I’ve read all the comments my loyal blog readers have posted today and there were some good ideas there. Here is what I’m going to do:
1) I am closing the topic of one-sentence summaries. We’ve had a good run on this subject, and we’ve all learned a lot. (I’ve learned a lot just by being forced to think analytically about what I already knew intuitively.) However, it’s really time to move on.
2) Iain has created a forum dedicated to the Snowflake method, with two main topics, Step 1 (the one-sentence summary) and Step 2 (the one-paragraph summary). Thanks, Iain! I’ll add that to my blogroll also under the heading “Forums”.
3) As of now, we’ll be switching to critiquing your first paragraphs. Go ahead and post your first paragraph here as a comment. I will critique them in the order they are posted, until we run out of steam on those. I expect we’ll be doing them for at least a week or two.
4) I will think hard about starting a critique service in which I critique a one-sentence summary and first paragraph for about an hour’s pay. Be aware that my hourly rate is outrageously high. The reason, of course, is that I am Xtremely productive and can get a lot done in an hour. I haven’t decided for sure yet about whether I will do this, because my life is exceptionally busy right now, but if I decide to do it, my loyal blog readers will get preferential treatment.
So start your engines, folks! Post the first paragraph of your novel here as a comment. (If your first paragraph is very short, then post the first couple of paragraphs. Shoot for about 50 words.) I’ll start critiquing them tomorrow.
Okay, I’ll bite. While I’m waiting to hear back on my other project, I’ve decided to plunge ahead with the book idea that got me into writing in the first place. Here’s a first draft of a first paragraph.
Balancing a live goat on the back of your bicycle has its challenges. Tia stood on the pedals and pushed uphill toward the market as the young pygmy bleated and kicked against its bungee straps.
John Harper says
Hi Randy. Very decent of you to keep helping us out. I know you have your own projects to look after, but I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say “We’ll pay it forward.”
Anyway, this is my opening paragraph:
“Jeffrey threw the screwed up report at the maglift floor. Another attempt to recreate his experiment, another laboratory explosion. He punched the wall. He had made a successful shunt once. Why couldn’t anyone else? ”
The story is called ‘Shunt Space’ and is a sci fi short story. It is about a researcher developing what amounts to hyperspace, but he has to tackle both a major flaw in the work and ‘Greenpeace gone mad’ before he can find success.
Thanks for taking a look.
Wow, Randy, cool of you to do! Thank you.
Ian MacLean nearly escaped.
He made it to the edge of the lamp-lit street with only four hard strides bridging the gap between him and his freedom: Maggie’s farm truck. Even in the pallid streetlight, his Granny’s old rattletrap never looked so good.
“That’s far enough!”
Daan Van der Merwe says
Ditto. Thank you very much Randy!
11 February 1990 – Thousands of people were gathered outside the gates of Victor Verster Prison just outside Paarl, a town surrounded by the vineyards of the Western Cape. The air was filled with excitement and anticipation as Nelson Mandela was about to be released after he was sent to prison 27 years ago.
Ginny Jaques says
Will you do mine?
The seven astronauts stood stunned and silent in the command room of the International Space Station, Galaxy Gaia. But it was not the explosion that held them frozen in disbelief. The blinding flash below them, over in a nanosecond, hadn’t even registered. It was the video monitor that held their attention. A split second ago the screen had been filled with the contorted face of the earth’s first great leader, the speakers blasting his strident, triumphant voice. Now they stared at a dark screen, and the shock of his announcement, cut off in mid-sentence, reverberated off the cabin walls. The invisible flash and the blackout had come at once.
Dale Emery says
Jeremy Crowther turned the corner onto Freeman Drive and saw his house for the first time in a year. His first thought was that nothing had changed. The same cracks ran down the edges of the same beige stucco walls. The same wet magnolia leaves overflowed the same sagging, moldy gutters. The same brown patches of dirt fought the same brown patches of grass for control of the same brown yard.
Awesome, Randy! Thank you!
My first paragraph:
They came for me on the fifth night of the hospital stay, when my arm had started to heal and I was restless to get back to my guardian Luc. I cursed the rock, in my sleep, that had brought me down in the fields, brought the thirty lashes on both me and Luc, left him bloody and unconscious and me just alive enough to watch. Was he alive, was he dead? They wouldn’t tell me.
(The protagonist, by the way, is male.)
Ach, a typo! Sorry, I’ll try again:
They came for me on the fifth night of the hospital stay, when my arm had started to heal and I was restless to get back to my guardian, Luc. I cursed the rock, in my sleep, that had brought me down in the fields, brought the thirty lashes on both me and Luc, left him bloody and unconscious and me just alive enough to watch. Was he alive, was he dead? They wouldn’t tell me.
Oh, why not. It’s been a year since I have looked at this ms, but since I have a new obligation to finish the thing before April 09, I guess this is a good way to get back into it.
My first paragraph(s) (which already have me cringing):
“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.
Hiya Randy, thanks for offering to do this. My first paragraph is one line. So I added a bit more. Please feel free to cut it off where you think it’s too long.
‘Mum!’ Rissa yelled as Lauren ran up the staircase. ‘It’s just a photo album!’
‘Not just a photo album, it’s your baby photos.’
Rissa turned to her dad and gave him the look. ‘You’re the one that got us into this in the first place. You and your stupid feud with Richard.’
Colin gritted his teeth. The knuckles of his hands whitened as he tipped his head back and shouted up the stairs. ‘Lauren, it’s nearly sunset!’
‘No need to get agro. I’ll be down in a sec. You said they never attacked before dark.’
‘The latest report had them down river fifteen minutes ago. With this cloud cover it’ll be dark in ten.’ He slapped a hand on the banister. ‘We have to leave now!’
BTW the above is from the same YA secular novel from which I submitted the one sentence summary.
Thanks for the link Randy. I’m not going to keep it on the end my blog url, before I buy a domain for it do you have any objection to “snowflakersforum [dot] com”
Hope Marston says
(Middle-grade historical novel)
Ma was sleeping when Hannah slipped out to the barn and pulled a halter over Poppy’s head. She led the cow out behind the cabin and tied her to a large oak tree. After a long Vermont winter she needed fresh grass to nurse her new calf. Hannah opened the barn door again and the calf darted out in search of her mother. Once she found her, she nursed and then lay down.
