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Author Topic: Valencies -- SF Novel in early draft
Dropbear
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I'm torn which of two beginnings to open my novel with. I've included both below; you're welcome to critic one or other, but I'm mainly interested which of the two best works as an opening 13 (and why).

The third, hybrid options was added later.

-- Option 1. --

It was the most televised event in history, but to Matti it was just a fleeting streak in the sky. In the tropical glare, with the sky an infinite blue, the sand a reflected silver, and the surface of the sea a white blaze, the smoke-trail was all but impossible to see. For all he could tell, it might have been a thin, ethereal vapour-trail left by some high-orbit jet as it passed overhead; it certainly gave no indication that it was a human body re-entering the Earthís atmosphere.

In the hours leading up to the spectacle, the more sensational elements of the media had been busy speculating how Jonas would still be alive as he entered the mesosphere, and how he would have almost four minutes to watch his outer protective layers carbonise and peal away like the scorched skin of a chicken left

-- Option 2. --

Matti watched the French lesbians farther up the beach. The one with the breasts that looked to have been bought from some cheap Taiwanese chop-shop had her top off again and was wading in the waist-deep water. The other, the butch one, was wearing the complementary New Caledonian Tourism t-shirt with the sleeves rolled up over her deltoids. When she saw Matti looking, she lifted a hand to wave and pointed to the trail in the sky. She said something in French, but Matti didnít catch what it was. There was humour upon her face. The brief view up her sleeve had shown Matti black hair so dense that it looked almost as though she was cradling a coconut in her armpit. Matti gave a thumbs up and waved to indicate that he had seen the streak. She nodded once, then turned to her partner and began arguing

-- Option 3. -- Hybrid, see posts below.

Matti was initially alerted by the French lesbians farther up the beach. The one with the cheap Taiwanese chop-shop breasts had her top off again and was looking up at the sky, shielding her eyes from the tropical glare with one hand. When he looked, Matti saw what could have been an ethereal vapour-trail left by some high-orbit jet as it passed overhead; it certainly gave no indication to being a human body re-entering the atmosphere.

In the hours leading up to the spectacle, the more sensational elements of the media had been busy speculating how Jonas would still be alive as he entered the mesosphere, and how he would have almost four minutes to watch his outer protective layers carbonise and peal away like the scorched skin of a chicken left too long in an oven; other opinions insisted that he would

[This message has been edited by Dropbear (edited January 22, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by Dropbear (edited January 22, 2010).]


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Lionhunter
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Option 2. French lesbians will do that.
I kid i kid. Or am I?
Anyways, i prefer the second because i feel more connected to the MC. The first is ok, nothing really wrong with it IMO, but the second one, even though it doesn't really introduce us to the SF matter, it gives me a link with the character.
My only suggestion? Elaborate on "streak" on the second opening. Make it more....hmmm... clear.

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Nagrom
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Option 2 provides more characterization while still introducing the human meteor, so I like it a little better than option 1. It gives us a good insight into Matti's priorities. :-)

"There was humor upon her face" sounds a little stilted to me. Maybe something about her laughing, smiling, or having a sparkle in her eyes would work better.


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MAP
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Option 2 is better. I like having Mattie see the asteriod.

Option 2 focuses more on the lesbians then the asteriod, which is fine as long as they are an important part of your novel, but if they are only there to add flavor to the scene, I suggest you focus more on the asteriod.

I'll give nits once you have chosen an intro. Good Luck!


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Dropbear
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Thanks for the input.

MAP, from you writing I take it you intended to vote for Option 1.

The French lesbians are in the scene to give someone for Matti to have dialogue and action with so they can discuss what the human meteor means -- was it suicide? accident? foul-play? Was he alive? etc. Otherwise the scene would just take place as Matti's retrospective. After this opening scene, they don't appear again.


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JSchuler
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The first one gets me more interested in the story (although would this really be the most televised event in history?).

I don't find anything interesting in the second to make me keep reading. Even though we know more about Matti, what we know isn't very exciting: he's a man who likes to stare at lesbians on a beach. Plus, as you raised in your first option: why would anyone pay attention to the trail, when it could be mistaken for an airplane?

Option 1 keeps me reading. Option 2 has me looking for something else.


