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  1. #21326
    practical experience, FTW tiggs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tn_writer View Post
    George thanked God as he lunged for the book still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn. The night before, his Methodist father had threatened to use the “gift of sin” as kindling. But the man never threw Leaves of Grass into the fire.
    Aside from naming the book, the third sentence seems redundant.

    That said -- I'd still read on.
    Unpublished newbie, so take everything I say with a large pinch of salt.

    WIP's: January Gray and the Bone Umbrella - Second draft - Scene 1-2, here || Blue - First Draft - Chapter 1, here || Cull - First draft
    Trunked: Branch - Fifth draft.



  2. #21327
    practical experience, FTW Jan74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olde1649 View Post
    A still, dark November night lies over the grey, concrete University campus. Hanna is sleeping softly, breathing slowly and deeply, her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop. Its blue-white light pulses over her long brown hair.

    I can't help feeling this exercise is a bit unfair on me. The fourth sentence explains a lot!
    Its blue-white light pulses, well I'm curious now... what is "its" an alien, a ghost maybe or is its the computer? So yes I would read on.

    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I'm an outlaw.
    You are bad... I foresee a riot or somebody is going to get tarred and feathered!

    "You fail only if you stop writing" ~Ray Bradbury~
    "The road to hell is paved with adverbs" ~Stephen King~
    WIP #1 Romance or Women's fiction, hopefully by the end I'll know.
    WIP #2 YA Paranormal/Urban Fantasy (on the back burner).
    "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ~Mary Angelou~


  3. #21328
    practical experience, FTW tiggs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olde1649 View Post
    A still, dark November night lies over the grey, concrete University campus. Hanna is sleeping softly, breathing slowly and deeply, her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop. Its blue-white light pulses over her long brown hair.
    +1 to mrsmig's "lays" vs "lie"

    Too many adjectives for my tastes. Not a huge fan of omniscient present tense, either.

    In terms of hooks -- there's no tension here. Everything seems calm and peaceful. The night is still and Hannah is sleeping softly.

    I wouldn't read on.
    Unpublished newbie, so take everything I say with a large pinch of salt.

    WIP's: January Gray and the Bone Umbrella - Second draft - Scene 1-2, here || Blue - First Draft - Chapter 1, here || Cull - First draft
    Trunked: Branch - Fifth draft.



  4. #21329
    practical experience, FTW tiggs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Judah View Post
    Asha Hebsed came to the palace for pleasure that night, not duty, yet the first hour of the night's final watch found him crouched beside a lotus pool in a secluded corner of the royal gardens, scrubbing blood from his hands.

    He cursed the twists of ill fortune that had forced him to bare blade in the very halls of the Great House. Times of strife and discord indeed, when stealing a tumble with a lesser man’s wife could mean a turn of unexpected sword work.
    I'd be tempted to lose the "not duty" phrase, as "duty" seems a strange description for what's revealed in the third sentence.

    Otherwise -- I'd read on.
    Unpublished newbie, so take everything I say with a large pinch of salt.

    WIP's: January Gray and the Bone Umbrella - Second draft - Scene 1-2, here || Blue - First Draft - Chapter 1, here || Cull - First draft
    Trunked: Branch - Fifth draft.



  5. #21330
    People are not wearing enough hats JJ Litke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tn_writer View Post
    I've rewritten my opening per earlier comments. Thanks again to everyone for the feedback. Read on or not read on? Historical fiction in the vein of Tracy Chevalier...

    George thanked God as he lunged for the book still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn. The night before, his Methodist father had threatened to use the “gift of sin” as kindling. But the man never threw Leaves of Grass into the fire.
    An "as" construction in the first sentence is a pet peeve of mine. It often feels like too much is being packed in. I might try it a little further and hope it smooths out.
    The Invisible Box, Apex Magazine issue #92
    When the Planets Left
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  6. #21331
    Have pen, will travel Cindyt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tn_writer View Post
    I've rewritten my opening per earlier comments. Thanks again to everyone for the feedback. Read on or not read on? Historical fiction in the vein of Tracy Chevalier...

    George thanked God as he lunged for the book still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn. The night before, his Methodist father had threatened to use the “gift of sin” as kindling. But the man never threw Leaves of Grass into the fire.
    It needs work, but it does have a certain thang that grabs me.
    Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them--Matthew 7:12

    There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.--Johann Wolfgang Goethe

