Oct 15 2008

Six Openings That Usually Fail

Published by at 12:00 pm under Introductions,Writing Articles

Please don’t open your novel with any of these.

 

1. The main character introduces himself to the reader (“Hi, my name is ____, but you can call me ____.”) Isn’t there anything more interesting you can tell us about the character than his name?  If not, you should probably get back to the drawing board.  This type of opening is also annoying because it’s usually the only part of the book that’s addressed to the reader.

 

2. The main character wakes up and does his morning routine. Instead of showing your character waking up, getting dressed and then having breakfast, why not skip to the interesting part?  Furthermore, virtually everyone eats breakfast and gets dressed.  Please show us something distinct about the character.

 

3. The main character is immediately plunged into danger. OK, so the hero is getting shot at.  Why should we care?  If you go down this route, make sure we’re emotionally invested in the character.  Introduce the character a bit before throwing him to the sharks.

 

4. Something unusual and cryptic happens in the first half-page. For example, a mysterious woman hands the hero a baby and then walks away.  Typically, this type of opening could be improved by spending more time describing what the hero’s life is like before the strangeness starts.  I’d recommend that novelists spend at least half a chapter describing the hero in his element.  Then, when you shake up the status quo, we will have a better feel for the character moving forward.  For example, CS Lewis described his characters for several chapters before bringing them to Narnia.

 

5. The narrator delivers a geography lesson. I recommend showing us your characters before the world, particularly if your world is similar to Middle-Earth.

 

6. The opening sentence uses pronouns for “suspense.” “Until it happened, I had no idea how badly they had screwed me.”  This narrator is obviously hiding what “it” and “they” are.  That’s not suspenseful, just annoying.  Make sure you give us enough to understand what’s going on.  For example, we could rewrite that sentence as “until the dragon’s face exploded into a gooey mess, I had no idea how badly Adventurers, Inc. had screwed me.”   Please remember to let readers know everything that the point of view character knows.

112 responses so far

112 Responses to “Six Openings That Usually Fail”

  1. t3knomanseron 09 Oct 2008 at 5:52 am

    I’ll add this to #3: when you’re writing, it’s not a bad scene to start writing with. It’s fun to write action sequences, and it’s a good way to get a feel for how some of the mechanics of your world works (especially true for sci-fi/fantasy/superhero stories).

    But just because it’s the first thing you wrote doesn’t mean that it’s the first thing to show the reader. Or maybe it’s something to not show at all- by the time you get to the action sequence in the story, you may have a totally different angle on it.

    #5 is not only a bad opening, it’s just bad practice in general. A friend of mine keeps lending me books out of the Honor Harrington series. They aren’t bad military action novels, but there are these moments where the author basically goes “Whoa! I feel an exposition coming on!” Give me just enough geography to get the story aligned in space. Trust me, I don’t care about your fictional geography.

  2. t3knomanseron 09 Oct 2008 at 6:55 am

    Man, as coffee reaches my brain, finally, I’m noticing that my previous comment could have been clearer.

    “It’s not a bad military action novel…”

    “Trust me, I don’t care about your fictional geography.”

    And so on.

  3. B. Macon 09 Oct 2008 at 8:30 am

    I’ve edited your original comment accordingly.

  4. Bretton 09 Oct 2008 at 8:59 am

    Question, are there any rules about prologues and “notes to the reader”? Example: you open with a friendly note to the reader that clarifies a few potentially confusing subjects (like how say, things that APPEAR to be magic actually are NOT magic), but isn’t actually part of the story. Then the prologue sets up the premise of the story before it begins.

    My first three opening sentences go something like:

    “It is said that while some are born great, and others learn greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them. Such was the case of Alexander Tafari and his two brothers, Michael and Josh. Theirs was an unusual family…” And then i describe and characterize the brothers, start the plot, etc.

    By contrast my prologue is something like:

    Millennia past, a great evil was defeated, freeing all of Therva from a reign of terror. This evil was sealed away, but like all things, the seal could not last forever, and the world still lived under a shadow: the shadow of fear. Fear of the return of The Neitshaden. Even now the seal is breaking, and slowly Neitshaden is gaining strength. And soon it will attempt to envelop the world in a Great Darkness. Therva’s one hope lies in ancient words, given when the Evil One was first sealed. Soon a new generation will rise to meet the greatest threat that their kind have ever faced, and one of them, foretold to be the Destroyer, the Bane of Evil, will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future of Therva. But the allure of power is great. On which side will he make his stand? And above all, who is the Deveshmarkh?

    After this comes the ubiquitous prophecy poem a la Brian Jaques Homage. But this part is still being edited. The current version is drastically different from the original, which included a geography lesson. Ouch! Thanks for that tip btw. Any suggestions on editing this part?

    Last thing: Suppose I took the “geography lesson” and moved it to the back of the book as a reference tool, a la Lord of the Rings? Could that work?

  5. Cadet Davison 09 Oct 2008 at 9:57 am

    Moving the geographic lesson to the back can’t hurt. Additionally, including a map as an appendix usually helps clear up geographical issues. For example, let’s say Alexander goes on horseback from his home to Country B. Glancing at the map, readers should be able to figure out whether the journey will last days or months.

  6. B. Macon 09 Oct 2008 at 10:20 am

    Quoting from Brett: “Are there any rules about prologues and notes to the reader? Example: you open with a friendly note to the reader that clarifies a few potentially confusing subjects (like how say, things that APPEAR to be magic actually are NOT magic), but isn’t actually part of the story. Then the prologue sets up the premise of the story before it begins.”

    Your reader’s note could be problematic. I don’t know how well you will execute it, but just judging from your description, it sounds like you explain the mechanics of the story (like how things that appear to be magic are not actually magic) without actually launching into the story. Readers might feel it’s paced too slowly. I imagine that you could probably take the information contained in your reader’s note and work it into the story more naturally. If the information is super-important to understanding the story, you could include a sentence or two on the backcover as well. As for the premise of the work, that’s usually best left for the back-cover, title and coverart. Generally, readers will only open the book if they like the premise, so explaining the premise inside the book is not necessary.

    I’m not really feeling your prologue. There are a lot of invented words, titles and capitalized phrases (The Neitshaden, Great Darkness, Destroyer, Therva, Deveshmarkh, Bane of Evil). The plot feels very familiar, so I would recommend emphasizing your authorial style and your spin on this material. For example, if I were writing a story about a magical university, people would ask “how is this different from Harry Potter?” I’d say “well, it’s like Harry Potter but told from the perspective of the admissions counselors.”

    I’m not too fond of the prophecy poem. It kind of suggests the hero is a chosen one fulfilling a great prophecy.

    In summary, I feel that your story has potential, but I’m not sure that your opening as currently constructed will entice readers to get into it.

  7. Bretton 09 Oct 2008 at 7:43 pm

    I made some changes:

    Millennia past, the world was freed from a reign of terror. This evil was sealed away, but like all things, the seal could not last forever, and the world still lived under a shadow: the shadow of fear. Fear of the demon’s return. Even now the seal is breaking, and slowly the evil one is gaining strength. And soon it will attempt to envelop the world in a great darkness. One hope lies in ancient words, given when the evil was first sealed. Soon a new generation will rise to meet the greatest threat that their kind have ever faced, and one of them, foretold to be the Destroyer, the Bane of Evil, will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future. But the allure of power is great. As both sides seek to make him their own, he seeks to find his true path. He seeks happiness, but finds it not. He seeks love, but is scorned. He feels the full range of human emotion, and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it. But who knows? Perhaps his weakness will be his greatest strength. But who is he? Who is… the Deveshmarkh?

  8. Bretton 09 Oct 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Btw, what do you think of this quote:

    “His path for good or evil he alone can choose,
    Whichever side he fights against, it is hard for him to lose.”

  9. Patrick McKenzieon 09 Oct 2008 at 7:47 pm

    The one time I have ever seen “morning routine” done effectively is the start of Dexter. It shows an absolutely prosaic shower, shave, eat breakfast routine… for a man who is a serial killer. And that makes it CREEPY AS ALL HECK because every time they show you something it’s like “OH MY GOD HE’S CUTTING oh… ham”

  10. B. Macon 09 Oct 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Brett, here are some line-by-line comments.

    Millennia past, the world was freed from a reign of terror.
    –I’d recommend replacing the word “past” with “ago.” It may be worth replacing millennia with “thousands of years” or “ages.”
    –This sentence is passively constructed. Who’s the noun that’s doing the freeing?
    –It may be smoother to try something like “Ages ago, [noun] ended a demon’s reign of terror. But his seal is fading and soon the demon will rise again.” For a slightly more over-the-top feel, you might replace “rise” with “stalk” or “stalk the night.”

    This evil was sealed away, but like all things, the seal could not last forever, and the world still lived under a shadow: the shadow of fear.
    –This sentence has many clauses. You could probably replace the first three clauses (The evil… last forever) with “But his seal is fading” or “But the seal is fading.”
    –“And the world still lived under a shadow” feels like it has tense issues. Using “still” in the past tense is a bit awkward. You may be able to replace this line with something like “Once again a great shadow passed over [or engulfed] the land.”

    Fear of the demon’s return. Even now the seal is breaking, and slowly the evil one is gaining strength.
    –Tense issues? “Even now” and “is gaining” move this into present tense.
    –The word evil feels like it’s coming up a lot.

    And soon it will attempt to envelop the world in a great darkness. One hope lies in ancient words, given when the evil was first sealed.
    –Evil again.
    –These two sentences may be removable. The detail about the ancient words is probably not important enough to include here. The first sentence can probably be merged into another sentence earlier.

    Soon a new generation will rise to meet the greatest threat that their kind have ever faced, and one of them, foretold to be the Destroyer, the Bane of Evil, will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future.
    –Soon was used in the sentence before this. Also, evil is repeated in this sentence as well.
    –Kind of a long sentence.
    –This is in future tense. You may be able to shift it to present tense by saying something like “A new generation now must rise to defeat the demon.”
    –“the greatest threat that their kind have ever faced” sounds a bit hyperbolic.

    But the allure of power is great. As both sides seek to make him their own, he seeks to find his true path.
    –I like these two sentences a lot. I think they put the freshest spin on this plot.
    –You may want to consider tweaking “make him their own” to “turn him” or “use him,” depending on the voice/style you’re going for.
    –“seeks to find his true path” is slightly redundant. You could probably cut out “to find.”

    He seeks happiness, but finds it not.
    –“finds it not” feels melodramatic. I’d really recommend switching it with something like “finds nothing” or “finds [something negative: despair, pain, death, misery, defeat, etc.]

    He seeks love, but is scorned.
    – I love this, but it doesn’t really fit into the “save the world from the ultimate evil” thread.

    He feels the full range of human emotion, and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it.
    –This sentence doesn’t feel very authentic. “full range of human emotion” sounds too much like a psychiatrist. I’d recommend focusing on one or two of the emotions.

    But who knows? Perhaps his weakness will be his greatest strength. But who is he? Who is… the Deveshmarkh?
    –I don’t like the rhetorical question (“but who knows?”) It has an almost nonchalant mood that doesn’t fit in with the somber, urgent tone of the rest of the passage.
    –This passage seems very removed from the preceding lines. What’s the connection between his search for identity and the extreme emotions? I don’t think I see it.
    –I’d recommend taking out the ellipsis in the last line, but otherwise I liked that question.

  11. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Oct 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Patrick McKenzie, I LOVE Dexter! That show rocks!

    I really like the symbolism, because when he’s shaving and cuts himself, he gets the paper to absorb it. That symbolizes his blood slides. Then with the shower, it represents him cleaning up after a kill, with the ham he slices it up like the bodies, and when he’s putting on his shirt, it’s like the plastic wrap he uses to tie them down. With the orange and orange juice, it’s like the blood of his victims.

  12. B. Macon 09 Oct 2008 at 11:50 pm

    I’ve heard that Dexter’s writing is excellent, but Sylar already fills my weekly quota for grotesque slaughter.

  13. Bretton 10 Oct 2008 at 4:01 am

    Hope I dont bother you guys by posting these revisions, but I made the necessary changes. (“Evil” only shows up once now. lol.)

    Ages ago, long before the dawn of civilization, the world was freed from a reign of terror. The demon was condemned to the void, but the seal has faded with time. Once again the land was menaced by a shadow: the shadow of fear. Fear of the demon’s return. And soon it will attempt to envelop the world in a great darkness. A new generation must rise to meet this challenge, and one of them, foretold to be the Destroyer, the Bane of Evil, will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future. But the allure of power is great. As both sides seek to claim him, he seeks his true path, a path to healing and peace. He seeks happiness, but finds no rest. He seeks love, but is scorned. He feels the full force of fear, rage, and despair and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it. But perhaps his weakness will be his greatest strength. But who is he? Who is the Deveshmarkh?

  14. Bretton 10 Oct 2008 at 5:37 am

    I am hesitant to add a name to that first sentence. It might throw people off. But if you think its neccessary, try mentally inserting this opening sentences:

    Ages ago, long before the dawn of civilization, the Great Phoenix (or Phoenix spirit, Phoenix Lord, Phoenix god*), Auringel, freed the world from a demon’s reign of terror. The creature was condemned to the void…

    *There is more than one phoenix. Auringel howeve, I wish to distinguish because he is the most powerful. Even though the other three phoenixes under him are very powerful spirits, he is actually a god, the son of Z’amavellor. The Neitshaden from earlier was a phoenix until he went the way of the devil.

  15. Bretton 10 Oct 2008 at 5:40 am

    Make that Zavellor. (Last minute name change.)

  16. B. Macon 10 Oct 2008 at 7:15 am

    Ah. This is considerably better, Brett. This time, I have far fewer comments.

