It was a small affair. Fifteen of her associates had come together in the small conference room to congratulate Kara Wilkins on the arrest of Simon Greenly, her latest success. They mingled, chatted, or perused, and then chose from the enticing array of canapés and wines available on the polished mahogany table in the centre of the room before returning to their discussions. Beyond the edge of the gathering Kara stood alone, her brow furrowed slightly as she tried to recall the title of the ancient piece of jazz playing in the background.
Dave Brubeck . . . Take Five, and a gentle smile tugged at her mouth; only to be swept away when Oswald Wembly stepped from the crowd and began walking toward her. Automatically, she assessed him--he’s drunk, she decided. Not enough to impair him . . .
Kara Wilkins stood at the window with her back to the celebration. Even though the affair was in her honour, she stood alone in that opulent, crowded room.
She liked it that way, and so did the people she worked with. She unnerved them and they in their turn where oh, so transparent; like an open book with every page laid bare. Which was the reason for her rapid rise through the ranks, culminating in tonight. At twenty-three she was the youngest Inquisitor in the elite Commissariat Investigation Branch, the C.I.B.
Kara’s gaze wasn’t focused on anything outside the window; she was trying to remember the name of the ancient piece of jazz playing in the background. The words, “Take Five--Dave Brubeck,” suddenly leapt forward in her mind and the hint of a smile . . .
Despite the expensive gown the reflection staring back at Kara from the carbon crystal window still reminded her of an orphaned waif. She was small with a heart-shaped face and haunted eyes framed by long, flyaway brown hair. Eyes that had seen things none of the other people in that opulent room could imagine; let alone care about.
She had been born a prole, one of the unwashed masses, destined to eke out a precarious existence living between the force domes. The outer kept Earth’s poisonous toxic air and acid rain at bay while the inner kept the fumes, noise, and stench of the factories from upsetting the delicate senses of the chosen few: the (thinking). The only thing that had saved her from an early death was her mind. Every prole was tested at age five and one in
[ December 31, 2014, 10:54 PM: Message edited by: Grumpy old guy ]
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The third sentence distracts me. It reads as if, as one, everyone did the exact same thing: mingled, chatted, perused, ate, then mingled again. Different groups have their routines, and perhaps this group always does this the same way. It comes off as a little odd to me, though, a little too hive mind.
Other than not, this opening somewhat works for me. It's a bit cluttered, but not overbearingly so. We get four names: Kara Wilkins, Simon Greenly, Dave Brubeck (the musician playing in the background), and Oswald Wembly. I'm more of a fan of limiting names in page space, but that's just my preference.
I wouldn't exactly say that there's something here that'll make me read on, but there also isn't enough that would make me stop. I can imagine finishing the next paragraph before making a decision of whether or not I'd spend further time on the piece.
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A social carbohydrate-bribe ritual celebrates an accomplishment. Wilkins makes an effort to recall the jazz song instead of engage with the party, which she probably couldn't care less about or is standoff-ish from shyness or embarrassment from the attention. The celebration really has nothing to do with her. Accomplishment celebrations are social rituals predicated upon carbohydrate bribes and social bond enhancement, not to mention, coattail glory grabs. "We" arrested Greenly in Wilkins' name. A complex ritual underneath the overt context and texture.
Not much tension, little, if any, emotional attitude, and wordy, forced, and run-on sentences. A syntax expletive pronoun starts off the narrative. The narrative distance is more open than warranted. The narrator overtly mediates the action without attitude commentary. Either narrator or viewpoint agonist should express emotional attitude about the sensory stimuli of the wine and snack reception and its accoutrements. Unnecessary, bumpy tense shifts and unnecessary -ing words.
Note how many prepositions the second, third, and fourth sentences contain. "in," "on," "of;" "of," "in," "on," "of;" "of," "of," "of, "in." Wordy and run-on sentences.
"It was a small affair." "It" is the pronoun syntax expletive.
The event of consequence is Greenly's arrest, though for what not given.
//Gathered in Goomanga District conference room, fifteen associates celebrated school bomber Simon Greenly's arrest, her proudest success. "A toast," Director Wembly said, "to Agent Kara Wilkins for brilliant nose-to-the-ground police work." Wembly was tipsy drunk, happily. Another drink would send him into rudeness.//
Another character introduces Wilkin's name, not the narrator, develops close narrative distance. And personal-to-Wilkins observations and attitude commentary, plus, Greenly's crimes are given.