    I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.--Vincent Van Gogh



  7. #21332
    People are not wearing enough hats JJ Litke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olde1649 View Post
    A still, dark November night lies over the grey, concrete University campus. Hanna is sleeping softly, breathing slowly and deeply, her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop. Its blue-white light pulses over her long brown hair.
    I don't think you need so many adjectives and adverbs. If the next few sentences turn into a waking-up opening, I'm out.
    The Invisible Box, Apex Magazine issue #92
    When the Planets Left
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    Harbinie of Death
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  8. #21333
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fab_MR View Post
    Howard kept his eyes on the road, but the bars on the windows were still imprinted in his mind. As was his father’s disfigured face, a permanent reminder of the disaster. And his father’s admonishments against that wretched lake hadn’t ceased to haunt Howard’s ears.
    I like this much more than the first version. There's intrigue from the mention of the disaster and the lake. Something doesn't sound quite right in the third sentence though. I think it's the word "admonishments" and "hadn't ceased to haunt Howard's ears" is a bit too much like "still imprinted in his mind" (I really like that bit) and seems a bit redundant. Maybe "As were his father's admonishments against that wretched lake" or something (i.e. remove that bit and rephrase). I think the reason why I don't like "admonisments" is because the meaning isn't precise enough. I'm not sure if he's warning about the lake or if he's angry because of something that's already happened at the lake.

    Overall, I'd keep reading.
    my blog - cave people and stuff - an imaginative look at palaeolithic life: http://cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com/

  9. #21334
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olde1649 View Post
    A still, dark November night lies over the grey, concrete University campus. Hanna is sleeping softly, breathing slowly and deeply, her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop. Its blue-white light pulses over her long brown hair.

    I can't help feeling this exercise is a bit unfair on me. The fourth sentence explains a lot!
    I like sentences 2 and 3 and the image they paint. I'm less keen on the first sentence. There are too many adjectives ("still, dark November night" and "grey, concrete University campus") - it feels to me like this is slowing down the start and how much of that information do I need to know up front?

    I don't think it's an issue that I don't know the whole situation yet. It's clear so far what's going on. I'm assuming that she's fallen asleep while studying. If sentence 4 tells me there's more to it than that then great . You don't need to set the entire scene in three lines. What you have there is clear and I know what's going on. If you feel it's taking too long to get to the important story information (i.e. you really feel that and not just because of this game) then consider whether you could remove the first sentence and if there's any information in the first sentence that is vital, maybe try to insert it in one of the others (e.g. "Hanna is sleeping softly in her room in (university name) halls" (or the USA equivalent, or something like that) rather than describing her breathing). However, only do that if it's something you feel generally about the opening, not just for this game. I would read the 4th sentence if this was a book on a shelf in the bookshop.
    Last edited by neandermagnon; 03-21-2017 at 11:11 AM.
    my blog - cave people and stuff - an imaginative look at palaeolithic life: http://cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com/

  10. #21335
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tn_writer View Post
    I've rewritten my opening per earlier comments. Thanks again to everyone for the feedback. Read on or not read on? Historical fiction in the vein of Tracy Chevalier...

    George thanked God as he lunged for the book still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn. The night before, his Methodist father had threatened to use the “gift of sin” as kindling. But the man never threw Leaves of Grass into the fire.
    This is less clear than the original version you posted. I'm not familiar with the literary references (so if that means I'm not your target audience, then take my comments with the appropriate quantity of salt) so I'm not sure why "gift of sin" is in quotes and not capitalised and Leaves of Grass is in italics. If "gift of sin" isn't literature, then using it as kindling doesn't make sense. So I'm confused. That may be just me and my lack of knowledge of classic literature. The thing of a religious extremist father wanting to burn books is intriguing and would have kept me reading but that point doesn't come out for me the way it did in the first version and I'm a bit confused. But again, if I'm not your target audience (or I'm just being dense and missing something), then listen to your target audience rather than me.
    my blog - cave people and stuff - an imaginative look at palaeolithic life: http://cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com/

  11. #21336
    practical experience, FTW neandermagnon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Judah View Post

    In the first hour of the night's final watch, deep in a secluded corner of Pharaoh's private garden, Asha Hebsed crouched beside a lotus pool and washed the blood from his hands.

    As he scrubbed, he cursed the ill twists of fortune that had forced him to bare blade within the very halls of the Great House. Pleasure had brought him to the palace, not business, but in these times of strife and discord, apparently even the luxury of stealing a tumble with a lesser man's wife could mean unexpected sword work.
    I like this, albeit that I don't like Asha much as a person (mostly because of "lesser man"). That's okay, because he's an interesting character - I like characters with depth and who aren't perfect- and I'd keep reading to find out more. You set the tone and set the scene well and it's intriguing.
    my blog - cave people and stuff - an imaginative look at palaeolithic life: http://cavepeopleandstuff.wordpress.com/

  12. #21337
    Imagine a story Thecla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tn_writer View Post

    George thanked God as he lunged for the book still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn. The night before, his Methodist father had threatened to use the “gift of sin” as kindling. But the man never threw Leaves of Grass into the fire.
    Hello again. I'm still not on board, I'm afraid. 'Lunged' is a good action verb, but then everything stops. There's a lot of getting the reader up to speed on the situation rather than getting on with the story. The third sentence reads oddly to me because of "never threw". If I tell you, I never wore a hat to school then you know you that, no matter how often you might have seen me walking to school, you would never have seen me wearing a hat. It's something I didn't do repeatedly. This matter of George's book is surely a one-off, unless there's something about Leaves of Grass that causes the father never to throw it on the fire despite being offered many opportunities to do so.