    Ages ago, long before the dawn of civilization, the world was freed from a reign of terror. The demon was condemned to the void, but the seal has faded with time.
    –I think the passive construction feels more awkward in the second sentence. What would you think about “Ages ago, a great spirit [or hero, savior, god, etc.] freed the world from a demon’s reign of terror. He condemned the demon to the void, but the seal has faded with time.” If you’d like to make the noun plural, I think spirits/heroes/saviors/gods/etc would work, too.

    Once again the land was menaced by a shadow: the shadow of fear. Fear of the demon’s return.
    –OK. Since we’ve moved from a discernable past (ages ago) to the story’s present, it might be smoother for the narrator to use the present tense. Perhaps “Now the land is once again menaced by the shadow of fear.” This is also a passive construction, so you might wish to move the shadow of fear to the front of the sentence.
    –I like the word menaced. Great verb.

    And soon it will attempt to envelop the world in a great darkness.
    –Perhaps a synonym or alternative word is available in place of attempt. It feels kind of generic.
    –Except for that, I think this works. Envelop is strong word choice.

    A new generation must rise to meet this challenge, and one of them, foretold to be the Destroyer, the Bane of Evil, will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future.
    –This sentence feels long and convoluted. It has many clauses (7 by my count). It may help to simplify this by cutting out the mention of the hero’s partners. For example, instead of “A new generation must rise to meet this challenge, and one of them…” you could try “A new hero must rise to meet this challenge.” New sentence. Even though there may be other members of his generation that are also vying to stop the evil (his partners, if he has any), for our purposes here you probably don’t have to mention them… particularly if you focus on his emotions and ethical dilemmas later rather than their joint struggles.
    –”foretold to be the Destroyer, the Bane of Evil…” Again, this raises prophecy issues and the titles also feel a bit clumsy. I’d recommend taking this out.
    –”will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future.” For better and for worse, this feels very different than the plot laid out up to this point. Before, it felt like the story was about whether the demon’s return would be stopped. This makes it sound like the issue is more about the balance of power. I’m not sure precisely what you mean by that, but it feels like a fresh take on this material. I’d recommend exploring it more.

    But the allure of power is great. As both sides seek to claim him, he seeks his true path, a path to healing and peace.

    –I like the content here. It feels fresh.
    –The second sentence has three clauses. You might want to eliminate one, perhaps by modifying “he seeks his true path, a true path to healing and peace” to “he seeks a path to healing and peace.”

    He seeks happiness, but finds no rest.
    –Excellent. This is probably the single most improved line so far.

    He seeks love, but is scorned. He feels the full force of fear, rage, and despair and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it.

    But perhaps his weakness will be his greatest strength. But who is he? Who is the Deveshmarkh?
    –This has improved, but I still have issues about the shift of tone. The narrator has lost the certainty that he’s had up to this point. I think what you’re trying to do to suggest that this story is really about his choices and what he will accomplish. If so, instead of asking rhetorical questions, I would just have the narrator state it in a definitive form. I’m not quite sure what the definitive form would be here, so let me offer a comparable passage from a synopsis of our book.
    QUESTION-FORM: “Will the accountant and the mutant alligator save the day?”
    DEFINITIVE: “Now the accountant and the mutant alligator must put aside their differences to stop [the supervillain], because only they can.”

  17. Bretton 10 Oct 2008 at 9:08 am

    I realised that I should take the titles out not only because of your suggestion, but because the first one “The Destroyer” is a slight misnomer. The Deveshmarkh does have great temporal power, but he is to restrain evil until the end of time. He does not possess the power to destroy it. I think this is better because it means that there is always a threat or conflict, it’s more realistic, and it denies the “happily ever after” option. Or am I the only one who wonders “what the heck did they DO in middle earth after Sauron was destroyed?”

    Please consider the changes:

    Ages before the dawn of civilization the spirit Auringel, greatest of the phoenixes, freed the world from a reign of terror. He condemned the demon to the void, but the seal has faded with time. But now a shadow still menaces the land: the shadow of fear. Fear of the demon’s return. And soon, unless halted, it will envelop the world in a great darkness. A new champion must rise to meet this challenge. He will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future. No man can hold evil at bay forever. Until the end of time, his duty is not to destroy, but to restrain. But the allure of power is great. As both sides seek to claim him, he seeks a path to true healing and peace. He seeks happiness, but finds no rest. He seeks love, but is scorned. He feels the full force of fear, rage, and despair and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it. But he will discover that his weakness can also be his greatest strength. And now all who seek him ask the question: who is the Deveshmarkh?

    Thanks for your time btw, you don’t know how much this helps.

  18. B. Macon 10 Oct 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Much better, again. Now I have few enough comments that I can itemize them.

    1. Assuming this will go on the backcover, I’d recommend avoiding names and titles (Auringel, Devashmarkh). Referring to the spirit Auringel as a spirit or the greatest of the phoenixes will probably be sufficient. Names just don’t add enough… they’re kind of a tricky detail to remember and usually don’t develop the characters as efficiently as a profession or strong noun (like “phoenix” or “spirit,” for example).

    2. What is a Deveshmarkh? Your readers don’t know and more likely than not, they will be put off by its pronunciation. If you really want to give him a fictional title, I’d recommend making one out of an English word or words. (For example, a few of the fantasy books I’ve read recently have used classes like “Skyknight,” “Bloodseeker,” “Guardian,” and “Predator,” which are easier for readers to mentally translate and pronounce than an entirely imaginary word like Deveshmarkh)

    3. “And soon, unless halted, it will envelop the world in a great darkness.” The clause “unless halted” is a bit awkward there. You may be able to smoothen the sentence by combining it with the following one. For example, “And soon it will envelop the world in darkness, unless a new champion can rise to meet this challenge.”

    4. By my count, this passage uses “great” or “greatest” four times.

    5. Many of the sentences at the end begin with “he” or “But he.”

    6. The last sentence has improved again, but I’m concerned about the first phrase (“and now all who seek him ask the question”) and the use of the word Deveshmarkh. It may help to make the new champion the subject of the sentence rather than shifting the focus to the people who are asking questions about him. For example, you might make this sentence about him discovering who he is (which seems to be a major part of the plot) rather than everyone else discovering who he is, which seems relatively incidental. As for my concerns about Deveshmarkh, please see #2.

  19. Ragged Boyon 10 Oct 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I’m stumped on the prologue, but I was thinking my opening paragraph(s) would go something like this. I was looking for a poetic feel. Here goes.

    The crisp breeze sweeped through the alleys and streets of the restless city, its smell bitter and unshakable. The skyline was lit with an array of lights from the many shows and clubs that night, and roads were full with the sound of music, chatter, and fighting. Graffiti tattooed the faces of the many buildings, some minor and unmemorable probably done with much haste and fear. Extravagence and passion filled the others, the pieces in which the artist’s mind delved into their creative pool and pulled out greatness. Uptown Comet City was The Raggz territory, the most infamous and illustrious graffiti gang was unsurpassed in their artisitic ability as well as their anarchistic ways. “Raggz material, Ha! you’d be lucky to even bomb the Halo’s Tower” The Raggz Leader sneered tossing the tattered sketchbook at Aadrello’s feet.

    “Well, if you think about it–”

    “Sorry buster we’ve got pieces to do and your style just won’t work with us, peace” another member interrupted. The scouting trio slip out of the wretched building, boarded their hyper-boards, and blasted towards their next target. Aadrello scooped up his sketchbook and skimmed through the many pages of worn artwork”They just don’t understand my style I’ll just have to show them” he thought out loud. Squeezing through the broken door of the rooftop access, he gazed upon the lights that warmed the cold city, with a mischeivous smirk spanning his face he thought “I think it’s time I showed this city who Aadrello Tegee is”.

    Well what do you think? I like this, but I know it probably needs improvement. It may need more dialogue.

  20. B. Macon 10 Oct 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Just to clarify, you’re writing this for a comic book, right? If so, I think it may help to think in terms of pages. You probably don’t have much of a narrator in a comic book, so lengthy scene-setting (anything beyond a sentence or two) is probably too much.

    Remember, your opening page will probably be printed on a sheet 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches tall and has to introduce at least the setting or the hero (or, conceivably, the villain). And you can’t let the page look cramped.

    With those restrictions in mind, let’s try to look at a page like an artist would. We slapped together a really quick sketch of what an opening page might look like. The page has two frames that are heavy on scenery and character-poses but very sparse on dialogue. We were able to fit in ~30 words for a character’s narration and I think we could have managed perhaps 60 words of narration and another 20 of dialogue. By my count, your passage is around 250 words (200 narration/50 dialogue). I think your visual guys would really struggle to get all that on the page, particularly when you factor in space for dialogue-bubbles. I’d recommend scaling back your prologue dramatically.

  21. Ragged Boyon 10 Oct 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I was actually writing in novel-esque style but let me revise it into a comic book standard soon, I see exactly what you mean but aren’t you supposed to write the manuscript or something before the actual comic that’s kind of what I was doing

  22. B. Macon 10 Oct 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Hmm. I can think of two things you’d write out. The first would be the script. A script looks something like a literal description of the dialogue and visuals you want to appear on the page. You can see a more detailed description of comic book scripts here.

    The second would be the pitch (and related materials), which are the proposal you’ll eventually send to comics publishers. These are written for time-strapped businessmen, so they should be as matter-of-fact as possible (without poetic flourishes or anything like that). They also tend to describe the book in an overarching way.

  23. Cadet Davison 10 Oct 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Hey, R.B. I rewrote your passage for grammar and clarity but didn’t play around too much with the ideas.

    The crisp breeze sweeped through the alleys and streets of the restless city, its smell bitter and unshakable.
    –sweeped should be swept.
    –alleys and streets is probably redundant. Only one’s necessary.
    –restless seems to stick out here. It doesn’t connect with the crisp breeze, or the bitter and unshakable smell.

    The skyline was lit with an array of lights from the many shows and clubs that night, and roads were full with the sound of music, chatter, and fighting.
    –Lit with an array of lights could probably be revised because it uses two forms of the word “light” (lit and lights).
    –”full with the sound of music, chatter and fighting.” More specifics would probably help here. What do the music and fighting sound like? I’d recommend trying to immerse us more in the scene than just saying that there’s sound.

    Graffiti tattooed the faces of the many buildings, some minor and unmemorable probably done with much haste and fear.
    –I think this has some mechanical issues. The comma doesn’t connect the two clauses very smoothly. If we were only going to rewrite for grammar, the easiest way would probably be splitting the sentence into “graffiti tattooed the faces of the many buildings. Some of it was minor and unmemorable, probably done hastily and fearfully.”
    –It would probably help to turn “the faces of the many buildings” into “the buildings’ faces.”
    –what is minor and unmemorable graffiti? How does it look any different than more memorable graffiti? What does graffiti that was done by a scared and rushed artist look like?

    Extravagence and passion filled the others, the pieces in which the artist’s mind delved into their creative pool and pulled out greatness.
    –Extravagance should be spelled with three a’s.
    –”…filled the others, the pieces in which the artist’s mind delved into their creative pool and pulled out greatness.” That’s kind of hard to read. I’m not really sure what the sentence is supposed to say. If I were rewriting this on a purely grammatical level, I’d probably get to something like “The other [graffitis] were extravagant and passionate. Their artists had reached deep into their creative pools and pulled out greatness.”
    –What does creative graffiti look like? What separates great graffiti from mediocre graffiti? As you try to convey this story to readers and immerse them in the scene, I think those are details you should try to consider.

    Uptown Comet City was The Raggz territory, the most infamous and illustrious graffiti gang was unsurpassed in their artisitic ability as well as their anarchistic ways.
    –I think artistic is misspelled here.
    –There’s a bit of disconnect between the word “infamous” and “illustrious.” I think you’re trying to show that the Raggz are highly respected as graffiti artists. And “illustrious” is sometimes listed as a synonym for respected. But it has a connotation of high-class respect and honor that is almost assuredly out of place here. I’d recommend replacing it with something like “hippest,” “hottest” or “dopest.” Those sound more like words that a Raggz fan would use to describe the gang.
    –I think this sentence is a run-on. On a grammar level, I’d turn it into “Uptown belonged to The Raggz. Because of their artistic and anarchistic skills made them the dopest graffiti gang in Comet City. (You may have picked up on the gross disconnect between the lofty voice of the narrator and the grittiness of the source material. I’d recommend making the narrator more blue-collar; it will probably sound better).
    –I’m not a huge fan of The Raggz as a name. I’d recommend spelling it like Rags or Raggs. I think spelling it with a Z instead of an S may distract readers.

    “Raggz material, Ha! you’d be lucky to even bomb the Halo’s Tower” The Raggz Leader sneered tossing the tattered sketchbook at Aadrello’s feet.
    –ha! shouldn’t be capitalized here, but You’d probably should be. The Halo’s Tower should end with a comma. (Please see Mistake #39 for advice on how to close punctuation marks..
    –I’d recommend giving the Raggz leader a name here.
    –Sneered should have a comma after it because it separates a dependent clause from the rest of the sentence.

    “Well, if you think about it–”
    –This is punctuated correctly. Good job.

    “Sorry buster we’ve got pieces to do and your style just won’t work with us, peace”
    another member interrupted.
    –This line doesn’t feel very plausible. The word “buster” doesn’t sound right for a graffiti gangster. It needs more, uhh, urban flair. I’d try rewriting it as something “Sorry, bitch. We’ve got pieces to pull and your style ain’t shit. Peace!” interrupted another gangster.

    The scouting trio slip out of the wretched building, boarded their hyper-boards, and blasted towards their next target.
    –I think “slip” should be “slipped.” Slip is the present tense.

