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 feel this doesn't work so well for me - it needs polishing up, some trimming.

    Pierced... like a blade sounds... redundant.
    Pierced my "thick" leather jacket sounds like you're putting two opposite ideas in the same line back to back. Is "thick" important here? If you really wanted that there, I feel it should be unpacked more, but the question is whether it's needed in the first place, esp given this is your first 3 sentences of the book.

    Every crack of a twig or rustle of leaves sent new waves of paranoia through me as my eyes scanned the swampy terrain
    This sentence is very wordy, and the rhythm does not flow well. It makes you want to stop reading almost at every word and you're not too sure what the words mean. Crack, twig, rustle, leaves, new waves - I'm not sure, when read together, which ones are nouns and which are adjectives. As in, of course I know which is which if I read it slowly and carefully - the meaning of the sentence is clear. But when read at speed, as you do when you read a novel, the meaning of the words kinda all jumbo up together.

    even the slightest movement amongst the trees whose branches had turned to claws in the dim moonlight
    That's a really convoluted sentence. You've got the character scanning the terrain looking for movement, then you've got a clause suddenly describing the trees, mixed into that is a metaphor (claws) plus more description (not just moonlight, but dim moonlight). It's way too much. Split it up into two sentences or more.

    It's also very, very repetitive - you've got crack of twig, rustle of leaves, swampy terrain, trees, branches into claws. Like, I get it. There're lots of trees around. You don't need to tell me in so many words. I feel like the only thing you've really told me is that there're way too many trees and the guy's scared. That, at the end of it, is all you've said in a lot of words.

    And more repetition: Crack of twig, rustle of leaves, gust of cold air. Do you see a pattern? X of Y structure is used 3 times in 3 sentences.

    Then you have: thick leather jacket, swampy terrain, dim moonlight, new waves. Lots of adjective-noun pairs. Too many in 3 sentences. (Actually, new waves of paranoia - another X of Y structure. So you have 4 such structures in 3 sentences)

    Add to the existing repetition, you use: even the slightest. "Even" adds very little and because it's already long-winded, adding length to your sentences now is a very bad idea.

    I think you're trying very hard to create atmosphere and if you really want to achieve that, you need to vary rhythm a lot more - do that by varying sentence structure and sentence length. Use beats and pauses to convey emotion, not just words. Give us a better idea of how he perceives the trees and sounds - you can get more creative than crack and rustles and claws, all of which are... not very original. Not that you have to be always, but these are very ordinary adjectives for what is supposed to be an unsettling environment for your character, so you must use descriptors that will equally give the reader a feeling, or an image, of something unsettling.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018
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  2. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Supporter

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    Some solid advice here! I do tend to get wordy and I've been told that my writing can be a bit "flowery." Damn you HP Lovecraft and your addictive, yet overwritten works!

    I've shortened it a bit, down to two sentences, and cut out a lot of the unnecessary details.

    A gust of cold air pierced my leather jacket, sending a shiver up my spine. Every crack of a twig or rustle of leaves sent a new wave of paranoia through me as my eyes scanned the swampy terrain for any sign of movement.

    Any better? Worse? The same?
     
  3. Kingwood Kid

    Kingwood Kid Member

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    Pretty much the same, I think? Here's my edited version, which may or may not be any better.

    A gust of cold air pierced my jacket, sending a shiver up my spine. Every crack of a twig, every rustle of leaves sent a wave of paranoia through me. My eyes scanned the swampy terrain, looking for the slightest movement among the trees whose branches had turned to claws in the dim moonlight.
     
  4. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I'm not sure you need to mention your eyes? Couldn't it just be "as I scanned the swampy terrain"?
     
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  5. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sent/sending sounds a bit repetitive too. But I do admit, I like the mood that's set up. It's kinda ominous.
     
  6. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like it more :) Now I wish the content was more specific - eg. it isn't just a scene of a guy being scared in the swamps, but it gives me more context. In terms of interest, I'm not sure. In terms of the writing, this is much easier to read and I definitely prefer it.
     
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  7. Beloved of Assur

    Beloved of Assur Member

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    Always happy to help!
     
