Re: Hooking the Reader

#1
Hello, so I am posting the first scene of my Orig story, and here is what I am wondering:
Does this hook you as a reader?

Exiting this first scene are there any red flags that make you say nuh ugh we droppin' this %#[email protected]$.

Also showing vs telling. Generally, it is said/considered that showing is better than telling. Is this telling? Are the things that are going through my mind as the writer being shown through the text to the reader?

Obviously, it is 600 hundred words, so I am asking after first impressions, your experiences as well as things you have learned or would recommend I also learn. Thanks!

Spoiler: Scene 1

"Brother Chen," A boy of 10 called out to me, his face red sweat gathering at his temples, the golden trim of his robes not so different from mine denoting his high importance within the Sect.

"Ling Yan!" I interrupted, my righteous indignation taking control, stopping the one named Yan in his tracks. "Did I desecrate your mother's grave? Pluck the flower of you're Fairylike Fiancé? Am I Sun Chen so unworthy of face? That you dare to challenge me! If I do not turn you black and blue, then this one is not named Sun!" My speech finished as I crossed my arms in front of my chest, clearly denoting my heroic stature and appeal.

I very much did not see one Ling Yan roll his eyes as he looked around the meditation chamber I had been occupying.

"Wait, Brother Chen, where is Attendant Yang?" My declaration of war ignored; indeed, children these days have no sense of respect. The least he could have done is pretend to take me seriously.

But still, Attendant Yang, I couldn't keep the smile off my face; he was an adorably awkward young man, with a weak spot for the fairer sex, making him truly so easy to manipulate.

"Hey! Brother Chen, you have that evil smile again."

Huh? Ohh.

"Attendant Yang is currently appreciating the Manors Beauty."

"You mean he is watching the maids again." Ling Yan said, making his feelings quite obvious. Shrugging, I watched the boy in front of me glow with the aura of a young hero. Honestly, the side of righteousness had a Paragon in this kid.

Hiding my smirk, I resumed the cool down stretches I had been doing before Ling Yan had run in, "It keeps him out of my hair, so it is good enough for me."

"But… but he could be relieved or banished." The last word spoken in a harsh whisper, ahh to be ten again.

"Then I guess the maids need to worry about one less admirer." In truth, I hoped the stupid fool would get caught putting his dick in the wrong girl and be gone from my life; he talked far too much and didn't have nearly enough brain cells to make even a tenth of the horseshit that came out worth listening to. Why the Sect used senior Outer Disciples as attendants for us, I still didn't understand.

"Young Master," Attendant Gaun spoke from the chamber's doors, "the Elders have requested yourself and Young Master Sun, please do not forget." Watching Yan jump in surprise with a guilty look on his face truly brought a smile to mine. Thoughts about Attendant Yang and the things that the stupid fool was undoubtedly doing had distracted our slightly ditzy Paragon of Justice.

Finishing my last stretch, I smiled at Ling Yan. "To the Elders then!" Not a hint of desperation or fear in my voice, the very antithesis of our wincing hero.

Making my way to the door, Ling Yan called out to me as he ran to my side. "Brother Chen, what about Attendant Yang?"

"I am sure Attendant Yang is quite happy where he is. After all, I would hate to be the one to ruin his day." I could practically feel Yan stop to parse through my words, something not quite sitting right with the young child, but it was Attendant Gaun I was watching. After he stilled for a second as the implications of my words washed over him, I could see him nod minutely. Not stupid this one. Really, much better material.

Unfortunately, his face bore a striking resemblance with a particular type of equestrian species, and that just wouldn't do.



Re: Hooking the Reader

#2

Okay, I'm gunna break this down and the areas I could see it improved. Let me preface this; Since you're asking for help I'm going to give it. I won't be going over aspects I like about the piece of work, since I'm just going to focus on the critique. This isn't to discourage you as a writer, keep on writing my dude, it's awesome to be a person that's actively creating work. I'm writing this before actually reading it - so know, that there will be things I like. But, other than sugar-coating this, it doesn't do much to really improve your scene, unless I think something is really working for it, in which case I might briefly touch upon it in the rest of this. So, with that said, let us dive into it. 

1. First Sentance

So to begin with, you typically want to be mindful of your first sentence into a story. We'll really hone in on this.

"'Brother Chen,' A boy of 10 called out to me, his face red sweat gathering at his temples, the golden trim of his robes not so different from mine denoting his high importance within the Sect."

Lets start with 10. Does this look odd to you? Does it feel like it reads odd to you? There's a reason for that. In non-technical writing, you should tend towards writing out numbers one to a hundred. Since this a site that heavily features Lit-Rpg's I think they might form the one exception to that rule, but that occurs whenever you are dealing with STATS specifically. In this case, keep it to ten. It feels less weird, especially when launching into a story. Especially since later in the same chapter, you write out ten. And tenth. At the very least you should ALWAYS strive for consistency with writing out numbers.