An attitude commentary example for illustration, narrator reports Wilkins' reflected viewpoint; robust attitude verbs, adjectives, and adverbs signal internal-to-Wilkins' viewpoint and attitude--stream of consciousness:
//District forensics staff _rubbed elbows_, _chatted small talk_--_fickle_, selected from _bottle_ wines and _carterer_ canapés _heaped_ upon the _crowded_ room's _slick_ mahogany table. _Forbidden_ calories, Kara thought.//
Exaggerated for effect; emotional attitude, though, that estranges the narrator in favor of Wilkins' personal viewpoint. This is third-person close, limited omniscience at its finest expression, first-person, too, for that matter: expressed personal emotional attitude commentary, narrator or viewpoint agonist persona.
"ancient . . . jazz" is an artful time stamp mark. The adjective "ancient" signals a far futureward milieu and setting, though obscured by its cluttered sentence.
Wembly's approach signals a pendent routine interruption. Problems with Greenly's arrest or a new and troublesome assignment maybe. Artful curiosity evocation method.
Well, let's start with what stuck out on the first read through. There the third sentence, of course. There's a couple of things.
"Peruse" isn't a word people use much -- at least not over here in the US where we'd more likely say "browse", although things may be different over there. We use "peruse" to mean to browse by reading, as with a wine list. In any case it's a bit confusing because we don't know what the guests are perusing.
"Enticing array of canapes..." This is what I call a "hard sell" -- an unsupported claim made by the narrator that we as readers simply have to accept. Of course too much critique can corrupt one's perception of these matters, but this "enticing array" kind of thing always feels like a placeholder to me, marking a spot where something descriptive or indicative (by reaction) belongs. It might also be that I seldom find canapes or hors d'oeuvre very "enticing", not unless there is bacon or seafood involved, preferably both. Little squares of thin pumpernickel toast spread with sour cream and caviar and served with ice-cold vodka shots on the side... That'd get my attention.
"A gentle smile tugged at her mouth..." I should warn you that this kind of personification usually stops me dead cold unless the writer is deliberately going purple prose. Does anyone else feel this way?
"A gentle smile ... He's drunk, she thought." A bit of an abrupt shift of narrative distance here. "Gentle smile" is her smile viewed from the outside. "He's drunk" are her literal thoughts inside her head, not paraphrased at all. Since we're only working with the first 13 lines I can't tell whether this is a shift of narrative distance, which is OK, or an anomaly. Probably most people wouldn't notice, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
"Automatically, she assessed him..." Adverb trouble! Sometimes, in openings especially, it feels like characters are marionettes having their strings pulled (e.g. the smile tugging at her lips). So it feels a bit weird to start off a sentence describing what she is doing this way. My real problem though is that I feel you're not quite as clear as you should be at this point in the proceedings. I get what you're saying: she's giving him a professional once-over. You're relying on the allusion to an arrest in the first paragraph to make this clear. I think, however, this would be a good time to reinforce or clarify the impression she's some kind of detective, which may not have sunk in yet.
On that score the nature of the scene raises some questions about what kind of detective she is. The conference room and associates suggests she's part of some kind of organization -- a cop? But so far as I know cops don't get together in the squad room for canapes and wine after they catch a criminal, even a big-time one. Over here it'd be off to the boozer for a beer, a beverage made of fermented malt you folks down under might have heard of.
"... her latest success..." This is super-nitpicky, but this feels kind of like a bit of hard sell too; you're slipping in a bit of backstory by having the narrator tell us. I felt the second sentence could be streamlined by dropping the appositive at the end and establishing her super-sleuth bona fides a little more gradually/subtly.
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Germinations of a summary and explanation start orated by a narrator -- this sort of opening can be read in most sophisticated narratives for the first quarter word count. Known in classic Realism era narratives as an exposition act, exposition meaning introductions. Exposition acts of the sort usually entail backstory summary and explanation: narrator lectured tell.
Such openings require emotional disequilibrium and implication in order to, first, engage readers' intellects. Readers infer a pot simmers or roils beneath the superficial action, second, engages readers' imaginations such that they emotionally participate in scenes and the action. The grammatical mood of this start fragment is indicative: facts directly stated which ask for little if any interpretation. Kara shuns the party's celebrants. She's loathed by them, rejected, so to speak. In her turn, she turns a cold shoulder to them.