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    I'd tighten it a bit more by eliminating either "shiver up my spine" or "wave of paranoia through me" since each essentially describes the same thing. And maybe even isolate the sound words, which are ominous, from the things that are making them, which are innocuous. Maybe something like:

    A gust of cold air pierced my jacket. Every crack or rustle sent a new a shiver up my spine as I scanned the swamps for movement.

    Maybe that's trimmed back too far (I eliminated every modifier except "cold," leaving only the nouns and verbs), but I always feel shorter, more direct language is more suspenseful... almost as if the POV character doesn't have time to elaborate because their life is in imminent danger. Maybe add in "crack or rustle of underbrush" or something so the verbs aren't hanging without subjects.
     
  9. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    Pretty dope. You got good advice on the trim, but as far as early work goes, it is really good. It's solid if you wrote so much good stuff that the main edits are cuts, to bring the shine out.
     
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  10. Mark Burton

    Mark Burton Fried Egghead Supporter

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    Very poetic and punchy. It gets to the meat of the matter quickly. It will be interesting to see where this leads. I like the dangerous undertones of the blade and the claws, the use of sight and sound. Perhaps ditch the second "back and forth" or maybe substitute one of them with something else. You can also bring in smell. Also, you could get metaphorical on the blade too, rather than using it as a simile. Perhaps something like:
    A gusty blade of cold air pierced my thick leather jacket, shivering up my spine. Every crack of a twig or rustle of leaves sent new waves of paranoia through me as the surrounding putrid swamp that held me captivated assaulted my nose. My eyes darted from dangerous silhouette to fleeting moonlight reflection, back and forth, looking for any sign of even the slightest movement amongst the trees, whose branches had turned to claws in the gloom.​
    I look forward to more! I hope this helps.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2018
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  11. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    Dearest Mary.

    I wondered how long it would be once you’d gone, before that daughter of yours brought up the subject of carting me off to an old folks home again. Turns out it was less than three weeks. We haven’t even had time to get your headstone fitted yet.
     
  12. Squidkidnow

    Squidkidnow New Member

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    Yeah it was a bit chaotic, the entire text has been reworked and made less convoluted. I am not a native English speaker so sometimes I will explain something with a long sentence, where there could just have been one word used instead. The screaming part is from the characters perspective in his relation to the universe, it's not so much the universe screaming per say, as the character's feeling of it being so overpowering that the sensation of that could be described as someone screaming in your face. Indifference is a pretty powerful emotion, especially if you're the target of it. Thanks for the input though, I am trying to write less and less convoluted but sometimes I just get caught up in it.
     
  13. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Supporter

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    Beau Hanson’s eyes opened groggily and he groaned, wiping sleep from them. Sunlight streamed in through his window, bringing an even stronger groan. As he fully acclimated into reality and left his dreams behind, an intense wave of sadness washed over him, realizing that he’d woken up yet again.

    I'm iffy about this intro, not sure why. It gets my general idea across, but I have this gut instinct that it's just... I don't know, off.
     
  14. G.h.

    G.h. New Member

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    The third creature said, "Come," and it came, and I saw it. I saw those golden wisps of hair, armored at their fore, wilt and wither into the earth. The third creature said, "Come," and indeed it came.
     
  15. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I think the "realizing" is grammatically questionable - technically it sounds like the wave of sadness is what's doing the realizing, right? I mean, it doesn't take much to figure out your meaning, but I think the first three sentences should be as tight as you can make them.

    Other than that? I think I see what you mean. There's nothing really wrong with it, but it's not exciting. Maybe it's because you've got a similar construction for all three sentences? X, Ying Z.

    And it's a pretty distant POV, really, which may be what you're shooting for, but... may not be?
     
  16. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Here's what I would do, for whatever it's worth.

    "Beau Hanson swatted at his alarm clock without opening his eyes, knowing that seeing his room, his [telling detail], meant he'd have to [thing he's dreading]."

    Groans aren't interesting. Streaming sunlight isn't interesting. Groggily opening eyes and wiping sleep aren't interesting. Waves of sadness aren't interesting. I'm not saying there is no place for those things, but in an opening, I want to know something specific. In my example (it's not great), there would be at least some idea of what this guy doesn't want, which is still yearning, desire.

    It's not better, just different. And I kind of feel what you mean about this being off. I think it feels that way because none of the details here say anything. I mean, sure, they are details, but what are they telling us about Beau Hanson and his world? What are you telling us about his desire?

