Share Your First Three Sentences

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

  1. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I like this. You've constructed a POV with attitude and given us the basics of two personalities, both of which sound interesting. I would certainly read on. I want to find out more about Nina's life, and what makes her 'cousin' insufferable. And why 'cousin' is in quotes ...meaning she's not her real cousin? A lot going on here, but it's accessible. I like it.
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    You've illustrated what happens when a story starts too quickly. People pick up a book, but until they get immersed in it, they are still in their own real world. I think authors need to concentrate less on creating superficially snappy openers, and realise that people need to be introduced to the world of the story via where they are right now. I advocate starting with that in mind. Start with what the reader DOES know. Don't hit the reader with mysterious acronyms, or flood them with new concepts, or dump too many characters on them right away. An intriguing opener (which is what any book needs) doesn't have to be slam/wham/bam.
     
  3. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Definite grammar issues: you need a comma between rocks and spraying; the second sentence has a comma splice (possible fix=change hung to hanging); waist, not waste; and you've got "the of" instead of "of the" in the last part.

    I was too distracted by these to get a real impression of the content of the lines. I think they're probably fine, if unexciting.
     
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  4. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    I don't know if writing other people's prose for them is really a good idea.

    Anyway. Wall of text crits you for 3872940. You die.

    There is a missing comma in the first sentence, but there's also a deeper problem--the subject of the sentence is the water, rather than the girl (please name her. it's your first sentence. give me something to hang on to.) I'd rewrite to make the subject of the sentence the girl, now endowed with a wonderful, specific name, splashed by bay water.

    The second sentence has a spelling mistake. It's "waist."

    I'm not sure that the rhythm of the second sentence is a comfortable read. It's all the commas making the sentence a jumble of phrases that skip the reader's eye backwards to confirm that they are reading correctly, and that's because the construction is awkward.

    The third sentence feels a bit clunky. I think it's because it's using two inadequate verbs to describe her action where a single precise one would do the job better.

    I also want to point out that if you place the missing comma in the first sentence, you then have two sentences with exactly the same construction:

    Bay water splashed across the rocks, spraying the girl with cold salt.
    She controlled her breathing, focusing on the rhythm the of the waves.


    it's a perfectly cromulent way to write a sentence. it's just that the similarity of the construction so close together gives the prose a monotonous, droning feel. this is a problem that I frequently have to correct in my own writing. I really like this construction pattern, so I'm looking for it when it's time to do line editing. Also notice that both sentences are twelve words long, again adding to the feeling of sameness.

    If I caught this in my own writing, I think what I would do is compress the images and concepts in these three sentences down into two sentences - the overall writing is a bit loose, and I think that it could be tightened to good effect.

    I would also think seriously about the mood and attitude of the woman in the sentences - why is she synchronizing her breathing with the waves of the bay? why is she sitting so close she's getting sprayed with water? what is her motivation for doing these things? I would then try to figure out how to convey the character's mood and attitude with my word choice, hinting at what she wants from this action (and for bonus points, the conflict keeping her from getting it.)
     
  5. Wild Knight

    Wild Knight Active Member

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    The reason why the cousin was in quotations is because Nina's father had been adopted into that family when he was a small child.
    So the two girls are cousins only by default that their dads are adoptive brothers.
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I figured it would be something like this. Anyway, well done.
     
  7. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    I almost didn’t realize that. I think the sound of waves is what she is focusing on, I should write it in character and not in the fly on the wall sort of view.
     
  8. hyacinthe

    hyacinthe Member

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    that would be an interesting thing to try, i think.
     
  9. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    I sort of had an idea like a movie where the camera flys over the water and focuses on her sitting on the rocks.

    Character deception is not my strong point, but I really want the reader to have a clear idea of who Rose is and what she looks like. I’ll experiment with rewrites till it flows naturally with the story. I avoided interior monolog because most of what the reader should know is scattered in the first chapter.
     
  10. Rzero

    Rzero Member

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    I assume you'll explain plenty in the next sentence or two, so I wouldn't worry about "disc" (disk is short for diskette) or "boy" as much as I would "glimmered" and "displayed". "Displayed" is superfluous and a little ambiguous, while "glimmered" is probably not what you meant. "Gray sunlight glinted off the silver disc in the boy's hand." is a stronger, more concise line and doesn't make me wonder if the disc is mint-in-box or if he's been holding it in a pose like a showroom manikin. Gray is an interesting descriptor for sunlight. I like it, but glinting off the surface is what it would do. Just a suggestion though. You're doing great. Keep it up!