Second off; this sentence should really be split into two. Because it feels unwieldy in this layout and flows weird. I think you realized it flowed weird too because of the second sentence almost hinging on wanting to be more evocative and world-filling, but then shying away from committing. Commit, split it. It can be two better sentences if we break them apart.

So let's look at the 'first sentence' if we were to revise it.

'Brother Chen,' A boy of 10 called out to me, his face red sweat gathering at his temples,"

First off, grammar. See here ** "Chen,' A boy ** When you end a dialogue with a comma, treat the next word as if it were in the same sentence. In this case we would write it ** "Chen,' a boy"**. Now, it does look strange to follow it with 'a' but this is actually indicative of a larger problem, which is that the flow is weird in the sentence already. Infact, it feels nondirect in the way you describe the boy. If I were to rewrite this, I would do it as follows(for clarity and to make it more and evocative)

"'Brother Chen,' called out a boy, he looked to be about ten years old. I could see beads of sweat forming on the temple of his flush face." 

To really dig into this too, let's take a look at the second half of this sentence 'his face red sweat gathering'

This is not clear. Likely grammatically incorrect. 'his face red sweat.' You are following a noun with an adjective and another noun. In the way it reads, the structure is broken. 'his face red' should be, 'his red face' and then, we would change sweat to 'sweating' so it's no longer a noun, but a verb. That said, I think you could draw more out of the sentance since you broke it off from the second one.

Now onto the second sentance. It's clear you want to slip in some exposition along with a vivid description. However, with how it was tied down before, you couldn't do so. For example, now we could write it like this:

"A thin trim of gold lined his sect robes. While, the robes themselves were similar to mine, that gold trim denoted his high importance within our sect."

Okay. Lets merge them; 

"Brother Chen,' called out a boy, he looked to be about ten years old. I could see beads of sweat forming on the temple of his flush face. A thin trim of gold lined his sect robes. While, the robes themselves looked similar to mine, that gold trim denoted a high importance within our sect."

How does that read compared to before? Closer to what you imagined in a first paragraph? You'll notice it's a little longer too. While dialogue can be choppy, there's a couple of goals we want to establish in the first paragraph of a work. Specifically we want to try to answer three questions.

1.Who
2.Where
3.Genre

Who - is established, we are following the POV of Brother Chen, a member of a sect. Where - this one is less clear, but the reader can infer that this is taking place in said sect. Genre is pretty clear as well - this is probably a wuxia or xanxia fiction, as your reader would probably pick up from the robes, and the sect. 

2. Random Examples

Just gonna throw these in here. Corrections I saw, that need to be made. I'll do minimal explaining. 

"I very much did not see one Ling Yan roll his eyes as he looked around the meditation chamber I had been occupying."

Two things in this one. Get rid of 'one ling yan.' Typically you do not need one prefacing a person, I would never use that kind of wording unless inside of dialogue to make your writing more concise and clearer. 

Second, I would change this I'm not a big fan of the cheeky 'i very much did not see' but I can see it as a writing choice. However, to me, it seems too wordy and kills the impact of the comedic scene. I would rewrite it something like this,

"I pretended not to see Ling Yan roll his eyes as they traveled across the meditation chamber I had been in." 

The reason I got rid of occupying is that it felt wordy and unnecessary. We know he was in the meditation chamber, so why bother using occupying since it doesn't provide us with any new info when 'in' works and is more concise. 

"But still, Attendant Yang, I couldn't keep the smile off my face; he was an adorably awkward young man, with a weak spot for the fairer sex, making him truly so easy to manipulate." 

It's weird to insert "attendant Yang" here. Start it with 'I couldn't,' keep the semicolon splitting the sentence, replace 'he' with Attendant Yang. It makes the second half of this paragraph far clearer this way, and doesn't break the flow as dramatically. Again, following this consider splitting the second half of this, preferably ending this sentence with "he was an adorably awkward young man, with a weak spot for the fairer sex" And start the next sentence with a proper "This made him..."

"I hoped the stupid fool would get caught putting his dick in the wrong girl and be gone from my life"

Fuck me, I didn't expect this to get so crass randomly. But oh well, I think you're atleast setting expectations for your readers properly from the get-go. So good on you.

""Attendant Yang is currently appreciating the Manors Beauty.""

Okay. First. Manor should be manor. I don't think in this case it's referring to a proper noun. Beauty in this case is also not a proper noun. Unless we're talking about a building named "Manors Beauty," it should be manor's beauty. Why with the apostrophe? Because we don't want to refer to it as a plural manors, but rather the manor's beauty. So it's being possessive of the word beauty since that's its descriptor. 

