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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Writing Challenges » 'No Hook' Challenge - Entries

Author Topic: 'No Hook' Challenge - Entries
Member # 8714

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I will post the entries in this thread.


1st Place - #13 The Aurium Assignment - tesknota

2nd Place (TIE) -
# 10 The Sea Folk from the Sky - pdblake
# 21 Mobius In-Kleined - Brendan

3rd Place - # 4 Blood on the Bathroom Floor - pdblake

Best Title (3-way Tie)

#14Chimes in the Ether
#18 Translucent Madness
#25 The Twenty-Three Thousand Four Hundred Fifty-Six Laws of Nanobotics

Please reserve conversation for:

[ March 26, 2013, 09:49 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 1

Flowers for the Wicked

The moonlight that coaxed tiny slivery-blue reflections from the limbs of trees did not do quite the same justice to the shattered bones erupting from within ragged wounds that had been hacked deep into living flesh through the rent and torn remnants of mail hauberks. Instead of turning the edges and tips of leaves into touches of light, the moonlight picked out the shattered, torn and twisted edges of rings of steel that had failed utterly in their intent. As a counterpoint to the light, inky, blue-black shadows pooled on and under the corpses wherever they might, favouring wounds, the sunken hollows of eyes and cheeks, and the open mouths screaming out their final agonies for all eternity; all the while making it appear as if some noisome liquid had settled there.


--Not hooked. Interesting wording, though cumbersome in places. No focal point or question raised to hook me.

--Really vivid description, and really gory. Maybe a bit too free with the adjectives for my taste. The writing is fine, but I’m not a fan of horrendous carnage. I probably would not read on.

-- The sentence length made it difficult the first time I read this. But a re-read made me realise what I was reading, and started to enjoy the experience. Shorter sentences around the critical clues would have helped me identify which clues are important to the story, and which are simply description that creates the milieu.

--That first sentence, typos aside, took the wind out of me. The second sentence threw me out altogether. I'm not sure if you're trying to suggest that moonlight picks and chooses what it shines on or not. Either way it's all just a bit confusing.

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: “did not do quite the same justice” threw me off—would rather see moon on the trees. Then moon on the bones. It’s too wordy for my taste.

--Elegant description, but it made for tedious reading. After the wretched description of the battlefield, what else is there to look forward to? I'm not sure that I would continue.

--It appears to fit the challenge parameters. A bit confusing . . . did someone lose a battle, or someone win it. Though that could be the hook.

-- Descriptive but that first sentence was a mouthful. Would read on but I’m expecting a better to beat it for this contest. Only the first entry, so far…

--I liked the word choices used in this opening, the idea of moonlight coaxing and bones erupting. The imagery was intense. I did feel that there was too much all at once though. The sentences were packed with information and ran long. I had to reread this a few times to grasp
all the elements that were being introduced. If I were just casually picking up this book, I probably would not read on because I wouldn't fully understand this at first read through. Having a bit less in here would probably have helped, because I did really like the language.

--First two sentences are way too long and heavy and the description doesn't draw me in. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:14 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 2

Kernel of Truth

Belief may not be your friend in this story. Indeed, my words may be entirely false and that's for you to decide, but then I've come from a place where there are no barriers to pawning off a lie. Oh, you might say, that here in this tavern you can prevaricate all you want, but would you trust a money changer or a lover or a priest who could not be relied on for the truth? Yet the country exists, I assure you, where from the moment a babe issues forth from its mother's womb, it's confronted with the harsh, cold realities of life and may not choose to cry, for the very act of complaint may reveal a kernel of truth that might be construed as weakness. A child who steals an apple may come home, acting innocent, and after lying about the theft, might very well receive a pat on the head for an outstanding performance.



--Not hooked. Somewhat interesting, if far-fetched, representation of a place, but no real question to focus or hook me.

--The voice is good here; I imagine myself being regaled by some shifty looking fellow as I lean over my ale. My problem is that the idea of a country of liars doesn’t really pique my interest that much. I might read a bit further, but not much unless something amazing happened.

-- Great opening line. But to me the remainder of the paragraph seemed to be setting out the character and their untrustworthiness. So it missed the brief.

--Quite like the premise but not sure I like the idea of having to make up my own mind about whether the whole story is a pack of lies or not. Surely the writing should draw me to one conclusion or another.

--Rules: Broken; narrator as character. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Last sentence is good hook, but previous wordiness did not appeal.

--The use of "my" in the first sentence puts it in someone's VP, so that wouldn't meet the challenge by my criteria. The idea is a bit convoluted and I found no hook, for me.

-- Intriguing but I don’t believe this complies with the rules, as I understand them. The narrator refers to his own story, which I believe makes him the protagonist.

--What I like most about this opening is the premise. A world where lying is praised and telling the truth is a sign of weakness? Interesting. I am not sure though if a baby would care what society thinks about his crying. However, there were a couple of references to an "I", which in my opinion is a direct reference to self, which breaks rule #2 of this challenge.

--I think the idea behind this is good, but the tone is so haughty that I have trouble believing this character is from a land of liars. I'd like to see this told with more edge and attitude. I might read on but the tale had better be very interesting.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:16 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 3

The Dustmen

Silent was the bog as the Tanquo crept home. The birds of the bayou looked down from the slumbering spider willows and refused to call as the procession of six Tanquo, three to a side, guided a skiff heaped with the spoils taken from the lower tribes. Blood dripped from their spears and blades to swirl in their wake, but no giant crocfish followed their scent, no water snake licked at their trail. The water of the bayou made mud of their lower halves while their upper bodies cracked and peeled into a fine, lingering cloud of dust. No insect fluttered in that cloud, no buzzing fly or mosquito dared to land on the Tanquo. The men did not look about, did not fancy or gawk. They marched home and the bayou held its breath at their passing. These Tanquo were dustmen, and the dustmen were death.



--Good imagery. There might be a slight question raised of where they are going and to what end. I'll still read at least a little while longer on because of the imagery.

--Nicely done. Really deft writing that sparked clear images in my head. Love the amount of world building and description you managed, especially loved crocfish. I would read on.

-- Nice bookend lines. Between was a lot of information about the world. “The birds… looked down” set a distance for that information that kept me at a length. (I suspect mine will have similar comments.)

--I found this a bit confusing. I picture, at first, a group of men rowing a boat of some kind, then suddenly they are half mud and half dust, then men again. Not sure it hooks me enough to try and muddle through it.

--Rules: the dustmen seem like characters to me… Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: Like the title. Like the idea, the menace. Didn’t like “Silent was the bog”—the bog was silent. Very much liked how the animals left them alone.

--The idea of the Tanquo repelling every living thing stretched my suspension of disbelief past the limit. I might move on, I might not.

--Meets the challenge. Makes me wonder . . .who are the Dustmen? Which is a nice hook.

-- Good finishing line. Also descriptive but the hook isn’t so sharp at this point. I’d keep reading for now.

--Quite a grim image here. I thought this opening gave a great description of what the Tanquo are by revealing how they affected their immediate environment. I did get thrown off in this sentence: "The men did not look about, did not fancy or gawk." Up til this point, I thought Tanquo were not human. If I am right in thinking these "men" are the Tanquo, then I think this sentence can be thrown out. The last sentence is powerful enough in explaining that Tanquo
are more or less human. I loved the description, and I would probably read on.

--The opening sentences almost lost me as the language is a bit clumsy. The end had me, but I think this could be a lot stronger. This opening needs more powerful words put together more evocatively. I would probably read on though.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:17 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 4

Blood On The Bathroom Floor

There's an old terracotta planter in the back yard. It's big enough to take a bath in and should have given in to the weather years ago, but it never did. It's filled with bulbs and brightens the garden for most of the year. In spring there are crocuses and narcissi, tulips and anemones. Hyacinths poke through later on, then gladioli and begonias in the summer. Snow that should have finished it long ago settles over the top in winter, but the thing always kept going.

