breaks; could you start the story with Jane already in the grip of the drop-out and trying to talk her way out so that you get to the glass breaking sooner? It isn't obvious to me that we need to know about Alec yet at all.

91. Sincerely, Me - This has got a nice voice, and I think if your heroine is meant to be superhuman, this works well. I'm getting that sense, since she's being attacked and is apparently impervious. That keeps me interested and I think your pacing is good. My main concern is that I spotted comma errors and a few spelling mistakes. However, those things are easily fixed; this is fun and I would keep reading.

92. Fighting For Tyler

93. Sentinel

94. Strawberries for Susannah - I really like the care you put into bringing this girl's inner world alive. The problem is that she really doesn't sound like a twelve-year-old. Her thoughts are too sophisticated and complex, and I just can't buy that a girl that young, about to die, would be so eloquent and introspective. She sounds like an adult and that really doesn't work. Another thing that concerns me is that this scene is all angst; there's no plot in the sense that things seem pretty clear-cut and there's little to make the reader curious to find out what happens next. I assume this girl isn't really about to die? (Or if so, that something happens to her after death.) If that's the case, I'd recommend you start the story later, at the moment when it becomes unclear what will happen next. Those moments, when the world of your novel is out of balance and something unexpected might happen, are the moments that really grab the reader's interest.

95. Vermillion's entry

96. B. J. Anderson's entry

97. Anne Bradshaw's entry

98. My Dear Leslie - This is nicely written and well-executed, but I had a bit of trouble getting into the story emotionally. It's great that you start by making Leslie seem appealing and human and then immediately move into a conflict, but Stefan's unpleasantness progressed awfully fast from innocent encounter to aggressive proposition--plus you didn't delve into Leslie's alarm very deeply. I'd suggest stretching the encounter out a little to really show Stefan being creepy, as well as digging into Leslie's feelings more.

99. From the Sea

100. Third Strike - Your protagonist is engaging, funny and likeable. I got confused about his gender however; first I thought he was male because he talked tough, then I thought he was female when he swung his braid over his shoulder, then I was back to male when the beard got mentioned. Maybe make it clear a bit sooner? This scene is pretty fun, but because the conflict is a violent one, and we don't know the protagonist well enough yet to really care about him, I would suggest making him even funnier and more human and engaging; it's his personal charisma that is doing most of the work of pulling your reader into the story.

101. Nanette's entry

102. The Devil's Deep

103. Elmore Hammes' entry - This is nicely written and I really enjoyed Liberty's little rise in blood pressure after the bigoted nurse's comment. However, this doesn't serve to pull the reader into the story, as there isn't a real conflict or dilemma. We see two characters struggling against old age, and there are interesting hints about their past, but no one wins the fight against old age, so the reader has no particular reason to be curious about what happens next. Try to find a different place to start the story, maybe?

104. Abi's entry - Percival sounds like he'll be an engaging protagonist; he seems charmingly eccentric and appealingly optimistic. I think the main weakness with the opening is that there's no real conflict to draw the reader into the story. Percival is struggling against his potion, but there's no tension in the reader's mind regarding that fact because we don't yet know why it's important for his potion to succeed. We don't know what the story stakes are. I also think you do a little too much "telling", rather than "showing", here. Try to make the reader picture the scene, rather than just informing them of what's happening.

105. Rot - The trail of dessicated corpses going for their daily walk was hilarious. I like the idea behind this and your writing is solid. The first scene is great. However, I don't like the second scene simply because you lapse into pure backstory and exposition there. You've got two really interesting characters talking, and then abruptly you shift away and dive into the boring-ish stuff. Stick with Amy and Dean?

106. Death Has No Dominion

107. The Chronicles of Laura - You've got a really great hook sentence here, but you've buried it under the clutter of a first-person soliloquy. I think you should start your scene with the sentence: When a hushed voice sounded in my head, saying, "They're coming,".... Everything before that sentence is unnecessary and slightly annoying (we don't know the protagonist well enough to be interested in her whining yet.) Likewise, I'd suggest cutting the paragraph that starts I hated English and... In the opening scene, you want to draw the reader in as efficiently as possible, so please resist the urge to tell us things! Other than that, I thought this sounded fun and it was intriguing enough that I would read on.

108. Awaken the Devil

109. The Potato Baby Dare - Nice writing, here. It took me a long time to figure out that Milford is the reason Emmie thinks the dare is so awful; other than that, I liked this and thought it read well. You might consider making it more obvious Emmie considers being paired with a geek a matter of utter humiliation. That didn't seem obvious, based on her thoughts regarding the situation. It's also the only conflict in the piece, so you want it to seem a clear and pressing issue to the protagonist.

110. The Last Watchman

111. A. J. Chase's entry

112. Links - This is well-written, but it's slight. There's little here except the POV character's musings regarding blondes. That's not enough of a draw to pull a reader into the book. If the character had more personal charisma, her voice would help keep your audience reading, but I think it's safer to get into the plot as soon as you can. Introspection needs to wait until you have the reader firmly hooked and interested in the story and/or your character.

113. Jan 28, 4:37PM Anonymous' entry - I think you should cut the first two paragraphs; that prose was very nice, but the story really starts in the third paragraph. The juxtaposition of the road's dangerous description and the mother's intention that they get driving on it serves as foreshadowing of potential mayhem to come. That foreshadowing serves as your hook to draw the reader into the story. I like the conflict between mother and son (?), but I think you're diffusing a bit of the tension in it by having it move too slowly. Try to sharpen up the dialogue and I think this will make an engagin start to the story.

114. True Fiction - The writing here is excellent; I can really see the scene well. Starting with someone finding a dead body is also a good way to grab the reader's interest, and I really liked the dispassionate way your protagonist assessed the situation. That's completely believable for a nurse, and it's also effective for getting the reader into the story. Overall, I thought this was very skillful, and the only real problem I had with it is that the pace seems to bog down a little as the piece progresses. It might help if the protagonist starts to feel a bit upset, even if it's just confusion over what to do now. I like the first three paragraphs as is, but the next two could use a greater sense of urgency. The cliffhanger of the last paragraph works very nicely, however.