    ETA: You could rearrange the whole sentence if you prefer "glimmered" to 'glinted", but the proper usage would be something to the effect of "The silver disc glimmered in the boy's hand, reflecting gray sunlight from...etc." and even then, "gleamed" or "shimmered" might make more sense, depending on the texture of the disc.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2018
  11. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    The first few sections of this short article are pertinent to the subject of 'first sentences' and the notion of how to begin a book. This is an excellent website, by the way. It's produced by Penguin Random House, which is a well-respected name in publishing. The offerings in the articles come from various published authors and sometimes editors. Worth a look.
    http://authornews.penguinrandomhouse.com/8-great-ways-to-start-the-writing-process/
     
  12. LadyErica

    LadyErica New Member

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    The first three lines in my book?

    "The grenade rolled through the corridor, continued into the room… and exploded. Smoke burst from the empty shell, causing a loud cries of excitement, terror, happiness and fear all in one. But as Jenny Anderson raised her rifle and stepped into the room, all eyes fixed on her, and the whole room burst into a wild applause of the kind only children can produce."

    This is a very early work in progress, and I should point out English is not my main language. The story is a sci-fi thing with Jenny as a space cop. I'm not even entirely sure where to take the story yet, only that it's inspired by tv-shows like Firefly, Farscape and all those. Not so much Star Trek and Star Wars, as they are overdone and, frankly, I find them quite boring.
     
  13. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    The idea is okay but...

    Show don’t tell.

    Where is the discrprion? It’s hard to have a scene without a grounded setting. Try to weave action together and instead of saying fear, show someone getting ripped apart by the grande or laughing historically due to nerve gass.
     
  14. LadyErica

    LadyErica New Member

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    It's a good point, but these are just the first three lines in the story. I was trying to go for drama and suspense, but when Jenny enters the room, it becomes quite clear it's a classroom, and the grenade is fake. There's some smoke, but that's it. Her idea (well, mine) is that if she acts like a military officer, walks into the classroom and hold a dry speech, no one is going to listen to her. We've all been kids. But dressing up in a combat uniform, rolling a fake grenade into the classroom and starting the show with a bang? Now that gets their attention. ;)

    Plus, it allows me to quickly set the tone for the rest of the story. The story so far is that a boy claims a monster took his cat and fled into the sewer, and everyone is teasing him. No one takesh im serious. But Jenny is a space cop, and she tells the whole class that the space cops are there for everyone. No one is unimportant. So she promises to go into the sewer and look for the cat, and kill the monster (if there is one).

    Just like that, we know there's going to be a lot of action, and we know Jenny is a nice, decent person who wants to help as many as she can. Taking down a drug lord in an intergalactic cartel, or helping a young boy find his cat? No one is too big, no one is too small. :)
     
  15. Spirit of seasons

    Spirit of seasons Active Member

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    I wrote the initial chapter of Evergreen as an action sequence with Rose being chased by a pack of wolves. It served as a good jumping off point to start writing but I soon realized that I wanted to know more about Rose and the setting, and the events that lead up to her being chased up the side of a mountain by wolves. This doesn't apply to everyone or even you but I tend to enjoy action scenes more if I understand the characters, their motivations and the setting. I soon learned that Rose wants to find her mother who had been missing for nearly all of her life. The first few scenes help to explain the setting and introduce a few key plot points and characters.

    You could either skip back a few hours in the story and write out some scenes leading up to the "grenade" or do a prologue.

    Or have the action in the middle or end of the story and have the characters build tension and drama to drive the story to the climax.

    I had no idea from what you wrote that the grenade was fake or that it was a classroom. Doing that sounds like a good way to get fired. Maybe show that Jenny is a kind caring individual who can't refuse a request. Have the reader get emotionally invested with her. Really show that she cares. Try to be detailed in your description without explaining every single thing. When she throws the grenade, maybe say what type it is, a flash bang? Laughing gass? I would suggest reading as much as you can write, it really helped me and each book I read taught me a small lesson about what I did and didn't like.

    This advice helped me but I might not be right for you, just try to find what works and what doesn't. Happy writing.
     
