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

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iBleed2

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The opening to a Regency fantasy romance I'm working on:

The room was small, and the floorboards that Sophia Turnbull’s face were pressed against reeked of old ale and smoke. She’d been dumped in the center of the floor, away from whatever resources for escape the room offered, her hands bound behind her back. Bloody hostler was on the take.
I think you need a stronger opening sequence than “the room was small” but I really liked the second half of the first sentence. It immediately tells so much about the character but then the second sentence more or less says the same thing with “dumped” and with “her hands bound behind her back”. With the small window you have in the opening sentence I think each sentence should build into the other so that the second sentence adds something more. Perhaps you can create some tension as you did in the last sentence and then use your third sentence as a twist to create some suspense. Just an idea 😀 thanks for sharing!
 
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Thecla

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Dancing by herself in the club, Trinity was used to being alone [this is a powerful opening but could be tweaked to make it more so. I think the first clause is literal and the second figurative. Make that clearer.]. With the smell of sweat, perfume, and the colored lights above, it was the perfect place to chase away her loneliness [can you use another word here? The prose is starting to feel somewhat repetitive even though each idea is subtly different.]. She moved her curvy body to the rhythm, trying to lose herself in the music, her white hair reflecting off the lights above [Aren't the lights reflecting off her hair? Where is the point of view? If it's Trinity's leave out 'curvy' and remember her ability to see her own hair is limited.].
I know there was an earlier version but I've not gone back to read it.

There's atmosphere here, I think, and the contrast between Trinity's loneliness and the (presumably crowded) club is interesting. If you rework, I'd suggest leaning into that contrast a bit more. Show us the crowd and the press of bodies. Also, let us hear the noise. What's the music like? Think about point of view. Is this third person limited or omniscient? To my mind, it's tending towards the latter, which is fine by me but less common in mainstream fiction at the moment. Tastes and fashions vary.

I'd not read on as written because I think the writing needs a bit of polishing. But I would read on, were it polished up because I want to know a bit more about Trinity.

Best of luck.
 
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Woollybear

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The opening to a Regency fantasy romance I'm working on:

The room was small, and the floorboards that Sophia Turnbull’s face were pressed against reeked of old ale and smoke. She’d been dumped in the center of the floor, away from whatever resources for escape the room offered, her hands bound behind her back. Bloody hostler was on the take.

This accomplishes a lot and I think it's probably really close to perfect.

The first sentence feels off somehow, but this might be personal preference. I might pull the underlined part out of it so the first sentence can be pure setting (I like the setting you've made.) Then I might try to figure out where Sophia's face-pressed physicality goes.

Or, I might reword the underlined part, the floorboards digging into Sophia's face, so that the floorboards serve as the subject of the idea (they serve as the subject in the next clause where they reeked of ale.)

As I think about it, yeah. That might be what my brain is reacting too. The sentence structure of that part. Floorboards are acting sort of as an object but then as a subject in the next clause.

But otherwise, i like this.
 
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ropottnik

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Here's the opening to my WIP regular fiction novel (is that even a meaningful term?). Happy to get suggestions on how to improve. For those who haven't seen my introductory post, I'd like to point out that my first language is not English but German. So I'm always very thankful to suggestions such as grammar, the length of sentences or anything else that you find odd.

--
Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel and was gazing into the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun. From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream, sending waves crashing onto the river bank. His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided.
--
 

ropottnik

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Dancing by herself in the club, Trinity was used to being alone. With the smell of sweat, perfume, and the colored lights above, it was the perfect place to chase away her loneliness. She moved her curvy body to the rhythm, trying to lose herself in the music, her white hair reflecting off the lights above.

Great description of the place, I can really picture it. I also agree with what people wrote above about the redundancy of the loneliness. Mentioning it over and over does little to emphasize it, to the contrary.

One thing that irked me personally was the "perfect place". But that might be just my own aversion to alliterations.

I haven't been here long enough to know if it is considered rude to suggest my own version of a piece as a way of constructive feedback. So I'm open to feedback on that too ;-)

Anyway, I would find this a more powerful way to drive home what you want to say:

---
Trinity was dancing. With the smell of sweat, perfume, and the colored lights above, the club was perfect to chase away her loneliness. She moved her curvy body to the rhythm, trying to lose herself in the music, her white hair reflecting off the lights above.
---
 
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Thecla

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Hello. I've left some comments in line.
Here's the opening to my WIP regular fiction novel (is that even a meaningful term?). Happy to get suggestions on how to improve. For those who haven't seen my introductory post, I'd like to point out that my first language is not English but German. So I'm always very thankful to suggestions such as grammar, the length of sentences or anything else that you find odd.

