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Thread: [Critique Game] Post The First Three Sentences of your Short Story

  1. #1126
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin flowerburgers's Avatar
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    Great first line in particular, autumnleaf. I agree with the others' suggestions.

    Here's mine:

    When my landlady went deaf, I enrolled in a sign language class at San Francisco City College, wanting someone to talk to. My older brother, who lived with me, had gone to prison, and I was lonely. My landlady’s name was Lyudmila, and she spoke loudly now, her voice a raspy boom, her Russian accent thick.

  2. #1127
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flowerburgers View Post
    Great first line in particular, autumnleaf. I agree with the others' suggestions.

    Here's mine:

    When my landlady went deaf, I enrolled in a sign language class at San Francisco City College, wanting someone to talk to. My older brother, who lived with me, had gone to prison, and I was lonely. My landlady’s name was Lyudmila, and she spoke loudly now, her voice a raspy boom, her Russian accent thick.
    Too explain-y. Does your reader really need all these details, and if so, must they be delivered in the first three sentences? I've indicated a couple of places above where you could lose the explanations.

    Second, and more important, I'm puzzled as to how a sign-language class is going to help the narrator communicate with someone who's recently gone deaf. Unless the landlady already knows sign language herself, a sign language class is going to be fairly useless.
    Last edited by mrsmig; 11-22-2017 at 10:29 PM.
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  3. #1128
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin flowerburgers's Avatar
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    Hmmm...thanks for the thoughts...not sure why I post on these threads, I never take feedback given

  4. #1129
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flowerburgers View Post
    Hmmm...thanks for the thoughts...not sure why I post on these threads, I never take feedback given
    You're welcome. And thank you for the dose of snark.
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  5. #1130
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin flowerburgers's Avatar
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    Any time. To be clear, I'm poking fun at myself, not you.

  6. #1131
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flowerburgers View Post
    Hmmm...thanks for the thoughts...not sure why I post on these threads, I never take feedback given
    In this case you might have to, I had the same thoughts as mrsmig.

    Maybe the narrator should sign both of them up for sign language classes instead of just herself?

    Why not mention the brother got sentenced to 10 years in prison for holding up a gas station, make it more interesting at least.

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  7. #1132
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    Quote Originally Posted by flowerburgers View Post
    When my landlady went deaf, I enrolled in a sign language class at San Francisco City College, wanting someone to talk to. My older brother, who lived with me, had gone to prison, and I was lonely. My landlady’s name was Lyudmila, and she spoke loudly now, her voice a raspy boom, her Russian accent thick.
    Sorry to pile on, but I agree with mrsmig and dpaterso. It's tempting in this challenge to squeeze as much as possible into the first 3 lines, but that's rarely to the good of the story. It is an interesting setup with 3 characters (the narrator, the landlady, and the brother), but you need a little more space to introduce them.

    My suggestion (as usual, take what you need and leave what you don't):
    "When my landlady went deaf, I enrolled in a sign language class at San Francisco City College. My older brother had gone to prison and I wanted someone to talk to. My landlady’s name was Lyudmila, and her Russian accent was now a raspy boom."
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  8. #1133
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Note: made some changes already, pardon my rude, thought I might as well update the sample.

    I was reading/editing this yesterday and wondering how it might sound to other ears, it's originally from a flash story that got scribbled earlier this year, I'd like it to find a nice home in the big wide world:

    Let me tell you about Timmy the T-Rex, Timmy the ferocious monster, Timmy the people eater. Let me tell you about the magnificent dinosaur who was the most intelligent creature I ever met in my life.

    How did a Tyrannosaurus Rex end up here anyway?

    -Derek
    Last edited by dpaterso; 11-28-2017 at 09:25 PM. Reason: The never-ending quest to make something better.
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  9. #1134
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    I was reading/editing this yesterday and wondering how it might sound to other ears, it's originally from a flash story that got scribbled earlier this year, I'd like it to find a nice home in the big wide world:
    Let me tell you about Timmy the T-Rex, Timmy the ferocious monster, Timmy the people eater. Let me tell you about the dinosaur who was the most intelligent creature I ever met in my life.