  13. #21338
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadisonWoods View Post
    My first three are pretty short, so I'm already second guessing if maybe I should be saying more with the first three since that's the only chance to hook some readers. These are from the first book of a rural fantasy trilogy I'm working on:

    Many people say that life can change in the blink of an eye. Most experience that kind of event once in a lifetime. Maybe twice.
    I'd probably read on to see if this leads somewhere meaningful (and I assume it does), but if you view the opening sentences of a story as valuable real estate (which I do), this strikes me mostly as wasted space. I'm wondering if you can't go straight from the first sentence, which I'm guessing is the only important one of the three, into whatever its significance is. Skip the second and third sentences entirely, which are really just stating the obvious.
    Last edited by BethS; 03-21-2017 at 12:54 PM.

  14. #21339
    figuring it all out Olde1649's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Jan74;10129851]Its blue-white light pulses, well I'm curious now... what is "its" an alien, a ghost maybe or is its the computer? So yes I would read on.

    Thank you for the encouragement. The blue-white light is the computer screen. The three sentences are all about contrasts.

  15. #21340
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StarGazer770 View Post
    I think I've realized what I need to improve. I've been too concerned about how my writing sounds when I should be worried about whether or not it's functional. I should also note that I'm always looking to improve my grammar. Here's my revised first three sentences:

    With one hand Donte held his map against the splintered post and with the other marked the path that led him here, to this little town just outside the capital of Rosaque. A sense of pride welled up in him, a feeling all who wander experience when they realize just how far they have traveled, and with this realization a tempting thought appeared in Donte’s mind. "Perhaps we can afford a drink to reward ourselves with," he said to his horse.
    This is much better. We have a sense of place and sense of character, and I'd read on to find out why Donte is traveling and what happens to him next.

  16. #21341
    figuring it all out Olde1649's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJ Litke View Post
    I don't think you need so many adjectives and adverbs. If the next few sentences turn into a waking-up opening, I'm out.
    Thank you for the comments. But she's got to wake up sometime! Can't have a whole novel about someone sleeping.

  17. #21342
    Imagine a story Thecla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olde1649 View Post
    A still, dark November night lies over the grey, concrete University campus. Hanna is sleeping softly, breathing slowly and deeply, her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop. Its blue-white light pulses over her long brown hair.
    Stripped down a bit, I might be interested. There's too many adjectives and adverbs for my taste, and the pattern of pairing them is very obvious. That said, there's a voice here, soothing a reader to slumber. If sentence 4 breaks the pattern, I'm in. So, arguably, your 3 sentences have done their job.

  18. #21343
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    First sentence is passive, and will probably lose you quite a bit of readers with it.
    I don't often comment on a comment, but for the sake of clarity (the OP's as well as my own)--

    Can you explain what you meant by it being "passive"? It's not written in passive voice, if that's what you meant. It uses the progressive tense to show that the character was in the act of settling onto her stool when the phone rang. So there are two actions occurring at the same time in that sentence.

  19. #21344
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Judah View Post
    Hello all. Been a while since I've been on here, took a walkabout from AW for a while. Back now, and still fighting to kratz out a rough draft of the same Exodus retelling I was working on the last time I posted here. New opening, new starting point (not that anyone but me is cursed with the memory of its predecessors).

    Please tear in and do your worst. Ancient Egypt, 1274 B.C.:


    In the first hour of the night's final watch, deep in a secluded corner of Pharaoh's private garden, Asha Hebsed crouched beside a lotus pool and washed the blood from his hands.

    As he scrubbed, he cursed the ill twists of fortune that had forced him to bare blade within the very halls of the Great House. Pleasure had brought him to the palace, not business, but in these times of strife and discord, apparently even the luxury of stealing a tumble with a lesser man's wife could mean unexpected sword work.
    I love this. Every word. The voice is appealing. Some here will probably ding you on the length of the third sentence, but not me, because it's clear, it flows well, and it's well balanced. I hope you don't change it.

    The first sentence hooked me when I learned he was washing blood off his hands, and the second and third provided context that would keep me reading.

    And I do remember something of the earlier versions. Welcome back.
    Last edited by BethS; 03-21-2017 at 01:13 PM.

  20. #21345
    Imagine a story Thecla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Judah View Post



    Asha Hebsed came to the palace for pleasure that night, not duty, yet the first hour of the night's final watch found him crouched beside a lotus pool in a secluded corner of the royal gardens, scrubbing blood from his hands.