    Aadrello scooped up his sketchbook and skimmed through the many pages of worn artwork”They just don’t understand my style I’ll just have to show them” he thought out loud.
    –It might help to show us more details about why the gang rejected him. What about his art-work was inadequate? The closest we got to an explanation was “your style just won’t work with us.” This is a good opportunity to show us something about the character. At the start of the story, why isn’t he fit for the gang? Is he too tame? Too disciplined? Too nervous?
    –I’ve never applied to a graffiti gang, but I imagine that they’d want an applicant to actually demonstrate his graffiti skills rather than look at his sketchbook. I love sketches as much as anyone, but it’s a different kind of art than painting, right?

  24. Ragged Boyon 11 Oct 2008 at 6:58 am

    Wow, hahaha. I’m pretty bad at this, huh?

  25. B. Macon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:05 am

    No one produces a perfect first draft. Almost every author writes novels by making incremental improvements on initially horrible drafts. Hell, we’ve rewritten some of our chapters 10 times and they’re still barely readable.

  26. Jacob Mallowon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:11 am

    When we started out our website, we bounced over 90% of our readers. That means that the overwhelming majority of visitors instantly concluded that our website didn’t have anything worth their time. Now, we’re down to a bounce-rate of about 55%, which is about average for comparable websites. (How daunting– an average writing site bounces over half of its visitors). It’s not that our writing ability has exponentially improved. It hasn’t. We’ve simply made revisions to the material, presentation and layout that have generally been beneficial.

  27. Ragged Boyon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:35 am

    Thanks for writing a comic script post. I should be able to use it to get organized. I’ll revise that first paragraph to fit a comic script and repost it as soon as I’m done.

    And drawing ability does transfer over when you do graffiti, at least it does when I do it. Plato said that every person was suited for different things. I can really only get my creative juice flowing when I’m moving and jumping off of stuff.

  28. Cadet Davison 11 Oct 2008 at 7:40 am

    “And drawing ability does transfer over when you do graffiti, at least it does when I do it.”

    You’re a graffiti artist? If you’re really familiar with graffiti, I’d recommend mentioning that in your proposal. It may give your work more credibility and at the very least suggests you’re more knowledgeable about the protagonist’s background. One of the neat things about writing is that it’s one of the few professions where you can list things like graffiti as legitimate work experience. (Just be careful about how you mention criminal activities and any other personal details that make you seem like you’d be really hard to work with. There’s a fine line between “interesting life experience” and “Next!”

  29. Ragged Boyon 11 Oct 2008 at 2:43 pm

    Here’s my revised version. I edited it to fit the comic book script template on that site you gave me. This first page may be a little long, but I went based on a sketchbook I had, I was able to do eight panels for the first page. That’s probably long but there’s always a second page, haha.

    Panel 1: Scene shows the large straight-forward view of Comet City, takes up about a fourth of the page. Lots of neon colors, air vehicles etc
    Narration Bubble:”Welcome to Comet City, a sleazeball in The Dump of the Universe. Illegal business, filthy streets, and “art” are this citys’ claim to fame”.

    Panel 2: A diagonal perspective of a busy street. Trash litters the roadways, and a multitude of people are roaming the streets. Graffiti spans all of the visible walls of the buildings.
    Narration Bubble: “Not art like you’d see in a gallery, but street art, Graffiti. The very soul of Comet City is tattooed on buildings, vehicles, and clothing throughout the restless city. And no one bombs better than the Raggs”.

    Panel 3: From a helicopter-esque view at a rooftop with a large billboard reading “Raggs”. Two shadowed figures stand atop the roof, one sits on the ledge, the other standing near the billboard.
    Narration Bubble: “The dopest graffiti gang in uptown Comet, The Raggs were as skilled as they were elusive. None surpasses them talent wise, or style wise”.

    Panel 4:From an upward-pulled back. Inside a deteriorated building, pieces of broken wood, glass etc cover the cracked cement floor. Three stylish Raggs member stand side by side in front of a poorly dressed Aadrello.
    Narration Bubble: “The Raggs handbook states “Style, Substance, and Skill” are the essentials that any tagger must have. Not everyone has them”.
    Raggs Girl:”Hmph, your style is decent at best, but in no way is it Raggs material. I think you should stick to paper, buddy”.

    Panel 5: Over-the shoulder look at Raggs girl showing a Raggs guy a picture from a few feet away.
    Raggs Guy #1: “Crude lines, bland concepts, and lifelessness are the jist of your work. You need a lot of practice kid”.
    Raggs Girl:” Look at this one, Hahaha”.

    Panel 6: From the line-of sight of Raggs girl looking at Aadrello. Raggs guy #2′s hand is on Aadrello shoulder as he stands beside him making a smug face while Aadrello looks confused.
    Aadrello: “Well, if you think about it-”
    Raggs Guy #2: Hey don’t bitch about it, your shit is mediocre and judging from ya clothes, ya ain’t got much style. Very un-Raggs like.

    Panel 7: Now from Aadrello’s line-of-sight seeing Raggs Guy #2 walk towards Raggs Girl who is slipping through a partially opened door and dropping Aadrello’s sketchbook on the floor.
    Aadrello:” Wait, let me show you how-”
    Raggs Girls: “It’s okay, you’re young you should have a tagger’s mindset by 50, we’re out, peace”

    Panel 8: A side perspective of Aadrello starting towards his sketchbbok.
    Aadrello: I’ll admit, I’m not much for fashionable clothing, but i’ll be damned if anyone calls me talentless.

    The panels go on to show Aadrello wanting to prove himself, he steals some fashionable clothing and heads for the Halo’s Tower to do a flawless masterpiece where he is stop by the Raggs who beat him up. That would be like the first 3-4 pages but what I layed out was a possible first page,and possibly second page due to its length.

    Well what do you think? personally I think it could be more descriptive.

  30. Bretton 11 Oct 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Greetings mammals…er…I mean fellow writers! Sorry its taken me so long. Here are my revisions to the prologue piece. (hope reading this over and over doesn’t annoy you guys. lol. Unfortunately, I fear the use of “he” near the end may be unavoidable, but I’ve done my best with everything else. What do you think?

    Ages before the dawn of civilization the greatest of the phoenix spirits freed the world from a reign of terror. He condemned the demon to the void, but the seal has faded with time. But now a shadow still menaces the land: the shadow of fear. Fear of the demon’s return. And soon it will envelop the world in darkness unless a new champion rises to meet this challenge. A champion who will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future. No man can hold evil at bay forever. Until the end of time, his duty is not to destroy, but to restrain. But the allure of power is strong (or intense. Your advice?). As both sides seek to claim him, he seeks a path to true healing and peace. He seeks happiness, but finds no rest. He seeks love, but is scorned. He feels the full force of fear, rage, and despair and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it. But he will discover that his weakness can also be his most potent strength. And soon he will discover who he is: he is the (inser title here).

    As for the title, I’ve thrown out Deveshmarkh completely. It translated to “Destroyer of Evil,” which as I previously said, is a misnomer. I came up with a few ideas, based on english words as you suggested. However, for plot purposes I also needed Elvish translations. (You will find that my use of elvish words is fairly consistent i.e. I actually have rules for them.) Here they are. I’d like our help with picking one. The numbers match the english and elvish titles. Tell me which ones you like best but don’t forget to consider both versions before answering. If I use one, I must use the other. You have my undying grattitude.

    Please keep in mind that titles may be preceeded by “The” and some of them (#’s 9&10) may not sound too well with said article before them.

    Titles
    1. Agent of Fire
    2. Allguard
    3. Blazewarden
    4. The Emissary (of Fire?)
    5. Fireknight
    6. Flameguard
    7. Flamekeeper
    8. Phoenix Emissary
    9. Purefire
    10. Surefire

    Elvish Translations
    1. Thuraza Vaichar
    2. Ontílusar
    3. Vaichlusar
    4. Thuraza (Vaichar?)
    5. Chlavaer
    6. Vaichlusar
    7. Vaichlusar
    8. Thuraza Armorel
    9. Nírvaichar
    10. Akuravaichar

  31. Ragged Boyon 11 Oct 2008 at 5:19 pm

    To Brett, number #8 is cool. It sounds official.

    To Superhero Nation, please don’t forget to comment my piece above Brett’s. I worked hard on it.

  32. B. Macon 11 Oct 2008 at 6:40 pm

    Eight panels would probably be on the large side for a page, but I think six is very doable. You can see some attractive looking comic book pages in our DeviantArt collection.

  33. B. Macon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:00 pm

    OK. It seems like you’re approaching the next stage. But first, I have a few quibbles.

    Ages before the dawn of civilization the greatest of the phoenix spirits freed the world from a reign of terror.
    –I’d recommend a comma after civilization.

    He condemned the demon to the void, but the seal has faded with time. But now a shadow still menaces the land: the shadow of fear.
    –Some minor issues with “But now a shadow still menaces the land.” First, “but” might be out of place because the phrase flows quite logically from “the seal has faded with time.” (Also, you repeat but in back-to-back sentences). There are also some tense issues from “now” and “still menaces.” You could probably change the sentence to “The demon’s return is imminent” or “The demon’s shadow has lingered, waiting.” Etc.

    Fear of the demon’s return. And soon it will envelop the world in darkness unless a new champion rises to meet this challenge. A champion who will forever shift the balance of power and leave an indelible mark on the future. No man can hold evil at bay forever. Until the end of time, his duty is not to destroy, but to restrain.

    –These last two sentences don’t seem to flow from the sentences they follow. I’d recommend inserting a paragraph break and changing the “no man can hold evil” sentence into a transition. For example, you could make it into something like “But even he cannot hold the evil at bay forever” [alternate phrasing: in place of "hold the evil at bay," you could try "stave off the evil"].

    But the allure of power is strong (or intense. Your advice?).
    –I like strong. Intense feels a bit extravagant. Just be careful about starting sentences with “but.”

    As both sides seek to claim him, he seeks a path to true healing and peace. He seeks happiness, but finds no rest. He seeks love, but is scorned.
    –I like these lines.

    He feels the full force of fear, rage, and despair and for all his power he is helpless to withstand it.
    –I don’t like the construction “he feels.” One, “feels” is not a strong verb. Two, this is probably your best opportunity to replace “he” as the subject of the sentence. For example, you could use “the full force of fear” the noun of the sentence. I think that would work.

    But he will discover that his weakness can also be his most potent strength. And soon he will discover who he is: he is the (insert title here).
    –Another but.
    –You might want to consider removing the phrase “And soon” and the final instance of “he is.”
    –I am quite fond of the Emissary of Fire, the Keeper of Flame and maybe the Cinderwarden. If you’d like to play up the idea that he’s here to provide balance rather than be an angelic force of good, you might try the Infernal Guard.

    As for the Elvish translation, I like Chlavaer best because it sounds kind of like Cavalier. However, it is a word that will be hard to remember, so readers will probably benefit from a brief Elven-to-English glossary where you translate the Elven words you use.

    Aside from that, I think that your work on your back-cover blurb is probably pretty much done for now. If you’d like to get feedback from other authors, you can check out critters.org and submit your backcover blurb like most other people on the site submit manuscripts. However, it will take several weeks to get responses back and the Critters community can be a bit… brusque. (That’s why it’s important to clear a certain minimal level of quality before submitting your work to strangers. I’d say that you’re probably there, though).

  34. Ragged Boyon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:16 pm

    Okay, I see. You never told me your opinon though haha

  35. B. Macon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:21 pm

    “To Superhero Nation, please don’t forget to comment my piece above Brett’s. I worked hard on it.” What! If we respond to a comment within four hours on a Saturday, that’s definitely the exception rather than the rule– particularly if the comment is something that would involve a line-by-line parsing.

    We typically provide comments within 1-2 days. By contrast, Critters has a turnaround of 4-6 weeks. By any reasonable standard, we deliver feedback that is extremely quick and thorough. I spend probably 10-15 minutes responding to the latest version of his book blurb. And THAT took me relatively little time because there were no lines that made me wonder “what’s he trying to say?” or “how can I salvage this?”

  36. Ragged Boyon 11 Oct 2008 at 7:41 pm

    Dude, sorry, chill I didn’t mean to rush you hahaha. so it’s obviuosly still too confusing hmm, revising this is getting fun(no sarcasm intended). Okay take all the time you need, take 4-6 weeks if nessecary, i’ll wait.

  37. Jacobon 11 Oct 2008 at 10:09 pm

    I put this sample page this page together, working from your script. Your frames called for sweeping details and large blocks of text, so making each frame fairly large will help keep it from feeling cluttered.

    Here are some thoughts on each panel. 1:
    –I like the visuals.
    –The narration seems kind of unnecessary. With the right visuals, we will be able to see that this is a sleazy and criminal-laden city. For example, I’d recommend using your opening frame being the protagonist walking past two people doing a drug deal or spraypainting a building’s face.

    2:
    –”A diagonal perspective” is unclear. It sounds like you want the camera to show the trash littering the roadways and people on the streets, but it’s hard to show that and the graffiti on the buildings in the same angle. The graffiti should definitely be the focus here.
    –“Not art like you’d see in a gallery, but street art, Graffiti. The very soul of Comet City is tattooed on buildings, vehicles, and clothing throughout the restless city. And no one bombs better than the Raggs”. Again, this narration could probably be shown through visuals. For example. For example, if the city is generally dark and dirty and the only color comes from graffiti, then it will be visually obvious that the soul of the city is graffiti art.
    –If you want to show that no one bombs better than the Raggs, show us a building spraypainted by the Raggs and a few other gangs. Let us see that the Raggs are the most creative, inspired and ambitious graffiti gang around.

  38. Ragged Boyon 12 Oct 2008 at 7:07 am

    OK, I’ll keep revising this until I get it right. After looking at some of the comics I own, I see that they express a lot visually. I’ll give you the first two pages once I revise them. Be right back.

  39. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 15 Oct 2008 at 5:35 am

    How many words would fit on an A5 page of a book? Rough estimate. Thanks!

