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Old 11-19-2012, 05:37 PM   #3451
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Mine is short and doesn't say much.


Three days cramped in a room at the Mouse in the Clock tavern. If you liked Chintz the room was beautiful. If you had not spent days inside, the room would be spacious.
It's so easy to be overly picky when looking at just three sentences. But fwiw...

The first sentence begins the story by introducing a question. (Character has spent three days in a cramped tavern room. Why?) But second and third sentences don't advance the story. They're just description.

The thing is, readers don't care about the room. They want to know more about the character. So why not save the descriptions for a little bit later and instead provide more information about who the character is and why he or she is in that room?
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Old 11-19-2012, 05:39 PM   #3452
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He was alive. The walk along a worn road in the cool weather was enjoyable. The weight he carried on his back a familiar friend. Sips from an old water skin where good and refreshing.
Is the first sentence significant? Is there a reason he shouldn't be alive?

Because otherwise, this opening has no conflict and no hook. It's just some guy out for a pleasant walk.
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Old 11-19-2012, 06:38 PM   #3453
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From my NaNo project... Not in love with the 3rd sentence, but I need to write the last sentence in the story before I start tweaking. (Just reminding myself - Self, keep writing & resist the urge to edit! )


Grace eased up from the rumpled king bed where Skye had finally cried herself to sleep. Her daughter wasnít the only one weeping these days. Graceís own eyes felt puffy and hot and she knew her pale skin was mottled from hours of holding back the flood of emotions that hit anew every time she thought of Owen.
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Old 11-20-2012, 12:54 AM   #3454
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He was alive. The walk along a worn road in the cool weather was enjoyable. The weight he carried on his back a familiar friend. Sips from an old water skin where good and refreshing.
It's hard to get the feel of your story from just three/four sentences but if it's supposed to set the tone, you might want to alter the pace.

"He was alive." If this is an important statement, I'd start with telling us something to make us care. For example:

"He was lucky to be alive and that simple truth added fresh flavor to the cool breeze."

You can say alot or set up the right kind of tension with just a couple of sentences.
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Old 11-20-2012, 04:18 AM   #3455
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Grace eased up from the rumpled king bed where Skye had finally cried herself to sleep. Her daughter wasnít the only one weeping these days. Graceís own eyes felt puffy and hot and she knew her pale skin was mottled from hours of holding back the flood of emotions that hit anew every time she thought of Owen.
Opening at a moment of high emotion is a hard sell. The reader doesn't know why your characters are upset and so his or her sympathies are not engaged. Also, this looks a reaction to something, and if that's the case, it means you've started your story in a trough, between events. Not a good place to begin.
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Old 11-20-2012, 08:25 AM   #3456
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LOL, I like your attitude! Your opening... not so much.
Hey what a coincidence! Substitute opening with writing and I agree.
I have no delusions of how my skills measure against real writers. Uncle Jim's "Permission to Write Badly" is my primary inspiration at this point and after years of practice I may improve to "Write Adequetly".

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Get rid of the first sentence
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Originally Posted by BethS View Post
Is the first sentence significant?
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"He was alive."
Hmmm, there may be a pattern here. My idea was to start the emotional conflict right away, but that obviously isn't a good idea.

Thanks for the comments. Before I thought it was poor, now I know for sure, ha.
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Old 11-20-2012, 03:57 PM   #3457
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My idea was to start the emotional conflict right away, but that obviously isn't a good idea.
There's nothing wrong with that idea. Where it may have faltered is in the execution. We're not seeing the conflict that's in your mind.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:09 PM   #3458
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Hmmm, there may be a pattern here. My idea was to start the emotional conflict right away, but that obviously isn't a good idea.
It's actually a wonderful idea. But I didn't see an emotional conflict in those sentences. They were all focused on how good he felt.
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Old 11-20-2012, 05:15 PM   #3459
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This is from my NaNo project. Needs some work but I promised myself I wouldn't edit until December

A loose section of rusted chain link fence captured agent Cameron’s suit jacket as he jumped over it, but he didn’t stop. He hit the ground on the other side, wriggled out of its tightly fitted arms and sprinted ahead, narrowly avoiding the multiple bows of an aged river birch. A rotting log exploded into cinders as his foot slammed into it.
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Old 11-20-2012, 09:54 PM   #3460
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Originally Posted by Buffysquirrel View Post
There's nothing wrong with that idea. Where it may have faltered is in the execution. We're not seeing the conflict that's in your mind.
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It's actually a wonderful idea. But I didn't see an emotional conflict in those sentences. They were all focused on how good he felt.
The ending of the paragraph is "Altogether it should have been a pleasant trip for the dwarven warrior, except he was alive."
My idea was to contrast the last stretch of a journey with his negative emotional state. On reflection from comments, I could come across as gimmicky.
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Old 11-20-2012, 10:29 PM   #3461
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Originally Posted by randi.lee View Post
This is from my NaNo project. Needs some work but I promised myself I wouldn't edit until December