This year, with the very last frost of spring, it shattered, scattering compost and bulblets all over the floor. It was right about the same time that he knocked on the door. It was a sign, maybe, that nothing was ever going to be the same, not ever again.



--Interesting mix of imagery and foreboding, and just enough question raised by the knock on the door. Who is it, and why is he trouble? I'll read to find out.

--I liked this, liked how the opening is a clean and clear description of a familiar object, and how its destruction might be a harbinger of something else. I’m not completely hooked, but I’d read on to find out who HE was.

-- The first paragraph was interesting in an earthy way. Detailed, I want to find out both the symbolic and/or literal meaning of the planter. However, the second paragraph introduced a key character (against the brief) and the link between him and the planter needed a little more resonance than simply that changes were around the corner.

--Rules: “he” is a character, and I suspect the narrator is one as well. Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: Liked very much, except for the title.

--I like its literary manner and feel. I think it still needs massaging to get just the right kind of feel to the mood, which I sense as melancholy. However, I’d alter the second-last sentence to something like this: Just after that, he knocked on the door.

--I'm quite sure that I'll be the same after I read this. I really didn't make the connection with the big pot to the visitor and that made the first 13 fall a little flat.

--My top pick. Nice description of the planter and flowers with no speaker VP and then a really nice hook at the end with the knock on the door.

--I can’t really put a finger on why but this entry has me. Has to be the quality writing that I am seeing. Shows a promise that this simple opening is the beginning of something special.

--This opening is very easy to read, and mentions a bunch of flowers which puts me in a mellow mood. I liked this opening, but I would feel somewhat misled if this terracotta planter did not play a rather large part in the story that follows. I thought the second paragraph made for a great transition. I am rather curious as to who this "he" is, and that would make me read on.

--I'm not crazy for the precognitive hook and it feels a bit forced. My fear is this might be gimmicky or cliché, but I don't think I would read on to find out.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:18 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 5

On the Religious Rites of the Snoddrill

No, not the Snordle. Those Snordle, with their effervescent rationalistic viewpoint, wouldn’t know a religious rite if it were jammed down their ethane breathing-straws. And not the Snoggill either. Their “religious” coming-of-age “ceremony”, where they writhe away the last days of childhood in a puerile swill of ammonia mud, ingesting “oxygen dihydride crystals”, can only be compared to a college “frat party”.

No, I mean the Snoddrill, emphasis on the double “d” and the trill at the end. Said with a whistle like a lark, overlaid with a desnotting of each of their five fluted nostrils. This species speaks religious reverence from the heart of their disgorgeable stomachs to the cillia of their electro-sensitive corpuscles. What species wouldn’t, if they had to face their life cycle?



--I don't like that it plays off the title--it's sort of like breaking the fourth wall, but that's just me. Good voice that raises expectations. Good questions raised--what is so awe inspiring or terrible about their life-cycle and how do they cope with it?

-- I must confess that I have no interest in Snordles, Snoggills, OR Snoddrills, despite the clever opening. The writing is wonderful, pleasantly pretentious. The narrator’s voice is so well developed here that I can almost visualize a character intoning the words with a slightly nasal quality. Alas, I would likely not read on.

-- Humor can be a risk in these challenges. The last line doesn’t quite feel right to me, perhaps missing an And at the start.

--I like this, it seems very Dr Seuss and I would read on to find put just where it is going.

--Rules: narrator ( “I” ) is a character. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Liked the scientific details, interesting experiment.

--This has all of the makings of a very very short story. I'm not into un-relatible alien species, so the genre put this at a disadvantage for me. I did like the voice and the imagination, though.

--Uses "I", which places is in the narrator's VP. The end is confusing . . . face their life cycle. Need to know some kind of idea why their life cycle is problematic.

-- Like the vision of the Snordle you created but I believe this entry doesn’t comply with rules either. The narrator is clearly the protagonist referencing the antagonist in his own dilemma.

--I sense a mock scientific paper coming up. I liked the executions of the comparisons and descriptions. I did not like all those quotes around the words in the first paragraph - that was a bit much. The reading was easy and enjoyable enough, but I would not read on because the Snordle and Snoggill and Snoddrill sound really gross and I personally have a phobia of slimy things. But this is not your fault. =)

--The frat party line is weak; the description sounds far more epic than a frat party so that description diminishes the idea. But I like the second paragraph and the convoluted, complex aliens. I would read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:20 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 6

Dead Hand Control

Did you know you can't slander a dead man? After you die, anyone can spread malicious falsehoods about you with impunity.

In death you lose the right to your good name, just like your right to vote. Copyright on the other hand is one of the few rights that survive death. Even so your post-mortem control over your literary property is strictly limited by law.

The principle behind this deprivation of rights was stated by, of all people, Thomas Jefferson: "The dead should not rule the living." But why call the dead exercising normal property rights tyranny? Because the dead aren't participants in society. You can't actually consult a dead man about what to do with his literary property. Or so the reasoning went.

And therein lay a business opportunity.



--I don't like the question at the beginning. I think a statement would be better. The copyright part was kind of a distraction. Still, the question raised about a business opportunity related to the exposition will keep me reading.

-- I like the intimacy of this opening. Felt like I was being directly addressed, and that tends to draw a reader in for sure. The first sentence was wonderful, but those following began to make me feel as if I was sitting through a lecture. Last sentence saved the whole thing, with its set-up of nefarious behavior to come. Not sure how long I would read on, though.

-- I like the last line. So full of room for story potential. Hooked me.

--This sounds like someone devising some kind of scam. I get this stuff in email every day, not sure I'd read on. There's just nothing there that grabs my interest.

--Rules: I expect an “I” to pop up at any moment, so its borderline. Keep Reading: A bit more. Feedback: Too much tease, not enough substance. But I do like the last sentence, so I’d read a bit more to see if you can hook me.

--It was the last sentence that really hooked me, but the preceding set-up was absolutely necessary to pull it off. It was a tight finish, and was only just pipped at the post by Entry 4.

--I liked this one because it was subtle in building up it's premise. It talks about death and the legalities associated with it. Then it turns that around with the last line. We are always looking for hair brained schemes of making money and profit somehow, and this one piqued my interest precisely because of that. I'd love to find out more about this 'business opportunity' that surrounds dead people. Does it have something to do with raising the dead so that they can speak for their own rights, or is it about stealing dead identities and using them up? Hopefully the former.

--This just stopped short of being very interesting. I think it needed a bit more of an indication of the genre. Is this going to be a story where the dead communicate with the living or a story of a rather unethical lawyer. I need just a little more to drive me on.

--Meets the challenge. Nice hook at the end.

-- Intrigued but the opening comes off as too clinical to be a hook, at this point.

-- While I'm not super thrilled by the title, I think the overall premise is really interesting. I'd say this one could be filled to the brim with awesome sauce.

--This is a humorous opening with a very intriguing 13th line. I really liked it overall, especially the part with Thomas Jefferson – that made me laugh. I would read on. And if this was not supposed to be slightly funny, I apologize for grossly misinterpreting your work.

--Not sure where this is going and the 'business opportunity' isn't intriguing without having a clue what it is. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:23 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 7


Hot wax dripped over the ancestral bones on the altar. Decades of worship distorted their alien origins, the accumulation of drippings in the oversized eye sockets making them look almost human. Rose tinted shafts of light shone through relics of times and religions past, times of ignorance. There was no God, no ancient deities; aliens were not gods – as evidenced by the failure of the mortal form that lay here. The homage left was to victory over those false masters, the vanquishing of blindness and futility.

