Friday, November 25, 2011

3 ways to hook a reader in 100 words and last round's winners

Don't forget on Monday morning I'll announce the official word limit for the free-write contest. Which means you have through the weekend to ratchet up the Go Teen Writers "followers" number. (If you're not sure how those two sentences relate to each other, make sure to read the post on the free-write contest going on now.)

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving yesterday! When I think about what I'm most thankful for, you guys always come to mind. Anyone doing Black Friday shopping? That's one of the "I nevers" that I get to use when I play that game. One of these days I'd like to experience it, but not with my 1-year-old and 3-year-old in tow. (I might be referring to my 3-year-old a lot over the next couple weeks because she's on the verge of turning 4, and I'm in denial. Though she assures me that she will still be fun and will still let me read to her even after she's a big 4-year-old.)

Below are the wonderful winning entries from last round's prompt, "If only they could see me now."

When Fred Warren emailed me his winners, he told me the following:

It's tough trying to hook a reader in the first 100 words--and 100
words sounds like a lot until you put it on the page.
Here's what I was looking for:
1. Solid mechanics--grammar, spelling, etc.
2. An intriguing idea--it needed to leave me wanting more.
3. Restraint--there's a huge temptation to squeeze too much into those first 100 words. Lots of details and background up front can bury an exciting premise.

First Place
Lindsey Bradford (double-finalled)
Jenna Blake Morris

Second Place
Jessi Roberts
Heidi Vanderveen
Katy McCurdy

Third Place
Katy McCurdy (also placed second)
Kaitlyn Evensen
Jessica Zelli

Honorable Mentions
Jessi Roberts (also placed second)
Heidi Vanderveen (also placed second)
Jessica Zelli (also placed thrid)
Jordan Newhouse
Rachelle Rea
Faye Rhys

Lindsey Bradford, 1st (twice!)

"Take this," I told Rye, handing her a small knife. "It won't stop one if it wants a bit of you, but it'll keep you alive long enough for me to get there."
   Rye's small hand closed around the handle. Her eyes were wide as she looked at the insufficient weapon. "My daddy always said I wasn't allowed to hold knives," she said slowly.
   "You're doing lots of things you weren't allowed to." I looked outside at the ruined city. The sun was coming up. We had to run.
   "I guess so." Rye grinned. "If only they could see me now."
The judges say: Great job setting the stage with just a couple of lines of dialogue and a few descriptive words that spoke volumes about where the characters were, what they were doing, and how they felt about it. Nice sense of urgency and danger that pulled me in from the first sentence./Chosen because of the excellent writing, realistic dialogue, and intriguing ending hook.

Jenna Blake Morris, 1st

When I woke up, I had to wonder why I was suspended over the Bottomless Pit.
    Then I remembered the explosion.  They must've caught me after that....
    "Hello?  Anyone there?"
    Nobody answered.
    Then I noticed my guard.  She grinned, waving a shuriken at me.  I shook my head, praying this Sim wasn't heartless.
    No dice--she hurled the shuriken, which grazed the rope above me.  I swallowed.
    Game almost over.
    At the Academy, I'd been the Supergirl--my instructors guaranteed I'd survive anything.  Now I plotted--first I'd catch a shuriken, without shredding my thoughts reverted to my instructors.
    If only they could see me now.
The judge says: Good way to show the motivation of the character, and the stakes are very high—life and death. Good job.

Jessi Roberts, 2nd

I pulled the picture of my family from my vest. If only they could see me now. Cold reality crushed my fantasy. Would they even recognize me? I examined the girl in the picture, the girl I used to be. My facial structure hadn’t changed but the girl in the picture hadn’t killed or watched her friends die in her arms. I wasn’t that girl, not anymore.
“We have to go,” a soldier said.
I stood, stuffing the picture back into my vest. If my family knew I was alive, would they be proud or ashamed of my choices? 

The judge says: Family photographs are powerful images, and you used this one to good effect as a way to introduce your character and her situation. It was a very genuine, emotional moment. I instantly cared
about her and wanted to know the rest of her story.

Heidi Vanderveen, 2nd

I stand on the cliff, the cold running fingers through my hair and slapping me across the cheek. I tremble, but not from the cold.
The churning black waters below me look so far away.
I close my eyes. Inhale. Exhale.
Their taunts fill my ears. You’re nothing. A coward. You’ll never do anything.
I square my shoulders. Force my body to still.
If only they could see me now.
I jump.

The judge says: Excellent job of pacing and the unique descriptions that catch the reader’s attention and hold it!

KatyMcCurdy, 2nd and 3rd
Icy vapors billow around my face as I crouch in the dark alley. I scan the snow-covered streets for soldiers—deserted. The house where the hostages are being held is two doors down. I slip my gun out. My mission is simple.
Kill the soldiers. Release the prisoners. Get out.
The front door of the house bangs open. My breath catches. Twelve soldiers pour out, hustling along two bound men. Something’s not right—they weren’t supposed to be moved tonight!
They pass my hiding place. If only they could see me now…to know they’re not abandoned.
I blink into the darkness. I need a Plan B. Fast.

The judges say: Nice suspense and tension./Very intense scene--I liked the little details you used to set the stage: the soldier's breath, snow in the streets, the sound of the door banging open. I also liked the staccato rhythm of the soldier's thoughts as he reviewed his mission and scrambled to react to the new situation.

Kaitlyn Evensen, 3rd

Looking down from the roof of my apartment building, I shivered against the cool fall wind. Leaves whipped across the streets below me as I contemplated whether or not to jump.  The scientists who made me years before thought I was a failed experiment. If only they could see me now. I thought bitterly. The wind picked up as I stepped to the edge and shrugged my jacket off.  Somewhere in the distance, I heard a terrified scream. New York needed a hero, and that was something I could be. With eyes shut, I jumped, unfurling my wings as I hurtled towards the ground. 

The judge says: I am a sucker for a superhero story. Nice premise and beginning.

Jessica Zelli, 3rd

I thought of my family as my maid clasped the jewels around my neck. I thought of their tangled hair as she complimented me. If only they could see me now. As the maid exited the room, I ran my hands over the white lace. This was the gown I was to wear today as I married the prince, to bring peace to the kingdom. Yet I wasn’t who they thought I was.
I was not the princess, but an assassin. And I had to kill the prince.
The prince I was going to marry today.

The judge says: Unique story angle, and totally awesome ending hook!!


  1. Congrats to the winners. It can be awfully tempting to add a ton of information... It's hard to find the fine line in the middle :) Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  2. No shopping cif me!
    Little miss McKenna is so cute, it's very important to stay fun at 4 :)

  3. Oh, neat! I made Honorable Mention!

    My jaw dropped when I read Jessica Zelli's. I love it! Such an interesting hook. ;)

  4. Great entries! I got WAY too distracted with three-hours of play practice a day and the actual performances AND dealing with NaNoWrMo AND polishing up a short story with a deadline, so ended up not entering this one. I'm pretty excited about the free-write, though, so hopefully I can finish up NaNoWrMo and have time to do it!

  5. Awesome JZ! Loved it! :) Man, I wish I entered this one...

  6. I loved all of them! Soooooo cool!:)