  40. Jacobon 15 Oct 2008 at 2:07 pm

    An A5 sheet is 210mm by 148.5mm (8.3 by 5.8 inches).

    I’d venture to say between 400 and 500 for adult readers, depending on easy-reading the book should be. For example, I looked at a light and breezy nonfiction work (Black Hat, Bush Tie). It looked like the font size was either Times 11 or Times 11.5. I counted 425 words on the page and they were very easy to read.

  41. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Oct 2008 at 2:54 am

    How about this for an opening line?

    “The words between these two covers are strictly between us. If you share them with anyone at all, you and I will be put in serious danger. Do you want to wake up in an evil lair with your hands tied to the ceiling and sharks snapping at your feet? No? Well, don’t spill the beans.”

  42. Bretton 27 Oct 2008 at 3:27 am

    Good, but the “spill the beans” line detracts from the seriousness.

    I’d recommend, “No? I didn’t think so.

    Perhaps, “No? Well neither do I.”

    I you want to go over the top, have this guy threaten the reader with some unspeakably horribe punishment should they squeal. Just nothing too graphic.

  43. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Oct 2008 at 4:40 am

    Thanks!

  44. B. Macon 27 Oct 2008 at 5:04 am

    I agree that “spill the beans” detracted from the seriousness. “I didn’t think so” is a strong alternative.

    However, I have a more serious set of issues with the opening paragraph. First, the writing refers to itself when it says “the words between these two covers.” Second, the passage is in second person. Unless the rest of the book is in second person, that may mismarket the book. (This is one of the problems of a title that starts with something like “my name is Jonathan, but you can call me Jack”). Third, I don’t feel like I get a very good sense of the character. Is he trying to be serious when he uses phrases like “evil lair” or the detail about being tied to a ceiling with sharks snapping at his feet?

    Would it be possible to add someone to this conversation so that it’s not a second-person monologue? If so, you might be able to use the second person for dramatic effect. For example, here’s one possibility that draws on a conflict between a superserious hero and a second character that doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation.

    SECOND CHARACTER: You’re an alien. OK. You don’t need to freak out because somebody knows. It’s not like it’s the 1950s. In fact, I’m positive that no one would think any less of you for it.

    PROTAGONIST: You don’t understand. If you talk about me to anyone–anyone– both of us will die. Gruesomely.

    SECOND CHARACTER: [He demurs, but the hero cuts him off].

    PROTAGONIST: No. This is not arguable. Unless you want to wake up to find that [type of villain] are holding a powerdrill at your throat, you will keep your mouth shut.

  45. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 28 Oct 2008 at 3:02 am

    The rest of the book is told in first person, but he occasionally refers to the reader. Like: “I had been there for three months at the time, taking orders from customers and taking them back to our team of cooks. In case you haven’t picked up on it, I was a waiter.”

    The Maximum Ride books do this kind of thing really well. The opening line of the first book is “Congratulations. The fact that you’re even reading this means you’re one step closer to surviving to your next birthday”. Then after that chapter, it’s in first but sometimes refers to the reader “Fang stepped out of the darkness, and it looked like a shadow had taken form and come to life. Hey, how about that? A little bird kid poetry for ya! Soul of a poet, that’s me!”

    I like it because (in my own experience) it makes the reader feel more involved with the hero and also lets us into his/her mind. Mine also switches to third (as do the Maximum Ride books) for scenes where the hero isn’t present. There are parts in Maximum Ride where it switches to another location, and seeing as Max isn’t there, she can’t describe it. I like that style.

    But of course, I’m not as skilled a writer as James Patterson, and he’s published a ton of books.

  46. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 28 Oct 2008 at 3:05 am

    Oh, and I have something similar to 1 on that list. Except mine isn’t “Hi, I’m (whatever), but you can call me (whatever)”. Mine is in the fourth paragraph, and goes “I’m Isaac, your typical dork. You know, the guy you don’t notice until there are in-class speeches or he makes a fool of himself”.

  47. Tyon 12 Nov 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Cryptic?

    I just tried to test my skills at writing a short novel last night. (I’m going for the whole magical other world thing)

    I open up with the wise old mentor, standing outside the character’s school on the last day of school before the summer break. [Which I am pretty sure is a red flag right there. Having an old man standing infront of a school, in a book that would probably appeal to middle schoolers.]

    I don’t really introduce the Old Man, and I don’t have him approach the kids (he is just there to see the ‘chosen ones’ faces). But I have the Principal from the school come out, and talk to him. The Principal was also taught by the old man, and he was part of the ‘older team’ sorta. (I would say the closest example would be power rangers. There is always a new team of power rangers that take over at a certain time. And the current ones teach the new recruits.) [I think that putting in the Principal as that character would act as a shock [since most school kids don't like their principals] because they would have something in common with the Principal. And while the Old man would be their mentor and teacher in the other world, the Principal could be a substitute mentor in the real world]

    My question is : Is that considered cryptic? [I know it could be creepy] I don’t introduce the old man at all, but by him having a conversation with the principal (who the mentor does not recognize) allows me to give a short description of what to expect.

    Those were the first 5 pages or so. And now I am going to focus on the main characters, (the ones at the school) and go into more detail about their lives, they talk about their plans for the summer holidays and such.

    Also a second question that I don’t know where to put, but I’ll ask here.

    Would it be good to separate character’s stories by chapters? Or is that a terrible idea? Say for example, Lord of The Rings (I never read the books, only the movies) but my story is going to be split up kinda like that one. With Frodo and Sam traveling to Mordor, while Mary and Pippin go on their journey with the others. Should I have Chapter 5 about Frodo and Sam. Then Chapter 6 about Mary and Pippin. Chapter 7 back to Frodo and Sam?

  48. B. Macon 12 Nov 2008 at 5:47 pm

    –The old man probably wouldn’t seem too creepy if it were clear that he had some legitimate reason for being there. (For example, when the principal comes out to talk to him, that will help reinforce that he isn’t creepy). If you think the principal won’t be likable, you could use a sort of young teacher instead. I think most kids have liked at least one of their teachers, frequently someone that’s relatively young. I think the teacher would act as a substitute for a mentor, also. I think that the typical middle-schooler doesn’t see his principal very often, unless he has behavioral issues.

    –It could be cryptic. I think it depends on how much we know going in about what the old man is doing and why the principal or teacher is receptive. If we don’t know very much about the power-ranger group, it’s probably cryptic.

    –Splitting a saga into a story of several characters that are only loosely connected (like LOTR cutting between Frodo/Sam and Mary/Pippin) is very difficult. The danger is that readers will like one set of characters much more, and will feel that the other set is a distraction from the story they want to read. It also raises plot coherence issues. If the characters are doing their own thing all the time, you’d have to work especially hard to make sure that their individual plots are always part of a single central plot.

    Typically, I wouldn’t recommend a LOTR-style narration for a new author. However, if you’d like to try it anyway, I’d recommend trying to keep the multiple point-of-view characters as physically close as possible. If they’re in the same scenes, that will help alleviate the coherence problems. Also, I’d recommend staying with each character as long as possible before cutting back. That will help readers feel like they aren’t being whipped around.

  49. Tyon 21 Nov 2008 at 2:13 am

    Once again B.Mac thanks for the help. I really appreciate the help. I don’t talk to anyone about my work, cuz I’m always worried about people stealing stuff and I don’t think people can truly appreciate the work until it is completely finished, so it’s hard for me to get good input. But I really love this site.

    Yes it is true that most younger students don’t see their principal very often. The whole idea behind the principal turning into a mentor, was meant to be a ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ thing. where the students see the principal as a cold, stern and always ‘by the book’ authority type of figure, then they realise that he was once just like them. But since you mentioned it, I think it could be easily switched to a teacher (English or science) who is the typical mean teacher who always gives them extra homework and that. That way the characters would interact with them.

    I think it was too cryptic, I’m going to re-write the beginning, and introduce a few characters first, (have it based around the last week of school, instead of the last day) That way I can build up the anticipation, the students constantly looking at the clock, ‘Only three more days’ And have the old man be seen wandering around the school for a few days. Have one of the kids seeing the principal (Changed to a teacher now) talking with the old man in the hallway so when this student discovers the whole secret world, he can say to the old man ‘this is what you must of been talking about with the teacher’

    For the two stories part, I guess I picked a wrong example. I want to split it up, but have it end in the same place. Kind of like Team A goes on a mini-quest to find the sacred stone. While Team B goes on a mini-quest to find the scared necklace. Then Teams A and B meet up and give the jewelry back to the jeweler (who then appraises it and realises they are fakes, making the whole quest meaningless) [This is just a rough example, obviously].

    Also since I’m writing this, I have 8 characters (just the students. Then, on top of that, I have the Mentor and all the other people they will run into this fictional world. Is it too many? What would be a good number of characters? I want more than 3. I thought about scratching a few out and possibly adding them into a sequel of the story.

  50. B. Macon 21 Nov 2008 at 3:53 am

    Yeah, I can appreciate that it’s hard to show people your work as you’re writing it. It’s like moving someone into a house as you’re building it.

    I like the idea of starting the story as the school year ends. Many stories– probably too many, I think– start with the beginning of the school year.

    Splitting the story up with separate teams doing their own quests as part of a larger group effort is OK, but I’d recommend having the quests be differentiated more than your jewelry example. I fear that Team B retrieving the sacred necklace might feel too much like Team A retrieving the sacred stone. In contrast, it might feel fresher if Team B has a largely different set of talents and personalities, so that they’re mainly (say) diplomats and spies, instead of Team A’s gunslingers and Rambos. Then their chapters will feel different because, even if the teams have similar goals, they will accomplish the goals in a very different way.

    In terms of the size of the main group of heroes, it would probably be much easier to work with one group of four or five (or, if they spend most of the story apart, then two groups of three). It’s very hard to write scenes with many characters. If your eight characters are really all main characters (ie: they deliver over 50 lines of dialogue, or are in over half the chapters, or whatever arbitrary measure you want to use) then I feel that scenes may feel cluttered with characters. You may find it useful to remove characters, or downplay some of them so that they aren’t in very many scenes or chapters.

  51. Wingson 21 Apr 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Well, I’m starting in the MIDDLE of the school year, so I guess I’m okay. I’d hazard the date to be somewhere before or after the snowy months. That is, March or October. Most likely March, though, since the characters seem pretty settled into their routines…

    I spread my characters pretty evenly. I mean, eventually there are six Specials, but for the majority of the book we only have four (Meg, Darren, Connor, and Ian). And Pierce is only present in the final battle.

    My intro begins with Scarlet creating (not known to the readers yet) the artificial Titan’s Diamond. Then, as Chapter One begins, we cut straight to Meg in class, and introducing a few of the characters (Meg, Ian, and Heather are introduced, Pierce and Jazz are seen in passing)

    - Wings

  52. Wingson 27 Jul 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Out of curiosity, how’s “And the last strand of reality snapped.” as a first line? It’s not from one of my to-be-published projects (And never will be so, for several reasons I’d rather not disclose), but I’m wondering.

    I can give a short summary and genre definition if nessecary.

    - Wings

  53. B. Macon 27 Jul 2010 at 11:24 pm

    It’s okay, but I think that ambiguity is unhelpful this early in the book*. Are strands of reality actually snapping or is that just figurative? On the plus side, if it is a literal snapping, the backcover blurb would probably give me some clue what was going on.

    Could you give me the short summary, genre and the first five sentences?



    *”Ambiguity is unhelpful this early in the book.” Later on in the story, readers will have the context to understand what the author is trying to show. Early on, ambiguity is more confusing and the confusion is more dangerous. If readers feel disoriented/out of the loop before they have a chance to get attached to the book, they’ll probably put it down.

  54. Wingson 28 Jul 2010 at 11:33 am

    No, that’s literally the last strand of reality snapping. It’s that kind of book. XD

    In one line, the project is “The misadventures of two bored gods and a host of their slightly saner allies as they strive to accomplish something worthwhile.”

    …Effectively, it’s two Mary Sues rampaging through a crossover crack fic. It’s just for fun, not intended for publication or even posting on the internet, although we’re attempting to make the story Better Than It Sounds for our own entertainment.

    Personally, I describe the genre as “action-adventure/soap opera”. Again, it’s that kind of story.

    - Wings

  55. Cassandraon 28 Jul 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I don’t really like the “And” but then again, it seems like the kind of story where the reader is thrown into a half-written tale.

    It sounds like it could be a really fun story to read if you worked on character development. Nothing wrong with a bit of soap-opera if written correctly.

  56. B. Macon 28 Jul 2010 at 8:24 pm

    “And” could be replaced with “Then” or just removed altogether. I like “Then” because it suggests that there is a bunch of bizarreness going down tonight.

  57. ekimmakon 31 Aug 2010 at 4:10 am

    Can I start the book with breakfast, if I make the breakfast interesting? I was thinking something like this:

    Thunderstorms during breakfast can be irritating. Especially if those thunderstorms are indoors. Michael hurried out of the room, bending over to keep the rain out of his cereal, and backed around the corner. Nearby, he could see Mark huddled under the stairs.
    “What’s happening?” Mark shouted over the wind
    “Rayne and Raven are fighting again” Michael called back.
    “Again?”
    “Yep”
    “How bad is it?”
    There was a thunderclap, followed by a huge crunching noise.
    “Well… It sounds like Rayne’s little tempest tantrum just uprooted the tree out front.”
    Mark gave a sigh of relief.
    “Thank goodness… For a moment there, I thought it might be serious.”

  58. Ghoston 31 Aug 2010 at 4:52 am

    ekimmak,
    I think it is funny, and could work well depending on your age range. For any one under 12 I think this would work great, but for old people you may have to slow it down just a tad.

  59. Wingson 31 Aug 2010 at 4:03 pm

    @ B.Mac and Cassandra: The prologue is playing with the All Just A Dream plot, making it out to be the ending of an extremely bizarre, mind-twisting story. The second chapter reveals that no, the universe has not imploded, it’s just that a couple of bored gods are screwing around with reality for kicks.