    If you haven't heard about Doc Rawlinson and his time travel experiment by now, you must've been living on Mars or something.

    -Derek
    I love the first two sentences, but the segue into sentence 3 disappointed me, because I was primed to hear more about Timmy. Maybe there's a way to make that transition a bit less abrupt?

    I'd still read on, because...Timmy.
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  10. #1135
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaterso View Post
    I was reading/editing this yesterday and wondering how it might sound to other ears, it's originally from a flash story that got scribbled earlier this year, I'd like it to find a nice home in the big wide world:

    Let me tell you about Timmy the T-Rex, Timmy the ferocious monster, Timmy the people eater. Let me tell you about the dinosaur who was the most intelligent creature I ever met in my life.

    If you haven't heard about Doc Rawlinson and his time travel experiment by now, you must've been living on Mars or something.

    -Derek
    I quite like it when a writer gets you started on a particular thread and just drops it to pursue something else for a beat.
    I'm very interested in the curious world that's being created.

  11. #1136
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    Let me tell you about Timmy the T-Rex, Timmy the ferocious monster, Timmy the people eater. Let me tell you about the magnificent dinosaur who was the most intelligent creature I ever met in my life.

    How did a Tyrannosaurus Rex end up here anyway?
    I'm not so sure the buildup is interesting, or works. I would prefer to see all of this, not be told it.
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  12. #1137
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    This is a story I've been working on for about a year, and I'm hoping I can finally wrap it up and get it out the door.

    Title: GOYANGI SOJU. Genre: Horror. Expected Word Count: 12,000

    First three lines below.

    ***

    Yang Won-Bo and Kim Sul-Li hated the English tutor.

    “If we play a mean trick on him,” Sul-Li said, “I’m sure he won’t come back to Winding Lane.”

    And she had an idea in mind to make the fat old foreigner cry.
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  13. #1138
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    Denevius -- first sentence I like okay. Second sentence? Not sure I'm feeling the voice of a young Asian child. Third sentence seems kinda tell-y. Maybe there's a way to re-write the third sentence to give more of indication of her character?

    Here's mine. Not quite happy with the wording on the first sentence in describing the seeming dichotomy.

    >>>
    He had lived here all his life, but he hadn’t always lived by a desert.

    The small two-bedroom cabin huddled on a hill between the encroaching wasteland and the battering waves of the sea. Tren gazed at the shifting, glinting sands, his darting eyes searching for his ride – searching for any sign of life.

  14. #1139
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CindyRae View Post

    Here's mine. Not quite happy with the wording on the first sentence in describing the seeming dichotomy.

    >>>
    He had lived here all his life, but he hadn’t always lived by a desert.

    The small two-bedroom cabin huddled on a hill between the encroaching wasteland and the battering waves of the sea. Tren gazed at the shifting, glinting sands, his darting eyes searching for his ride – searching for any sign of life.
    I agree with you about the first sentence. Maybe more specificity would help? For example: "He had lived in the cabin for thirty years, but the desert had only appeared during the last two," or something like that.

    I'm not crazy about the rapid succession of "ing" words in the third sentence - shifting, glinting, darting, searching, searching -nor about giving the spotlight to Tren's darting eyes when you've already said he's gazing. Otherwise, I think this is an interesting start and I'd read on.
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  15. #1140
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin Dallas's Avatar
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    From "Who Deserves a Meteorite?"

    It was past bedtime, 11:00pm when Ester and her young son drove past a hitch hiker on their way to Meteor Alley, a spot in the desert destined to get hit by a meteorite, their local astrologist, Leon, had long ago predicted. It hadn’t happened yet, and no one really thought it ever would, but all the townsfolk found it as an excuse to attend the local party held in the middle-of-nowhere, Navada desert every 13th of September.
    “Wasn’t that officer Jim’s boy?” asked Ester, looking into the rear view mirror.

