Share Your First Three Sentences

Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tenderiser, Apr 20, 2016.

  1. Sam Harlan

    Sam Harlan New Member

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    Nestling on a spacious green hill surrounded with several acres of land, there lived a quaint little mid-western family . A married couple approaching their ten-year anniversary, whole-heartedly raising their six-year-old boy named Richard. But both his parents and anyone who knew the child called him Ricky.
     
  2. Sam Harlan

    Sam Harlan New Member

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    I feel like you shouldn't use all present tense here, it confuses the time that the narrorator is speaking with the time of the days.
     
  3. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I find the first sentence a bit problematic grammatically - was it the family that was nestling on the spacious green hill? Is the hill surrounded by several acres of land, or is that the family? Isn't pretty much all land, unless lakefront, surrounded by acres of land? I feel like you're trying for a certain style/mood but you're losing meaning in the process.

    I'm not sure about the "whole-heartedly raising" phrase - it just feels weird to me, but I can't quite say why.

    And then I feel like your focus is a bit scattered - we've heard about the geography, about the parents, about the kid's nickname--what's the main idea of this paragraph? For my taste, I'd like a tighter focus on whatever it is.
     
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  4. madorosh

    madorosh New Member

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    The opening of a historical novel:

    Henry Martens shuddered as he stopped at the entrance to Number 47 August Street. The statue mounted above the entrance was carved from granite in typical aggressive Prussian style, the armored knight’s smooth gray form contrasting starkly with the rough red bricks towering overhead. The knight stood triumphant, muscled arms gripping the top of a shield whose sharpened edge had cleaved a serpent underfoot cleanly in half.
     
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  5. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I like each sentence individually but I wish there was a tighter connection between the first sentence and the next two. Is Henry looking at the statue? Is the statue the reason Henry shuddered? I think so, but I'd like to KNOW so...
     
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin You're nearly a laugh... Contributor

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    I like it. Agree with Bay about the shuddered part and connecting it somehow to the statue. I'd recommend tightening up a few of the phrases.

    Henry Martens shuddered as he stopped at the entrance to Number 47 August Street. The statue mounted above the entrance was carved from granite in a typically (adverb modifying aggressive, but even if you stick with the adjective (typical) modifying "style," you need the article "a") aggressive Prussian style, the armored knight’s smooth gray form contrasting starkly (redundant with "contrast," not terribly so, but the modifier adds nothing) with the rough red bricks towering overhead. The knight stood triumphantly (same as before, adverbs modify verbs, adjectives modify nouns), muscled arms gripping the top of a shield whose sharpened edge had cleaved, cleaving (mainly for wordiness, and the unlikelihood that a stone representation of a shield had actually been sharpened) a serpent underfoot (is it actually under his feet?) cleanly in half at his feet.
     
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  7. Sam Harlan

    Sam Harlan New Member

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    I understand where you're coming from. The entire paragraph that it belongs to is quite lengthy, and details the setting and names of the characters, exposing the boring nature of the characters and their small-town lives. What about this instead...

    Nestled along rolling green hills is a three-story, whitewashed modern house. Inside, there exists a quaint small-town family: a married couple approaching their ten-year anniversary along with their six-year old boy, Ricky. Ricky's dad, George, married his high school sweetheart Lisa only a year after the two graduated.
     
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  8. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    This one is definitely an improvement, but I'd challenge you to bring in a little more fine detail, and fewer abstract terms.

    For example, the word "modern" is doing nothing in these sentences because I don't know what modern means to the characters through whom I'm viewing this house. Modern to me is entirely different than modern to a 1940's farmer in the midwest. I don't know that this story is set in the 1940's or not. My point is that using the term here doesn't create an image for a reader devoid of any context. I'm willing to bet you have an image in mind, but that's not coming through because there can be very little context within the first three sentences of anything, which is why I try to avoid abstract terms until I can add context to make them mean something consistent with the internal logic of the story, if that makes sense.

    Quaint is another term you might look to avoid. This one isn't as opaque as "modern," but is there a detail that you can use which would give the impression of quaint and also add some characterization? Did they have a tire-swing hanging from a huge [whatever kind of tree]? Was there a tree house? Was there a clothesline with Mickey Mouse sheets blowing in a gentle breeze? To me, all of those things say quaint, sedate. EDIT: This would involve an entirely new sentence construction, so take that for what it's worth.

