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Author Topic: The Deer Thief
Bruchar
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Another revision, combining elements of previous versions per the suggestion of extrinsic.
Feb. 20.

My little black phone weighed a hundred pounds. I won't call him. Not this time.

Was he having an affair? I hurled it down on the end table. It ricocheted to the rug. The sudden bang echoed around the living room. Maybe it broke. Good. I couldn't handle any more excuses. He always had an excuse, and I always believed it.

The cold sunset was two hours ago. I should turn on a lamp, but I won't. The room was stuffy and overheated. I needed to open a window, but they were sealed shut.

I was such a pushover. It was so easy for me to get lost in his velvet tones, his smooth kiss and the sparkling sapphires in his eyes... And when he said "I love you, Ted," I'd give in to anything he wanted.

----------------------------------------------------------
Feb. 17.
Okay, so after another day of revisions I've scrapped the preface (below) and reworked the original opening. Does it give you a better feel for the supernatural thriller ahead?
---------------------------------------

Stop staring at me.

"What?" I focused and saw the red faced devil grinning at me from within its gold gilt frame. I'd swear I saw it move.

The phone rang.

I refused to grab it. Craig could wait. I drummed my fingers on the wide square leather arms of my chair. I wish this was over with. The devil's green eyes sparkled.

Craig should have been home three hours ago. What excuse would he have this time? I wondered if he was having an affair.

The phone rang again.

We'd been living together since college, which was ten years ago, but it seemed like forever. We were an item, and our friends had come to refer to us as a single word, Craig'n'Ted.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Feb 16
After a day of revisions, I came up with this preface. I hope it's a better intro to the story than the original openers below.

PREFACE

Being awake frightens me. Lust, Love, deception, confusion, disappointment and death lurk only one moment ahead of every minute. I can't handle any more surprises. Sleep is now my drug of choice. In sleep, the ones who know me never leave, never disappoint, never die. But sometimes they lie.

My life was going so well. I never expected it to change. I never thought that I'd start over and find love at the end of a hunter's knife. Now every day I watch and walk among the living and the dead. There's not much difference.

Oh, did I say that out loud? No? Good.

When dead come back to say good-bye, they seldom scream and scare, they sit with you and tuck you in and kiss you on your hair.


--------------------------------------------------------------
Feb. 15
Second version of opening. Which do you like better?
(This was the original opening chapter, which was scrapped.)
------------------------------------------------------------------

I counted more than three hours passing as I waited for Craig to show up. I wondered, not for the first time, if he was having an affair. What excuse would he have this time? There was always an excuse, and I always believed it. And then everything would be fine again.

I was such a pushover. It was so easy for me to get lost in his velvet tones, his smooth kiss and the sparkling sapphires in his eyes... And give in to anything he wanted.

We'd been living together since college, which was ten years ago, but it seemed like forever. We were an item, and our friends had come to refer to us as a single word, Craig'n'Ted.

The phone rang.

I refused to grab it. Craig could wait.

----------------------
Feb. 14
The original post:

Here's the opening 13 from my third draft of a 72,000 word novel.
Genre: Supernatural/Thriller for an adult audience.
All feedback is appreciated, since you're the first to see this!


The ambulance screamed by us, but I only heard a rushing wind. When I was younger, I'd cover my ears at the sound of police sirens and jackhammers. Even now, in my early thirties, the booms and shrieks of life in Chicago make me cringe. But that night, nothing.

An angry gust pulled on our clothes. The silhouette of Leslie's wild brown hair pulsed red and blue with the vehicle's flashing lights.

I towered over her, waving my jacket wildly in the air with one hand while yanking my tie loose with the other. I yelled, "WHY? Just tell me WHY! Did you hear me? DON'T JUST STAND THERE!" My jittery posture and flying arms accentuated every syllable. It probably looked like I was getting ready to hit her.

[ February 20, 2013, 12:50 PM: Message edited by: Bruchar ]

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extrinsic
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If I didn't already know, from reading this I'd know the writer writes screenplays. The abrupt shifting viewpoint from camera angle spectacle, the capital case emphasis on yelled words and exclamation marks for verbal intonation, aural spectacle, and otherwise scene and stage directions recast as prose.