  16. #1141
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    Yang Won-Bo and Kim Sul-Li hated the English tutor.

    “If we play a mean trick on him,” Sul-Li said, “I’m sure he won’t come back to Winding Lane.”

    And she had an idea in mind to make the fat old foreigner cry.
    I'd read on to see what they do to the fat old foreigner to make him cry, though I wanted to know why they hate him, because of his appearance or because of his English classes? I'd hope the next sentence details Sul-Li's idea.

    Quote Originally Posted by CindyRae View Post
    He had lived here all his life, but he hadn’t always lived by a desert.

    The small two-bedroom cabin huddled on a hill between the encroaching wasteland and the battering waves of the sea. Tren gazed at the shifting, glinting sands, his darting eyes searching for his ride – searching for any sign of life.
    I had the urge to shift the 1st sentence so it comes after the others rather than kicking off the story. Looking at mrsmig's comment, maybe that's what made me have this thought. A few more words to help equate the desert to the encroaching wasteland might help. I'm not hooked yet but I'm willing to read on to see if anyone appears.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dallas View Post
    It was past bedtime, 11:00pm when Ester and her young son drove past a hitch hiker on their way to Meteor Alley, a spot in the desert destined to get hit by a meteorite, their local astrologist, Leon, had long ago predicted. It hadn’t happened yet, and no one really thought it ever would, but all the townsfolk found it as an excuse to attend the local party held in the middle-of-nowhere, Navada desert every 13th of September.
    “Wasn’t that officer Jim’s boy?” asked Ester, looking into the rear view mirror.
    Feels like there's a lot of info dumped into the first 2 sentences, which doesn't make for a smooth read. My fingers twitched to space things out a little so it's less dumpy. So they're on their way to join the rest of the townsfolk at this party, which is out in the Nevada desert?

    -Derek
    Last edited by dpaterso; 11-29-2017 at 12:59 PM.
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  17. #1142
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    He had lived here all his life, but he hadn’t always lived by a desert.

    The small two-bedroom cabin huddled on a hill between the encroaching wasteland and the battering waves of the sea. Tren gazed at the shifting, glinting sands, his darting eyes searching for his ride – searching for any sign of life.
    There's nothing especially wrong with this. But I am iffy on whether or not I would read on because there's nothing particularly compelling about these three lines, either.

    This opening strikes me a bit as warmup writing, or the writer clearing his/her throat. I have a feeling that the story begins a little later on the page, and it might very well be a compelling narrative.

    Right now, it's a bit too 'meh'.
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  18. #1143
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    It was past bedtime, 11:00pm when Ester and her young son drove past a hitch hiker on their way to Meteor Alley, a spot in the desert destined to get hit by a meteorite, their local astrologist, Leon, had long ago predicted. It hadn’t happened yet, and no one really thought it ever would, but all the townsfolk found it as an excuse to attend the local party held in the middle-of-nowhere, Navada desert every 13th of September.
    “Wasn’t that officer Jim’s boy?” asked Ester, looking into the rear view mirror.
    The lines are overly long and muddled. My only suggestion is to simply the sentence construction.
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    GWI'SHIN - September 2016 in Eastlit Journal
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  19. #1144
    practical experience, FTW Raindrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    Yang Won-Bo and Kim Sul-Li hated the English tutor.

    “If we play a mean trick on him,” Sul-Li said, “I’m sure he won’t come back to Winding Lane.”

    And she had an idea in mind to make the fat old foreigner cry.
    The structure is clear, which is good, but I'm lacking a sense of place, i.e. white-room syndrome. Are they home-schooled? In a classroom? What or where's Winding Lane?
    The characters definitely don't come across as likeable, especially as Sul-Li only seems to hate the tutor for being a foreigner, old, and fat. That's... ugh. Having unlikable characters isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I'd need a bit more in terms of prose, setting or conflict to keep me reading.



