Share Your First Three Sentences

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

  1. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I much prefer your own version. No offense to @Spirit of seasons , but his style is much more standard. It is ordinary, and thus far less interesting. @X.x.V.x.X your own has character to it - please, please stay with it. Your use of "I", contrary to what Spirit said, is not a "crutch" - your usage of that pronoun is perfectly reasonable in the context you were using it in. It is only a filter word when it unnecessarily distances the character from the reader, which I do not believe was your case in the slightest. I had no problems understanding your final line - in fact, that final line hooked me. I loved how clever your MC was. I loved how it immediately lets me know the MC is the killer, except no one knows. It's pretty fresh that the reader should know right away while everyone else is kept in the dark. It might be hard to carry it forward and keep the tension without making your surrounding characters look a little dumb, but if you do it right, I think you've got a gem there.

    First person narration is actually very often used with the "unreliable narrator" device, and not third person. It is true that a lot of beginners end up using "I" too often when writing in first person, and then it ends up distancing the situation from the reader because it comes a filter word, as opposed to giving us the action directly (eg. "I heard birdsong", as opposed to "The birds sang". Or "I saw a car" as opposed to "A car appeared" etc) - I think that's what Spirit was referring to. But do not make the mistake of red-flagging every usage of "I" as if it's always a bad thing. Use it when necessary. In your example, it was necessary.
     
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  2. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Member

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    I used my writing style as an example for educational purposes. I’m not saying the OPs is wrong, it’s just a different approach. It’s hard to give enough context in three sentences. I like to ground my scenes and blend setting with the naritive.

    Context of the scene is everything. Is it past or prent tense? Is the MC telling his story, or are the events happening in the moment.

    You don’t have to tell every detail right at the start. It’s good to keep the readers guessing.
     
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  3. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    I might be a bit late in the game here, but thought I'd put my 2 cents in here. A lot of the replies for this 3 sentence opener, have concentrated on the POV. However I see a few more issues which I feel are not addressed might not bode well for the rest of the story.

    1. Don't use numerals in sentence structure
    2. "The time was just past 1 in the morning" Numerals aside, I feel that this doesn't add any value. I understand that you might want to convey that this is happening in the early hours of the morning, but to accurately portray the time seems a bit of telling rather than showing, and certainly for an opening sentence doesn't thrill me.
    3. "The arrangement was just past mad" Not sure I understand what you are saying here. Are you trying to portray a sense of chaos?
    4. I get the sense that this scene is at the crime scene. If this is the case, I don't find it believable that a police officer would ask the questions of when you last spoke. I don't know I could be wrong here. If it isn't set at the crime scene then the phrase "the arrangement was just past mad" seems redundant and just confusing.

    I feel that these 3 sentences would be better placed later in the story.

    But as an attempt to rephrase these 3 sentences if you were to keep it at the start, I would do something like:

    The stench of guilt lingered in the room, I am sure they could smell it. Keep calm, don't give anything away, I thought. A bead of sweat dribbled from my temples as the cop interrogated me.

    "When did you last speak to Mrs ..."

    "Last Tuesday" I wasn't lying. I said nothing as my fingers squeezed the trigger.

    I know this is not 3 sentences, but to convey what I think you want to convey here it might take more than 3 sentences.

    Obviously it all depends on your style, but I hope from my example you might get some idea.
     
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018
  4. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    This is another example of a much more in-the-moment, straightforward approach, but again, it loses the flair of the original. An unrepentant, flippant murderer is intriguing to me in a way that a conventionally guilty character isn't...
     
  5. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    I don't think I get the flippant personality from the original to be honest. What leads you to that visualisation? (I am just curious)
     
  6. Nariac

    Nariac Member

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    I'm guessing it's the "confident reply"
     
  7. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Mostly the confident reply to the police questioning, and the "technicality" aspect of it. It felt like a sort of "gotcha!" response, like the speaker was proud of his/her own trickiness.
     
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  8. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    I'm not going to red/green this because it would look more severe than it is.

    It was just past one in the morning; the arrangement just past mad. <Detective X> was asking me when I'd last spoken to Aubrey. "Last Tuesday," I replied confidently. It wasn't a lie. Nothing had been said as I pulled the trigger.