Composing visual and aural spectacles as prose is a delicate art that challenges writers. Where a camera and microphone may jump from angle to angle for strong effect, prose's strong effects come from lingering on a moment. The ambulance only creating a rushing wind sound then jumping into the narrator's thoughts and recollections, then returning to the ambulance perhaps creating an angry wind gust that pulls on their clothes, then the pulsing red and blue ambulance lights jumps around a bit much for my whiplashed neck. Linger on the telling details, the sensory stimuli, and their causal significance to the narrator.

I doubt the narrator would under the circumstances review why he no longer reacted to Chicago's chaotic lights and noises. I think he'd be frantic about Leslie and whatever struck her down. Is she struck down? Given that the scene's visual and aural sensations are important, I also don't understand why they should be dismissed as beneath the narrator's notice and yet be remarked upon as such.

All capital case words are yelling, yes; however, one, the dialogue tag says they're yelled, a tautology; two, all caps may be a convention of screenplays, they're frowned upon in prose. Any special formatting is frowned upon in prose, italics, bold, small caps, underlines, except underlining signals italics in Standard Manuscript Format, for nondiscretionary italics when vessel names, foreign language, special emphasis and such are used, excepting some fantasy consensuses' insistence on italics for direct thoughts. Prose words and basic punctuation--avoid exclamation marks and ellipsis points--do the work of implying verbal intonation. Let the words do the work, not a writer's stage direction formatting and punctuation acrobatics.

Though these thirteen lines are for a novel, introducing a genre marker as soon as practical so readers know what kind of story they read is also a prose convention, especially for science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other supernatural or paranormal motifs. Don't withhold introducing a hint early on.

"Supernatural/thriller," I think I know what you mean, but I'm confused by those terms joined with an Or symbol, A slash used as a typographic mark means or. A hyphen means and. Neither mark is necessary, and actually without one the genre categorization is clearer.

However, a thriller is a psychological horror, often an espionage story, like John le Carré's The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, though Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson's murder-mystery thrillers, maybe John Grisham's legal thrillers, maybe Dan Brown's religious thrillers also rely on psychological horror. Supernatural thriller I can see but, again, introduce a clue early on. A main difference between horror and thriller is whether visceral or psychological horror predominates.

Also, some sense of a dramatic complication introduced early is a strong practice. A dramatic complication is a want or a problem wanting satisfaction. Leslie's down, I think, right? No clue if that's a red herring or a hint she's a victim of a supernatural horror. More like she just stood there while . . . the narrator towered over her while yanking his tie loose.

That latter coming after the previous ambulance scene details implies the narrator is a giant standing over Leslie or she's lying injured on the, what, muddy ground or pavement or grass?

The questions are rhetorical.

[ February 15, 2013, 12:05 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Bruchar
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Extrinsic,

Thanks for the feedback and the lessons.

This beginning is designed to show the narrator's state of mind -- in shock, angry and confused. Yes, it may give whiplash, maybe because it is a cinematic convention. But I don't want readers to think that the story is a huge yawn by slogging through delicious details so early in the writing. But your point is well taken. I may streamline it further.

All caps, well, I wondered about the appropriateness of that, too. Actually, in a script it's frowned on, too, since it robs the actor and director of other interpretations. Thanks for the tip, and yes, saying "yelled" is redundant.

These thirteen lines are not enough to show the genre, which is probably best summarized, as you point out, as Supernatural Thriller. I've come to use the slash as a cataloging convention from submitting films to distributors who usually have separate categories for each term, and not one for both.

The first evidence of the supernatural appears around line 30, and the overriding dramatic complication reveals itself through the next several paragraphs.

Anyway, thanks again. This gives me plenty to consider.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by Bruchar:
Extrinsic,

Thanks for the feedback and the lessons.

This beginning is designed to show the narrator's state of mind --in shock, angry and confused.

You're welcome, Bruchar. I do at times go overboard on what doesn't work for me or from what I understand doesn't work for the publishing culture generally. I strive to be encouraging and supportive as a writing community citizen should. But fail from delving heavily into craft and voice theory I perceive as a method of productive support.

Something else I go on about at length: causation. A story's natural beginning is a first cause that sets everything following into motion. The narrator's state of mind seems to me an effect of a first cause logically preceding his shock, anger, and confusion.