3. Conclusions

So, overall, I think that grammar is the roughest part. Flow is weird and not working with you trying to color the writing with the character's thoughts. I'd work to make some things more concise, while whenever you launch into details about objects or people you should try to be more evocative. I get that you want to color the text with the character's personality since it's in first-person cinematic POV, however, I think you need to chose when to do so more carefully. In the way it currently is, I believe that it serves more to cause confusion and detract from the flow rather than naturally color the world with personality.

You have to be careful about this because it makes people see your character as intrusive, or it kicks them out of being invested in the story. There's more I could go over, but I'm kinda tired, so I'll leave it here, and I hope providing some examples within the text it gives you ideas of where else to look. If I read more of this story then just 600ish words, I could also probably pick out some advice for narrative/plot/other things that are on a bigger scale than just a brief intro into the story itself. But, that would be outside of the scope of this anyway, so oh well. 

4. Answering your questions directly

You asked these questions directly. It'd be rude to ignore them. Just going to reiterate the fact that I didn't point to the things I liked in the story, there were some, particularly with your characters and dialogue. 

1. Does this hook you as a reader?

Sorry to say, it doesn't really hook me. I typically would read more than this before giving a conclusion like that. But, from what I can tell, it's about a man named Brother Chen in a sect. Honestly, he seems like a bit of a dick. But not just a bit of a dick. The kind of dick who thinks he's funnier than he is. I personally don't have too much of an interest in reading about that kind of character, which was my impression. It may differ from others, or others could like to follow that kind of person. Just on a personal note, isn't for me. Other than the main character, I don't really get too much of a grasp on the world, so that doesn't really give me much to latch onto from that perspective. That said. Normally I would read more than just 600 words before giving a final verdict. 


2. Exiting this first scene are there any red flags that make you say nuh ugh we droppin' this %#[email protected]$.

Grammar and flow. Feels a bit junted. I don't think it's enough to make me stop reading before deciding if I wanted to actually keep reading this story or not. But it is present and speaks about the quality of the rest of the work - particularly in the first bit of the story. That said, we're on Royal Road. Despite posting my stuff here, I'm pretty picky about what works I do choose to read on this site. I mostly just read published fiction since I tend to like my stories to be a little less raw. Mostly I think that by reading too much with grammar mistakes/ect you end up getting a skewed view of your own grammar.. There are some exceptions, but I'm probably not the typical RR reader. 

3. Showing vs telling. Generally, it is said/considered that showing is better than telling. Is this telling? Are the things that are going through my mind as the writer being shown through the text to the reader?


Here's what most people will tell you, and it's solid advice to start with. 'Do not use passive voice. Throw out the 'to be'" I think it echoes the 'showing is better than telling' pretty well too since the idea is similar. What you REALLY want to do, is be evocative. But, you want to learn to be evocative where it benefits the story. If your whole story is riddled with just descriptions and over analyzation of facial features, it can bog down your flow and feel boring. Sometimes it's okay to say "she looked happy" because we don't REALLY want to focus on that particular emotion of that particular side character in a scene. Because it doesn't matter too much.

But when our main character gets stabbed brutally through the shoulder? Hell yes we want to make them feel it, describe it, and react to it in a way that draws out the emotion and drama of the scene. 

Whenever you choose to really SHOW something, you want to make sure it's a thing you want to highlight as the author 



Re: Hooking the Reader

#3
While the cadence to your writing is a little odd, I like it. A lot of Zach Skye's critique is good, but I wouldn't feel pressured to rewrite everything. It's more important to preserve your voice as a writer than to maximize for efficiency and lose the heart of the story.

I have a few problems with your opening. The first sentence is a chore to get through. It's too long-winded and has too much exposition. I'd recommend cutting it. If the information is so important, move it to a later paragraph.

Your second paragraph is far more enjoyable and makes for a good opener. Here's how I would adjust it.

"Ling Yan!" I interrupted, my righteous indignation taking control, stopping the one named Yan in his tracks. "Did I desecrate your mother's grave? Pluck the flower of you're Fairylike Fiancé? Am I Sun Chen so unworthy of face? That you dare to challenge me! If I do not turn you black and blue, then this one is not named Sun!" My speech finished as I crossed my arms in front of my chest, clearly denoting my heroic stature and appeal.

The sections in bold are redundant. You don't need to tell me your character is righteous and indignant because your dialogue shows me. Similarly, the crossing of the arms gives me a clear picture; you don't need to then tell me what it signifies.



"Then I guess the maids need to worry about one less admirer." In truth, I hoped the stupid fool would get caught putting his dick in the wrong girl and be gone from my life; he talked far too much and didn't have nearly enough brain cells to make even a tenth of the horseshit that came out worth listening to. Why the Sect used senior Outer Disciples as attendants for us, I still didn't understand.



