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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » Comments on these openings

   
Author Topic: Comments on these openings
Brendan
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I have three openings, for which I will reveal their connection and authors in a little while. (KDW, is that within the rules?)

I was interested in your critiques of these openings. To me, I am surprised they got away with them.

1st Opening
When Henry first saw the girl she was standing at the top of the exit ramp on Glisan Street, holding a cardboard sign and asking drivers for spare change. Her bag was a secondhand rucksack, the flaps held in place with safety pins and knotted twine, her dreadlocks tied behind her head in a towering bundle. Her name was Alana, and she was nineteen years old.

2nd Opening
A man named Everill Gander was born in Elkhart, Indiana, in 1920. His father was an engineer and his mother a schoolteacher. He was the sixth of eight children. He often joked that his parents had given him his unusual first name so they would not forget about him completely.

3rd Opening
One winter when the boys were young we visited a friend of my sister who lives in the mountains near a small pond where we skated. Lacking neighbors, my sister’s friend rescues wild animals, especially birds of prey, and at the time we visited, was keeping one owl permanently in her home and two hawks, still mending before their release. All the birds had yellow eyes.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Well within the rules.

None of them are the full 13 lines, however. Is that because if you posted more, people might be more likely to recognize them?

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Brendan
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Yeah, they are somewhat less than first 13, but that has something to do with their connection.
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LDWriter2
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With them getting away with it, It all depends. Who-long time pro or first book or even a a pro with only a few books out- wrote them and when they were written for one thing. Second Some writers do a better job at breaking the rules. I know one person who got a HM --not WotF-- in a contest. His story was published even though he started it with the MC waking up. He did a great job with it.

To me these three openings read well even though the last one might be considered the "worst".

I hope that all makes sense.

And it could very well depend on the editor too.

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Crystal Stevens
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I read mostly used books written anywhere from the late 1970's to 2011. I've found those written earlier have what would be considered poor writing by today's standards quite often. The writing's been so bad in some that I quit reading and threw the book in the discard pile. You don't see that much today. The only times I have is stuff written by someone well known. Seems they can get away with it more than most, though most of them are excellent writers.

Actually it's some of these poorer written books that got me thinking I could write better than some of the trash on the news racks... and Hatrack has helped me do just that.

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Tiergan
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Well, none of them work for me. They go against everything I have been taught is a good introduction. Passive(well maybe not the most accurate word, how about less than active writing), and info dumps come to mind. They tell versus show.

It represents one of the biggest obstacles I have to face when writing. Being told one thing, but every book/magazine I pick up does the opposite.

It would not come as a shock for me if they are published, by a big name or a no name, I am finding that magazines publish things like this all the time. And remember a lot of editors in magazines are and I hate to say this but beginners, or students who may not know all the rules themselves. I dont say this to discredit any editors, but there are no set qualifications. I could in theory open my own magazine and name myself editor(hmmm, I might get published that way).

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axeminister
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To play devil's advocate, I don't think the samples are large enough to say they've gotten away with anything. If this type of telling continues, then yeah, but I've found some stories just start off with telling. Sometimes, it's necessary.

Without having the book in front of me, I believe Harry Potter starts with telling of the boy under the stairs.

Stylistically, I think these are ok, but again, only if they stop the insanity shortly afterward.

Well, I just read them again, and I think the first one is the best example of what I'm trying to say. I like it.
Example two was pretty rough, and example three wasn't so hot either. All the birds had yellow eyes. Indeed.

Axe

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Robert Nowall
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I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I've never bought a book or story for its opening line, and I doubt many cash customers besides me have either. You might grab an editor (or slushpile reader) with a catchy beginning, but it's not the First Thirteen that'll be the be-all and end-all of your work.

Nothing seems particularly wrong with any of those lines; what's the beef?

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Tiergan
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quote:
Nothing seems particularly wrong with any of those lines; what's the beef?
I don't have a beef with any of them. [Smile] I do think if any were posted in this site, they would get less than favorably reviews. I have it so ingrained in my head, start with a scene, active, not passive, no info dump.... If the stories are published, someone somewhere must have liked them so, it goes to show that people have different tastes and sometimes what someone thinks isnt a great opening may be just that to another person/editor.

We, in this site, do focus on the first 13 and rightfully so, but sometimes can get so caught up on that, that we forget the story(at least I do, I have so many stories with great start's or so I have been told, and only to be told later my story didnt live up to the start [Frown] )

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Well, since there doesn't seem to be any indication that these are the beginnings of speculative fiction stories, I probably wouldn't keep reading (so I suspect that such indications, if any, may be in the title(s) if not in the rest of the 13 lines).

They're written well enough, but as they are, I have no reason to be interested enough to keep reading.

So many books, so little time....

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LDWriter2
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I think Kathleen has a point, despite what I said above, if these lines were the only thing I saw, I may very well reject them too. But if I knew the authors and/or a little bit about what the novels were about and depending on what I learn I could very well keep reading. Because I would trust in the writer(s) and what the blurb said. In that case I wouldn't care if there seemed to have too much Tell or if they sounded a bit passive.

If they were short stories in a magazine or anthology I would keep reading for some of the reasons I stated in my first note.

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Robert Nowall
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I think it'd be helpful if we knew just what stories these lines opened for. I don't recognize any of them---thought one of 'em might be Hemingway, but a trip to the bookstore and a check in a copy disabused me. I can't say offhand whether I read them or not. Sometimes a striking opening will stay with me, but these don't seem to be them.

I'm amending my comments about not buying something for the opening. I once heard the opening for a book (by S. J. Perleman, I think, title uncertain), that went, "Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Four shots ripped into my gut. But first, let me tell you a little about myself."

I would've bought this book for its opening---but I've never seen a copy. (Maybe I should check and see if it's available for my Nook...)

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Brendan
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Ok, coming back to this. The paragraphs are the samples from the Crazyhorse Literary Journal's current issue - the very page used to advertise all the stories inside the magazine. The first one is their annual competition winner. KDW - you picked it - it is not spec fic and cannot really be judged by spec fic expectations. However, even my literature loving friend that showed me the site said that the openings were far more passive and infodumpy than is normal for that genre.

However, it did highlight to me another issue that is worthy of discussing - something that is fundamentally different in the way one reads the two genres. The old addage is "if you see a gun above the mantlepiece in scene 1, it needs to be fired by scene 3". This is a statement about the need to keep information relavent and foreshowing. But more subtly, the order in which information is fed to the reader is equally important in that early information is given higher priority by the reader to make sense of what is to come. The infodumps at the start like these make it difficult to determine which information is important and which is simply nice filler detail. Reading therefore becomes hard work - maintaining so many potential details in my head that could be needed later. So is that just a different reader expectation for the literary genre? And is that part of the reason that "literary" isn't popular - it spurns the trend for the writer to do the hard work for the readers?

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RobED
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If i is a short story, you can probably hold that info in your head for the 5-10 minutes it takes to read. I also think short stories are a little different than longer works, because you don't really have time to flesh out everything.
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