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

  1. #926
    practical experience, FTW Lauram6123's Avatar
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    Okay...here's mine:

    Five minutes ago, I meandered out of the trees with freshly picked strawberries cupped in my shirttail, ready to surprise my husband. Turns out, I was the one surprised.

    And now, I swear, I can’t even breathe.

  2. #927
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    Five minutes ago, I meandered out of the trees with freshly picked strawberries cupped in my shirttail, ready to surprise my husband. Turns out, I was the one surprised.

    And now, I swear, I can’t even breathe.
    I think the tone is off. The implication of this seems to be that the narrator has just, or is at the moment, experiencing something extreme. Whether it's good or bad is unknown at this point. But her tone as she relates this in no way suggests that she can't even breathe at this moment. Her tone, instead, is leisurely and matter-of-fact. And this kills any urgency, or tension, in the three lines.

    This probably wouldn't get me to read further.
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  3. #928
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    Scott sat in the dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on his notepad, Why am I so tired? There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it, That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    Last edited by hereticdoll; 09-13-2017 at 04:41 AM.

  4. #929
    practical experience, FTW Lauram6123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    Scott sat in dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on a notepad, Why am I so tiered? (tired?) There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it, That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    First sentence: I think the thought in italics would work better as its own sentence. I do like that Scott hates his dining room. That tells me a lot.
    Second sentence: The two phrases could be combined, I think.
    Third sentence: Does he know that the smell is cough syrup? If so, why is he drinking it? And I think his wife will have to get a little more aggressive than cough syrup if she wants to kill him.

    Overall, there is a lot of play by play... mug placed next to him, took it up, pressed rim to his lips, sipping coffee, wincing... I feel like there's much there that could be inferred by the reader and doesn't need to be spelled out.

    I do like the scenario and am curious about it.

  5. #930
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauram6123 View Post

    And now, I swear, I can’t even breathe.
    I want to read more because it sounds like maybe she was stabbed and I want to know if she survives with her berries intact.

  6. #931
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    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    Scott sat in the dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on his notepad, Why am I so tired? There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it, That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    First, strictly speaking, this isn't three sentences. Each of those internal thoughts should be separated out by a period, not a comma, so it's actually five sentences.

    Second, this is very tell-y. I'm not getting any particular emotion from it after the first sentence. The details are presented without any significance to them. Why does he use the mug if he hates it? Did his wife give it to him? (If so, why is he drinking from it if she's trying to kill him?) But the mug is presented so blandly that I don't care enough to stick around and find this out.

    I liked the first sentence, though. One of those things I read quickly, then go back and read again and again and pick up another little detail every time.

    The thing I'm curious about at the end is whether he's serious about his wife trying to kill him. If I got this far (and I usually do get a paragraph in), I might give you another paragraph to hook me because of that line. After that, if I wasn't thoroughly invested in Scott, I'd stop.
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  7. #932
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    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    Scott sat in the dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on his notepad. Why am I so tired? There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it.That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    Correctly punctuated, this is five sentences rather than the requisite three.

    This feels a bit forced and overwritten to me, particularly the description of the mug and the blow-by-blow of Scott's actions in taking a drink. I know that Scott is tired, but the writing feels logy, too, and that would keep me from reading on.
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  8. #933
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    Scott sat in the dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on his notepad, Why am I so tired? There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it, That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    The sentences are a bit crowded. The thoughts should be in lines by themselves.

    Also, nothing much is happening, which might make readers hesitate to read on.
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  9. #934
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauram6123 View Post
    Okay...here's mine:

    Five minutes ago, I meandered out of the trees with freshly picked strawberries cupped in my shirttail, ready to surprise my husband. Turns out, I was the one surprised.

    And now, I swear, I can’t even breathe.
    Okay, admittedly I would read on because I want to know if he's banging that hottie in the cabin next door who probably came out in JUST her shirt tails to seduce this woman's husband once our heroine innocently bounded off, but...um...*ahem*

    Stabbing would work, too. Or a bear.


    i do wonder, after reading Denevius's crit, if it would heighten things if you put this in realtime instead? Have us with her as she comes bounding out of the woods, all look what I've got honey! Then boom. You might be creating false suspension as is that would work even better if you cut the mental stuck in the past bit up front. Dunno? I'd have to see the rest.

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  10. #935
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauram6123 View Post
    Five minutes ago, I meandered out of the trees with freshly picked strawberries cupped in my shirttail, ready to surprise my husband. Turns out, I was the one surprised.

    And now, I swear, I can’t even breathe.
    Works for me, I gotta read on to find out what she (I'm assuming) is seeing. Or indeed saw five minutes ago... which is something I'd maybe drop so it's happening right now.

