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Author Topic: Fractured intro revised
Christine Ralston
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Fireworks exploded over humid Montrose Harbor as Jeff Trenton climbed above deck. Henry Barclay was staggering toward the boat railing. His jaw hung slack, his eyes unfocused, as he leaned against the railing. Across from them, Terry Peterson screamed. Jeff stumbled into the sudden darkness. He neither understood the danger, nor any defense he had against it..only that his friend needed him.
Another burst of fireworks lit up their surroundings and a thick, gray liquid flowed toward Barclay, flowed up the lawyer’s leg in defiance of gravity. A low moan escaped his lips. The sky darkened until the next series of explosions sprinkled the night sky with bright reds, blues, and greens.
Somehow, Jeff had drawn closer to Barclay not Terry as though some force were keeping him from his friend.

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I don't see a substantive difference between this opening and the prior one. I feel that this is the story shape routine interrupted but the interruption is in progress. I think opening with routine beforehand would set up and prepare for this highly dramatic scene sequence. Say the boat trip out from the dock, though the upcoming routine interruption sequence foreshadowed using bridging complication, cues, symbolism, motifs, and such for that pendent interruption.

Trenton, Barclay, and Peterson depart from the dock for presumably an idylic fireworks display. A more or less routine social event, a gathering that goes terribly wrong. Foreshadowing that events will take a terrible turn, for example, might portray an ominous though ignorable characteristic of the boat, or Barclay, Peterson, or the sea state, the weather, or any of a host of ignored warning signs when they depart the dock and on the way to their fireworks viewing moorage, or drift station.

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Was Jeff heading to the deck anyway, or was it the fireworks that got him there? The word “as” does not tell me which. Were the explosions actually fireworks? You do not want the reader to guess wrong and then have to change his/her perception later. Is Jeff in the military or is he a civilian? Each reacts to such situations very differently.

In my opinion, the entire scene needs to be slowed, way, way down. You could build the scene from Jeff himself and then work outward. Readers want to enjoy what their reading. They can’t if they’re rushed along.

The other characters could be mentioned this early (I don't recommend it). If so, they should be given as little attention as possible until the readers ally with Jeff. Definitely don't give their first and last names this soon.

“[Terry Peterson] neither understood the danger, nor any defense against it.” Neither does the reader at this point. Therefore, the reader, I believe, will dismiss the attack as trivial until more details come out. The sentence also implies Jeff DOES know about the danger, else why would danger even be mentioned in the story at this time? If Jeff knows the danger, how does he know? Add this clarification and other “ramping up” details to slow down the scene so the reader can be amply terrified and sucked into the story.

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Christine Ralston
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Thanks for your responses. Originally, I had this story opening with the poker game with these men as a way to establish character. I scrapped that version because I thought I needed to build tension right away. I'll re-examine my original version, compare it to this one, and see what I can come up with next.
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