[PLEASE READ FIRST POST] Post the First Three Sentences of your Novel

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jjmacdonald

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This does flow better and I'm getting a better idea of what's going on than the previous version. It's a little bit confusing because sentence two made it seem like Alexa is inside the diner, but the other sentences it seems like she's outside. Commenting that the diner's been busier than expected reads like she's inside the diner. "Busier than expected" is like how a staff member or customer might describe it. Maybe if you want to focus on an external perspective you might want to consider something like "more people going in and out than expected"?
Good point. I'll see what I can come up with.
Also (a nitpick), cold late summer rain is a lot of adjectives for an opening clause. Is it important to know the season right now? We don't know what geographical location it is yet, so late summer doesn't mean anything much in terms of how cold the rain is. So maybe a different word to describe the temperature of the rain and you could indicate that it's late summer a bit later on?
Honestly, I missed that. The story starts in late summer but I don't need to say that. I could use one or the other. A cold summer rain would work as well.
I'm interested in Alexa - some hint of why she's hiding or what's at stake might help to draw me in more.
That happens in the next few lines :)

Thanks for the feed back!
 

mrsmig

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Here's a rework of my first three lines. After the feedback, I looked at the first paragraph and saw that it jumped around and didn't flow very well. I was trying to describe the MC and the scene at the same time. Which didn't work. So instead of rushing, I tried to slow it down, which changed the pacing of the next several pages.

The cold late summer rain had been falling on and off all night and left Alexa shivering as she crouched in the shadows. The old sixties-themed diner had been busier than she expected at this time of night, and she shifted uncomfortably as time ticked by. She'd been hiding there for over an hour, waiting for the last few customers to leave.

Thoughts?
While I'm interested in what Alexa is up to, I wouldn't read on because this opener is way overwritten, and its wordiness makes me fear that what's to follow would be equally verbose.

You're saying the same things in multiple ways, and I think it's because you're not trusting your reader to "get it." We can infer from her shivering that Alexa is uncomfortable. We can infer that she's hiding since she's crouched in the shadows. Since you say she's been hiding for over an hour, we don't need the additional "as time ticked by." Try something like:

Cold rain had been falling for the past hour, and Alexa shivered as she crouched in the shadows, waiting for the last few customers to leave.

That's one sentence - or 26 words, as opposed to 68. It establishes a character doing something unusual in an intriguing scenario. As you move forward, you can add in the time of year, the diner decor, etc. Those details aren't vital right at the start.
 

Janine R

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Here's a rework of my first three lines. After the feedback, I looked at the first paragraph and saw that it jumped around and didn't flow very well. I was trying to describe the MC and the scene at the same time. Which didn't work. So instead of rushing, I tried to slow it down, which changed the pacing of the next several pages.

The cold late summer rain had been falling on and off all night and left Alexa shivering as she crouched in the shadows. The old sixties-themed diner had been busier than she expected at this time of night, and she shifted uncomfortably as time ticked by. She'd been hiding there for over an hour, waiting for the last few customers to leave.

Thoughts?
This is getting better. I’m intrigued as to why Alexa is hiding waiting for the diner to empty. Is she hunting or hunted?
I’m trying to get a visual sense of what‘s going on. It’s night. What is making the shadows? Is she hiding in bushes, between buildings, or hunched down in a doorway? City or on an isolated stretch of highway?
A quibble: in 1st sentence had impression she was there all night, but in last sentence it’s an hour.
i assume Alexa isn’t the amazon AI device evolved 😊
 
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jjmacdonald

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That's one sentence - or 26 words, as opposed to 68. It establishes a character doing something unusual in an intriguing scenario. As you move forward, you can add in the time of year, the diner decor, etc. Those details aren't vital right at the start.

Those are some valid points. My opening few lines do seem a put wordy and overwritten. Maybe I'm trying to hard to paint the picture in the opening.

