1. CGB

    CGB Active Member

    May 15, 2014
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    Better wording for opening paragraph

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by CGB, Jan 30, 2016.

    Hello all. Trying to write the opening paragraph to one of my chapters. I have just spent way too damn long trying to reword it. There is just a lot going on in the scene, and the setting is totally unfamiliar to the reader at this point.

    Basically, the POV character (Manning) is sitting in a dark conference room of a space station with one other person watching the security footage of a terrorist attack. I am having a hard time getting these sentences to convey that in a way that makes sense, but basically the terrorists herd a bunch of people into a metal trailer and set it on fire. Here is my attempt and you can see it is somewhat confusing. Looking for suggestions on how to reword/rephrase it.


    Xavier Manning watched for the third time as twenty-two people were burned alive on the recording. The bright red flames on the hologram illuminated the conference room, causing him to squint at the projection. The elderly police corporal next to him held a forearm over his brow, shielding his eyes from the brightness of the high-resolution images.
  2. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Senior Member

    Jan 15, 2016
    Likes Received:
    Just above the treetops
    Xavier Manning replayed the recording for the third time, watching twenty-two people burn alive in *insert additional description of the trailer, the methods, or the captors*
    CGB likes this.
  3. Aster

    Aster Member

    Dec 30, 2015
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    Your first sentence reads like twenty-two people were positioned on top of a recording and then set on fire.

    If holograms are commonly used, why are images like flames so bright they blind the people watching them. I've never needed to shield my eyes watching television. Doesn't seem like a useful advancement in technology.

    Is there any sound?
    CGB likes this.
  4. Greenwood

    Greenwood Active Member

    Dec 10, 2014
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    Ruins of Old Aar
    I don't know what happened in any previous chapters or whether this is the first time Xavier is introduced, so I'm missing a lot of context here.

    Should I ignore all of that and just focus on this passage alone;

    You need to flesh this out. Right now, those people are already inside of that trailer and are already burning. Also, it's a rather straight-forward paragraph that has little in the means of description. If that is the way this chapter is started, that's fine, but there's much more potential here;

    - Try describing the actual video sequence; people being herded into the trailer, men lighting it on fire (this could add some extra shock value)
    - What does the room Xavier is in look like apart from it being dark and having a hologram?
    - What are the reactions of the people around him upon seeing the video? The actual footage, not the brightness of the light.
    - Like Aster already mentioned, what are the sounds being heard? both from the video and the people, or Xavier.

    Like I said, perhaps these things are already explained prior to or after this paragraph, but I don't know that, and when I focus just on this passage, this is what springs to mind with me.
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Mar 9, 2010
    Likes Received:
    You're focusing on facts, and packing them in tight. I think that you need to loosen things up, reduce the density of facts, and focus on emotions. People burning alive isn't about squinting eyes or expensive ("high resolution images") equipment. It's about people. Your readers need to care.

    The only way that they will care is by entering the mind of someone who does care--and that's presumably Xavier.

    I break the rule that I too often break, and offer a sample rewrite:

    Xavier folded his arms as he watched the security footage for the third time. He knew that the FBI profiler watching with him would make note of the gesture ("defensive") and he really didn't give a damn. Twenty-two people were about to die, burned alive, onscreen, and anyone who could watch that impassively was ready for retirement. Or commitment.

    The elderly police corporal, bless him, was far from impassive. He was covering his eyes, as if to shield them from the brightness of the image, but Xavier guessed that there were tears in those shielded eyes.
    CGB and Aster like this.

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