--
Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel [I think this should be its own sentence because the next one deals with something else. It's not wrong to connect them but, usually, it's best to stick to the basic rule of one idea per sentence. The second half of sentence 1 is much more vivid and interesting the the first, which makes me wonder if you're starting in the right place.] and was gazing [whether you keep one sentence or make it two, I'd suggest using a perfect here: (He) gazed.] into the red nothingness inside his own [cut 'own', because he'd be hard pushed to gaze into anyone else's closed eyelids.] closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun [I like this image]. From time to time container ships would pass [passed] up or down stream [I'm not sure about the time frame here as container ships move slowly. Can you set the scene more precisely by saying which river sooner? It's clearly a major one if it's navigable by container ships. The pebbles made me think he was on a beach by the sea.], sending waves crashing onto the river bank. His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided [This is vague. Tell or show but don't hint ominously!].
--
I think fiction is implicit in novel.

This lacks tension and forward drive. I'd read on for a sentence or two to see if it gained any because I like the second half of your first sentence and the ships passing in sentence 2. The cargo ships are a useful metaphor (something is moving from one place to another, but it's not Jon: life is passing him by). But sentence 3 needs reworking, I think. I want to know what hasn't passed him by!

See how other people respond before you make major changes.

Best of luck.
 
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Jazz Club

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Here's the opening to my WIP regular fiction novel (is that even a meaningful term?). Happy to get suggestions on how to improve. For those who haven't seen my introductory post, I'd like to point out that my first language is not English but German. So I'm always very thankful to suggestions such as grammar, the length of sentences or anything else that you find odd.

--
Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel (is he lying on his back on a pebbly beach, or standing on a towel? I'm finding it hard to visualise). and was gazing into the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun. From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream (but how can he see them with his eyes closed?), sending waves crashing onto the river bank. His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided.
--
I'd probably split your first sentence into two. One for the pebbles, one for the eyelids. Your third sentence has some distancing language – 'he thought' – and you could bring the point of view closer by losing this.

I dunno if it's considered rude to do a suggested rewrite, but since you went first 😉

Pebbles dug into John's back even through the towel. The summer sun beat down on his face and he stared into the bright red nothingness inside his closed eyelids. Now and then (maybe add an adjective or something here for some colour) container ships passed up and down stream. His stomach twisted. Tonight he was going to...

It isn't obvious that English is your second language, but some of the sentences are a little wordy and could be trimmed. I left a couple more comments inline.

Hope this helps
:)
 

Nether

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Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel and was gazing into the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun.

This should probably be two sentences and the prose needs some work.

From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream, sending waves crashing onto the river bank.

I find this a little hard to follow, but I'm assuming the intent is to show he's on or near a riverbank.

However, my first thought is "how big is this river?" If it's large enough to accommodate container ships going both ways, you're not likely to have the boats kick up waves that reach the shore.

His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided.

You're portraying Joe as being tense yet you also have him napping on or near a riverbank. That makes for a pretty strong contrast... but I'm not sure it's being done deliberately. Is the riverbank specific to something he needs to do?

I feel like this is probably a weak lead-in to your novel. It also feels like you're setting up a flashback or something (which, if that's the case, you're setting one scene, taking your reader to another scene, and then bringing them back to the first setting)

I'd probably suggest reworking the whole passage because I'm not sure it's doing what you want to do. However, given that this is just the first three sentences, it might tie into something past that.
 
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writer316

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Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel and was gazing into the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun. From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream, sending waves crashing onto the river bank. His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided.
"regular fiction" meaning "contemporary"? Adult/YA/NA?

"Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel" -- avoid filtering words like felt/saw/heard. It's implied that the character felt/saw/heard those things. Just say what they felt/saw/heard.

"From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream, sending waves crashing onto the river bank." is omniscient 3rd person POV (since Jon's eyes are closed), whereas the other two sentences are 3rd person limited from Jon's POV. Is your intention to follow Jon, or to do full-on omniscient?

"His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided." reads a bit like telling. Since this reads like close 3rd person limited, you could change this into one sentence of Jon's internal thoughts that illustrate the anxious mood.
 
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Woollybear

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So I'm always very thankful to suggestions such as grammar, the length of sentences or anything else that you find odd.

--
Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel and was gazing into the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun. From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream, sending waves crashing onto the river bank. His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided.
--
One thing that can be useful to think about in fiction is panning in, or panning out. Your 'red nothingness inside eyelids' is a very tight focus. So is the twisted belly. The sun and container ships are far away.

Then, think in terms of ordering each idea so that the camera tightens in, or else 'pans out.' Your details are sort of a mishmash of close and far, and I personally find that disorienting. But if you re-order them (in this case going from wide to narrow):

The early summer sun shone bright. From time to time container ships passed by, sending waves crashing to the rocky river bank. Pebbles pushed through Jon's towel into his back, and his belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do this evening. Everything could have been avoided, he thought, focusing on the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids.

