Judge Training 103 — Score Sheet – Opening

Judge Training 103



Story “hook” grabs attention
Establishes character(s) or plot in an interesting/unusual light


To analyze the score sheet, I’m hoping you’ve all had the opportunity to watch EVER AFTER: A CINDERELLA STORY (1998). If you’ve never seen the movie…it’s one of my favorites and I’m certain I’m not doing it justice (especially since I completely suck at synopses).

QUESTION: What is a hook?

SIMPLE ANSWER: It’s the saleable concept or marketing element of the story.

Series or Single Titles; Historicals or Futuristics…all have marketing elements. Secret babies, reunited lovers, bad boy, girl next door, Cinderella, heroine in jeopardy, eye-witness on the run, librarian turned sleuth, cowboys, fish out of water, run-away bride, the quest, searching for the truth, hidden treasure…and many more romantic tropes.

For the purposes of judging…?



                      Story “Hook” grabs attention                                                     

There’s more than just a marketing element grabbing a reader’s attention on the first couple of pages that makes them purchase a book. It has to do with a combination of originality, voice, phrasing…lots of things just make a story jump off the page.

In EVER AFTER, the movie has three openings: the Queen beginning the recitation of the story to the Brothers Grimm (we could call this a Prologue); the beginning scenes with the father’s (back story); and then the true opening (or inciting event) where Danielle meets Henry. Without the back story we wouldn’t be as sympathetic to Danielle. And without the Queen, we wouldn’t be as intrigued to find out the true story of the little Cinder girl. When Danielle meets Henry, the Prince, we can connect with both characters more so because of the information we know about them.

                      Establishes character(s) or plot in an interesting/unusual light

What every author is searching for… No matter that there are 7 basic story-lines in writing. Each story told or retold receives a unique voice from its author. So it might be an age-old story of Cinderella, but is it a UNIQUE version?

In EVER AFTER, Henry, the wealthy Prince who wants for nothing, is literally running away from his castle and responsibilities. And Danielle, the commoner with a wicked step-mother, never considers running from hers–no matter how badly she’s treated. Now there’s an interesting twist.

Or what about a Young Adult– CINDERELLA: NINJA WARRIOR by Maureen McGowan, Silver Dolphin Publishing, April 2011. Or what about Cinderella Man: James J. Braddock, Max Baer, and the Greatest Upset in Boxing History by Jeremy Schaap, Mariner Books 2006.  Lots of unique takes on a very old story.


As always, if you have questions relating specifically to an entry, contact  GEcoordinator@ntrwa.org.

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Most of the opinions on judging and interpreting the questions’ intent are my own words. I’ve been in the business over 15 years and have spoken to many authors, gathering information. A lot of the time when a question is asked, I go to authors who publish in that genre for advice. Please use your own expertise and experience, but keep our humble interpretations in mind.

~Thanks, Angi Morgan


Contributions and edits by Fenley Grant