    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    Scott sat in the dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on his notepad, Why am I so tired? There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it, That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    I can see as how you wanted to include that last line, it's the hook, though there seems too much crammed into what's supposed to be 3 sentences. Overlooking this, I'd read a bit more to see what Scott does next and why he's drinking even though he knows what's going on.

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  11. #936
    practical experience, FTW Lauram6123's Avatar
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    Thanks all! I think you all hit the nail on the head. I'm gonna keep playing around with the tone and the now vs five minutes ago stuff.

  12. #937
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    Quote Originally Posted by hereticdoll View Post
    Scott sat in the dining room he hated, rubbing his heavy eyes and tapping a pencil on his notepad, Why am I so tired? There was a novelty cat mug placed beside him, and he took up the obnoxious ceramic. He pressed the rim to his lips to sip his coffee, and winced at the smell of cough syrup that plagued it, That's right, my wife is trying to kill me.
    This mostly works, but yeah, it should be five sentences. I would remove 'heavy' and move 'obnoxious' to where 'novelty' is. Too many adjectives in too few sentences just really grates on me. Also maybe remove 'to sip his coffee,' since that can be inferred just from the fact that he's putting the thing to his mouth. I'd say it's best to make the reader do as much of the work as possible when it comes to visualizing the scene, giving just enough description to make it accurate.
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  13. #938
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauram6123 View Post
    Okay...here's mine:

    Five minutes ago, I meandered out of the trees with freshly picked strawberries cupped in my shirttail, ready to surprise my husband. Turns out, I was the one surprised.

    And now, I swear, I can’t even breathe.
    I actually really like this. Like, a lot. It feels really personal. I like how austere it is -- something as simple as walking with strawberries becomes the MC's (I assume) nightmare. I would read.

  14. #939
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin CassieArroway's Avatar
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    When I write an opening, the first thing I want to do is try to make the reader ask a question. Your first sentence here doesn't do that, but your second does. Actually, it asks several: what place is your character looking at, why was he in France, and what awful thing happened over the winter? You might think about dropping the first sentence and starting with the second one.
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  15. #940
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    Quote Originally Posted by CassieArroway View Post
    When I write an opening, the first thing I want to do is try to make the reader ask a question. Your first sentence here doesn't do that, but your second does. Actually, it asks several: what place is your character looking at, why was he in France, and what awful thing happened over the winter? You might think about dropping the first sentence and starting with the second one.
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  16. #941
    practical experience, FTW Denevius's Avatar
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    Title: SOUL SIFTERS. Genre: Science Fiction. Estimated Word Count: 5000 words.

    First three lines below.

    ***

    The woman frowned at the cake crumbs smashed against the plastic rims of the wooden table and said to the man sitting across from her, “You’re not easy to find, Hwang Hun Cheol.”

    The man who accepted the human name Hwang Hun Cheol stared at her from behind the pitch-black lenses of his soul sifter glasses and conceded, “I’m not easy to find.”

    Hun Cheol blinked, and the woman’s physical form fell away for a moment while he counted the brightest alpha entities making up her personality.
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  17. #942
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post

    The woman frowned at the cake crumbs smashed against the plastic rims of the wooden table and said to the man sitting across from her, “You’re not easy to find, Hwang Hun Cheol.”

    The man who accepted the human name Hwang Hun Cheol stared at her from behind the pitch-black lenses of his soul sifter glasses and conceded, “I’m not easy to find.”

    Hun Cheol blinked, and the woman’s physical form fell away for a moment while he counted the brightest alpha entities making up her personality.
    Would I read further? Yes, there is an intriguing picture shaping up there, and I like complex sentences, too. But would I enjoy reading it? Most definitely not. Unless the sentence structure starts changing in the next paragraph. I'll follow the story if there are intriguing things happening throughout, since it's a short work and a bit of discomfort could be worth it.

  18. #943
    practical experience, FTW pamrobi's Avatar
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    Sounds intriguing, I want to see more. But I have a couple of suggestion for tightening up the language below.

    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    Title: SOUL SIFTERS. Genre: Science Fiction. Estimated Word Count: 5000 words.
    https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/z...e-bloggers-942

    The woman frowned at the man sitting across from her. [unless the cake crumbs are important somewhere further in, not sure you need them.] “You’re not easy to find, Hwang Hun Cheol.”

    Hwang Hun Cheol stared at her from behind the pitch-black lenses of his soul sifter glasses. [mentioning the glasses tells us he's probably not human and avoids repetition. Your dialogue also "shows" him conceding, so you don't need that tag.] “I’m not easy to find.”

    Hun Cheol blinked, and the woman’s physical form fell away for a moment, allowing him to count the brightest alpha entities making up her personality.

  19. #944
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    Title: SOUL SIFTERS. Genre: Science Fiction. Estimated Word Count: 5000 words.

