I'm interested in critiques on my beginning as well as what I have so far of this story. Right now I'm just under 7k and it will likely pan out to somewhere around 10 - 12k when it's done. Thanks in advance for your feedback.
At 6:30 AM on the morning that life disappeared, James Benton’s alarm clock woke him with its dissonant screaming. He reached out to shut it off when he remembered the notice Tom gave him the week before about his attendance. One more tardy and he’d be terminated. With that thought still fresh in his mind, James rubbed his eyes and rolled out of bed, shutting the alarm clock off as he rushed to the bathroom. When he'd emptied his bladder, showered, and dressed he started to brush his teeth. He leaned over to spit, marveling in what a still morning it was. Then he scrubbed at his top front teeth and stopped in mid brush. I know they haven't finished that damn construction yet, he thought. They usually worked on the thing 24 hours straight and had been for the past three months. They ran separate crews
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited January 29, 2011).]
The first line is definately a hook, but I'm a little unclear if it means all life on the planet, or a particular life. I'm not confused in that "gotta know more" way. Just grammatically confused. Still, I would like to know why life disappears.
Be careful of phrases that try too hard, like "dissonant screaming." And I'd put a "had" in to show that his boss "had given" him a warning before today.
The mundane details of the morning ritual could be shortened. Just keep the parts that are unusual in some way.
The MC being aware of how still the morning is makes for good suspense.
My main, critique, however, is that it opens with a male character waking up late on the day the world is going to end. And there's construction involved. Hmmm.... Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?
I was going to comment what Skadder wrote. Can you skip forward to the point when James first notices something about that day is different than all the rest? If his tardiness is critical, have him racing into his job. Even better, would be the point where he really notices that day is unique.
Posts: 475 | Registered: Jul 2010
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Thanks for the feedback guys. Yeah, you're right I definitely need to skip forward. I think it might be one of those cases where I simply need to chop off the first paragraph.
As far as the Hitchhiker's Guide correlation: The point of mentioning the construction was to show its absence that morning hinting the circumstances of the story and to create suspense. But if just the mention of construction brings that to mind then it should probably go.
And thanks a million for introducing me to the Turkey City Lexicon! Good stuff.
Not to beat the dead horse, but I agree with what everyone else has said. This does seem a bit cliched and it also seems to start in the wrong place. However, you could actually turn the cliche around a bit here. If all other life has ceased, and I am assuming this based on the first line, then imagine waking up not to the alarm but to discover the power had gone off (because some stiff ran into the power-lines). Your protag doesn't know what's going on yet, but he has enough to worry about with the warning from his boss.
I will say one thing about the starting with an "awaking" is that if nothing else it gets your story started and on paper. My recent short story was that way. I started with the MC waking (in a white room to make matters worse), but it got the story out on paper in full. Then after getting help form everyone here, I was able to get an intro I liked.
So I guess the round about advice I am giving is: Just don't stop writing what you got to go back and fix the beginning. Finish the story then figure out where the better starting place is.
[This message has been edited by EVOC (edited January 30, 2011).]
I agree with EVOC - finish it before you try to fix it. Personally, I wasn't bothered by the waking up - just the unnecessary details about his morning routine. Also, even though that first sentence provides a hook, it's sort of a cheat, like putting "The reason you should care about this story is:" at the start. Try to build your suspense without it.
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Thanks for all the feedback guys. Yeah, I plan on finishing it first... nice to have an idea of what I'll need to do with the beginning early on though.
Posts: 52 | Registered: Jan 2011
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Yes, it is not an original beginning to a story.
However, some classic sf novels begin similarly, such asJohn Wyndham's THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, Phillip Jose Farmer in the award-winning TO YOUR SCATTERED BODIES GO, and Roger Zelazny used it repeatedly, such as in NINE PRINCES IN AMBER and the award-winning LORD OF LIGHT. Etc.
Therefore, I had no difficulty with your 13 lines at all. They are well crafted, have a great opening hook, and scan easily. The familiarity with this type of opening merely made me want to settle comfortably back and continue reading. As I shared, some of the greatest books in sf begin similarly.
Best of luck with it.
Respectfully, Dr. Bob
P.S. On retrospection, I used a similar opening (fast hook then a pause to set the scene and start the story at a slower pace) for THE KABBALIST. Perhaps these are merely the type of stories I enjoy, and thus my bias.