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Author Topic: Some Unwanted Attention- goth/horror (3900)
ozwonderdog
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As prompted from the open discussion about the first 13 lines in a story...

Dahoza’Ma’Tapetal, or as he preferred to call himself, Darren, sat in a corner booth of a coffee shop in a small town. The town was just far enough from the city for that ‘country charm’, but close enough that city workers could make the ninety-minute commute in their urban recreational vehicles.
It was late. The ‘after’ crowd was coming in dribs and drabs. They came for coffee after dinner, after the movies, after a show. Those who dotted the tables were dressed in their best, yet compared to Darren they looked plain. He was dressed nice. More than that, he was dressed expensive. And yet people paid him very little attention.


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Devnal
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Hi,

Reading your first thirteen I saw hints that more important things are afoot thatn Darren just sitting in a coffee shop. I like slow starters like this personally, but for an attention grabber that often is looked for on the thirteen, you might want to start with more. Is he a vampire, or a demon or something? Right now he's just a guy, with a long name, people watching at a coffee shop. (which I think is FINE, but its not an attention grabber).

IMHO, I would cut out the talk about the town and where the people who are in the coffee shop came from and who is commuting, and get to the meat and potatoes! I bet there's something wicked cool thats going to go down in that coffee shop, or something revealed to us that will make us want to read on!

--------
example:

Darren sat by himself in a corner booth, casually sipping a latte. It was late in the evening and many of the other coffee shop patrons were dressed in their best, having come from a late show or dinner in the city. Compared to Darren, they looked plain. He was dressed more than nice, he was dressed expensive.

----
only five lines and change, plenty o' room to get to the good stuff.

[This message has been edited by Devnal (edited March 12, 2008).]


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InarticulateBabbler
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Hi. I see you made it.

First I'll give you my take, then--if you're in no rush--you can email me the rest and I'll tell you what I think would help the beginning.

Here's My take:

quote:

Dahoza’Ma’Tapetal, or as he preferred to call himself, Darren[If he calls himself Darren, that's how he will think of himself. If the other name becomes relevant later, use it then.], sat in a corner booth of a coffee shop in [a small town. The town<--[Name the town. Less words, cleaner, and we'll feel some of its personality when you describe it.] was just far enough from [the city<--What City? another way of conserving words to get into the meat--no pun intended--of the story would be to say: {Town Name} was rural enough] for that ‘country charm’, but close enough that city workers could make the ninety-minute commute in their [urban recreational vehicles<--[What are these? Like SUVs or like mopeds and motorcycles or cushmans?].
It was late<--[Ambiguous. How late. Late for dinner (8:00pm) or late for partiers (1:00am-3:00am)?]. The ‘after’ crowd was coming in dribs and drabs. They came for coffee after dinner, after the movies, after a show.<--[Still ambiguous. What were they coming after now? A rave? How many shows are an-hour-and-a-half out of the city?] Those who dotted the tables were dressed in their best, yet compared to Darren they looked plain. [He was dressed nice. More than that, he was dressed expensive.<--Redundant. Nice and expensive is just repeating "better than the crowd who were dressed in their best". I can't picture this. Therefore, it takes away from the story.] And yet people paid him very little attention. [Huh?]

First off, you're two lines short of thirteen.

As so often happens, this lacks more than just not being quick into the action:
1) Sharpen the PoV.
2) Trim all redundancies, and look for clearer ways to say things.
3) The Speculative element is not present (what KayTi was mentioning in Open Discussions About Witing). Nothing says either Goth or Horror in this first 13. Editors (and slush readers ) can be hard-@$$es about this. It's one of the top ten reasons for getting an outright rejection.
4) Creating mystery isn't the same as omitting something the PoV character knows. And we all know: what the PoV character knows, we should.

Bad example, making all sorts of assumptions:

The red leather creaked as Darren Tapetal shifted in the corner booth of Maxine's Coffee Shop. He gazed through the window at the bumbling bar crowd crossing the parking lot. He checked the neon-ringed clock over the counter. Yep. It was half-past closing time. Bed time for some; for him, dinner time. They erupted through the glass double-doors, laughing, bellowing and singing off-key--everything he hated about how society had developed in the last century, all wrapped up in trousers three-sizes too big or skirts three-sizes too small. There was bound to be one...

Lights flashed in the parking lot and she strode in holding a remote control keychain by her ear: the designated driver. Yes. He preferred his candy non-acoholic.

Edited to say: I hope this helps. That is the intent.

