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Author Topic: Paragon (revised)
CaptJay76
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ok, here's a revised version.

Kyle woke up to the heat of the summer sun shining through his bedroom window. Through bleary eyes, he caught sight of his alarm clock, partially hidden behind a stack of comic books. 1:14? Jeez, I slept all day. Swaying as he rose from his bed, Kyle almost fell back onto it. His head was pounding. He hoped it wasn't something serious. He had two whole months left to enjoy before school.
Kyle stumbled to the bathroom. His head swimming, and his eyes still half closed, he turned on the faucet to splash some water in his face. The cool water seemed to help a bit, but he felt much worse when he caught his reflection in the mirror. His eyes, normally a dark brown, were now deep purple. And glowing.


[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]


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jezzahardin
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I forget where I read it, but I understand it's a cliché to have your character introduction description happening this way: character sees him/herself in a mirror and 'notices' things.

The reason is that we wouldn't notice things about ourselves in a mirror. We would just look in the mirror and see...what we see every day.

Now, I realise this isn't the case with your beginning (because the character is changing). He would notice those changes.

Still, I'm left wondering if this is the best way to introduce a character. I suppose because this segment is leaning toward telling rather than showing.

Along those lines, I'd consider some sort of dialogue, just so we can hear the character think/speak. This breaks up the feeling that you are telling the reader a string of facts and events. The line, Seeing is believing, right? is a perfect opportunity for a speaking part.

quote:
The only thing keeping him from panicking and calling his grandfather was how bizarre it all was. Not to mention Pops wouldn’t believe him. The Lawsons were a family full of pranksters.

This is conveying motivation, and important, I think. But it's three sentences to say why Kyle isn't calling pop. I think this can be said more concisely and potently.

I would read on, though. I like the voice, and I want to know why Kyle's eyes are different.

Best,
Jez

EDIT: I couldn't find where I read it, but here is a book saying just that.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=1AM825Ny4v 0C&lpg=PA55&ots=MdU4cpWBh5&dq=mirror%20writing%20cliche&pg=PA55#v=onepage&q=&f=false

(From Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft
By H. Thomas Milhorn )

quote:
Another cliché situation often employed by new writers is to have a character stare into a mirror. The writer then describes the image the character sees in the mirror.

[This message has been edited by jezzahardin (edited September 08, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by jezzahardin (edited September 08, 2009).]


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Devnal
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I agree with jezzahardin, I feel like I've read this a thousand times somewhere else. I don't have a problem with the writing itself, I have a problem with this being the beginning of your novel.

I feel the importance of the story is directed to Kyle's eyes, and not to Kyle, who is who I need to be concerned about. Interesting details of a character are just that; interesting. I am not going to grow any more attached to the color of his eyes throughout the story. If I am going to read a novel, and its something I pick up and put down over a span of a few days, a week, etc. The tone you're setting here is not going to hold me. I want to know kyle before the changes. Who he is, what his problems are, etc. The parts that I picked up on: Why is his grandfather the first person he would call? where are his parents, or siblings? Is Pops and grandfather the same person?


Like I said, I don't have a problem with the excerpt (for the most part) but it feels like the beginning of the second or third chapter of a novel. I am missing who Kyle is. I know most people will say the details will come later, but there is too much attached to those needed details here, IMHO.


crit of first 13;

--------------


For the fifth time, Kyle gazed into the bathroom mirror. And for the fifth time, his newly amethyst eyes stared back at him.( for me, the use of "fifth" is too much. it is repeated again at the end of the 13. I get the bugs bunny double, triple quadruple-take here, it feels exaggerated. Less can be more when something out of the ordinary is happening. What kind of effect would it have on the reader if you wrote. "Kyle glanced back into the mirror. It hadn't been his imagination; Where last night his eyes had been brown, they now were Amethyst." or along those lines? If you feel this sentence is fine and decide to keep it as is, let me point out the verb usage of "newly amethyst" is akward. I would suggest saying "New amethyst) He had gone to bed with brown eyes, of that he was quite sure.(delete "of that he was quite sure." Adds nothing to the story, we know he is suprised at his new eyes he doesnt have to convince me at this point) But there they were. Purple. A deep, dark purple with a strange gloss to them, more than simply reflecting the light, they seemed to be lightly glowing.(I really liked the description here, I thought this was very well done) The only thing keeping him from panicking and calling his grandfather was how bizarre it all was.(this last sentence seems a bit weak) Not to mention Pops wouldn’t believe him. The Lawsons were a family full of pranksters. Plus, there were the other changes to his face and body to consider. He decided he would sit down, and try to think of how this might have happened,( I get the mental image of kyle sitting down on the edge of his bed like the Thinker, head on fist, looking quizzically at the ground, which to me seems forced. What would really happen in this situation? if my eyes turned purple I wouldnt sit down quietly and contemplate what might have caused it. I'd panic. I'd check that I hadnt left my contacts in. I'd check that my vision was okay (maybe scan the neighborhood out the nearest window to make sure I wasnt blurry and had no blind spots. I'd probably Google the problem, phone my eye doctor, etc. Kyle could be different from me though, but knowing little about him I feel his reaction is a bit down toned to a regular person) and wait for Pops to come home.(is pops and grandfather the same person?) Seeing is believing, right? Except Kyle had looked in the mirror five times, and (its that five times that's bugging me again. Does kyle have OCD? if he does, this could be a very interesting reoccurance that he insists on looking Five times, and remembering his looked exactly Five times. Otherwise it is a weak way of showing his disbelief and shock.)