There's a disconnect here. What is our setting? Is it a time period where people have discovered cells? Do they know about brain cells? My impression is that they haven't and they don't. If I'm wrong, you need to make that clear. Is horseshit an expression this character would use? Again, I don't know, but this feels like we've strayed into contemporary times. Also, it's somewhat concerning that you're talking about sex when we've established that one of the characters is only ten years old. I hope Attendant Yang is older.



Unfortunately, his face bore a striking resemblance with a particular type of equestrian species, and that just wouldn't do.

Again you've gone too far. Maybe something like 'Unfortunately, his face bore a strikingly equestrian configuration, and that just wouldn't do.'

Overall, the biggest problem I have is that all the names thrown about are confusing. I keep looking back to earlier paragraphs to make sure I'm following them. Yes, grammar is a problem. At one point you shift from past tense to present tense. Keep at it and your grammar will improve. Your style is verbose, and that isn't always bad. Your main character has a distinct voice, and that's a good thing. With some tightening up, this opening could at least get me to read the next 600 words.

Re: Hooking the Reader

#4
As you chose First POV, and the Character expressing it already knows the approaching character, the terms used for tagging are inappropriate, and the action tagging cumbersome. Also, a natural separation of much of the description employed would seem to need their own sentences, and the first POV needs to be carried through properly.
Example:{"Brother Chen," A boy of 10 called out to me, his face red sweat gathering at his temples, the golden trim of his robes not so different from mine denoting his high importance within the Sect.

"Ling Yan!" I interrupted,}


 "Brother Chen!" Ling called out. He rushed upon me red faced, sweat gathering at his temples. The golden trim of his robes not so different from mine, as he was of similar importance within the Sect.

"Ling Yan?" I paused, indignant that the boy had interrupted me. "Did I desecrate your mother's grave? Pluck the flower of you're Fairylike Fiancé? Am I Sun Chen so unworthy of face? Do you dare to challenge me! If I do not beat you black and blue, then this one is not named Sun!"


There are other grammatical problems in the full passage as well, but if fixed and carried through,  then it qualifies as a hook of sorts, as it raises unanswered questions concerning the relationship of the two and of the belligerence expressed here. Watching tense, and living in the POV expressed will help it a great deal. Much of what others have expressed applies, and my suggestion is elementary in nature as such things go.  I tried not to change more than needed to correct the POV used and break up long and unfocused sentence concatenations, or style.

Re: Hooking the Reader

#5
I'm not going to analyze your text, since others have already gone into some depth. I just wanted to say a few things about hooks and "show vs tell"

Effective hooks are generally things that fall under the "who what where why when" questions, where you present a situation and the reader unconsciously asks the question and wants to keep reading to have it answered. This is one of the reasons that openings with action do so well. Why are they fighting? Who are they fighting? Where are they fighting? etc.. The more of these you can answer in a few pages worth of opener the better the hook will be (as it relates to readers on RR. This doesn't really apply to things like literary fiction or other expository long form writing.)

As for "show vs tell", this is probably the most misunderstood "rule" that new writers have trouble with. It's a dumb rule that doesn't really explain its own premise, so it's taken to extremes without really understanding the underlying problem.

We should reword this to "action vs narrative summary", where action is defined as anything that any character is doing, and not just fighting, and not just the people. Any object, person, concept, etc. can be considered a character, and they all do things. The protagonist swaggers, boulders tumble, love blinds. Action is just characters doing things. This is what is most often referred to as "showing", but usually misses the point.

"Telling" is a part of what is called narrative summary, and can be described as the description of action from the narrative point of view instead of the character point of view. If you think about it as if the narrative pov can't understand character motivation, that's a lot like what narrative summary is when people use the term "telling." 

"Hercules planted his hands on his hips, thrust out his chin and chest, and smiled blindingly into the sunset." This is what people mean by "showing".
"Hercules struck a heroic pose." This is usually what people mean by "telling". This is a "just the facts and nothing else please" application of storytelling. When people really start yelling about "telling" is when cool action scenes are summarized in a "just the facts" way.

Neither are bad when used correctly. Sometimes all we need to know is that he struck a heroic pose. Other times we need to see all the details of the pose. It depends on context and what is important to the story. A good way to figure this out is if it passes the "do I really need a travel-log" test, where you ask yourself, "do I need to write a fully detailed account of their journey from A to B, or can I summarize it?" As a side note, narrative summary is extremely useful for things like adding context. As a post-script to my side note, it is entirely possible to "show" too much. This is often called "purple prose", or often you find yourself getting bored with all the action, which could have been summarized (telling) to move that part of the story along faster.

So to summarize, "action vs narrative summary" is really striking a balance between what is important for the reader and what is important for the story. Overuse of "showing" can bog down a story as much as overuse of "telling", and you should think about which is needed in the moment, and in the pages you've yet to write, to get the full benefit of both.

Hope this is helpful to you.