Today, I’ll continue a series that we began a couple of weeks ago–critiquing the first paragraphs of novels by my loyal blog readers. A couple of days ago, I challenged you all to take a look at Ginny’s latest version. Last night, my wife and I went out to hear a lecture by a friend of mine who was speaking in Portland, and we got back too late for me to blog, so I’ll pick up tonight:
Here is Ginny’s revised version:
Zinovy looked at his watch and groaned. Five more hours. (italics) I cannot stand the wait. I must leave this place. (italics) Not that returning to earth would solve anything. He was going back to nothing. No family, no friends, and if Special Security Services had anything to say about it, no future either. But anything was better than his exile on this dinosaur of a space station.
Several of my loyal blog readers had issues with the italics, as I do. I think this is better than Ginny’s original, but I also think she can do better. The main issue I see here is that we have only the one character here–Zinovy, and all he’s doing is thinking about something that’s coming in five hours. Zinovy is thinking that he can’t stand the wait, and that echoes my own thoughts. I don’t want to wait five hours to watch him go home. I want to watch what he’s doing right now.
The thing is that I don’t know Zinovy yet, so there’s no way I could possibly care about him enough to watch him wait. I don’t want to watch grass grow, either. Maybe later, when I know Zinovy and care about him, I’ll be willing to wait, but that’s never going to happen unless he starts out doing something. This paragraph has the feel of the beginning of a Sequel, and I want a Scene.
This is a good time to answer a question that Ginny asked: “What’s MRU?”
Randy sez: I’m so glad you asked, Ginny. An MRU is a “Motivation-Reaction Unit” and you can learn all about it in my article Writing the Perfect Scene, which is my short version of Dwight Swain’s book Techniques of the Selling Writer.
Ginny, I’d recommend that you bring Zinovy on in action, and make it conflict. Fiction thrives on conflict. Zinovy has only a few hours left on the space station. Why not have him racing to complete a task, knowing that he isn’t going to be able to leave until it gets done? Or have him looking for something personal and immensely valuable that he’s lost and can’t possible leave without? Or have him sharing a passionate moment with a fellow crewmember who is replacing him on the ship, and whom he’s going to miss terribly? Or have him arguing with his commander, who is threatening to report him for rank insubordination? Or . . . whatever.
There are a thousand ways to bring Zinovy on in action and conflict. Pick one. Make it fit Zinovy’s character. Make it relevant to the story. And make it blow up in his face when the explosion on earth changes everything. Do that, and you’ll have a story that rocks from Word One.
In any event, I think we’ll all be happy to see your next revision. Tomorrow, I’ll critique Nessie’s paragraph, which goes thusly:
“Riverside. 25 Kilometres”
The sign flashed by. No warm homecoming feelings surfaced. Only coldness filled Rik Chandler. Ten years failed to ease the pain this town had inflicted on his life.
He’d sworn he would never set foot here again. Seems fate wasn’t going to let him off the hook. Gossip surrounding one death a decade ago sent him packing; now another death drew him back.
If anyone wants to get an early start by critiquing this one, fire away!