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Grumpy old guy
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Bruchar, to my mind, the explosive action opening of a film to grab the audience by their throats and hold them in their seats is exactly what's wrong with most of the 'first 13s' you'll find here.

Most successful books start out with setting milieu, tone or character -- not that ambulance rushing by, lights flashing and siren's blaring. In a visual medium, it may grab my attention. In prose, all it does is--well, it doesn't even do that, raise questions I mean. To quote: It's all sound and fury signifying . . .

Just my opinion.

Phil.

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Bruchar
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Grumpy & Extrinsic,

Okay, I'm waffling here and considering going back to the original opening chapter (which was deleted).
I have posted it above, as an edit to the first post.
Please take a look at this & let me know your reactions.

Thanks!

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MattLeo
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Extrinsic and Phil have already voiced a lot of my thoughts. You've given us the opening shot, which is a very cinematic way of approaching a story opening. Personally, I think that's neither here nor there; I see no reason you can't open a novel in just that way; or rather I see some drawbacks to that approach, but they're surmountable.

Let's look at Phil's reaction for a second, because it's enlightening. He doesn't like the way you've tried to grab him by shoving detail down his throat. My reaction was similar: "too melodramatic". Why doesn't this work? I think it has to do with the differences between a screenplay and a novel. It takes a lot more mental effort for an audience to engross themselves in a novel than it does for them to engross themselves in a movie.

I call this the "build a fire" model of novel openings. If you're building a fire, once it's roaring along you can toss on whole logs, but when you're striking flint to steel you need to start with small bits of finely divided fuel. A reader comes to a novel with a spark of interest, and your job is to nurse that spark along until you can throw whole logs of melodrama or suspended disbelief onto the fire.

In plain language, you'e got to balance the cognitive load you place on readers against the level of commitment they're likely to have at this point. For example, the middle of a story you can sometimes feed them big slugs of backstory, but a misplaced teaspoon of backstory can kill an opening, *because the reader isn't interested that yet*.

Unanswered questions propel a story forward, but you have to budget them carefully in an opening because *big* questions can smother the reader's interest. That's why melodrama is risky in a novel opening. Unless it's a formulaic genre novel like a category romance, melodrama risks raising the one question that will kill any reader's forward momentum: "Why do I care about this guy?"

Let's look at your opening line by line.

quote:
The ambulance screamed by us, but I only heard a rushing wind.
You're trying to raise the question, "why does the protagonist not hear the ambulance", risky in a place where we're budgeting reader effort but *fatal* here because you're *also* posing a paradox: if the protagonist can't hear anything but the rushing wind, how does he know that ambulance is screaming?

I know this sounds like nitpicking, but it matters. Readers don't consciously notice that they're dealing with a paradox, they just know the image being described doesn't ring true. Also this touches on something you're going to have to adjust to in novel writing: point of view. The point of view of this sentence should be entirely that of the narrator, but it is ambiguous, because we have an omniscient, all-seeing camera as well. You can handle this in third person narration, e.g., "The ambulance screamed by, but Bob only heard the rush of the wind." That's still a bit whiffy, though. Why would he hear the wind and not the ambulance? Perhaps something like "The ambulance screamed by, but Bob didn't hear it."

quote:
When I was younger, I'd cover my ears at the sound of police sirens and jackhammers. Even now, in my early thirties, the booms and shrieks of life in Chicago make me cringe. But that night, nothing.
Here's an interesting point. After reading your first sentence, this but struck me as a slug of unpalatable backstory. But if you *remove* the first sentence, this could actually work as an opening. It's because you've overdrawn your reader commitment account with a paradox. Remove that opening paradox and the rest of the opening is magically improved, without changing a jot.

quote:
An angry gust pulled on our clothes. The silhouette of Leslie's wild brown hair pulsed red and blue with the vehicle's flashing lights.
What sticks out here is "angry gust". In fact it overshadows the next line which is quite a nice bit of observation. I find the use of figurative language sticks out in story openings, and seldom in a good way. One common reason is that if the reader hasn't bought into the story, the metaphor has to be absolutely spot on; you can't ask the reader to decode a slightly off metaphor overcomes his commitment. In this case the problem is that the personification is trite.