Then the Vichrel came. If ever there was a need for ignorance and blind faith, the time was now. Planet after planet fell to the devastation of their wrath, no pockets of survivors allowed to remain. Utter annihilation the only balm for their hatred.

In this dark cathedral at the edge of the galaxy, the seeds of new faith sprouted…



--The "need for ignorance and blind faith" doesn't make sense and distracts. The question about what this new faith was mixed with the imagery and impending doom will make me read at least a little further.

-- Some really nice images drawn here with the shafts of light and the hot wax dripping on the altar. Then I had the thought that candles and aliens were perhaps anomalous. Maybe not, science fiction is really not my background, but I tend to think shiny metal objects and lights that don’t involve fire when considering alien planets. The writing is fine, but I probably would not read on.

-- Not bad. Sets a well-paced scene and then introduces a compelling antagonistic force. The last line was a third direction change, one that resonated with the opening line, but put a glaze over the previous paragraphs that made it all new again. Nicely done.

--I like the premise here, it shows that the aliens, who are presumably invading, can be defeated without making it seem a forgone conclusion. I'd read on.

--Rules: Excellent obedience to the constraints. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Too wordy, nothing I can really grab on to as something I care about.

--This first 13 is tantalizes as a cross genre story. I wanted to know more about the seeds than the Vichrel and I think the precious words of the beginning were squandered with their description rather than a little more setup to the story—that is unless the character would be introduced in the next sentence. I have enough curiosity to continue.

--First paragraph a bit wordy, but nice second with a good hook. Meets challenge

-- Good but there is too many disconnected subplots at this point. I’m sure it’ll make sense but at this point I’m wondering what this is all about. Hooked me, nevertheless.

--This opening paints a haunting image. I especially like the secondaragraph with the Vichrel (Daleks, anyone?). Here's the only thing I want to mention: I can connect the first paragraph to the third paragraph, the second paragraph to the third paragraph, but I can't seem to connect the first paragraph to the second paragraph. Or rather, more accurately, I'm confused about time and placement. I would probably read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:24 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 8

The Awakening Box

The box sat distended at the window, gathering dust and age. A price tag once decorated its smooth mahogany exterior, but as time petrified the wood it also deteriorated the paper. Since the automated teller had no way of knowing the price of the box, the box could never be sold. Faint marks etched upon its surface revealed that the box might once have had a name or a purpose. Now, it was a mere curiosity – a permanent decoration at a shop window.

But on one rainy midnight, as no one watched, the box experienced the slightest of shudders. A few flecks of dust floated down onto the display stand.

Because the box, though it appeared empty, was not. The box held
something that was infinitely precious, something not even time could corrupt. A thousand years ago, ships had been sent...



--Question raised--what's in the box? I'll read a little further to find out.

-- This one filled me with questions, the nitpicky kind. Surely the shop owners kept some sort of inventory that would describe the item and its price? If the fact that there is an automated teller implies that no one living actually staffs the shop, that just strikes me as a very bad business model. And what is meant by the box sitting distended at the window? Is the box bulging? I probably would read on for another page to try and answer some of these questions for myself, but I’m engaged by the logic questions, not by the story itself.

-- The first paragraph really worked for me. The second paragraph hinted that this was a fairy tale, aimed at kids (“rainy midnight, when no one watched”). The opening line of the third paragraph seemed to confirm the target age by stating the obvious, and thus lost the impact that the earlier writing had on me.

--My first thought was, that's not a very good way of selling things. Then you told me the box was in the window, again. I was kind of intriqued though, all the same, then, on the cusp of a hook, you dived into back story in the last sentence and lost me.

--Rules: Excellent obedience to the constraints. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Goes on too much about this box which isn’t particularly interesting. Finally it shuddered, but I’m still left hanging with nothing really happening. The “something” needs more definition (what IS it?) to catch my attention.

--Use of the word distended in describing a smooth mahogany box jarred me right out of the beginning. I did like the hook and the auto-teller introduced the genre nicely. I'd probably continue.

--Meets challenge. Though it appears to end rather abruptly. Good foreboding of something in the box.
-- You had me but the story began to slip into an info-dump. Too bad because it was my leading candidate until that point.

--A wooden box would neither become distended or petrify from sitting there. These things threw me out. Then the focus goes from the box to ships from a thousand years ago; the shift is disorienting. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:26 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 9

Trapped Souls

Blotchy blue moonlight penetrated the only window.

On the floorboards, a chewed pencil lay where it landed among paint flakes and bits of crumbling canvas. Seven brown-stained cotton balls sat on a note at the edge of the table.

All around the room, old oil paintings leaned against each other and the cracked plaster walls. Some faced the room, others faced the wall. Above them, constellations of nail holes and hooks revealed where masterpieces once hung alongside the efforts of lesser hands.

The room reeked of pine pitch and mildew. Razor blades and half-crushed tubes of paint lay scattered near the brown cotton, and a collection of worn brushes stood among them, dark handles shoved into an old water glass. A cloud passed.



--Not hooked. No question raised for me

-- I especially like the first sentence, and “constellations of nail holes” is great. Some of the description was awesome, but as a whole it seemed like minutiae. The brown-stained cotton balls grossed me out. Maybe paint-stained instead? I probably would not read on, because I have no idea why I’m being shown this room in such painstaking detail.

-- This is well written milieu, but didn’t offer any hook that moved the story. In this challenge, nice description is not enough, it still needs to carry some story.

--You paint a decent picture here, though you need to check your grammar. Unfortunately picture is all I'm getting. There's no hook, just a room and artistic paraphernalia.

--Rules: Excellent obedience to the constraints. Keep Reading: Maybe. Feedback: Nice tone, but too still, nothing happens. The passing cloud made me think nothing ever will happen.

--The title is the only thing that would keep me going since there is no indication of genre in this first 13. The last phrase 'a cloud passed' fell rather flat and held no meaning for me.

--Meets part of the challenge as it's descriptive, but boring. It's just someone telling us what is in the room, which is nothing interesting or stimulating to make me want to read more. No hook.

-- Descriptive but nothing to pull me in, yet.

--I really love the vintage feel in this opening. For some reason, I think this scene would be more spectacular during sunset rather than at night, but I'm not the author. I love how you use the word
"constellations" to describe the ceiling, and this whole scene is nostalgic like a neglected artist's studio. Upon second read, there was a more sinister feel because I considered the title. I would read on.

--Absolutely nothing is going on here. The scene is static, and there's no sense of story. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:28 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 10

The Sea Folk From The Sky

First contact wasn't all it was cracked up to be. For a start not many saw any aliens, just those big, shiny ships they came in. And there was no contact. They dropped in like metal fireballs, straight into the ocean, and no one ever saw them again, save the one that missed altogether and smeared itself all down main street and came to a fiery halt in the window of Masie's Dress Emporium. That one made contact alright. Masie had the tentacles stuffed and uses them to display scarves on.

That was seven years ago and no one had seen one since. Not that we didn't look. We raked through every cubic centimetre of water from here to New Point harbour and not a sign.

Then one showed up this morning on the beach, and it didn't look happy. Not at all.



--What's the creature want? That question will keep me reading.

-- I love the way this is written in a very natural, conversational tone. Like a regular Joe is relating an experience. The humongous sentence that starts, “They dropped in like metal…” really needs to be broken up, in my opinion, but I would read on.

-- I loved this until the last eight words. If it is the first we have seen of one, how does the narrator know its emotional state by looking?

--Rules: “We” implies “I” (and so does the distinct voice), so character intrusion violates the constraints. Not to mention Masie & the alien! Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: I like the voice, the attitude, and the story idea. It would have gotten a vote, if not for the constraint violations.

--Perhaps it is the current mood I’m in but it has just the right amount of mystery with a dry wit. The only thing I’d add to it is to change the last sentence to: No, not happy at all.