    Quote Originally Posted by CindyRae View Post
    HeTren had lived here all his life, but he hadn’t always lived by a desert.

    The small two-bedroom cabin huddled on a hill between the encroaching wasteland and the battering waves of the sea. Tren gazed at the shifting, glinting sands, his darting eyes searching for his ride – searching for any sign of life.
    Lots of -ing -- read it out loud. The action comes from the desert rather than from the MC, which is quite unusual, and might or might not be a bad thing depending on what happens next. Lots of gazing / eyes darting. Good descriptions, but I think you could probably tighten it a bit by getting rid of some of the adjectives.
    For example: Cabin: small is implied, and we don't need to know how many bedrooms it has unless you're a real estate agent describing a house for sale. On the other hand, I think that "encroaching" wasteland is essential. It goes a long way towards explaining the first sentence.


    Quote Originally Posted by Dallas View Post
    From "Who Deserves a Meteorite?"

    It was past bedtime, 11:00pm when Ester and her young son drove past a hitch hiker on their way to Meteor Alley, a spot in the desert destined to get hit by a meteorite, their local astrologist, Leon, had long ago predicted. You have at least two sentences in there, maybe even three. It hadn’t happened yet, and no one really thought it ever would, but all the townsfolk found it as an excuse to attend the local party held in the middle-of-nowhere, Navada desert every 13th of September. Same as above.
    “Wasn’t that officer Jim’s boy?” Sounds stilted asked Ester, looking into the rear view mirror.
    Using a possible meteorite crash as an excuse to booze up? Yes, I can get behind that. You're cramming a lot of info in two sentences. It feels a bit like a London bus at rush hour. Let the story stretch its legs a bit.
    If I could put all my typos together, I'd have enough material for a trilogy.

  20. #1145
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dallas View Post
    From "Who Deserves a Meteorite?"

    It was past bedtime, 11:00pm when Ester and her young son drove past a hitch hiker on their way to Meteor Alley, a spot in the desert destined to get hit by a meteorite, their local astrologist, Leon, had long ago predicted. It hadn’t happened yet, and no one really thought it ever would, but all the townsfolk found it as an excuse to attend the local party held in the middle-of-nowhere, Navada desert every 13th of September.
    “Wasn’t that officer Jim’s boy?” asked Ester, looking into the rear view mirror.
    Sorry, but I wouldn't read on. It's just too garbled.

    It looks like the important things should be:

    1) Ester and son are on a late-night drive, headed to the site of a predicted meteor strike
    2) They pass a hitchhiker whom they may or may not know

    Getting in the way of that essential information is:

    1) the exact time of day
    2) the astrologist's prediction
    3) the astrologist's name
    4) the fact that this predicted strike has never actually happened
    5) the state
    6) the date

    All this info, if it's essential to the story, could be filtered more gradually into the narrative. It doesn't need to be slam-banged at the reader right at the beginning.

    In addition, I'm questioning some of the info presented. Since I don't know anything about your story, I can't tell if the names "Ester" and "Navada" are deliberate choices, or misspellings of "Esther" and "Nevada." I also wonder why an astrologer is predicting meteor strikes, which would seem to be more the purview of an astronomer. And I also wondered why a bunch of people would head toward the site of a predicted meteor strike, rather than away from it.
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  21. #1146
    Absolute Parsley Seaclusion's Avatar
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    Here are the first three lines of a story I wrote a long time ago:


    A loud cheer echoed through the room as the man in the white shirt body-slammed the man in the blue shirt into the wall. The crowd at the bar watched intently as the fists began to fly. Both men grabbed the other by the jersey and began wailing upon each other with their free hands, slipping and sliding on the ice as they tried to remain upright.

