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

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Nether

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YA horror; target length < 3,000 words

Lucy was a serial girlfriend. Naturally, for she had the most unnaturally bewitching body of all the sophomore girls at Feringwood High. Neither chocolate, nor cheese, nor that most dastardly of all evils—carbs—could ever inflate the perfectly sculpted abs that peeked out from under her über-cute crop tops.

Doesn't really grab me. I wasn't 100% sure what serial girlfriend entailed. The "naturally" feels a little weird, and not just because it's paired with unnaturally. And the third sentence feels off (and not just because sculpted abs are an odd feature for guys to fixate on -- a thin waist, sure, but sculpting?)

I'm also not entirely sure who the POV is, although it probably comes in after the first three sentences.
 
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Janine R

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YA horror; target length < 3,000 words

Lucy was a serial girlfriend. Naturally, for she had the most unnaturally bewitching body of all the sophomore girls at Feringwood High. Neither chocolate, nor cheese, nor that most dastardly of all evils—carbs—could ever inflate the perfectly sculpted abs that peeked out from under her über-cute crop tops.
The first 3 sentences of the story don‘t hook me so far. It feels like we are at a distance from the scene and we maybe looking at the victim. We are only told about her body and very little at that. The sculpted abs are an odd body part to focus on. Is she wearing several crop tops ? It’s all a bit strange but not involving because so far there’s no character.
 
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writer316

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Thanks for feedback, @Nether @Janine R . :) I see what you mean about the distant feeling. POV is going to be 3rd omniscient because I need to juggle a handful of minor characters, though the first scene is from the POV of a friend who's on a diet. I'll go back and see what I can do to fix this up; might axe a few parts.
 

writer316

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@Unimportant Thanks for the line-edits. Really appreciate that! :) I think the abs thing is tripping a lot of people up; you've given me some food for thought.
 

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Leslie died today and most everyone remembered she was the girl who ate the fly that flew into her soup back in the third grade. No one remembered how she died. No one remembered she saved us.
 
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Nether

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Leslie died today and most everyone remembered she was the girl who ate the fly that flew into her soup back in the third grade.

The way it's structured makes it feel like a bit of a run-on.

No one remembered how she died. No one remembered she saved us.

The use of "no one" feels awkward. "Nobody" might flow better.

The first sentence needs some work, but the concept seems interesting. Certainly works for an opening 3-sentence highlight (well, minus the problems with the opening sentence and "no one" feeling a little clunky). Not really sure how the logistics work there, since that's an incident from the extreme past where the more recent stuff should be more notable, but I guess it adds to the intrigue.
 

Janine R

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Leslie died today and most everyone remembered she was the girl who ate the fly that flew into her soup back in the third grade. No one remembered how she died. No one remembered she saved us.
I like this opening, it has potential. The first sentence is awkward, it needs reworking. “Most everyone” sounds colloquial — which could be the voice of the narrator. The second sentence is strange because she died today. To say that no one remembered implies past tense not today. I suspect you used “no one remembered” in the second sentence to give the third sentence a rhythm but it’s a little jarring because it doesn‘t fully make sense. I like the rhythm. Good last sentence. I would read on.
 
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writer316

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Leslie died today, and most everyone remembered she was the girl who ate the fly that flew into her soup back in the third grade. No one remembered how she died. No one remembered she saved us.
A couple grammar things marked in-line. First sentence reads unwieldy compared to the next two. A bit of a contradiction with the "Leslie died today" (okay, so Leslie just died, so this should be fresh news) and the "No one remembered how she died" (because if she just died, then shouldn't there have been a notice/obit/something?) -- also because the "No one remembered how she died" sentence makes it sound like Leslie died a long time ago, rather than "today," as stated in the first sentence. I'm guessing genre is spec/horror/contemporary drama? Seems like a solid opening; I'd read on.
 
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CWNitz

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YA horror; target length < 3,000 words

Lucy was a serial girlfriend. Naturally, for she had the most unnaturally bewitching body of all the sophomore girls at Feringwood High. Neither chocolate, nor cheese, nor that most dastardly of all evils—carbs—could ever inflate the perfectly sculpted abs that peeked out from under her über-cute crop tops.
I like this one. It has a lot of voice, and I like the character's confidence and authority. I would read on.