A quibble: in 1st sentence had impression she was there all night, but in last sentence it’s an hour.
Point taken. As mrsmig also noted, Might be me being a bit to wordy and trying to explain to much.

i assume Alexa isn’t the amazon AI device evolved 😊
LOL, no. :)
 

Janine R

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How about these first three sentences?

Back when big sister Masha was alive and Papa still lived at home, somebody knocked at the door. It wasn’t the rent man’s knock, so Raisel turned the doorknob, and two strange ladies breezed into the room, exclaiming to each other about how “well-swept” everything looked and how neat and tidy it was here. Mama didn’t understand English, but she did understand that, and she beamed with pride.
I like this a lot. I’d be careful about changing it too much—don’t want to lose that voice.
 

JJNotAbrams

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I've currently been working on not one but two pieces set in New York City. This is from the first piece:

The revolver felt heavy in his holster, like a brick weighing him down and threatening to drown him. The loaded cylinders he was also concealing inside of his windbreaker didn’t help either and were probably making his gait a bit awkward as he walked down the streets of Little Italy. Turning the corner, he entered the restaurant and pulled out his gun before shooting the first mobster in the head.
 

Bing Z

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The revolver felt heavy in his holster, like a brick weighing him down and threatening to drown him. The loaded cylinders he was also concealing inside of his windbreaker didn’t help either and were probably making his gait a bit awkward as he walked down the streets of Little Italy. Turning the corner, he entered the restaurant and pulled out his gun before shooting the first mobster in the head.
Does not work for me. The weights of the revolver & speedloader are too exaggerated. Give me something else to show the assassin's anxiety. And then, once he enters the restaurant, white room syndrome strikes. No details of the dining room, nothing about people, nothing about his feeling (or lack thereof), and he shoots like he's a veteran killer.
 

JJNotAbrams

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Does not work for me. The weights of the revolver & speedloader are too exaggerated. Give me something else to show the assassin's anxiety. And then, once he enters the restaurant, white room syndrome strikes. No details of the dining room, nothing about people, nothing about his feeling (or lack thereof), and he shoots like he's a veteran killer.
Noted. Though efficiency with words is not one of my strong suits when it comes to opening lines, I'll take what you said about the veteran killer part to heart. Thanks.
 

neandermagnon

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This has the potential to be a good opening - mobsters, guns, New York, etc - those things have got my interest. But there are some issues that are stopping me from getting into it.

The revolver felt heavy in his holster, like a brick weighing him down and threatening to drown him.

This line doesn't work for me because a brick can't drown you while you're walking down the road. If he'd been thrown into a lake, maybe. I'm guessing the drowning thing relates to his emotions, but there's nothing to say which emotion - is he feeling afraid? Guilty for what he's about to do?

Also I agree with Bing Z that a brick is a bit too heavy for the physical weight of the gun. Metaphorical weight is a different matter (e.g. the crushing weight of guilt) but I think the whole sentence would need to be reworked to get that across. Also, I think the character needs a name.

The loaded cylinders he was also concealing inside of his windbreaker didn’t help either and were probably making his gait a bit awkward as he walked down the streets of Little Italy.

This is kind of half way between the character's POV and an external POV - is the character worried that his gait looks awkward because of the weight of the gun and cylinders? Or a narrator's POV? If a narrator's I think you need to lose the probably - the narrator knows for sure one way or another. If it's the character's POV, then I'd want more of his internal thoughts and feelings.

Turning the corner, he entered the restaurant and pulled out his gun before shooting the first mobster in the head.

You have 2 sentences describing how heavy/awkward the gun/cylinder is, then he just straight up shoots a mobster before there's any other information - nothing about the restaurant, who he is, why he's there, what's at stake, how he feels about shooting someone (other than the gun and cylinders being heavy and awkward). So there's nothing much for me to connect to yet.