Katie Hart says
You may have seen this previously on The Writers View – I’ve made a couple minor changes since then:
Mysteer Castle loomed in Karel’s view, its dark walls melting into the nighttime forest. A sliver of moon revealed a sentry rounding the east corner of the castle wall. Karel allowed a smile as she touched the scar above her collarbone. Time to right a wrong too long held in abeyance. Time to recover the Stone.
I hope this doesn’t come through twice. My apologies if it does. Thank you for taking the time to do this! This is from my YA mystery/suspense/ inspirational…
One hour and fifty-nine minutes.
Kevin Ramsey sank his hands deep into the fleece lined pocket of his hoodie. His fingers, stiff with cold, clasped onto the folded bus ticket. In less than two hours, he would be free – and for the first time in control of his life.
Parker Haynes says
This is 71 words but I don’t want to cut the paragraph short. Delete it if it’s too long. thanks.
The San Isidro church loomed a dark hulk against the gray sky. The moon and Venus hung just over the bell tower. Paul came at dawn. He watched the old men and women shuffle to early Mass, coats and scarves pulled tight against the sharp morning air. Six times the bell shattered the clear air. Six times the echo resounded off the mountains. And six times quivers pulsed up his spine.
Carrie Neuman says
This is going to be even more fun than the one sentance summaries!
The kennel had been given with great ceremony, but in every way it disappointed. Father’s was a monster of mahogany beams and sandstone with two levels a man could stand upright in and fresh moss in the dog beds. Egil’s was oak and plaster with enough room for a crouching servant to clean the second floor and hay on the pallets. He was sure that his older brothers would have warranted a larger space or better trimmings. Their dogs would probably have been nicer, too, though he was never sure what he was looking at with the mutts. Still, when a noble admired a broad chest or strong back, he knew he possessed something that someone else wanted.
Carrie Neuman says
Oops, missed the bit about 50 words. Here’s the short version.
The kennel had been given with great ceremony, but in every way it disappointed. Father’s was a monster of mahogany beams and sandstone with two levels a man could stand upright in and fresh moss in the dog beds. Egil’s was oak and plaster with enough room for a crouching servant to clean the second floor and hay on the pallets.
Tension hung in the court room as time ticked by on its inevitable journey. Shoes shuffled on the wooden floor as the jury returned to their seats.
Keary’s eyes never wavered as he glanced over to where the jury sat as their foreman rose.
Carrie Stuart Parks says
The first drop struck her face.
She stirred and a slight moan escaped. Another drop plopped on her cheek, lazily rolled down her chin, hovered for a moment, then slithered down her neck. She shivered, then moaned again and opened her eyes. She blinked. Nothing changed the absolute blackness.
Carrie Stuart Parks says
PS: Many thanks!
Pam Halter says
Thanks, Randy. My paragraph is the beginning of the third chapter of a middle grade fantasy.
“Blood worms and swamp grass!” Tzmet screeched. “Why are the chairs on top of the table?”
A shuffling sound and giggling came from behind the heavy drapes that covered the north windows of the castle’s great room. Tzmet’s eyes narrowed as she tiptoed toward the sound. With one sweep of her arm, she wrenched the curtains aside. “Ah ha!”
Hello Randy: New here, from a Yahoo feed. Thanks.
Theresa Sullivan slowly closed the front door and leaned against it, sliding bonelessly to the floor. She stared down the hall, tears dripping from her cheeks. Mike can’t be gone; he was here this morning, singing in the shower like always.
At the sound of the back door slamming, panic struck. “Oh, God, what am I going to tell the kids?” she whispered on the end of a sob.
Which of the two is better, or can they come one after the other?
Nigerian most endearing environmental scientist, Chuckwudi Uzoma, knew he could lose his career and all that was dear to him. All that kept him going was his ultimate hope, the same reason of his fears. For him, the worst was to give up without a chance to fight. Even worse than this was go down without a dream. And the best: to prevail, to live to tell the tale, to be remembered like the heroes in the great classics.
If Chucks, so called by those who knew him better, survived, he would be the first to stand against ML, the Mouvement de Liberté, and come back unscathed. He made a simple plan this morning: after the award ceremony, he would steal a secret manuscript belonging to ML, and leave for France the very next day. Once there, he would use the information it contained to track down Le Père and earn the $120 million the Americans were offering for his capture. He would return and within one year change Nigeria; in five years, he would change Africa. With that money, he would prove to the rest of the world how good things could be in this part of the globe.
Wow! I’m the 20th comment and it is only 5:35AM!
Here’s my paragraph:
Professor Alejandro Miguel Juan De Cordoba-De La Rosa cracked the blinds of his office window and peered at the sea of angry students below. He craned his neck and looked beyond the plaza. Amazing. The trade unionists must have joined the demonstration. In only an hour the mob had swelled from the plaza, clogged the broad boulevard, and extended northward eight blocks to the Palacio Presidencial. He placed his hand against the windowpane. It vibrated from the chants of the crowd.
My first paragraph was mainly telling, but after this, actions . . . showing
M.L. Eqatin says
Mine is a YA historical fiction that is intended to read and feel like a fantasy. This follows the chapter title:
1. the Practical Joke
There would be no news of his father with this pack train. Disappointed, Stoney ducked behind the rocks above the community storehouse. Here he would not be drafted into helping unload the animals.
This was the first whole day off Stoney had had in a month. Now that he was apprenticed to the priests of the Sun-cult, even festival days had their labor, although Stoney had to admit that his work was much lighter. It was a privilege to be taken in by the priests, especially since he was he was not eligible to become priest-apprentice. Not that he wanted to, anyway.
M.L. Eqatin says
oops. Take out that second ‘he was’. it’s early.
The destroyed cars blocking the streets, the dead bodies littering the streets, the blue flowers growing out of the remains of a dead city. The smells, the sights, the blood. Nothing was as bad as the sunset.
David A Todd says
Tony Mancini was not ruthless enough to be a Mafia Don. He knew it, the Family knew it, and Colt Washburn sensed it. That was why Washburn chose Mancini’s turf for expansion into the New York underworld.
