Lamplight and a Hook

I entered Charles Dickens' world of Victorian London with a lengthy audiobook that's taken more than a year to finish. The reader of this particular audiobook has flawless voices for each character, and I'm hooked by a mystery and an era.


The dialogue's originality gives the story strength. It rambles at times, and that's the reason for my prolonged visit, but truly, I'm a fan of Dickens' rich language and cleverly crafted, diverse characters.


So for this month, I'm sharing some fiction stories I've written, and the one below is an opening chapter intended to hook the reader.


(Photo taken by me, with digital art embellishments made by my son)

The lamplight shone on the cobblestones. Footprints north and south smeared the snowy ground. A closer look showed not marks from shoes, but feet of an uncertain creature.

“Excuse, me?” came a voice.

“Yes, Miss?” answered the coachman, standing near a parked carriage.

“Your horse looks cold,” said the woman. Her head was covered by a cloak, and the snowflakes melted as they reached it.

“Ah, it’s nothing to him,” answered the coachman.

“Well, take this blanket, please,” she replied. The smell of the horse mixed with steam from the dampness of the night.

“Kind of you, my lady,” he said, and as he took the blanket, he hid his smile from her.

The horse whinnied and moved his front legs, stomping and snorting. More steam came from his nostrils and the woman reached out her hand as if to calm him, but in reservation stopped it mid-air. “Did I frighten him?” the lady asked.

“It takes more than a soft voice to stir a horse,” replied the coachman. He leaned to place the blanket on the animal’s back, when something snapped, and the carriage shook. The horse threw off the blanket and twisted his huge frame toward the lamplight. “Ah! He’s riled up, that he is!” exclaimed the coachman.

And then they heard the scuffle. Their heads turned this way and that, but the dim light and the weather made a keen cover. “A stray cat, I'm sure,” the lady supposed.

“Most likely,” the coachman replied. “Miss, why aren’t you in the warmth of your own house?”

“My uncle,” she answered. “I’ve come to see if he’s well.”

“Must be. Closed his shop as usual, just as the Lamplighter came past.”

She looked at her uncle’s living quarters above the book store, and at the same moment a shadow darkened his window. “I’ll be heading upstairs,” she said as she gave a polite nod to the coachman. Her cheeks burned red from their conversation drawing on as long as it did.

The steps were wet from the snow, and she tripped before reaching the top. She didn’t fall down, just a small stumble. A bulky-mass had wriggled under her feet, and in righting herself, she failed to notice the animal’s lack of fur. Beady eyes set in roughly scaled skin stared up at her. As the lady opened the door to the building, the creature followed and slipped unseen into a dark hallway.

Writing Prompt: Did the "hook" of the unknown creature make you want to keep reading? Write the next chapter. Or, find another idea for a fictional story and write it with an intended "hook."

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