115. Tomato-Stewed

116. HannaJill's entry

117. Jordyn's entry - This involves a lot of telling, but I found it really engaging anyway. The character has a good cranky-adolescent voice and her resentment of Caris is something most people will empathize with. However, I think you need to give the story some stakes. You've done a great job of getting the reader on-side with the protagonist, but we need to know fairly soon that there's a crisis on the way--a plot. You hint at that in your last line, but without knowing specifics, the piece lacks impact. We need to know the protagonist believes herself about to lose something that she values or wants.

118. The Brown Shoe Diaries

119. Rhinoceros SummerThis is well-written and you build the tension nicely. One thing that works well here is that I had to keep guessing what these guys were doing; I wasn't sure whether Paul was sympathetic or detestable--a thrill-seeker or poacher? That mystery definitely kept me reading. I didn't get as emotionally involved as you probably want your reader to be; I think that's because I wasn't sure whether to like Paul, and the conflicts (Paul v. Cameraman, Paul v. Rhino) aren't strong in the sense that the reader knows who's likely to win in both cases. That lowers the reader's inner tension.

120. Walking in the Dark

121. Heirs to Earth

122. Michael Reynolds' entry

123. Pumpkin Patch Kids (See critique on version 2, #466)

124. Ice Magic, Fire Magic - This is very beautiful writing, but unfortunately, it isn't serving a purpose yet. The scene is essentially backstory, in the sense that you're gettting the reader up to speed on how this world works. I really suggest waiting until later in the book to do this. I think the opening needs to intrigue the reader or make them curious about what happens next so that the reader will feel inclined to keep reading. While this scene is pretty, I don't think it begins to do that until the very end, when Fila feels the magic building. Consider starting at that moment, and explain how the needlework and the magick are related later in the story, after you've captured the reader's interest?

125. Midsummer

126. Final Approach

127. AftrLyf - This has great, dark humor . The situation is unexpected and amusing and that makes the reader happy to keep reading. I did think you could stand to establish your setting better, as I can't see the scene at all, and the protagonist's introspection about what to do with the mugger bogs things down. I'd suggest keeping everything up to "Hell to pay", streamlining the two paragraphs that come after it, and adding some sensory details throughout.

128. DadGoneMad's entry

129. Seconds From Death

130. In Shadows We Walk

131. The Thirteenth of Never

132. TakeAway

133. Last Teardown

134. K. C. Shaw's entry

135. Take a Chance On Me - I really love the sentence that starts with "There were three things Kate knew about herself..." That's so funny, and creates reader empathy so well, that I think it should be your first line! Unfortunately, I find the rest of the piece moves a bit slowly, and I think you spend a little too much time on the sound of voices. It would be good to have other sensory details because I can't picture the scene. Kate's inner turmoil, and the mystery of why the cameras are at her door, is enough to keep the reader interested, but maybe streamline the piece and work harder to put the reader into the scene?

136. Super Bear

137. Susan Bradley's entry

138. Paris & Petra

139. Going Ballistic, My Way

140. Chumplet's entry

141. JJDeBenedictis' entry - Heh. I think I may as well skip this one, n'est pas?

142. Phoenix's entry

143. Mail Order Chef

144. Just Like In the Movies

145. House of Cry

146. A Paperback Writer's entry

147. Sundari's entry

148. Finders Keepers

149. The Sibylline Prophecies

150. MBStelli's entry

151. Friends in Deed

152. Pilgrimage

153. ManiacScribbler's entry

154. Something Came Down

155. EPunkins' entry

156. Sixth (Nicole Lorenz' entry)

157. The Girl From Yesterday

158. Flying Leaps - The juxtaposition of beagle-and-donut humor with sobbing protagonist does a wonderful job of keeping the reader interested in a character who isn't immediately sympathetic. Nice work! I hope a plot is going to show up soon, but this opening is engaging enough that I would keep reading.

159. Cosimod's entry

160. From Scratch

161. Stuck in Limbo

162. The Dance of the Jayhawkers

163. Good King Wendell - This is really cute, but it doesn't work very well as an opening because the backstory and telling go on too long. If you really streamlined this--compressed it down to one funny paragraph--I think it would make a really nice introduction. The fact that Wendell is a dishwasher who has become king is your story's hook: I'd suggest getting the reader quickly, simply because until we meet Wendell and begin to empathize about him, we have no reason to care about him or any of his predecessors. It's his dilemma that engages the reader's interest in the story.

164. Crosswor's entry

165. The Hidden Garden

166. Paladin's Pride - This is nicely written, but the storytelling needs some work. For a start, there's no real conflict; the conversation between Gaeryn and Amanda seems like a device to inform the reader of the backstory, rather than a real argument, and Gentyl is clearly no match for her father when he tells her to not do any work in the barn. That lack of conflict means there's little to make the reader curious to find out what happens next. You might want to refer to Gentyl by name earlier in the story because I got confused when she followed her father into the barn--I didn't know Gentyl was the daughter. I also got confused again when you abruptly switched your point-of-view from Gaeryn's head to Gentyl's head; that should be handled more smoothly. The mystery of why Gentyl is suddenly being treated this way is the thing that will draw the reader into your story, so maybe you could start the story in the barn when she's trying to help her father? You can always fill the reader in on the Aegis' death in a separate scene later.

167. NicoleMD's entry

168. Anne's entry

169. Shift - I think your first two sentences are excellent, but the third sentence diffuses the impact of the first two. Maybe move it into the next paragraph? Overall, this is well-written but there are important details missing. The protagonist's inner tension is clear, but we don't know what the cause of it is and we also don't know what age or gender of the protagonist is. Because both the POV character and the situation are murky, the reader is going to have trouble getting immersed in the story.