I think it might work better with an em-dash instead or a period, or if you remove "naturally" and add a comma, or add a period after naturally, or even a semicolon.

Do you read your writing out loud? I find it really helps with getting the rhythm right. It might be dumb, but the way I do it is to imitate a movie's narrator voice (or any other character's voice). And you just know there would be a longer pause after naturally, because they would put the emphasis like this: "Lucy was a serial girlfriend. (inflexion going down, intake of breath). Naturally (inflexion going down, intake of breath). For she had (short pause) the most unnaturally bewitching body (short pause) of all the sophomore girls..."

(I don't know if my obsession with rhythm is a 'me' thing or a 'normal reader' thing. Maybe it's just because I like reading out loud. I even do the voices and everything).
 

writer316

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@CWNitz Thanks for the advice! I really appreciate the point you made about reading rhythm, and for marking where the narrator's voice would be going up/down and where the breathing pauses are. I'll definitely take note of that. :)
 

silverp

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I like this one. It has a lot of voice, and I like the character's confidence and authority. I would read on.

I think it might work better with an em-dash instead or a period, or if you remove "naturally" and add a comma, or add a period after naturally, or even a semicolon.

Do you read your writing out loud? I find it really helps with getting the rhythm right. It might be dumb, but the way I do it is to imitate a movie's narrator voice (or any other character's voice). And you just know there would be a longer pause after naturally, because they would put the emphasis like this: "Lucy was a serial girlfriend. (inflexion going down, intake of breath). Naturally (inflexion going down, intake of breath). For she had (short pause) the most unnaturally bewitching body (short pause) of all the sophomore girls..."

(I don't know if my obsession with rhythm is a 'me' thing or a 'normal reader' thing. Maybe it's just because I like reading out loud. I even do the voices and everything).

I like this one. It has a lot of voice, and I like the character's confidence and authority. I would read on.

I think it might work better with an em-dash instead or a period, or if you remove "naturally" and add a comma, or add a period after naturally, or even a semicolon.

Do you read your writing out loud? I find it really helps with getting the rhythm right. It might be dumb, but the way I do it is to imitate a movie's narrator voice (or any other character's voice). And you just know there would be a longer pause after naturally, because they would put the emphasis like this: "Lucy was a serial girlfriend. (inflexion going down, intake of breath). Naturally (inflexion going down, intake of breath). For she had (short pause) the most unnaturally bewitching body (short pause) of all the sophomore girls..."

(I don't know if my obsession with rhythm is a 'me' thing or a 'normal reader' thing. Maybe it's just because I like reading out loud. I even do the voices and everything).
I really like that first line because I keep thinking killer rather than girlfriend. Nice play on words.
 
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noeula

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The cursor was flashing at the bottom of the chatlog. Rain sat at his desk, staring vacantly at the monitor and running through the sentence he had just read in his mind. The sentence had appeared a minute earlier, but after a five-second timescale had disappeared completely into the recesses of the Disapeer site database, supposedly gone forever.
 

Janine R

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The cursor was flashing at the bottom of the chatlog. Rain sat at his desk, staring vacantly at the monitor and running through the sentence he had just read in his mind. The sentence had appeared a minute earlier, but after a five-second timescale had disappeared completely into the recesses of the Disapeer site database, supposedly gone forever.
Hi noeula. I found a couple of things in this confusing. It took me a minute to realize Rain is a name. At first, I thought that some rain had fallen on the desk. Had he just read the sentence in his mind or was he running it over again in his mind? What is a 5 second timescale? Is it simply five seconds? Also I kept wondering if “Disapeer” was a typo for disappear.
I think there needs to be some hint of the content of the sentence or at least the character’s emotional reaction to the sentence to hook the reader. As it is, there's nothing so far to pull me into the story.
 
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Bing Z

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The cursor was flashing at the bottom of the chatlog. Rain sat at his desk, staring vacantly at the monitor and running through the sentence he had just read in his mind. The sentence had appeared a minute earlier, but after a five-second timescale had disappeared completely into the recesses of the Disapeer site database, supposedly gone forever.
I don't have a problem with Rain being a name, although I did pause there for a second to make sure what it is.

You don't need the first sentence unless Rain is a network admin. Just say his words suddenly disappear from the chat screen and everyone knows what is happening. Unless this has happened repeatedly to him many times and he has investigated, Rain will not know if it's some sort of glitches that 'eats' his words or if they are really sucked into some sort of databases.
 