Not much to interpret and, consequently, not much to orchestrate the first intellectual access to the action. Readers are kept away from emotional participation. If any emotional influence, the narrative rejects readers and portrays an unlikeable high-brow snob. Kara's emotionally cold to the point of antipathy and enmity. If she dislikes others, readers likewise dislike her.
Successul narratives' openings engage readers' intellects, imaginations, and emotions through developing empathy or sympathy for a viewpoint agonist's crisis struggle. Kara is posed in a stasis state of being. Verbs express her nonfinite actions in indicative mood, direct declarations that allow no interpretation. The emotional texture, what there is, directly stated, allows no inference.
Implication uses transformative events, setting sensations, sensory foreshadowing, interpersonal interaction to imply intangible, interpretable, inferrable action. If Kara emotionally interacts with the outside setting, features seen outside the window from which she keeps her back and shoulder turned to the party celebrants, this shows her disdain, her aloofness from them. This readers can infer, interpret, become engaged by their intellects their imaginations and their emotions.
What's outside the window that draws Kara's attention away from the crowd? That signals she's antipathic toward the group? Emotionally cold setting motifs that clash with emotionally warm motifs are these "telling details." Is the season outdoors winter, spring, summer, or fall? Is the weather unseasonably cold for summer, for example? Is spring foliage unseasonably bare from a violent storm or firestorm?
Springtime settings signal a renewal of life after a winter dormancy' death, for example. Summer is a ripened abundance. Fall a time for harvest and winter preparation. Winter a struggle to survive on stored reserves through a dead season. In these ways are setting's details relevant and implications of the current action and signals of the action to come. Though general readers note them not, these "telling details" persuade readers to engage, intellectually, imaginatively, and emotionally.
The more specific a focus on telling details, the larger-than-life they become. Perhaps a caterer company delivers an ice swan sculpture mid party, delivered late though almost timely at the start of the festivities. That's specific enough, for example. Maybe the swan is a mermaid instead, a cold siren of the deep. Perhaps a less fantastical though no less symbolic motif of a human icon, a cop posed in defensive tension, handgun drawn, for example.
Maybe instead Kara notices caterer staff lounge around a servant entrance and wishes she were with them instead of the hostile and cold company she's among. Specific telling details evoke emotional, transformative, meaningful reactions from a viewpoint agonist. They characterize events, settings, and characters.
Whatever "telling details" in scene mode, not narrator mode, or, if in narrator mode, the narrator shows Kara's viewpoint from inside Kara looking out, not outside looking in at Kara from a distance removed from the scene's now moment, location, and transformative situation.
Likewise, the scene inside the opulent, crowded room. What telling details are there? Contrasted emotional coldness and emotional warmth in specific focus. And as well inside and outside, and within Kara and without, contrasted, her larger situational awareness. Say that the party celebrates a meaningless-to-Kara achievement. She's indifferent; she refuses to join into the ritual's celebration because she believes the celebration is a feel-good party after an abysmal failure the party-goers paint into a success. Kara's contempt given a cause more meaningful than she's aloof from her peers. They are self-delusional; and she's pragmatic if a hardboiled cynic.
Yes, a lot to fit into a thirteen-lines fragment, though illustrates this fragment rushes past at least causation. Here's Kara Wilkins, hardboiled cynic, jaded woman (jade gemstones are a possible potent symbolism motif focus) who is that way why? No sympathy- or empathy-worthy cause for her coldness is given. She has had a meteoric rise in professional status, grounds for envy -- a moral crisis complication motif, though under-developed. Natural jealousy, taken for granted, though could as easily be interpreted more naturally as because Kara's personality draws scorn. Envy and inherent jealousy's opposite vice-virtue clash is kindness.
A touch of Kara's kindness portrayed would make her more empathy-worthy and thus likeable. Just a little thing, not much word count. Perhaps she's charitable toward a subordinate who normally draws contempt from others, and, peevishly, she does so to rub her peers' noses in their lack of kindness toward inferiors. Charity is a virtue congruent to kindness, though greed is normally charity's vice-virtue moral clash.
These moral vice-virtue clash motifs are a large portion of implication's development. Kara, cold and aloof toward cold and aloof others, is warm and compassionate toward warm and compassionate others. Servants, subordinates, regularly disparaged others, folk who are noble if of diminished status for being "different" from the popular in-group expectations of perfection. Though the latter are pretty outside, they are petty-ugly to the bone; and Kara knows the differences between the two types. Actions speak louder than words.
