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

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW wotcherH's Avatar
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    [Critique Game] Post The First Three Sentences of your Short Story

    This thread is inspired by the [Critique Game] Post the First Three Sentences of your Novel thread. I figured there should be one like this in the Short Fiction section. Since there's much less space to tell a story, beginnings are extremely important.

    The rules:
    Quote Originally Posted by amergina View Post
    Posters: Three sentences only. (No, really. Post three sentences only. Trust me on this.)
    Also, please don't put them in a quote box. The way quoting posts on AW works, when the readers go to quote your post, anything in a quote box is not quoted, so then they have to copy and paste them from your post, etc. It's kind of annoying. So format things like this:

    --------
    Hey all, I'm going to try my hand at this! Here's my sentences:

    Gripping first sentence that captures your attention. Stunning second sentence that acts as a bridge. Amazing third sentence that causes your heart to pound and fingers itch to turn that page, but alas, there is no more.
    ----------

    See, that was easy, right?

    Readers: Are the sentences gripping? Do they read well? Would you keep reading? What questions do these sentences inspire about the character or story?

    If you would like an in-depth critique and discussion of the beginning of your novel, I would highly suggest checking out the Share Your Work section of AW (password vista).

    Finally, remember the golden rule of AW is Respect Your Fellow Writer. Be excellent to each other.

  2. #2
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Okay, I'll bite. This is from "Jenny."

    ---

    ...Ben got his duffle bag from the back of the pickup, shook hands with the driver and thanked him for the ride, then hobbled away from the dust the pickup stirred up as it drove off down the dirt road.
    ...From where Ben stood, the place looked just as his buddy Dalmar had described it almost a year ago while the sun over France was still hot, before the awful winter that followed. A long gravel driveway separated an orchard of black walnut trees on the left from fenced pastures with cows on the right.

    ---

    The limit of three sentences means the description of the scene is incomplete.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."

    _____

    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  3. #3
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Where are your three sentences, wotcherH?

    Here's mine:

    Donner Macklin stood in the stairwell against the concrete bridge support beneath the overpass. The rain moved closer, gobbling the horizon across the sound. His motley of overcoat and scarves filled with wind off the water and belled out, making it hard to see how thin he was.

  4. #4
    Sterkte en een dikker knuffel AW Moderator zanzjan's Avatar
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    guttersquid: I like it. Small disconnect when you first describe your MC as in motion ("hobbling") and then go straight to "From where [he] stood..."

    mac: no nits, except that I want to read more.

    So okay, I'll throw my (first-draft) three in the ring:

    ---
    Khifi traded the warm embrace of her wife's arms for the pricking of cold air on her bare skin, and a regret she knew she would not dispel until she was back here again on the far side of a ten-hour shift. She danced on her toes across the metal floor and out of their small sleeping alcove, sliding the screen doors closed behind her. Lema had more than once suggested she keep her boots at the bedside so she could slip straight into them, but if she did, she could not sneak out without waking her.
    zanzjan.net - twitter - facebook
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  5. #5
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Guttersquid, I'm intrigued. I agree with Zanzjan's quibble regarding "stood" and think it'd be easily fixed with the substitution of "stopped" or even "stopped and stood" -- or lots of other possibilities. But I like the feeling that there's a story we're coming here to learn, along with the character whose shoulder we're hitching a ride on.

    Zan, I want more! You've got a lot of information and character-reveal packed into those three sentences, and I'm hooked.

  6. #6
    Fancypants Nichelle's Avatar
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    Guttersquid: I like this a lot. I would definitely keep reading!

    MacAllister: I pulled a face after "gobbling the horizon across the sound" - I just can't get my head around what that means.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW wotcherH's Avatar
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    Guttersquid: I like the first two sentences but not the last. It's probably just the way you're describing it, but it sounds strange to me when I read it (maybe too many words to describe something that isn't so important?)

    Mac: I agree with Nichelle, the "gobbling" caught my attention perhaps more than it should have. Other than that, I would keep reading.

    Zan: I really like this! Especially the first sentence.
    Last edited by wotcherH; 11-18-2014 at 06:50 PM.

  8. #8
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Zanzjan and MacAllister, good catch on the "hobbled away from the dust" thing. I'll figure out a way to fix it.

    WotcherH, I find nothing wrong with the 3rd sentence. It (and the rest of the description in the next few sentences) describes exactly what Ben sees. Note: the scenery is very important to the story. It is a farm, and Ben is a city boy. It is, in part, a "fish out of water" story.

    Thanks, all, for your time and comments.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."