There's the potential to build up a lot of suspense here, especially if you indicate early on that the main character's got to kill someone and any emotional conflict that creates in him - I'd want to know why he's going to kill the mobster, maybe who he's working for if that's relevant to why he's got to kill the mobster, and how he feels about what he's about to do. I also need to know more about the restaurant, the mobster, etc, like what the mobster did to get himself assassinated like that. All of these things can build up suspense before he shoots the mobster.

Alternatively, if you want to go for the impact of having the mobster shot dead in the opening lines, you can start with the shooting in the restaurant and flesh out the details - including the motivation and emotions of the gunman - later on.
 

JJNotAbrams

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Alternatively, if you want to go for the impact of having the mobster shot dead in the opening lines, you can start with the shooting in the restaurant and flesh out the details - including the motivation and emotions of the gunman - later on.
This is great. I'm using this. Thanks.
 

mrsmig

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I've currently been working on not one but two pieces set in New York City. This is from the first piece:

The revolver felt heavy in his holster, like a brick weighing him down and threatening to drown him. The loaded cylinders he was also concealing concealed inside of his windbreaker didn’t help either and were probably making made his gait a bit awkward as he walked down the streets of Little Italy. Turning the corner, he entered the restaurant, and pulled out his gun before shooting and shot the first mobster in the head.
While this could be an intriguing start, I agree with other critters that it's not really working. I see three things that need attention:

Structural goofs: for example, the participle phrase that starts your third sentence creates impossible simultaneous action (you can't turn the corner and enter the restaurant at the same time).

Lack of orienting detail: where's the holster? Hidden by his jacket or riding out in the open on his hip? (Where/how he's carrying would give us a hint as to who your nameless/faceless character is - for example, a cop's gun might be visible.) "Windbreaker" has a contemporary feel, but the use of a revolver and the setting of "Little Italy" makes it sound like this is sometime in the early-to-mid 1900s.

Lack of urgency. Part of that problem is the overwriting - I've taken some tucks above to show where things could be tightened up. The qualifying phrases ("were probably," "a bit") don't help; they give the whole thing a tentative feel.
 
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Thecla

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I've currently been working on not one but two pieces set in New York City. This is from the first piece:

The revolver felt heavy in his holster, like a brick weighing him down and threatening to drown him [The simile doesn't work. It goes on too long and bricks only drown someone who is in water. Show us he's drowning (figuratively), rather than telling us. On the other hand, the short, sharp sentence before the comma does work as a first line, I think, although I'd prefer a definitive statement: 'The revolver was heavy in his holster.']. The loaded cylinders he was also concealing inside of his windbreaker didn’t help either and were probably [again, be definitive - were they or weren't they?] making his gait a bit awkward as he walked down the streets of Little Italy. [After] Turning the corner, he entered the restaurant and pulled out his gun before shooting the first mobster in the head [again, weakened by the wording; of course, he pulled out his gun before shooting someone. How about, 'He entered the restaurant and shot the first mobster in the head.'?].
It's a strong opening to a story but, as written, but this doesn't work for me either. I'm sorry. Despite all the detail, there's no tension and I couldn't get a clear picture of the character. Try tightening up your prose. Make your style match the action. If he's awkward and uncertain, rather than tough and confident, make this clear. Don't hedge around with words like 'probably', 'either', or 'a bit', and make sure no one does two incompatible things at the same time.

But it is a strong beginning. I do want to know what happens next. Does he take out the second mobster too, or does the first mobster's moll glass him from behind? Best of luck.
 
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tusenord

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I was browsing through the last pages in the thread and realised I probably need something a little more... plotty? as first sentences for my sci-fi novel. I'm a little sensitive after a long, long time out of the writing-critting game but I love sharing snippets so here I am, wetting my toes in this exercise.

Not sure something this out of context helps you help me but here is Altarboy. Should I skip dialogue as intro?

”It’s the stud, isn’t it? I should have gone with a pentagram, not the cross.”
He played with the piercing running through his eyebrow.
 