    The main characters are easily the most overpowered we’ve ever written*, but if everyone in that universe has near, equal, or greater abilities, are they still considered overpowered? They’re both flawed in different ways, and these character flaws help drive the plot more than their omnipotence does.

    It’s really just me and my co-author throwing ideas at each other and seeing what happens. So far we’ve had everything from a battle royale against an Evil Counterpart** to the personification of vengeance*** assassinating other characters. And we’ve got a civil war coming up. It’s awesome.

    - Wings

    *They’re Reality Warpers. See http://www.superheronation.com/2010/02/20/how-creative-do-your-superpowers-need-to-be/#comment-75253

    **Which took the two Reality Warpers, an army of superhumans, and a resurrected Greek goddess just to defeat. That’s right, all that and we didn’t even kill it. Both Reality Warpers were also depowered after this battle. This! Is! MARY SUE TOPIA!

    ***Which turned out to be a mutated imaginary friend created by one of the Reality Warpers. After being forgotten, it turned on its creator’s world and slew many people before being brought down. It was one of the stranger arcs.

  60. cool don 20 Apr 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Hey, so is the way I started my comic book bad as it violates #3.( see my review forum).

    I’m not very sure.

    PS. I’ve posted a new profile on my review forum you can check out my forum.

  61. Wolfdude131on 30 Jun 2011 at 11:21 pm

    The first sentence of my story is the following:

    -My shoulders were sore and my chest was heaving for air by the time I made it up the five flights of stairs to my apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC.-

    I think that draws attention because the reader would be like “Whoa, why is he so worn out after five flights?”
    Then i explain why he took the stairs:

    -The elevator had not been working. The changeling down the hall’s boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, had accidentally broken it when he discovered how hairy her legs really were. Since that day, I have been turning a slight profit from making hair-removal tonics.-

    Which I think gives a little intrigue, “Changeling? Hairy Legs? What is going on here..?”
    Then i give some action(ish) stuff:

    -I pushed open the stairwell door, and I saw a short and rather portly Asian man standing outside my abode, rapping on the door voraciously with his hairy knuckles. This man is my landlord. Shit.
    I hesitated at the stairwell; I prayed that he would not notice me. He turned his beady eyes towards me, “Why no pay rent yet?!” He asked. By asked, I mean demanded. My landlord is going deaf. This is most likely attributed to the obnoxious opera he is constantly playing for the entire apartment building. He makes up for his loss of hearing with his lack of an inside voice and his habit of asking you questions that you have already provided answers to.
    I juggled my load as I approached my door. “You will get your money.” I assured the irritable, sweaty man. “I told you this morning that my paycheck is in the mail.” I tried to remember how to pronounce his name, but my recollection failed. “When I get it, I can pay you, sir.”
    “Have money buy oversize birdcage! Why no have money pay rent?!”-

    Does this work? My main character is a Wizard living in modern day NYC, where people often ignore the strange and inhuman… or say that the special effects in the video the local kids filmed sucked. He recently got a job at a PI firm made especially for the supernatural and his first assignment is to find some rich jerk’s lost pet.

    If you’d like to read more, you can here: http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2914867/1/Divine_Rights_Book_One_of_The_Jack_of_Hearts

  62. Cool don 01 Jul 2011 at 6:04 am

    Hey bmac,i plunged jason in danger in the opening. Is that bad? or did i build him up enough to counter that?

  63. B. Macon 02 Jul 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Hello, Wolf.

    “The first sentence of my story is: ‘My shoulders were sore and my chest was heaving for air by the time I made it up the five flights of stairs to my apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC.’” Personally, I do not feel very interested so far. I suspect that it’d be more effective to hold off “in the Chelsea neighborhood of NYC” because these details are probably neither terribly important nor interesting right away. (It’d be easy for a landlord to work in the neighborhood name into conversation, by the way). If you’re going to open with a setting detail like this, I’d recommend doing something more extraordinary than just naming the neighborhood. (Please see #3 here).

    “The changeling down the hall’s boyfriend, now ex-boyfriend, had accidentally broken it when he discovered how hairy her legs really were.” I like the concept here of trying to work in a supernatural element casually, but this particular episode is hard for me to understand and not as lively as it could be. What does the hairiness of her legs have to do with the elevator breaking down? I feel confused that I don’t see the logical connection here.

    Unless the detail about the character being out of breath is really important, I suspect that it might be more effective to just start with the landlord knocking on the door. You could probably introduce the supernatural element that way. For example, maybe the landlord gets snippy because the main character is a cash-strapped wizard–can’t he just conjure up some currency? (Sure, if he’d like the Magical Secret Service on his ass for magical counterfeiting ;-) ).

    I’m not really feeling the “we love you long time” Asian landlord.

  64. B. Macon 02 Jul 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Cool D asked, “I plunged Jason in danger in the opening. Is that bad? Or did I build him up enough to counter that?” I’d sort of like his personality to come out more in the starting action scene, but I think that starting with an action scene could work for your comic book.

  65. Isaacon 09 Feb 2012 at 3:08 pm

    So, I’ve been, for the last two years, writing a story, and I start the story with my character, Adairian, dreaming of an apocalyptic future, and then waking up.
    Is that a bad way to start?

  66. MemeticRachelon 09 Feb 2012 at 4:20 pm

    How’s this for a beginning? It’s just introducing the main character, her personality, and a little bit about her life. Most things are only hinted at,as I personally dislike beginnings where everything is put on pause so that the main character can turn to the camera and describe their life and history. Any and all critisicm greatly and gratefully appreciated.
    “It was late when she heard the sound, long after the rest of the compound had fallen asleep, too early still for anyone to wake. She had always liked this still, silent time, the time in between one day and another, when the moon had fallen and the sun hadn’t yet risen again. A long, stretched out moment of darkness, where there was no fear or pain. Just silence, and darkness.
    The sound was so quiet that she thought at first that she had imagined it. It was barely audible, so soft that it could have been a whisper of a breeze or the light falling of rain on grass. It could have been the purr of traffic from the nearby motorway, any human would have thought. An insignificant sound that the majority of people wouldn’t have heard, let alone paid attention to.
    But the girl could hear the soft, broken tones of the sound, the rise and the fall of the volume and the pain and emotion wrapped up in it. Someone, she thought, was upset. Or in pain. Upset or in pain. She mulled on this idea for the briefest of moments before she left her bed and crossed the fire-singed floorboards to the darkened window. The gloomy shadows allowed her at first to see nothing more than her own pale, gaunt face staring back at her with blank eyes from the glass, but as she stared past this, forward and down to where the sound was coming from, she realised that she could see the dark silhouette of a person. Black on black, she thought as she watched the figure move stiffly and slowly- so slowly as to not have moved at all. He was inside the compound boundaries, she noticed, collapsed on the immaculate lawn the Doctor worked so hard to keep neat. The girl imagined that the Doctor would be unhappy to learn that this stranger had bled all over it.”
    Would you read on? All and any comments welcome!

  67. Brian McKenzieon 09 Feb 2012 at 8:26 pm

    –I would recommend rephrasing the word “compound” in the first sentence because, personally, I feel it reminds me that I don’t know what’s going on.

    –I’d recommend replacing “she” with the character’s name in the first or second sentence.

    –It feels like there’s a lot of description relative to the amount of things happening. (E.g. she spends the first paragraph reflecting on the fact that nothing’s happening). One consequence of this is that it makes the pace feel slow to me. I think that there are some phrases that could be removed or rephrased to accelerate the pace. For example, “She mulled on this idea for the briefest of moments before” could be removed. The second or the third sentence of the first paragraph could be removed (probably the third).

    –I like the phrase “any human would have thought” to imply that she’s clearly not human. This is the second thing of substance that we learn about her (besides that she likes it when nothing happens, which could imply that she’s boring).

    –”Would you read on?” If I made it to paragraph three, possibly (maybe probably). I don’t think I’d make it past paragraphs 1 and 2, though. I strongly prefer characters that are doing (or look like they’re about to do) interesting things right away and/or narration or characterization that shows off flair right away. It sounds like proficient writing, but the first two paragraphs feel too slow to hold my interest. It is possible that many women would react differently than I would, though (when I do writing workshops, I notice that more women are receptive to more patient openings like this than men are).

    –The narrator could have more of a presence, I feel. One example of a narrator that adds a lot to the story is in Changing Places, which opens with the line “High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour.” That sentence strikes me as vastly more interesting than “Two professors of English Literature were riding passenger jets over the North Pole.” Right now, it feels like the substance of your story COULD be interesting, but the narrator’s phrasing doesn’t help as much as it could.

    –I’d recommend incorporating the main character more directly into the story generally, and particularly into the first sentence. I have more ideas on opening sentences here.

  68. YoungAuthoron 09 Feb 2012 at 10:15 pm

    I’m thinking of starting my story with a my character laying down on his bed at night with the lights off and thinking to himself. His name is the first word of the sentance.
    “Tyler lay in bed, his hands behind his behind and his eyes playing with the shadows on the ceiling. He tried to breath slowly but his heart raced quickly as he failed to push the impeding event of tommorrow out of his head.”

    All and any comments are welcome! Thank you!

  69. B. McKenzieon 09 Feb 2012 at 10:54 pm

    –YA, I think it might help to show more and tell less. For example, if somebody is lying awake and thinking about something coming up tomorrow, I think it’ll be pretty obvious that he can’t push it out of his head.

    –Also, I think that it would help to replace “the impending event of tomorrow” with just “his geometry test tomorrow” or “the prom tomorrow” or “his Kung Fu Classic tomorrow” or whatever. I think that the extra details will help us care more about the event (and understand his anxiety).

    –It’s hard to be sure with a passage this short, but I think the phrasing could have more flair. As noted above, “High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour” is more interesting than “Two professors of English Literature were riding passenger jets over the North Pole.” The first one is phrased in a way that has a sense of energy and style.

    –One possibility that might give you better opportunities to develop the character and his situation in a unique way would be to show what sort of nightmare scenarios are going through his head. E.g. if he’s afraid of bombing a geometry test, maybe he’s worried about whether he’ll flunk the class and/or find out if his parents were serious about making him sleep in the yard if he failed again. If he’s nervous about the Kung Fu Classic, maybe he’s worried about getting beaten so badly by [rival/antagonist] that he’ll never be able to look his Bruce Lee poster in the eyes again.

  70. YoungAuthoron 09 Feb 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks a lot B. Mackenzie! yeah i need to work on it and i just put in the changes you suggested. thank you!

  71. MemeticRachelon 09 Feb 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Thank you for some very good points. I had kind of meant for her to soynd distant and detatched from emotions and society, hence “she mulled it over” and she takes a long time to consider most things new to her, like an appearance in the night.
    -Originally I was going to leave her nameless for the first chapter or so, until the Doctor called her by her name because she personally doesn’t connect to the name given to her and dislikes it. That’s starting to look less feasible now! XD
    Is this any better?:
    “Someone had collapsed just past the boundary of the compound, onto the immaculetly kept lawn that the Doctor worked hard to keep so neat. Page imagined that the Doctor would be unhappy to learn that this stranger had bled all over it.
    Paige wondered if she should go and get the Doctor.
    She could not see very clearly through the darkened glass- all she could see was her own gaunt, pale reflection and those blank eyes of hers staring back. Past her left eye, however, she could vaguely see the dark silhouette of a person on the darkened ground. Black on black. He was moving so stiffly and slowly as to not have moved at all, and it was he who was making that soft, pained noise that was keeping Paige from getting back to sleep.
    She wondered if she should tell someone that he was out there.
    Instead she found herself ghosting back across the room, with the fire-singed floorboards and blood stained walls. The door slowed her briefly, but not for the reasons the Doctor had intended. The door required a passcode, which Paige wasn’t supposed to know, but had actually memorised last week. The passcodes were reset randomly at least every week-Paige only had to hope that they hadn’t changed in the night. After an agonisingly slow moment of red, the light winked green and she pulled open the heavy metal door.
    Too long.
    Paige could hear-on a bad day, she could hear everyone in the building. On a good day, she could only hear as far as humans could.
    But she couldn’t hear the sounds anymore.
    She wondered why she couldn’t hear the sounds anymore.

  72. B. McKenzieon 09 Feb 2012 at 11:47 pm

    –I think your revised version is substantially better.

    –”Paige wondered if she should go and get the Doctor.” This could probably be shown, hopefully in a way that develops Paige, the Doctor and/or their history together. For example, what are some of the factors she’s considering about whether she should get him? (E.g. if Gary were thinking about interrupting Jacob Mallow, he’d probably think about the Rule of 6: around the Office of Special Investigations, it’s understood that anybody who interrupts JM with fewer than 100,000 lives on the line will get added to the body count. 0-3 digits: police. 4-5 digits: military. 6+: Mallow).

    –Immaculetly should be immaculately, I think.

    –Normally, I’m not a fan of characters gazing at their reflections to describe their appearance. That said, the description here is brief, helps develop the character, and is at least vaguely connected to the plot.

    –”She wondered if she should tell someone that he was out there.” I think this is redundant with “Paige wondered if she should go and get the Doctor.”

    –”The door required a passcode, which Paige wasn’t supposed to know, but had actually memorised last week.” It might help develop her to give a detail about how exactly she got the password.

    –”Paige could hear-on a bad day, she could hear everyone in the building. On a good day, she could only hear as far as humans could.” I love this. It goes a long way to building the setting and her relationship with the people around her. I’d definitely keep reading here.

  73. MemeticRachelon 10 Feb 2012 at 12:10 am

    Thank you! I apologize for the spellin mistake- you’re right, I spelt it wrong. I will fix those details now! Thanks again!