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LuciusW

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Fantasy/horror; up to 3500 words. I never wrote a short story but here goes nothing:

It is the 12th of November 1896, and the clock strikes the witching hour. For the first time since I have had a sense of self, I cannot hear what others think. The only thing I sense is hunger.
 

Bing Z

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Fantasy/horror; up to 3500 words. I never wrote a short story but here goes nothing:

It is the 12th of November 1896, and the clock strikes the witching hour. For the first time since I have had a sense of self, I cannot hear what others think. The only thing I sense is hunger.
I had to read the second sentence a couple of times to parse it. I think you may want to streamline it or make it clear the MC used to 'hear' what are in other people's head instead of what they think of the MC.

Other than that (and assuming I am right about what the second line means), an interesting premise that is set right at the opening.
 
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LuciusW

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I had to read the second sentence a couple of times to parse it. I think you may want to streamline it or make it clear the MC used to 'hear' what are in other people's head instead of what they think of the MC.

Other than that (and assuming I am right about what the second line means), an interesting premise that is set right at the opening.
Thank you for your feedback! I'll work on it.
 

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Hi noeula. I found a couple of things in this confusing. It took me a minute to realize Rain is a name. At first, I thought that some rain had fallen on the desk. Had he just read the sentence in his mind or was he running it over again in his mind? What is a 5 second timescale? Is it simply five seconds? Also I kept wondering if “Disapeer” was a typo for disappear.
I think there needs to be some hint of the content of the sentence or at least the character’s emotional reaction to the sentence to hook the reader. As it is, there's nothing so far to pull me into the story.
Thank you so much for the response.

I was wondering if his name was going to be a problem but I really think “sat at his desk”, ie the verb sat and the identifying pronoun, “his” does that… I could be wrong.

Clarifying whether he is running through it in his mind or reading it in is mind is a great suggestion, I was actually thinking about that before.

As for your last part, the content/context comes right after these sentences… maybe I should find a way to make it more identifiable earlier on.

Thanks again,
 

noeula

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I don't have a problem with Rain being a name, although I did pause there for a second to make sure what it is.

You don't need the first sentence unless Rain is a network admin. Just say his words suddenly disappear from the chat screen and everyone knows what is happening. Unless this has happened repeatedly to him many times and he has investigated, Rain will not know if it's some sort of glitches that 'eats' his words or if they are really sucked into some sort of databases.
Thanks for for the response.

I completely agree with you about the first sentence, especially because the next sentence clears up a lot of what you’re mentioning in terms of context, so it’ll become the ‘third sentence’
 

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I was wondering if his name was going to be a problem but I really think “sat at his desk”, ie the verb sat and the identifying pronoun, “his” does that… I could be wrong.

In a technical sense, the verb and the pronoun do make it unambiguous. The trouble is that the unusual name risks sending readers up a garden path, as it were; if you start them off reading the sentence with a wrong interpretation of what’s going on, they then have mentally backtrack and fix it. You don’t want that kind of stumbling block anywhere in your writing, but particularly not in the first sentences.

There are all kinds of possible solutions to this. One is to put the most important verb closer to the name, choosing a verb that droplets of water couldn’t possibly do but a human could. For instance, do you need “sat at his desk” at all? Most people reading about a person staring at a computer screen would picture that person at his desk by default, so maybe you can skip that verb and get on to the next one:

* Rain stared at his computer screen and reviewed his last sentence in his mind.

Another possibility is to tweak the spelling of the name so it can’t be confused with the noun:

* Rainn stared at his computer screen and reviewed his last sentence in his mind.

Another possibility is to use his full name, to make it immediately clear that you’re talking about a person:

* Rain Stephenson stared at his computer screen and reviewed his last sentence in his mind.

Those are just a few ideas, and they don’t even include the most obvious suggestion of changing the name (which I’m guessing would be more painful to you than any of these others! I get very attached to my characters’ names, for better or worse). There are always innumerable different ways of expressing the idea you want to express, and when readers indicate even the slightest bit of confusion—again, particularly in an opening, when you’re trying to grab readers and keep them, and not give them any reason to set down your story and do something else—it’s always worth pausing to consider some of those alternatives.