    _____

    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  9. #9
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    Hey Guttersquid. I'm ready and eager to read more. Word of warning. I'm not drawn to read by an opening sentence or paragraph which seems to be the required be-all and end-all of capturing the reader. What I look for is not what the opening says but what it promises. Your opening promises not only a fascinating tale to come but one written in a smooth, educated literary style. Beware, Guttersquid. Not all will agree with my words.

    Doc

  10. #10
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacAllister View Post
    Donner Macklin stood in the stairwell against the concrete bridge support beneath the overpass. The rain moved closer, gobbling the horizon across the sound. His motley of overcoat and scarves filled with wind off the water and belled out, making it hard to see how thin he was.
    I liked this a lot. I actually liked "gobbling the horizon," but if many others have a problem with it, maybe a verb like "distorting" would be better.

    Not sure about "motley." I know it's a noun here, but I think most will read it as an adjective. I did at first, and it made me stumble. Is it really needed? Also, his overcoat could fill with wind and bell out, but could his scarves? Maybe you could put his overcoat and his scarves in separate sentences or phrases. Or perhaps you could solve this by making the wind the subject of the sentence. Something like:

    The wind off the water made his scarves flutter and filled his overcoat, belling it out and making it hard to see how thin he was.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."

    _____

    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  11. #11
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Thank you, Doc, for the compliments. We are of like minds when it comes to openings. If the first few sentences grip me, that's a plus, but I don't need to be gripped to read on. All I want is good writing.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."

    _____

    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  12. #12
    Sterkte en een dikker knuffel AW Moderator zanzjan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nichelle View Post
    "gobbling the horizon across the sound" - I just can't get my head around what that means.
    Dunno if this is it, but keep in mind a sound is also a body of water.

    Quote Originally Posted by MacAllister View Post
    Zan, I want more! You've got a lot of information and character-reveal packed into those three sentences, and I'm hooked.
    Yeah, I got 14k on it so far (anticipating ~22k done), but I stalled out, and went back to fixin' my novel for NaNoWriMo. Maybe it'll be my December project.
    zanzjan.net - twitter - facebook
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    "Nolite te bastardes covfefendum" -- Anon.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    OK, I'll play. This is from my new collection, currently in beta reading:

    The last time Inspector Pathak had the honor of an unannounced visit from his boss, he had been asked to arrange an “encounter”—the swift, extrajudicial dispatch of a gang leader. As a consequence, he greeted Senior PI Wadekar’s entrance with less than his customary enthusiasm. Pathak leaned back, balancing his weight on the two rear legs of his chair.

  14. #14
    Sterkte en een dikker knuffel AW Moderator zanzjan's Avatar
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    It's a little stiff, but def. interesting, WriterBN. I'd have read more.
    zanzjan.net - twitter - facebook
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    Pinned, Poem, Asimov's, May/Jun 2017
    Winner of the AnLab Reader's Award for Best Novelette of 2016, and the Asimov's Reader's Award for Best Novella of 2016.
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    "Nolite te bastardes covfefendum" -- Anon.

  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    Thanks, zanzjan. The stiffness is (somewhat) intentional, as I'm trying to achieve the narrative voice of an Indian with a Jesuit-school English education.

  16. #16
    Sterkte en een dikker knuffel AW Moderator zanzjan's Avatar
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    I thought that might be the case, WBN, but of course it's hard to get a solid sense of voice in 3 sentences. You may want to make the very first sentence a little bit less structurally complex, just because it's where you first start establishing the voice and you want your readers to acclimate themselves to it as fast as possible. Once they've got the rhythm of the voice, you can get all kinds of complicated and they'll go right along with it while hardly noticing.
    zanzjan.net - twitter - facebook
    Number Thirty-Nine Skink, short story, Asimov's, Mar/Apr 2017
    Pinned, Poem, Asimov's, May/Jun 2017
    Winner of the AnLab Reader's Award for Best Novelette of 2016, and the Asimov's Reader's Award for Best Novella of 2016.
    Nominated for the Eugie Foster Memorial Award

    "Nolite te bastardes covfefendum" -- Anon.

  17. #17
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by WriterBN View Post
    OK, I'll play. This is from my new collection, currently in beta reading:

    The last time Inspector Pathak had the honor of an unannounced visit from his boss, he had been asked to arrange an “encounter”—the swift, extrajudicial dispatch of a gang leader. As a consequence, he greeted Senior PI Wadekar’s entrance with less than his customary enthusiasm. Pathak leaned back, balancing his weight on the two rear legs of his chair.
    I really like this. I only have one suggestion. The last sentence seems to come too abruptly. It lacks flow. Perhaps you could soften the abruptness by adding to the beginning. See what you think of this.