  74. MemeticRachelon 10 Feb 2012 at 12:41 am

    Revised version- better or worse?:
    ” “Someone had collapsed just past the
    boundary of the compound, onto the
    immaculately kept lawn that the Doctor
    worked hard to keep so neat. Page
    imagined that the Doctor would be
    unhappy to learn that this stranger
    had bled all over it.
    Paige wondered if she should go and
    get the Doctor.
    The Doctor would like to hear about this. Someone getting past all the defences, all the alarms ad the traps to reach the compound. Impossible, yet somehow possible. The Doctor would be glad, very glad and grateful if Paige brought this to her attention.
    On the other hand, if it really was nothing- one of the others’ collapsed after burn-out or drinking too much- the Doctor would not be happy. She would not like to be interrupted from whatever it was that she did behind that metal door at night. Paige would not be punished, no- the Doctor was too fond of her for that. But she would be very unhappy.
    Paige could not see very clearly through
    the darkened glass- all she could see
    was her own gaunt, pale reflection
    and those blank eyes of hers staring
    back. Past her left eye, however, she
    could vaguely see the dark silhouette
    of a person on the darkened ground.
    Black on black. He was moving so
    stiffly and slowly as to not have
    moved at all, and it was he who was
    making that soft, pained noise that
    was keeping Paige from getting back
    to sleep.
    She momentarily weighed the points of telling the Doctor of their visitor.
    Instead she found herself ghosting
    back across the room, with the fire-
    singed floorboards and blood stained
    walls. The door slowed her briefly, but
    not for the reasons the Doctor had
    intended. The door required a
    passcode, which Paige wasn’t
    supposed to know, but had actually
    memorised last week when the Doctor had forgotten to cover the keypad as she punched in the code. Paige being Paige, she had memorised the first eighteen digits in the space it took the Doctor to type them and then checked the keypad for fingerprints for the remaining two numbers after the Doctor had left. Easy.
    The passcodes were reset randomly at least every week-Paige only had to hope that they hadn’t changed in the night. After an agonisingly slow moment of red, the light winked green and she pulled open the heavy metalv door.
    Too long.
    Paige could hear-on a bad day, she could hear everyone in the building.
    On a good day, she could only hear
    as far as humans could.
    But she couldn’t hear the sounds
    anymore.
    She wondered why she couldn’t hear
    the sounds anymore.”

  75. Shannonon 13 Feb 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Could you tell me what you think ofthis beginning? It is for a comedy/adventure fantasy novel about dragons. I got the idea after reading some reviews about Eragon; is this marginally better or much worse? I’m just looking for general tips here.
    “Amira peered cautiously out of the window, twitching the curtains back just enough to catch a glimpse of the fields outside. She scowled. “Wynn!””What?””There’s a dragon outside again.”Wynn looked horrified. “What did you say?” She leaned forward in an attsmpt to look past Amira and out the window. A piece of meat, forgotten on her fork, made a bid for freedom and fell to the floor where it was swiftly devoured by the dog.”A dragon. There’s a dragon outside.”A long pause and silence from Wynn, who looked like she didn’t fully want to believe it. “A big one?” she asked weakly as she set her fork down on the table. Amira took another glance outside to reaffirm her suspicions. “As big as they get.”Wynn clenched her jaw, and stood up, shoving her chair backwards so tbat it scraped off the flagstones loudly and spooked the dog into hiding under the table. She shoved Amira out of the way to glare out the window. “Let me see.”She saw.”Crap.” There was indeed a dragon, and not a small one like the pygmies that often flocked south in winter and passed their farm. No, this was a huge dragon that made their house look like a toy of a child and would make Wynn look like an ill-tempered doll to match. Huge and dark, the great reptile had four legs, one head and a deadly tail with barbed, poisoned spikes. They glistened with the dark brown of dried blood.Wynn counted the dragon’s limbs and appendages one more time. It wasn’t a Hydra, which was a good sign, but unfortunately it wasn’t a Wyrm either, which were easily chased away. This looked like one of those wild fire breathing dragons that you heard about after they’d mauled your neighbour’s cousin’s niece’s friend and left them scarred for life. A nasty piece of work. A nasty piece of work which was, at that moment, eating, crushing and burning all of their crops. Wynn nearly cried.Their wheat and barley and oats and maize, which they had cared for carefully for so long. Their potatoes, which they had nurtured through a blight while next door the neighbours’ crops had rotted in thd ground. Their apple tree, which had survived a forest fire and a drought and had provided them with fire wood all through the dark and cold winter. Hell, not even their animals were safe- the creature roasted everything in sight and ate everything that stopped moving long enough for the dragon to get it in its mouth. The ill-tempered bullock that was convinced it was a bull. The eight cows that had been named after their grandparents and great-grandparents, with three of them sharing the same name of Mary. The chickens that followed Amira everywhere and roosted in the apple tree. The cat that never killed any mice because it was a vegan. All of them burnt to a crisp by the dragon and eaten with a side helping of potatoes and apple sauce.Wynn howled and darted for the door, snatching up the two pots Amira had laid out to make the stew. Thankfully there was nothing in them, but Wynn wouldn’t have even noticed as she sprinted outside just in time to protect the lone white sheep from being consumed whole. The dragon at first paid no attention to this small, irritating creature that resembled nothing more than a midge, but then Wynn banged the pots together and the dragon howled in annoyance and hunger and pain, dropping the sheep in favour of glaring at Wynn.Wynn danced backwards, far enough that the dragon couldn’t reach her with its tail, and clashed the pots again, shouting. “Come on!” she shouted. “Get away, you over sized lizard, come on, stop what you’re doing! Shoo!” She banged the pots together repeatedly, feeling her heart thudding in her side and her mouth go dry. If she didn’t stop it- they wouldn’t have any food, or milk, or eggs or wood or wool or anything else essential. “Go on, git! Go on, go! Off with you!”The fire breathing dragons such as this one had nearly perfect senses, which luckily came with the disadvantage of being susceptible to nearly any loud noise. The drsgon shook its head vigorously, the way that the dog did when it got water in his ears. Wynn banged the pots together, again and again, shouting loudly all the time. The dragon roared, and the hot, acidic breath washed over Wynn like fire. She paused in her cajoling long enough for the dragon to finish off the white sheep, and start on the flock of black sheep, which made a vague attempt at scattering before forgetting what exactly they were running from and stopping for long enough that the dragon could scoop them up easily.Wynn swore, and threw one of thd pots at the dragon. It hit its armored side hard enough to leave a dent in the metal, before falling limply to the ground. Wynn made a tactical retreat to the safety of the farmhouse and the dragon paused his meal long enough for it to incinerate the pot and leave it as a puddle of molten metal.”

  76. Shannonon 13 Feb 2012 at 7:26 pm

    -EDIT-
    Sorry for the mess up with the formatting, and the hard to read dialogue. It wasn’t like that originally.

  77. Hobbeson 14 Feb 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Sounds good to me! Wynn seems really brave ( or maybe stupid ) to have walked right up to such a huge creature.

    I’m interested in two things :

    How do humans engage these behemoths?!

    And what are the differents types of dragons ? Wynn seems to have a lot of knowledge a out them.

    Also, can you describe what type of world your characters live in? I know you said something about eragon. But I’ve never read the series or even seen the movie.

  78. Shannonon 14 Feb 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Well, yes, Wynn is a very rash character. In this world, dragons are viewed for the most part as vermin and predators, similar to how we would view foxes or mink, I guess. Usually, the farmers are dealing only with the pygmy dragons which steal some poultry here and there, maybe a lamb if they are feeling bold. The pygmies don’t have fire breath, so they’re easy to chsse off.
    The dragon in the extract above is a Draconian dragon, your typical Western dragon which are pretty rare. Everyone chases off the pygmies, the brave chase off the Wyrms and the idiotic and suicidal fools face the Hydra. It’s widely agreed that if you go against a Draconian dragon you are either amazingly badass or stupidly lucky. They are the worst of the worst, but people have to face them because otherwise they have no livelihood or food or home. It’s rather sad, actually. The pygmies are easily chased awayt with large dogs or imposing figures such as the local blacksmith. The Wyrms are terrified of fire and allergic to iron, so fires are lit to chase them off and if they need more persuading, the neighbours use their iron weapons to chase them off. Some wrap them in iron chains until they pass out, and then kill them. However, most dragons especially the Wyrms and pygmies are huge cowards and can be driven off by loud banging noises, like Wynn used.
    So far, there are five types of dragons in my world, although that may change! There are the pygmies, the vermin scavengers that travel in flocks and aren’t much bigger than an Alsatian. At the biggest, they’re the size of a pony. They aren’t viewed as much of a threat but are disliked, similar to foxes or rats. They tend to steal poultry and small livestock. They have two wings, four stubby legs and a tail like a dog’s, not much use for fighting! They travel in flocks and migrate in summer and winter, like birds. They can fly.
    The Wyrms are considered marginally worse, but are rarer, mainly found in the woods or the desert. Wynn comes across them when she is poaching in the woods. They tend to followt mountain lions and swoop in when the lion gets a good meal. They are pragmatic, and intelligent , but cowardly and weak. They have a serpent like body, with two ‘arms’ to prop themselves up on and wings used only for mating dances. They cannot fly, or breathe fire, but they excrete a kind of sedative from their pores.
    The Hydra is a dangerous dragon that roams the mountains. It has three heads, each of which regrow into two for every one cut off. They have razor sharp teeth, and prey on the predators of the mountain, the birds of prey, the lions, the bears, etc. They have three heads, four legs, and no wings. They spit acid. The Hydra is stupider than the Wyrm, but stronger and scarier. In times of famine or drought, they leave the sparse wilderness of the mountains to terrorise villages. Wynn has heard stories of them, and has twice had them on the farm. Both times required her father, a bonfire and a large axe to get rid of them.
    The kind not mentioned in the story is the Sea Serpent dragon, which is a lot like the Loch Ness monster. Wynn has never seen one or met someone who has, as their village is far from the sea, but she has been told that they have long necks and rounded features, with four long legs and a long tail. They are placid and gentle, and stay to themselves as much as possible. They live in huge packs and are the biggest dragon known to man- about as big as a giraffe, as wide as an elephant.
    Then, the Draconian dragon. Huge, with armored scales and a tail decorated with poisoned spikes, these breathe fire and basically do whatever the hell they want. They are your stereotypical Western dragon, with bat-like wings complete with hooks at the top for climbing. They rarely move in packs, and are known especially for their viciousness. They are equal with the Sea Serpent for rarity, but the Draconian dragon is also known for one strange charateristic- if its egg is hatched by a human rather than a dragon, it will ‘imprint’ on the human. This is basically where the story begins XD
    As for the whole ‘Eragon’ thing, Eragon has got a lot of criticism for the cliche plotting, terrible dragons, freedom fighters who act more like terrorists, and a Gary Stu who is the Chosen One and a Dragon Rider for pretty much no reason. So, in my story, I tried to do everything Eragon did wrong, better; nearly all of the cliches are turned on their head, the dragon is vicious with a terrible attitude and hates Wynn, and Wynn is a thief who hates the dragon also. They only travel together so that the dragon can reunite with its Rider and so that Wynn can rescue Amira from the ‘freedom fighters’ a.k.a. your friendly local terrorists.
    Example:
    Eragon basically did this:
    MYSTERIOUS STRANGER: Quick, we have to go! Get on the dragon!
    ERAGON AND DRAGON: Okie-dokie.
    (they do as they are told)

    Whereas mine:
    CONCERNED NEIGHBOUR: Quick, we have to go! Get on the dragon!
    WYNN: No way in hell am I getting on that thing!
    DRAGON: As if I’d want a petty thief like you hitching a ride on me. I have standards, you know. Do you know what that word means, standards? It’s something I have and you don’t.
    (they start to bicker)

    XD
    Glad you enjoyed the beginning.

  79. Hobbeson 14 Feb 2012 at 6:28 pm

    That’s a good general overview. Wynn will be interesting in alot of situations. Will the dragon be her only companion? Or will she meet others along the way? A great character idea could be a young orphan child that has a partnership with a Pygmy. Wynn could feel a sort of kinship with this orphan because they’re both thieves? Just an idea anyways can’t wait to read more.

  80. Zyrionon 15 Feb 2012 at 12:34 am

    Thank you! Yes, good idea with the orphan and the pygmy, and there will also be contrast as Wynn cannot understand why anyone would hang around with a dragon willingly. The other companion so far is her next-door neighbour, a quirky, eccentric friend of her grandfather, who is quite enthusiastic about trying new things like jumping on a random Draconian dragon and riding it halfway across the world.
    I’m glad you enjoyed!

  81. Shannonon 15 Feb 2012 at 12:35 am

    Sorry, posted under my friend’s name. :-[

  82. B. McKenzieon 15 Feb 2012 at 5:21 am

    Hello, Shannon.

    –I feel the opening (particularly the first few sentences) could probably be more memorable. It might help to show us something distinct about Amira or Wynn.

    –I think the comedy could be sharper. I liked when the narrator inserted himself/herself with lines like “This looked like one of those wild fire breathing dragons that you heard about after they’d mauled your neighbour’s cousin’s niece’s friend and left them scarred for life,” but the characters themselves could use more funny lines. The characters might be more comedically effective if they had starker personalities.

    –I think the comedy might be more effective if it hinged less on randomness. “The ill-tempered bullock that was convinced it was a bull… The chickens that followed Amira everywhere and roosted in the apple tree. The cat that never killed any mice because it was a vegan.” It might help to tie this more into character development or plot events. I thought the detail that so many of the animals were named Mary was interesting because it helped develop the setting and characters.

    “The dragon roared, and the hot, acidic breath washed over Wynn like fire.” I’m not quite sure what’s going on here. When I first read this, I assumed that Wynn got burned by some sort of acid. There’s no indication that this acid injured Wynn, which confused me a bit, because dragon-breath is usually pretty lethal.