The resulting gangland war–or rather the end of it–had brought Mancini from New York to Chicago to make the peace. Washburn’s luxury box at Wrigley Field served as a suitable venue: public enough that each felt safe, yet private enough for earnest discussions.
They told me I had to write this. It’s taken a while to get started but here I am.
‘Here I am.’ Sounds like I’m talking to the coppers again.
‘Here I am. Yes sir. No sir. OK I did it sir. Here I am.’
The stuff I’ve been given up for. I can’t believe it. People are still on my back in this place. Same old story. So here I am writing. Figure that one out. Anyway, there’s too many dead people in my world and I’m sick of being blamed. Getting blamed for someone being dead sucks. Such is life. Ned Kelly said that. Saw a few people dead then wrote some letter and got famous. Brothers, Ned and me.
Randy, your loyal blog readers are blessed that you’re willing to do this! And since I’m on email digest and got here late, I will skip the first paragraph posting! 🙂
Debbie Thorkildsen says
“Augh, what’s that awful smell?”
“Someone’s really gone overboard with the cologne.”
Most students were holding their noses as they located seats in the science room. A few students coughed when they passed by Christie Tanner.
“All students please report to the gymnasium. Please do so in an orderly fashion.”
Thanks Randy. Hope I’m not too late with this:
We were invincible.
[Nothing could hurt us; nothing could stop us,] As we passed a cold can of beer from our car to Phil’s car at 50 miles per hour, we knew not only did we have to do it, but it had to be done going faster than the posted speed limit. Our cars were cruising down the part of Empire Boulevard that wraps around the bottom of Irondequoit Bay. We had left the city of Rochester just minutes before after buying the case of liquid pleasure from a store on Goodman Street that sold to us underage hellions.
Andra M. says
God help me! I’m drowning!
Larn Wintel sank farther into the blue waters, but the more he struggled, the faster he sank. The sunlight above wavered and disappeared. Enveloped in frigid blackness, the increasing pressure rendered his efforts to break the surface useless. He called out once again for God, but he perceived no answer. His heart thudded and his lungs burned—
It all started with a hat rack. It caught my eye the minute I saw it on the front lawn of Martha’s house. She was having a yard sale–actually, she and the neighbor on her left. Tilly sent me there because she knew how much I liked yard sales. I parked my Dodge across the street from card tables, shelves, counters of plywood balanced on boxes, and make-shift clothes racks covering every square inch of the tiny apron of grass between the two stucco houses and the sidewalk. I stepped across the street in rapt concentration. I hadn’t been to a yard sale since Jim died a lifetime ago.
Harbeer A says
Hi I am new to this and I seek expert opinions and help.
The paragraph of the Novel I am currently working.
The vanishing of Ocean Queen in the Atlantic is overlooked as an misfortune by the authorities and quickly forgotten. When Divine Star sets out to Hawaii with Roumoult Cranston’s friends and Family, he receives a uncharted homing signal.
Salvaging the crew of Octopus drifting in Atlantic Ocean is easy but when he and his friends set out to find the Phantom Pirate ship devising a plan and using the Divine Star as bait, an unexpected hurricane leaves Cranston and fifteen hundred innocent people in the hands of the uncanny and merciless Pirates.
With the coast guard and Navy formulating their own plans to seize the Pirates, its upto the Group to find the Base, salvage the trapped and unearth the sinking island before it takes their boss with it!
Of course the Name of the Novel is ‘Pirates’
Lois Hudson says
Incredibly generous offer, Randy. Thank you for the opportunity. First paragraph: The Tenth Month (near future speculative-183 words.)
Phantom mists curled off the water nudging into the shadowy outlines of the harbor warehouses. Adame hunched into her coat, shivering as much with regret for the decision to pursue her errand as with the cold itself. The streetlights offered little more than fuzzy globes of stained illumination, not enough to see address numbers. At least she’d thought to bring a flashlight. She pulled it from her coat pocket and held it above the wrinkled scrap of paper, but the grimy numbers seemed to melt into the wet air. A siren wailed in the darkness, triggering a rush of adrenaline. She pictured the preparations already underway at Riverview General as the wailing subsided in the distance-a stabbing or a shooting, or a wife battered beyond recognition-the kind of emergencies experienced in that part of the city. With an exasperated shake of her head, Adame turned abruptly toward the nearest streetlight. The first acid taste of fear filled her throat as the flimsy wooden fence along a salvage yard came alive, shuddering with the impact of a snarling watchdog on the other side.
Lois Hudson says
So sorry. In rereading everyone’s post, I, too, missed the 50 word limit. 54 words below.
Phantom mists curled off the water nudging into the shadowy outlines of the harbor warehouses. Adame hunched into her coat, shivering as much with regret for the decision to pursue her errand as with the cold itself. The streetlights offered little more than fuzzy globes of stained illumination, not enough to see address numbers.
Robert Treskillard says
Here is the first paragraph to my prologue. Thanks, Randy! I think we all need to nominate you for sainthood! 😉
Let the discerning come, sit by my fire, and I will tell you the strange story that began with Rynvos—the hunter who became the hunted. Sure, and he was an obscure man, and his tale would have been unknown to me, save that he witnessed the coming of an adversary so dire that the lives of all who dwelt on the Island of the Mighty were in danger.
Andie Mock says
Call me Jade. Jade Melville. My parents named me Jane Smith, but that just tells you everything you need to know about them. After being in Berkeley all summer, my parents are old.
Dad bangs on my bedroom door, “Jane! Jane! Get out here!”
Better to be five minutes early, I whisper under my breath.
“Better to be five minutes early…” Dad says.
“…than one minute late,” I whisper.
“…than one minute late,” he says.
Dad goes down the hall to bang on Jeff’s door.
How can I possibly mellow in the cool space of liberation living in this town?
Dad hums the Porterville High fight song. Bam, bam, bam, “Let’s take the field! Let’s win one for the gipper!”
Win one for the zipper, will ya? I roll over and watch my lava lamp poop organic blobs that ascend upwards through the viscous liquid. Fishing under my bed, I slip on my moccasins then bury my head back in Moby Dick.
Daan Van der Merwe says
If I didn’t know that Randy is a protestant, I would have seconded Robert’s idea. 🙂
Paulette Harris says
Wow Randy! What a nice thing for you to do for us.
