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Author Topic: Heart of Glass
epeckelhart
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Still a working title. I'm just looking for feedback on these first thirteen lines as the book is still a work in progress. If you're interested however, I can email the outline and feedback on that would be greatly appreciated as well. Anyway, here it is.

Nineteen year old Leilah Payne sat atop the empire she had built and looked out at the world with bitter, unfeeling eyes. Behind her, a door slid soundlessly open and a blonde Machiavellian man with a green stare placed a file on her desk.
“What is it?” she asked, not tearing her gaze from the expanse of buildings and light that lay before her.
“Something you’d have to see to believe.”
A raised eyebrow turned the chair to face him, acerbic grin tugging mockingly at the right side of her mouth.
“A ghost?”
“An old friend.”
The grin vanished.

Thanks so much!

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Denevius
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Maybe a bit too wordy. Not all adverbs are bad, but I don't think the ones you're using are working to the benefit of the prose. There's no reason to believe the door would open anything other than without noise, so 'soundlessly' is unnecessary. Plus, even if it did open with some noise, I'm not sure what difference it'd make to Payne. Though I think you slip out of her POV when you describe the man walking in, as how would she know what he looks like, or that he entered, if she's looking out the window at the city?

I guess you start out with the age since it's unusual that Payne had built an empire so early. For me, it's a bit distracting. The opening of a story with an age seems clunky.

I actually kind of feel like this is a writing exercise, as you try to go for as many descriptions as possible: Payne's age, the expression of her eyes, 'bitter' and 'unfeeling' (which seems like a contradiction, as bitterness is a feeling), the silent door, the blonde Machiavellian (which reminds me of the thread conversation we have, as why blonde), the expanse of buildings.

And this is just personal preference, but I'm not a big fan of narrative withholding. Instead of saying 'An old friend', perhaps just a name, though readers won't make a connection anyway. But I feel that in a similar situation, the messenger would just use the person's name instead of being coy about it.

Who wants to make a leader of an empire engage in a guessing game?

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epeckelhart
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Ok, I see what you're saying. I did want to mention the age but putting it elsewhere seemed more awkward. I'm a sucker for narrative withholding but I do like the idea of the name, because regardless the audience still won't know. Thanks!
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Denevius
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Unless the character's age is absolutely essential to the opening, you can probably hold off on it and let it come up naturally in the prose. Descriptions will let people know your character is young. Inferences will let readers know that what the character has accomplished in contrast to her (?) age is significant.
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Grumpy old guy
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Well, you've gotten me wondering; not about the 13 lines but why'd you want to try and write the beginning while your story is still a WIP? Obviously, you need to start any story with a beginning but, for me, I can't find the appropriate place to start the story until I've fleshed the whole thing out and roughed out the first draft, at least a scene by scene outline.

So, are you certain this is where you want to start your story and do you know exactly what you want to happen after this? Have you answered the most important question about any beginning: What does this opening scene have to do?

Having said all that, coming across this: "Leilah Payne sat atop the empire she had built," sets me to giggling as I imagine what sitting on an empire for a prolonged time would do to her fundament?

It's indicative of lazy and careless writing. Other examples are: His eyes roamed around the room (Couldn't he keep them in his eye sockets?), Her gaze fell on him (Did it hurt?) and a whole host of others you can look up on-line.

Phil.

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CO Thompson
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Phil,

Interesting. . . I tend to think of a very rough story board/plot; and then two or three aspects present their-selves for further development. I also have several pads of paper with which I track various aspects of characters, cultures, equipment or environment. When I have an idea I may jot it down on the active note tablet and then give it more thought as I either type it into the word processor or transcribe it to the primary notes tablet.

I also got the image of a young woman sitting on a mound of accomplishments and found that distracting. Now that you mention it I epeckelhart and I were both guilty of putting the cart ahead of the horse since I am nowhere near ready to submit for edit or peer review yet, I found this forum and became enthused with the opportunity.

Epeckelhart, I expect that you also have come to understand how much cannot be said in 13 lines of text, yet; it is true that we need to quickly capture the attention and interest of our reader (in the case of a publishers editors) perhaps jaded by the volume that crosses their desk or our work goes into the slush pile where it is buried and lost forever.

A Publisher has a limit on the number of works they will buy/publish in a month/quarter and your work might be a better story (overall) than the one they committed to last week but, the quota is filled. Still Denevius and Grumpy made good points.

Don't give up. Your personal story and the one you are writing are better for how the main character overcomes obstacles. If you have 95 years of peaceful existence and three weeks of adversity, the human public is more interested in how you deal with the rough patch than all the days of bliss.