170. Winter's Discord

171. Lisa A's entry

172. Rosee's entry

173. Opening Bids

174. Monica's entry

175. Adventures of Invisaboy

176. Angel Girl - This is well-written and you're starting with conflict, which is excellent. The problem is that I didn't understand what was going on at all (I started to get it by the end), and that was frustrating. Without knowing what the situation is, I can't empathize with the characters' plights, and since I haven't really met these people yet, I also can't empathize with their pain. I think you've dropped your reader into the action a little too fast; we need details about the political situation first, because all the tears and angst don't make sense until we know why these people are crying.

177. Princess 4 Hire

178. LeeSmiley's entry

179. Don's entry

180. Espy's entry - I like your first paragraph a lot, and I like the action and the conflict in this scene. However, I think you let things bog down quite a bit between getting the girl into the park (first paragraph) and her saying "I dreamt about you last night." If you streamline the four paragraphs in between those two points, I think this opening would be great.

181. The Incredible Blanco Brothers - This is amusing and well-written, and Ansel seems like he'll be an engaging protagonist. My concern here is that this opening is all "telling" and no "showing". It leaves the reader's imagination unengaged because they don't have to picture the scene. Also, the point of the scene is arrived very late. At the very end of this piece, we learn that Ansel feels invisible. Up until then, the reader doesn't understand why they're being subjected to this ancedote. Maybe make it clear right at the beginning of the scene the real reason why Ansel is dying his hair? I would also suggest you try to dramatize the scene more, putting the reader right there while it all happens.

182. Aden's entry

183. Kate Buchanan's entry

184. Boodsy Woo

185. Jan 28, 10:56PM Anonymous' entry

186. LF's entry

187. Fugitive From Grace

188. BEP's entry

189. Blood Right - You create some beautiful imagery here and obviously love painting with words. The main problem in this piece is the lack of active voice. Because the point-of-view is omniscient, I felt very detached from the scene--no emotional involvement. This was acerbated by the fact that you do slip into passive voice several times (e.g. the second sentence), and even when you don't, your verb choices are often a bit bland. In general, if you want to pull a reader into a story, you want them to empathize with at least one character in the story. In your opening, however, we don't get close to anyone. Maybe stick a character into all this mayhem and let the reader see them struggle to survive?

190. No Good Deed - This is nicely written and Martin is an appealingly human protagonist. My concern is that the story conflict is due to Martin's bladder warring with his horror of the subway washroom. This is awfully slight, and it's probably not a gripping enough situation to draw your readers into the book. The final paragraph in particular seemed to go on too long about things that aren't terribly engaging; if the humor here was really killer, the opening would probably work. As it stands, it needs something more to grab the reader's interest.

191. Scarab

192. Charlotte's entry

193. The Message Population

194. Seekers and Solutions - I really like Jorgie whining while he prays! That's very funny and it helps draw me into the story because I want to know more about this person. I found some of your sentences hard to read and convoluted, but that can be fixed (you need more commas and a few hyphens, e.g. "blood-spattered" rather than "blood spattered".) Overall, I liked this and would keep reading.

195. Never on a Tuesday

196. A Faerie Dream

197. Halcyon Days

198. Think Again

199. An American Soccer Mom in Columbia

200. The Silver Spider

201. T. Sheridan's entry - You do a great job of taking a low-key dilemma and showing the stakes immediately. I really liked the way you structured the first three paragraphs. Nice work! Really nice writing, too. This is literary in tone, and I think it works well in that you set up the beginning of the protagonist's inner journey nicely. I was confused about who "them" was in the 2nd to last paragraph, but I would definitely keep reading.

202. The Katsinam

203. Nothing Easier

204. In the Shadow of the Oak

205. Truths About Dating and Mating

206. The Demon Connection

207. Authenticity - Beautiful writing and the layering of exterior and interior perceptions is lovely. I was pretty shocked when I got to "Robo-Babe", because the tone of the writing is almost literary, but "Robo-Babe" implies science fiction. Either way, I'd still read on. The interior tension that the POV character is dealing with pulls the reader into the story very nicely.

208. Lost Soul

209. Hope

210. Ink Wench's entry - I really like this opening! The humor in the protagonist's grumpy resentment of his mother's influence is great. The realization that this fellow is a prostitute comes well after the reader has started to empathize with and like him, so that fact of his life doesn't alter the reader's willingness to stay with the character. Then you get the character right into a crisis when his customer dies. Great work!

211. Summoning

212. Tena's entry

213. Front Page News

214. Christopher's entry - I've seen this on the Crapometer, and I really do like this character. He's abrasive and slightly insane, but very funny. The tension between him and Willis, which is juxtaposed with the fact that they obviously want to be in each other's company, is a good draw for the reader. It makes us curious to know more about these guys, especially the POV character. Assuming an exterior plot shows up soon, this strikes me as a really engaging, edgy opening for a book.

215. Wayworn

216. On the Flipside - I've seen this on the Crapometer, but you've definitely made some improvements in it since then! I like the way you establish the scene more firmly, and the opening paragraphs still do a great job of building reader empathy for Don, thief that he is. The description of the tattooed man is compelling, and becomes downright creepy when you mention the changing dice on his eyelids. I really liked this!

217. Paper

218. The Game

219. John Dixon's entry

220. Mirra Discovered

221. Forbidden Empath

222. Jason's Tapes

223. The Search for the Charm Keepers

224. Unicorn Club

225. The Memoirs of Shadows

226. Sarah's Journey

227. Possible Happiness

228. Just a Child

229. Jan 29, 7:06AM Anonymous' entry

230. Flight of the Swallows

231. A Girl Named Anna

232. Valden's Heir

233. Gravel and Paint

234. K-Mark's entry

235. God Rising From the East

236. Jersey Justice

237. Ryan Field's entry

238. DawTheMinstrel's entry

239. In the Land of Fiction

240. Sword

241. Richard's entry

242. That Woman

243. EMF67's entry

244. JosephWise's entry

245. P's entry

246. Dog Loyal

247. E. A. West's entry - The fact that punky Aya thinks the Amish guy is hot is a great hook to draw the reader into this piece. That's so easy to empathize with. However, I think you slow down an otherwise excellent start by spending too much time describing Aya's appearance. Pare that down a little? I also think the interaction with Jeanette could use a little more subtext--if there were more hints of emotions below the surface and things not said, I think it would give that conversation more depth and thus make it more interesting.

