Here is a new one of mine. The working title is King's Errand. I'm interested to know what you all think.
Air eddied about Jarrak’s face, jolting him upright in the saddle. “Magic!” he whispered. “We’re close.” Hesp stilled his own mare, but Tempest whinnied and hoofed up track dust. The guard soothed her with a stroke, and silence enveloped them. “It’s quiet,” he said. “Too quiet,” Jarrak agreed. He whistled softly, calling his hound to heel, but Drey padded ahead, scratching up grass and sniffing. A discovered scent lured the dog into furious digging. “He’s onto something,” Hesp said. Jarrak sprang down from his horse. “Here, Drey,” he called. The hound lifted his head, defiant, but then loped back. "Good choice," Jarrak said. "Stirring a witch lair is like poking a wasp’s nest. You’re going to get stung.”
Although the formatting threw me off a bit, I liked this. However, I'm not a fan of having the first thirteen start out as a dialogue, or even most of it being dialogue. I guess I just think of it as a weak beginning, but I liked it and I would read on
Edit: Now that I reread it I'm wondering, Is hesp a character or a horse? Might want to clarify that.
[This message has been edited by JohnColgrove (edited May 14, 2011).]
After reading your first 13 lines the only information I am left with are the names of individuals and animals and that magic exists. That's why it did not hook me - there was very little description to establish a tone or setting. I feel you should perhaps start without dialog and avoid giving so many names that quickly. Jarrak appears to be the most interesting of the characters presented since he seems to have the ability to sense magic. I would focus on him. Also, the most interesting part of your story comes at the end of the first 13 lines - that they are about to enter a witch's lair. Personally, that's where I would start in order to grab the reader's attention from the get-go.
I'm not sure who is the POV character. I think this would be more interesting if you went deeper into someone's POV.
Right now I get that they are going after a witch, but what is lacking is how they feel about it. Are they scared, excited, angry? Is this the first time they have done this or are the seasoned veterans. Help give us an idea of who these characters are, and I think you will have a stronger hook.
But I do like where you have started. Good luck with this.
I really liked that you instantly put me in the moment. Hounds, horses, magic - I would definitely read more. I do agree that beginning with dialogue is rather like turning on the television in the middle of a movie - there's no frame of reference - but too much set-up can make readers lose interest, too. Maybe your first 13 would be better as the second?
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I like a dialogue beginning because usually something is happening, The reading is not boring, the story is real and lively with dialogue. With your lines, I immediately get a picture in my head of the action and that is good. But, I too, am confused by a lot of names. I'm not sure if 'Tempest' is a horse, I think so. Is the guard the same as Hesp? I have been told to limit the number of characters one introduces to the reader in the beginning-but the actual number I am not sure of. Two? or was it three? Also, when he says "Its quiet"-is that the character soothing the horse with a command, or is that a redundancy description of the situation being quiet? Is it necessary to name the hound? Is the hound a main character? the hound description is very good, I can see that well. at first, however, I did not know if the hound came back to his owner, when you said 'loped back' -meaning back to the scent or back to the owner? The character says 'good choice' to the dog-which makes me wonder. Does the dog think and talk? if not, you may want to think about that sequence, because that might seem to imply that. "Good choice," Jarrak said.
I like this line: "Stirring a witch lair is like poking a wasp’s nest. You’re going to get stung." this is a good hook.
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