quote:
I towered over her, waving my jacket wildly in the air with one hand while yanking my tie loose with the other. I yelled, "WHY? Just tell me WHY! Did you hear me? DON'T JUST STAND THERE!" My jittery posture and flying arms accentuated every syllable. It probably looked like I was getting ready to hit her.
OK, this is where things get melodramatic. We've started the story in media res, which *in itself* is neither here nor there as far as I'm concerned, but you're raising a question (again): what the heck is going on? That's another momentum killer question. Can you motivate a reader to soldier on by dangling that question in front of him? Well, possibly, but everything else about the opening would have to be impeccable.

This paragraph raises a couple points of novel-craft. The first is a subtle one here, but important: point of view. Your protagonist (let's keep calling him Bob) is much taller than Leslie; fair enough. But would he *experience* this as "towering over" her? I once had a girlfriend who was 4' 11". I'm sure that in her eyes I towered over her, but that's not a symmetrical experience.

Also this: "...waving my jacket wildly in the air with one hand while yanking my tie loose with the other..." and "My jittery posture and flying arms ...looked like I was getting ready to hit her." Note the shakiness of the first person perspective. Bob, unless he is putting on an act, is not going to notice these details, especially if he doesn't notice the ambulance. Again, this sounds nit-picky because a reader wouldn't conceptualize the passage this way, but he'd notice something didn't ring true.

The second point of novel-craft is dialog. You should strive as far as possible to have a character's words carry his sense, and be sparing with adverbs, alternative speech tags (anything other than "said"), and typographic highlighting (all caps, italics, bold etc.) All that stuff is fine in moderation, but in a situation where you're trying to get away with a lot, it may be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Here it feels over the top, *because we have not clear idea of what's going on*.

Also, for some reason, I think the dialog tag works better in this instance if it is interior to the speech, like this: "WHY?" I yelled. "Just tell me WHY!"

Finally, let me give you an impeccable example of the kind of atmospheric novel opening you're attempting here, from Raymond Chandler's RED WIND. Note how the protagonist's predicament is completely elided here; the focus is entirely on the narrator's cynical opinions:

quote:
There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot, dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

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extrinsic
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I favor the first opening for its stronger sensory portrayals. The second opening feels like a stuck in the bathtub navel contemplation fraught with angst and ennui: not much external world. Central character interactions with other characters and with their settings and milieus and events create a sense for readers they've left behind routine alpha reality for the secondary reality of a narrative.

I imagine cover art and jacket blurbs would give a sense of supernatural forces at work, but I don't see a hint of them in either opening. My curiosity awaits satisfaction in that regard. If supernatural forces influence the plot, I think they ought best be a first cause.

In case Hollywood's loose interpretations of what constitutes supernatural motifs interferes, supernatural motifs are from a culture's spiritual belief systems, sacred religion myths, where paranormal motifs derive from legend belief systems, profane affairs. The two overlap every which-a-way. For clarity's sake, try to keep them as distinctly one or the other as circumstances allow.

The Red Wind excerpt MattLeo uses above artfully, exquisitely poses a paranormal motif through the Santa Anna wind.

[ February 15, 2013, 10:02 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Bruchar
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MattLeo,

Thanks for taking the time to construct your insights in an easily understandable way.

I have been struggling to transition into prose writing, and your explanations, along with those of Extrinsic and Phil, are an enormous help in aiding me to think like a novelist.

The example from Chandler is especially helpful, as I've spent the morning examining the openings of several novels on my bookshelf.

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Bruchar
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

In case Hollywood's loose interpretations of what constitutes supernatural motifs interferes, supernatural motifs are from a culture's spiritual belief systems, sacred religion myths, where paranormal motifs derive from legend belief systems, profane affairs. The two overlap every which-a-way. For clarity's sake, try to keep them as distinctly one or the other as circumstances allow.

The Red Wind excerpt MattLeo uses above artfully, exquisitely poses a paranormal motif through the Santa Anna wind.

Thanks for the feedback. As is, the story starts with hints of paranormal activity and insanity and builds through the half-way point of the book. Then the paranormal aspects get full-blown.