-=-----------


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SavantIdiot
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For the fifth time, (like the last poster, unless he has OCD, this is going to distract the reader. "Five times? *He's counting*?") Kyle gazed into the bathroom mirror. And for the fifth time, his newly (I would like to see the ly dropped from new) amethyst eyes (you know what; this is a boy, right? Would he even think 'amethyst'? his new eyes; you're about to describe them anyway) stared back at him. He had gone to bed with brown eyes, of that he was quite sure. But there they were. (:?) Purple. A deep, dark purple with a strange gloss to them, more than simply reflecting the light, they seemed to be lightly glowing. The only thing keeping him from panicking and calling his grandfather (I think the phrase has promise to be very good but it needs a little more work - think how to show us his burgeoning panic without telling us he's panicking.) was how bizarre it all was. Not to mention Pops wouldn’t believe him. (He'll believe when he sees him, surely.) The Lawsons were a family full of pranksters. Plus, there were the other changes to his face and body to consider. He decided he would sit down, and try to think of how this might have happened, and wait for Pops to come home. (If this were me, I would take something and go back to bed.) Seeing is believing, right? Except Kyle had looked in the mirror five times, and

As an experiment, just for fun, you might try two things. Have someone else describe the boy's changed appearance and see how you write that. Maybe pops comes in to wake him up for school and falls back onto his seat. OR I think you should consider just writing this in the first person. I think you want to be in this kid's head so it might flow better that way and be more fun for you and your reader if you just became the kid. If you were speaking as him instead of someone else doing the direct interpretation it might change things in an interesting way.


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CaptJay76
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Hey everyone, thanks for all your comments and suggestions. I don't take any criticism the wrong way, it all helps. But here's where I stumble. Maybe you can help. Just going through some of your comments; A)I can't write this in the first person. Won't work later. There are other POVs later on. B) taking the time to decribe Kyle, letting you get to know him before you find out something's happened would be nice, but I want to grab the reader's attention right away. Average teenager, average bedroom, average house, average town...nothing really exciting. That's why I want to open with the purple eyes. C) He can't "take something and go back to bed." That's not in his character. I have heard a lot of people tell me how they would react to this situation. The only problem is, I'm not wrting about any of you. The way Kyle reacts (or doesn't react) comes from his character, and how he was brought up, who he is. I can't believe I actually found myself compromising my writing. Not sure if I'll be reposting it here or not.
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Kitti
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Maybe you could begin this with a little more action. How old is he, exactly? Is it a school/work day or is he getting up on the weekend? What time has he gotten out of bed and where's he going? When does he look into the mirror and notice the purple eyes?

Just an example: Suppose you start with telling (all the showing details not necessary) about him getting out of bed, stumbling into the bathroom because it's waaaay too early in the morning and he hates that he has to get up before the sun in the winter to go to school. Flicks on the bathroom lights, they hurt, he's brushing his teeth, looks up to see if he's got all the toothpaste off his mouth and THEN does a double-take as he realizes he's now got purple eyes. And we get the freak out moment.

That might be longer than you want before the initial revelation, but I think that's generally what's missing from this beginning - you've started just a little too late. We have no sense of the life interrupted by this bizarre development, or his immediate reaction to seeing his purple eyes. We get the "after" scene where he's just staring into the mirror and hoping the eyes have gone back to normal.


