Hey guys! The following 13 lines are the first lines of a short story I am writing. I'm thinking about maybe making it into a novel. I want to make sure that the first paragraph of this young adult story is going to be the best it can be. Any comments/critique is greatly appreciated !
The branch of a tree was hitting across her face as she was making her way through the dense forest. The air was humid, thick as she was inhaling the distinctive smell of freshly fallen rain. Fog covered the area, if natural or made out of assistance for catching her, she did not know. Dawn was approaching. She could feel it, even though the world around her was as grey as during the fight she had fought during the night. Her hopes were rising, but she could not allow relief to make its way to her hunted soul. Nevertheless, she could make it. She had to. Though, it was not going to be easy. She slowed down, just a bit. Bringing one hand up to her wounded face, while the other was holding off new branches, leaves and other dangers of the forest. The hand returned with the warm
[This message has been edited by Layla Mikaela (edited March 25, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited March 28, 2011).]
I think you need to move your intro closer to the protagonist doing something besides drinking coffee and whining. You describe a pretty and calm morning with your protag slowly introduced and she's drinking coffee. So far, that's really not that interesting. I mean, girl sips coffee as the sun comes up isn't that attention grabbing.
Then she gets melodramatic without any pathos being developed. Some chick I really don't know is upset because her granny died 3 months ago. Maybe I'm a terrible excuse for a human, but this isn't someone I want to get to know. There isn't enough info for me to want to get to know Ciara. I just have enough info to make me want to distance myself. Ciara being depressed about her dead granny isn't a conflict. Generally speaking, there isn't much Ciara can do about her dead grandma, so her crying about it serves no purpose other than to make Ciara look pathetic (not sympathetic).
If you move your intro closer to your protag actually doing something, I think you'd have a better start. Right now, I have a peaceful setting, a character, and some motivation, but no real conflict. Actually, scratch that. The setting doesn't tell me enough. I don't even know if this is fantasy, sci-fi, punk-horror-romance, whatever. There aren't enough clues to identify time. A modern house could have a terrace, or it could be on a castle. I just don't know.
Some of your descriptions seemed a bit overdone as well. "(T)urning the world into a magical place for the eye to see," really hit me the wrong way. If nothing else, get rid of "for the eye to see." Eyes don't do much else and you lose nothing by getting rid of the extra words.
Um...as you change the 1st 13, for the sake of poor little folks like me who like to see the progress people make as they edit their works, do please post them in a new post. And kind of explain some of the changes you're making too. I'm strange and like to see how works in progress change over time.
As it stands currently, you drop me in the middle of something, which is interesting enough. But...it feels awkward...and I'm not 100% sure why or where all of the awkwardness is coming from.
Your first sentence is a bit awkward:
quote: The branch of a tree was hitting her across the face as she was...
I'd consider making it something more along the lines of:
quote: Running full sprint through the woods, <MC's name> chanced a look behind, only to be rewarded with a smack across the face by a low hanging branch as she turned back to look ahead
Just a thought on that one. Second sentence is a bit rough for me. I'd think of rearranging it some to be a bit smoother. It's more the part after the comma...I know, that's pretty much all of the sentence.
The third sentence gets a bit confusing: "...made out of assistance for catching her..." just reads as...odd to me. Perhaps you meant something like "made to assist in catching her"?
Minor issues with the next couple of sentences. Grammatically, you could merge the next two sentences to make it a bit smoother. But it works this way as well. Just curious: are they far north or something? 'Cause where I live...it's dark in the night. Unless during this fight they're having they are somehow artificially lighting the night up.
Next one is fine to me...could merge last two sentences of 1st paragraph though: "She had to, though, it was not going to be easy"
Which hand returns with the feeling of her blood? the one on the face or in the trees? The way you have it arranged, it seems to me like it's the one in the trees.
The last little bit is fine to me.
Over all, it's not too bad. Perhaps I'm too nit-picky. Keep at it though, you're off to a good start. I'm moderately hooked. She's running, but from what and why? I'd read on, if only to find that out.
<edit> Oh, one last nit-pick: Who is the MC? What's her name? Would be nice to know this somewhere in the beginning...
[This message has been edited by starsin (edited March 26, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by starsin (edited March 26, 2011).]