  16. Rzero

    Rzero Member

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    This is such a fascinating thread, but it's difficult to get feedback on three sentences that rely on anticipation or suspense here. Everyone seems to want the opening scene and main character completely on display by the end of the third line. That's not how most books work, but I think it's what this exercise is about, so you might specify stuff like that if you want different feedback. I don't think you should explain any more than you did, except possibly to clarify that it's a toy or a fake grenade. You don't have to call it that, but you could be more clear about what happened when it went off. I didn't entirely get that. I thought combat smoke grenade and then didn't understand the positive reaction until I reread it and speculated a bit and still wasn't sure until you specified. The rest, the things you explained in the next post, should unfold like you described. That sounds great. If any of us picks up five random novels from our bookshelf, which I just did to make sure I wouldn't sound stupid when I wrote this, we won't know what's going on after three sentences. The first three lines of "Fear and Loathing", "Hitchhiker's Guide", "The Giver", "Flowers for Algernon" and "Invasion of the Body snatchers" all failed that test phenomenally, but they all grab you. Yours does too. Clean up a bit for clarity, and I think you're golden.
     
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  17. LadyErica

    LadyErica New Member

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    Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. :) The main problem is that I want the reader to be confused and think it's a real grenade, and a real combat situation. In fact, I am considering an even longer version, like a whole page, with Jenny entering the building like it's a real, high risk combat mission. It would be tense, giving a feeling that it's extremely dangerous, and she finally confronts her biggest fear... children. But I think that would be too much of a good thing, and I want to get straight to the point, without loosing the initial "is this real?" reaction.

    Plus, these are only the first three lines. If it was the first five or six lines, it would be a different matter. Then it wouldn't be a question whether it was real or not. We know she's in a school to hold a speech about the space cops, and she wanted to make a show for the children. But at the same time, we also learn she tries to get into the mindset of whoever or whatever she is up against, whether it's children or drug lords. She wants to know how they think, so she can better understand them and prepare for the situation. So the speech in the classroom is goofy and fun, but the situation is still all too real. It doesn't really matter if she talks to children or a serial killer. Her way of dealing with it is always the same.
     
  18. Carriage Return

    Carriage Return Member

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    Here's a rewrite idea just to get the juices flowing:

    The grenade tumbled down the corridor and into the room. Smoke burst with a ‘BOOM’ from the empty shell—met immediately with muddled cries of excitement, terror, happiness, and fear. Completing her assault, Jenny Anderson raised her rifle and stepped into the room.


    All eyes fixed on her in a moment of deathly quiet before a thunderous applause ensued…


    I don't think the word "rolled" is very interesting. "room" seems overused. You might move the reveal to the second paragraph?

    Just some ideas. Can't go wrong. Can't get eaten.
     
  19. LadyErica

    LadyErica New Member

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    That's what my late uncle said, when he went hunting for bears. :oops:

    (joking, of course.) :D:D:D Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. I don't write in English, but any feedback is much appreciated. :)
     
  20. Stammis

    Stammis Senior Member

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    The bar was dark and dreary. The chairs and tables were almost full, and there was no music, as far as Joseph could tell. He couldn't even hear the conversation on the table next to him, only managing snippets of words that didn't make sense.
     
  21. Rzero

    Rzero Member

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    This works just as well. It was the ambiguity that caused the confusion. Actually, I think this is better. I like it. Don't rush it. Take the whole scene up to the explosion from her perspective as if she's entering hostile combatant territory. It works for multiple reasons. It creates better suspense, and despite the fact that she's pretending in order to get their attention and establish a specific dynamic from the start, it also aptly symbolizes her real apprehensions. When you get that page or a chapter going, throw it in the workshop. I'd love to read it.
     
  22. NoseyNobody

    NoseyNobody Banned

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    For one—before they strap me to the electric chair and I ago the way of yesterday—it’s is true what they say about me: that I’ve taken to the roads with a loaded gun and disturbed the pedestrians. The oddest part of it, if I were to cherry pick, would be about how it’d all happened in the span of three sunsets. I mean, to have lived 36 years believing in the lord’s grace and then to have tossed it all with a flaming desire to go to prison, I’ve to say, it’s all a fucked up spectacle.
     
  23. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I think there's an interesting voice at work here, and there's something about the phrase "taken to the roads with a loaded gun and disturbed the pedestrians" that really resonates in my brain. The typos are distracting, and honestly, for my preference I'd want the voice toned down a little bit too (like, I'm not sure I see the point of the "For one" at the start, and a few other little bits), but I tend to not be a fan of really voice-heavy things, so that's pretty subjective.

    Overall, with tidying, I think it'd be a really interesting opening.
     
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  24. MikeyC

    MikeyC Active Member

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    I have to say this thread has really helped my writing in general - not just on the first three sentences, but as a whole as well.

    Time and time again I think on a sentence I have just written and I say to myself 'Would I post it in this thread?' My writing has improved immeasurably.

    A Big Thank You!!

    Rgds

    Mike
     

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