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CaptJay76
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Kitti-
Thanks for your comments. I actually tried writing it the way you described, while I was contemplating some of the other comments I've received. And I actually found that I didn't mind the way it was going. Not really the way I wanted it, but not too bad.
My problem with this approach, is getting to something exciting in the first 13 lines. I want something there that will hook the reader, make them ask, "What the heck is going on here?"
One way my story differs from most that I've read on this site is that it begins HERE and NOW. No exotic alien landscape, no other time period, no poetic names and flowing robes, no strange creatures or mysterious beings, no battles.
It starts in an ordinary bedroom in an ordinary house, in a small town, in the U.S., in 2009.
So how do I hook the reader here? Originally, I opened with the realization that his eyes were purple. More about who Kyle is, where he is, etc., come later. But comments here suggest I should introduce Kyle FIRST. The problem being, Kyle is not all that interesting prior to this new "event". He's a good kid, but no one you'd want to read a 500 page novel about. I just can't get to the "hook" in the first 13, without feeling like I'm rushing to it. And when I write that way, it feels cheap. It feels like I'm writing fluff just to get to the meat. I would write about Kyle all day to introduce him to the reader, but I can't just write a couple of quick sentences just to get him to a mirror. I don't like anything in my writing that doesn't NEED to be there.
So, therein lies my problem. There's probably a simple way out, but I haven't stumbled upon it yet. Thoughts?

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]


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CaptJay76
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I'll be damned. As soon as I hit "submit", I thought of a way out of this. Maybe. I'll post a revised first 13 in a bit.
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Lionhunter
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quote:

Time was running out for Kyle.His mom worried that he spend all his time in the bathroom,instead of preparing for school.When the bus reaches the house,she yells at him,all the way from the kitchen,to the second story bathroom.
“Kyle!Your bus is here!I made your lunch,get down here!”.Her voice is soft,but Kyle undoubtly gets the message,and almost forgot why he stared at the mirror for half an hour.He needs to go.But when he turns his head toward the mirror,a chill takes over his body.Kyle sees his hair,slightly whiter then before,his deep purple eyes,and weird canines,none of which he could explain.His can only think one thing:”What the hell happened to me last night?”.But most of all,the eyes scared him.

Perhaps this beginning is more catchier?Then again,i barely know how to write,so...Anyways,this is just a suggestion,and i find your idea interesting.

[This message has been edited by Lionhunter (edited September 13, 2009).]


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CaptJay76
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Lionhunter-
Don't put yourself down! I kinda like that opening. It doesn't work AT ALL for my story, but it's cool in its own right. And I appreciate the input. My revision will be up shortly....

---And now I kinda like the idea of his hair going white...Hadn't considered that. Might play around with it.

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]


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CaptJay76
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OK, I posted my revision at the top of this thread. One thing I want to note. The items in quotes are thoughts, not spoken word. I wanted it to be in italics, but I can't seem to get that to work on here. In my actual draft, that's all italics.

Lemme know!


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Lionhunter
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Yep,i like it,much better,much more personal.Would read on.Also like the bit with the comic books.
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CaptJay76
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Thanks Lionhunter! Yeah, my own alarm clock is generally hidden by comic books as well...
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Kitti
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Much better, though I feel like some of his thoughts might come off better as 3rd person deep penetration. E.g. "His head was pounding. He felt like crap. No wonder he slept in so late. He hoped he wasn't getting sick." In my mind there's a difference between random thoughts in my head and things I subvocalize (e.g. comments barely held back from being spoken aloud) - the latter are what I put in italics.

You can get the italics by putting [ i ] in front of the section and [ / i ] afterwards (but take out the spaces, which I put in to keep from invisibly formatting my text by accident). Replace i in the example with b for bold, u for underline, and the word quote for quotes.


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CaptJay76
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Kitti- That's a great tip, thanks. It felt a little "thought heavy" to me as well. That second line of "thoughts" Kyle has felt awkward to me while writing it. I think I will change that part. Also, by doing that, I will be able to fill in another small, but possibly important, piece of info about Kyle. And thanks for the italics how-to as well. I know my way around MS Word, but these forums baffle me.

Revision is up.

Lemme know!

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 13, 2009).]


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CaptJay76
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If anyone is interested, I started a "Character Interview" for Kyle. I'd love it for you guys to check that out. But beware of spoilers!!!

[This message has been edited by CaptJay76 (edited September 14, 2009).]


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skadder
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Hi,

One main problem is starting story a with your MC waking up is a cliche. Check the Turkey City Lexicon.

You have two 'through' that echo in the first and second sentence due to the fact only three words seperate them.

-Through bleary eyes, he caught sight of his alarm clock, partially hidden behind a stack of comic books.

The second comma isn't required, IMO, and the start seems clunky.

