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

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dickson

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Here’s another one.

Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.
 

Janine R

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Here’s another one.

Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.
I’m not getting much impression from this opening.The MC is the subject of some sort of proceeding. I don’t know how serious it is or how concerned he is or should be. It could be a dispute with a neighbour over a fence placement, he could be making some sort of variance application or he could be on trial for his life. There’s no indication of his emotional state. We are looking at him from a distance. There are no details about him. The wooden bench seems to make the circumstances austere or possibly taking place in the past. The Tribunal members themselves are not described, nor is their attitude, so there is not yet any tension.
 

Nether

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Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.

The way the sentences combine is a little jarring. You basically have an action in the first sentence and a few pieces of description afterward.

Plus the first sentence he's doing something. The second sentence he's kind of an object being acted upon, if you the "looked down on him" is taken as an action.

The first sentence strikes me as serviceable, but the other two may need to be reworked.
 
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mrsmig

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Here’s another one.

Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.
While this opener has possibilities, I think what's making it sound dull is that all three sentences are roughly the same length and structured nearly the same way: subject, verb, prepositional phrase. This gives the opener a monotonous feel.

Varying the structure and using more interesting verbs might help.
 
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Thecla

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Here’s another one.

Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.
Not for me. It's straightforward and clear, but dull. I dislike being given full names right at the beginning of any story as it always feels unnatural (I fully admit this is a personal taste). Here, we have three sets of people in three sentences and, perhaps because of that, not much is happening. It's throat clearing before the story begins. I've no hint what sort of story that is.

However, whilst dull, the sentences are short and functional. There's nothing here (apart from the full name) that really puts me off, so if I had the first 200 words, I'd read on past 'the hall' to find out what the tale is. But I'd stop after a couple more sentences like these three.
 
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silverp

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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! :D You've got a lot of information and character-reveal packed into those three sentences, and I'm hooked.
I would love to read more of this.
 

mrsmig

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I would love to read more of this.
silverp, you're responding to a post from 2014. It's best to critique the most recent posts, since oftentimes people from more than a few months ago have moved on with the piece.
 

Woollybear

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Here’s another one.

Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.
I agree with the consensus and would specifially encourage more emotive words. EX: 'coughing' is neutral, pure setting no more, but 'nervous coughing' would convey a sense of trepidation among the onlookers. 'Hacking coughing' might convey a threat of disease, not sure, but you have room to add color to some of these words.

Similarly, a raised wooden bench is fairly neutral, and other choices might be more intriguing. A battered wooden bench might make me curious. A stately wooden bench, being somewhat predictable for a typical fictional tribunal, probably would not. I'd also brainstorm ways to share Tomazz's drive, motivation, inner state of being. Through force of will, Tomazz Wheelson gave no outward sign of rage as he took his seat before the tribunal.

Basically, you have some room to breathe emotion in. This may not be your style, which is also fine and good. Trust your instincts! Plenty of writers are sparse along this axis.

Not sure Tribunal should be capitalized.
 
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dickson

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Not sure Tribunal should be capitalized

That bothered me too.

All the points you and others have made make sense. I’m still grinding out rough draft. What Tom and the august personages on the bench understand, but their audience may not, is that the proceedings about to commence are in fact a scripted performance, in which the intent is not to deceive, but to be economical with the truth. So there’s a lot of swirling beneath the surface. Can’t get all of that into three sentences, but it’s clear I need to set the stage better.

Thanks for the crit.
 
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writer316

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Tomazz Wheelson took his seat before the Tribunal. Its members looked down on him from a raised wooden bench. Muted talk and coughing echoed through the hall.
Is this going to be historical fiction? I got a bit of Bleak House-type legal case flavor from this opening. It seems very serious and formal -- I'd imagine a row of frowning, powdered wig-wearing judges. It also seems like the narrator is going to be a very neutral 3rd. If you wanted to signal more about what type of story this is going to be, maybe sprinkle in some of what Tomazz is thinking/feeling when he's in front of all those imposing Tribunal members. Is he nervous? jaded? bored? worried? plotting conspiratorially? etc..... I'm personally okay with the sparse style; sometimes, it's good to be more economical.
 

writer316

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@Thecla @Nether @Janine R @CWNitz Thanks for pointing out the repetitive structure and the maybe too-obvious signaling (yes, it is about literally wanting the organ). I wanted to try for the type of unsettlingly neutral narrator that's in The Good Soldier (Ford Maddox Ford), if anyone has advice or suggestions.
 
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dickson

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New version that I hope works better:

“This tribunal has been convened to investigate the crisis that began in late 2347,” said the Secretary-General. “Our first witness is Dr. Wheelson.”
As other noises in the cavernous hall subsided, Dr. Wheelson hoped no-one saw Madame Secretary share a heartbeat’s glance with him.
 

