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Thread: [Critique Game] Post the First Three Sentences of your Novel (READ FIRST POST FOR RULES)

  1. #21301
    Think it'll sell? smoothopr8r'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. <This is extra setup for the next two, which are already self-explanatory Pleasure had brought him to the palace, not business,<Suggest full stop here for impact 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.
    Good to see you back. I remember the previous versions, and am glad to see it still alive.

    This looks like it starts in the right place. I've made a suggestion to try and help tighten. Hope to see more of it in SYW!
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  2. #21302
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by fab_MR View Post
    The bars on the windows were engraved on Howard’s corneas, as were the faces of the other patients, some catatonic, some raving lunatics, like the teenage girl who barked at approaching cars and dug in the garden with her bare hands. Did she think she was a dog?
    His father was worse, he couldn’t even do that.
    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 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.

  3. #21303
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig'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 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.
    Nuts and bolts first: your second sentence is a fragment, so you'll want to fix that.

    One of the dangers of having an opening with a MC traveling someplace is that the MC is often passively thinking thoughts - usually memories. Those memories are largely backstory. That's the problem here. It's bits of backstory that aren't going to mean much to a reader. For example, without a setting, a reader isn't going to know if the "bars" are from a prison, an mental institution or an NYC jewelry store. Same with "disaster" and "that wretched lake." (Not crazy about those haunted ears, either - they're making me envision ghosts floating in and out of them.) They're all little hints about stuff that's happened, but no real story.

    I'm afraid I wouldn't read on.
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  4. #21304
    People are not wearing enough hats JJ Litke'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 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.
    That bit at the end about that wretched lake piques my interest. I'd read a little more and hope this isn't about to delve deep into backstory.
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  5. #21305
    Imagine a story Thecla'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 more than the previous version. I'm still not sure I'd read on, however; the lake is interesting but, on balance, this is looking backwards rather than forwards. If the story starts at the lake, why don't you?

  6. #21306
    Lost somewhere on the Nile Jack Judah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kallithrix View Post
    Hi, and welcome back Glad you haven't defenestrated yourself after all - I did start to wonder
    I tried. Took a running leap and everything. But they make really strong glass these days. Upside is, I can now write convincingly from the POV of a bug splattered on a windshield.

    It's well written, as usual.
    I swear folks, I didn't pay her to say that.

    The prose style feels quite serious and weighty, with long and information-dense sentences. That does suggest this is going to be a slow start though, and my interest might start to wane if the writing continues in this style all the way through.
    I used to have a sign taped to my desk. Said, "More Hemingway, less Proust." I think maybe I need to find that sucker and hang it again.


    But then you knew that already, because this is right in my wheel house, being set in Egypt only 5 years after my own story takes place
    Just finished reading your latest in SYW. I'm glad to see there's going to be a sequel, and I'm dying to know where those chariots are headed. Too early for Kadesh, too late for Seti's campaigns against the Shasu. So I'm stumped AND intrigued.

    need a beta?
    Does the pope wear little red shoes? If left to my own devices, I'll turn out a 500,000k doorstop full of pedantic 90 word sentences and entire chapters composed of nothing but characters tending to their livestock. I'll have to call it Dances With Mules.

  7. #21307
    Lost somewhere on the Nile Jack Judah's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone for your great feedback. Looking over everybody's comments, I noticed a common thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by JJ Litke View Post
    I think the flow could be improved by splitting this up into shorter sentences, especially the third one.
    Quote Originally Posted by mrsmig View Post
    my only quibble would be with the first two phrases of the first sentence. I think choosing one and jettisoning the other would tighten the prose and ramp up the tension...There are other wordy places that could be tightened up.
    Quote Originally Posted by Thecla View Post
    Too much of this is explaining why he's there; even if the reason itself is interesting, the explanation isn't.
    Quote Originally Posted by ap123 View Post
    I think it would flow better without the phrases in red.
    Quote Originally Posted by smoothopr8r View Post
    I've made a suggestion to try and help tighten.
    Among other issues, the sentences were pretty clunky. I've tried a new version. Set out to tighten things up, but somehow ended up with an even longer word count. I think it reads smoother. Or at least a little less ponderous, I hope. Also, the first sentence in all rights should probably bet split in two at "yet", but I kept it as one behemoth to stick with the rules of the game:

    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.

  8. #21308
    Three of a perfect pair. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    Okay, I just took a whole lot of time and went back several pages to figure out where this discussion came from.

    Short form: There's nothing wrong with some line by line crits or explanations on why a hook doesn't catch you. There's also nothing wrong with someone asking folks to limit it to just whether the hook catches them, or to be gentle in any extra crit.