Also, portrayed events of substance speak louder than narrator generalized summary and explanation lecture.
I would not read on past the first three words. Naming a viewpoint agonist in first sentence subject position signals narrator lecture as if an oral summary of a family vacation slideshow. Likewise, a static verb like "stood" misses agonist sensory viewpoint in favor of narrator perspective and even as remote as writer's desk perspective. I receive this fragment as an unwilling audience of a family vacation slideshow with a posed family in the way of every point of interest: the majestic fountain in the square, the Gothic painting, the Disney mascot posed before the Magic Kingdom castle, the Grand Scenic vista; the photography production values poor, blurry, washed-out contrasts, misframed; and, in front of it all, the family head orates from between the slide projector and the silver screen, in the way of what little interest the slides themselves have to share.
On the other hand, a foreground narrator perspective works for me if the narrator clearly and strongly holds an attitude cynical, sarcastical, satirical, ironical, or in any way emotionally weighted toward a narrative's moral circumstances. This fragment is on the neutral and static side as regards narrator or viewpoint agonist attitude.
Strength-wise, what works most for me, is I'm attracted to noble folk like Kara who are estranged by their social cohort for their virtues. At least I project I like Kara for that reason. She's not developed enough for me to be sure, which I require assurances of from a start, that liking Kara will not turn back on me and cause me dissappointment or worse.
It's a little slow for several reasons. It's basically backstory and exposition, which isn't engaging to read. There's no tension, and what tension could exist between her and her co-workers is muted. If she was in the party wanting to leave, or if her co-workers were trying to make her stay even though they'd prefer that she stepped outside, that would create narrative tension that'd be more engaging to read.
But right now, everyone's getting exactly what they want.
I think I remember this from your previous entries. A slower buildup seems to be your style.
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Well, extrinsic, in my attempt to increase the narrative distance for the ‘opening shot’ I’ve accidentally walked out of the studio. Yup! Having thought about it, I agree that I need my narrator more in the foreground. Say:
Trying to remember the name of the ancient piece of jazz playing in the background was a welcome diversion for Kara Wilkins. With her back to the gathering . . . And so on.
Yes, the opening is a deliberately expositional tell, Denevius. I considered it the quickest and simplest way to get some key facts about the milieu and character into the reader’s head right up-front; they’re oblique facts, but they are the seeds for ah-ha! moments a little later on. The problem is, I was a little didactic about it. If you ever got to turn the page, the next episode of this scene would have been in Kara’s POV showing the reader why Kara’s colleagues are afraid of her and that this is the reason she is alone. A small bridging scene would then follow showing the reason Kara preferred solitude; a sort of sensory overload related to the revelation preceding it. When I get around to posting the scene notes, you’ll see what I’m trying to do.
Anywho, I’ve got a few small tweaks to make so I’ll be back later.
Thanks again for your assistance, the both of you..
PS. Denevius, not all my story beginnings are quite so languid. This one needs to be because the reader is going to be spending a lot of time inside the head of a very complex character undergoing complex change and everything else needs to be set up so I don’t intrude into that narrative.
The exposition isn't so much the issue. Like, look at these first two sentences:
quote: Kara Wilkins stood at the window with her back to the celebration. Even though the affair was in her honour, she stood alone in that opulent, crowded room.
Ok, so you're setting up the scene here, and the character. But you've given us a generic "celebration" in the first sentence. You have an opportunity to paint Kara with a visual that stands out, but all we see is a generic female's back.
'Kara Wilkins stood with her back to the window, her tail swishing to the flickers of light hitting the stained glass behind her.'
This is just an example, but throwing in a detail that makes the reader mentally sit up seems to be missing in your opening. Opulent doesn't tell us anything, and crowded doesn't tell us anything.
quote: She liked it that way, and so did the people she worked with.
Here, too, it's not that this is telling and not showing, but it's that the word usage is plain. Does Kara simply like being outside, or does she get off at the seclusion?
Anyway, it's just the word usage feels a bit on the bland side. I would prefer to see something about the crowd and opulence and Kara. The lines, as written now, aren't very engaging and are taking up space on the page without doing any of they work they're supposed to be doing.