248. Heather! Anne!'s entry

249. DNA - This is pretty cool, and I like your writing, although I noted a few places where you could tighten up the language and improve your pacing. However, I don't think this scene works well as an opening because there's no real conflict. Yes, someone gets killed, but because we don't know why that's happening, and we also don't have any reason to suspect the POV character will lose the fight, this conflict builds no tension within the reader. At the end of the piece, you begin to hint at what the stakes are for the protagonist--I think you should do that before the fight starts. That way the reader has incentive to pay attention to the action and to care about its outcome.

250. Your Brains: Dead World

251. Javan and Dragons of Tor Akkra

252. Thistle and Slime - This is nicely written, but a little overwritten (although I loved the line "When these mood improvements came along, Lisa liked to pitch a tent right there." That's such a clever and amusing turn of phrase!). You stress the negative characteristics of each character a few too many times and a bit to emphatically. As a result, I'm finding it hard to empathize with these two. Their plot is also left vague, which means there's little here to encourage a reader to keep reading. To hook a reader's interest, you need to either create a character the reader empathizes with, or create a sticky situation that the reader becomes curious to see the protagonist get out of. This piece doesn't deliver either thing; give us a reason to want to know more?

253. Sebastian's Poet

254. Cat's entry

255. The Wolf Boy

256. Willie's entry

257. The Moment

258. Sonya Chloe Lives at the North Palace

259. Jamie's entry

260. ABC's entry

261. Road to Rune

262. What God and Cats Know

263. Max and Merlin - I love your opening paragraph! It has great humor and establishes reader empathy with the protagonist right away. It actually reminds me of J. K. Rowling when she's at her best. I think the rest of the piece is also excellent, but that it moves a little too slowly. I was slightly impatient for the narrative to get back to Max himself, rather than the hypothetical doctor's visit, even though the commentary regarding that hypothetical visit was so amusing. I think if you streamline piece this just a little, while keeping all the wonderful humor, you'll have a knock-out opening. Great work!

264. Nino

265. Symmetry - This is nicely creepy! The tension of not knowing what has come into the room will definitely keep the reader turning the pages; that's an excellent hook. There's also some very pretty writing here, but that's part of what I think might need be adjusted. The reader doesn't discover that Victoria is in danger until the fourth paragraph, although we learn she's scared in the second half of the the third one. Up until then, we don't know why we're reading the story, so I think it might be wiser to get us to the point when we know Victoria has a problem a little sooner. The descriptions of the room are evocative enough to act as foreshadowing, but they're also arguably a POV error, because Victoria wouldn't see any of that from under the covers. I almost think this opening should start at the beginning of paragraph 3, although, the wonderful description of the room does help establish your tension. Maybe just make it a little shorter?

266. Balancing Acts

267. Lorelei's entry

268. Aaron's entry

269. Clifford Garstang's entry

270. The Secrets of Harworth Castle

271. Logan W. Bauer's entry

272. Capon Frank

273. The Terrapin's Trail

274. Sedlik's Gift

275. Planes of Dominion

276. Pieces of Mind

277. Jan 29, 10:19AM Anonymous' entry

278. The Persuasion

279. Morgan's entry (Jan 29, 10:24AM Anon) - "You can't surf with one fucking arm!" is a fantastic line! There's so much humor and rage in that. Unfortunately, I had trouble with the rest of the piece, although your final sentence is also really good. My concern here was that there's no story; this is almost all introspection. Although your protagonist has an interesting and gritty voice, he has a threatening personality that prevents the reader from empathizing with him. That would be fine, provided there was either a conflict or a dilemma to draw our interest into the book. Unfortunately, there isn't yet, so although this is evocative writing, it isn't working well as an opening.

280. Gabs' entry

281. The Brokenhearted

282. Lythe Loch - This looks like a neat setup and story, and I do approve of starting with character who has a powerful and emotionally-felt goal. The writing itself needs a bit of work, however. You overuse adjectives and adverbs, and you underuse verbs and nouns. What I mean by that is that writing is always more vibrant when you choose strong nouns and verbs; you should think of adjectives and adverbs as being a crutch to be avoided. As an example of using a strong verb instead of an adjective, it's better to say "The line of people snaked down the street" than to say "The sinuous line of people stretched down the street." The reader is more likely to picture what you're describing when you use strong nouns and verbs. Try re-writing this using no adjectives or adverbs? You might be surprised at how much more visceral the scene becomes. As for content, do keep the powerful rage and lust for revenge that Lythe feels in the scene; it's great!

283. Jerry Sharpe

284. Soul Threshers

285. Cinnamon Gum Christmas

286. Rosalita - "But his probation officer had arranged it, his aunt had gotten hysterical when he’d tried to resist, and his uncle had threatened to punch him in the head." That is such an awesome line! That sentence was the point when I started to empathize with the protagonist; the mystery of the wet mortor and the foreshadowing of Luis' queasiness was already doing a good job of pulling me into the story by that point, however. Nice work! I didn't see anything here to quibble with, really (although I did spot one comma error).

287. Vigilante

288. A Tasty Murder

289. Kat's entry

290. Althrasher's entry - Nice! This has a lot of impact, and the implications of possibly violence, possibly vigilante justice, really work well to draw the reader into the story. I thought the first two paragraphs moved a bit too slowly and for a letter, the paragraph starting "Oh, God, Case..." didn't work for me--it didn't sound like the sort of thing someone would write down. Other than that, I thought this was a very well-executed piece.