I’m just going to write a note to let you know you are appreciated….Thank you.
I finally got my blog up and going so I am making progress everyday and I owe a lot of this to you.
Sincerely in Christ,
Robert Treskillard says
That’s why I had the wink icon! But I did see in the news that the Pope’s coming!
Richard Barnett says
“Lost? How could you lose six donkeys? They know their way home better than you!”
Much as Kish’s words tormented and goaded him, Saul could not meet his father’s eyes. Every word sent flashes of light searing through Saul’s head and made him cringe. He hardly dared to raise his head enough to peer through bleary eyes at his father, Kish ben Abiel.
“Well? Did they take your tongue? Speak up!”
Tami Meyers says
A.J. read the sign, ‘Welcome to Placerville – Old Hangtown’ and contemplated the unusual greeting while he waited for the traffic light to turn green. The family history ran back to the 1850’s in Placerville, maybe one of them had been hanged here. Probably not; his ancestors were far too proper and prosperous for that fate. A.J. didn’t know a lot about the family history, but he did know that old Asa, the family patriarch and his grandfather’s great, or perhaps great, great-grandfather, had owned some sort of business, been a pillar in the community, and built the ancestral home. A home A.J. had recently inherited by fortuitous, although unfortunate, circumstances. It really was too bad about Charles, but since it wasn’t his fault there was no reason to feel guilty about benefitting from the death of a cousin he didn’t know.
San Zeno’s rose window sparkled like a queen’s jewels in the midday sun, and I lingered in the vast church, transfixed. Mass had delighted yet calmed my senses that Sunday morning, especially when Padre Giovanni told the story of brave Santa Lucia (whose name I bear). Incense perfumed the air, and now the chants of monks echoed through the sanctuary. I was only six years old and wondered how paradise could be any better.
Bruce Younggreen says
Randy, you are the greatest!
Iain, I’m nominating you for the title of second greatest!
I’m so far down this response list that you’ll probably never get to me, Randy, but here’s my first paragraph all the same. The book will be a historical novel set on the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the 16th century. Since I am so far down, I thought, “Well, if we won’t be getting around to discussing my work, perhaps the loyal blog readers might enjoy a little light reading.” The result of that thought is that I’m posting my entire first page. Randy, how are my MRU’s?
Roderick McLeod stepped out of his galley and onto the boat dock. He straightened his tartan and squared his shoulders. With head held proudly up and a firm, decisive step, he presented an air of confidence that he did not feel. He wondered what his fierce enemy, Donald Gorme, regent for clan McDonald, wanted. With wary senses, he scanned the landing for signs of an ambush. He saw nothing amiss. Gorme was standing motionless near the center of an open space. He appeared unarmed, but Roderick knew he undoubtedly wore a dirk and possibly a light sword concealed beneath his kilt, and a sgian dhu in his stocking and boot. Roderick approached the unusually blond, blue-eyed McDonald cautiously. He wondered what Gorme had on his mind. Gorme had asked Roderick to meet him to discuss “a subject of mutual interest.”
Gorme stepped forward. As he did so, he pulled his sword from its scabbard. A shot of adrinaline made Roderick tense and he grabbed for his own sword, but Gorme did not attack. Instead, with both hands on the hilt, he thrust his sword deep into the ground. Roderick relaxed and did the same. The two men approached each other and shook hands.
“Send ye galley away,” Gorme said. “Tell them to return in one hour.” His voice was soft and pleasant. “No harm will come ye. We are not here t’fight.”
Roderick weighed his choices for a moment. Gorme was ruthless, but he he knew Gorme to be as an honorable man, one who kept an oath. He might deceive with his words to set a trap, but Roderick did not believe that he would violate his offer of truce, signified by the standing swords. He turned to his crew waiting expectant in the ship. He shooed them away from the shore with his hands, then pointed at the sun with one hand while holding up one finger on the other hand.
Gorme waited until the craft departed before speaking. At last, he said, “The King sends his blessings.”
Roderick never expected to hear words like that coming from a McDonald! An amused smile twitched the corners of his mouth. “Would that be James the Fifth of the Stuarts or Grumach of the McDonalds?”
Gorme laughed. “These be the Isles, be they not?”
“Aye, they be.”
“Well spoken, then, me lad. If thou wert to be in support of James, as your brother, Alasdair Crottagh, 8th MacLeod of MacLeod is, then would I declare this discussion closed and we would at hand with yonder swords.”
Roderick stiffened at the mention of the humpbacked chief. He felt the back of his neck warm with the flush of blood as his long-held hatred and jealousy of his brother rose. Gorme nodded. “As I thought,” he said. “Then let’s begin this discussion at once!”
Debbie Allen says
All Alaina could feel was the rough spun fabric of Ruggles’ robe- clutched tight in her fist as though her life depended upon it. And it did–for there was not a lamp, nor torch, nor any bit of light she could detect in any direction.
mary andrews says
If u get this far, thanks Randy. This is first paragraph of a WIP. (62 words–sorry.)
Alandra floated, high above everything, slipping gravity’s bonds for an eternity before beginning her descent; swimming through cold currents of air instead of water, allowing herself to fully experience the caress of the wind on her face, through her hair, along her body. The deafening rumble of the air ship receding into the distance as she made her escape. It was intoxicating
Barb Haley says
Anticipating the stir my visit was bound to create, I squared my shoulders, lifted my mulitple chins, and marched through the doorway. After all, the company was still mine on paper.
“Be right there,” a voice called from behind a wooden door.
“Don’t hurry on my account.” I frowned as I set my purse on the counter and looked around. Ruffled curtains? Give me a break. This is a trucking office.
Sonja Hutchinson says
You are so good to us, Randy! Here’s my first paragraph:
I ran through the snow-dusted forest, knowing the wolf would catch me if I faltered. Hunted like prey—I barely contained my terror as I pumped my legs. Cold autumn air burned my throat as I sucked it into my abused lungs. A stitch in my side begged for relief, and my thigh muscles burned with the effort. Yet I kept up my pace.
Bonnie Grove says
I’m tempted to just let this pass….51 comments. Yeesh.