A loose section of rusted chain link fence captured agent Cameronís suit jacket as he jumped over it, but he didnít stop. He hit the ground on the other side, wriggled out of its tightly fitted arms and sprinted ahead, narrowly avoiding the multiple bows of an aged river birch. A rotting log exploded into cinders as his foot slammed into it.
I do like this! Agent and Birch should be capitalized though. The bolded part might need changing. A 'section' of fence to me would mean a long section , not just a bent wire... Not sure. I'm going to assume the 'log' was on fire? Otherwise it couldn't possibly explode into cinders...
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Old 11-20-2012, 11:14 PM   #3462
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I do like this! Agent and Birch should be capitalized though.
Nope and nope. Agent would only be capitalised if it was said to him in address. The species of the tree does not warrant capitalisation either as it's not a proper noun.

Sorry, I just can't hold back when I see incorrect grammatical advice
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Old 11-20-2012, 11:16 PM   #3463
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Great feedback, Kimmy. Thanks! And thanks for the catch, Kallithrix
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:19 AM   #3464
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Sorry, I should have said punctuation advice
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:20 AM   #3465
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Originally Posted by randi.lee View Post
A loose section of rusted chain link fence captured agent Cameron’s suit jacket as he jumped over it, but he didn’t stop. He hit the ground on the other side, wriggled out of its tightly fitted arms and sprinted ahead, narrowly avoiding the multiple bows of an aged river birch. A rotting log exploded into cinders as his foot slammed into it.
This combines vivid description in an action opening. I like it.

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Nope and nope. Agent would only be capitalised if it was said to him in address. The species of the tree does not warrant capitalisation either as it's not a proper noun.
I agree with species of the tree don't get capitalized normally.

I have a different opinion on "agent." Used alone, like the agent Cameron is a hunk or Cameron, the legendary agent... will be in lower cases. But in the original context Agent Cameron is a collective expression.

My CMOS 15th ed gives these examples [8.25]: "the mayor; Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago; Mayor Daley;"

You can write: David Cameron, the prime minister, is silly; or Prime Minister David Cameron is silly. It doesn't matter if you are writing to the prime minister or to your friend.

Last edited by Bing Z; 11-21-2012 at 12:25 AM. Reason: P.M. Cameron, not P.M. D.Cameron
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:39 AM   #3466
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Thank you, Bing!!
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Old 11-21-2012, 03:10 AM   #3467
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A loose section of rusted chain link fence captured agent Cameron’s suit jacket as he jumped over it, but he didn’t stop. He hit the ground on the other side, wriggled out of its tightly fitted arms and sprinted ahead, narrowly avoiding the multiple bows of an aged river birch. A rotting log exploded into cinders as his foot slammed into it.
In the first sentence, the action is out of order (one of the hazards of using the "as" construction). You need to show him jumping the fence before describing what's happening when he jumps the fence.

"bows of an aged river birch" confused me until I realized that you meant "boughs."

Last sentence uses the "as" construction again, resulting once more in a tangled action sequence. His foot slams into the log, then it disintegrates. (Is that what you meant by "explodes"? Not sure how it can explode into cinders. Was it on fire?)

Details like "aged river birch" are surely not something he'd notice in his headlong dash.

Looking at this as an effective opening...it's got action, but we don't know what he's running from or what's at stake, so it's hard to care. Precious space is wasted on descriptive details but we know nothing about him or his problem.
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Old 11-22-2012, 08:59 PM   #3468
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Anyone want a go at this one? It's the start of a chapter, rather than the whole novel, if that's okay.