Is his heart pounding the reference to the '..he hoped it wasn't serious...'? Because, if he was concerned about it, surely he would fixate on that first and not the time and working out how long he'd slept.

The mirror-trick is a cliche, but in this instance because you use only to point out something that has changed I think it is okay.

How did the cool water help? I thought it was his heart. If you mention this you ought to make a connection.

[This message has been edited by skadder (edited September 14, 2009).]


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jezzahardin
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I think this second version is much better, personally.

I would read on, but I think it should be pointed out that (on the same page as my google book link, one paragraph above the comment about mirrors), the following is stated.
(From Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft
By H. Thomas Milhorn )

quote:
A cliché situation sometimes used by novice writers is to open their story with the protagonist waking up, getting dressed, and traveling to some site where the action begins.

The decision to keep the waking/mirror scene at the beginning remains with the author, but I think it's worth keeping in mind that agents/editors reading hundreds and hundreds of stories might be seeing a lot of this and associating it with inexperience.


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CaptJay76
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Skadder and jezzahardin- Thanks to both of you for some really good comments. Keep em coming.

Skadder-Your technical tips, like the commas and so forth, were great, and spot on. I probably would have caught it myself down the road, but this is the beauty of a fresh pair of eyes looking at your work. I agree with pretty much all of your tips. Gonna revise accordingly.
One thing though, just for my own peace of mind. It's his HEAD that's pounding, not his heart. Not an anxiety thing or anything. Just a headache, which coincides with the change his body's experiences. I actually had to reread it myself to make sure I didn't type heart! Maybe that will make a bit more sense to you now! Anyhoo, thanks again. Always appreciated.

jezzahardin- Thank you. I feel a lot better about this opening as well. Some awkwardness in it yet, as skadder pointed out, but a lot better, I think. I see what you mean about the cliché. The mirror HAS to stay, simply because that's how a person would notice a change in his or her appearance. But the waking up bit....yeah, I see what you mean. Not sure I can get around it, but I'll play with it a bit. We'll see. Again, thanks much. Always appreciated.


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skadder
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Sorry--sloppy reader. Still rather than tell us that splashing the water helped you could say that it made the pounding subside a little--so we get some idea of an actual effect.
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shimiqua
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What if you started with other people noticing the color of his eyes. Then you can show what his status is, and how he relates to the world, and more imortantly how the world relates to him.
It might be more active "everyone is looking at me, because my eyes are purple," then "Hey look, my eyes are purple."

Or as another suggestion, you could start a bit earlier, right before he blacks out. There has to be a clue or something that would stick us into the story. What was he doing outside? what was he trying to do, how did his brain function before the crazyness happened?

Or, you could start even earlier than that, he could be on the bus to school or something, and someone sinister is watching him, perhaps a lady with a scar shaped like a bird? Then when things start to change, the reader cares, because we know what it's changing from.

Just suggestions. I don't think you are starting at the right place.

I do really like the story idea, and your world from the character interviews seems really well thought out. I would be interested in reading, if and when you're ready for readers.
~Sheena


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Devnal
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This thirteen is way better than your first 13!

Nice job on the rewrite.


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SavantIdiot
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I like this much better. Nice work!
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Andrew_McGown
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I didn't read your first, but this is kinda cool.
Well done for keeping at it.

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CaptJay76
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Hey guys, thanks for all those great comments. I really appreciate them. I have a bit more tweaking to do, I think, but I'm much happier with this opening also.

Also, I write longhand, so most of this novel thus far is on legal pads. The idea of transcribing it all to the computer now seems horribly tedious. But, obviously I have to do it, and when I do, would anyone be interested in reading the first chapter or two?


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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CaptJay76, it might make things a little easier if you consider the process of typing it into the computer as one of your rewrites.
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CaptJay76
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KDW- Oh, I absolutely do think that way. I'm just such a procrastinator!
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Architectus
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My advice is going to sound like a repeat, but I would start the novel a bit before this. Let us get to know his daily routine, in an exciting way of course, before he starts to change. Think of Ginger Snaps, if you've ever watched it.

Often beginners, not saying you are one, will start a novel with the MC waking up. Unless there is a good reason to, I would recommend starting elsewhere. Walking home from school, in wood-shop class, rushing from table to table in his part-time bussing job, etc.

Some clean up tips. ļ_
Consider changing "Kyle woke up," to "Kyle awoke."

" His head swimming, and his eyes still half closed, he turned on the faucet to splash some water in his face"
What a bout this?
Head swimming, eyes half closed, he turned on the faucet to splash water on his face.


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