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//Kara Wilkins glared at window reflections of phony celebrations behind her back. The faked gala affair was in her dubious honour. She stood alone among this ostentatious, opulent, elbow-rubber-crowded room.//
Compare to "Trying to remember the name of the ancient piece of jazz playing in the background was a welcome diversion for Kara Wilkins. With her back to the gathering . . . Still emotionally neutral. The above illustration perhaps overstated: exaggerated for effect.
A mite of overstatement often is exactly enough weight or heat. Too little emotional emphasis readers easily overlook, because our everyday lives are passed by "making a scene" avoidance and subtle, obfuscated derision and what is emotional is empty words packaged by potent emotional vocal intonation and nonverbal language.
Writers usually err on the side of emotional caution. Dare a narrator or viewpoint agonist to be emotional; what? Angry. Contemptuous. Loathing. Disgusted. Afraid. Delighted. Joyous. Or whichever of a hundred and one passionate emotional states.
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Denevius, I misunderstood, and yet my answer is essentially the same. I deliberately set the narrative distance long, in the opening paragraph anyway, but now realise it was waaaaay too long. I deliberately set it up as a static moment in an attempt to heighten Kara’s isolation; in any other type of scene I’d agree with your comment about the lack of ‘movement’. The isolation and stasis is also heightened by the use of the declarative statements extrinsic didn’t like because it took away the reader’s ability to interpret the situation. I’m still considering the implications of that.
My choice of words is also deliberate and chosen for effect. For instance: As extrinsic had previously noted, the use of the term ancient jazz implies a time far in the future. The use of affair is deliberate; to accentuate Kara’s isolation and relationship with her colleagues; it isn’t a party, it isn’t a celebration, and even the term gathering implies a collegiate coming together. The guests don’t really want to be there, apart from the opportunity to curry favour with their superiors, and Kara doesn’t want to be there at all. The name of the organisation, the Commissariat Investigation Branch was chosen to hint at milieu. Why would there be an elite investigation branch involved with monitoring a commissary? And her title, Inquisitor denotes someone beyond an investigator; it implies someone who can compel testimony. These words are all designed to give the reader the opportunity of going, “Ah-ha!” and feel like they’ve discovered something on their own in the near future; a small cheat.
As I think about your responses and my own aims in writing the way I did, I need to consider everything you said; perhaps the scene is too static at that. I may have been writing for myself and not the reader. If that’s the case, I’ll need to re-think my approach yet again.
extrinsic, I understand what you are saying but such a reaction is not in Kara’s make-up. She has disdain in bucket loads, but she doesn’t go around telling people why she has no time for them. Unlike me, currently at work I have some people who are tedious, mundane, trivial, I have no time for them, and I wouldn’t p#^s on them if they were on fire. And they know it too.
What emotional reaction cluster is Kara's makeup? Indifference is an emotional state too, though more challenging than antipathy to portray, because indifference is a neutral state. Besides, if the narrator infers Kara is antipathic and readers realize the narrator is biased, Kara is actually indifferent, more information for readers to infer and engage with. And a state change between narrator and Kara attitude.
So, if Kara is indifferent, how to show that? The narrator might misinterpret Kara's nonverbal signals that readers can reasonably interpret. Her posture signals she recedes. Her hipbones point toward an exit. She looks through the window at a car park, where her car is. A person approaches and she turns sideways, her posture perks up indifferently, ready to retreat, though polite.
A narrator established as viewpoint persona through strong, if misinterpretive, attitude can look in at a viewpoint agonist and still be and keep internally in touch.
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To put it in film making parlance, I envisioned the story opening with a resolution from black into a long shot of Kara Wilkins starring out the window of an opulent room full of what appear to be revellers. Then there is a fairly quick zoom into Kara’s POV as one of the guests breaks from the crowd and she sees his approach reflected in the glass; it’s at this point we then enter deep into Kara’s POV and remain there until the end of the chapter.
But this is my opening, written for me because I understand everything that Kara is, and wants, and is afraid of.
Perhaps a better opening would be a long shot of the ‘affair’, and then a panning shot to show Kara at the window, her reflection in the glass revealing she is standing there with her eyes closed. It’s at this point we enter her POV, at a distance at first, trying to remember the title of the music playing in the background, but then deeper as she observes the other character making his approach and showing the reader why everyone is afraid of what she does--discern motivations, no matter how deeply hidden. And, if you don’t think that’s a scary proposition, then you haven’t thought about it much.