--The tense change in the stuffed tentacles sentence threw me out of the beginning, but I liked the hook. I'd read on.

--Meets challenge, maybe. Does the "we" in second paragraph place it in someone's VP? I loved the hook, so it got my vote.

-- Okay, you have me, although the narrator sounds like the protagonist, which I believe is what we were supposed to avoid.

--A lighthearted alien invasion! The part with Masie's Dress Emporium made me laugh, and Masie should definitely be one of the main characters in the story. The ending made me want to read on. However, there were a couple of references to "we", which I think kind of breaks rule #2 of the challenge.

--I'm having trouble suspending disbelief here. Too many things don't make sense. However, I'm mildly curious if it gets to the meat of things right away. I might read on a little bit.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:29 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 11

Still Waters

Farmers claimed they could smell the essences thrown into the air from the great potion still at Brandonwater from four leagues away. Yet, the gnomes of the city continued brewing gargantuan vats of alcoholic liquids that possessed 'extra special' properties. Those lucky few, who had taken the factory tour, unanimously marveled at the still itself.

Shiny tubes of all colors and sizes, flasks and coils, columns and cones, channeled the various gnomish brews through magical and profane pathways that led to the enchanted liquors. The precise flow through the multitude of combinations led to remarkably different results, be they deadly, delectable, deforming, delirious, deceiving, or disabling, all exiting from the same spigot.


--Not hooked. It's an interesting idea, but no question was raised to draw me in.

-- You had me at gnome. I actually struggled with the wording of the first sentences, but I like the promise of something Delightful which I get in this 13, and I’d certainly read on.

-- This certainly would keep me reading. Chock full of ideas, even Brandonwater (Brandon can mean “fiery”, so it is a nice play on words). Loved it.

--Intresting, but is it going anywhere? There is an intriguing set up here but I'm not sure I'm feeling the hook. It could also do with being tightened up a bit,

--Rules: Followed well. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: First sentence is too long without a breather. Mildly interesting idea but I’m not hooked yet.

--Meets challenge. Nice description of the place and tubes. Hook I assume was supposed to be everything coming out of the same spigot . . . yes?

-- Liked the approach but the last sentence had an overload of D’s.

--I'm thinking Willy Wonka sets up a factory in Oz. I enjoyed this opening, and I liked all those 'd' words in the last sentence. This opening had a comical feel to it. It did take me a while to realize that the "city" was Brandonwater, which caused a bit of confusion. Otherwise, I would read on to see what happens.

--This opening is unfocused. I don't know what's important or how it might lead to a story.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:30 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 12

Spectrum Gamma: All These Colors

The aurora weaved its feathered tendrils across the sky, at times throbbing the heavens into ephemeral spirals, other times degenerating into the chaotic mien of dragon’s breath. Magnetic lines wrestled the solar wind at the edge of the magnetosphere; fluctuating, diverging and reconnecting, occasionally letting the sun’s bombardment slip through its defences. Local knots of concentrated ions, emergent from the evolving skirmish, followed Birkeland currents through these holes and streamed down into the ionosphere. Cyan wept indigo tears, as wisps of nitrogen and oxygen provided the second line of defence. The ions slowed and then reversed their flow, deflected back into space. Riding their backs, mites of dust drifted out of the stream and fell Earthward - nanobots, ambassadors from long dead civilisations.



--I found the descriptive part to be somewhat cumbersome and it diverted from the subject and the action rather than reveal it. Almost lost me, but the final line provided enough question to keep me reading.

-- Really dense, this. The writing is fine, perhaps slightly purple in spots, but I realize you might be creating a mood here. I probably would not read on.

-- Possibly a bit poetic for the hard science fiction crowd, and too sciency for the rest.

--Like this. It felt like a colourful physics lesson for a moment, then something different enough to make me want to turn the page happened in that last sentence.

--Rules: Followed well. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Too flowery, nothing really happening, I’m not hooked.

--Although the aspect of long dead civilizations is a bit tantalizing, there is no tension to the beginning, only description. Why should I read on? I know that there are colors and nanobots, but what are they to me? I couldn’t answer.

--Meets challenge, but too much jargon at the beginning, so you kinda lost me. Start slow with so much jargon.

-- My head swam trying to absorb the physics in your description.

--This paints a beautiful image, but takes a lot of work to read and comprehend. There's a lot packed into one little space. I like the scientific terms adjacent to colors and actions. The description itself is nice, but I'd be more likely to read on if there was a bit less description.

-- Lots to wade through and I can't see why. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:31 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 13

The Aurium Assignment

The assignment was to bring back a fresh piece of Aurium.

Aurium itself is not hard to come by. Commoners keep collections of Aurium as mementos of their departed. Nobles line their walls with vast amounts of Aurium ore. Aurium appears in markets more often than most gems of similar size. Procuring a piece of Aurium is easy. Hardly worthy of an Academy assignment.

But fresh Aurium – that’s something else altogether.

Aurium is formed when quintessence gathers and solidifies; the more concentrated the quintessence, the more impressive the ore. However, quintessence is only released when a soul escapes a body – in other words, the moment someone dies. Aged Aurium can be dug up from a grave. But fresh Aurium? That had to be collected.

So in truth, the assignment was to kill someone.



--The question was raised, and then it was revealed, releasing any tension that might have drawn me on. The premise turns me off, but there is a remnant of question about why and how this will be carried out that just might draw me further--begrudgingly.

-- This is terrific. You’ve got setting with some good strokes at world-building, you’ve got a problem wanting satisfaction (as some like to say around here), and you’ve got a clean and engaging style. I would definitely read on.

-- I really liked this one. Very nicely paced, with each piece of information adding to all that has come earlier, and a nice hooking ending. The final line may not be needed as it is implied in the previous sentence, but spelling the dilemma out as you did made the communication stronger.

--I'm a little confused here. Surely this stuff needs smelting if it comes in ore form. The description given also suggests that the commoners dig up their dead relatives to retrieve the stuff, something I find hard to digest personally. Also, quintessence, as far as I know (and I Googled just to be sure), this is the fifth classical element after earth, air, fire and water, also a term used for dark energy, both of which refer to space. Are you tying up souls and the universe here? I'm not sure and not sure I'm really hooked enough to find out.

--Rules: Borderline: no character (yet), but I’m expecting this to be 1st person. Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: I like the pacing, the idea, and the voice. Solid.

-- I felt that when you started to define aurium it got a little 'wordy' with large words that could have been skipped for a few more simple ones. The book could go into more detail with that later on in the story and I almost wanted to gloss over it because of that, but the last line really caught me. Who had to die? Was it a specific person, or was it just an amount of aurium that was needed? Is it for a collection, or is there more to it than that? The last line had me thinking, and that is why this is a story that I would like to know more about.

--This first 13 had a creative aspect, but I was confused with the competing aspects of Aurium. What is a piece? It's discussed as a quintessence and as a gem. I was confused that Aurium occurs when that gathers and solidifies, so it isn't fresh if it has to solidify. Too much thinking for smooth reading, but the hook was intriguing.

--Meets challenge. This one tied for a point award in my book. Nice hook. Good description without going all bloody and gory.

-- Nice. Effective hook for your last line.

-- Again, the title does its job but little more. Doesn't entice really. The bit about what Aurium is necessary but seemed almost too blunt. Still, I want to know who would give such an assignment and why. I'd say this one is 3/4 full of awesome sauce.