Charlie

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JSchuler
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I am intrigued by the last few lines, but there's one problem: she's 19. How does she have an "old friend?" Unless you mean the friend is literally old, as opposed to someone she has known for a long time.

Or maybe my assumption is wrong and Leilah Payne is not human at all, and is instead a member of a much shorter-lived species. In which case, for that aspect at least, it's not a bad setup.

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Grumpy old guy
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epeckelhart, in thinking about my post I hope I wasn't too obnoxious. I was simply wondering if this is the 'right' opening scene for your story? Because, quite frankly, in my own case I usually end up with at least three or four different openings for a story. Well, that was until I changed my approach to writing. Now I know where the story starts by the end of 'blocking out' the story's structure and plot. What I don't know is the details of how that scene unfolds until I 'block out' all of the story's individual scenes.

Now, from the above it may appear that all spontaneity is being whittled away by pre-planning. Not so! What it does give me is context and goals to achieve in the writing of each scene; goals that tie the entire plot together.

As CO Thompson said, keep writing and ignore the occasional 'mud pie' some of us may throw at you.

Phil.

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epeckelhart
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Thank you all for your advice. I have written a rough outline and storyboard for the story, what I meant by work in progress was that I hadn't completed the actual writing of the story, so far there are only about 3 chapters. I've rewritten it already, but I'll try and work on finding a better way to open it that doesn't seem as silly. Thanks again.
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extrinsic
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The event of consequence here is a routine interrupted by the reappearance of an old friend. An old friend could mean either an old nemesis, the idiom, or genuinely an old friend. I lean by default to the verbal irony side, because fiction is drama. Meeting an old friend is not in and of itself drama. Reappearance of an old nemesis is drama.

This sentence reads like thousands of opening query pitch lines I've read: "Nineteen year old Leilah Payne sat atop the empire she had built and looked out at the world with bitter, unfeeling eyes."

How does Payne sit atop an empire? She must have a large backside. "Bitter" and "unfeeling" eyes are irreconcileable contradictions. Bitter is an emotion. Unfeeling eyes cannot touch, unemotional maybe. "Nineteen year old" is an adjective phrase and warrants hyphenation: Ninteen-year-old.

Reality imitation, show, calls for antagonal, causal sensory stimuli that in turn a viewpoint agonist reacts to with attitude and emotions, especially emotional attitude. This is the domain of robust verbs and, in their absence or dearth of availability, adjectives and adverbs that express emotional attitude commentary.

The routine that's about to be interrupted by the old friend is Payne stimulated by the empire's landscape she views from her penthouse office windows, a landscape that does not satifsfy her personal wants. The old friend could then be a visitor, a visitation and routine interrupted story shape opening, or a nemesis who's come around to complicate Payne's existence, though not necessarily at this time a visitor to her office, just heard that So-and-so is back in town and setting up troubles.

What's a "green stare"? Jealousy? Envy? Greed? Gluttony? Coveting? Or what's a Machiavellian man? I know the type as duplicitous manipulation, exploitation, cynicism, amoral bearing, self-involvement, and deception. Either way, the term is a tell, a summary and explanation of the man's personality and behavior. Reality imitation shows he is such a person by his actions and expressions. Characterizing him for the opening need only show his sketchy duplicity in bringing and showing Payne the file and what it means for his own ends, that Payne perceives, meanwhile, attempting to coerce Payne toward his ends. Also, this is why I feel "the old friend" is an old enemy.

The hints are here, only the scene is rushed through. Consider lingering in the scene, showing Payne and Machiavella man as their basic natures and behaviors through antagonizing events--Payne's negative attitude toward the setting she sees, and Machiavella man through his duplicitous agendas.

The situation is one where not a lot of routine needs to be front loaded. Only Payne's negative attitude toward the setting, before Machiavella man brings up his duplicitous agenda, the file, and the old friend.

[ July 12, 2014, 02:30 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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shimiqua
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You're looking at it from the outside of the story, It's better to look from the inside.

Who is the POV Character, is it Leilah? If so, then we won't see what she looks like, we will see what she's seeing. Describe the suns glare on the window blocking the view of the city.

Show us her age, by a billion things, the ease she stands from a chair, her preoccupation with her dinner plans, or her phone, or perhaps the current music song she has stuck in her brain.

Flavor your descriptions with her attitude, is she disdainful of those in the shorter buildings she's looking down on, Does she see them as homey or remind her of a simpler time when she was first starting out?

And then give us a glimpse of her thoughts, and her thought process. Why did her smile leave, what is she expecting, and what does she fear? You simply can't give us all of that in thirteen lines, but you can give us hints. And those hints are what will hook.

That said, I love the title. Powerful.

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