    “WYNN: No way in hell am I getting on that thing!
    DRAGON: As if I’d want a petty thief like you hitching a ride on me. I have standards, you know. Do you know what that word means, standards?”

    If you haven’t already read His Majesty’s Dragon, I’d recommend it because I think you’d really like it. The book did a really good job of giving the titular dragon a personality and, yes, standards.

  83. Hobbeson 15 Feb 2012 at 7:43 am

    B.Mac I’ve posted the first section of my story. Please give me some feedback if you get the chance. Also I wanna know if it would be ok to switch between my three main characters? The story is written in first person so Im not sure if it makes sense.

  84. Shannonon 15 Feb 2012 at 10:11 am

    Thanks, B.Mac! Yes, this was just a very rough draft that involved me throwing things down on paper. But what distinctive things could the girls be doing without it seeming too random or ‘out there’?

  85. B. McKenzieon 15 Feb 2012 at 1:42 pm

    The passage was pretty short, so I don’t feel like I know enough about the characters and what distinguishes them to make great suggestions. It depends on what you’re trying to show about them.

    For example, if one were a nutty wizard, you could have her performing nutty experiments trying to make singing cabbages. A more sensible character could ask her something along the lines of “Uhh… what the hell?” and she could respond with something like “How else can I drown out the screaming rutabagas?” I think it’s a bit funny, but more importantly, it helps develop a character as a highly eccentric wizard. You could also make it plot-relevant by having her use some sort of demented chorus line to scare off the dragon.

    It may help to start off with a scene that gives the characters a better chance to act unusually. That could give you a chance to build up the stakes before the dragon attacks.

  86. Zebson 14 Jun 2012 at 3:52 pm

    wow, ok, so i’m really confused about my intro. i mean, i know what i want to do, but i’m afraid it will be too boring?

    it has a brief paragraph giving a brief foreshadow (if that’s what you would call it) and then opens into a “daily grind” sort of narration. it’s not really the main character’s normal routine because it’s her birthday, but i was trying to use it to establish her character and what not. she has a rather lengthy scene were she’s getting dressed, but that’s because i feel that it’s important. my story takes place in a society that’s more or less a “utopia” sort of place–everyone dresses the same, has the same rules, etc. and at a certain age, they become “part of society” and are required to wear a certain style of clothes, which is why i focused on it now. because i want to show how drastic the changes in the main character are, where she goes from complete faith in the system and how her life is run, to going to someone who finds themselves on the exact opposite side of the spectrum, as if she woke up in a world where down was up. also, it has to drag a little before i can get into the exciting part, because there are things she has to do before she can get there. i feel like it has to establish something about her normal life before throwing her into the mix.

    what do you guys think about it?

  87. B. McKenzieon 14 Jun 2012 at 7:31 pm

    Hello, Zebs.

    Is the dress code really high-stakes enough to shake her faith in society?* It might help if the dress code is just one piece of what’s going on. (For example, maybe today is also when it gets decided what job she’ll have–maybe there’s a test or an interview process or something). I think an arranged job (or an arranged marriage or something along those lines) might be a more urgent, more interesting glimpse into this world and her story than an arranged outfit.

    Alternately, perhaps the uniform is really extreme or raises values issues (e.g. mandatory burqas may raise issues about the worth/value/dignity of women and/or suggest that the government regards most men as potential sexual predators). Maybe there’s something about her which makes the dress code especially problematic for her. For example, maybe she’s a very creative type and she has to wear dreary clothes or maybe she’s very macho and has to wear frilly dresses (the NFL sometimes requires football players to wear pink gloves for various breast cancer promotions and football teams sometimes punish lazy players with lavender or pink clothes as a sign of shame).

    *For example, some schools have uniforms, many workplaces have either uniforms or basic standards of dress, and some kids are born into religions with various standards of dress. Unless there was something exceptional going on (e.g. something unusual about the character and/or the uniform), it wouldn’t strike me as a huge deal…

    PS: What is the society’s rationale for having this dress code? (Perhaps relatedly: why does the dress code only apply to adults?)

  88. Zebson 14 Jun 2012 at 8:08 pm

    oh, no! i didn’t mean that the dress code is what shakes her faith, it’s not THAT important!! haha..

    it doesn’t apply to just adults, it’s for all of them. but it’s kind of like, with each stage of life, the dress code changes per person. children are only allowed to wear a certain style, and then once they come of age it changes to another, and another, etc. women are only allowed to wear dresses, and for them to wear anything other than that is viewed as extremely inappropriate, because pants are considered something only men have the right to wear.

    um, it’s not important to the story, so to speak of, there’s just that one scene wear it and the other outfits are briefly explained, because it seemed to me like another way to show how accepting she is of this way of life. the main plot of the story leads her to discover things that question this life and way of thinking, until she’s ultimately against it.

    but back to why the dress code is there, it’s to separate men from women, children from young adults, married from single, and so on. also, it’s to provide more of a uniform look to their “ideal” society–if everyone is dressed the same, then it takes away the judgement aspect of appearances, to some extent.

    i hope that makes sense, because i feel like i’m just rambling..

  89. Neonfractionon 03 Jul 2012 at 11:56 pm

    One of the worst ways to start a story is backstory. If we’ve heard about one great evil being sealed away, we’ve pretty much heard them all. Starting off in the past in a way that is meant to be read aloud by a wise old man while a map is shown in the background is a sure fire way to put people to sleep. Stories like that can usually be repeated word for word with only name and place changes.

    I’ve also heard it called Warming Up Your Engines, from back when cars had to run a while when it was cold out before you could actually drive them. Readers don’t like to sit around waiting for a car to start, they want the story to get moving now. Anything that sounds like a textbook or someone sharing stories of the good old days or the days during the war tends to put people to sleep. Readers don’t want to listen to a lecture. They want to hear a story. If information can’t be worked into a normal storyline, it’s probably not important and can be removed. He only real exception I can think of is a world so completely different from the normal fantasy worlds that even introducing the character would be impossible without explanation. Him being the chosen one who is the only heir to the throne living in secret, not important to get the story started. Him being a flying fireball feeding off the dying energy of alien soldiers after a war, important. It’s not plot relevance that should drive opening exposition, it’s making the first 2 pages understandable.

  90. Sam Hon 13 Jan 2013 at 10:48 pm

    I’m trying to set myself up to use Marie Curie in the future. Instead of the usual formula for historical fiction, this is a historical character in fictional times. Does this seem like it sets the stage well, or is it boring enough that I should just skip to Marie?

    The people who lived in the research and development block didn’t seem to know much. They didn’t know what year it was, they didn’t know that the dinosaurs outside were out of place, and they certainly didn’t know that a massive solar flare was why they had been ejected from the life sustaining, computerized rooms they had previously called their homes. The rooms they had only ever left when they were kicked out. But this time there was no error code, and there was no way back in. No more entertainment on a whim, no more nutrient absorption. Their lives of whimsy were over with the passing of a magnet. Now two hundred people met each other for the first time in a warehouse that was backed up onto the corner of a peninsula just as much as its inhabitants were in their sudden lack of guidance. It was only those who had made games of survival who taught the others how to eat food to stave off the hunger. No, having lived their lives in simulations and games, they knew little of the physical world around them. Still, they were human, and they persevered. Soon a make-shift town grew. During the day they left the safety of the warehouse to gather fruits and hunt the chicken-sized compsognathi. During the night they returned and locked out the utahraptors and bears, and instead scavenged the labyrinthine tunnels below the arena they had awoken in for whatever was deep enough to be spared from melting and simple enough to figure out. Months later, a monolithic computer groaned to life in an obscure cavern. The people gathered around. The first anyone dared raise their voice to ask was “What should we do?”
    “INTERPRETING VAUGE INQUIRY AS ‘WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL.’ ANALYZING. DEFAULT ANSWER DETECTED. RESPONSE: SURVIVAL. ANALYZING BEST COURSE OF ACTION TO FURTHER THIS GOAL. IMMEDIATE OBSTACLE DETECTED. NUCLEAR MELTDOWN DETECTED THIRTY MILES NORTH, ONE WEEK’S TIME.” General commotion ensued. What was this thing? What would happen to them if they failed at survival? Do we trust it? We need the best expert opinion. “INTERPRETING VAUGE REQUEST AS “MOST INFLUENTIAL RADIOLOGIST’S PRESENCE IS REQUIRED.” COPYING MOST INFLUENTIAL RADIOLOGIST FROM UNIVERSAL DATABANK. POWER SHORTAGE ANTICIPATED. SYSTEM WILL SHUT DOWN AFTER OPERATION. IS THIS OKAY? YES OR – NO OTHER OPTION VIABLE. ACCEPTING ‘YES.’ IS THIS OKAY? YES.”
    Untold ages ago, the most influential radiologist was in a lab of her own, seeing her husband off, and preparing for a job much different from the one others had expected of her.

  91. B. McKenzieon 14 Jan 2013 at 12:33 am

    I feel like it could use more clarity–the sentence construction sometimes raises questions about what’s going on. “The rooms they had only ever left when they were kicked out.” By whom? By the error code?

    “Now two hundred people met each other for the first time in a warehouse that was backed up onto the corner of a peninsula just as much as its inhabitants were in their sudden lack of guidance.” I don’t think the peninsula comparison does a great job of showing us how confused the people are.

    “It was only those who had made games of survival who taught the others how to eat food to stave off the hunger. No, having lived their lives in simulations and games, they knew little of the physical world around them. Still, they were human, and they persevered. Soon a make-shift town grew.” This strikes me as light on of characterization. I’d recommend taking a step back from passive construction (“a make-shift town grew” and show us something interesting going on with characters–e.g. an unusual decision by a major character, conflict involving major characters, etc).

  92. Elecon 14 Jan 2013 at 12:44 am

    How’s this for an opening line?

    “Not for the first time in his life, or indeed his last, MC groaned.”

    What words do you think I could replace/insert/remove/ect to improve it?

  93. B. McKenzieon 14 Jan 2013 at 2:03 am

    I think the cause of the groan could make the opening more interesting/distinctive/memorable–preferably do something besides just establishing the main character as someone who groans (which is not by itself terribly interesting). I think you could probably set up more of the story and characterization as well.

    For example, “Not everyone could make a patrol plan so bad even the unit chaplain let loose a fierce string of obscenities, but Second Lieutenant [hopeless name] had a special knack for bringing his troops together in a common goal. Namely, wanting to kill him.” I think we see a bit more characterization, conflict, and setting here. We get some sense of a major problem right away (the leader has a very dangerous lack of planning skills and tensions are mounting with his troops).

  94. Warheadon 14 Jan 2013 at 7:42 am

    How is this for an opening scene:-

    Villain-1 chained inside a room while Villain-2 looks through the see-through window:-

    Villain-1(Smiling menacingly):- “You do know, this room cannot contain me…”

    Villain-2(perturbed):- “I have 50 men outside,but they wont be needed” “Now answer my question! (furious) Where is the Elixir of Immortality?!!!”

    Villain-1(smiling):- “you look nervous…Are you Afraid of me,Indra?” (menacing Laugh)

    Villain-2(disturbed):-”Stop playing mind-games!You stole the elixir and hid it!”

    This is for a comic book. I would like some views on it.

    Thank you

  95. B. McKenzieon 14 Jan 2013 at 8:00 am

    First, when you submit a comic book script, I’d recommend paneling your scenes. Second, it’s hard to tell from a scene this short (probably half a page, I’d guess), but the characters don’t appear to have distinguished themselves very much. Generally, I’d recommend having your characters say and do distinctive/unusual and interesting things, especially early on. What are some of their unusual traits distinguishing them from most other characters in their genres? What are some things they would say and/or do that 95% of other villains wouldn’t do in the same situation?

    If I could brazenly self-promote, I’d suggest looking at my own sample pages for The Taxman Must Die for an example of two characters doing notable things in the few pages when they first meet.

  96. acharaon 14 Jan 2013 at 3:30 pm

    How would this be for a brief opening? It’s very bad, but how could it be improved? The story is post-apocalyptic, kind of melancholy at the beginning, gritty, dark.
    Here is the opening:
    “I should have died after the fall.
    That was a fact.
    I fell twenty feet, straight onto the concrete, from a fifth story building. All of my bones were broken. I snapped my neck and my backbone. All of my volition because I knew that I would rather die than let the Wardens get me.
    They wanted my body – mind optional.”

  97. B. McKenzieon 14 Jan 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Achara, this is okay (and would actually be quite a good first draft). If it were part of a submission on my desk (i.e. a story that’s supposed to be ready to publish RIGHT NOW), I’d probably want to see more development of the main character (e.g. anything unusual he does that 95% of sci-fi protagonists wouldn’t do in the same situation), but I think the conflict with the wardens strikes me as effective. The setting could probably be more incorporated more effectively and some of the lines could be phrased more efficiently and/or memorably, but that all is pretty minor in the grand scheme of things.

  98. Sam Hon 15 Jan 2013 at 9:11 pm

    So should I rework that from one character’s viewpoint, or just start with Marie Curie and work in the backstory, beggining like this:

    Marie Curie would be the first time traveler, and she didn’t know. Once she was she certainly wouldn’t care. Because she was excited about her life the way it was. She suspected that there was a reaction happening on the atomic level in the “radio-active” elements, and she was pumped. Having just been married would be an exciting time for any young girl, she knew, but this was the existence of a subatomic particle! Pierre, her husband, was even working with her! What was more, the wedding gifts meant she had plenty of money to spend on the needed equipment. Well, she would have the money once she sold the gifts, that is. Still, if she believed in it, she’d say that there was magic in the air.