--This would be more intriguing if you dropped the second and third paragraphs and let that be known later. And I've not been told why fresh Aurium would be precious to someone, enough to kill. What does it do? I'd put that info instead of describing the common stuff. I might read on a bit to see if you tell me soon. If it's just a status symbol, I'm out.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:33 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 14

Chimes In The Ether

Pralax VII is known in the Compendium of Rational Thought as a level fifteen anomaly. Millions of acolytes of the Church Everlasting proceeded in pilgrimage to the planet during its solstice to seek their elevation to the priesthood. The riotous colors of the robes of thousands of planetary orders and the exotic shapes of human and non-human alike, thrill the millions of tourists who descend upon the planet to experience the conclave.

The mechanics of the dispensation of the calls is disputed regularly by scholars. They reject the unique, life-changing aspects of those who claim to hear the voices and the songs of the 'Everlasting'. When asked for a definition of the term, priests, the universe over, all respond with those unexplainable greenish glowing eyes that identifies one of the elevated, "We are the Everlasting."



--Not hooked. Doesn't raise much in the way of questions for me.

-- Well written, with some good mental images produced as I read. I think I actually met one of those glowy-eyed priests once. I have no idea where this is going, but I’d probably read on for a spell.

-- This is another expository approach to the start. It worked, too, in hooking me.

--We have a planet here, and a church, but no hook.

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: Maybe. Feedback: I’m intrigued, but not quite hooked, probably because I feel distant from the situation. It wants a character.

--Meets challenge. A bit boring with little to hook me. But nice description of the gathering.

-- Good entry. This is how I interpreted the rules. Too bad the hook isn’t sharper.

--I did enjoy this opening, but it took me a while to get past all the new terms and infrequently-used words. I'm thinking that the Everlasting is a cult or a hive mind. This snippet seems sinister, but the title makes me think twice because it conveys a feeling of clarity. Hm.

--So what's the story here? I see no hint of plot or question raised. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:34 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 15

Humanity Lost

The thing just sat there staring at the wall. There were tears in its eyes and it kept fidgeting, rolling its shoulders and trying to get the handcuffs into a more comfortable position. The confusion on its face was as obvious as the misery it exuded, but the blood clotting in the cuts on its face looked as real as the human face it possessed. It wasn't though. It was every bit as synthetic as the piercing blue eyes that looked so bright through a veil of tears.

It was a sad and terrifying sight to behold. Its only crime had been to do what its programming told it to. Did it really think it was human though? Worse, did it know just how easily it could break out of those cuffs and through the security screen? Thank God for the flush button.



--Slight question raised about what crime he committed and why he was programmed to do it. Might read on.

-- Nothing wrong with the writing here; you actually managed to evoke in me some sympathy for the imprisoned synthetic. And I normally detest synthetics. Don’t know if I would read on very far.

-- This did seem to be describing a character, rather than a group. As such, I thought it missed the brief.

--Rules: “It” is a character, even if its not alive. The phrase “Thank God” implies that the narrator is the POV character. Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: I have a few nits, but it’s an interesting idea. I want to know more about what it did.

--I liked this. It's a bit cliché, IMO, but there are some subtle hooks here. Unfortunately, the 'thing' is a character and violates the characterless hook rule.

--Meets challenge. Confusing hook . . . Thank God for the flush button . . . are we talking a robotic pile of poo? Confusing.

-- Interesting. Sounds like a protagonist narrating and contemplating his predicament.

--Interesting. I would read on to see what it did that got it in trouble. This might be nitpicking, but I would not use the word "though" twice, both at the end of a sentence. This was overall very
readable and I think provided a nice hook.

--I'm just not connecting with this. I'm being told it's synthetic and that its actions are programmed. When talking about the crime, don't be coy about what it did. If I knew, I might be interested, but since I don't, I'm not.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:35 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 16

The Big Finish

The act of suicide became a patriotic event. A weekly broadcast where millions cheered for each voluntary victim, each spectacular demise.

World leaders had begun the initiative as a way to reduce the burgeoning population. Despite its horrific purpose, the program thrived. Some enlisted out of despair at the constant predictions of inevitable extinction, while others found motivation in the perquisites provided. Volunteers enjoyed celebrity status in the weeks before their death, and a monetary bequest went to loved ones after the show.

Scientists regularly declared that modern medicine’s ability to keep people alive did not mesh with the world’s dwindling capacity to produce food. More deaths were needed. All lies, of course.



--Slight hook questioning why they lied, but the scenario isn't appealing. Might read on.

-- Well written, but I’m not sure I like the matter-of-fact way the narrator discusses the annihilation of so many people. I’d read on for a while.

-- The pertness of this kept me reading, despite the topic. The final paragraph is a terrific hook. What were the lies. All of those points in the paragraph. Interesting.

--Population explosion, lack of resources and living space. It's been done quite a lot so this had better be different, but I'm not sure I'd read on to find out. You'd also need to explain just why the initiative was necessary and how war was avoided, because that's what human beings are really like. Put too many people in too small a space, with limited resources and lots of weapons and they will start killing each other pretty quickly, especially if they have children to think about.

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: A bit more. Feedback: Reminds me too much of the Hunger Games. But that was a great idea, so I wouldn’t mind following this one a bit further. Need a character real soon.

--I'm not a dystopian fan, but this had its appeal. The hook that brings the general description down to earth was the last sentence and that did its job for me.

--Meets challenge. Would get a point from me, and nice hook. I liked it.

-- Sounds like the hunger games. Not bad.

--I can't find anything wrong with this opening. I like it, and it's very interesting. I would read on because I'm curious why the people in power are encouraging suicides.

--This is reminiscent of an original series Star Trek episode. But the society doesn't come off as intriguing. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:36 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 17


184 cycles and we have reached the culmination of our second life. The species designated as humans demonstrated that even at our best humanity eclipsed us. If we had their strength and wisdom things may have turned out differently and our mistakes would no longer haunt us.

In the end, the records will give the facts but not the story behind them. The facts will show that humanity was about to be heralded amongst the stars as what other races should strive to become. Instead they were struck down and extinguished. Emotions were the greatest strength and weakness for their kind. In the end it was pure love, not hate, that ended their empire. We owe them everything for making a choice we could not. One amongst them paid the ultimate price in order to save everything.

Perhaps one day they'll forgive us as they take our place as the new custodians of the universe.



--Not hooked. Doesn't make much sense to me. Don't know where it's going, so I don't know what is supposed to hook me, though there might be some potential hooks in there somewhere.

-- This confuses me. First, I’m getting that humanity is superior to whatever group the narrator belongs to, next I read that humanity has been extinguished. Then, they’re taking the narrator's group’s place as new custodians of the universe. Nothing wrong with the mechanics of the writing, and it may all be perfectly understandable with some explanation, or maybe I’m just being obtuse. As it is, I would not read on.

--This is tantalising, but obscure at times. It drops information that a great tragedy has occurred, or a miscarriage of justice, yet it hides the specific nature of this dilemma. The second last sentence seems to fight a bit against the broad sweep of the rest of the story introduction, and weakens it a little. But the final sentence does a wonderful job of reversing expected attitudes.

--This is very confused and not looking like it is actually going anywhere. That second sentence tripped me up a little and you keep talking about them and us, and our's and theirs. Not sure what the POV is at all.

--Rules: “Us” violates the rules, but not too badly. Keep Reading: Maybe. Feedback: Too distant, but an interesting idea.

--Too much contradiction. Humans were extinct but they took the race of the narrator's place? I wouldn't read on, I'm afraid.

--Uses "we", so not sure this meets challenge as it places us in a characters VP. Also, second paragraph confusion, mankind died, love killed them - not hate (let us see something to quantify this).One human died to save what . . . mankind died? Then "they" come back to take our place . . . who's "our"?

-- This reminds me of a Gordon Dickinson short story I once read.