291. Jan 29, 11:09AM Anonymous' entry - This is nicely written, but the internal conflict seems a bit slight. Laura wants her eyes fixed but is scared of the process. However, it really looks like she's going to go through with it, and that fact removes the scene's tension. Also, the stakes are pretty low--just money and her pride. I also didn't like the fantasy sequence at the beginning for the same reason I don't like dream sequences at the start of a book; it always feels like a false start, and thus a waste of my willingness to suspend disbelief.

292. Soul Threshers - This is all quite awesome! I love the humor, and you do a great job of letting the reader see there's an entertaining story about to unfold so that you keep their attention. There's a few places where I think you could tighten up the language a little, but not many. I really don't have much to quibble with here. Nice work!

293. Jennifer P. Jonsson's entry

294. A. V.'s entry

295. Seven Exes Are Eight Too Many

296. St. Irene Brog's entry

297. Sin of Man - The Awakening of Justice

298. Helen Incriminates Herself

299. Jamie's entry

300. Four Variations of Rachel

301. You Are Here - Great writing! You're painting in a nice interplay of interior tensions that works to draw the reader in well, and both characters are interesting and seem very real. The pain caused by the missing parakeets confused me, but otherwise I thought this was very strong.

302. Chained - This is very nice writing and the stakes are high, which is excellent. The thing that concerns me is that the protagonists are powerless to bring about the outcome they want. The little girl will either live or die, and since the reader hasn't met her yet, they have little reason to want to stick around and find out what happens. I'd suggest you delve deeper into Hastin's feelings; if we know he's suffering, then we can empathize with his pain in a way that we can't empathize with Sashi's yet. Also, if Hastin is desperately trying to think of a way to help his sister, his quest will draw the reader into the story because they'll be hoping Hastin will come up with something.

303. Nerds' entry

304. Steve's entry - This is a high stakes situation, which is excellent, and you have active characters who are easy to empathize with. The main problem I see here is that you're "telling" instead of "showing". Try to paint the scene in the reader's mind using visceral sensory details? Another issue is that while there's danger for your protagonist, there's no real conflict here. Salia doesn't come against any opposition. To get the reader curious to know what happens next, you need to make it seem as if there's a real chance the protagonist is going to fail. Maybe give Salia a really close shave?

305. Andrew K's entry

306. The Sometimes True Diary of Elizah Pine

307. Tall, Dark, and Feathered - This is cute and well-written, but the dilemma for the protagonist doesn't have very high stakes. The visions might be bothering the protagonist, but there's no pressing reason for him/her to do anything about it. Thus, the reader doesn't feel much curiosity about what happens next. This piece might work better if you gave the protagonist a serious reason to want to figure out why he/she is having visions.

308. Mann Agency - A Concept

309. A Walk Through the Andes

310. Polenth's entry

311. The Debit

312. Stew's entry

313. Blog Antagonist's entry

314. Bullies & Superheroes

315. The Un-Doers

316. The Painter's Heir

317. Kari's entry

318. Imago

319. Sheryl Van Vleck's entry

320. Dry Heat

321. Brighter Than Bright - There's some nice writing here, and you introduce some plot points early, which is good. The conflicts don't strike me as being gripping enough to draw the reader into the story, however. The stalled train and the unpaid tuition are not things the protagonist can do anything about, and he doesn't fight very for long against his claustrophobia. There's no reason to think he must do something to correct the balance of his life, so there's little to make the reader curious to know what happens to him next.

322. StirlingEditor's entry

323. Brotherhood

324. Eon's Door

325. MillhouseTheCat's entry

326. Night of the Gargoyles

327. The Malone Chronicles

328. Whiskey Lilacs

329. J. J. Cooper's entry

330. Kami's entry - This is very nicely written and you establish your character well. What concerns me is that this is all introspection and "telling". The remembrance of the stove and the dream of torture don't seem important to anything yet, and there's no dilemma or conflict to draw the reader into the story. The line about the protagonist possibly assassinating the only man who can save the world got my attention and was very intriguing, but unfortunately, I didn't feel hooked by much else in the piece.

331. Jan 29, 2:30PM Anonymous' entry

332. Liar (Angela's entry)

333. Julie Sarff!!!'s entry

334. Crimson Swarm

335. Doctor Coyote's Tumbleweed Tonic

336. Bouncin' Carl

337. Pinocchio is Punching You

338. Good Night, Odile

339. The Saturday Evening Girls

340. Tot's entry

341. Tom Chatfield's entry

342. Travels In America Deserta

343. The Take-Us

344. Joel Thomson & the Frog Netsuke

345. HurlyBurly's entry

346. Where It Wanders

347. Dead Right

348. Demon Night

349. Jen Totert's entry

350. Jan 29, 4:26PM Anonymous' entry

351. American Dragons

352. The Death of Pharaoh Tutankhamun

353. Elizabeth's entry - This is really interesting and very skillfully structured. I like the non-linear way you construct the dialogue, as it really shows what an unusual fellow Ralph is. I found a lot of things in this piece intriguing; my only concern is that the lack of a clear plot might mean you lose some readers. There are plenty of strengths in this piece, and I'd certainly keep reading, but I do think you'd need to get a more conventional plot into it relatively soon to hang onto your readers.

354. Kish's entry

355. The Empire's Edge

356. The River House

357. Midnight in the Graveyard

358. Grey

359. Eric's entry

360. The Approach of Darkness

361. Blue Screen of Death

362. Gavin's entry

363. Ramayana - Once Ram draws the gun out, this scene becomes very gripping because suddenly his situation--highly emotional and standing in a closet--makes sense. Until that point, I was quite confused and was not emotionally engaged with the story. Maybe pare down the first two paragraphs in order to get to the gun faster? That really was the moment when the scene came alive. I did notice some of your sentences didn't flow very well, so you might want to work on your sentence structure a bit.

364. Casey and the Prisoned Eight

365. Beyond the Pale

366. Timeless

367. Savage Glee - I really like the rawness of the harpy's emotions and how you get us right into her head, feeling her unhappiness. Some of the language seemed a little stilted and archaic, but that fit with the slightly alien way the harpy seems to think. I found it a bit hard to picture your scenes sometimes, and the wording occasionally seemed melodramatic, but I thought this opening was very effective and memorable. I would definitely read on.

