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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Opening to Plant By the Moon

   
Author Topic: Opening to Plant By the Moon
kmsf
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Novel Opening - Upmarket sf/thriller (target 110k words/abt 15k completed)

Two sets of boot prints ran through the frost from the back door out to the barn. And at the end of the upstairs hallway beneath a window filled with grey light, Stanley’s math book lay open on a desk.

And Stanley, who had stomped on the mudroom floor to get his feet, shoes and all, into Grandad’s old boots, the ones with the split soles, now hopped over frosted mud from one crackling boot print to the next, while he chewed a bit of waffle from a blue plate in the kitchen sink.

For some time he'd pretended not to notice the signs of a secret between Grandad and Doc: a conversation pulled up short, knobby, old-man fingers scratching in beards and that exchange of glances that said, “Let’s talk about this later, when you-know-who’s not around.”

[ May 13, 2015, 09:45 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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JSchuler
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First: This is more than thirteen lines, which you reach somewhere near "you-know-who's not around.'"

I have a lot of difficulty with the first paragraph. We have boot prints running from the back door to the barn. I now expect to learn about either the barn or the boot prints. Instead, the next sentence is in regards to an upstairs hallway. The open math book on a desk beneath a window in that hallway is also an odd arrangement, which might be fine except for all of the other confusion I'm experiencing.

Next, we're in the mudroom--except not really because we're flashing back to a time when Stanley was in the mudroom, which isn't now--and then we're back outside, to an actual even that's occurring (good!). But then a waffle takes us back to the kitchen.

I feel too bounced around by these opening paragraphs for me to invest in anything.

And if I continue reading past the first thirteen, I'm into another flashback.

So my suggestion is decide when the story starts, get rid of all the flashbacks, and fix it to a single scene. I really don't need to know what has happened in every room on the property at this stage of your story.

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MattLeo
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Hmm. Jim pretty much captures my first impression. The overall effect is busy and confusing.

Theres a couple of ways to go here. One would be to reduce the information overload by narrowing the focus to the present action. It reminds me what one Chinese food critic once said about Chop Suey: the problem isn't that it has lots of stuff in it; the problem is that none of them is the focus. An authentic Chinese dish is always primarily about one thing, and that thing gets elaborated.

So maybe the focus of this dish is Stanley pulling on Grandpa's boots.

A second area to examine is the elaborate sentence structure. I'm not religiously against a little elaborate syntax now and then, but in the beginning a sentence like the second paragraph promises rough sledding ahead.

Maybe you're deliberately going for a literary, stream-of-consciousness style here? But even James Joyce didn't lead that way. Here's how he started Ulysses: "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed."

What you can do in an opening is different from what you can get away with once you've go the reader committed.

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kmsf
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Okay. Thanks guys for the comments.
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KimS
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The order of your first sentences is a little confusing, and the others gave you better feedback than I could. Just chiming in to say I really like the details in the description. I can "see" it
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kmsf
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Thank you, Kim.
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WB
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I also want to know what's at stake, and (I think) to be in deep penetration POV.
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