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  1. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    The opening paragraph

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by zerobytes, Dec 9, 2006.

    So I wanted to start this story out with something that would grab people's attention - who doesn't right? This attempt ended up turning into an excercise in starting a story with one line and then going from there. My question is would any of these paragraphs work for grabbing your attention and why or why not?
    zb


    Letters from ex-wives are never a pleasant experience. This was the third one that Mickey had received this month to inform him that he was behind on this payment or that still needed to sign those documents. He was tired of the logistics that attended his defunct marital experience and was ready to just throw his hands up in the air and go down for a name change…that could solve it couldn’t it? “Ah well,” he murmured. Life had handed him lemons and he wasn’t trying to make lemonade anymore. He let the letter fall to the fire and took another drag on his unfiltered cigarette. He pulled the cig away from his mouth and looked at it. “Unfiltered” he mused – “That’s really living on the edge.” He shook his head and flicked it into the fire – he knew that this was something that could never really fill the void in his life, but he’d been down those roads and he was tired of fighting to stay on them. Pain doesn’t die and his pain had been smoldering for so long. Not that Mickey didn’t have a lot of potential…or maybe that’s the problem he did have a lot of potential…and so little achieved.

    Letters from ex-wives are never pretty affairs. This one was no exception. Marlene was going to be taking the kids and moving up to Washington State to be with her mother…he didn’t care. He was prohibited from seeing his kids anyway, so the farther away the fewer temptations to see them; at least that what Mickey told himself. But, he knew better, and so did she. She wanted him to …

    Letters from ex-wives are never pretty affairs. For some reason every word always seems dipped in poison waiting maliciously to sicken their reader. Mickey was no fool and he knew that the words were written to be honest and informative. Still, he had to fight back the fury that was rising inside. She wanted to move with the kids to Washington allowing him to see them for 6 weeks twice a year. “What kind of Father would that make me?!” Mickey shook his head, the legal work had already gone through and, like usual, she had decided to tell him after it was already a done deal and all they needed was his signature. He crumpled the letter and chucked it in the low burning fire in his newly acquired condominium apartment. There had to be some way to get around this – to make it so that his children would have him for a father.

    Letters from ex-wives are never pretty affairs. Mickey had received enough of them to know that this one would be no different. Sign this or pay that…why couldn’t she just leave him alone? He had received this one right as he finished packing his 1973 Ford Scout. Not wanting to rob the letter of the time (or the emotion) that he knew it would require he tucked it into the zipper pocket of his photography bag. Surely, there would be time to review its contents once he arrived at Mesa Verde, after the sun goes down you can only take so many pictures of a campfire and the area it lights. Now the letter was buried with the rest of his stuff and he had forced his mind to move on to other topics. He knew that it was only a matter of focus and if he could get his focus off Jeanette then his life would be so much the better right now. So he thought about his upcoming trip to the middle of Colorado. Several of the photographs from his last wilderness trek had fetched a decent price and he would give anything to open another exhibition. Perhaps this would give him some of the material he needed for just that.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as worded, the first one makes no sense... letters are not an experience... getting one/them is the experience...

    and the second suffers from that 'pretty' qualifier... i'd look for a better adjective... after that, what follows in the final example is probably the best of the bunch, but still a bit too stiff and formal in places...

    and none of them would make me want to read further, since i'd unfortunately [and way too often] been forced to be one of the letter-writers, not on the reading end of the 'experience' and thus not likely to find anything entertaining in this story...
     
  3. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    i think the way that you word the first sentence it doesn't really make the opening appealing to women, especially ones who have been divorced. i quite like the way that the second option was written, i liked the structure, although, (and i'm not sure if this is just me or not) it sounds slightly like the man is thinking about his wife and children in a sinister way, as if he is a murderer or something, lol. that might just be my interpretation though.
    out of them all i would have to say that my favourite is the third one, it seems to grab my attention more than the others. i like the attention to describing how it is written almost, where you say,
    "For some reason every word always seems dipped in poison waiting maliciously to sicken their reader." it just has some nice detail in it.
    i hope i might have helped any,
    heather
    :)
     
  4. Max Vantage
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    Max Vantage Banned

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    My attention has been gripped by example three.

    Example three ends on a bit of a (slight) cliffhanger:

    It makes me want to turn the page because it's showing character with intent i.e it comes across as if he's making a plan. This could go anywhere in terms of plot ideas, such as a plan to steal the kids, pay someone to kill the ex-wife, etc, etc - all sorts of devious, diabolic plot variations :eek: :)
    It also does what stories are supposed to do within basic construction: a problem posed to the main protagonist.
     
  5. IndianaJoan
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    IndianaJoan Contributing Member

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    I like the point you are trying to make, but it seems to me that is was really wordy.

    Perhaps instead of narrating his thoughts, you could SHOW us what she wrote by showing snippets of her letters as he reads them. You do this by putting the text in italics. I think it would make it a bit more interesting and easy to read and the reader through her letters would understand what he was seeing without you having to narrate it all which can get tedious for the average reader.

    Just IMO
     
  6. Avrilkiller
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    Avrilkiller Member

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    I think the most important line in the first paragraph it certainly the very first line....that line is what decides how much attention a reader will pay to the full paragraph, and whether they keep reading because they wanted to, or just from habit before settign it back on the shelf.

    My main problem with your first paragraph is your first line....neither of them grabbed me whatsoever. I'd suggest you consider adding something juicier or more leading that what you have, which should be fairly easy in the third person...just try to find something that would make you want to read whatever is after it out of the excitement you got form that very first line.

    Or keep it the way it is, this is only one opinion, and no book is for absolutely everyone ^.^
     
  7. Lily
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    Lily Member

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    I really like the last two versions of the opening. I like how in the last one you went into other things, giving us insights into your characters careers and passions, and I liked the second to last paragraph due to the emotion involved. Keep it up! You seemed to get better with each one you wrote.
     
  8. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Thanks so much for the comments everyone. Here is the opening that I ended up with. I tried to incorporate some of the strengths and remove some of the problem areas from it. Let me know if this one works for you,

    zb

    Mickey stared at the rusted mailbox, dreading to open it. He knew that there would be one letter and that he would have to read it. The decision. A familiar thought of just ignoring the post came to mind but he swallowed it back down. He cared too much. Too much to just pretend there was no pain. The box squeaked open, his hand found the letter and he felt his heart skip a beat. Carefully he opened the letter.

    "Dear Mr. Arlington..." Mickey scanned the letter for the phrase he had been dreading. "Jillian Arlington and James Marcus Arlington will remain in the custody of their Mother, Jeanette Ruthann Arlington until the age of 18. Any attempts to visit or contact Jillian Arlington and James Marcus Arlington outside of the aftermention paramaters will be viewed as criminal actions. Every six weeks defined by the dates..." The rest of the letter blurred in his tears. He took a deep breath trying to drown the tears with air but they couldn't be stopped. He screamed at the letter in frustration but there was nothing he could do. He crumpled to his knees allowing the tears to come.

    An hour later he pulled away from the cabin in his 1973 Ford Scout. The letter was tucked carefully in the glove box as a reminder that he could do better. That he HAD to do better. Never had he tried to focus on a photography trip with more intensity or with more passion.
     
  9. Neo
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    sure about that. I mean, the opening paragraph needs to make sense and not be a detatched somewhere-in-the-middle thing that you don't understand. This is the second time in a minute I have used the same book as an example but I suggest you look at inventive ways of opening your book, like in Rules of
     
  10. HellOnEarth
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    HellOnEarth Banned

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    They all suck.

    Please use active voice, instead of passive. I would change the very first sentence; it deadens the prose.
     

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