On the off chance you have the time to get through even part of these. . . Well, you’re a nice guy, Randy. Here’s my first paragraph:
Kevin was dead and the people in my house wouldn’t go home. It seemed they were certain I was incapable of grieving properly outside of their presence. They sat in my house, eating sandwiches, drinking tea, and watching me. I didn’t feel grateful for their presence. I felt exactly nothing.
D.E. Hale says
Well, I’m not going to post mine this time, because there are already so many, that you’ll probably be “insane” by the time you get this far. HA! I will be paying attention to the other critiques though.
Thank Randy, this is a very generous offer. This is the first half:
Come on, come on, come on. Rob Watkins scanned the spectators then checked his watch and mumbled. He hated digital watches, especially ones that reminded him it was Thursday, September 23rd, Megan’s final day in court. Any second she would stroll through the revolving doors of the Bob Casey Federal Courthouse and get shot by a rubber bullet.
Paul Baughman says
Thanks for all the help you’ve been providing. I don’t expect you to get to mine, but here it is anyway.
Everyone knows of Hitler, he killed six millions in the death camps. Everyone knows of Genghis Kahn, he killed tens of millions in his wars of conquest.
I’ve killed twelve billion and it is still uncertain if the remnants of humanity will survive at all. I’m the king of genocide.
Technically, that’s three parapraphs, but still only 51 words. This is the potential first paragraph(s) of the sequel to my novel that was critiqued at the Alaska Writers Cruise (BTW, thanks for that too!).
Janet Kerr says
This is a fantastic opportunity!
This is the beginning of my PROLOGUE:
Perched atop a metal cot, Richard Alan Harper writes letters to anyone who will read them. He complains about how his new lodging, a warehouse-type building that dates back to the 19th Century, is “cold, wet & drafty all the time,” that he is “sick with the flu, but not allowed to see a doctor”. He mentions elaborate theories about how he thinks he was framed.
Thanks so much,
bonne friesen says
The free day began like every other. Aeolia packed a few supplies and prepared to run away.
Gee, a lot of folks ahead of me but I’m hopeful:
Thick raindrops pelted the windshield of her car as Delia steadied the vehicle and willed herself toward the other end of the bridge in one piece. In the violent rain, the windshield wipers swished back and forth, reliable but not much help. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel, her body tense as she peered through the dense fog, acutely aware of her impaired vision. She pushed her glasses up on her nose, then returned her vise-like fingers to the wheel. If she could keep the taillights of the car ahead in view, she could use them as a guide. And one thing in her day would have gone as planned.
Randy, amazing what you are doing. There are so many posts I’ll just drink up your comments.
bonne friesen says
This one gives a little more to work with, the opening of my Nano novel.
Adero swung her weight back and forth as she gripped the top rung of the crude fence. Inside small horses, the prenti, twitched their tails in the late morning heat. They get more excitement than I do, Adero thought with disgust. The dust stirred up by their broad feet itched in her nose, and she grimaced as she stretched through the aged split rails to smack the rump of the nearest one. It flicked a patient eye at her but gave no other response to her abuse. Stupid prenti.
Sharon Ball says
I’ve just put the finishing touches on this one. Here goes.
Stuck in rush hour traffic, late for her audition, Sydney couldn’t get her mother’s words out of her head. “You’ll never make it, you know. Do you honestly think you’ll earn a decent living as a drummer? Wake up, Sydney. You can’t be that naïve.”
The last light in the two-story Colonial estate flicked off. What’s there for old people to do after ten o’clock anyway?
Bo took the last drag off the cigarette and flicked the butt out the open window. He’d wait another fifteen minutes to make sure they were asleep before sneaking around the house.
Ok so here goes my first post. This the first paragraph of a novel I started a month or two ago.
When one hears of the stopping of time and space it is usually taken lightly and with little regard. Surely even in the most intense instances there could not possibly be a moment where time and reality fails. Though for those who have felt it, they will never forget.
Doraine Bennett says
Okay, I’ll try this. I’ve been reading, but not posting. This is a middle-grades novel. Here goes.
Margaret hid at the edge of the kitchen window and lifted the curtain. She watched the dark-skinned girl in the yard next door. Lily sat on the grass with her legs crossed, leaning against the trunk of a giant oak. A breeze rustled through the trees, and a few dried leaves fluttered down toward her. No one else was out. The postage stamp squares of grass on the first block of Brick Street all looked the same, except that Lily was sitting in one of them. And the For Sale signs. That was the other difference. The signs began popping up in front yards the day after Lily and her family moved into the house next door where Lynda, Margaret’s best friend, had lived. Margaret counted them again. One more since yesterday.
Rachael M says
You learn very soon in life that freedom is the most precious thing a human can possess. The freedom to live as you like, love who you want, believe in whichever god suits you at the time. I always valued my freedom more than most which was a pity because when I lost almost every freedom I had in life, it was a particularly devastating blow.
Rachael M says
Randy, any chance you can pick some at random throughout the list? Us poor folks who arent from your timezone are doomed to languish at the bottom of the comments list and miss out on any valuable advice you may have for us!
Rachael from Oz
Tara Ryan says
Bet you’re going to regret this (due to the deluge of entries, not mine in particular, lol)…
But thanks! 🙂
I’m actually vacillating between two different openings. I’m ready to start the query process once I make this decision. So, I’m going to press my luck and submit two possible openers to my novel.
The average American woman is 5’4”, 164 pounds and wears a size 14. Let’s just say that I’m above average—and I’m not talking about my height. I didn’t start out this way, mind you. At birth, I was actually below average. And I didn’t catch up real quick either. It took a combination of factors to bring me to my above average status. Genetics, environment, economic class and emotional health all contributed to my current dress size.
If I have to look at one more picture of a rail-thin “all-American girl”, I’m going to puke. Or eat another cupcake. Okay, the truth is I really hate to throw up.
I had been looking at the images for over an hour in the course of designing my newest client’s website. Mon Amie, Clothes for the Average American Girl, sizes 2-8. I can’t even begin to touch on everything that was wrong with their tagline. But they paid me, so here I am, trying to stay true to their “vision”.
I realize I’ve pressed my luck even further by submitting two paragraphs for the second option, but the first one is really short. Thanks a million!!
