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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Boiling Springs

   
Author Topic: Boiling Springs
JoBird
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Currently, these are my first thirteen lines. (Well, they are my first eleven lines, technically, but I may have a weird font size or something -- this is all that would fit in the message box without scrolling.)

I am giving a lot of thought to changing my opening scene. Simply put, I don't know if I like it, and I certainly don't know if it works well enough to hook a reader. I'm not sure how much I'm second guessing myself though. Regardless, this is the way it sits at the moment. I would greatly appreciate any and all thoughts.

Thank you.

***

VERSION 1

Such a strange and twisted morality prevailed.

Realize that I ate better locked in a cell than I ever did fending for myself. The good man, Constable Reeves, he brought me three platters a day. The meals were warm and balanced with generous portions of seasoned fish and mashed potatoes. He even offered me occasional bowls of sliced fruit smothered in syrup for dessert.

My cell was large, and rather nice. Inside, there was a comfortable bed with a heavy blanket, and two pillows stuffed full of brown feathers. The flagstone floor was covered in furs to keep my feet warm. There was a solid writing desk, and a chair so cleverly designed that it leaned back. I reclined in it as Constable Reeves stood outside the cold iron bars of my prison.

***

VERSION 2

Magistrate Greylove, greetings. Know that I offer no defense. I have crossed the moral line, and my punishment cannot be severe enough. Herein, instead, is my confession.

It is obsession that has led me here. All of my failures have begun with obsession. Let us go back to the Trade Depot, when I was but a scribe cataloguing sales and purchases for the merchant arm of the Usha tribe. In those days I was convinced that there were more than four tribes of men in the whole of creation.

This was well after I had failed as a priest, but only shortly after I had failed as a husband. It was, in fact, during the time that I was failing as a merchant, but only just before I gave birth to magic and changed the world forever.

What am I trying to say? In short, this is a cautionary tale….

[ July 06, 2012, 03:32 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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Meredith
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I don't usually comment on the first 13. It's not what I'm best at myself. [Smile]

The second line that begins "Realize . . ." directly addresses the reader, breaking the fourth wall. I think that's a mistake.

The only other thing I'm going to say is this: I don't know where you are with this project. If you haven't finished the whole story yet (first draft), don't worry about the start yet. Turn of the infernal internal editor and move forward.

You won't really know if you've got the right starting point until you type "The End" at the bottom of the ms.

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LDWriter2
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Hmmm, personally I don't see much that is bad. I'm not sure about that first sentence. It feels jarring. It seems to fit with the rest especially with that line about Reeves knowing to be afraid of your MC. But it still feels off...to me.

Shouldn't you begin the second sentence with a "I".

A couple sentences seem a bit on the long side but in this case they may work.

That's about it for me.


An aside here. Whoa--where did Meredith's comment come from? It wasn't there a second ago. I almost didn't notice it. I wondered why the original post wasn't reading right when I glanced back at it. [Smile]

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JoBird
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Meredith, thank you for your comments. I agree that the "realize" start could be jarring. My intent was to slowly show the reader that the MC is actually writing to a character in the novel.

Granted, my internal editor is a beast at times. Still, I've gotten far enough along in this that I'm at a point where I have to solidify the beginning, if not the exacting language, then the place and time of the opening. It's having some structural repercussions. Especially considering my overall distaste of what I have now. Basically, I'm afraid my initial opening is boring.

Below is an alternative I'm chewing over. Making the change will affect several subsequent chapters in my work, so I'm trying to proceed with caution.

I've also considered scrapping everything, and starting fresh. Unsatisfied. That's where I'm at.

***

LDWriter: I agree that something seems off in a big way. I fear that I don't have the skill to necessarily see what I'm doing wrong, but I know something is off, as you say, all the same.

Usually, problems like I'm experiencing can be traced back to a false beginning. Or so I suspect.

Anyway, below is an alternative opening to A Tale of Boiling Springs.

***

Magistrate Greylove, greetings. Know that I offer no defense. I have crossed the moral line, and my punishment cannot be severe enough. Herein, instead, is my confession.

It is obsession that has led me here. All of my failures have begun with obsession. Let us go back to the Trade Depot, when I was but a scribe cataloguing sales and purchases for the merchant arm of the Usha tribe. In those days I was convinced that there were more than four tribes of men in the whole of creation.

This was well after I had failed as a priest, but only shortly after I had failed as a husband. It was, in fact, during the time that I was failing as a merchant, but only just before I gave birth to magic and changed the world forever.

What am I trying to say? In short, this is a cautionary tale….

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MattLeo
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I like the first opening better. We learn a great deal more about the narrator through his unguarded remarks to the reader -- his sense of irony, his humorous self-deprecation. Having him address himself to a third party (a magistrate at that) deadens this. He is more guarded, less revealing, more anxious to justify himself on the magistrate's terms than explain himself in his own.

I'd say that the first version rates "definitely would read more"; I'd pass on the second, which is far less engaging. Be careful of heeding feedback, it's too easy to losing your individual voice and end up sounding like consensus.

By the way, I happen to disagree with Meredith about the fourth wall here; it's only a problem if the story is narrated in third person. In first person it's quite natural for the narrator to address himself to the reader ("True! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?"). That ability to address the reader, to attempt to charm or even deceive the reader (first person narrators have agendas), is one of the reasons to choose first person.

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JoBird
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Matt,

Thank you for your comments. This has given me a lot to think about.

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