1. James Random
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    James Random Member

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    The first sentence.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by James Random, Dec 22, 2014.

    So I've been studying a lot on 'how to write your first chapter,' and I have begun. Here is the first line of my project, which I hope you'll be able to tell me whether it grips you, whether it stands out, whether it's good, etc:

    At 4:15am on the 17th of December 2014, NASA’s Curiosity Rover confirmed having found organic life on Mars. Twenty minutes later all contact was lost.
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why is this in the Lounge?

    Anyway, the problem with it being gripping is it's a tad cliché. But if you are writing a story that goes somewhere unusual, I would probably read on.
     
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  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's very 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010 territory. Probe finds life, probe inexplicably dies/goes silent directly afterwards. Why? Mystery ensues.

    Change the POV. Personify the probe and let us be present at the event instead of the event being a bajilion miles off. Put us there.
     
  4. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    In other threads about starting a story it has been pointed out that you should just start writing. As you work on your first draft or maybe even finish it the exact order of your story may reveal itself to be different than where you started. At least that is the gist of what I took from the posts I read. I also think this could apply to finding your story's title, it may become apparent after the story is in its last stages. IMO, don't worry about how to write your first chapter, put everything you've got into the whole story and sort it out afterwards.

    And for your specific example, NASA would give the time with reference to a specific time zone, not sure but they might use GMT. Also confirmed seems to imply a retesting has occurred, I think you are trying to say first positive test of organic life, etc. And like GingerCoffee said, it is cliché.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    People place way too much importance on the first sentence. While it's true that your beginning should hook the reader, I define the "beginning" as something like 20 pages. Judging a book based on the first sentence is like judging a poem by the first word. In other words, don't do it.

    To answer your question more directly, I'd have to read more to see if I like it or not.
     
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  6. James Random
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    James Random Member

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    I had considered that, but the story is set on Earth, not Mars. I decided to try and find a way of communicating the fact that the probe is sixty-five million miles away. Even when you read/hear stories on the web about stuff that goes on on Mars in real life, you can scarcely imagine the distance involved. That's what I'm aiming at, I think.

    In the original work, Well's went into a lot of detail about the distance and makeup of Mars, so I'm trying to do the same, but weave it into the flow the story without having to actually provide the details. If that makes sense?
     
  7. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    The thing is our general understanding of Mars is much different now than it was back then. I don't know that you can capture that same mystic in the same manor now.
     
  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    its still made of cheese. Or is that the moon? Hmm...
     
  9. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    Your first line is definitely telling, not showing. I do not say that you must avoid telling at any cost (especially at the start, where you want a quick explanation of the circumstances) but the moment when the probe finds life and your characters' reactions are interesting enough to have their own page or at least a few paragraphs. When the contact is lost 20 minutes later you can show the reader in details how the champagne drinking scientists stop the party and stare nervously at the monitors in silence.

    These are high moments and also a great opportunity (hahaha) to introduce your main characters.
     
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  10. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that this could work, more as a prologue than a genuine "first sentence". However, due to the distance (incidentally, the shortest distance between Mars and the Earth is 78 million km/approx. 50 million miles - the longest 378 million km/c. 235 million miles, so you've got the two close to their perigee) radio messages will take about 5 minutes to travel...so that a message TO the Rover would take five minutes to reach it, and its lack of response would take a further 5 minutes to be received...so you've got some scope for "It's been out of radio contact for twelve minutes now."...
     
  11. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    'having found' hangs a little awkwardly in your first sentence. You might have a little more fun writing it out, construct plenty of interesting pictures in a reader's mind:

    'Professor James Wang sat in his chair at Space Control. Again he wore a fine pornographic shirt emblazoned with the firm breasts of a 1000 naked women.'
     
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  12. Vandor76
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    Vandor76 Contributing Member

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    Come on, every wonder lasts three days and that was weeks ago. It is unfair to hit that poor guy again and again so long :)
     
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  13. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    The problem I have with it is that we all know that Mars is incapable of supporting any higher forms of life these days (which presumably would be required to destroy a probe). We also know that it lost its atmosphere too early to have ever allowed higher forms of life to evolve. We live in a different age to War of the Worlds.

    So the first line has me split between a) this is going to require too great a suspension of disbelief, and b) aliens have landed on Mars. If is b) I then wonder why, particularly given that they would have had to have travelled many, many light years to reach our solar system, and stopping off at Mars on the way to Earth would be like stopping for a cup of tea on your front lawn when you have just returned from a holiday in Australia.
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2014
  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Perhaps they travelled here to investigate Earth, and have stopped on Mars as a forward base...rather like hiding in the shrubbery on one's return from Australia to check whether there was a malicious lifeform in the house.
     
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  15. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    If that analogy was literally used in the opening pages of the book then I would happily read the whole thing.
     
  16. James Random
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    Have to stop you there. So far as we know, Mars is incapable of supporting life as we currently understand it. But that doesn't make it uninhabitable. Of course, nothing (sentient) lives on Mars, but life has thrived in worse places than mars. For example there is a species of bacteria that lives in sulphuric acid. The idea of the 'goldilocks' zone and the 'earthlike environment' only is somewhat antiquated in xenobiology circles.

    As for the book, I'm not going to go into any detail about how/why the aliens are on Mars. Simply because there's no way any of the characters could know and, indeed, anyone on earth. It could be that the aliens colonised it many years ago, could be a staging area, could be that they've always lived there, underground, waiting. Who knows? That'll be up to the reader's imagination.
     
  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    So bacteria destroyed the rover?
     
  18. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I've never understood this suspension of disbelief - for fiction. Especially when we're still remaking Godzilla and packing 'em in for IronMan.
     
  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, if it's good enough for H.G.Wells...
     
  20. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    But in the War of the Worlds bacteria killed aliens, not machines.
     
  21. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Computer virus?
     
  22. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    haha- Independence day
     
  23. James Random
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    James Random Member

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    Nah, the Aliens killed the Rover. The point is that none of my characters have any way of knowing why or how the Aliens ended up on Mars, so I won't bother explaining it in the book. In the second chapter the main char and a friend are both discussing how nothing could live on Mars, in fact. Later they'll wonder as to how they could have got it wrong, but they'll never get the answer.
     
  24. Poet of Gore
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    i like a first sentence which is going to tell you about the kind of story you are going to read but is not on the nose about it.
    like in Less than Zero
    "People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles"
    how the f do you beat a first sentence like this???
     
  25. DennisWillis12
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    DennisWillis12 Member

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    I don't know about what type of project you are making because we generally use to write the introduction part as the first sentence of the project. As you have written the name of university that is the correct one but don't know what you other things you have written.
     

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