I took a few liberties with the words, and those are personal choices, BUT the main thing was I started wide with the camera and focused in. Can you feel the movement of the camera zooming in?

To me, there's a smoother movement to the prose when we put some mind to panning in or panning out. Think of it as a tool you can use. So, that idea is the one thing I would comment on for you. Try to avoid zooming around with your literary camera too chaotically.
 

TheKingsWit

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Jon could feel the pebbles through his towel and was gazing into the red nothingness inside his own closed eyelids illuminated by the early summer sun. From time to time container ships would pass up or down stream, sending waves crashing onto the river bank. His belly twisted with dread when he thought about what he was going to do in the evening and how everything could have been avoided.
--

Every sentence works well on its own, but they aren’t flowing together to me. The first sentence is this very visceral, immediate description filtered through the characters senses (which I love). Then you ‘zoom out’ and give a broad-pan image of the setting that is comparatively very distant and doesn’t feel like it’s in the moment, after all, his eyes are closed, he can’t see the container ships. Then we’re back up close and personal with the characters immediate thoughts again. It creates a very bumpy effect, like a shaky camera.

I would read on though, It made me curious about why a guy who is apparently dreading something that afternoon is taking a nap on a riverbank instead of preparing. However, I’d expect to get an answer to that contradiction Pretty quickly so it doesn’t start to feel like an inconsistency.
 
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abdall

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“I don’t know why you bother with the locks and chains. It's so needlessly dramatic. I'm right where I want to be, you know.”
 

Nether

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“I don’t know why you bother with the locks and chains. It's so needlessly dramatic. I'm right where I want to be, you know.”

You know, when I first glanced at it, I thought this was something for another topic :LOL:

Personally, I'm not a fan of starting a novel with an unattributed three lines of dialogue. It takes me that much longer to feel grounded, which means it takes me longer to get engaged in the story. But readers are different.

Beyond that, you have "know" twice in the first three sentences. (You could change the first one to "I'm not sure why you bother..." or just cut the "you know" to remove the repetition.)

I feel like the first sentence could be phrased a little better, but it works. Personally, because I have a lot of bad habits, I'd probably combine the first and second sentences with a hyphen to make it punchier. However, something about the combination of the three sentences is a little jarring and takes me out of the scene (which I'm not grounded in anyway) almost immediately. I think it's because the combination of the second and third sentences winds up being a bit much because it feels like you're jumping from one thing to another.

But, in general, whenever something starts with dialogue, I have to read to see who's speaking before I can get any real impression of the story.
 

Janine R

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“I don’t know why you bother with the locks and chains. It's so needlessly dramatic. I'm right where I want to be, you know.”
Have very little idea of what's going on or who the characters or where it's taking place. One person being held hostage, or some sort of S&M? If it's a hostage speaking, then the statement that they want to be there takes the conflict/drama out if the situation. Alternatively, the third sentence could be a manipulation to try persuade the captor to free them, but the second sentence doesn't quite fit that scenario. There's too little here to make any kind of decision, so would read another sentence of two.
 

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No problem. It was my interpretation, but I respect and appreciate the response. It sounds like this is deliberate, and I like seeing your reasoning. :)@iBleed2
 

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“I don’t know why you bother with the locks and chains. It's so needlessly dramatic. I'm right where I want to be, you know.”

I agree about the unattributed dialogue. The line itself is attention grabbing so that's good. Without context this could be anything from BDSM to a prison guard with radical new ideas to someone advising a neighbour about home security. Maybe the cover/blurb/genre would give some clues. But for me, these lines are too isolated from context to grab me.

Of course, this game is quite artificial as I suspect line 4 will be a dialogue tag or action beat and this plus line 5 will give me all the context I need, and I'd read at least those before making any judgements. There's nothing that trips me up in the lines that would stop me getting to line 4 and 5. It reads smoothly and sounds like how someone would speak. Plus I'm not bothered about the repetition of "know" because it's dialogue, and people speak like that.
 
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ropottnik

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avoid filtering words like felt/saw/heard. It's implied that the character felt/saw/heard those things. Just say what they felt/saw/heard.
Thanks a lot for that. It's one of the major things I will focus on when going over the first chapter again.

"regular fiction" meaning "contemporary"? Adult/YA/NA?
I think YA might get it right. What I was trying to express was that there was no horror/sf/fantasy involved.

You're portraying Joe as being tense yet you also have him napping on or near a riverbank. That makes for a pretty strong contrast... but I'm not sure it's being done deliberately. Is the riverbank specific to something he needs to do?
You're absolutely right, it's completely inconsistent. Thanks for pointing it out.

