Monday, October 11, 2010

"Hook, Line, and Sinker" Blogfest


Thanks to Justin Parente over at "In My Write Mind" for hosting this blogfest. Please visit his blog for the rest of the entries.

The premise of this blogfest is simple. Hook. The. Reader. But simple it is not to make a reader fall in love in precious few pages. It's somewhat akin to the last blogfest I did called "At First Sight." A writer has to get the reader to love their character in the first 500 to 1,000 words or else the reader will skip to the next book they're considering. We're competing for fleeting interests and scarce disposable income.

So here are the tests your story and character must past in the first 1,000 words or less.
  • Who is the character I am relating to?
  • Does he/she have a personality that I crave to read?
  • Is the world around them set up to compliment the character as they are introduced?
  • Are there secondary characters to assist the hook along, with conflict or pace?
  • Lastly: do I love the character? Do I want to read more about him/her?
So, without further ado, here are the first 770 words of "Caenus."  Do tell me if I've gotten your attention and you want to read more. And If not, tell me what's lacking.

***

“I need a strong son to reign when Hades darkens my doorstep!” the king barked. “You’ve won no sword fighting events and no archery contests. You can barely ride a horse. When will you be strong enough to command the military?”
Prince Caenus sidestepped a thrust from his friend’s sparring sword, feeling the heat of the king’s gaze needling his skin. During a brief lull in sparring action, the prince shot a sidelong glance toward where his brooding father sat on the wall surrounding the courtyard of the royal palace. Disappointment had bent the lines on King Kranos’ forehead.
A biting sword point poked Caenus’ ribcage, demanding the prince’s attention. Caenus shifted his sun-kissed frame. Dodging his friend’s advance, Caenus darted between fluted columns near the perimeter of the otherwise sparse courtyard.
Caenus’ best friend and sparring partner, Golan cut off the prince’s evasive maneuver.  And again, wood beat against wood. Jab. Swipe. Swing. Block. Dust rose from the ground in random clouds, kicked up by the swiftly moving feet of the two young men. Their sparring swords danced against one another as familiar foes.
 “Is that your best, Caenus?” Golan jeered, ducking a half-hearted swing of the prince’s sword. “Is there no more fight in you than this peasant’s display of swordsmanship?” 
Golan knocked the sword from Caenus’ grasp and, with the flick of his wrist, guided the tip of his own sword to Caenus’ throat.
“King Me!” Golan shouted with victorious confidence. He smiled broadly, perspiration creating sheen across his short crop of dark hair.
With Golan’s sword tip at his throat, Caenus looked around the courtyard slowly, again catching sight of his disapproving father. He appreciated the training session, but thoughts of his upcoming eighteenth birthday held center stage. Caenus brushed his hair from in front of his eyes. His squared jaw softened as he wiped beads of perspiration from the length of his straight nose into his loincloth, already dirty from the sparring session.
“I need to find a way to impress my Father,” Caenus whispered slowly, peering through a wispy brown curtain of his own hair.
“Yes you do!” Kranos blared directly into his son’s ear, grasping a handful of Caenus’ hair.
The prince gasped at the preternatural speed with which his father had crossed the courtyard.    
“Are You Training Or Playing Games?” Kranos barked again. “There is no place for the mediocre in the history of great men! ”
Caenus remained silent, deferent, his father’s disappointment slicing straight through him. He looked at his father diagonally due to how sharply his hair was being pulled.
“Are you destined to be like your worthless brothers?  I’ve not had a son yet that could even return from the games, let alone win them,” Kranos spat on the ground, shoving his son’s head. “If Iapetos and Adrastos could see you now, gods rest their souls. You’re not even half the prince they were.”
Caenus’ heart sank as a lump formed in his throat. His stomach clenched. A single tear formed at the corner of his eyes as thoughts of his deceased brothers bled into his father’s disappointment. Though he hadn’t known his brothers well, he still looked up to them. Now their ghosts haunted him.
“I know what’ll make a man of you,” Kranos growled. “I’m sending you to the Isthmian games to face your brothers’ demons.”
“What? No, I’m not ready…” Caenus willed the tears back.
“Get ready!” Kranos roared. “If it is my sons’ destiny to perish at the games, then you’ll either fulfill that destiny or return home victorious.”
Caenus had never really considered his destiny. That was, not until his father mentioned it. And even then, the concept seemed so ethereal that the prince slid it to the bottom of his consciousness.
“And if I don’t win…?”
 “If you do not win,” Kranos crackled, glaring at his youngest son. “You will fall in to the two year ephebos military training alongside all the other sons of Iolkos. Disowned. Disinherited. No longer a prince, but a plebe. You will live beside them in the filthy barracks. You will eat the same gruel they eat. And, you’ll have to fight every other son of Iolkos for the crown!”
“Will you not be proud to have me simply return from the games, victorious or not?”
 “Simply returning means you didn’t give it your all. Anyone can shrink away from the challenges to preserve their life. Only a win will release your brothers’ souls from their chains.” Kranos snapped. “I’d rather you die at the games if you’re not going to win!” 
Caenus’ throat dried to parching.