    Hope this helps!
     
  17. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Supporter

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    Yeah, the "realizing" part was something that was bothering me, so I've been playing around with it since I posted this. Still don't have anything set in stone yet, but it sounds better. As for the POV, I'm actually in the midst of an existential crisis regarding the POV of this story.

    Definitely have to spice it up a bit. Maybe add some pepper, and a few jalapenos. It's most definitely helpful! It mirrored my thoughts about the opening pretty closely, which helps to reaffirm me that I need to change it up a lot. The only part that I can't really use is the bit where you mention the thing he's dreading, as the thing he's dreading is literally that he woke up. Our protagonist, my dear man, is severely depressed and is often plagued by suicidal ideation, so just existing is what he dreads most.
     
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  18. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Supporter

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    I edited it, opting to get more into the action earlier. This is four sentences, but it gives you a better idea of who he is as a character.

    Beau Hanson swung wildly at the phone sitting on his bedside table, blaring its alarm. He heard it clatter to the floor, the alarm still droning on, and swore under his breath.

    “Fucking piece of shit. I should throw you in the bathtub and watch you drown.”
     
  19. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    He didn't swing wildly. He hit the phone directly and knocked it onto the floor. And he didn't swear under his breath. He swore aloud twice in direct dialogue.

    Watch your repetition and contradictions. Those extra words will quickly get in the way of each other. Hypothetically, you could rewrite it as:

    Beau Hanson knocked the alarm onto the floor. "Fucking piece of shit."

    That's about all the work that sentiment is going to do for you. Put it out there and move on.
     
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  20. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Active Member

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    "Hello, I am someone very special. I am the daughter of the almighty King of Kings. None could wish for a better Father, and I ask you very politely to sit and listen to the accounts of the many champions who bore witness to His Advent..."
     
  21. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    I think my father may have murdered my mother and buried her in the garden. I haven’t seen or heard from her since Sunday night, and when I arrived home from school today, the flat pack shed, that’d been leaning disassembled against the wall since it was delivered six months ago, had been erected next to the flowerbeds.
    When I walked through the back gate, father was leaning against his shovel, smoking a cigarette, and looking very pleased with himself.
     
  22. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society

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    Posted this in a larger excerpt already but I felt like putting here and you can't stop me fools
    "
    Officer Becker was already having a bad day, when they got another call. That’s something they don’t tell you, how shit it feels to be reminded constantly how fucked up the world is. But nevertheless, him and Officer Lester responded diligently to another report.
    "
     
  23. Noelle_G

    Noelle_G New Member

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    Beth emerged from the walk in closet in a skin tight white mini dress, and silver heels, a pair of purple stilettos swinging from one hand. She eyed her sister Kate with annoyance. “Are you are I can’t convince you to change? It’s my bachelorette party! Live a little!”
     
  24. OB1

    OB1 Active Member

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    No thanks....

    Forgive the harshness, but as a reader this is my response and I'd hazard a guess that most people would agree. It's like a salesman or charity fundraiser stopping me in the street whilst I am going about my daily life. What they have to say must be very interesting, engrossing or important for me to give them any time of day!

    In the previous sentences you have not given me any reason why I should invest my time and energy in listening to these accounts. Not to mention the fact that you open with a very jarring statement


    No one not even the most arrogant person would speak like this.

    Almighty king of kings? is the father, God?

    Starting your story with a "Come gather round and hear me speak" kind of opener is very difficult to do well, and in my opinion is a recipe for disaster. I have never read a book that starts like this for this very reason.

    Then you carry on with

    Good for you, but I'd beg to differ my father is pretty awesome too! If someone said "None could wish for a better father" this would be my response.

    The reason why this thread has come about is because editors and publishers reckon you have about 3 sentences to hook the reader. Otherwise they'd throw it in the bin. It sounds harsh and frankly it is, but this is the only way they can sieve through the wheat and chaff. You literally have 3 sentences to grab my attention and make me invest my most precious time.

    I am sorry that this isn't positive criticism, but I hope it is constructive.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
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  25. Zerotonin

    Zerotonin Serotonin machine broke Supporter

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    [REDACTED FOR EDITING]
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018

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