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

  1. #826
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin flowerburgers's Avatar
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    Thanks guys, this is helpful! Denevius, to clarify, are you familiar with the story of Jonestown? I can't figure out the extent to which I can assume knowledge...I hoped that the title would contextualize what's going on.

  2. #827
    practical experience, FTW
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    Nine hundred and eighteen bodies swelled in the jungle sun.
    Hi flowerburgers,

    I think this particular line out of your beginning is the strongest hook. Fine as is, but the stark clarity of this sentence provides more power to the 'meh' reaction of the brother.
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  3. #828
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    You're taking a bit of a risk, I think. There's probably at least one Jonestown in every state in the U.S. So the gamble I think you're taking is that readers will immediately associate the Jonestown of your title to the one in Guyana.

    I didn't, but maybe others will.
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  4. #829
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    Tom Rowley

    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    Last edited by captflash80; 08-09-2017 at 01:57 AM. Reason: sentence structure

  5. #830
    figuring it all out magster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by captflash80 View Post
    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    Sentence structure is fine. Smooth writing.

    However, as an overall crit, the three sentences do not pull me into the story.

    We know Tom Rowley, don't know where, when, and the intensity of his situation. Game in this case could suggest a con/scam, probably not an athletic game (guessed that from the word safety), and leaving him exposed suggested either he was caught doing something, was exposed from a hiding place... Survival suggests he cannot be caught or else.

    First sentence - instead of telling us what he realized, show us what he realized. What did he see or hear or come across that made him realize he was in danger? Did someone recognize him? Is he hiding behind a tree, using binoculars from a tree? What is the game? If he is a spy seeking information, did someone recognize him and he is now exposed? Lots of ways to show the story the minute you start.

    Also, the choice of words establish the time period of the story, the time of day, and what kind of environment.

    Hope this helps.

  6. #831
    Mired in the miry mire. leifwright's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by captflash80 View Post
    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    Obscuring details is not a good way to build suspense.

    The third sentence is completely wasted. It's repeating the first two, not explicitly, but it's implied. Get to the point. I'm not trying to be rude, but as the reader, if you try to use obscurity to get me to read on, I'm going to move on instead. I already realize his game has turned to shit. I am willing to ignore the missed comma before "leaving," but I'm not willing to read on if I'm just going to be reading a story that omits details in the name of faking mystery.

    Tell me about Tom. Make me fall in love with him so I care about why his game has gone astray. Otherwise, there's no chance I'm going to invest in this story.

  7. #832
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    This is basically all tell. 'Tom realized', 'He wondered', and 'He'd walked safely assured'.

    Writing like this doesn't really place the reader in the narrative alongside the POV. It forces us to look at what's going on from a distance, and this distance hurts reader engagement.

    My suggestion is to try and write this from closer inside Tom's head.
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  8. #833
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    Quote Originally Posted by captflash80 View Post
    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    This opening tries hard to rack up tension but there's so little info it's hard to get into. Next couple of lines could change everything, and sure, I'd read them to find out. Tho' maybe whatever's in the next couple of lines could be sprinkled into these lines somehow, making it meatier. Just a thought. Should "went south" be "had gone south"?

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  9. #834
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    Quote Originally Posted by captflash80 View Post
    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    Hi, capt.

    I get the impression you've got quite the story percolating in your head, but I don't yet see it hitting the page. I would not read on. Sorry.

  10. #835
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    I just wanted to poke my head in here and say thank to you to the folks that helped me with the first three sentences of "The Nompers" awhile back. I just received an email from an anthology I was dying to be a part of accepting the short story for their upcoming issue. It's my first semi-pro sale (everything has been token or nothing so far) so I'm pretty geeked. Thank you everyone!
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  11. #836
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    Congratulations, Sockycat!
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  12. #837
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    Congrats!
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  13. #838
    practical experience, FTW Freya Yuki's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback

    Quote Originally Posted by flowerburgers View Post
    “She was always weird,” my brother said, after reading the names of the dead, in the bathtub, smoking a cigar. Still, I had loved her, and the news shook me. Nine hundred and eighteen bodies swelled in the jungle sun.
    Found this rather confusing. The 3rd sentence doesn't seem to have anything to do with the 1st two. It's also not very clear where the MC is right now. Is he recalling what his brother said about whoever she is or is he currently with his brother while said brother is reading the names of the dead? Or are they in the jungle? Or is the mention of the bodies in the jungle referring to all the people who apparently died?