One thing that can be useful to think about in fiction is panning in, or panning out. Your 'red nothingness inside eyelids' is a very tight focus. So is the twisted belly. The sun and container ships are far away.

Then, think in terms of ordering each idea so that the camera tightens in, or else 'pans out.' Your details are sort of a mishmash of close and far, and I personally find that disorienting. But if you re-order them (in this case going from wide to narrow):
Wow, this didn't ever occur to me, makes complete sense.

I dunno if it's considered rude to do a suggested rewrite, but since you went first 😉

Pebbles dug into John's back even through the towel. The summer sun beat down on his face and he stared into the bright red nothingness inside his closed eyelids. Now and then (maybe add an adjective or something here for some colour) container ships passed up and down stream. His stomach twisted. Tonight he was going to...
Amazing, thanks! :D
 

Ink-Soul

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BUT the main thing was I started wide with the camera and focused in. Can you feel the movement of the camera zooming in?
Just wanted to intrude on your reply to say that I've never thought about this device before, but it's great! Another tool for the toolbox :D
 
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Ink-Soul

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All right, here comes mine:

“Carys vch Arianell a Ellis. Come forth and declare the epithet you wish to honour for as long as you wear the sacred mantle.”

I stepped forward, ignoring a dozen pairs of eyes following me, trying to guess my choice.
 

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All right, here comes mine:

“Carys vch Arianell a Ellis. Come forth and declare the epithet you wish to honour for as long as you wear the sacred mantle.”

I stepped forward, ignoring a dozen pairs of eyes following me, trying to guess my choice.
This does draw me in, but there were a couple of confusing moments. 1) The first sentence, which is your character's name, I guess? But it took me a moment of thinking to realise that. 2) The third sentence. I think you mean that the dozen pairs of eyes are trying to guess what your character is going to choose? The phrasing is a little confusing and it made me stumble for a moment.

I'm not 100% sure what the second sentence means but I'd read on to find out. You've got my interest, especially with the detail about the inquisitive onlookers!
 
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mrsmig

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All right, here comes mine:

“Carys vch Arianell a Ellis. Come forth and declare the epithet you wish to honour for as long as you wear the sacred mantle.”

I stepped forward, ignoring a dozen pairs of eyes following me, trying to guess my choice.
Yeah, the image of 24 inquisitive eyeballs rolling after the narrator kind of took me out of the story.
 

BlackMoth

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All right, here comes mine:

“Carys vch Arianell a Ellis. Come forth and declare the epithet you wish to honour for as long as you wear the sacred mantle.”

I stepped forward, ignoring a dozen pairs of eyes following me, trying to guess my choice.
I actually didn't have any problem with this. Normally I feel a little lost with the first sentence being a bit of unattributed dialogue, but I liked this. I also didn't got it was the MC's name, as I quickly realized it was fantasy as the names reminded me some of the names from The Witcher universe, ala Yennefer z Vengerbergu or Emhyr var Emrys. Also got the picture of the eyes of various courtiers following the MC through inference. Maybe not the most rip-roaring start ever, but enough to intrigue me to read on!
 
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Ink-Soul

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This does draw me in, but there were a couple of confusing moments. 1) The first sentence, which is your character's name, I guess? But it took me a moment of thinking to realise that.
Yes, that's her name! It's based on the old Welsh naming system, and I suspected it could be confusing, but I wanted to take the risk haha The first version didn't have it, but I thought it was missing something. Putting it in another place didn't sound quite right either because the epithet she's choosing is supposed to substitute her "surname". Now that I think about it, I could try to place it a bit later, specify that she's changing from this to this.
2) The third sentence. I think you mean that the dozen pairs of eyes are trying to guess what your character is going to choose? The phrasing is a little confusing and it made me stumble for a moment.
Yes, that was what I tried to say haha I'll revise this part.
I'm not 100% sure what the second sentence means but I'd read on to find out. You've got my interest, especially with the detail about the inquisitive onlookers!
Glad to hear that. Thanks for the feedback! :D
 
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Ink-Soul

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I actually didn't have any problem with this. Normally I feel a little lost with the first sentence being a bit of unattributed dialogue, but I liked this. I also didn't got it was the MC's name, as I quickly realized it was fantasy as the names reminded me some of the names from The Witcher universe, ala Yennefer z Vengerbergu or Emhyr var Emrys. Also got the picture of the eyes of various courtiers following the MC through inference. Maybe not the most rip-roaring start ever, but enough to intrigue me to read on!
I'm usually not a fan of starting with unattributed dialogue either, but I thought it worked here since it's soon followed by the action explaining what's happening. Glad you approved :D Aye, the name is based on the old Welsh/Celtic system haha Okay, two people found it confusing, I'll have to reconsider this first sentence (and the third, obviously!).

Thanks for the feedback!
 
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