HH Com 576

The vile god Dhur’Ghellon waits and plots. Where his unworldly touch scars the lands, he spawns fiends who lust for apocalypse. Yet when evil rises, the goddess Sho’Cayam guides her faithful. Her Harbinger Shadow, a dark tendril slashing across the sky like an accusing finger, points to the heart of Dhur’Ghellon’s menace. Holy books chronicle three comings of the Harbinger Shadow; each time the Cayam clergy staved off annihilation by crusading against Dhur’Ghellon’s fiends.

Cayam warrior Selkair Trevond clings to his faith but cannot mend his cracked life. The legacy of his ancestors daunts him. His wife abandoned him. And tragic memories of an innocent girl dying upon his sword torment him. But when the Harbinger Shadow abruptly returns, it fills Selkair with purpose and redemption. In Sho’Cayam’s name he leads an army of holy warriors to eradicate the festering evil.

As Selkair’s crusade ignites war across the lands, his ex-wife declares the sacred Cayam texts flawed. Is the Harbinger Shadow a divine warning or the source of evil? Selkair refuses to seek a deeper truth until shepherded by a new voice--the spirit of the innocent girl who died upon his sword. While the crusaders weather vicious foes and devastating betrayal, Selkair fights to save both his people and his religion. He must confront the fictions written into Cayam holy books, unravel a senile wizard’s awesome power, and face another dreadful death upon his sword--the sacrifice of his new love.



Virginia Miss said...

Author, try to limit yourself to just a few names and places. Fantasy is tough. You can't fit an entire world's history and religion -- as well as a story -- into a hook.

Dave Fragments said...

This sounds like my newphew's Dungeons and Dragons drivel.

"Hark, I hear Mor-Bat god of the Evil coming. Prepare your swords,"
"No, it's Creep-lith, lizard king of welch-on-blithering, Prepare the spells!"
"Wait, you're violating the rules! Elves can't have handle big swords and only the undead can cast that spell!"

or something like that.

Anonymous said...

I write fantasy, so I'll speak up on this one.

Interesting bits that stood out to me: The main character is haunted by an innocent girl he killed in his past. And I like the idea of a senile wizard. ;-)

The rest is a blur of foreign names, cliches, and generalities: vile god waits and plots spawns fiends vicious foes awesome power with purpose and redemption devastating betrayal dreadful death and [my fave] festering evil!

Focus on the main character, the main character's goal, and the antagonist. (Martha Stewart says, "Miss Snark's Hook It Up starting point is Good Thing!)

And please, please, please...no more Dark Lords of Evil!!!

Anonymous said...

I know as Author you can follow all the threads and your hook seems clear to you, but you lost me in a muddle by the end of the second paragraph. Concentrate on the MC, drop most of the rest. Then those of us who haven't written/read it a dozen times will know if we want to take it to the check out counter.

Anonymous said...

Selkair should take up blues-singing instead of crusading. 'My wife done left me, I let down all my ancestors, I killed an innocent girl...'
Careful about vocabulary. 'unworldly' means 'innocent' or 'naive', not 'unearthly' or 'otherworldly', which is what I think you intended to convey. The Caps of Portentousness need to be handled lightly, as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm the Author...

Thanks to Miss Snark for all her time and most especially to the Snarklings commenting here ('cause "WTF?" by itself wouldn't be an especially powerful learning experience).

Virginia Miss--Yes, fantasy is tough. I've got a whole history, magic system, religion system, several nations, and cast of characters to worry about. I really tried to prune out most of it (skipped any details about how magic works, didn't mention specific nations or their historic wars, mentioned only 3 names (2 gods' names plus the main character's name...)). Any more suggestions about what needs to be trimmed (or the converse--what needs to be expanded) would be great. Unfortunately I don't see how to leave out *all* of the fantasy backstory since the religion, in this case, is a fundamental motivation for every major charcter and most major events. And unlike non-fantasy/sci fi novels, I can't give the reader a single word (Christianity/Islam/Judaism/etc.) to quickly sum it up. How to get enough across in a few words and make it compelling... I'll work on it more, obviously.

Dave--I'll accept responsibility for writing a hook that failed and made you think of Dungeons and Dragons, but I'm confident that the story itself is nothing like what you describe. Definitely no elves. Gah! Hopefully those with more taste for fantasy had a slightly more positive reaction.

Anonymous--Appreciate the comments (especially the positives, which definitely helps). Some of what I said to Virginia Miss applies to your concerns about foreign names, cliches, and generalities--it's really tough to cover any background and any goings on without making some generalities and going into "blur" territory. Any more suggestions from your own experience in writing fantasy for how to cover it all in a short hook? I have pared out a heck of a lot already, and yet from your comments I glean something that I actually pared out too much--the so-called "Dark Lord." I've failed to describe that threat well enough. I, too, tire of fantasy cliche, and in my work the characters all *believe* that a dark god exists and threatens them, but by the end of the book the existence of the dark god is never actually confirmed. He may or may not exist, much like with real life religions. There's no showdown with the dark god in Mount Doom or any such. In the course of pursuing what the characters perceive to be the "festering evil," they uncover more immediate, tangible foes and must instead contend with them. Perhaps I should focus the hook more on that angle to guarantee I don't sound too cliche.

cm allison--Thanks, too. Appreciate knowing specifically where I lost you.

Oh, well, back to the drawing board... Thanks again to all. And of course more comments would be greatly apprecaited!

Anonymous said...

:The tired editor raises one mightily thewed arm and flings the offending WTF effort into the return envelope with an awesome schwoop.:

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, you are indulging in the dreaded info dump in this hook, and you aren't giving us any action. Right now, this reads like one of those prologs to a fantasy novel which only make sense after you read the rest of the book. In other words, the kind of prolog no one actually reads.

This could be good, I cannot tell. Stick to what the novel plot is. Who does what, and what the conflict is about.

archer said...

The vile god Dhur’Ghellon waits and plots. Where his unworldly touch scars the lands, he spawns fiends who lust for apocalypse.

Miss Wormwood, Calvin's still outside and he's ripping up grass and yelling or something!

Angus Weeks said...

Author, since you asked for advice:

Focus on Selkair since he seems to be the main character. Start with him. It sounds like he has some interesting things going on. Your last two paragraphs aren't too bad, actually, it's just that by the time we get to them, our heads have already exploded from reading the first paragraph.

The first paragraph is backstory. You don't need it in the hook. Focus on what is happening NOW.

You say you don't see how you can leave out all the backstory. You seem to worry your story will be misunderstood, or even that it can't stand on its own, without backstory. If it's a good story, it will do fine. The last two paragraphs would actually be stronger without that first paragraph. Try reading them by themselves, and see what I mean.

Remember - all you need to do in the hook itself is to spark the agent's interest. Backstory doesn't sparkle at all.

Fuchsia Groan said...

I have a taste for the melodramatic, so I kinda enjoyed this. But, author, if your point is that the dark lord may or may not actually exist (which is a cool twist, by the way), I wouldn't start the hook with his plotting, thereby implying that he DOES exist. Maybe the first paragraph is written from the POV of the folks who believe in the dark lord, but that's just too confusing for a hook. I would start with the main character--sounds like he has Thomas Covenant levels of tormented backstory going on. Maybe start with the fact that he doubts the import of the sign and is the only one to do this (?).

Anonymous said...

I read a lot of fantasy and there's nothing in this hook that I haven't seen a thousand times before.
I'm sure you would disagree with me and you've mentioned in your comment a few things that you believe you're doing differently. I would focus on those in your hook. Use it to tell me what makes this different to every other sword-and-sorcery fantasy book.