  99. Only under the rafterson 06 May 2013 at 11:56 am

    I’m curious, how does this sound for an opening? The rest of the story is going to be slightly off-kilter and mysterious, for the record

    Tomatoes, much like dynamite, are often red, but unlike dynamite, they rarely explode. Of course, there are ways exceptions.
    BOOM! went the exploding tomatoes. No one noticed, for any number of reasons too mysterious to list here, but mostly because no one was in the sewer system to hear them.
    Sometime later, a small green snake slithered quietly through the mess and temporarily became a small red snake, and was shortly eaten by a suicidal owl that thought his bright couloirs indicated venom. After her miraculous survival, the owl would go on to meet a humerous pigeon with a zest for life, and enjoy various odd couple escapades with it before her ironic demise when she accidentally ate a red snake temporarily dyed green.
    The tomatoes, having had their fair share of excitement, very quietly began to mold.

    Poisonous tomatoes are the main mystery in the story, but neither the owl nor any of this stuff shows back up. Is this too silly/random, or is it an interesting hook?

  100. Only under the rafterson 06 May 2013 at 12:09 pm

    Oh, I should probably mention how I’m going to actually introduce the protagonist, shouldn’t I, considering that the protagonist isn’t actually the exploding tomatoes. The next chapter would start with something like ” Pam kept her head down and her shackles up as she ambled with apparent aimlessness down the narrow alley…” Etc

  101. SquirrelShinobion 28 May 2013 at 5:46 pm

    I have a situation where I’m trying to avoid the wake up scene. The protagonist is a veteran of a war that ended about a year and a half ago and since then has gone abroad to escape post war political turmoil and a brewing civil war. He’s since been drifting from country to country not holding down a single job for more than a month. He has basically lived in inns and hostels since and has had major trouble adapting to civilian life. He’s basically taken to carousing and drinking his nights away and waking up next to women who’s names he doesn’t even remember, if he knew them in the first place.
    I wanted to start the story with him waking up, hung over from such a night. Maybe, have him handle some mundane tasks, like lighting candles, with magic, and check out of his room at the inn while acknowledging that he doesn’t remember the name of the woman he left sleeping up there.
    On his way to his current dead end job, using earth magic to dig irrigation canals. An orphan girl attempts to pick pocket him, he catches her and in that moment, senses the potential to learn magic in her. Without considering the complete ramifications, he offers to take her on as an apprentice.

    I want to confer some of those elements of aimlessness without horribly breaking any laws of writing.

  102. Qwertyon 28 May 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I recently learned a neat tip about storytelling: Make the opening scene of a story be a metaphor for the story. One example is the opening of the film “The Amazing Spider-Man”; in the opening scene, young Peter Parker is playing hide-and-seek with his dad…and the theme of the rest of the movie is that Peter Parker is looking for his dad. (Watch the DVD commentary to hear the director explain other uses of symbolism in the story; it’s really interesting and it gave me some good ideas as a writer.)

    Sometimes the first chapter of a book can feel boring (to a reader) or hard to write (for a writer) because there’s a lot of information to explain about your characters and setting in order for the story to get rolling. But when you incorporate symbolism, there’s a framework for the opening scene to follow. There’s something for the main characters to do, WHILE they’re being introduced. Using symbolism as an opening doesn’t necessarily hinder the story from advancing; in some cases, it greatly helps the story advance. The opening scene for TASM moved the story along drastically, briefly explained the factual and emotional backstory of the main character, provided clues for later events of the story, AND symbolically explained the overall theme of the story all in one scene.

    Using symbolism in books works just as well as it does in movies; I used this technique in two books I wrote and it worked extremely well. When writing, it’s always a good idea to have an idea of where you’re going; and if a writer can incorporate some symbolism or foreshadowing into the very first chapter, then I believe it makes for a more interesting opening for any book.

  103. Proxie#0on 01 Jun 2013 at 6:11 pm

    I have an idea for a “first chapter” of sorts for the novel I plan on writing. I was just curious if it would be so horrible to have a book start with a character that is not in the story at all, other than an honorable mention or an inciting incident. Egh, I’ll explain below, this sounds terribly confusing as is…

    The way I intend to start the story itself off. Audrey is on her way to visit her family, specifically her mother and her brother, and is on a train. Back in their home town, Port Angeles, Audrey’s brother is arrested for the assault and kidnapping/murder of a young man in the area. The story begins with the attack and murder of the young man himself (from his perspective), and an attacker that looks similar to Micheal (her brother). After this, it is shown that Audrey was viewing the past events with one of her [caveat] abilities, psychometry (seeing an objects past by touching it).

  104. Jacob Strainon 10 Nov 2013 at 7:09 am

    Hey, I’m working on an urban fantasy novel that tells the story of a down-on-his-luck athiest who is murdered by a demon. After being sent to hell, the athiest, (Jason Kent), escapes to heaven. However, he begins to mutate into a horrific, monster-like being, and sets out to find a cure. To make a long story short, Kent steals a pair of angel wings in an attempt to avenge his own death, and is caught by God. He is then forced to become the enforcer of heaven, which works a bit like the Mob.
    Now, Kent is an athiest because his brother died, and he felt abandoned by God. I was originally going to open the novel so that Kent meets a girl at a club, and ends up spilling the whole story to her,but I feel that this is too much exposition. Would it be better to start the story with the death of his brother, the meeting at the club, or something else entirely?

  105. B. McKenzieon 10 Nov 2013 at 9:42 am

    I’d recommend starting with the character in his element (e.g. an interesting day in the life of this character). Then I’d recommend having him get murdered by the demon fairly early because that’s probably the inciting event of the book. I’d recommend having the murder come probably in the first 20 pages and definitely in the first 50. I imagine it’d be pretty easy to bring out the backstory with the brother then (e.g. when he’s being judged for heaven or hell, he can explain why he hasn’t been faithful since), so you probably wouldn’t need to start with the scene where his brother dies.



    Personally, I’d probably be confused if the book started with a conversation between a horrific, monster-looking thing explaining what had happened. 1) It’s moderately complicated. 2) He doesn’t look at all like he’s one of God’s agents, which may cause readers to assume that he’s a lying demon or a schizophrenic or otherwise a totally unreliable source of information. 3) It would really help if we had introduction to what is normal for the characters before this point.

  106. B. McKenzieon 10 Nov 2013 at 9:45 pm

    “I have an idea for a “first chapter” of sorts for the novel I plan on writing. I was just curious if it would be so horrible to have a book start with a character that is not in the story at all, other than an honorable mention or an inciting incident… Audrey is on her way to visit her family, specifically her mother and her brother, and is on a train. Back in their home town, Port Angeles, Audrey’s brother is arrested for the assault and kidnapping/murder of a young man in the area. The story begins with the attack and murder of the young man himself (from his perspective), and an attacker that looks similar to Michael (her brother). After this, it is shown that Audrey was viewing the past events with one of her [caveat] abilities, psychometry (seeing an objects past by touching it).”

    Because the victim is not a main character (or even a recurring character), my instinct is that he probably wouldn’t be the best character to introduce the story to readers.* Personally, I think it’d be more intuitive to lead with the main character and tell the scene through her (supernatural) perspective. That would probably also make it easiest for you to show readers what’s going on with the supernatural angle. (Otherwise, I suspect the shift from the victim’s perspective to Audrey’s perspective will probably be a WTF moment).

    *Alternately, if you go down this road, I’d recommend keeping the cameo character’s role VERY brief, ideally a few pages. If you’re into graphic novels, I’d recommend checking out Kick-Ass #1 for an introductory character that gets introduced and removed in a few pages. Kick-Ass uses this introductory character to set the mood/tone, create dark humor, and establish that most of the conventions of superhero stories do not apply to this story.

  107. Proxie#0on 23 Dec 2013 at 1:15 am

    Good…what time is it now, morning? Good morning everyone. Presented below is the compilation of the first few scenes in my next work…likely a game of some sort, hopefully. Anyway, I would like everyone’s opinion of the opening and the various mechanics in play, as well as any suggestions. Ultimately, I’d like to know whether or not this is something that would spark enough interest to have readers keep turning pages, or players keep their joysticks turned forward.

    Also, if you have any suggestions for what game-play elements or mechanics seem inherent, that is welcome as well. I know that is not the purpose of these forums, but I figured I’d throw that possible critique point out there as well.

    Damien is awoken by a crashing sound from the floor above. After taking a few moments to orient himself, and after realizing that he is, in fact, on duty, Damien immediately stands up. He gets his things and, following the odd smell of sulfur, he methodically investigates each room downstairs, trying to find a way the intruder may have come in from. As he investigates, the lights in the building begin to dim and flicker, before ultimately turning out. Damien tries the switches, but realizes that the lights are most likely OUT out, and puts it on a list of things to inform his RDO* when he got back from his rest cycle, and pulls out his flashlight/torch. Damien finds that the door down the hall is ajar, and Damien, satisfied, goes upstairs to investigate the source of the disturbance. As he searches office after office, Damien’s doubt in the sound he’d thought he heard grows, and in the end, all he finds is a trail of semi-crystallized sulfur.

    Damien, feeling on edge, goes outside to smoke, but is interrupted by a call from his sister. After being given the news of their father’s death, Damien calmly tells her he will be at the funeral, and apologizes for not coming home for the holidays. After hanging up the phone and warming his hands, Damien forgoes his smoke to investigate something he’d not noticed before. The trail of sulfur had continued outside, leading to a garden/patch that was planted near the Regimental HQ building**. The lights in the parking lot go out, and Damien, after trying his flashlight, flicks his lighter on. Damien goes up to it, and begins to prod inside of the bush with his stick/hiking staff. After a moment, he feels something he cannot see, and immediately feels himself getting lifted into the air, before crashing down to the ground, with an unseen pressure on top of him.

    The lights come back on as Damien stands, and he looks to see if he can find the animal that had attacked him. He hears two sounds, one a whimper from his left, and another sound of running, scampering to his rear. He turns to his rear first, and after seeing nothing but upturned dirt, he turns back around and to his left. There, Damien sees an adult coyote limping away, before it falls over. Damien dusts himself off, and goes over to the animal. He knows from the three gashes on its neck that it is dead, and stands back up. Damien goes inside to the RDO desk***, and looks for the number to PMO**** and to Animal Control. Unable to find the latter, Damien picks up the handset to the office phone, and is about to call PMO when the phone rings. Damien quickly answers it tactfully and respectfully, but is cut off by PMO.

    The officer asks if there is someone who can come down and assist him at a nearby intersection. Damien inform the officer that he is the only one on duty at the moment, that his aide and the RDO are both on their rest cycles. The PMO tells him that the accident down the street takes precedence, as his phones are almost all broken, and he cannot contact the local police, or any of the MP’s on base. Damien, after a moment, gives the PMO a short time hack* for when he will arrive. Damien puts on his “woolly pulley”***** and goes back outside, ditching his hiking staff. As he is walking out of the parking lot, Damien notices that the dead coyote is gone, but the stench of sulfur is even more potent than before.

    * – RDO – A duty done on military bases by an officer, at the regimental level, set in place to ensure that the peace is kept on base while all are asleep, and to ensure that any inadequacy or conflict is reported.

    ** – Regimental Headquarters Building – The building that the headquarters company of a Regiment work at. This is where the Regimental Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and intelligence section work.

    *** – RDO Desk – The location that the RDO and his/her subordinate duties are posted throughout the day

    **** – PMO – Primary Military Officer, essentially the next higher up to the RDO, and has some jurisdiction within the Military Police on base.

    ***** – Woolly Pulley – A green, uniform sweater worn over/under the uniform of the day (depending on what it is and what you are assigned to wear whilst on duty) to keep warm.

  108. Marleneon 21 Jan 2014 at 5:19 am

    On item number 2.
    How about a character who wakes up with a major hangover. He looks at the clock, and he sees he overslept, and he has a job interview in 15 minutes. Than he has to rush to get dressed and ready to show up on time. On the interview, he has to cover the fact that he has a hangover and try to present himself the best way he can, despite the circumstances.
    Is this more interesting?

  109. B. McKenzieon 21 Jan 2014 at 7:51 am

    Marlene, that sounds promising. It’s definitely not a standard wakeup call, and it’d help introduce the character very quickly. The only suggestion I have is that it will probably be critical to make the character especially likable and memorable. If the character isn’t very likable, I expect readers will quickly give up on him because he brought all of this upon himself.

  110. niotpodaon 07 Mar 2014 at 11:54 am

    How is this for a beginning- the main character’s morning is interrupted by her boss calling and saying she needs to come to work a little early today because there’s a “Purple-caped lunatic” holding a few people hostage downtown? It does start with her morning routine, but it moves quickly into her dashing downtown to go do her job (she’s a hostage negotiator).

  111. B. McKenzieon 07 Mar 2014 at 7:22 pm

    “How is this for a beginning? The main character is a hostage negotiator whose morning is interrupted by her boss calling in and saying she needs to come to work early today because there’s a ‘purple-caped lunatic’ holding hostages downtown. It does start with her morning routine, but it moves quickly into her dashing downtown to do her job.”

    I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 1-3 paragraphs on what she does to get ready for work, but aside from that, this sounds very promising. I’m guessing her boss is the incident commander handling the case, and I also like the way you use his language to develop him. (An incident commander that refers to the suspect as a “caped lunatic” is probably a more interesting boss than someone who uses a phrase like “hostage taker”, and maybe a bit of a wild card himself).

  112. Amy Pondon 22 Apr 2014 at 7:06 pm

    How is this for an opening paragraph?

    “Abe!” Jon called out to me. “I found another one!” I swung my foot to another ledge in the cliff face, then immediately regretted the bad foot placement as a shower of rocks crushed the wildflowers below. At that moment I really hoped Jon’s uncle didn’t pick flowers, because if so we were screwed- he would know that someone was climbing illegally on his mountain. Oh, and I was slipping. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t such a good idea to go rock-climbing without any ropes at all.

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