    From there, I'd work on a more interesting way get across the information. Do we need to know right from the start that George married his high school sweetheart only a year after they'd graduated? Maybe it is, or maybe you want to get across that information, and that's fine. I'm only saying this as a consideration for you.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
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  9. Thundair

    Thundair Senior Member

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    I would lose 'quaint' along with 'small town family'... The description of the family.. a married couple and a six year old boy is the family. A small town in Oklahoma is a single stop sign and some could be a single stop light. I guess if it was important for the story maybe you could show it. I don't believe a modern home would be whitewashed. Maybe you could mention the style... Like a craftsman home or a converted farm house.
     
  10. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin You're nearly a laugh... Contributor

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    Agree in theory with what others have mentioned about the quaintness, modernity, etc unless you're deliberately going for that folky, down-home sort of Americana tone, in which case, what you wrote would align with the sentiment. Whether that tone ultimately aligns with the substance and POV (sounds like an omniscient narrator so far) of the story that follows, would be a different consideration.
     
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  11. Sam Harlan

    Sam Harlan New Member

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    Thank you so much for this advice. I included the sentence about George and Lisa being high school sweethearts to try and give the reader an example of their classic small-town beginning to their marriage, but I'm not sure if I should include it right away.
     
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  12. Sam Harlan

    Sam Harlan New Member

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    It is written with an omniscient narrator. In the following sentences and throughout the rest of the story the tone is folky and satirical. I don't think these senteces illustrate the overall tone of the story in that regard.
     
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  13. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    To be honest, this would bore me. I would hope in the next few sentences something more interesting is written. Like if the next sentence was "And Ricky was trouble." Or if three sentences later it says "And then the Fire Nation attacked." :D You don't need to be too engrossing in the first three specifically but I do think there's some sense in doing something creative or exciting in the first several at least. And why not open with a killer line? Something creative because it's a significant moment? I do think it's good practise to avoid writing plainly without much creative style. Keep such lines to more of a minimum so most of the writing is engaging.
     
  14. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Member

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    I am an old man. I am a bitter man. My liver doesn't function properly.
     
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  15. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Is this supposed to be funny? Because the third line made me laugh. :superlaugh:
     
  16. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Member

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    I'm trying to channel Dosteovsky's famous start to his novel "Notes from the Underground".
     
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  17. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    Any particular reason for that source of inspiration? Similar genre? Spiritual sequel?
     
  18. paperbackwriter

    paperbackwriter Member

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    Thanks for the interest. Well, I find the grumpy point of view amusing and intriguing. It is close to who I really am now. Of course I love Dosteovsky for his psychological insights and in this case, he satirises the arrogance of some Russians in his era. I like satire too. Or it might be more than satire, I don't know.
     
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  19. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    So me finding it funny isn't a problem then, perhaps even ideal? Excellent.
     
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  20. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    "At the end of the line, behind a pack of old women, with their floppy, pastel-colored hats, floral blouses, and stacks of coupons like bricks, Angela decided this might be the day she’d jump up on the conveyor belt and karate kick one of them in the mouth. It’s not that she disliked them as people, though. That would be un-Christian, and her desire didn’t come from a place of malice, or she didn’t think it did anyway."

    This is from a new project. I'm thinking about losing the bit about karate kicking an old woman in the mouth. It's kind explained later that it's a joke and she'd never actually do something like that, but in a three-sentence vacuum, it seems overly cruel. :oops:
     
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  21. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Contributor Contributor

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    No, it's the best bit!
     
  22. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I like it. I rarely write long sentences and usually suggest people carve them up, but for some reason they make this bit funnier.
     
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  23. Lawless

    Lawless Member

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    I am really grateful to writers for such openings. These three sentences are sufficient to make it clear without the slightest doubt that I don't want to read the book.

    It's not the writer's fault. It's a quirk of mine. I have an extreme aversion to reading about the suffering of ill people. I especially hate it when the first five or ten pages are actually interesting and then comes a scene with the protagonist's bed-ridden mother and the narrator describes her ailments in detail. I want to read about people who inspire me rather than make me miserable. The real world is depressing enough.

    So, thumbs up for this opening.

    Imagining I didn't have that misery and suffering antifetish, I'd also say that this opening is really very good. Somehow it brings the reader into the protagonists's world with few simple words. I like that.
     
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  24. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    It's a great opening. You don't need to explain the joke. If someone who reads it, doesn't understand it, then they're probably reading the wrong book. Personally, I'd have gone for
    Angela decided this might be the day she’d finally lose patience, leap on the conveyor belt, and karate kick one of them in the chops.
    That's just me though. It's an excellent beginning.
     
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  25. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    This is excellent. I already want to read the whole book.
     

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