    The last time Inspector Pathak had the honor of an unannounced visit from his boss, he had been asked to arrange an “encounter”—the swift, extrajudicial dispatch of a gang leader. As a consequence, he greeted Senior PI Wadekar’s entrance with less than his customary enthusiasm. Anticipating perhaps another distasteful order, Pathak leaned back, balancing his weight on the two rear legs of his chair.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."

    _____

    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW Abderian's Avatar
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    What a great idea. Here's the opening of a story I recently finished:

    It was time for Rishnal to return to the sky, First said, so we took him down before the sun's shadow crossed the valley, and laid him out on the Returning Stone. Mother of the People removed his axe and furs and leopard tooth necklace that was his three generation's gift, and placed them on the stone next to his head. Rishnal's body was thin like an old man's, though his hair had no white in it.

  19. #19
    Fancypants Nichelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abderian View Post
    What a great idea. Here's the opening of a story I recently finished:

    It was time for Rishnal to return to the sky, First said, so we took him down before the sun's shadow crossed the valley, and laid him out on the Returning Stone. Mother of the People removed his axe and furs and leopard tooth necklace that was his three generation's gift, and placed them on the stone next to his head. Rishnal's body was thin like an old man's, though his hair had no white in it.
    I had to read it twice because I was confused by the use of "First" as a name. In retrospect, though, it seems to make perfect sense.

    I think the third sentence is perfect - it really makes me want to read the whole story.

  20. #20
    I agree with Roxxsmom.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abderian View Post
    What a great idea. Here's the opening of a story I recently finished:

    It was time for Rishnal to return to the sky, First said, so we took him down before the sun's shadow crossed the valley, and laid him out on the Returning Stone. Mother of the People removed his axe and furs and the leopard tooth necklace that was his three generation's gift, and placed them on the stone next to his head. Rishnal's body was thin like an old man's, though his hair had no white in it.
    A couple of unneeded commas, and I inserted the article the to isolate the necklace as the gift from the axe and furs.

    I like it.

    As a side note: You're in California, so I'd point out that a-x is the preferred spelling in the U.S. nowadays.
    Last edited by guttersquid; 11-13-2014 at 07:52 AM.
    "Searching for truth is like looking for a needle in a haystack . . . and I can't find the haystack."

    _____

    All my stories are closed-captioned for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

  21. #21
    figuring it all out BreMiche's Avatar
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    I'm posting this while in the throws of NaNoWriMo, so it's going to be iffy but here goes:

    That winter would take the night forever. Astrid, a young girl of fifteen years, stood among the crowd in a cold silence until she saw the blood. It poured thick and bright into the large, black cauldrons until it nearly touched the brim.

  22. #22
    practical experience, FTW Abderian's Avatar
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    Thanks Nichelle and guttersquid. The name First is integral to the story, so hopefully the little stumble I know it can cause makes it stand out.

    I'm British and in Taiwan, guttersquid, so it must be some weird internet thingy that's making me look as though I'm in California. Thanks for the 'the'. I agree that works better.

  23. #23
    practical experience, FTW Abderian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BreMiche View Post
    I'm posting this while in the throws of NaNoWriMo, so it's going to be iffy but here goes:

    That winter would take the night forever. Astrid, a young girl of fifteen years, stood among the crowd in a cold silence until she saw the blood. It poured thick and bright into the large, black cauldrons until it nearly touched the brim.
    I read the first sentence several times and still don't understand. Liked the image of the blood pouring into cauldrons. Intrigued as to how Astrid reacts.

  24. #24
    practical experience, FTW WriterBN's Avatar
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    Catching up with this thread...

    Thanks, zanzjan and guttersquid. I appreciate your suggestions.

    Abderian, I wasn't quite sure about the "three generation's gift" but the rest intrigues me.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by BreMiche View Post
    I'm posting this while in the throws of NaNoWriMo, so it's going to be iffy but here goes:

    That winter would take the night forever. Astrid, a young girl of fifteen years, stood among the crowd in a cold silence until she saw the blood. It poured thick and bright into the large, black cauldrons until it nearly touched the brim.
    Hi BreMiche,
    I like the images here, and the first sentence is intriguing and lovely, even though I don't understand it. This feels dark and cold and sinister. I think the writing could be clearer without as many extraneous details to help the scene pop. For example the second two sentences might be written something like this:

    Astrid stood among the crowd feeling a cold silence, watching blood pour thickly into large, black cauldrons.

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