    There really ought to not be paragraphs upon paragraphs of critique for three sentences. If someone can't be succinct in their commentary, that's not the fault of someone's first three sentences--that's on the critiquer's head.

    If you don't like someone's commentary, scroll past. If you feel that its egregious in its content or abusive, click the report post triangle.

    In other words, nothing has changed in the way this thread is operating.

    The thrust of this thread is whether the first three sentences hook you. Please stay focused on that.

    ETA: Added an 5th ETA to the rules post.
    Last edited by amergina; 03-21-2017 at 01:37 AM.
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  9. #21309
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    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.

  10. #21310
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    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!

  11. #21311
    Lost between the pages TwistedTyping'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.
    I like it this way, I'd keep reading

  12. #21312
    Lost between the pages TwistedTyping'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'd read on - I like your use of language
    The third sentence is a bit clipped, can you combine it with the fourth maybe?

  13. #21313
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig'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!
    You can always wait until you've accrued 50 posts and post a longer excerpt for crit in the Share Your Work section.

    I like this pretty well, except for "the night lies." "Lays" would be correct, and even then, it's a fairly dull verb. Something more evocative would help, e.g. blankets, smothers, swaddles, etc.

    I do wonder if we're about to head into waking-up territory, which comes with its own set of issues.
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  14. #21314
    figuring it all out Olde1649's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrsmig View Post
    You can always wait until you've accrued 50 posts and post a longer excerpt for crit in the Share Your Work section.

    I like this pretty well, except for "the night lies." "Lays" would be correct, and even then, it's a fairly dull verb. Something more evocative would help, e.g. blankets, smothers, swaddles, etc.

    I do wonder if we're about to head into waking-up territory, which comes with its own set of issues.
    Thanks for this: the original version was a bit more poetical, but then I thought 'keep it simple'. I'll re-think.

  15. #21315
    practical experience, FTW indianroads'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!
    Then add the fourth.

    I like what you wrote. You create an interesting mood, and are telling us something about what may be you MC. I did stumble a bit at "her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop". It just feels a bit awkward to me, but I'm not sure how I'd change it. It's hard to wedge your head against a laptop. Maybe her cheek could be pressed against the table beside her laptop keyboard?

  16. #21316
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig'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.
    I like this better than your previous iteration, although I think you can eliminate "still sitting on the kitchen table at dawn." That way you keep the urgency of George's lunge intact. I also think you could tweak the final sentence so it connects with Sentence 2, e.g. "as kindling, but 'Leaves of Grass' was still sitting on the kitchen table."
    Last edited by mrsmig; 03-21-2017 at 04:22 AM.
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  17. #21317
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Then add the fourth.
    Nope.

    The rules of this game limit your opener to the first three sentences. No more.
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  18. #21318
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    I'm an outlaw.

  19. #21319
    deafwriter @ Chase's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I'm an outlaw.
    Of whom we've suffered way too many.

  20. #21320
    figuring it all out Olde1649's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Then add the fourth.

    I like what you wrote. You create an interesting mood, and are telling us something about what may be you MC. I did stumble a bit at "her forehead wedged against the keyboard of her laptop". It just feels a bit awkward to me, but I'm not sure how I'd change it. It's hard to wedge your head against a laptop. Maybe her cheek could be pressed against the table beside her laptop keyboard?
    Thank you for this. You do have to think so carefully about every word. But her forehead is wedged against the 'keyboard', not against the 'laptop'. I think that's physically possible.

    I'm sticking to the three-line rule for the moment.

  21. #21321
    Three of a perfect pair. AW Moderator amergina's Avatar
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    Yeah, the Three Sentence thing is really a hard and fast rule.
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  22. #21322
    Lefties are always right. Southpaw'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!
    But you don't need the fourth sentence. The goal is to see if we read on to that 4th one, and I would. The only part that sorta sounded off was "sleeping softly".
    I write urban fantasy. I refused to believe it's an oversaturated market. (For the record, that's a werehermitcrab.)
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  23. #21323
    Lefties are always right. Southpaw'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.
    I'm not sure about this. It's a bit too much (in terms of writing) for the beginning (for me), but I would probably give it a few more sentences to make up my mind.
    Last edited by Southpaw; 03-21-2017 at 04:54 AM.
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  24. #21324
    Lefties are always right. Southpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Then add the fourth.
    Oh, you troublemaker! Sure set someone else up to have their hand slapped.
    I write urban fantasy. I refused to believe it's an oversaturated market. (For the record, that's a werehermitcrab.)
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  25. #21325
    figuring it all out Olde1649's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw View Post
    Oh, you troublemaker! Sure set someone else up to have their hand slapped.
    I'm not even tempted to try.

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