:e2coffee:
 
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noeula

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In a technical sense, the verb and the pronoun do make it unambiguous. The trouble is that the unusual name risks sending readers up a garden path, as it were; if you start them off reading the sentence with a wrong interpretation of what’s going on, they then have mentally backtrack and fix it. You don’t want that kind of stumbling block anywhere in your writing, but particularly not in the first sentences.

There are all kinds of possible solutions to this. One is to put the most important verb closer to the name, choosing a verb that droplets of water couldn’t possibly do but a human could. For instance, do you need “sat at his desk” at all? Most people reading about a person staring at a computer screen would picture that person at his desk by default, so maybe you can skip that verb and get on to the next one:

* Rain stared at his computer screen and reviewed his last sentence in his mind.

Another possibility is to tweak the spelling of the name so it can’t be confused with the noun:

* Rainn stared at his computer screen and reviewed his last sentence in his mind.

Another possibility is to use his full name, to make it immediately clear that you’re talking about a person:

* Rain Stephenson stared at his computer screen and reviewed his last sentence in his mind.

Those are just a few ideas, and they don’t even include the most obvious suggestion of changing the name (which I’m guessing would be more painful to you than any of these others! I get very attached to my characters’ names, for better or worse). There are always innumerable different ways of expressing the idea you want to express, and when readers indicate even the slightest bit of confusion—again, particularly in an opening, when you’re trying to grab readers and keep them, and not give them any reason to set down your story and do something else—it’s always worth pausing to consider some of those alternatives.

:e2coffee:
Wow. Unbelievable feedback. Thank you so much for this.

A lot there is unnecessary, definitely, and I'll rework it. I love the inclusion of his last name, so I'll probably do that.

As for his name usage throughout the rest of the story: do you think once I make it obvious enough with one of those changes that it'll be reasonably clear-cut for the rest of the story? (it's only 20 pages).

I could change the name, but it has some serious meaning behind it, lol.

Seriously, thank you again.
 

writer316

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The cursor was flashing at the bottom of the chatlog. Rain sat at his desk, staring vacantly at the monitor and running through the sentence he had just read in his mind. The sentence had appeared a minute earlier, but after a five-second timescale had disappeared completely into the recesses of the Disapeer site database, supposedly gone forever.
Unclear about genre. Contemporary? Sci-fi? Mystery / thriller? I'd say to start with the character + plot, because everything else is ancillary. For example, to give Rain some more agency:

Rain stared at the chatlog's flashing cursor. He'd sent that message into the Disapeer, but it should be all good. People say the stuff in this corner of the darkweb should only stay for a few seconds, before it's gone forever.
 

writer316

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It is the 12th of November 1896, and the clock strikes the witching hour. For the first time since I have had a sense of self, I cannot hear what others think. The only thing I sense is hunger.
Hm...would this be a vampire story? A little strange, the "since I have had a sense of self" -- implying a "Frankenstein" situation? Corpse brought back to life? Also confusing is the "cannot hear what others think." If the MC didn't have a sense of self before, how did they hear other people's thoughts? If it doesn't stay this confusing, I'd read on.
 
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LuciusW

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Hm...would this be a vampire story? A little strange, the "since I have had a sense of self" -- implying a "Frankenstein" situation? Corpse brought back to life? Also confusing is the "cannot hear what others think." If the MC didn't have a sense of self before, how did they hear other people's thoughts? If it doesn't stay this confusing, I'd read on.
Sorry for the late reply. I've been unwell.

I agree, the opening is quite confusing. It's not meant to be a vampire story, ultimately, but it's not that far off. The MC's ability is supposed to be a "unilateral" form of telepathy. They can't hear what people think anymore, and it's supposed to be something they've been able to do since becoming self-conscious.

Thank you for your time!
 
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noeula

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Unclear about genre. Contemporary? Sci-fi? Mystery / thriller? I'd say to start with the character + plot, because everything else is ancillary. For example, to give Rain some more agency:

Rain stared at the chatlog's flashing cursor. He'd sent that message into the Disapeer, but it should be all good. People say the stuff in this corner of the darkweb should only stay for a few seconds, before it's gone forever.
I agree. With the edit (thanks to all the great feedback) it is now more precise and plot-driven.

Thank you.
 
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