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Dropbear
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Ahh, hung vote, should have known it'll go this way. I'll try for a third option that combines the better elements of the two originals. Please check the original posting.
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Lionhunter
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You know, i'm gonna sound (read) like a stubborn guy, but i still prefer the 2nd version. Consider this:

MC is a guy. He is on the beach. There's this thingy which crashes into the atmosphere. He sees two french lesbians. He becomes interested in them for obvious reasons, hence the analysis. They interact with MC, which as a result of the interaction derails his attention back at crashin' thingy. This might take a minute, 20 seconds, doesn't matter, but the thought->action process seems more natural to me in the 2nd version.

The REAL question is: which one do YOU like? It should be the one with which you are most comfortable with.

Then again, i've been on this site/started writing for 4 months, never published a thing, so my opinion is just an opinion, without anything to back it up.


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MAP
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I am sorry if I was unclear, but I like option 2 the best. The first one is too telly for me. I like to be engaged in characters.

But this is your story, and both are good. So chose the one that best matches the tone of your novel.


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Dropbear
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Sorry MAP, I didn't read you original post correctly.

In that case there's a leaning towards option 2.

As for which one I like ... I'm unsure, which is why I posted in the first place.

The first option gets to the meat of it and has some shock value (a person burning up in the atmosphere on re-entry, possibly still alive, I find a little shocking and disturbing).

The second one, as people have noted, is more about the MC. It also seems more natural to me. But it looses the shock of option one, and delays the introduction of the main thrust of the scene which is about this guy burning up in the atmosphere.


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MAP
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To me the two beginings promise a different type of story. Option 1 focuses on the spectacle and promises lots of action, more plot driven.

Option 2 focuses on the characters and promises to be more character driven.

Option 3 feels like option 1.

So I think you need to decide what type of story are you telling, and use the opening that promises that story.

At least that is how I see it. I hoped this helps.


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Dropbear
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Actually MAP, that does help a lot, and I think your analysis is a correct one. I'm some 40% of the way through the first draft of a predicted 130k story, and although the plot is twisty, I consider myself more of a character-driven author. I focus a lot on oddities in people and their situation and it's what I like to write about.

I'll wait to see what else comes out in subsequent discussion before making a final selection.

Thanks all!


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Nagrom
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I agree about action-driven vs. character-driven with options 1 and 2. Since I tend to like character-driven, option 2 appeals more to me.

If you plan to do a lot more with the lesbians, fine. If they're just there for that scene, that works for me, too. They serve a purpose of giving us some insight into Matti's personality and priorities.

[This message has been edited by Nagrom (edited January 23, 2010).]


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simoncake
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Yeah, Dropbear the Character driven option I think suits you best, particularly if you consider yourself a character driven writer. At the first option with the media etc, seems as though its crammed in there for the readers sake, not the characters. As the narrators voice seems to be his, it seems out of place.

In fact I have trouble believing that your Main actually would have taken enough notice of the media to be able to recall this amount of detail, he seems more interested in breasts than newspapers, at lets face it, it is that fact that makes him easy to relate with. Which is a huge plus because in 13 lines we already have a character we can relate with (in a situation we can relate with).

This is of course unless he was eating chicken at the time of the news and the mention of cooked chicken piqued his interest

Good dig, I like the pace of the third better, but might feel more natural if is was what Matti recalled of the news.

"The media had kicked up quite a storm about this 'Jonas' guy but all Matti really recalled was that he was probably going to cook on re-entry. 'Like a chicken's skin left in the oven too long' they had quoted. It simply reminded Matti that he was nearly due for lunch. Why a man would do this Matti had no idea. Nor did he care, and returned his attention to the lesbians."

Taken a lot of liberties here with your characters, but only just as an illustration, not at a replacement.Just to give you something else to play with, because you have a good handle on your writing and first 13s are a pain in the ass.

Keep it up

Simon


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Dropbear
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I'm going with the lesbians on the beach beginning. I've more or less reworked it already.

I was a little worried about coming across as sexist (or at least 'typical male' if not sexist), but I ran it past some women readers and no one complaint. I also ran it past a lesbian who found it funny. Most agents (in this country at least) seem to be female, and I didn't want to ruin my chances of publication on something as silly as having a beginning that offends women.


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debhoag
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In any case, it would be your character that's sexist - or not. He's an observer, he notices things about people, is what I get out of the second option.
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