Krista P. says
Ok, I am a first timer and new reader to Advanced Fiction Writing, but thought I would try and join in the fun! Here goes:
Tapping her foot a mile a minute, Paige Andrews looked once again at her watch. Two minutes left. Why on God’s green earth did something like this take so long? The person who figures out how to create an instantaneous pregnancy test will surely be a millionaire within hours of bringing the product to market.
Ginny Jaques says
Dale Emery, I’ve been thinking about your first paragraph all day. The fact is, I’m really hooked. I want to read about Jeremy Crowther, but I can’t figure out why. You’ve begun with only a little tiny, ordinary action (turning a corner) and a brief (though beautiful) description of a house. That shouldn’t make me as curious as I am. So why am I waiting for a publication date and a title so I can buy the book?
Donald Maas is fixated on character. He has to like the character in the first paragraph or he doesn’t want to read the book. I think he would care about Jeremy. WHY???
I know it’s all about word choice, and how they’re arranged, but what you’ve got here (for me, anyway) is more than just craft. It’s more like art. I’m amazed that in this one paragraphy you’ve managed to set the tone of the book, create an atmosphere, and make me want to know 1) why it’s been a year since Jeremy’s seen his house and 2) what his second thought will be. I want to write like that.
Ginny Jaques says
BARB HALEY, I think Donald Maass would love your character too. I like her for her multiple chins. Then for her spunk, no nonsense approach to whatever she’d doing.
I’m full of questions I need answered. Why does she own a trucking company? Did her husband die and leave her the business? Or her Dad? Why would she feel she had to be obstinate about going to the company office? What kind of problems is she going to have making a go of it? (She’s obviously going to make a go of it, what with her multiple chins and spunk and all.) I want to meet her.
By the way, dear fellow writers, regarding characters you’d like to meet, no one beats Lindsay Davis for creating them, in my opinion. If your writing style/tone is comedic and spunky, like Barb’s, you’d enjoy checking out some of Lindsay Davis’ books. I think the first in her major series is called The Silver Pigs.
Ginny Jaques says
Oh, yes, BARB. One more thing I really have to know. Why are there ruffly curtains in the windows of the trucking office.
Dang, I like this paragraph!
Lois Hudson says
I agree with Ginny that Dale Emery’s concise opening has a magnetic rhythm with the repeated adjectives, that could be, but definitely aren’t, dull.
Ginny, you’re not so bad yourself!
Meg Stewart says
Randy, I’m a fairly new fan of your teaching and recently purchased Fiction 101 and now Fiction 201. I hope you get this far because I truly need your help. Below is my first paragraph of “Danara’s Destiny”.
I’d found nothing but dead bodies and burnt buildings after stepping through the village gate of Riversend. Defeated, I slumped to the floor in one of the last homes still free of fire for the moment. “Help me.” I lifted my head. My heart soared. Someone was alive! The voice had sounded raspy as if breathing itself were an effort. I stood up, my eyes searching the dim interior of the room. A thud from the next room drew me in that direction. Following the sound, I entered the kitchen. Another thud. I pulled open a door to my left and found the figure of a female gnome lying on the pantry floor. I took a deep breath and stepped into the pantry. I knelt to peer into the woman’s face.
“You stay out!” Sharp yelled.
“I suppose you’re gonna make me.” Had the words come from any other small blue-eyed creature in Rhyn, Sharp would have shut the door in her face, but this was not any other small blue-eyed creature. This was a young Ranger, wild, unpredictable, and entirely dangerous. Her name was not known, but most called her Nite.
That’s the first paragraph of my novel.
A hush fell over the small crowd standing outside Adele Carter’s open door as the paramedics placed the bodies of the two men on separate gurneys. Adele, sitting at the kitchen table, felt the tears fill her eyes, and her sobs broke the silence.
“Which one do you think she’s crying over?” Joe Johnson from the Amazing Grace Gazette asked as he clicked the photo.
Melissa Stroh says
I’m sure you probably won’t have time to get to mine, but just in case, here it is:
A roar rose from within Boruma’s great hall. One voice remained incoherent from another. “Hear me!” Lord Damach bellowed; his growling words grew to a dull roar. “How long shall we allow that braggart to remain on Cashel’s throne? If he and his kin remain he will have the foreigners themselves reigning over us!”
TARA RYAN: As an voracious women’s fiction reader, and a kindred soul in avenging the “rail-thin ‘all American Girl'” image, I heartily vote for Option #2 as your opening. It hooked me into the story line much quicker. The stream-of-consciousness thoughts of an overweight woman draws a rapid distinction between real women and the stereotype. I’d love to hear more of her story.
Ginny Jaques says
I agree with Tara. In option two you SHOW, and I get a sense of who your protagonist is–not just her size, but her temperament, her attitude, her angst, her occupation and even who her antagonist might be and what the conflict is. Wow! As I write that it’s even more clear. You’ve done a lot here!
Ginny Jaques says
TARA RYAN AND KATHLEEN: Oops. Got your names wrong. Sorry. I agree with KATHLEEN about TARA’S paragraph!
Anna Fetter says
“Make everyone leave. I must … talk to you… alone. Ican’t go… until… I tell you…I’m sorry Laura…. I let you believe…a lie …all these years.” Struggling for breath and forcing herself to continue “You did not… cause… Rebecca’s breakdown… Laura…. it was the book. In the attic…my trunk… Rebecca’s…diary…book… letter.” Her breathing softened. The struggle ended and she slipped away. Marissa was gone.
Stephanie Rising says
Without warning, the door shot open, angerly hitting the wall behind it. I sat up slightly, only to cower first at the bright light, and more so at the large looming man at my bedside. I screamed as he began searching my bed for the apparatus. I couldn’t let him find it and I tightened into a ball to create an unpenetrable barrier around it. He fondled my body to find the wire which led from the electrodes on my back to the device, and I tried to collapse into nothingness at his touch. He pried me from the fetal lock and grabbed hold of the black transmittor. I began to vomit as he announced the current would be turned on to the maximum voltage. Oh, God, I had never felt it’s full charge, and with the shock, I knew I would surely die.
Stephanie Rising says
Hi everybody. I’m new to this blog and I’m excited about all the content I see.
My first attempt is being moderated, but I wanted to submit a revised version with corrected spelling. I omitted the second half as well to keep within the recommended 50 words.
