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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » omigosh! new start location! major edit!

   
Author Topic: omigosh! new start location! major edit!
starsin
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Okay...in some hindthought, I think that the best place to start my one story is not where I was starting it. I've been doing some thinking and I've figured out that I can go off and fix my problem with the story not really having that much of a hook at the beginning, but I need people to read what I have and see if I should start here:

The sun rose that morning, just like it had every morning; the day also began just like every day – with the alarm blaring and Daniel muttering things that if his mother heard would cause her face to turn shades paler. Finally Daniel rolled out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom. Once he had finished his business, he stood and stared at his reflection in the mirror. His reflection stared back.
Standing just over six feet, he doesn’t strike a very imposing figure, weighing in at around 145 pounds of youthful muscle. But anyone who’s stared into those half hazel, half blue eyes has met a will of steel. Daniel sighed, ran his hand through his short cropped brown hair and walked out of the bathroom.

Or here: http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum11/HTML/002301.html

Please! I'd love anything that anybody could say. I'll try my best to keep my mind open to all comments and suggestions and not argue anything (much).

- starsin


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Jenn
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Just a quick query, though I did want to keep reading: why the change in tense?
It reads like he's maybe thinking up some sort of casual laconic voiceover for himself. Don't know if that's what you meant, and anyway it confused me.
But that's just a quibble. I like the dynamism at work here, if not every turn of phrase. That's good enough to keep going isn't it? I reckon come up with a whole chapter or part and then you'll probably get a better sense of how the tone, language, point of view etc are working, if you're still unsure now. You'll know because you'll either be really excited and want to move forward, or be petering out.
In other words, you seem to be working experimentally, so maybe let the small things pass. If you find yourself wanting to keep writing then you must have hit on the right voice. That's maybe the hardest part, so bravo.

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starsin
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What do you mean by the change in tense? Are you referring to the tense change between the original start and the new start? If so, you'd have to read at least the first 5 or 6 pages of what I've got so far. I've come to the conclusion, however, that I could get rid of my first four pages and put them into the story in a later place and form. But if you'd like to read on, I could send you what I've got so far...?
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Zoot
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The first paragraph flows well, the writing's good, but in terms of content there nothing here but someone getting out of bed. I'm not an editor, just a reader, but from what I understand this would probably go straight back on the slush pile because of the cliche.

I agree with Jenn also, the second paragraph is jarring because it slips into the present tense. Aside from this you also seem to slip out of your MC's head. Is he looking at himself in the mirror and admiring his own wilful eyes? Or is that an omniscient voice?


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Omakase
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I don't want to sound too harsh, but this opening doesn't interest me as a reader whatsoever. Why? Nothing happens that is interesting.

You also have three big problems:
1/ The cliched "It was a day just like every other day"
2/ Having the MC look at himself in the mirror so that we (the reader) can get a look a him -- also very overused -- and completely unnecessary. Don't feel like you must physically describe the MC as soon as heis introduced
3/ Starting with someone waking up (or dreaming then waking) is one of the top three NO NOs, unless you have a very good reason in the story. Editors will stop reading pretty fast with that beginning.

Throw me something unique, something interesting that makes me want to read on!


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Survivor
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Ditto.
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starsin
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So...keep beginning one is the general consensus then?
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Jenn
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If the beginning gets you off the mark then keep it, however flawed you might find it later. In first draft stage a beginning just has to get you writing forward.
The basic question is does the beginning you've written lead naturally (and excitingly) into the story you want to tell, or does it seem to have a mind of its own? This is a question for you first, others second.
I think the 13 line forum is great for when you're editing for polish. It's maybe less functional when people are setting out. Try to keep in mind that you can always come back to a beginning and completely rewrite it.

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Survivor
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The other beginning was better, yes.
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Elan
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Arrgg... another "he woke up" beginning. I don't find all the detail about his morning bathroom routine to be at all interesting, nor the personal survey of himself in the mirror.

I would beg you to start with something interesting. As it stands, I wouldn't read any further.