I'll be working on a more engaging intro.

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micmcd
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The first opening is definitely more interesting. I hate the caps, though. It's clear that he's shouting from the way it is written, particularly with how wildly he's moving his arms.
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Grumpy old guy
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I am intrigued by the revised opening. As extrinsic said, it is full or ennui and angst, which is the emotion I get from the POV character; prompting the question: Why?

I also liked the twist, I assumed the POV character was a woman until, "Craig'n'Ted."

Like most stories, personal preference always plays a major role in deciding whether or not to 'read on'. I'd read on with the second version but not the first. I suppose the big question is again: Why?

The POV character has a problem. I don't know what it is, but the manner in which he is portrayed makes me sympathetic to his situation. I don't 'care' about him yet, mind you, but I am sympathetic. And, here's the problem with that, if you do anything on the next page to reduce that sympathy, I'll stop reading. It's an opening that is full of promise and fraught with danger.

Phil.

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Bruchar
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micmcd,
Thanks for the feedback. I'm dropping the caps and making a lot of revisions.

Phil,
Thanks for your input, too. I've spent the day revising the two sequences above and have returned the second version to Chapter 1, followed by the first version. (That was the original order before deletion of the "waiting" scene.

But in doing all that, and taking into consideration many of the observations and lessons from comments, I came up with the idea of making a short preface. See it in the first post.

Thanks again!

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extrinsic
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Contemporary publishing culture largely frowns upon prefaces anymore. While they're not forbidden, issues with them are, essentially, they introduce a narrator's voice--introduce the narrator--usually are comparable to a cinematic voiceover or a stageplay orator's lectern, and narrative distance is wide open. For cinema, the voice is almost always a disembodied voice. Stage narrators under a spotlight are disembodied heads.

The two subsequent openings illustrate why general readers often skip prefaces. They are only disembodied voices and not far removed from a writer's writing desk setting. The principles of narrative distance and narrative meaning space describe several challenging to master and essential strength qualities written word enjoys.

Narrative distance describes the relationship of voice categories a narrative expresses: character voices portrayed in the moment, location, and situation circumstances of unfolding action, narrator voice to degrees remote and removed from the immediate action, writer voice greatest remove from the immediate action. Although all three voices may come from the same persona, as is often the case with creative nonfiction, willing suspension of disbelief may be challenged if voice characteristics like grammatical person and verb tense do not distinguish the voice identities and their settings, especially time and place. Unsettled voice is a consequence of awkward persona perspective and setting transitions between the voices.

Unsettled voices keep readers unsettled, when the ideal initiative is to settle readers into a story. They keep readers on the alert for otherwise unremarkable challenges to willing suspension of disbelief, and confused to the point they have difficulty engaging in or remaining engaged by a story. One modern fiction writer used the three voices to strong, artful effect, Kurt Vonnegut, though many classics writers from ages past also used those traditional voices, and writers today still do.

Related to narrative distance, narrative meaning space involves narrative time; which can foreshorten, jump past unimportant daily living activities, suspend, flash forward and back, or condense story time; which is otherwise comparable to real-world time's passage. Other equally important meaning space principles: willing suspension of disbelief, a Samuel Taylor Colerdidge contribution to narrative theory, secondary settings different from routine aplha settings of the real world, a J.R.R. Tolkien contribution, and participation mystique, a Lucien Lévy-Bruhl and Carl Jung contribution, revolve around audience participation features a narrative ought as a best practice take into account.

Without having to dwell as deeply as I into narrative theory, a writer is best advised to include several critical writing modes in every dramatic unit. Answer the basic composition Double-U questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how the dramatic complication unfolds. Portray at least one cause and one effect, or action and reaction, or sensory stimuli and response related to the dramatic complication. Portray at least one discovery and one reversal related to the dramatic complication. And in scene or imitation mode include portraying at least action, sensation, conversation, introspection, and emotion. Those are the basics.

The -ion word suffix selections translate dialogue to conversation and thought to introspection for mnemonic convenience. Twelve writing modes conventional to creative writing include Description, Introspection, Action, Narration, Emotion, Sensation, Summarization, Exposition, Conversation, Recollection, Explanation, and Transition, or DIANE'S SECRET. Along with other craft fundamentals, Setting, Plot, Idea, Character, Event, and Discourse, and Antagonism, Causation, and Tension, narrative theory categories all come together in one mnemonic device, DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT.