--I would read on from this opening. I liked pretty much all of it. The only part that kind of detracts from the overall idea is the last sentence of the second paragraph, because that suddenly brought me from thinking about different species to a singular person in one species. The line that makes me think is the very last sentence, particularly the phrase "new custodians of the universe". This makes me think that species are taking turns at playing God, which in itself
is an interesting premise.

--Interesting, heady. Feels like a book intro, and that's okay. I'd read on to see where this is going.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:37 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 18

Translucent Madness

The Glowing Eye Nebula looks like a dandelion in space, from the right angle. Less than a light-year across this region was known as the suicide pit, responsible for more disappeared spaceships than phenomena ten times its size. The few that returned said madness dwelled there, that sirens drove crews mad making them kill each other or ruin their ships. Scientists said that was impossible.

But scientists have been known to be wrong. Remember when they said we'd never travel faster than the speed of light? Now they'd put their money on the table. Translucent clouds of gas and radiation enveloped the scientific exploration ship, Quandry, as it entered the suicide pit, every sensor scanning and transmitting with frantic anticipation. Soon they would have their answer.



--Pitting the scientists against eye-witnesses actually kind of detracts from the setup. Expectations are set pretty high, though. I'm actually expecting disappointment.

-- I really, really like the idea in this one. The writing needs polish; some of the phrasing just seems a bit clunky to me. But the idea is intriguing, so I’d read on for a while in hope that the writing smoothed out.

-- Little things can be the difference between good and compelling. I wondered why this didn’t capture me as much as I wanted, as it had most of the necessary ingredients. Two sentences stopped this short. “The few…” seemed to repeat information (“madness”, and “drove crews mad”). And the sentence “Soon they…” probably should have “answer” as the subject, rather than the ubiquitous “they”, so the reader can focus on the dilemma rather than faceless scientists. Other than that, nice job.

--I like the first paragraph, it gives a nice lead in to the setting of the story, but the second paragraph jolts from that lead in to a sudden image of the Quandry. I know you'd need to get to the subject of the story eventually, but that sudden jump threw me out. I think there should be a scene break there, just to let me know the perspective is changing. I'd probably read on though, all the same.

-- Rules: Spot-on. Keep Reading: Maybe. Feedback: Interesting idea, but I’d rather meet a character up front.

--This first 13 is serviceable and would draw me in. Not violently, not with excitement, but I would hope to be in for a good ride, finding out the source of the madness.

--Took number 2 for me, nice going. Good description, meets challenge and I liked the hook. I would read and turn the pages on this one.

-- Nice hook. Not sure if the narration quite fits the contest, as I understand it at least.

--I liked this opening, and I would read on. I especially like the reference to sirens; that really put everything in perspective for me. I also liked the description of the nebula as a dandelion.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:38 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 19


What if everything you believed turned out to be a lie? What would you do if you discovered that your race was only kept alive as part of a grand experiment in order to exact revenge against a race you have never even known? Who could you trust if everyone you knew was not who they thought they were? What if this wasn't the first time you've lived this exact same life? How could you live with yourself if a past version of yourself was responsible for deaths without number?

What if you had the chance to undue everything and restart it all? What determines our ultimate fate? Wouldn't you make the same choices as I? Am I a wicked man for wanting these things? Can I atone for a life I don't remember? Am I a life worth saving?



--Not hooked. Don't like the questioning. Vague and overdramatic.

-- So many questions! Perhaps too many. I think I’d be more interested if just one or two of these monumental queries had been posed, along with some background to support them. As it is, I feel like the teenager who is being questioned by an irate parent – I just tune out after the first few. Also, I think that ending up in first-person comes pretty close to breaking the rules of the challenge.

-- The first paragraph with 3 or 4 questions worked well, a unique approach to the brief, putting the reader front and center. However, I was ready for it to focus on the story and add meaning to the questions by the second paragraph. More questions were simply too much, and these ones started to focus on the writer’s character, which missed the essence of the challenge.

--Ten sentences and ten question marks? Does it grab my attention? Would I read on? Do I really want to know what happens next? Is anything going to happen?

--Rules: Okay. Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: This sounded incredibly familiar. I think a lot of movies have used this type of questioning as an opener, but I can’t think of any particular titles at the moment. The questions and ideas are good, I was pulled in, but I think it’s too many questions; I grew impatient for an answer. Some of these questions should be turned into statements.

--This first 13 is an enigma. First of all it seems to be a derivative of one of the earlier entries, but then it shifts from a second person to first person and the questions seem to be from another beginning. I wouldn't continue.

--Wow . . . every single sentence a question. You lost me utterly on this one. Cut out 95% of those questions . . . please!!!

-- What’s with all the questions? Do they have a point? The first question or two would have served for a good hook if you built on them.

--There's a lot of references to "I" in the second paragraph, which I believe breaks rule #2. Otherwise, the first questions were all right, but for the entire 13 lines to be questions is a bit too much I think. I'm trying to answer too many questions, so after a while I'm losing interest.

--Too many questions, try to find balance. In this case, I would address the fears in a more expository manner. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:40 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 20

Heart of Safera

The splinter of glistening gold lay quiet for thousands of years within folds of burgundy silk. The Carmigon monks cherished it, for it was a remnant of the Agnovion--Heaven's sacred Coffer. The Agnovion had empowered the Elam wizards with ghostly forces. Legend said it's panels pulsed and murmured a blissful chant.

When it fell under the enemy’s shadow, the Elam elders shattered it, dispersing uncountable fragments with incredible power. A gardener caught the only known shard in his shovel and surrendered it to the monks for safe-keeping.

The splinter suddenly glowed, outshining the candles, and an intricate melody hummed through the chamber. A dozen monks entered breathlessly, drawn by the quickening, too stunned to notice the sentry of perpetual vigilance snoring on the floor.



--Just enough questioning about the nature of the artifact and the meaning of the "quickening" to keep me reading.

-- This has some good things going on within it. I like where you started, right at the moment where the sliver of gold is about to shake things up in what promises to be a major way. I’d read on.

-- The key to this is the story of a splinter. (Interesting how a few here are using objects and groups as if they were individual characters – a great approach to this challenge.) In paragraph one, it is introduced. In paragraph two it is destroyed and scattered. In paragraph three it is back together with no explanation of how or why. This inconsistency in the main focus threw me out of the story.

--I like this, but am confused a bit by just where this bit of gold is in this scene. It seems that it is wrapped in silk, but then being shovelled up, or was it dug up and then wrapped in silk? I suspect the latter to be honest but it could be made a little clearer. I like the tone though and would read on.

--Rules: Okay. Keep Reading: A bit more. Feedback: Too many new names/words up front; that’s distracting. It’s an interesting idea, an intriguing experiment. There’s too much backstory up front, and yet the backstory lends a sense of power and time, which give it an epic feel. I’d like to see less backstory but still feel that expansiveness, but don’t know how that could be done. The last phrase about the sleeping sentry is funny; is this the right place for humor? I don’t know. I give it high rank for story, but the execution needs work.

--Other than too many terms, places and monastic orders discussed, I liked this opening. The hook would drive me on, although I have no idea why a snoring sentry would be significant if the shard remained in its resting place.

--Meets challenge. No specific hook, but the whole 13 lines is a nice hook in and of itself. Good going.

-- Very good except I was confused about the shard glowing. Was it glowing when the Gardner found it thousands of years ago or is this a present day phenomenon?

--I liked the description of the shard, and the bit of history that goes with it. I was a bit confused as to the relationship between the Elam wizards and the Carmigon monks: are they the same people, or are they somehow just connected to each other? The sleeping sentry was kind of
ominous, hinting at something amiss. I am likely to read on.

