Need suggestions on improving my first chapter hook >.<'

  • Link

    I ran this through the Hemmingway app and got a score of 8, so atleast that's something :|


    Hotaka is a hikkikomori gifted with the special ability to see Zel, the "souls of books". Characters from works of fiction manifest before him like ghost-like projections, and interact with him almost as if they were a real sentient person. They are the soul or embodiment of the story they came from.

    This allows Hotaka to delve into a story's meaning deeper than anybody else, sometimes even understanding it better than the author himself. This led him to being hired at Open-Verse, a small publishing house catering to amateur light novel writers, where he works on retconning the Zels of (mostly badly written) new manuscripts.

    Because the Zel is the very lifeblood of the story, bad writing often accompanies a Zel that is unsatisfied with itself. When a Zel feels that there is something missing in it's life, some emotion that it wants to experience but has no way of doing so, it cannot perform well and the quality of its story drops. In layman's terms, we call this the author being unable to express himself. (like me)

    Hotaka works as a mix of a therapist and private detective for these Zels. We follow his adventures in finding out what story a Zel dreams of and writing him/her into the most self-gratifying fanfiction of their dreams. Even just once is enough. A Zel experiencing it's ideal story turns into a satisfied Zel, and hence, the original story it came from can now also touch the reader's hearts.

    The problem:

    The first chapter tackles Hotaka having a loli for a client. She is the Zel of a... (ahem) very voluptuous Onee-san in her original novel. The fact she's turned loli when manifesting into the physical world is one of the few things indicative of an unsatisfied Zel.

    So our opening scene is a hikkikomori and a loli alone in a room... The thing is, I'm not sure what's best for their first interaction to have, and how early I should dive into the main story.

    I've tried again and again to build up to the introduction of Zel
    by having a "oh look, that human we're all thinking is an ordinary human is not actually a human, it's a ghost" kind of plot twist. I'm ashamed to say none of my revisions worked out, and at this point I'm starting to think maybe this angle is just not the right approach.

    I feel like it slows down (?) the progress of the story because I waste 500 words on virtually a false promise to the reader. If I stretch the red herrings to make it even more of a plot twist, not only am I lengthening the hook but now I need a hook for my hook, in the form of a 200-line Bakemonogatari dialogue that I don't see people being keen on...

    The thing is there's so many unrelated things I have to establish before I start the plot: the existence of Zel, Hotaka is a hikkikomori, Hotaka works at a publishing company, Zel satisfaction level reflects writing quality, how to satisfy Zel and what happens after the process.

    If I could just find some way to segway from Hotaka's ordinary life to the introduction of this Zel thing and it's rules all in one go, chapter one would be finalized by now. Is there some angle I still haven't considered? Do you think I should stick with the idea of implying the Zel is a normal human first? Or do I immediately go balls deep and open the scene by "this is not human"? Or do I take the "in medias res" advice and show these characters in action first?

    (I've tried this and failed though, starting in the middle of the action... Makes it look like incoherent babbling when two characters are talking about story ideas and you have no context what they need it for...)

  • Editors

    @tenori-tejima I think you can have the opening scene be with the hikkikomori and the Zel. If handled correctly, it could be a really good hook. And 500 words isn't too long to make the reader wait for the reveal in the next scene, i.e., that the Zel is actually not human.

    Have you heard of Nanowrimo? It's a free online event in November where people write 50,000 words of a novel. I've done Nanowrimo a number of times, usually either to start a new novel or to finish one I've been working on.

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