HH Com Rd 2 -31 (507)

Hook here

My first date with William Stocker was going so well I’d already begun planning our second. Then he attacked me with a butcher knife. Shows what I know.
“More wine?”
I smiled and handed William my empty glass. “Sure, thanks. But just a little.”
He headed for the kitchen and I watched him go, enjoying the uninterrupted view of his ass. I felt a little guilty about going back to his place after dinner on our first date but, what the hell. Mystery and restraint are overrated.
William returned with my refill and sunk into the leather couch beside me, close enough that our knees touched.
“I had a great time at dinner, Diana. I’m really glad you agreed to go out with me.” He hesitated. “Joyce made you sound a little cautious.”
I laughed. There was no way my boss, Joyce, had been that diplomatic. She’d once informed her twelve-year-old niece, without a twinge of conscience, that only skinny girls could get away with spandex. Bitch on wheels, that was Joyce.
“I admit it. I can be a distrustful pain in the ass, especially where blind dates are concerned.”
William grinned. “Totally justified. I mean, have you seen some of the people running around this city?”
“Exactly. You could have turned out to be the freakishly tall guy who spit on my shoes last week on the train.”
“I know that guy! He almost got me yesterday.”
We laughed together, hard. When the laughter faded there was that wonderful airy tension between us you only get in the beginning. William set his wineglass on the coffee table and brushed his fingertips across my cheek. I leaned into the touch and thought for a moment he might kiss me. But he retrieved his hand and said, “So what do you do when you’re not working, Diana?”
“Well, I read a lot and go out with friends, take long walks around the city, people-watching.” I took a sip of my cabernet, savoring its sweet, earthy taste. William stocked excellent wine but I was going to have to slow down. The world had begun to fuzz a bit at the edges. “How about you?”
“I study ritual blood sacrifice.”
I stared at him for a beat. There was an expectant look on his face, so it could have been a weird attempt at humor. “Did you just say blood sacrifice?”
“I certainly did.” William leaned forward, eyes fixed on mine. He put his hand on my knee. His palm was cold and damp. “For years I’ve studied the ancient art of blood ritual and power appropriation. But this is the first opportunity I’ve had to turn study into practice.”
I cleared my throat and shifted on the couch, trying unsuccessfully to loosen his grip on my leg. A few moments ago it would have been welcome; now I just wanted him to stop touching me.
“The practice?” I said. “With, like, chicken blood?”
I didn’t know if it was the conversation’s sudden swerve into Wonderland or the wine but my head had begun to feel like it was stuffed with wet cotton. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was saying.
“Jeez, I thought you’d be a bit quicker on the uptake than this.” William sighed and flopped back into the couch cushions, grinning widely. It was not a nice smile. But at least he’d let go of my knee.
I tried to lever myself into a more upright position on the couch but slid right back down the leather in a boneless heap. Shit.
“I’m sorry to end the evening early but I’m feeling really tired all of a sudden,” I said. “Would you mind calling me a cab?”
William’s nasty grin widened. “You’re tired because I drugged your wine. And no, you’re not going anywhere.”
“You drugged…?”
I flinched away from him and managed to haul myself off the couch. In my mind, I was running at full speed toward the front door. In reality, I stood gently swaying in my new, too-expensive high heels. William gazed up at me, from what seemed like miles away.
“It’s just a sedative to make you more manageable. Don’t worry, it won’t affect the ritual.”
“Joyce knows that I’m here,” I whispered.
“Yes, she does. Now what was I saying?” He snapped his fingers. “Oh yeah, power. It is the only thing that makes life worth living, Diana. You’ve got it in spades, and I’m going to take it from you.”

Take out everything in purple.
The "purple prose" is classic "telling" and it detracts from the narrative. You don't need to tell us this stuff, you'll show it to us by what the characters say and how they talk.

I liked this idea, the writing wasn't very zippy, but once you start ruthlessly pruning all this "tell" you'll have a good piece to show.


writtenwyrdd said...

I liked your hook and I like your writing, but I think Miss Snark has told you what you need to do. This needs to be trimmed. When you get to “Joyce knows that I’m here,” I whispered. “Yes, she does. Now what was I saying?” you are cutting to the chase. Get us to this very tense moment faster.

Anonymous said...

If the guy served her a sweet cabernet, she should have been out of there before the drug had a chance to take effect. If it tasted sugary, that's one cheap-ass cabernet.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest using a color other than purple. On my monitor it is indistinguishable from black.

Anonymous said...

Could you please name the stalker anything but "Stocker"?

Dave Fragments said...

Why do I have the terrible urge to run away when I hear the words:
"I study ritual blood sacrifice"
Now that does tend to spoil a date.

As for sweet cabernet, don't be such a wine snob and whiner... It comes in plastic jugs from Ohio and it's great stuff for $2.00 a gallon...

McKoala said...

This is a great place to start. I don't need to know about Joyce, though and some of the other chit chat could be trimmed, I think, just to get to the good stuff a bit faster.

Anonymous said...

I'll read on. Trim it, yes, but this is hooking me.

Anonymous said...

That was a great opening. I'd read more. Definitely.

Mindy Tarquini said...

I liked the opening line, but got confused with the 'more wine' question. I thought there was a joke there I wasn't getting, that maybe the wine was a horrible vintage and that's what the author meant by getting attacked with a butcher knife - as in a metaphorical one.

So maybe instead of giving us the back and forth that leads up to the butcher knife, just get right to the attack and move forward from there?

Anonymous said...

Nothing here hooked me, but I emphatically disagree with Miss Snark about pruning the purple text.

When I saw the highlighting in this one, I was expecting Miss Snark to say something positive about those bits. In my mind, some of those were best parts of the sample.

One of the joys of first person is getting deep inside the narrator's head. The story is being told to us and filtered by the main character. How that character interprets and filters the story SHOWS us what make the character unique and interesting. The little offhand comments, like "Mystery and restraint are overrated," speak volumes about Diana in a very efficient and engaging way. She's not just TELLING us that mystery is overrated, she's SHOWING us that she's the type of person who believes mystery is overrated. (Or at least she wants to believe it in order to rationalize her decisions.)

When you take all those bits out, you lose the everything that makes first person special.

For the most part, these weren't long, introspective sessions. They weren't peppered with unnecessary and distancing "thinker" attributions. They were the good bits.

Anonymous said...

This sounds really good.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this beginning. I'm in adrian's camp. The first two suggested cuts were two lines that I responded to.

Q - Looking at the hook as well, what genre would you market this as? Fantasy? Supernatural horror?

KACberry said...

Thanks to all for the comments. I was so glad that the opening was what Miss Snark chose to critique b/c it's what I had the most trouble figuring out. First I started with Diana & William still at the restaurant but that was too much lead in. I am thinking about cutting right to the attack but I do like my first couple of lines. A case of kill your darlings? I don't know. As for the wine comments, I'm a big fan of Yellowtail cabernet so my tastes are not the most sophisticated. :) Anyway, thanks again. There's nothing like honest, constructive criticism to get an author working. As for anon's question, once the attack is over the novel is a pretty clear cut fantasy story. There is violence but not what I would peg as prototypical horror.