“Without warning, the door shot open, angrily hitting the wall behind it. I sat up slightly, only to cower first at the bright light, and more so at the large looming man at my bedside. I screamed as he began searching my bed for the apparatus. I couldn’t let him find it and I tightened into a ball to create an impenetrable barrier around it.”
Sina'i Enantia says
Hey Randy! This is the first time I’m posting here, but I’ve been a long-time reader of the e-zine and I’m making my way through the archives of the blog. But since I saw that you were starting a new critiquing topic today, I thought I’d better hurry and get something in.
A tiny bit of background. I write fantasy – somewhere between humorous and dark – haven’t quite figured it out yet. And I don’t have a website yet other than my Deviantart gallery and my Elfwood gallery and library. So nothing of my own, yet. I’ve been working on a few ideas, though, so hopefully, I’ll be able to correct that soon.
And my paragraph:
The twins followed Larv, the only noise coming from the clash of their boots on the stone stairs. In the flickering light of the candelabras, they could see that he was leading them deeper beneath the castle than they had ever been before. Deeper even than they had believed the castle had been hewn. Past the great cellars stocked with food for the coming winter, past even the dungeons which housed the robbers and murderers of the city.
Thanks for the critiques, Randy!
David McKee says
I apologize for the late entry — sorry if it is too late, but I promise I am a loyal (but far too busy) reader.
I am working on a story that involves motorcycles, Lewis Carrol, Absinthe, and the character described below…
He watched with dull eyes as he slowly began releasing his grip on the burned and blackened mirror he had held for endless millennia. A small sad smile crinkled his angelic face as each finger slowly relaxed and the enormous mirror in it’s gold gilded circlet gradually slipped away from his fingers, falling slowly into space like a small planetoid–spinning end over end. Its glassy surface reflected a glint of dull light back with each slow rotation, but never again would it reflect _The Light_. Even here in eternity it seemed to take too long to reach the surface of the embryonic planet below. With a single lazy flap of his gigantic wings he turned just enough to get a better view. The blue-black surface of the planet below was illuminated by only the faint glow from the slowly rotating dust ball that would someday be its sun.
Martha Rogers says
Wow, thanks a lot Randy. Don’t know if you’ll make it down to mine, but here it is. Reading the others has been fun. Such a variety.
Angry clouds hung low in the sky swirling and boiling with the approaching storm. A scent of rain filled the air and a brisk wind kicked up dead leaves to carry them helter-skelter across the grass as though they tried to escape the turmoil. Lucinda wrapped her shawl tighter about her shoulders. Never had she never felt more alone.
Caroleah Johnson says
I’m a lurker, but if it’s not too late, here’s a first paragraph for my current WIP:
Jane McAllister sucked in a deep breath, pulled her shoulders straight and pretended her mother’s comment didn’t matter. But it did; it stung with the intensity of an angry wasp.Why couldn’t her mother just accept her the way she was? Twenty-three years was long enough to live in the shadow of a beautiful and talented older sister.
I may be a bit late coming into this, I lost my 12 year old dog last week.
This is my first paragraph of a prologue to a supernatural horror. It is my first attempt at a novel.
She felt the knife touch her skin. The cold blade slides down her cheek. Its icy touch pulled her flesh, dragging it as the blade travelled lower. She screamed again, her throat sore from countless others. Warm, salty tears slide down her face. They slipped over the blade and dropped to the floor, soaked up by the cold concrete.
Ruby T. Johnson says
I’m just always late to the party.
In honor of the phrase, “Nothing ventured – nothing gained” I will still try to get in on the nail-biting fun!
“Rain pelted the window framing the gray afternoon. The noise of the furnace startled Susan Ashford as she drew a steaming cup to her lips.
‘Ouch!’ She grabbed a napkin from the basket in the center of the mahogany table. A sigh followed as she wiped the spilled coffee from her hand and cup. The tick of the clock on the wall echoed in the room’s stillness.”
Hi Randy. My 1st paragraph and thanks.
I never believed that old saying that a girl ends up marrying her father. I was determined to have a better life than my mother. Determined to have a happy home for my future children. Believe me; I was on the lookout for a fat, balding, man reeking with the smell of bourbon, slurred speech and a quick fist and to avoid him at all costs. So I married a tall, thin, meek man with a mother who would grow to be referred to, under my breath, as “Mrs. God”. It was then I took my first drink.
Phil Bostrom says
My predecessor thought the way to care for a crepe myrtle was to whack it off at a height of three feet above the ground. “Cut it down to nothing,” he said, “Nothing! Then, it’ll send out new shoots and have plenty of blossoms. Every year, cut it down to just nothing. Otherwise, it’ll get out of hand.”
Phil Bostrom says
May I try again? The thought that Randy (and others) might read this has motivated me to revise my first paragraph and the one which follows it.
“Cut that crepe myrtle down to nothing,” my predecessor had said, “Nothing! Every year, whack it down to just nothing. Otherwise, it’ll get out of hand.”
But, I love to see crepe myrtles reaching upward, spreading outward until they’re as big as dogwood trees. Let them be what God made them. In the mild warmth of March carefree dogwoods and happy azaleas herald spring across the South. Then, their blossoms fade. But, it’s hot when crepe myrtles reach their glory, blooming on and on through endless searing summers. Let them grow, I say, let them grow.
Elizabeth Finn says
Another tardy entry, but I would appreciate your comments. Thanks Randy.
‘You have a very strong aura, Beth.’
The voice is faint. Excitement races through my veins, re-awakening my senses.
A loud noise rushes towards me, like the whooshing in my ears when I fell into the Liffey as a child. The light becomes brighter. I see blurred grey shapes and smell people. Living people. The light burns.
I screw my eyes tight shut. This cannot be real. I am dead.
Ryan Jentzsch says
Hi Randy. Thanks in advance for any help or suggestions:
Xander had to kill Janet before noon. Xander really didn’t want to kill Janet. He liked Janet and the fact that she was pretty and popular made his task even that much more difficult. It would have been easier if he had to kill his annoying next door neighbor Jill, if for no other reason that Jill lived closer. But Xander had to kill Janet and not Jill.
Well, I’m just a lurker, but just in case you ever get down this far..
That was what was running through Saadar’s head as he gazed into the clear, cobalt jade eyes of his lover.