    Quote Originally Posted by captflash80 View Post
    Tom Rowley realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. Now he wondered how his carefully crafted game went south so quickly. He'd walked away confident, his safety assured, but the game turned to shit fast leaving him exposed.
    This is coming across as all telling. For instance, maybe show us how Tom realized the next few hours were critical to his survival. This is also coming across as rather vague. Maybe consider adding some more details like what game is he talking about. There's also some repetition here like how we keep being told something went wrong, but not what exactly went wrong.

    Quote Originally Posted by sockycat View Post
    I just wanted to poke my head in here and say thank to you to the folks that helped me with the first three sentences of "The Nompers" awhile back. I just received an email from an anthology I was dying to be a part of accepting the short story for their upcoming issue. It's my first semi-pro sale (everything has been token or nothing so far) so I'm pretty geeked. Thank you everyone!
    Congrats
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  14. #839
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    This is from "Never Again"

    -------------------------------------------------------
    Vi lounged on the steps scanning the streets nervously. After this, she would finally be accepted into the order, she'd dreamed of this day ever since that shadow swooped down to save her from that awful man. No one was ever going to hurt her like that again.

  15. #840
    Sailing in a sea of mushroom... Nerdilydone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemshari View Post
    This is from "Never Again"

    -------------------------------------------------------
    Vi lounged on the steps scanning the streets nervously. After this, she would finally be accepted into the order, she'd dreamed of this day ever since that shadow swooped down to save her from that awful man. No one was ever going to hurt her like that again.
    This feels like it's telling too much information at once, without really establishing the setting. It's cramming in a lot of backstory into a couple of sentences. It would be better if it began with Vi's actions and the things around her, vaguely hinting rather than stating that she's been hurt in the past.

    Also, I'm pretty sure that first sentence could use a comma.

  16. #841
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemshari View Post
    This is from "Never Again"

    -------------------------------------------------------
    Vi lounged on the steps scanning the streets nervously. After this, she would finally be accepted into the order, she'd dreamed of this day ever since that shadow swooped down to save her from that awful man. No one was ever going to hurt her like that again.
    A couple years ago, a writing professor suggested getting rid of -ing words whenever possible. I was a bit skeptical but have since come around. I think the first sentence could be stronger, for example, if it were constructed as: "Vi lounged on the steps and scanned the streets nervously."

    I also agree with Nerdilydone's comments re: content, especially about its vagueness.

  17. #842
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks Nerdilydone and mongoose for the crits, they really got me thinking about what was actually happening. Here is my first revision.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Vi waited on the steps of the busy street, the marketplace abnormally busy today added to her stricken nerves. Clothes torn and knees bloody, a small child lay in the gutter sobbing, memories that Vi thought were long suppressed rushed to the surface. Vi fought back tears, she would finally be accepted into the order after this, then no one was going to hurt her like that again.

  18. #843
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    Vi waited on the steps of the busy street, the marketplace abnormally busy today added to her stricken nerves. Clothes torn and knees bloody, a small child lay in the gutter sobbing, memories that Vi thought were long suppressed rushed to the surface. Vi fought back tears, she would finally be accepted into the order after this, then no one was going to hurt her like that again.
    The comma splices and grammar errors make this a difficult read. I think you would benefit from more periods and less commas to clarify your prose.
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  19. #844
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    The comma splices and grammar errors make this a difficult read. I think you would benefit from more periods and less commas to clarify your prose.
    Thanks for the comments, I was trying to get too much information into those 3 sentences. How is this?
    ---------------------------------------------
    Vi waited on the steps of the busy marketplace street, nerves stricken with anticipation. Memories thought long suppressed rushed to the surface at the sound of a small child sobbing. Never again she thought, she would never be hurt like that again.

  20. #845
    Sailing in a sea of mushroom... Nerdilydone's Avatar
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    Here's my first three for a story I'm working on. Hopefully it's interesting.

    ---

    Ashley had an expansive view from the attic window. Often she peered out at the old town, and despised it. Eaveston was one of those little oddities out in the distant country, an antique far from modern urbanity, as old fashioned and dead as 1910.