    First three lines below.

    ***

    The woman frowned at the cake crumbs smashed against the plastic rims of the wooden table and said to the man sitting across from her, “You’re not easy to find, Hwang Hun Cheol.”

    The man who accepted the human name Hwang Hun Cheol stared at her from behind the pitch-black lenses of his soul sifter glasses and conceded, “I’m not easy to find.”

    Hun Cheol blinked, and the woman’s physical form fell away for a moment while he counted the brightest alpha entities making up her personality.
    The soul sifter glasses sounds interesting. Starting with the woman gave the impression she was the MC. Maybe start with the man instead? Also, maybe the "I'm not easy to find" can be omitted since we've already been told the man conceded, and having the dialog just feels like repetition because the woman already said he wasn't easy to find. Maybe he could already ask her what she wants or say something else. Just my 2 cents. Hope this helps
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  20. #945
    practical experience, FTW Lauram6123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denevius View Post
    Title:

    The woman frowned at the cake crumbs smashed against the plastic rims of the wooden table and said to the man sitting across from her, “You’re not easy to find, Hwang Hun Cheol.”

    The man who accepted the human name Hwang Hun Cheol stared at her from behind the pitch-black lenses of his soul sifter glasses and conceded, “I’m not easy to find.”

    Hun Cheol blinked, and the woman’s physical form fell away for a moment while he counted the brightest alpha entities making up her personality.
    The first sentence feels bogged down with prepositional phrases... at the cake crumbs, against the plastic rims, of the wooden table. I want the dialogue sooner.

    With the second sentence, I feel like it would be stronger without the pitch-black lenses. I mean, soul-sifter glasses are such a startling and cool thing, they don't need extra description, at least not at that moment.

    In the third sentence, I have two issues. First, I don't think the for a moment adds anything. Secondly, the while implies that the woman's physical form fell away at the same time he counted the entities, rather than after her form fell away.

    Even though I'm not a SF reader, you've gotten my attention, so I'd read on.

  21. #946
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    I'll give it a go. From the current WIP:

    I fling the twitching glue trap out the window into the water creeping over Flushing Ave., just as a woman splashes through it on horseback, onto the dry asphalt shore. Only in New York, baby. Five minutes later, she’s in the doorway of my office, eyes down on the floor, unsure if she’s going to get stuck if she walks in.
    Last edited by sideshowdarb; 09-20-2017 at 03:09 AM.
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  22. #947
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    I fling the twitching glue trap out the window into the water creeping over Flushing Ave., just as a woman splashes through it on horseback, onto the dry asphalt shore. Only in New York, baby. Five minutes later, she’s is in the doorway of my office, eyes down on the floor, unsure if she’s going to get stuck if she walks in.
    First, cool, Flushing Avenue. I lived there for a couple of years.

    The first line is too long, and was confusing to read. You could smoothen it out by ending the sentence at horseback. Not sure that prepositional phrase is needed.

    The second line is pretentiously New York, though I guess since we're in what seems to be a New Yorker's POV, that's excusable, if unlikeable. New Yorkers do seem to think that what happens there is completely unique from the rest of the world.

    For the last line, you've switched to the woman's POV in the last dependent clause.

    Overall, this is just kind of a confusing opening which doesn't exactly motivate me to read on.
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  23. #948
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sideshowdarb View Post
    I fling the twitching glue trap out the window into the water creeping over Flushing Ave., just as a woman splashes through it on horseback, onto the dry asphalt shore. Only in New York, baby. Five minutes later, she’s in the doorway of my office, eyes down on the floor, unsure if she’s going to get stuck if she walks in.
    I like the easy style, I'd read more. Gotta wonder what's in the glue trap if it's twitching. And what service the MC offers, that someone would ride through flooded streets to get to them.

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  24. #949
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    Take the day off, they said, her sisters, You’re no good at the pole tonight, and Shelly left. She took off the feathered costume at a go, instead of bit by teasing bit to reveal her brown skin like she did each evening. This time nobody watched her. Not when she took off her painted face, nor the eyelashes that batted and winked, bringing wolf whistles, drunken cheers and dollar bills.

  25. #950
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AcaciaNeem View Post
    Take the day off, they said, her sisters, You’re no good at the pole tonight, and Shelly left. She took off the feathered costume at a go, instead of bit by teasing bit to reveal her brown skin like she did each evening. This time nobody watched her. Not when she took off her painted face, nor the eyelashes that batted and winked, bringing wolf whistles, drunken cheers and dollar bills.
    This feels kinda rushed, I had problems following that last line, maybe you're shoveling too much into the first 3 sentences instead of letting the opening breathe. "at a go" = "in one go" ? I'd still read a couple more lines to see where it's going and what's upset Shelly so much that she can't pole dance.

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