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Author Topic: 2nd thirteen
Member # 9151

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This is my second attempt to find my start to this book.

“What the Hell happened to RA-UNKN-C14?” Alara said aloud, both curious and horrified at what appeared to be left of the rat she had nicknamed “Runkin.”
When no answer came back, she picked up a glass stirring rod from the lab table behind her and poked the ball of matted fur in the back corner of the cage. To her surprise, it wasn’t the rodent’s body, but a hard, oval mass.
“Dev! Runkin has had some kind of fatal reaction to the enzymes from UNPL-374!” Alara yelled out still poking at the strange remains. She could only guess it was some form of liquefaction that had then hardened.
Then it moved.

This is 111 word count so I should be under. If I'm not, someone please share the secret formula because just saying thirteen lines doesn't work by standard man. here.

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Disgruntled Peony
Member # 10416

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That does, in fact, appear to be under 13 lines. I will still share the secret formula, though. [Wink]

Kathleen's got some tips here: http://www.hatrack.com/ubb/writers/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=6;t=000004

My personal cheat codes: when I'm making my posts, I paste the opening lines into the document first. The text box is designed to more or less exactly fit the 13 line mark. If I get a scroll bar, I've gone over. I will freely admit that I then cut and add for a bit until I find the optimum length of 13 lines if said 13 lines is mid-sentence (the addition of the scroll bar can mess with the line quotient).

The most reliable way I've foumd to make sure I've got the right line count is to format my document with Courier New 12pt font before posting. (Hell, I just write in that font in the first place nowadays.) 13 lines in Courier New 12pt font with paragraph indents is generally equal to 13 lines on Hatrack (plus or minus a couple of words in some cases).

As for these lines themselves: I'd recommend further tweaking to improve the prose, but the concept of this opening intrigues me. I would definitely read on.

As far as ways it could be improved: For the most part, cutting that first paragraph and the first half of the first sentence im paragraph two would do wonders for the story. Then you're not opening with a tell--you're opening with showing the reader that something is dreadfully wrong with this animal. (I would recommend changing 'she' to Alarms and 'the rodent' to Runkin, if you take this advice.)

In the last currently visible line, I'd also recommend changing the word 'it' to 'the lump'.

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Member # 9151

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Thanks, DP, on both fronts. I've been skipping this book now for the last two years just continuing to build on the story while working on other projects. I just can't quite find the start I want so in an attempt to jump-start something I began posting those attempts here.

I hope this book doesn't become my white whale, except maybe in sales. (wink)

thanks again,


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Grumpy old guy
Member # 9922

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Over the last few years or so I came to the conclusion that if I couldn't get the start right it was probably because I hadn't yet worked out what the story was really about.


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Member # 9682

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The opening doesn't exactly feel like a start of a novel since it's not introducing the characters or situations we get in the first lines. I would suggest choosing one of the several events in the above excerpt and starting only with that.
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Member # 8019

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A lab technician discovers an unexpected experimental result.

Twelve lines, by the way.

For me, this opening somewhat works due mostly to the last sentence's curious oddity. The rest is setup. I don't have an emotional connection yet, though a vague curiosity about the unexpected experiment result.

Part of tension is stakes and motivation introductions. The setup of the fragment projects that ominous doings are afoot in the near term, right, perhaps, at the very next moment. Though I feel that emotionally charged, at least one or the other, stakes or motivation would enhance the fragment's appeal potential.

What are the motivations and/or stakes of the experiment for Alara personally? And why?

What does Alara personally want and/or what problematizes that want or incites that want? I feel the start has room to introduce one or the other. A problem with the mass that moves, or that the intent of the experiment is given and that implies or expresses Alara's want. Motivations (wants) and stakes (want and problem outcome possibilities) portrayed start story movement and engage readers: the art of the hook. Easiest in word count terms to express a want motivation or a problem motivation that incites want satisfaction.

"Hell" capitalized is for the place. Lowercase hell is for the interjection //What the hell.// Some emotional charge in that anyway.

This takes a comma or could be recast into two independent clauses or sentences. "Alara yelled out[,] still poking at the strange remains." The second clause is subordinate to, dependent on, the main clause and is nonrestrictive, so takes a comma for clarity's sake. "still" is a function word, adverb, in that use, to mean ongoing. The clause is a verbal phrase of a participle type that modifies "Alara."

As written, without the comma, the clause could be read that "Alara yelled out" the words that follow. Confusing.

Convention usually places a present participle clause before a main clause. //Still poking at the strange remains, Alara yelled out.//

Stronger prose, though, would recast the two clauses into independent clauses or sentences. For illustration: //Pokes and jabs at the strange remains nudged the brown lump. Alara yelled out, "Doggone mess," to the vacant lab.//

Two "then" uses in quick succession. Consider if either or both are necessary.
"that had then hardened.
Then it moved."
//that had hardened.
It moved.//

These are almost interpretable, not quite memorable enough for me: "RA-UNKN-C14" and "UNPL-374." Rat, unknown, C14; unplanned, 374? For stronger appeal potential, consider more clarity and of a personal to Alara context. Maybe even emotionally charged adjectives that modify those? //happened to _dang-it-all_ RA-UNKN-C14?// //stray enzymes from unpredictable UNPL-374.// Just examples for illustration.

Alara acts as if someone named Dev hears her. Devlin maybe. Not sure whether Dev is outside the lab and watches and listens from somewhere without response or Alara believes Dev is in earshot or should be nearby and is nonresponsive.

For me, Alara expressing something personal about the experiment results or the experiment intent and how that relates to her personal motivation could strengthen the fragment. I can't project what or why, though.

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