1. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    Practicing with first sentences?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Magnatolia, Jan 16, 2014.

    Hi all,

    I'm trying to work out what the best style is for the first sentence. I've been reading some articles that break down JK Rowlings style in Harry Potter. This style has always been a favourite even in TV shows (Merlin, the new Atlantis etc).

    So I've written similar sentences and would like to know what you think of each different type:

    1. Even Claire knew she wasn't quite normal, but even she had a hard time accepting what just happened.

    2. Claire dove for cover as the window shattered, covering her in glass

    3. Claire dove for cover as the window shattered, raining shards of glass over her.

    4. Smash. The window exploded. Shards of glass flew towards her. Claire threw her hands up. Blood trickled down her forehead and arm.

    For me, one feels great. This one came to me when reading the very first scene of Harry Potter The Philosopher's Stone. Number 3, I quite often find myself using more descriptive terms. Is this good? Or bad? Is it classed as too wordy? Number 4 I was going for the short, punchy sentences. Although the third sentence needs a re-word.

    Thanks heaps!
     
  2. Simon Butler
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    Simon Butler New Member

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    I think i agree with 3. It offers a good platform to launch into the next sequence in the story. Not too much detail either, and you could follow it up with a few sentences that offer descriptive content through an action scene. For me this is a very good way to start off, and it makes me want to read the next line.

    1 - Offers nothing of the events about to follow, its like going from 5 miles and hour then trying to speed up into the story. It might suit a story with a slow start but is unlikely to capture your reading in the first line.
    2 - Is similar to three but not as colorful. It feels kind of lifeless and constructed.
    4 - I find this one to be disjointed, the problem for me is time... It starts with a bang, then slow motion, then back into normal speed. This could work but you would need to be very careful about how you use the clock. Time doesn't have to be one paced or even liner, but it should make sense. But the way the four short sharp sentences are almost mashed together just doesn't work for me.

    So yes :)
    3 - Claire dove for cover as the window shattered, raining shards of glass over her. She scurried rapidly across the floor searching anxiously for cover, the sound of glass crunching under her elbows leaving a trail of blood behind her. She reached an old oak coffee table, throwing it on its side to shield herself. She threw her hair dark hair back to clear her vision, searching for the source of the explosion.

    :p sorry had to add to that one.
     
  3. Liam Johnson
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    Liam Johnson Member

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    Well, the opening sentence, paragraph, chapter, etc. is the most important part of any story as it has to pique the reader's interest. Action and pace are often a good way of getting this done, so I agree, 3 was the best of those you wrote. Why has the window shattered? Is Claire hurt? Is she in danger? We're gonna need some time to get to know Claire so let's start by having her somewhere EVERYONE can immediately relate to. If she's in danger, we can relate. Use the rest of the chapter or sequence to give us another reason to want to follow Claire further in her tale before you resolve the imminent question or obstacle. It can also work well for comedy, nice and bathetic-- if the window's been smashed because her clumsy, fat dog has dove, head first into it thinking his reflection was a cat. Though, that'd have to be a pretty flimsy window mind you!

    Try not to limit yourself to one sentence in posing your opening question to the reader, is what I'm trying to say-- we'll stick with you longer than that, at least a paragraph. If you try and force it into one sentence, it might appear contrived and inorganic and put the reader off.
     
  4. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    3. is good, it creates interest in what's immediately going on.
    The trouble with 1 - it forces the writer to backpeddle after the initial sentence to show what happened disturbing the flow. The interest then becomes what happened - which is less strong than what is happening.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There's a little more to learn here, if I may.

    1. Even Claire knew she wasn't quite normal, but even she had a hard time accepting what just happened.​

    I write like this and have to constantly go back and eliminate the extra words.

    2. Claire dove for cover as the window shattered, covering her in glass​

    It's fine as is but I too prefer 'raining shards' to 'covering'.

    3. Claire dove for cover as the window shattered, raining shards of glass over her.​

    I might drop the 'over her' and combine some of the elements of 3 & 4 instead.

    4. Smash. The window exploded. Shards of glass flew towards her. Claire threw her hands up. Blood trickled down her forehead and arm.
    'Smash' is an action, not a sound. I don't think you need the sound, but if you choose the option a different word would be better.

    Claire dove for cover as the window exploded, raining down shards of glass. She saw drips of red on her arm and felt the warm blood on her face.
     
  6. Nyghtfall
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    Nyghtfall Member

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    Your first, biggest mistake, is trying to write in a style similar to Rowling, or any other author for that matter. Focus on developing your own style.
     
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  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I agree with you @Nyghtfall, but I'm not sure taking a cue on how to open your story is the same as trying to copy a style.
     
  8. Nyghtfall
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    Nyghtfall Member

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    Good point.
     
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  9. Magnatolia
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    Magnatolia Active Member

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    @GingerCoffee, thank heaps! I totally agree with taking out the excess word. And I do like 'raining shards' but I think it's one of those things to be careful of in case we overdo it. And thank you for the example. I see how it is much better than mine in that you have placed Claire into the text by telling us what she saw, rather than how I told what happened to her.

    @Nyghtfall, I don't believe that finding an author whose style inspires you to write and then using it as a muse or a guideline is bad. I'm not going to have a copy of her book beside me and compare my work to it. I know that my favourite style to read is that of Rowling, and Merlin and Atlantis (TV series). These style of TV shows connect with me so strongly that I can watch three or four episodes in a row but I have to stop myself.
     
  10. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find number 3 a bit wordy.

    Number 2 sounds good to me personally, because it's short. It could pack even more of a punch though - how about just 'Claire dove for cover as the window shattered'?
     

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