  21. #846
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    Ashley had an expansive view from the attic window. Often she peered out at the old town, and despised it. Eaveston was one of those little oddities out in the distant country, an antique far from modern urbanity, as old fashioned and dead as 1910.
    I don't get the reference to 1910. Is this stating that Evaeston specifically was dead in 1910? That must be what's meant, though the way it's written, it reads as if every where was dead in 1910, which obviously isn't accurate. But if Eaveston is dead now, and it was dead in 1910, what point is that line making?

    Honestly, I really don't get it.
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  22. #847
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    Vi waited on the steps of the busy marketplace street, nerves stricken with anticipation. Memories thought long suppressed rushed to the surface at the sound of a small child sobbing. Never again she thought, she would never be hurt like that again.
    This is a lot of telling where showing would be better. Putting the POV more in the moment would heighten reader engagement.
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    TRANSUBSTANTIATION - Issue #104 of Aurealis Science Fiction & Fantasy
    WHEELS AND DEALS - Available now for pre-order at Amazon or Kobo from Pole to Pole Publishing
    SHOVE PUSH STAND - September 1st in Aurora Wolf
    THE POP SINGER - Issue #9 of SciFan Magazine.
    THE ASCENT MADE HIM PLUNGE - The Big Book of Bootleg Horror 2, Hellbound Books Publishing
    GWI'SHIN - Reprint: Scarlet Leaf Review
    INFECTIOUS - Issue 54 of Expanded Horizons
    GWI'SHIN - September 2016 in Eastlit Journal
    MOMENTUM - Issue #3, and as part of an anthology in Tokyo Yakuza.
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  23. #848
    practical experience, FTW Freya Yuki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemshari View Post
    This is from "Never Again"

    -------------------------------------------------------
    Vi lounged on the steps scanning the streets nervously. After this, she would finally be accepted into the order, she'd dreamed of this day ever since that shadow swooped down to save her from that awful man. No one was ever going to hurt her like that again.
    This is mostly telling and backstory. Maybe consider showing more. For example, show her being nervous instead of just telling us she's nervous. Also, if she's supposed to be nervous, would she be lounging? Lounging makes her sound relaxed with no worries.
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  24. #849
    practical experience, FTW Freya Yuki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nerdilydone View Post
    Here's my first three for a story I'm working on. Hopefully it's interesting.

    ---

    Ashley had an expansive view from the attic window. Often she peered out at the old town, and despised it. Eaveston was one of those little oddities out in the distant country, an antique far from modern urbanity, as old fashioned and dead as 1910.
    Found this rather confusing. Also don't get the reference to 1910.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shemshari View Post
    Thanks for the comments, I was trying to get too much information into those 3 sentences. How is this?
    ---------------------------------------------
    Vi waited on the steps of the busy marketplace street, nerves stricken with anticipation. Memories thought long suppressed rushed to the surface at the sound of a small child sobbing. Never again she thought, she would never be hurt like that again.
    This is still telling. Consider showing the scene more like how are her nerves stricken with anticipation? How is she showing that she's nervous? Does she see the child crying? Etc.
    If you have time, please critique my story The Warrior's Secret (update on Oct 13, 2017) in the forums here. Thanks
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  25. #850
    practical experience, FTW Mary Love's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shemshari View Post
    Thanks for the comments, I was trying to get too much information into those 3 sentences. How is this?
    ---------------------------------------------
    Vi waited on the steps of the busy marketplace street, try to show nerves stricken try to show with anticipation. Memories thought long suppressed rushed to the surface at the sound of a small child sobbing. try to make more active (a child sobbed) Never again she thought, she would never be hurt like that again.
    Some deeper POV and immediacey would make this more gripping. Good luck!
    Quote Originally Posted by Nerdilydone View Post
    Here's my first three for a story I'm working on. Hopefully it's interesting.

    ---

    Ashley had an expansive view from the attic window. Often she peered out at the old town, and despised it. Eaveston was one of those little oddities out in the distant country, an antique far from modern urbanity, as old fashioned and dead as 1910.
    This doesn't give me a good visual of the town. You state that she has an expansive view and then not discribe what of. But honestly, I'm more curious about the attic window. I'm getting a cinderella vibe. Good luck!

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