Lea123

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Since coming across this thread, I find myself checking out the first three sentences in the books I read. I spent a LOT of time over obsessing and over analysing the first three sentences of my book. What should I include? Was it catchy enough? The exercise now makes total sense as it's teaching me the things I shouldn't be doing. (Perks of a literal thinker trying to write fantasy...)

I don't mind the dialogue. In fact, I do a little victory dance every time I see dialogue and no tag to go with it. 'He' is a bit generic though - is there a reason we can't have his name at this point?

Getting a few rebellious vibes but that might be more to do with the link to the title. I'm curious, I'd read on.
 

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”It’s the stud, isn’t it? I should have gone with a pentagram, not the cross.”
He played with the piercing running through his eyebrow.

There's some good characterisation which is drawing me in.

Dialogue's always a bit risky as an opening, but it's not impossible to make it work. The danger is that it comes across like disembodied words in a blank space, and/or that there's no clarity with regards to who said the words. You've got a person who presumably just said those words - this needs to be clearer though - the paragraph break suggests that the person speaking isn't the same one who's playing with the eyebrow piercing. If they're the same person, don't have the paragraph break. If it's a different person, IMO you need to indicate who said the first line. I would prefer it if "he" was a character's name. (Or if two characters use both names.)

Given the title "Altarboy" I'm taking it that going with the pentagram not the cross is a religious statement he's making, not just a fashion choice. That interests me. I'd read on for a bit to see where this is going.
 

Thecla

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”It’s the stud, isn’t it? I should have gone with a pentagram, not the cross.”
He played with the piercing running through his eyebrow.
Probably not for me, but interesting none the less. Neatly written and good style. Confident from the off. There's a lot to like here, despite there being little on the page. I'd hope it went on in the same way.

I agree with Neandermagnon about the placement of the paragraph break, but disagree about the need for a name. Yet.

Best of luck.
 

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”It’s the stud, isn’t it? I should have gone with a pentagram, not the cross.”
He played with the piercing running through his eyebrow.
I like this. It pulls me in straight away. I feel as though I have some image already of characters and setting - enough to read on.

Well done.
 
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tusenord

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Since coming across this thread, I find myself checking out the first three sentences in the books I read. I spent a LOT of time over obsessing and over analysing the first three sentences of my book. What should I include? Was it catchy enough? The exercise now makes total sense as it's teaching me the things I shouldn't be doing. (Perks of a literal thinker trying to write fantasy...)

I don't mind the dialogue. In fact, I do a little victory dance every time I see dialogue and no tag to go with it. 'He' is a bit generic though - is there a reason we can't have his name at this point?

Getting a few rebellious vibes but that might be more to do with the link to the title. I'm curious, I'd read on.
Ooh, glad the rebellious vibe shone through. It was really no reason I didn't use his name there. Maybe I just forgot about it because it took me some time to decide whether to use his given name (Alec) or his nickname (Altarboy) throughout the text. (I settled on Alec)

Thank you!
 

tusenord

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There's some good characterisation which is drawing me in.

Dialogue's always a bit risky as an opening, but it's not impossible to make it work. The danger is that it comes across like disembodied words in a blank space, and/or that there's no clarity with regards to who said the words. You've got a person who presumably just said those words - this needs to be clearer though - the paragraph break suggests that the person speaking isn't the same one who's playing with the eyebrow piercing. If they're the same person, don't have the paragraph break. If it's a different person, IMO you need to indicate who said the first line. I would prefer it if "he" was a character's name. (Or if two characters use both names.)

Given the title "Altarboy" I'm taking it that going with the pentagram not the cross is a religious statement he's making, not just a fashion choice. That interests me. I'd read on for a bit to see where this is going.
Hm, yeah it does become a bit disembodied, doesn't it? It's the same person, so it's not good that it reads as if there were two.