Janine R

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New version that I hope works better:

“This tribunal has been convened to investigate the crisis that began in late 2347,” said the Secretary-General. “Our first witness is Dr. Wheelson.”
As other noises in the cavernous hall subsided, Dr. Wheelson hoped no-one saw Madame Secretary share a heartbeat’s glance with him.
Much better!
 

writer316

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“This tribunal has been convened to investigate the crisis that began in late 2347,” said the Secretary-General. “Our first witness is Dr. Wheelson.”
As other noises in the cavernous hall subsided, Dr. Wheelson hoped no-one saw Madame Secretary share a heartbeat’s glance with him.
Futuristic sci-fi? Very minor thing, but I'm not sure if "no-one" is hyphenated or not. I think the third sentence hints at the previous explanation you had given about this being a scripted law proceeding. Much improved! :)
 
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ToshaStein

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Light -> dark fantasy / maybe romance; target of ~3000 words. Any comments appreciated. 😊

Dragons are real. I know because Skylark showed me. She came to town with the merchant caravan, riding a hippopotamus.
Love it. I'm not going to lie this already feels like something I would love to read to my toddlers 😂 (I suppose that depends on how dark/romantic it gets though huh).

Clear voice, to the point and the dang hippo makes me want to read more.
 
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Janine R

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This is a little to general and too bland to immediately hook me. There's no emotional introduction to “he”. I have no image of him. I presume he's some sort of superhero because he's going to save the world... By walking?
I love going for walks but it's never occurred to me that by doing so I might be saving the world.
 
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Nether

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New version that I hope works better:

“This tribunal has been convened to investigate the crisis that began in late 2347,” said the Secretary-General. “Our first witness is Dr. Wheelson.”
As other noises in the cavernous hall subsided, Dr. Wheelson hoped no-one saw Madame Secretary share a heartbeat’s glance with him.

It's an improvement, although not really my cup of tea.

Not sure if "has been" is a bit much since "has" might have the same meaning. "Crisis" feels generic and, from the way it's started, I'm not sure if the problem is ongoing (which would give the proceedings more context).

I'm also not sure what kind of noise or how much you'd have following an opening preamble where nothing has really happened yet. Presumably everybody is there to witness the tribunal so there's no surprise and nothing to discuss just yet. Or is that meant to suggest people were talking before things came to order?

And, while I don't watch a lot of C-Span, I imagine it's customary to include a witness's given name. Also is he just a witness or something like an expert? Crisis suggests something large.
 
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Nether

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It will be an epic sci-fi/fantasy 😁 (though I don't think that the genre is going to be too important to this particular 3 😅🤷) This is the first chapter I have worked on so I may return with the prologue someday.

This is the short story topic, not the novel one.

He walked. He would do anything to protect his people, to protect this world, even from itself. And for that he walked.

Not a particularly riveting opening. The first sentence would be fine in isolation, but you follow it with a vague-ry before bringing back the "he walked."

I'm not sure whether to read into the walking itself having a benefit.
 
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Unimportant

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It will be an epic sci-fi/fantasy 😁 (though I don't think that the genre is going to be too important to this particular 3 😅🤷) This is the first chapter I have worked on so I may return with the prologue someday.

He walked. He would do anything to protect his people, to protect this world, even from itself. And for that he walked.
Probably better to put this in the relevant first three lines or first two hundred words of a novel section. Short stories are rather different beasts.

At best you are wasting everyone's time, and at worst you are pissing people off.
 

Thecla

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New version that I hope works better:

“This tribunal has been convened to investigate the crisis that began in late 2347,” said the Secretary-General. “Our first witness is Dr. Wheelson.”
As other noises in the cavernous hall subsided, Dr. Wheelson hoped no-one saw Madame Secretary share a heartbeat’s glance with him.
It's not my cup of tea, mostly because it's all information and no feeling. I don't care about the crisis because I don't know what it was. The term is so vague it provides no hint of tension. And we get the reaction to the glance, not the glance itself. 'Cavernous' doesn't tell me anything about the hall except its size, while the 'other noises' could be anything. At least 'coughs' suggested people were present. I'm no more engaged by this than by the other. Possibly less, because the writing is less simple and direct. I'm sorry but I would not read on. Others like this version more so I think this is a matter of taste rather than writing. You can't please everyone, nor should you try to!
 
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ToshaStein

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Probably better to put this in the relevant first three lines or first two hundred words of a novel section. Short stories are rather different beasts.

At best you are wasting everyone's time, and at worst you are pissing people off.

This is the short story topic, not the novel one.



Not a particularly riveting opening. The first sentence would be fine in isolation, but you follow it with a vague-ry before bringing back the "he walked."

I'm not sure whether to read into the walking itself having a benefit.
Thank you 🙂 I deleted it. I did not realize this was shorts. But I appreciate the feedback.
 
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