I think that with this sort of opening I can excite reader interest in setting, milieu and character with the hope that they’ll keep reading. But I’ll have to think about that a bit more.
This is the trap of the first 13. This is submission format, not reader, first page experience format. Write first for the reader and then for submission seems to be the go.
"I think that with this sort of opening I can excite reader interest" yep, you can excite this reader's interest with a woman or indeed a man who recognises Brubeck. Keeping in mind it's a book, I would not expect too much from the first 13 lines. but you would not get me to pick the book up with the "Daisyworld" title; some kind of hint in the title on the premise of the story would be needed to entice me. A jazz theme or motif would do it for me.
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I like the second opening much better. Starting with a character is far more interesting to me than starting with setting, but that is my own personal preference.
Here are a few thoughts.
quote:Kara Wilkins stood at the window with her back to the celebration. Even though the affair was in her honour, she stood alone in that opulent, crowded room. You need to be more specific here. Give us a vivid image of her and the room.
She liked it that way, and so did the people she worked with. She unnerved them and they in their turn where oh, so transparent; like an open book with every page laid bare. Which was the reason for her rapid rise through the ranks, culminating in tonight. At twenty-three she was the youngest Inquisitor in the elite Commissariat Investigation Branch, the C.I.B. (I'm okay with this, but it is a little on the telling side. It seems that this could be something you could show by her interactions with her coworkers. I think it would make a stronger impression, but if you'd rather leave it this way, I did find it interesting. Sometimes it is best to tell to move the story along quicker, so it is best for you to decide which way to go here. I am slightly annoyed with young women being prodigies. I've read too many stories like this lately, that it starting to be a cliché that turns me off to the story. If it isn't key to the plot, I suggest raising her age just a bit.
Kara’s gaze wasn’t focused on anything outside the window; she was trying to remember the name of the ancient piece of jazz playing in the background. The words, “Take Five--Dave Brubeck,” suddenly leapt forward in her mind and the hint of a smile . . . (Once again this feels a bit too much telling, and it is less interesting to me. I think this would work better if you started to deepen the POV here. Get us into her head.)
Even though there isn't a lot of tension, Kara is interesting enough to me as a reader to read on.
No problems, Pat. I have an almost completed first draft but you may be waiting a year or two for something I feel is ready for reader feedback. I still need to get this damn opening right! I am minded to continue with my preferred option of a single (Kara) POV, but much closer. Not first person, most probably third person intermediate. Need to sleep on it for a day or two.
Written-word narratives may have cinematic starts. A camera's field of view may be wide, take in the landscape or crowds or such. An organization principle orients from far to near or vice versa.
Physical distance is a feature that influences aesthetic distance, which includes as well emotional, narrative, intellectual, temporal, and psychic distances.
Cinema distance manages the transformatve necessity that engages recievers by camera motion: pan, zoom, wide angle, telephoto close-up, lapses, laps, and fades, jump cuts, foreshortened, gels and filters. Each technique creates dramatic motion through emphasis. Static motion is the death of cinema distance and emphasis. The shot held close up too long, or too briefly.
Too soon close up? Too fast a scene segment? I think the opening is both too soon close up and too fast. A single dramatic segment needs a dramatic movement, a structure like a plot overall though complete in and of itself. Kara and the "camera" don't change in the fragment. Cause and effect, antagonism's want and problem, tension's empathy and curiosity arousal are avenues for that transformative movement.
Written word's strongest appeal is intimacy. Yet under-distanced intimacy, too soon, too brief, too late, too long, alienates. Camera movement, especically around scenic vistas, serves to engage viewers until the action starts. However, the action starts with the symbolic representations the view provides, and the sound track.
An eagle screeches, the music is partiotic, majectic purple snow-clad mountain peaks, the camera zooms in on a fur-draped mountain man on horse back crossing a stream. Rugged though noble individualism is the theme. The film narrative, obviously, maybe subtly, will contest the noble individual with institutional wickedness.
How to show Kara as herself, likeable and trustworthy, if that's the intent? Start farther away, for one, use setting details to draw the camera onto a close-up that frames her. She's inside. Maybe the camera frames the building's facade, an opulent mansion, sterile white Doric columns on the entrance porch, zooms into her silhouetted in one window. What does the building represent? Power, Authority. Wealth. Since the title is Daisyworld, use the black and white daisy motif to signal, what, something black? Limousines? Maybe zoom first into a closer-up shot of valets parking limousines, and closer-up shot yet of a less ostentatious gray sedan or coupe then zoom into Kara at the window. The movement signals the gray (neutral) car is Kara's. The camera moves through the window up beside Kara. Closing distance from far to near. Then show the celebrations, open distance, then show the person approaches her, closing distance. Dramatic camera movement that is antagonal, causal, and tensional, and transformative.