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Hakaisha
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I agree with some of the earlier comments about the writing, but from a reader stand point, I'm scared of how this guy must look at over six feet and only 145 pounds! When I graduated from high school I was 6'2" and scrawny as hell but I still weighed 165 pounds. When I read the description of this character I envisioned a walking skeleton. If that's what your going for then you succeeded, but if you want a skinny, but muscular guy I might add on some weight

[This message has been edited by Hakaisha (edited December 02, 2006).]


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Elan
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You've exchanged one trite beginning (I know the real history of the world) with a worse one (he woke up.)

The first one was better, in my opinion, because there was at least some tension implied from the situation.

My suggestion is, start at the beginning... and I don't think you've found it yet. Start with the event that changed history, or at least changed the character's life. Waking up and going pee, or looking in the mirror isn't it.


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Josh
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Read through a list of cliches and you'll find a lot of them talking about stories that start by someone waking up. Second to that is giving the reader a character description by having that character look at themselves in a mirror, a pond, or some other reflective surface. There are better ways to fit description into action and thought, I believe.

And yes, I agree that there doesn't seem to be any hook here. Statements like "The sun rose that morning"...The only reason I would think to include something like that is if you say, "The sun didn't rise this morning." That would catch my attention. Keep at it.


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starsin
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Just out of curiousity, does this work better:

The sun wasn't up yet that morning when the alarm clock started blaring, causing a string of curses to emanate from still form lying in the bed. Finally the still form moves and rolls out of bed and shuffles to the bathroom. Once the business in the bathroom was complete, he stood and stared at his own reflection in the mirror. The reflection stared back.

I'm wanting to get a description of the MC in within the first couple pages, and I figured that this might have been the best way to do it, but maybe it's not. Pretty much...let's just say that either way, it doesn't really matter 'cause this is going to be my last post regarding this story in particular. Everyone who's said that I should wait until finished is right...And to clarify a few things, here's what happens in like the first two pages:

He wakes up (duh, we know that now), and is getting ready to go on his daily run at (another edit that I've recently made regarding time) "oh dark thirty". He gets dressed in his running clothes, and walks out the front door to bump into his best friend who's waiting there for him. Brief diologue ensues with some dry humor involved, then in the middle of the diologe, the two encounter something very disturbing - a large "critter" across the road from them. Comments made to the effect of "wow, I didn't know they came this far into the city..." "they don't." "crap." Then the critter gets hungry and tries to eat the boys. MC's reason for being, his powers, come alive (he doesn't know until chapter two that he's got powers) and he saves the duo. End of chapter one.

Unique enough?

And Jenn, thanks for helping me realize that I need to finish first _before_ I start to make some major edits.

Elan, I'm sorry about the "he woke up" beginning. And Elan, I was getting to the history changing event.

Hakaisha, thank's for the comment about the weight...I didn't really think that much about it, but you're right, he would look a little emaciated. I've changed his weight to 175, does that sound better? or should I bump to 190?

Thanks for all the help guys!

- starsin

p.s. Feel free to post more stuff, but I won't be seeing it for a while...I plan on putting the last few weeks of this year into getting a few more chapters written before making anymore big edits.


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DeepDreamer
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Wouldn't the best place to begin be with him going out on his morning run, bumping into his friend, seeing the critter, instead of waking up?
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starsin
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I'm sorry...I'm a horrible hypocrite/liar, but I can't resist. What I was trying to convey with his waking up was that he WAS a normal kid - he wakes up like every other average Joe Bob wakes up like - cursing at the alarm clock, then going and taking a leak. I do that in the morning even (I know that you didn't need to know that, but still :P)

And DeepDreamer - he never gets the chance to go on his morning run, he opens his door to leave the house to go on his run and there's the friend, on his doorstep, then in the middle of the dialogue between the two of them, sees the critter, opens up a can of whoop ace on the critter, hides the carcass with the help from the friend, and then end of chapter.


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pixydust
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Okay, it's not that this is bad. But I see two cliches that will turn off any editor looking at this:

1. talking about sun rising and waking up
2. the reflection-description cheat

And you're still changing tense.

Plus, you don't use the MC's name? What POV is this in?

I agree, finish the book, but if you have a bunch of technical issues (POV, tense problems, etc) you should probably be aware of that before you write 100,000wds.