The ship docked at Southampton and Edgar Farlow stepped off, breathing the English air, silently vowing never to leave it again. From all around him came shouts of joy as men rushed past, falling into the arms of loved ones. The sun scorched overhead and many of the men were bare chested.
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Old 11-22-2012, 10:28 PM   #3469
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The ship docked at Southampton and Edgar Farlow stepped off, breathing the English air, silently vowing never to leave it again. From all around him came shouts of joy as men rushed past, falling into the arms of loved ones. The sun scorched overhead and many of the men were bare chested.
This is the hard part. Since it's the beginning of a chapter, chances are the ambiguities I have are already addressed earlier on. But anyway:

"Ship" is too generic if it hasn't been talked about before. It may tell a lot about Edgar and the story whether he steps off of a yacht or a cargo ship or fishing boat. ETA: it's, kinda, explained in the 2nd sentence but still suggest to use a more specific word for ship unless it's clear from the preceding chapter.

A ship docks (specific, usu at a dock) at/in a large city (which by the way took me a second to realize it's the Southampton in England rather than in Long Island since I live near NYC but shouldn't be a problem if it's clear the setting is in the UK) and a person steps off (precise movement at some precise place eg. can't step off in the harbor water which is still part of the city) sounds a little odd to me. The city (or just the name thereof) is too board a term for this sentence IMHO.

I'm not sure why "English" air but maybe the ship is coming from Spain or the Carribian? If so it may be fine.

"...silently vowing never to leave it again..." "It" means the ship or Southampton? Why "silently?"

"...falling into the arms of loved ones" is a journalistic style of writing. A fiction is a much more objective piece of writing. I'd rather read judgmental/specific words like wives, women, mistresses, children, 5-legged aliens, etc through the eyes of Edgar.

The placement of the third sentence seems odd. The first sets the scene, the second expands the scene and describes actions (think a camera moving along a railing system as the actors and extras run toward the women and kids), then you halt the action and talk about weather and muscles (ignore the actors and pan the camera up to the sky). I'm inclined to reword them a little, you know, experience with more cut n pastes.
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Old 11-23-2012, 12:09 AM   #3470
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Cheers Bing, some good points there.

"English" air was because I wanted to give an impression of a character returning to his homeland. The 'it' you ask about is England itself. 'Silently' is because he isn't speaking to anyone. Looks like that entire sentence needs a rewrite!

'Loved ones' could be changed to 'families' I suppose. To be honest, I doubt if Edgar himself would care who they are though!

The third sentence is there to set up the fourth which tells us that Edgar is self concious about his own body, as he has a scar which he recieved at war in France in 1939 (which is what he is returning from and explains why he is happy to be home and the type of ship he was on). The scar foreshadows something which happens later on in the chapter.

Thanks for the help!
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Old 11-23-2012, 03:12 AM   #3471
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First three sentences of my WIP.

No tracks, no vultures, and no hacked up remains. Police Chief Clark tossed his wide-brimmed hat on top of the file cabinet and slumped in his desk chair. At least Royce would be pleased that he hadn't found a severed head or a pile of entrails reeking in the hot sun that day.
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Old 11-23-2012, 04:56 PM   #3472
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First three sentences of my WIP.

No tracks, no vultures, and no hacked up remains. Police Chief Clark tossed his wide-brimmed hat on top of the file cabinet and slumped in his desk chair. At least Royce would be pleased that he hadn't found a severed head or a pile of entrails reeking in the hot sun that day.
The first sentence gave me the impression that the scene is set outdoors. Then Clark is introduced and he's obviously in an office. The third sentence refers back to the outdoor scene that we haven't seen. And the most vivid visuals are of something that didn't happen.

In all, this opening feels stuck in a trough between events. Maybe you've started it too soon?
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Old 11-24-2012, 03:11 AM   #3473
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Here are the first three lines from my current WIP. This is my first attempt at a novel.

“Ichabod!” said a booming male voice from each of the four speakers in the corners of the large freight elevator that was taking us farther and farther down below the world above. “Do not think of it as a punishment for your heinous crimes - or if you’re here because of someone else - do not think of it as your own fault for loving the wrong person or being born to the wrong parents! Think of it as an opportunity to help serve your fellow man in the world above!
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Old 11-24-2012, 08:55 AM   #3474
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Okay, I'm game. This is more like the first 5 lines, but they're short. **note: very rough draft as I try not to read/edit until I am completely done. (sometimes I get caught up in editing when I should be getting the story captured).

There it is again. That little tickle in the back of my brain. Or is it an itch? A nudge? I can’t remember what they called it. I only know I’m not supposed to have it.
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Old 11-24-2012, 10:42 AM   #3475
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From one of my WIPs - "The Prince Killer"

The rush of wind swept her hair creating ripples down her back. Curled lashes embraced unrelenting air as her eyes narrowed into focus. Somewhere in the horizon masked by the stretch of sky and sea, lay her glimmer of hope.
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