    I would condense some obvious things for sure:
    • "One o'clock" implies "the time." So just start with "It was . . ."
    • I'd chop "she was murdered" and let the next line answer it. (as I pulled the trigger) It's a minor increase in tension.
    • Sentence 1 and 3 are very good (1 is an excellent opening. 3 is a clever use of passive), but 2 should be drastically condensed. It wobbles a bit. I think it's all the time qualifiers.
      • lingered -- action
      • as the police officer asked -- ongoing action
      • about when -- start of a time-based preposition
      • had last spoken -- past perfecting into the faraway
      • before she was -- moving forward again to event
    So sentence 2 is marched up to the guillotine. I'd specify the name of the officer too. That helps to ground the scene. It's optional though.

    The rest of my edits are just verb adjustments. I chopped one from the first line that was totally optional. (Here's where I would normally name that style device, but . . . I get carried away with that and will restrain myself somehow.)
     
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  9. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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  10. X.x.V.x.X

    X.x.V.x.X Member

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    @BayView All that feedback I've got off you is amazing! Thank you so so so much! I think I might tidy it up just a little but keep it 98% the same, if you understand what I am trying to get at.

    'Flair'. Love it. I'm so glad that you see my (very different) point of view. The most important thing in writing to me (let's discard doing what you love to write and grammar and things and just think about it plainly) is to grasp the readers attention by doing something out of the ordinary. I do try to accomplish this, if it works is another story!

    And yes... I did check out that thread...!

    @EstherMayRose Thanks for that feedback on the 'I' scenario, I do see your point there. If only I could do just a thing you said... I'd love to make it feel so intense and so well written, I just edit my so called 'book' so often I feel like it changes everyday! Cheers :)

    @Mckk Thanks for that, you cleary spent some time writing that :) The backup and support you have given me on this is really really nice (especially how you wrote a paragraph about it). Glad the last line isn't too complicated to understand otherwise that would be quite poo. Don't worry I haven't changed any of my writing for the "I's" yet :) Also going to give your book a crack!

    @OB1 Thanks for all the advice there! Will take into consideration but need to take soem of BayView's on board too!! Thanks also for spending time rewriting and trying to improve my work, as an alteration on your signature, the best feedback you can get is honest feedback.

    @Seven Crowns That was extremley helpful, you have spent some time on that reply, eh? My writing sometimes may appear a bit clunky, taking your advice into consideration for some of my older works that need a bit of TLC. Cheers Seven Crowns!

    Long reply... :D
     
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  11. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Contest Administrator Supporter

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    Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, my sister’s paintings were encyclopedia sets. You’ve probably even seen a few, if you’re the art museum type; a rare breed that seems to be going extinct.

    I'm not sure if I like the second sentence, specifically the "encyclopedia set" part, as it doesn't really seem to hit home for me. If anyone has any suggestions for a more suitable comparison, I'd love to hear it!
     
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  12. X.x.V.x.X

    X.x.V.x.X Member

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    If you don't mind using 'branded' objects and things and not just general everyday items, you can compare it to a well-known book series that is very long. For example:

    Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that's true, my sister's painting were the whole Harry Potter series. You've probably even seen a few, if you're the art museum type; a rare breed that seems to be going extinct.

    You may not like this idea but it is what sprung to mind almost immediatley! I thought the second sentence sounded fine until you pointed it out individually.
     
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  13. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with your encyclopedia sets sounds clumsy. Can't say I have far better ideas but I've given it a go below:

    - If that's true, my sister's paintings could have been the Bible.
    - If that's true, my sister's paintings would be the equivalent of War and Peace. (Paradise Lost, Beowulf - think of something that's been known to be a long read)
    - If that's true, there would not be books enough to contain all my sister's paintings. (I'm almost copying from the verse in the Bible, I think at the end of John? Where it says, "If all of Jesus' words were recorded, there would not be books enough to contain them.")
     
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  14. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Contest Administrator Supporter

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    I considered it and dismissed it initially, but I think I may end up going with something similar. It'll be more easily recognizable in this day and age, as I don't think they even sell encyclopedia sets anymore.

    @Mckk I considered the Bible, but hadn't considered some of the more classical literature. That's a good idea! Thanks!

    ETA: What about something like this...

    Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, my sister’s paintings were like the epic poems of Homer and Virgil. You’ve probably even seen a few if you’re the art museum type; a rare breed that seems to be going extinct.
     
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  15. X.x.V.x.X

    X.x.V.x.X Member

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    Glad we're on the same wave-length, that is what I thought. Harry Potter does seem to be known by 99.9% of people nowadays, it seems to be everywhere!
     
  16. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Homer and Virgil definitely makes me think of old paintings, so the two go well together :)
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    It's another one that sounds nice, but when you start digging in I'm not sure it stands up to scrutiny. Like, the expression isn't "an average picture is worth a thousand words, while better pictures are worth even more words" or whatever. If a picture is worth a thousand words and she's made a million words worth of pictures, then according to the equation she's made a thousand pictures, right? Is there some other way to suggest quality rather than quantity?
     
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  18. X.x.V.x.X

    X.x.V.x.X Member

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    Oh! Yes! That is absoloutley perfect :)
     
  19. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    @X.x.V.x.X

    I am sorry I didn't mean to re-write your work, I merely wanted to give you an example of what I meant using your 3 sentences. Hope I didn't cause offence.
     
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  20. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    What about

    Someone once said that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s true, my sister’s paintings were practically a thesaurus.
     
  21. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    @Zerotonin -- Who is someone? I think it could be a mistake to open with "someone" once saying something, and on top of that saying something pretty cliche. I'm not sure that's really how you want to start your story. And I don't think people have stopped going to museums.
     
  22. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    If I was going heavy on 'voice' I'd exaggerate, and slow it all down with filler to fix the image in the reader's mind...

    Once upon a time Some one once professor said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, If that’s the true, my sister’s paintings were encyclopedias all lined in her kitchen. Although You’ve probably even seen a few of them [pictures], if you’re the art museum type; a rare breed that seems to be going extinct to my way of thinking

    :)
     
  23. X.x.V.x.X

    X.x.V.x.X Member

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    I think we have both taken each other the wrong way :) I'm very thankful that you spent time rewriting to improve, after all that is the reason I posted it here! Thanks!
     
  24. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Member Supporter

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    This thread is hibernating?

    Here's an opening centered on setting. It's from a dystopian sci-fi piece I'm starting. The MC works for a federally sanctioned pimp in a city of bone. (there's a pun there) The city's grown from stem cells (explained later in the plot). The MC considers herself a sociologist/nurse. She uses her womanly wiles to revive citizens who have sunk into technologically-induced brain comas. I think a quarter of the way in, the piece will do a genre shift to paranormal/horror. In fact, I'm sure of it.

    The enameled spires of the city were teeth grown from a mountain range jaw. When Tress joined the crowds on the avenues of its gums, she ignored the life pulsing beneath her feet; for under the crystal-sleeved minarets, the high crenelations and the jaundiced sky, Philadelphia was very much alive.
    I guess that's only two sentences.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2018 at 9:42 PM
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  25. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    I like it very much.
    But, for some reason, and it's just my own personal taste, I don't like beginning important passages with the word, The. When I resort to the dreaded the at the start of a sentence, it usually means I haven't spent enough time thinking on what it is I mean to say (if that makes any sense?). Indeed, only very rarely do I begin a sentence, no matter its importance, with The.:)

    Also, in that you're using the metaphor of a mouth... I would prefer that Tress enter the story as if she's being swallowed.
    How about this as a beginning, or something similar... A lacework of wrought iron frame a gothic entrance that yawns long and ugly...


    Here's my first three sentences for Chapter 13, Smoke from a Distant Fire... and yes, I know it's prose of the purple sort. But it's from the POV of a 12-year-old girl who's in very unfamiliar surroundings and writing away in her diary. It gives me perfect license to get my purple on.:)


    Autumn dusk had settled over the rolling hills, setting a quiet fire to the horizon with smears of copper and crimson against a dark violet sky. But how soon the last stroke of twilight had given way to the first twinkling stars—those jewel-eyed ladies of the night that for threepenny will whisper sweet nothings in the dying of the light. Such were the breathless musings of Adeline as she scribbled away in her diary and sat by the crackling fire, over which hung an unlucky rabbit on a crudely fashioned spit that Mabel would turn from time to time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2018 at 3:17 AM
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