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So, I've changed it again and kept a fairly long narrative distance. I like the first paragraph but I'm a bit problematic with the second; it's taken from a bridging scene as Kara walks home after the 'affair'.
Perhaps foregoing the back story exposition and staying in the moment might be better.
quote: She had been born a prole, one of the unwashed masses, destined to eke out a precarious existence living between the force domes. The outer kept Earth’s poisonous toxic air and acid rain at bay while the inner kept the fumes, noise, and stench of the factories from upsetting the delicate senses of the chosen few: the (thinking). The only thing that had saved her from an early death was her mind. Every prole was tested at age five and one in
Thus the limitations of the 13 line model.
In a novel, you're going to have more than enough time to deliver this exposition to your readers through an active narrative. Trying to cram it in here just so we can see what you're trying to do, or just to create a stronger hook, makes the opening feel rushed and contrived.
quote:Despite the expensive gown the reflection staring back at Kara from the carbon crystal window still reminded her of an orphaned waif. She was small with a heart-shaped face and haunted eyes framed by long, flyaway brown hair. Eyes that had seen things none of the other people in that opulent room could imagine; let alone care about.
This is much more engaging than what you had before, but beginning the first line with 'Despite' is problematic. But you do have phrases that pop off the page better: 'orphaned waif', 'heart-shaped face', 'flyaway brown hair'.
I can't help but wonder, however, if an orphaned waif would bare some of the ravages of being, well, an orphan and a waif. It sounds like she had a hard childhood, but her description makes her sound pretty.
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Thanks Denevius, I started writing the second paragraph as a natural follow-on from her 'haunted eyes' and then remembered where I'd written it before.
As you say, there is time for this later. As for showing scars etc, she had ways to avoid getting, well, abused, and that's part of what got her to where she is now. But that's also back story that will be explored a little much later on.
The third version is closer to the stated open distance intent, though still to me over-distanced. Open distance allows for leading readers into closer distance by curiosity arousal. Curiosity first or empathy first or both at once, there's the conudrum.
For prose, aesthetic distance's stronger appeal is emotional distance, of which empathy or sympathy and curiosity are emotional states. The three versions to me don't upset emotional equilibrium enough. Emotional disequilibrium is perhaps the least of a "hook" necessity even for a start fragment of a novel.
The first sentence's emotional disequilibrium potentials are close, though defused by overly mediated narrator commentary: too much like formal composition, and cluttered by on-the-fly report-writing grammar shortfalls, not enough like prose composition.
A word-by-word deconstruction: "Despite the expensive gown the reflection staring back at Kara from the carbon crystal window still reminded her of an orphaned waif."
"Despite" is a preposition in that use. Prepositions are like conjunctions in that they connect dependent clauses, usually noun-modifier phrases, sometimes verb modifier phrases to main clauses (or dependent single words) and, like conjunctions, their use to start a composition or paragraph is problematic.
"the," a definite article adjective, a grammar principle is to use a nondefinite article for first introduction of a motif. If "despite" is left off for test purposes, "the" then starts the composition, which shows a definite article is also problematic.
"expensive" is a nonspecifc detail, "expensive" as an adjective expresses a neutral emotional state, perhaps weighted toward somewhat negative emotion. The "perhaps" is the problem. Adjectives and adverbs and other modifiers' function is to express commentary: attitude and emotion.
"gown," likewise a nonspecific detail. A gown may be mistaken or intended as a formal dress or an informal item, like a dressing gown -- bathrobe, in other words. Combined with "expensive" leans toward the former, though still unclear and lackluster.
"Despite the expensive gown" is a prefatory dependent phrase subordinate to the main clause. A comma separation from the main clause is warranted. Subordinate phrases or clauses in part rely for their meaning upon a main clause's meanings. Initial composition or paragraph or sentence subordinate clauses hold meaning in abeyance until their meanings are revealed later. A best practice places them at a later position such that their meaning and intent is clear and emphasizes main clause meaning. Otherwise, their prefatory uses serve interjection functions; that is, emotional expressions.