368. Hugo Honunculus

369. Seth's entry - This is a nice high-stakes situation and the piece is well-written and effective. The concern I had here is that, because we don't know Edward yet, we have little reason to care about him. We also don't know who is chasing him, so we can't empathize with his plight either. I think the key with starting in the middle of an action-packed scene is that you need to build the reader's empathy for the character immediately. Maybe add some of Edward's introspection sooner? Once he starts thinking about lambs and Josiah, he starts seeming human and it was easier for me to care about Edward. I think the piece would be improved if you did that sooner. Also, I think you need to foreshadow his fainting with some light-headedness, because it seemed a bit too abrupt when that happened.

370. Paresh of Twilight Woods

371. The Killing Stones

372. Autophagy's entry

373. Heidi's entry

374. Must Have Teeth

375. Olga's entry

376. The Tower of Frozen Ashes

377. The Prince

378. Dr. Talcum

379. Growing Up Single

380. Rosemary's entry

381. Moonchild, a Memoir

382. The Dishonored Dead

383. The Eruption of Montaynia

384. The Woman I Used to Be

385. Marionette

386. RRDCLT's entry

387. Scotland for Writers

388. Brother Grimm's Defeat

389. Not Of This World

390. One Highland Night

391. Ballet Dreams

392. Orphans

393. The Terrorist, the Telepath and the Emperor

394. Tinderbox

395. Vast Sky

396. Megan's entry

397. Fallen Angels, Inc.

398. A Three Sisters Mystery featuring Faith, Grace and Hope

399. Brenda's entry

400. Esmitche's entry

401. The Evangeline Heresy

402. Red Wedding - That's one of the most awesome opening lines I've ever read. Brilliant! The rest of the piece has wonderful imagery and descriptions, too. I'm a little worried about the lack of a conflict or dilemma, but the storm seems to be foreshadowing disaster, and your writing voice is so engaging, that I would definitely read on. I really liked this!

403. Omn's Tears

404. Knight's Curse

405. Jennifer Hendren's entry - You've got some great humor here, a high stakes crisis brewing, and your protagonist shows signs of being a lot of fun. The thing that I think would improve this most would be to really tighten the language up. I don't have any quibbles with how you've structured the scene, but I think it could be made sharper, funnier and more effective if you streamline the writing. It bogs down, just a little bit, throughout the piece.

406. Dr. Whitcomb's Last Days - This is nice clean writing and works very well in terms of being utterly chilling, yet not so gruesome that the reader want to stop. Good work! The only thing that concerns me is that this scene doesn't have a conflict or dilemma, although it does have stakes in the sense that someone is dying. I think this scene might work fine as an opening for either a horror novel or a thriller, because your POV character does have magnetism, but the scene after this would have to get a real plot in motion. I liked this a lot, but I will note that I spotted quite a few comma errors in it.

407. Light Brightly

408. Sumit's entry

409. Subservia

410. Troy Master's entry

411. Hob An Lam - I love the character's voice in this! You've got the cadence and flow of spoken words note-perfect. I think everything after the first paragraph is very charming, but it goes on a bit too long and I think it would probably be improved by being made perhaps 30% shorter. Your protagonist is charismatic enough to hook the reader into the story, but there is no plot yet. My feeling is you should hurry the reader toward the point when there will be a little faster.

412. Ghostwriters in the Sky

413. Millie's entry

414. Hologram

415. Sarah Kathryn's entry

416. Starcaster

417. Sunny's entry

418. Fish's entry

419. TG's entry

420. Gabriel Orgrease's entry

421. Strawberry Fields Forever

422. Frank and Beans

423. The Language of Flowers

424. How I Met Noel

425. Frenzy - Nice writing and you do a good job of detailing the inner workings of Willy's mind which is key for making a killer seem chilling to the reader. The premise of this piece reminds me of Lolita, in fact, where a man's first sexual experience, had at a barely-pubescent age, results in him victimizing young girls for the rest of his life. Unfortunately, I found Willy a little cartoonish, rather than creepy. I think part of the problem is that he's too scattered; if he was solely focused on the girl and his desires, he would be a more chilling character. The reminiscences about his childhood and father are backstory, and by going into them here, you diffuse the story's tension by slowing its pace. Try keeping things focused on what Willy wants to do right in this moment? Thoughts about his father should probably wait until after the crime when (and if) he feels remorse.

426. Girls in White Jerseys

427. Moth's entry

428. Half the Girl

429. BernardL's entry

430. KissMeQuick's entry - I like how you're setting up the book's conflicts right from the beginning, and the POV character is fascinating for being so filled with emotion. However, we don't really know what the stakes are for him. Without knowing why he's so upset, it's hard for the reader to get into the story on an emotional level. Maybe delve deeper into his feelings? Really make us sense how torn up he is about that one person escaping, and let us understand the desperation that compels him to promise everything to an opportunistic creature.

431. Luck of the Draw - This is good writing, and you've got some very entertaining turns of phrase. The problem is that this whole scene is backstory. If the story starts when Chrissy wins the lottery, then you should probably dramatize that scene and start the novel there. Alternately, you could start when Chrissy has to begin dealing with everyone "under the age of dead" (I love that line!) and fill the reader in on the backstory by way of dialogue. Try to get rid of the big information dump?

432. The Wolf's Kiss

433. Repose - This is nice writing, and I think the pitch-black make-out session is very sexy, but I found myself a bit confused as to what was going on. The first four paragraphs don't contribute to the narrative and thus seem distracting. Because the soldier isn't mentioned at all until paragraph six, I wondered whether he was a ghost. But then the fact that Mairead's mother can see him implies he isn't. The story really seems to start when the mother walks in; maybe streamline and clarify everything that comes before that point?