    He cursed the twists of ill fortune that had forced him to bare blade in the very halls of the Great House. Times of strife and discord indeed, when stealing a tumble with a lesser man’s wife could mean a turn of unexpected sword work.
    This doesn't suit me any better than the first. That probably says only that I'm not your reader. I'd much rather see/feel/smell the blood on his hands or staining the water than be told of baring blades and tumbles with lesser men's wives (both these turns of phrase make me think of the TV version of Spartacus).

  21. #21346
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fab_MR View Post
    I took in all comments - much appreciated! - and here's my new opening:

    Howard kept his eyes on the road, but the bars on the windows needs clarifying. On the windows of the asylum were still imprinted in his mind. As was his father’s disfigured face, a permanent reminder of the disaster. And his father’s admonishments against that wretched lake I don't understand how or why someone would admonish against a lake. I don't know what that means hadn’t ceased to haunt Howard’s ears.
    There are still clarity issues. And it also puts Howard into a passive position (driving somewhere) while reminiscing about/reacting to something far more interesting (presumably) that took place off the page. This is like starting the story in an actionless trough rather than on a rising wave. Why not open with him at the asylum, having a conversation with his father?
    Last edited by BethS; 03-21-2017 at 01:21 PM.

  22. #21347
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Judah View Post
    Thanks everyone for your great feedback. Looking over everybody's comments, you clearly had not read mine yet...I noticed a common thread:


    Among other issues, the sentences were pretty clunky. *tearing hair* I strenuously disagree! Fwiw.

    Asha Hebsed came to the palace for pleasure that night, not duty, yet the first hour of the night's final watch found him crouched beside a lotus pool in a secluded corner of the royal gardens, scrubbing blood from his hands.

    He cursed the twists of ill fortune that had forced him to bare blade in the very halls of the Great House. Times of strife and discord indeed, when stealing a tumble with a lesser man’s wife could mean a turn of unexpected sword work.
    It's OK. Well, better than OK, and I think I'd like it if I hadn't seen the first version, which sang into my writer's ear in the most wonderful way. This version has lost much of that lovely, musical flow and something of the voice as well. Just my opinion, of course.
    Last edited by BethS; 03-21-2017 at 03:03 PM.

  23. #21348
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tn_writer View Post
    I've rewritten my opening per earlier comments. Thanks again to everyone for the feedback. Read on or not read on? Historical fiction in the vein of Tracy Chevalier...

    George thanked God as he lunged for the book still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn. <--This puts the action somewhat out of order and makes for awkward reading. Maybe try rearranging a little: "At dawn, George discovered the book was still sitting untouched on the kitchen table. He lunged for it, thanking God that his father..."etc The night before, his Methodist father had threatened to use the “gift of sin” as kindling. But the man had never thrown Leaves of Grass into the fire.
    This is somewhat better, but still needs work. When you use the "as" construction, which you did in the first sentence, that can often lead to showing actions and reactions out of order. I think we need to see the book on the table before we see George lunging for it.

  24. #21349
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olde1649 View Post
    A still, dark November night lies over the grey, concrete University campus. Hanna is sleeping softly, breathing slowly and deeply, her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop. Its blue-white light pulses over her long brown hair.

    I can't help feeling this exercise is a bit unfair on me. The fourth sentence explains a lot!
    It often does. But the rules, you know...

    I'm not one to shy away from using adjectives and adverbs when they enhance the writing, but in this case, I think you have too many. For one thing, it sets up an undesirable, sing-songy rhythm if you're always pairing the adjectives: still dark, gray concrete, blue white, long brown. We probably don't need to know how Hannah is sleeping, only that she is. Night is always some form of dark and is often still, and I don't know why we need that information anyway. Concrete is usually gray, so that's another unnecessary descriptor.

    OK, so on to the content. This is omniscient voice and pure description. Nothing wrong with either one, but if this is going to involve Hannah waking up in the next sentence or three, then that could be a problem, as the waking-up opening is probably the most common opening employed by unpublished writers. That's not to say you can't ever do it--and certainly published writers have--but it's got to be different and compelling.

    Anyway, the overwriting in this one would not entice me to keep reading, and the fact that the character is asleep is another mark against it. Would happily look at a revision, though, if you decide to do one.
    Last edited by BethS; 03-21-2017 at 03:05 PM.

  25. #21350
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrsmig View Post
    "Lays" would be
    Quote Originally Posted by tiggs View Post
    +1 to mrsmig's "lays" vs "lie"
    Actually, "lies" is correct. "Lays" would require an object. The night would have to lay something over the town or campus or whatever. So, "The night lies over the town..." or "The night lays a blanket of darkness over the town..."
    Last edited by BethS; 03-21-2017 at 01:59 PM.

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