You start us in the middle of action, which is good. I don't have a feeling of time or place - you can cheat by mentioning an article of clothing (her cloak snagged, or her jeans tore) to help with some of that. Some of your phrasing feels awkward, and actually slows down your intensity (try reading your story out loud - it helps.) Try to avoid phrasing like "was hitting, was approaching, was xxxing" - just say "hit" or "approached".
quote:The branch of a tree was hitting across her face as she was making her way through the dense forest.
would read better as
quote:A branch hit her face as she ran through the dense forest.
"it seemed to be harder" can be changed to "it was." Just a nit: I don't see leaves as a danger of the forest - I wouldn't mention them that way. You're in a good spot - just needs cleaning and tightening.
[This message has been edited by NoTimeToThink (edited March 26, 2011).]
Good, quick rewrite! This is a much better version, but the above comments about tightening your prose are good. Tightening the prose will do two things. It will give you a smaller word count and give the writing more immediacy.
I think the first line should have the girl's name in it. "The branch of the tree hit Ciara as she made ..."
This version no longer makes me want to quietly move on before the protagonist notices me and wants to tell me about her troubles. This protagonist is doing something (even if it is fleeing) and for that I can begin to take notice. Much improved!
Welcome Layla. On how to present rewrites on this board, you might look here, particularly the second last post by KDW. The idea is that we can see all versions in a row, and hone in on the one that is most current, as well as watch your progress. Now to the story.
I can see that you are looking in all the right places to present a story. You've hit on some good details, ones that set a nice scene, and others that try to show her character or move the story. The issue that would stop me reading is the style. Partly because the word "was" was overused, and partly because the distance from the MC varied too much.
For example -
quote:The air was humid, thick as she was inhaling the distinctive smell of freshly fallen rain.
Here you establish three facts: the air was thickly humid, she was inhaling, and there was a smell of recent rain. But just presenting them as facts, via the use of the word "was", actually doesn't tell us all that much - a little scene setting, yes, but not much more. What I want to know is the relationship between these facts. And, if possible, why they are important and how they move the story (if they do).
So looking at this particular sentence, what does this information do to help the story? The air is thick (fact)- hard to breath (relationship to the MC). She is inhaling (fact), so she may be exerting herself more that usual (at least to recognize that she is inhaling), and because the air is thick (relationship to previous fact) it is an obstacle that she needs to overcome (consequence to the story, which adds tension).
The rain caused a distinctive smell (fact). Now this is good, because you drew the attention to the smell, which relates to both the thick air and the inhaling, tying together nicely with them. But the real payload of this is the rain, which comes with an implied danger, of slipping or hypothermia or dripping down the back of one's neck etc. It's just a hint, and you don't come back to it, but you don't need to - it's impact is there for all to see. When it is needed, when she slips and stubs her toe, we understand why, because this has prepared us for it. As this is important information, I would take this sentence a little slower, giving time for the relationships to sink in.
The air was humid, thick. It's distinctive smell, of freshly fallen rain, lay heavily on her breath. etc.
There were several places in the 13 that I thought you could concentrate more on the relationships between facts than you did. Only my opinion, so look at your own style and make up your own mind.
quote:Her hopes were rising, but she could not allow relief to make its way to her hunted soul. Nevertheless, she could make it. She had to. Though, it was not going to be easy.
In the first sentence, we are distant to her - it is a third person analysis of her situation. Some would say it's "telling", but I am fine with that - it can be made to work. The next two short sentences are right up close, in her thoughts, not the thoughts of a narrator. That is a sudden jump in distance, which jars me, making it sound a bit melodramatic. But what should I make of the last sentence? Because you have previously established that you will jump the distance around, it can be either close or distant. If it is close, we realize that she knows a bit about the obstacles she faces (a little vague, maybe, but not too much). If it is distant, then she doesn't necessarily know, and we are left with the opposite impression. So we are now confused, does she know what she is to face or not? And all that created the confusion was the change in distance. So be very careful in how the distance to the MC is established.
[This message has been edited by Brendan (edited March 28, 2011).]
Thanks for all the suggestions and great advice!!
I wish you all a wonderful week ~Layla
P.s.: You can find the above first 13 lines edited under 'Fallen Paradise' in the forum 'feedback for books'. I meant to place it there to begin with, but got a bit confused as I am a participating part of an online forum for the first time. Anyway, you guys might have time to stop by and check it out. I know it still needs some work, but I think it's already better than the first draft, I posted here.
[This message has been edited by Layla Mikaela (edited April 04, 2011).]