"the" again, a definite article consideration.
"reflection" uh-oh, surely not the trite self-looking at a mirror to describe a physical appearance!? Then the paragraph does exactly that, though in third person. The word is a noun that already an accumulation of empty (nonsignificant -- emotionally lackluster) noun and adjective, "expensive gown," signals yet more empty meaning to come in a long sentence. Consider that the next word is a present participle verb, the first of the sentence, and recast "reflection" could be stronger as a verb and eliminate the present participle phrase.
"staring back" a two-word verb (transitive verb, takes an object hence a preposition or adverb) to stare back. An unnecessary present participle, Simple past tense is warranted for finite time span expression purposes, which simple past's finite time span most draws and continues to draw readers attention. If "reflected" were used instead, simple past, finite time span, also a leaner, meaner word count.
"at" the preposition of the transitive verb's object phrase. Second preposition of the sentence. More prepositions anon.
"Kara" the object of the transitive verb and the subject of the lengthy setup of who this scene is about.
"from" third preposition.
"the" another definte article.
"carbon" noun used as adjective, neutral emotional texture.
"crystal" noun used as adjective, neutral emotional texture.
"window" noun modified by the adjective phrase, secondary sentence subject, a subject complement. Likewise, an emotionally neutral phrase, and yet more noun accumulation. Noun accumulations defuse readers' attention. Emotionally loaded words, however, if artfully emphasized, are memorable at least, and at best enhance readers' attention.
"reminded" the main sentence verb, signals a recollection, an in-the-moment flashback, and with lackluster emotional significance. Consider a stronger, more robust, dynamic, synonymous verb, maybe an adverb too, that sets up the flashback recollection. Maybe this is too soon to flashback. Perhaps an indication the narrative, best practice, opens at a prior or later time. Or skip the recollection flashback and recast for in-the-moment emotional evaluation of an expensive gown and a childhood of deprivation blight.
"her" pronoun, another subject to keep in mind among the many so-far nouns and adjectives.
"of" another preposition.
"an" another article, though this one appropriately nondefinite.
"orphaned" adjective formed from noun "orhpan."
"waif" another noun, though this one contrasted with the earlier "expensive." The sentence contains a lot of intervening, perhaps attention lapsing, words to get to the point.
//Shiny carbon-crystal window panes reflected the sequined ballgown Kara wore, recalled the orphaned waif she once was.// A tighter sentence for illustration purposes.
Then contrast the waif and the grown woman's differences if a viewpoint agonist physical description start is the intent. That's a transition between the prior sentence's recollection, expected, and the now moment of the paragraph remainder, a recollection's function: then and now, how then influences now.
GoG. I've started this post five times trying to look for the right way to say this. Simply, the beginning fails to hook my interest. I would not turn the page. Despite the obvious effort at word craft involved. It is just too wordy.
In the first version, many of the words have multiple meanings or implications. Have to think those through as I read which hinders my enjoyment - and after all, that is why we read fiction.
The second is better, more simple, double meanings removed and is a good middle ground. The third version becomes too complicated, ponderous even in its movement.
Yet it is here at the mention of the "proles" in the second paragraph that you first catch my interest. Now, instead of a boring party, there is a mystery to solve! Dangle it out there - don't mention the test or how she rose from her 'umble beginnings. Leave us hanging. She puts away those thoughts (self-doubts?) for the moment; increase the tension. Instead of having her in the party have her poised just outside the doors ready to open them - it's show time and up goes the false mask, then let events unfold from there.
In a quiet moment after she's played the room, use the first paragraph from the third version. Don't use three modifiers when fewer will do (example use "spewing poisons" or "bile" instead of "fumes, noise, and stench of the factories"). Use shorter sentences. One superb pair of words is enough to flavor the whole paragraph. Magnificent phrasing of every sentence becomes distracting, too much work to read. The best style is one that is not apparent. Sometimes less (in density) is more.
That's my opinion at least.
Thought some more about this last night and I think the rest that you want to get across could be done through conversations. Have an official greet her, "There she is, Kara Wilkins, the youngest Inquisitor in the CIB!" etc. Perhaps the reflection vignette could contain the idea that the gown showed her new life while she still saw the same orphaned waif image reflected in the window. The comparison between the old and the new could serve as a consistent thread to add cohesion to the passage.
[ January 02, 2015, 01:20 PM: Message edited by: E. W. Finch, III ]
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