I've always had problems with how to use the paragraph break along dialogue! Never been sure if there's a rule about it or just different styles? In swedish, dialogue is usually conveyed completely different so maybe I just confuse myself when I switch between languages... (not really an excuse, I should have learned the english way already because I barely write fiction in swedish)

I'll change "he" to his name! Think I might have forgotten to add the name after I decided to go with "Alec"... It wasn't an active choice at least.

It's a fashion choice. Religion doesn't mean much in this world, at least not to Alec's family. Need to mull on that though, maybe it gives the wrong impression.
 

tusenord

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Probably not for me, but interesting none the less. Neatly written and good style. Confident from the off. There's a lot to like here, despite there being little on the page. I'd hope it went on in the same way.

I agree with Neandermagnon about the placement of the paragraph break, but disagree about the need for a name. Yet.

Best of luck.
Thank you so much! I need to learn more about dialogue and placement of paragraph breaks...
 

Thecla

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Thank you so much! I need to learn more about dialogue and placement of paragraph breaks...
Dialogue is punctuated very differently in different languages. There was a discussion about this recently over in the Historical Fiction forum.

If you want to know what to do when writing in English, I suggest you find a style guide, such as Strunk and White (American) or Fowler (British). People around here are pretty good at helping out too. You can post asking for advice in the 'Grammar and Syntax' forum: here.
 

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It's a fashion choice. Religion doesn't mean much in this world, at least not to Alec's family. Need to mull on that though, maybe it gives the wrong impression.

I think it gives the wrong impression right at the start, before you've established the worldbuilding and what Alec's family's like. Choosing a pentagram over a cross comes across like the character is thinking of ditching Christianity for Wicca or similar - Altar boys being a thing in Catholicism reinforces that.

Once you've established more about your world and Alec's family, I don't think it would be an issue.
 
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tusenord

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Dialogue is punctuated very differently in different languages. There was a discussion about this recently over in the Historical Fiction forum.

If you want to know what to do when writing in English, I suggest you find a style guide, such as Strunk and White (American) or Fowler (British). People around here are pretty good at helping out too. You can post asking for advice in the 'Grammar and Syntax' forum: here.
Ah! I'm a bit afraid I might mix British and American styles and spelling something awfully... Maybe the American style will make more sense for me to choose and I should make an actually effort to learn it properly.
 

Lea123

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Hm, yeah it does become a bit disembodied, doesn't it? It's the same person, so it's not good that it reads as if there were two.

I've always had problems with how to use the paragraph break along dialogue! Never been sure if there's a rule about it or just different styles? In swedish, dialogue is usually conveyed completely different so maybe I just confuse myself when I switch between languages... (not really an excuse, I should have learned the english way already because I barely write fiction in swedish)

I'll change "he" to his name! Think I might have forgotten to add the name after I decided to go with "Alec"... It wasn't an active choice at least.

It's a fashion choice. Religion doesn't mean much in this world, at least not to Alec's family. Need to mull on that though, maybe it gives the wrong impression.
That's pretty impressive, writing in both English and Swedish! I teach (the US equivalent of middle graders) and I'm really curious about the paragraph rules in Swedish...

A new paragraph is when you change time, place, topic or person... at least, that's what I teach the kids. We call it TiPToP to help them remember. Within dialogue, unless you're writing a huge chunk of it, I wouldn't start a new paragraph. You need to add the dialogue tag or character action to the end of the speech so it's clear who is doing the talking.

"It’s the stud, isn’t it? I should have gone with a pentagram, not the cross.” He / Alec played with the piercing running through his eyebrow.

I think it gives the wrong impression right at the start, before you've established the worldbuilding and what Alec's family's like. Choosing a pentagram over a cross comes across like the character is thinking of ditching Christianity for Wicca or similar - Altar boys being a thing in Catholicism reinforces that.

Once you've established more about your world and Alec's family, I don't think it would be an issue.
I agree with this too. I instantly thought rebellion in terms of like a teenager trying to shake his overly religious parents kind of rebellion.
 

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