    Last edited by Seaclusion; 12-07-2017 at 06:11 PM.
    <<<...ran into a bum with a bottle of chum, and we wound up drinking all night.....>>>

  22. #1147
    Resist. Love. Go outside. Marlys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seaclusion View Post
    Here are the first three lines of a story I wrote a long time ago:


    A loud cheer echoed through the room as the man in the white shirt body-slammed the man in the blue shirt into the wall. The crowd at the bar watched intently as the fists began to fly. Both men grabbed the other by the jersey and began wailing whaling upon each other with their free hands, slipping and sliding on the ice as they tried to remain upright.

    Doesn't grab me right off. So far, we've got a bar fight where the participants' shirts get more attention than anything else. Plus the POV is unclear--could be omni, could be 1st or 3rd. If there's a character watching, give us her/his reaction. If it is omni and will be this distant throughout, I probably wouldn't stick around for long. I don't hate omniscient POV if it's done well, but prefer to have a character I can latch onto, and experience the story through that person's eyes.

  23. #1148
    Write. Write. Writey Write Write. mrsmig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seaclusion View Post
    Here are the first three lines of a story I wrote a long time ago:


    A loud cheer echoed through the room as the man in the white shirt body-slammed the man in the blue shirt into the wall. The crowd at the bar watched intently as the fists began to fly. Both men grabbed the other by the jersey and began wailing whaling upon each other with their free hands, slipping and sliding on the ice as they tried to remain upright.

    Fixed your homophone up there.

    Soooo...either this scenario is meant to be:

    (1) people in a bar watching a televised hockey game, or

    (2) something completely different, but you're trying to make the reader think it's a people in a bar watching a televised hockey game.

    If it's #1, I'm bugged by the fact that you're taking the long way around to set the scene. If I had to work just to figure out the setting, what's this story going to be like when stuff really starts to happen? If it's #2, I'm bugged because it seems coy and tricky.

    That big issue aside, I don't have a character to grab hold of yet, and the style is a bit overwritten for my taste, so I wouldn't continue on.

    Your opening is precious real estate - especially so in a short work. Make the most effective use of it.
    Last edited by mrsmig; 12-07-2017 at 07:01 PM.
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  24. #1149
    Absolute Parsley Seaclusion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marlys View Post
    Doesn't grab me right off. So far, we've got a bar fight where the participants' shirts get more attention than anything else. Plus the POV is unclear--could be omni, could be 1st or 3rd. If there's a character watching, give us her/his reaction. If it is omni and will be this distant throughout, I probably wouldn't stick around for long. I don't hate omniscient POV if it's done well, but prefer to have a character I can latch onto, and experience the story through that person's eyes.

    Thank you for your comments. It is actually a group of men in a bar watching a hockey game which is revealed in the next line. The POV is 3rd-close, and the MC is a woman who is watching this happening and questioning her friend why men find violence and competition so compelling.
    <<<...ran into a bum with a bottle of chum, and we wound up drinking all night.....>>>

  25. #1150
    Absolute Parsley Seaclusion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrsmig View Post
    Fixed your homophone up there.

    Soooo...either this scenario is meant to be:

    (1) people in a bar watching a televised hockey game, or

    (2) something completely different, but you're trying to make the reader think it's a people in a bar watching a televised hockey game.

    If it's #1, I'm bugged by the fact that you're taking the long way around to set the scene. If I had to work just to figure out the setting, what's this story going to be like when stuff really starts to happen? If it's #2, I'm bugged because it seems coy and tricky.

    That big issue aside, I don't have a character to grab hold of yet, and the style is a bit overwritten for my taste, so I wouldn't continue on.

    Your opening is precious real estate - especially so in a short work. Make the most effective use of it.
    Thank you for fixing my error. I should have known they weren't crying on each other but were harpooning, I mean hitting each other.

    Yes, they are watching a hockey game and the female MC is trying to figure out why men are so drawn to violence and competition.
    <<<...ran into a bum with a bottle of chum, and we wound up drinking all night.....>>>

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