434. Basement of the Universe - The nifty mystery of people simply disappearing is your story's hook, and I do like how you dramatize Peter forcing himself to accept the truth he doesn't want to acknowledge; you get us into his emotions well. In fact, given that you dramatize it well in the second scene, I think the first scene should be deleted--you're just "telling" what you're about to "show". I did think the piece could be improved by getting the fact that there have been other disappearances into the narrative sooner. Also, the piece is slightly overwritten in places; for example, you don't need to say "he repeated" when it's clear to the reader that Peter just repeated himself. Perhaps try to streamline the prose so that you have nothing except what's absolutely necessary?

435. DragonLady's entry

436. Spells

437. The East Bank

438. Westworld

439. Voiceless

440. J. C. Coy's entry

441. Paris Bites

442. The Spell: A McKenna Crime Novel

443. The Lost Girls

444. Neal's entry

445. Daddy's Girl

446. Between the Lines

447. Debby's entry

448. Train Watch

449. Thunderstruck

450. A Drum Is Empty

451. Liar (BevHale's entry)

452. Ros' entry

453. RPressey's entry - Your main character has a cool voice and the story's premise is a good one. My concern is that while you start strong, with something interesting happening to your protagonist, you then lapse into backstory and telling and pretty much stay in that vein right to the end of the scene. Maybe stick with your plot for a while before you shift into this? I don't think you've gripped your reader's attention firmly enough before you switch gears.

454. Cormac MacGullin and the Renaissance Faire

455. Other

456. Markbearer

457. JanB's entry

458. Smokey Days

459. Master of None

460. Jan 30, 9:08AM Anonymous' entry

461. The Color of Courage

462. Inheritance

463. Finding SImmie

464. For Love or Ravioli

465. Maureen's entry

466. Pumpkin Patch Kids (2) - This has a sharp conflict, the protagonist is funny and comes across as smart, and you do a good job of making the class work as a single group character (rather than confusing the reader with a bunch of character names at this point). However, I found the piece a bit wordy and I think that detracts from an otherwise strong opening. Try to streamline it a bit, particularly in the first half? (Version 2 Comment) In reading this a second time, I don't really think it's too wordy, so take my original criticism with a grain of salt! :-)

467. Intensive Care

468. The Right Type

469. Dark Touch

470. Black Heart on the Appalachian Trail

471. Sindee Sexton's entry

472. For the Greater Good of Mann

473. Model Soldier

474. An Aspiring Writer's entry

475. Lucifer's Porsche - Your first sentence is awesome! I also liked the humor of Satan being morose about his job. However, this scene doesn't have a particularly strong conflict or high stakes (for Satan, anyway), and I didn't think the humor was sufficient to pull the reader into the scene. I'd suggest trying to streamline a bit, so there's less time spent on the maiming of bodies, and linger longer over Satan's mopey dissatisfaction. Try to really sharpen the humor? The humor is what's going to hook the reader in this opening.

476. Dragon Son

477. Getting Lucky

478. Jan 30, 9:45AM Anonymous' entry

479. Elladog's entry

480. Bad Spelling

481. Tara's entry

482. Cindy's entry

483. In the Pundit's Corner

484. BarbaraKE's entry

485. Adrift

486. Glimmer in the Shadows

487. Not All Sidewalks Are Created Equal - The opening letter is cute, and your writing style is clean and fresh. My main concern is that all the characters seemed like caricatures. I think the problem is that you aren't delving very deeply into any of them--either emotionally or in terms of what really motivates them. Try to add some inner dimensions to each one? When your characters behave unexpectedly, it helps make the reader curious to know more about those characters. Aso, I had a bit of trouble figuring out what age group Angelica was in. A boy being willing to sling his arm around a girl seems like teenager behavior, yet the characters are so young they should be at the "Ew! Boy/Girl-cooties!" stage.

488. Jan 30, 10:30AM Anonymous' entry

489. Sworn Honor

490. Tanaquill

491. The Rise of Emperor Mole

492. Love on the Run

493. SFWriter's entry

494. Tuesday

495. Kristin's entry

496. Of Rats and Men

497. The Menorah, the Vampire, and the Velvet Elvis - You establish a great conflict in this scene! All the well-meant lies ramp up the tension nicely, and your final sentence has wonderful irony. My only concern was that the piece seems a little overwritten. There were several places where I thought if you streamlined everything a bit, you would really improve the impact of the scene. Try to sleek this down by removing all unnecessary words? I think you've got the kernel of a great scene here; it just needs a bit of editing to really shine.

498. Take Wing

499. Reigning Cats and Dogs

500. Straka's entry

501. Go, Look in the Mirror

502. Breathing in the Clouds

503. CMH's entry

504. The Barber's Battle

505. Aged Out: Essays of a Forgotten Child

506. Medium Rare

507. A Widow's Journey

508. Rock of Ages

509. Ryuu Takeshi

510. Fatman and the Dwarf

511. Destiny

512. Ghosts of the Lowcountry

513. Tall, Dark and Exotic

514. Don't Look Back

515. The Oddballs - Armed Robbery

516. Parchment of Roses

517. Sacred Cycles

518. CCC's entry

519. Heir of the Line

520. Tender Mercies

521. Elfin Gold

522. Triangles

523. Murder on a Moonlit Sea

524. AfterQuest

525. Run!

526. Carolyn Chambers Clark's entry

527. Raven's War

528. A Midsummer's Revenge - I really like the way you show Sam's inner conflict; a scared assailant is unexpected and thus appealing. However, while Sam's apprehension makes him sympathetic, the fact that he's going to beat someone up in cold blood does the opposite, and I think that's working against you here. I think you could hook the reader more effectively if it was really uncertain whether Sam was going to beat up Hollingsworth or chicken out entirely. Make the conflict stronger by making the outcome less certain?

