Temporary Absence

The Dead Darlings Society will be on a temporary hiatus while we undergo some maintenance and reorganization. Our contributors are sorting out a few real life things, but we promise we’ll be back with plenty of thoughts, advice, and reading to come!

Book Club: Witchmark

The Dead Darlings Society strongly recommends reading widely, especially in your preferred genre, to improve your craft. Therefore, we want to hold each other accountable, keep up with some relatively-new reads, and also have common books to discuss here on the blog–hence, the DDS Book Club!

This month, we’re going to read Witchmark by C.L. Polk. We’re particularly excited about this one because she is a personal friend, and this is her debut!



If you’d like to participate, read this book before the end of September, and look out for a discussion post from us around the beginning of October! Head on out to your local library, bookstore, audiobook site, or Amazon. Happy reading!

A hook by any other name…

The term “hook” comes with a lot of controversy. What is or isn’t a hook? Where should it be? Do you need one at all? Do you need more than one? Debating the nuances of the mysterious “hook” keeps writers busy on forums all over the internet. However, I’m going to throw down my gauntlet and say this:

A hook by definition is what makes the reader turn the page, and yes you absolutely need one on the first page.

Some people conflate hook with inciting incident, or maybe premise, but looking at it more broadly, the hook is what hooks readers. Maybe that is an explosive opening, a life-altering decision, or a crazy magic ritual, but it doesn’t have to be. I think this is where arguments come into play about whether you need one in the first paragraph, the first page, the first chapter, the first three chapters… There’s a lot to be said about what makes a strong opening, but I do think there must be a hook of some form in the early paragraphs.

Everyone can find successful examples of stories that delay the inciting incident or heap a lot of exposition up front. Whether that’s a good idea or not is, I think, unrelated to the hook itself.  I assert that calmer, more sedentary or reflective pieces also have hooks in the early paragraphs. In Asimov’s The Gods Themselves, for example, the narrative spends a lot of time explaining the science behind the Proton Pump–in this case, I found the science itself intriguing enough to want to know what was happening.

Not all stories rely on action and adventure. It might be the voice, the character’s perspective, the setting, or a dozen other things. But there’s something that catches your attention and makes you go “ooooo.” If there wasn’t, you wouldn’t keep reading.

The nitty-gritty of the first sentence versus the first paragraph versus the first page is widely open to debate. I don’t have as strong an opinion as others on how crucial the first line is compared to the second, or how long it’s okay to draw out slow beginnings. I do personally believe that all first chapters should start with motion, but that’s not necessarily the same thing as the hook.

In my mind, the “hook” is the chuckle, the twist of worry, the puzzlement, the curiosity. If there’s nothing to intrigue, then what’s the point of reading on to find out what happens?

Help, I don’t know how to write a useful critique! (Part 3)

We’ve talked about overcoming your reservations in part one, and a breakdown of types of feedback in part two, but one thing we still haven’t clarified is the nitty-gritty of what actually to say to an author you are critiquing.

Today, let’s go over some toolsets for how to structure your feedback.

Continue reading “Help, I don’t know how to write a useful critique! (Part 3)”