[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited March 13, 2008).]


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TheOnceandFutureMe
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quote:
Dahoza’Ma’Tapetal, or as he preferred to call himself, Darren

I laughed out loud at this. Seriously, I'm in the library, and people are looking at me funny. I don't know if you intended it to be funny, but because you have such a bizarre name first, and then "Darren," you create an incongruity that is quite hilarious.

Other than that, what Devnal and IAB said. I've got some guy that might be a demon sitting at a coffee shop. You choose to focus on the coffee shop. I've seen coffee shops. I know what they look like. When you say "coffee shop," I know coffee shop. Show me the demon! (Or whatever he is). Get to the aforementioned "meat and potatoes" (or children's flesh - w/e demons eat).

[This message has been edited by TheOnceandFutureMe (edited March 12, 2008).]


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Bent Tree
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It is nearly impossible to post after Inarticulate Babbler. His analysis was very thourough. I'll second or third the introductory name however. What the POV considers himself, we should also consider him. That is until someone else( his antagonist) calls him by this name. Then it would be fitting to gets his feelings about this name.

I'll give a go at the whole piece if you are looking for a reader.


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Wolfe_boy
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I've got a few thoughts on this as well, though Bent Tree is correct - it is difficult to remain relevant once IB has sunk his teeth in, chewed your story to little bits, and digested it thoroughly.

1. The name is patently ridiculous, though if you're married to it (and we all get that way from time to time) have another demon refer to him by this name in a formal manner if you feel the need to include it.

2. You seem to be lacking focus. Are you telling us the story of a demon, or are you telling us the story of a coffee shop in a small town? Do the "after crowd" really matter that much? The proximity to the "city"?

3. You're telling an awful lot in this first 13. If these details are important to the story, find a way of working them in through dialogue, or through Darren's own actions. Using the narrator to tell us all of this info about distances and the sartorial status of the coffee shop patrons is boring, frankly.

4. Again with the telling, but this stands out a little more to me, don't tell me that Darren is dressed "expensive". Show it to me. A long elegant black coat that brushes the floor when he sits in the chair. Feeling the warmth of his camomile tea through his supple leather gloves.

I think that a focus on the story you want to tell will benefit your writing the most. IB's rewrite certainly accomplishes this, by only looking at the details that are pertinent to the character and his motivations. This lack of focus in the beginning of a story isn't uncommon, though, which is why it's important to revise, particularly your first 13 lines - extended as far as needed to accomplish the proper focus needed.

Good luck with this.

Jayson Merryfield


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KayTi
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I'll break with the pack on the expensive part - I get the irony/point you're setting up with it. He wasn't just dressed well, he was dressed expensive(ly - I'm sooo not grammar girl but i think it's a modifier therefore really needs the ly. In which case it should be reworded so that it's not necessary.) And that sets up a contrast where nobody is paying him any attention. But why? That's a hook, probably, but may need more setup to get us hooked in.

Is he preening and trying to look his best yet still people don't notice him? Do people never notice the demons of the Tapetal line thanks to his ancestors' natural chameleon magic (or whatever)? Is he hoping to get noticed? Should he be noticed? Maybe the pointy teeth?

The other thing I would suggest in addition to the good feedback that is here (which is great feedback to help you sharpen this intro, which is a fine start) - is to lose the single quotes. They instantly dulled the impact because it felt parenthetical. While that might be how we communicate in email and here, parenthesis and single quotes stick out like a sore thumb in fiction.

I am finding it hard to walk the line between showing and telling, as some have pointed out in this thread, and in making sure not to be deliberately obscuring information from the reader. For instance, you could just say "it was late and the after crowd was filtering in." you don't need to explain after what unless that's relevant. Saying after crowd combined with a coffee shop should be adequate for most readers to get a sense of the environment, which I think is all you're setting up here.

Oh, and if it's Darren's town - it should be in town, or something else that indicates he belongs there. If he's a stranger there, then the "in a small town" is fine (though I agree with IB's suggestions about setting up the town name - it's no secret.)

Good luck with this. I don't read horror so I can't offer to read more for you, sorry about that.


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rickfisher
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quote:
They called him Mahasamatman. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam.
--Roger Zelazny, opening line of the Hugo-winning novel Lord of Light (quoted from memory, so it might not be exact, but it's close.)

Yours isn't the same--quite--but this is an additional strike against that first line.

[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited March 14, 2008).]


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ozwonderdog
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I haven't even read the Zelazny book... dammit
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