529. Curiosity: Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer

530. Curse of the Carousel

531. Some Assembly Required

532. Urban Fantasy

533. Good Housekeeping

534. Luc's entry

535. The Scip's entry

536. The Girl Who Cried Squid

537. Shadoweave - You establish a mystery right away and do your world-building at the same time, which is excellent. The first few paragraphs are "telling", but I was interested anyway because you establish your tension so well with Lark's illness and confusion. The main concern I had was that the piece is wordy in places where it shouldn't be. Some of the sentences are too long and some of the dialogue should be briefer, given the stress of the situation. Also, if Lark is ill and worried, she shouldn't pause to inform the reader of Falcoun's backstory and her own appearance. Streamline this a little? Most of the information you remove can be slipped into the story later, where it won't bog down the narrative.

538. The Vegas Affair

539. Failure to Compute

540. Dr. K. Armah's Surgery for Cases Most Curious

541. Eric's entry (The Fireball)

542. Diamonds Are For Never

543. Cook Down

544. NancyFulda's entry

545. Bonnie's entry

546. All the Revolutionairies Are Dead - A Memoir

547. Burning Woods

548. Scissors

549. Jen's entry

550. The Colony

551. Savannah Oak

552. Horus Reborn

553. Caspian's Eye

554. Starving for Life

555. Render Loving Care, The Story of a C.I.A. Kidnappee

556. Haggis' entry - This is funny and well-written, and I see a lot of promise here in that you have some good conflicts set up. However, I think this is a piece that could be improved by streamlining. There were places where I thought the impact would be improved just by deleting a few sentences or words. For example, if your first sentence was deleted, I think your second sentence would draw the reader in better for that. You could also delete the sentence starting with "I know he means well, but..." and I think that paragraph would grab the reader's attention more. Likewise, deleting the word "but" to separate your fifth paragraph into the following two sentences: "Earl nodded in agreement. I knew he didn't mean it" would emphasize the conflict between these two characters. The other thing I'll mention is that Mary is not coming across as a realistic girl. She should be a little weirded out by Bobby talking to himself, even if she likes him, and most girls would feel disconcerted and become quiet before they decided someone was a pervert and became angry at him.

557. El Ladron: A Novel of Ancient Spain

558. Down Will Come Baby: How Postpartum Depression Made Me a Better Mother

559. Gabor's entry

560. Dates and Knowledge

561. Sucker Punch

562. Lonestar2007's entry

563. Shift Happens

564. Selatious' entry

565. Moonlight

566. Silk

567. Saving Merci

568. Kiril's Daughter

569. Ghost Machine - This is really well written and the dialogue is very believable. You're also establishing conflict early on, which is great. However, if Greg's experiment is dangerous, the reader hasn't really been made aware of that yet, so the scene's tension is only coming from Greg wanting to make Christopher believe in him. That's a fairly low-stakes conflict. Also, we don't find out what the experiment is for quite a while, and even then, I wasn't too clear on what Greg is trying to do. Electricity does flow through the air when the voltage is high enough, although it doesn't do so in a safe manner. Maybe explain the situation to the reader a bit better so we understand why Christopher is leaving and what level of fame Greg is aiming for?

570. The Face of a Lion

571. Criminal Promises

572. Betsy's entry

573. Jude Mason's entry - You have some very nice scene-setting here and the piece is well-written. The only conflict, however, is Jax against the rain, and that's not enough to engage the reader's curiosity about what will happen next. The scene reads a bit slow because we don't know yet why Jax is interesting or why we should care about what he's doing. I'd recommend starting a bit later in the story, when Jax is about to either have a higher-stakes dilemma to worry about than getting wet, or is about to get into a conflict with someone/thing. You can weave the scene-setting in as you go along, but I think this opening needs something to hook the reader's interest a little more strongly.

574. Discord & Rhyme

575. Morning Scribbler's entry

576. Old Blood's Fate

577. The Last Machiner

578. Nine Lives, Two Down

579. Ulysses' entry

580. Prickly-Pear Jam

581. A Distant Thunder

582. The Bitter Taste of the World Snake's Tale

583. Stan's entry

584. ChosenStrain

585. Melinda's entry - This is nicely written and I like the punchy flow the protagonist's interior monologue has. It makes her seem realistic and likeably edgy. My concern here is that nothing really happens until the end of this piece. The conflict is interior (the protagonist is hungry and is freaking herself out) and does not appear to have very high stakes. That's not really enough to draw the reader into the story, although the engaging voice of the protagonist does help a lot. Maybe pare down the interior dialogue and get her to the haunted house faster?

586. Alex Morgan, The Westwinter Case

587. StiflersMom's entry

588. Victory of Fists

589. AerialScribe's entry

590. Zombie Wedding

591. Rise fo the Underland

592. Don't Mind If I Do

593. Mark D's entry

594. The Law of the Splintered Paddle

595. Donna's entry

596. Jan 30, 4:19PM Anonymous' entry

597. Broken Mirrors - You have some awesome humor here; I particularly liked "this brilliant ocean of wrongness" and the cockatiel named Igor. Your humor is the hook for this piece, and although you have some very funny bits, I thought they were a little too widely spaced to effectively hook the reader's interest. You slow things down by spending too much time on matters and actions of little consequence. The potion failed, so Winnie should get it cleaned up fast. The aunt doesn't need to be described in depth because we haven't met her. The fact that Winnie practices in a cave is not interesting, so deal with that fact quickly. It's conflicts that hold a reader's attention, so try to get to one quickly? The humor will draw the reader in and keep them reading, but I think you need to get to your plot faster. I'd suggest looking for all the places where you're "telling" the reader something instead of "showing" them, and then streamline those passages ruthlessly.

598. Katherine LW's entry

599. For Sparta

600. Richard's entry

601. Adam's entry

602. The Notebooks

603. Shattered World

604. Lisa's entry

605. Michelle's entry

606. Flight

607. Ruth's entry

608. Promises

609. Sealed

610. Jarri and the Legend of Surfers' Hollow

611. Phishing for Jesus

612. Out of Darkness

613. Last Straw

614. Sheri's entry

615. The Pirate Princess of the Desert

616. Castor's entry

617. The Bear Riders

618. Romeo, Unbound

619. Hammurabi Road

620. Missing Clayton

621. Playing with the Tiger

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