--The first paragraph is so littered with references to peoples I have no reference for, I immediately lost interest. Even reading through, nothing drew me in. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:41 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 21

Mobius In-Kleined

When the war came, it was chaotic, meticulous, systematic, random… and total. After four hundred years of riding the slip-lines at near light speed, the human diaspora had settled sixty systems, and covered an ovoid around thirty light years across. Its probes had travelled over four times that distance, yet, outside of the solar system, had never encountered life. Let alone intelligence. So, it remains unknown where or when first contact was made. What is known is that eleven systems just winked out of existence. No warnings. No reason.

And, within the vagaries of Einstein and Minowski, all systems fell within seconds of each other.

The first hint came when the broadcast from Wolf 359 ended. Just eight light-years from Earth, the short distance to Ross 128



--I find the ovoid shape to be highly unlikely. An irregular shape would be more believable. I don't know what the second paragraph means. If all that is known is that system "winked out of existence," why are you calling it "first contact?" Disappearance doesn't seem to imply contact. These criticisms aside, this provides enough of a question (what the hell happened to make them all disappear?) to keep me reading.

-- Nicely written. You’ve got an interesting premise set up, but I hit some logic bumps (that I may have thrown in my own way. I do that sometimes). First, you said that no life had been encountered outside the solar system. Which solar system? Aren’t the other settled systems solar? Does this mean that the 60 settlements were on barren asteroids without an orbit? ‘Cause that would be pretty tough and crazy expensive. Space exploration finally got some funding, I guess. I’m not sold, but I’d read on for a while.

-- I am not sure whether there is much difference between random and chaotic. Or meticulous and systematic. “Let alone intelligence” should probably be part of the previous sentence.

--Not sure how something can be systematic and random but I'd read on anyway. I really like where this seems to be going.

--Rules: Very good. Keep Reading: Definitely. Feedback: I’d skip mentioning the war, and start with “The human diaspora...” The phrase “within the vagaries of Einstein and Minowski” makes no sense to me. Otherwise, I like this one very much—a standout job.

-- I'll be honest, war has always interested me. The causes, the rationales, the excuses, and real people rising to the call and being more than they were. War is not glorious, but it makes people glorious in certain moments. After reading this I was interested in several aspects, the biggest being how did they wipe out all the systems within moments. That would take incredible communication technology, discipline, and very fast work. All of these would interest me into reading more. The 'Wolf 359' line bothered me a bit, only because it reminded me of Star Trek when the Borg invaded Federation space and Wolf 359 was one of the first outposts to fall to them as well. A slight hiccup in a story that I hope would separate itself from my previous judgement.

--The first sentence had contradicting terms that didn't match with the rest of the destruction of the planets. I was too confused to want to continue reading.

--Meets challenge by my reckoning, but last line is very confusing . . . a broadcast from Wolf, just 8 lt yrs from Earth, the short distance to Ross 128? What's Ross 128? Lost me.

-- Hooked. Well done.

--I liked this opening, and what worked for me was: "What is known is that eleven systems just winked out of existence. No warnings. No reason." This was a good hook for me, because now I want to know why entire systems are disappearing. I would read on to find out the answer.

--The language in the first paragraph could be sharper. A ten percent trim and making vague words precise, drop 'just'. But the idea intrigues me. I would read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:42 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 22


A madman. A hero.
Is fate an illusion? Everything taught was a lie.
Love. Loss. Pain. Hope.
The value of life.
The power to save or end the human civilization.
A terrible choice with unforeseen consequences.



--Not hooked. Too vague to be interesting.

-- This is quite poetic. I can almost see Brad Pitt reciting it while wearing a white oxford. As far as hooking me to read on, I think this one is perhaps a bit too generic to pique my interest. Most of those lines, after all, could apply to The Hunger Games, or The Return of the King, or a dozen other stories. Give me a hint of how they apply to your story, and I’d be more inclined to read on.

-- Firstly, this is much less than 13 lines – I’d like to see the 13 out before I can really judge this. I liked most lines, but the last line sounded like a horoscope, which was uninteresting. In terms of the approach, it is unique in this challenge, so kudos for that.

--Is this an opening, a blurb, or what? It's not even thirteen lines is it?

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Poetry as prologue doesn’t work for me. There’s not enough substance he
--A personal thing. I can't get into a first 13 that is only poetry. It doesn't lend itself to instant immersion.

--A poem? I guess this would meet challenge as there's no specific VP in this, but, no hook either.

-- Reads like a poem. Is it finished?

--This is a bit too abstract for me, and not 13 lines (?). Unless this is a poem, I wouldn't keep reading because I don't really know that's going on. I don't have anything concrete to hang on to. I would probably even gloss over these lines and start reading the first paragraph, and come back to these lines after I had a better sense of place.

--Too vague. If you're going to do something that short every words needs ot count and be specific. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:43 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry #23

The Dark

The darkness between the looming trees moved with the blowing snow. A gust sent pellets pinging into the branches and skin like shrapnel. They clattered across the hard pack and up over the snow berm, skittering across the night landscape, snow imps running into the darkness, perhaps away from something lurking in the dark firs moaning with the wind. Perhaps it was the light of the chair lift and ski area defusing from up around the corner, a soft green purplish glow pointing to the end of a hard day patrolling. Face-stinging snow ushered one home quickly. The glow was a beckoning of light, heat, and friends waiting with hot buttered rums after a long day of skiing. Crazy people volunteered for this kind of duty, people who do not mind freezing on a dark back road for the last run of the day, checking to make sure everyone was down off the mountain.



--Not hooked. There's a situation, but no question or interesting focal point.

-- Some good imagery here, but I ended up being confused. First, I think I’m in some classic fantasy setting with the looming trees and snow imps, but then we’re on to chair lifts and ski lodges. The last sentences give me a sense that the story might revolve around members of a ski patrol. Nothing wrong with the writing itself, but I’d probably not read on.

-- The grammar of the opening sentence felt odd. An omniscient voice, as this opening has, flirts with danger when it uses the word “perhaps” (used twice in quick succession) because that implies a more limited POV. Same for the use of the word “something”, only this time the word usage implies deliberate hiding of information by the author. If this were, for example, a campfire tale being told by a character, these sins would be forgiven, but without that framing, it didn’t work for me.

--Very confused prose here. Is the darkness itself moving, or something within the darkness? What is moaning with the wind, the imps or the fir trees? Didn't grab me at all, there are just too many little mistakes.

--Rules: It’s borderline; I sense a 1st person POV, or at least a personalized narrator. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: I was mentally in a wilderness (possibly fairy) milieu when the ski lift intruded. I guess I took the poetic description too literally. Sounds like it might be heading into an interesting problem, but it needs a bit more to hook me.

--Living in ski country, this made sense to me, but only after the start which seemed like a fantasy was about to begin, but the first 13 resolved into a description of the ski patrol's last runs of the day. No hook evident.

-- Good writing but not much of a hook.

-- This one made my knees cold (I walk to work and in the winter I hate how cold my knees get.) It was well grounded and atmospheric. If it had more of a hint of conflict I'd probably say this was 3/4s awesome sauce, but as is, I think it's 2/3s awesome sauce.

--I like the description here, but I can't quite see a clear picture. I'm not really sure what the what was being ushered home, or what the duty is. Perhaps more focus in the description would make me more likely to read on.

--No sense of story. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:44 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 24

The Secret of the Boscage Bot

They had come to see the changelings. Real ones. These weren’t the misshapen of natural causes pretended to be changelings. No stump-armed woman or conjoined twins for this crowd. No five-foot man eating chicken. No bearded ladies. No, these were changelings, real changelings, clear from Enua.

The sophisticates from Sovaga said they came to the revival for the Maker’s Message, but they all managed to buy a few tickets and brave the changeling tents. There the Sovagans could marvel at how articulate a changeling might be or despair at a pretty face ruined by a horrific body. The ladies could squeal and clutch their men as the caged changeling rattled the bars and reached out from their prisons. The cash the Sovagans shelled out for tickets was just a way of giving charity.



