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Author Topic: First 13 lines of a Short Story
Member # 4777

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This is a new introduction for a story that has already gone through a round of critique at Critters Workshop. The original format was a series diary entries. I'm in the process of changing that to something a bit more modern and fleshing out the narrator

She sits at a large table, basking in the green glow of the laptop before her. Books, papers and file folders litter the space around her. Coiling a curl on her finger over and again, she is completely absorbed in the task at hand, oblivious to everything and everyone except the Gordian knot currently wending its way through her thoughts. With her slight frame, glasses and serious demeanor, one might surmise that the young woman is a researcher or a student of history or literature. That assumption wouldn’t be far off. Catherine Draper is both a historian and an archivist by trade, but those occupations don’t begin to define her. She is also a clairvoyant, powerful and precise, who prefers to employ both sides of her brain.

The story used to begin with:

The organization I represent was founded in London in 1862. The Phantom Society and is believed to be the oldest paranormal research group in the world. It can claim many famous members, from Charles Dickens to William Butler Yeats to Harry Price. It is the Mr. Price who sowed the seeds that bring me here now. He stacked the deck while studying 'The Most Haunted House in England', but sightings and strange phenomenon in the area still persist to this day. My research cannot confirm or refute his findings; Borley Rectory, that uneasy establishment that so fascinated him has been razed to the ground. My goal is to establish whether or not the very earth of that site is saturated with preternatural energies.

Thank you for reading. feel free to be merciless

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Member # 2267

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Small fix: there's just no reason not to tell us who "she" is up front.

Bigger problem, but also easily fixed. You are telling us in great detail about things that we don't care about and she doesn't either. *She's* completely absorbed in the task at hand -- but we don't even know what it is! Tell us! I'd much rather know about something that can engross our MC (and us too, I hope), than in the litterdness of her workspace or what she's doing with her hair.

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Member # 213

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The first person beginning is a lot better. Not great, but much better than the other.
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Member # 3176

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I preferred the first person version, too. Mainly because it didn't confuse me as much as the newer one. I stumbled on your third sentence, had to read it twice before I realised you meant she was tousling her hair. Also, it may just be me being thick, but I don't know what a Gordian knot is.

As I said I found the diarised version easier to read, I would use those entries to develop some action and flesh out your MC.

Good Luck with whatever you decide.

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Member # 4532

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What I find attractive in the Catherine Draper version is we are immediately (1) introduced to a character who is clearly passionate about something and (2) given a crisp mental image-- a scrawny scholar, disorganized & obsessed, working late into the night on some esoteric problem. This caught my attention.

Where I think it could be improved is it quickly degenerates into the narrator's blatant psychoanalysis. I feel I gleaned more about the character from the fact that she obliviously twists her curly hair than from being informed that she has a serious demeanor and enjoys using both sides of her brain.

As for the William Butler Yeats version, it certainly provides the reader with a great deal of useful information about the plot right up front. I really liked the first sentence. But I find it impersonal and kind of boring. I'm not particularly interested in Rectory ghosts, so there is nothing here to make me read on.


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Member # 3432

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You couldn't get more different beginnings. Nice work.

I enjoyed reading the first one more. I got a sense of character, and while I wasn't deeply in her POV I still got a strong feeling of her with some very pleasing language. I know something really unique about her by the time I'm done, along with a lot of the ordinary things that make each person an individual.

Issues with it:

  • I think she should be named up front.
  • You're in a strongly omniscient POV, which could be hard to maintain over the long haul (although you can consider this first paragraph to be "free" and move into her POV, as long as you do it strongly).
  • Present tense turns a lot of people off (although that's not a complete barrier to publication: see here).
  • When I read the first-person account I suddenly realized that the earth may be "saturated with preternatural energies" -- and thought that maybe that should be clear up front.

The first-person account is much drier, but it gives us more information.

I think you have to ask yourself what kind of story this is. If it's more character-oriented and / or literary, maybe go with something more like the first one. If it's more plot-oriented, maybe you go with something more like the second. If it's more of a blend, well...

Maybe. That's why you're the author.

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Member # 4777

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Thank you for all the feedback. I think it will help me take things the way I want to go - which is a happy medium.

Originally, I didn't name the place, because the story really isn't about a haunted rectory. The story wasn't about Catherine, either. But, I think now the story will be.

I'm planning for the story to be more of a literary piece, but I DON'T want it to be boring. Thanks again.

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