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DeepDreamer
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Okay then Starsin, open the story with him opening the door. He's an average Joe, about to go on his morning run. There's his friend, "Oh, hi friend." There's a scary monster across the street. "Hi, scary monster." Hero beats up monster. "Bye, monster."

Friend: "Wow, I didn't know you could do that."

Hero: "Neither did I."

That's where the story starts, not with him waking up. Everybody wakes up in the morning. (Or sometime during the day/night, depending on job schedule/living arrangements.) Not everybody discovers they have superstrength to take on big scary monsters first thing in the morning. It's the unusual that is interesting. It's the action, the tension, the peril, that hooks in a reader. There is ZERO tension in waking up in the morning and taking a leak. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No interest = Editor reaching for rejection slip. :/

Don't worry, though. It can take a long time to figure out where your story starts. Right now, just keep writing and figuring out where your story doesn't start.

And as far as tense goes, pick one and stick with it. Don't tell me he was doing something, then tell me he does look like such and such. He did, he was, he said, so on and so forth.

Also, don't apologise for writing something people don't like (the overdone "He woke up on a morning just like any other" opening.) Listen to what we say, whether or not you agree, and revise accordingly. Speaking of which, I can't wait to see a revision of this. When does it get interesting? That's what I want to read =)


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kings_falcon
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This is the same story as the other one?? Okay. I'd be interested to see how they link up. In any event . . .

Ijust said this on another crit. If you want to contrast the normal life with what happens next, show me the normal life the MOMENT before it changes. You are starting too early. Maybe only a half hour or so in time early but still too early. I don't care if the MC takes a dump unless he's shooting out magic, fire, or something other than the norm.

Also watch your POV. You switch from an Omni to 3PL, where your earlier version was 1st person. Establish a voice and stick with it.

One problem with first person (last draft) is that you don't really have a good opportunity to describe the MC but that's okay. Same holds true on 3rd person if you stay true to the POV. If Daniel is the POV why is he going to be thinking about what he looks like?

Unless there is a unique physical attribute, you don't need to describe it. So if he has blue eyes in a world where there are only brown eyed people, I need to know that. If there's nothing special about his eyes, unless he has a really good reason to think about it, I should never know his eye color in first person. In 3rd, I only should know the eye color if the POV has some reason to think about/ notice it.

quote:
Standing just over six feet, he doesn’t strike a very imposing figure . . .

Who is telling me this? Daniel's not going to think it about himself.

If you think you could get rid of the first 5 pr 6 pages and not hurt the story, you probably should do so. I suspect page 6 is where the "critter" shows up.

You don't escape trite/cliche until the critter shows up but by that time, you've lost your readers. Move it up. A line of two of normal dialog interupted by the appearance of the beasty would go a long way to giving you a hook.


The ordinary Joe stuff is just deadly. Pick a POV, and start when he opens the door for his run and sees friend, which is unusual for him. Keep the friend scene short and get the beasty on stage by the end of the 13.


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Elan
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Keep in mind, starsin, that there is a huge difference in the level of expectation we have between critiquing something for someone who is writing for the love of it, and someone who is writing for publication. These crits you are getting are your free reality check should you decide you want this story to be published.

If you are writing simply for the love of writing, or for the practice, then heck, you can start him out waking up and cutting his toenails if you like. If you honestly want to eventually be published, it's a death sentence to your manuscript.

This isn't simply OUR opinion; go GOOGLE for yourself some agent and editor names and begin reading their blogs: Miss Snark, Literary Agent X Rachel Vater, Evil Editor are a good start. Once you've read them for a week or so, you'll begin to see how YOUR opening will strike the fancy of the actual people who will be looking your manuscript over at some point.

You can argue all you like with us your INTENTION (I want to show how normal he is), but we are telling you as gently as we can that this opening has no hook to it. Every agent or editor has seen gazillions of this same, EXACT opener... and all this week. It won't make it out of the slush pile.

But it's giving you writing practice, and that isn't a bad thing. Ask yourself, however... out of what you have written, which sentences are absolutely VITAL to the plot; that is, without them, the plot won't happen. Edit your text with that in mind. Every word you write should contribute to forwarding the plot, or clarifying the plot (as in background.)

My motto is: It's The Plot, Sweetie.


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