I feel the original opening is strongest from incorporating more craft basics than the subsequent two openings. In addition to still being curious about how supernatural thriller applies, I'm curious how The Deer Thief relates to the opening. I'm making perhaps unintended associations with The Deer Hunter.

[ February 16, 2013, 12:25 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Bruchar
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Extrinsic,

I appreciate all the effort you are putting in to educate me.

Interesting to hear that prefaces are old school. I guess that because I always read them (and see them in some popular novels like Stephanie Myers' Twilight series) I assume that they're more common than may be the case. I did a fast check of my bookshelf and found prefaces missing in most of the books.

Thanks for DIANE'S SECRET SPICED ACT. I'll print it out and work it into a strip-club sequence someday. [Wink]

Okay, without giving away the story, The Deer Thief is about a guy who tries unsuccessfully to resurrect his dead partner, and ends up being stalked and seduced by the ghost of a hunter. There's a few twists and turns along the way which Spiritualists tend to enjoy. For the rest, you'll either have to wait for the movie to come out, or read the manuscript.

The original opening (Waiting by the phone) is a setup for his initial conflict, the sudden death of his partner.

The second opening (The ambulance scene) starts the story just after the death.

What I consider the strength of the story is that it infolds slowly, piling conflict upon conflict. The supernatural elements appear mundane at first. Readers are lulled into the narrator's reality. The supernatural aspects build to blatant proportions, forcing the narrator to choose between loving a ghost or banishing it.

[ February 16, 2013, 08:46 PM: Message edited by: Bruchar ]

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extrinsic
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Meyer's publisher labeled the first chapter of Twilight "Preface." The chapter is actually an excerpt from later in the book put up front as a teaser. The teaser is more in the manner of a prelude, albeit a nonlinear timeline. A distinction for preludes is they are in the same voice as the main action. Like prefaces, a prelude's purpose is to give readers prefatory information necessary to understand the main action. They usually portray events outside of or before the main action's timeline. Twilight as Meyer wrote it had a slow start. She refused to change the opening. So the publisher put the lead-up to the climax in the front.
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Grumpy old guy
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Hmm, I had the same problem with one of my stories. The only way I could get certain information into the readers head without a bucket-load of straight exposition was to write a 4,000 word prelude. And, at the other end of the story there's an epilogue that takes the reader back to the world of the prelude. I just hope it works, because I have some misgivings about it.

Phil.

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Bruchar
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Extrinsic & Phil,

Interesting to know the publisher added that preface/prelude. Subconsciously I've been influenced by a few books with preludes & prefaces, and didn't realize that they were problematic.

In fact, I usually enjoy them -- especially in the case of the Twilight Series -- where they foreshadow events and set a tone of expectation for what lies ahead.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm going to rework the opening again and see what happens.

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extrinsic
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Preludes, for their close narrative distance, are far less problematic than prefaces. Epilogue in common usage is a more generic term whose voice may be anywhere from a writer's to a narrator's to a character's, i.e., the same voice as the main action for the latter, though a denouement is explicitly in the voice of the main action, and a coda is in the voice of the writer or an implied writer. I suppose an epilogue could arguably be reserved for a narrator voice as a bookend match to a preface's prologue voice.

Epilogues tend to be summary wrapups for any unsatisfied secondary dramatic complications outstanding after denouement. An afterlude might be what your ending is, Grumpy old guy, in the same voice as the main action. An afterlude fulfills a similar role as an epilogue, coming after a denouement, which portrays a final, irrevocable, unequivocal outcome of a main dramatic complication.

[ February 17, 2013, 11:56 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Bruchar
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After a lot of revising on the first chapter, I scrapped the preface/prelude and introduced a supernatural element into the first 13.

It's been added to the first post.

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Grumpy old guy
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Personally, I still prefer the Feb 15 version. It needs some massaging and molding into a shape that could propel the reader into your newest 'version', thus introducing the supernatural element earlier than you planned; just not in the 'first 13'.

Phil.