--Interesting, but not really hooked. No question raised.

-- Nicely written, and I immediately feel the snobbery of the Sovagans and want the changelings to escape. I would read on.

-- I found this a moderate hook. The writing was fine, and the characterisation of the society was fascinating. But the topic didn’t give me the kick I wanted. I’d read a little further, looking for that kick.

--Not sure about this one. The word changeling pops up a lot, enough to make it grate after a while. I do like the idea of a five-foot man eating chicken though.

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: Maybe. Feedback: Some interest in finding out what you mean by charity, and why the changelings are caged. Used the word “changeling” too many times.

--I liked the beginning, but where I thought there would be wonder, pity took its place. Sophisticates handing out cash for charity? That doesn't hook me. I needed more to drag me on.

--Meets challenge, but no hook that I saw. Nothing grabbed me.

-- Interesting. I’m curious to see where this goes.

--Interesting circus-like scene. I especially like the first paragraph, where you mention that these are "real" changelings, not the fake ones. That being said, I want to see how these changelings are any different from disfigured people/animals, because I couldn't tell any differences from your description in the second paragraph. I would read on just from curiosity.

--Picture is clear, but not enticing or intriguing. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:46 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 25

The Twenty-Three Thousand Four Hundred Fifty Six Laws of Nanobotics

A black child in a red jacket dodged his friends and grabbed the fence at the edge of the playground. "Safe!"

Dark grey covered long sections of the green bars near the "safe" zone. Grade F28 sealant, probably for class 3A4832 nanobots. Good enough for all but the most dangerous nano.

The kids renewed the chase with another "it." An asian lady pushed two toddlers in bucket swings, and a few girls twisted on flat ones. Boys chased each other through a plastic tunnel between cedar towers, then tore across a suspended bridge, roaring like pirates.

The sealant rippled, barely visible. A pinhead of light grey appeared, then spread in a burst, breaking into trails. A filament shot out, wrapping up an ant on the next bar. The ant dropped, scrambling erratically toward the towers.



--Question "What is this nanostuff, and what problem will it cause?" will keep me reading.

-- I realize that the people mentioned are likely not important characters in the story, but I think this comes perilously close to being too specific for the challenge. Aside from that, I think you have a good start here. I’d read on.

--The title is funny, melding the tropes of Asimovian and Vernian science fiction. I loved the juxtaposition between the mundane urban scenelets and the hard science paragraphs. I would definitely keep reading.

--Really no idea where this is going. We have a park full of kids and hints at dangerous nanobots and, possibly, a dead ant.

-- Rules: Followed. The child in the first sentence struck me as a potential character, but then I realized he’s just a part of the setting. Clever. Keep Reading: Yes. Feedback: I’m intrigued, want to know more. The potential danger in a playground creates strong tension. Excellent descriptions of the setting, people, and sealant. Nit: if the ant was wrapped up, how’d it get free?

--Aside from the tedious title, this nearly made it. The fixation on the ant didn't make much sense to me. I had no idea what the towers were.

--Meets challenge but the sealant and nanobots were confusing. Was the sealant alive with nanobots? Or separate from the bots? Was the ant made into a bot after being wrapped up in the sealant?

-- Loved the title but think the opening could use some tweaks. Q: Is identifying the races of the people necessary? Nothing wrong with it but I found it distracting. Is the ant an ant or a particular type of nano-bot?

--I like the detail describing the nano, and I like the title. The part with the children roaring like pirates was a nice tough also. Maybe the fourth paragraph could do with a bit more of a transition, but overall it was great. I would read on.

--The language on this is very primitive and the story seems like it's going somewhere 'contagionesque'. I don't have confidence in this. I would not read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:47 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 26

Wolves in the Fold

Man has a soul. It is not a gift from an almighty god the spiritual among us would have you believe but an evolutionary trait we acquired to further our species. The soul is home to our virtuous emotions; compassion, morality, honor, and love. They are the feelings that separated us from our savage ancestors. With a soul, our species learned to cooperate while suppressing our need to dominate others and seize property for our own selfish benefit. It led us to build communities to advance our society, and stand up to the antagonistic and cruel of our race. Without a soul, we would still be savages welding spears on a harsh world. It is what has made us human.

To defeat your enemy, you must purge your soul.



--Not hooked. Reads like a lecture. The only question it raises is "what does that last sentence mean?" and it is too vague and trite to hold my interest.

-- This is lofty – I can envision stirring background music and the voice of Patrick Stewart. I guess the disconnect for me is that I can’t go along with some of the statements about the human soul. Isn’t it possible that our “savage ancestors” felt emotions like compassion and love? Our soul is merely civilization? Despite the fact that this is nicely written, I probably would not read on.

-- This one felt a bit dry at the start, with the exposition. But the last line overturned that feel, making me voraciously reread the information to see what I missed. And suddenly it was alive with overlaid power. Very nice trick.

--Not so much an opening as a sermon. I wouldn't read on.

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: No. Feedback: Don’t like the idea, trying to figure out a philosophical question in an expository form. And I am put off by the total rejection of God.

--I liked the way this twisted the beginning premise at the end. I'd read on.

--Meets challenge. Nice hook. I would have given it a point if any points left.

--I liked the opening's explanation of the soul. It's a fresh take on the idea, at least in my experience. However, I think your last sentence ruins this opening. It is a powerful statement, but it just doesn't flow with the precious paragraph. Replace that sentence with something less dramatic, and I'll more likely read on. Aside from this, I really liked how you described the soul as an evolutionary trait.

--First the anthropology lesson, then I'm supposed to become interested because of one line. Didn't work. I'd shorten the first paragraph and give more of the actual dilemma. I wouldn't read on.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:48 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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Entry # 27

The Curse of the Faithbreakers

No pilgrims made the journey anymore, so the dead zone around the abandoned Godsflower spread a bit more each year. The petitioners’ huts crumbled into ruin. Then the brooks dried up and the wildlife vanished. A wasteland filled the once-lush valley. While they remained, villagers on the far side of the pass warned travelers to go another way and avoid the curse.

It was now late spring, and the peasants’ homes stood empty. The fields, plowed in neat rows, crawled with insects missing limbs, feelers or wings. A few seedlings struggled to survive, but most had perished when they sprouted with their leaves digging into the soil and their roots spread toward the sun. The air reeked of decay.



--Not hooked. A little interesting, but it doesn't really raise any focused question.

-- So, the dead zone spreads because pilgrims don’t come anymore? Easy fix, then. Send more pilgrims. Despite that niggle, the description does a credible job of painting a scene of growing blight. I’m not wildly curious, but I might read on for a bit.

-- I liked the first sentence and the following paragraph. The second didn’t work until rereading for this critique – and then I saw the upside down trees (a wow idea). Bring that idea into more prominence, by making it the first or last sentence of the paragraph (and if the first, make the whole paragraph about it). I loved the creativity.

--Quite like this and would read on.

--Rules: Followed. Keep Reading: A bit more. Feedback: Prefer to meet someone sooner.

--Dismal, but the entire first 13 is the hook and that draws me on. A problem is expressed and the solution would be inside the story.

--Meets challenge. Good description. No real specific hook but it does grab one's curiosity as to what happened to everything.
-- The second paragraph doesn’t mesh well with the first. Too bad because the opening paragraph had a nice flow and sharp hook. I suggest stretching out the information and build on the milieu of the setting.

--I like the vivid description. The only thing is that I'm not very hooked. I'm a bit curious as to what the Godsflower is, but nothing's happening yet in these 13 lines.

--Might be interesting, not getting a super strong read, but would probably give it a little more time.

[ March 26, 2013, 03:49 AM: Message edited by: genevive42 ]

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