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Bruchar
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Phil,

Thanks for the input. Actually, what I did was rearrange the chapter by moving up the devil reference from about line 20.

The restriction of showing the novel's tone in 13 lines is an amazing one.

Seems that most commentators here have leaned toward the flashy ambulance scene, even though there's flaws with it as posted. (I've since reworked it.) That chapter hints at the supernatural around line 20, too.

But I'm with you on preferring the slower opening. In terms of the structure of the book, it helps set a realistic backdrop for all the magic ahead.

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Grumpy old guy
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I'm not so concerned with setting up the supernatural element; I write character driven fantasy, mostly; although I'm making a foray in spec-fic short stories. My biggest concern is getting the reader 'involved' with the major character first. They're going to be spending a lot of time with him, so they're going to want to 'know' him as well as feel for his dilemma.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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I feel like you're closing in on a bull's eye. Grumpy old guy finds the strong emotional attitude of close narrative distance in the February 16th opening appealing. I like a little more grounding in where and when and situation and complication, or conflict as many writers label the latter.

The leisure lingering in introspection and emotion of the February 16th opening if commingled to the strong setting details of the February 14th opening and the strong implications of dramatic complication and genre of the February 15th opening might be blended together.

Each version I feel rushes to get to a point of engaging reader empathy and curiosity, when I think lingering in the personas, moment, location, and situation of the opening would best serve the opening introductions. Thirteen lines is very little real estate to accomplish that in. It can be done, but rarely without a lot of anguish and reworking.

The first, best, and always strongest advice winning writers have given me is Slow down, develop the scene. Please consider that advice. A writer does the jobs of a filmmaking's staff and cast of hundreds. Writers wear many hats.

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Bruchar
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:

Each version I feel rushes to get to a point of engaging reader empathy and curiosity, when I think lingering in the personas, moment, location, and situation of the opening would best serve the opening introductions. Thirteen lines is very little real estate to accomplish that in. It can be done, but rarely without a lot of anguish and reworking.

The first, best, and always strongest advice winning writers have given me is Slow down, develop the scene. Please consider that advice. A writer does the jobs of a filmmaking's staff and cast of hundreds. Writers wear many hats.

Extrinsic,

Thanks for that advice. Especially the part about anguish.
Reworking is part of the artistic process, and it's not easy. But that's what separates the artists from the amateurs. (at least I feel better justifying it that way.)

The latest revision has been added to the first post. I still have a few fingernails left.

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Tryndakai
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I like the Feb. 17th revision best, so far. Though I like some of the details of the 20th, like "the phone weighed a hundred pounds," still the repeated ringing of the phone breaking through his thoughts every few lines in 17 is a nice tension-builder, and couples nicely with his obvious anxiety/paranoia about the devil (painting?). The two sources of tension circle nicely on each other and pull me in much better than the flashy, confusing ambulance intro.

Also, one little detail on the 20th that bugged me: "I should turn on a lamp, but I won't"--the "but I won't" bit seemed too, I dunno, self-aware? to be part of the direct thought . . . I'd prefer "I should turn on a lamp. But I didn't." That would give me more of a sense of nervous energy, which seems to be what you're going for, where as the previous version seems petulant. *But I'm not gonna. So there!* (but you know, less so. . . . [Wink] )

I skimmed through some of the comments you've gotten already, and I'm super impressed with the detail they've gone into. I must say it's a good sign if you've inspired that much thoughtful critique--means they must really see some potential in you. [Smile]

And there is a really marked difference in each iteration of your opening, in terms of how well it grabbed me. (of course, being new to the thread, I read them most recent to earliest . . . so I just noticed them getting worse . . . [Wink] )

Overall, good job, and good luck! [Big Grin]

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Bruchar
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Tryndakai,

Thanks very much for the feedback!

It's been quite a learning experience to hear reactions to these openings, and to rework them.

Your point about "but I won't" is interesting to me. I reworked that line several times and ended up right back where I started. It was a toss-up between showing tension or showing the character's need to have some control of the situation.

And that darn phone keeps ringing all the way through the first chapter!

I'm glad you saw improvement in the newer versions. (Sometimes I've had the opposite result.) Anyway, this exercise has me going back to the start of every chapter and looking for ways to tighten them up.

Thanks again.

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