Mischief sparkled through her like lightning striking the deep blue sea.
Half elf, half nymph, she had the sharp ears of a feline and the face of a goddess, flawless olive bronze with ebony curls twisting down her back. Part Nomad, but pure beauty.
jashwant kumar says
Hope i am not too late, i just got the mail about this today in my inbox. Well here is my first paragraph, and it must be the 5th time i have changed it.
Stemence sat motionless, lost in his own thoughts, going over the events of the past few hours, he barely flinched as the cold air cut into his open and bloody wounds like a knife.’Seven Men dead’!, he thought miserably, ‘Seven of his best Riders, and all for an old Hag who could barely see, let alone prophecise the future! He cursed angrily under his breath, as he looked at the small dragon flying beside his own, tied to it’s back barely concious was the tiny figure of Celestia Clarmen, the most famour seer in all of Isis. Blood gushing into his angry face, as he glanced at her, the small dragon had belonged to Chanton, his best friend, one of the men who had died in their attempt to capture her. For one moment, he was seized by a mad desire to draw his wand, and blast her off the Dragon, but then fear caught up to him, fear of a master who would ensure that he met a fate far, far worse, than a death she would have.
” It’s almost dark” someone shouted,jerking Stemence out of his thoughts,he turned to his right, to see Astor, another of his riders pointing at the sky, khepera had almost set, it would be night in a few hours. Stemence nodded, and pulled hard at the reins, the dragon responded immediately,it gave a mighty flap of it’s huge leathery wings and rushed forward at a speed that only the dragons of the Dark breed could achieve. Stemence pulled down the hood of his cloak, to protect his face from the rushing winds, he hated to force the dragon to it’s limit, but then, he also hated to suffer punishment. His master did not like to be kept waiting, and Lord Xiandor showed no mercy, not even to his most devoted Riders.
Jack Cohen says
Hey Randy, Thanks for this opportunity. Here’s mine anyway:
It was a slow, hot day. The kind of day that appears to amble along all by itself. “Watch it,” my father used to tell me, “or your life will be over and finished before you’ve even begun to live it.”
The day seemed, to me at least, to be a metaphor of that wasted existence that used to plague his nightmares. He dreamed of being something, someone that other men looked up to and asked advice from, and at the same time, the tall, dark, charming figure that was renowned for sweeping woman off their feet.
In truth, he was neither. He spent his life dreaming of fantasies of how it was going to be in the future. After he finished school he would… After he quit this job he would… After he retired he would… Damn, getting close to the end of the line and an empty life, a life devoid of meaning. He had realised no dreams, and accomplished no desires, and he took it upon himself to ensure that that never happened to me.
Kim Thompson says
There will be no more hitting tonight. Stephanie recalled the words from her fourteen year old son, Tyson. He’d said them as he held a kitchen knife to his father’s back.
The light cascading over the bed from the east window sent shards of pain through her head. She winced as she found shelter under the covers. The beating last night had been worse than usual. She didn’t know what she’d done to make Mark so mad. I guess it’s because dinner wasn’t done when he got home. Or, maybe because I accidentally left the mail on the counter. It was useless trying to figure it out. She never knew what was going to set him off.
Erika Hoffman says
Thanks. Here’s mine.
Charles smacked his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Stupid, Stupid, Stupid,” he scolded himself. After he parked at his stately brick house on what the locals snidely dubbed Mortgage Hill, he sat still inside his mom’s SUV. He balled up his fists and then released them over and over. He dammed up his tears and wiped their traces on his sleeve. In his azalea bordered driveway, with the motor off, he remained corpse-like and hung his head. His cat waited, mewing, in front of the tire for him. Sunny arched her back and meowed soulfully. From the side of his eye, he spied his longtime pet. “What am I going to tell them this time?” he muttered to her. Stiffly, he got out of the car and bent over to pat his pal. “They never believe me, anyway.” His cat paraded after him as he hobbled to the back door.
Lupe Rutter says
Here is my first paragraph. My intent is for this novel to have romance but also historical culture exposing injustices in a macho-driven society. The potential title will be San Jacinto Gold. Anxious to hear your comments.
Anita Barraza was the princess of San Jacinto–a pristine Colombia, South American town, home to a conglomerate of cattle ranches. The terrain is a combination of partial jungle, forests and grassy meadows nestled between the San Jacinto Sierras and the high peak of El Cerro Maco—the end mountains of the Colombian Andes. Anita’s beauty was a traffic stopper. This morning she was late. The first bell calling the parishioners for mass had already rung, so she was racing against the next two bells. She also did not want to miss the greetings of the day, “Good day Senorita Anita.” Every morning on her way to the San Roque Church in the middle of the square the peasants on their burros and mules with their cargos of wood, rice, corn, uttered the cheerful greeting and looked with awe at this very young and beautiful damsel. Well-to-do caballeros mounted on their Palominos, black stallions, and mares, on their way to their cattle ranches, would also tilt their heads in a silent “Good day,” glancing admiringly at Anita. Anita enjoyed and looked forward to this morning ritual. But she most fervently looked forward to the chance encounter with the swarthy, handsome, palomino rider, Dimas Manuel Guette.
I sooooo wanted to read the comments that Randy made about each paragraph…. is there somewhere I can do this?
I’m trying to keep it under 50 words, so this might not be enough. I have more of the first paragraph, but it comes to about 90 words.
Lady Nell’s dress was caught in the litter railing. Between her screeching and the sounds of the crowd asking for alms I could feel a headache coming on. Not that I would show it, or could.
Johnny HeathM says
Once, when I was 9, I blew up a cow with an industrial air pump. The judge thought I done it on purpose, but I never. It was an accident.
Three weeks before the explosion, farmer Adams died unexpectedly. He fell head first into the thresher machine and came out the other end shaped like a bale of hay.
David Steiner says
Deadly music rang down the halls of the Dalleron estate. Steel rang off steel as the large double doors at the end of the richly decorated hall burst open, hitting the walls with a deafening bang. Two men erupted from the vacant doorway and advanced down the hall, exchanging skilled sword strokes. The man who had been forced out of the door now continued his retreat down the hall, giving no quarter to the lavish tapestries hanging from the hewn stone walls.
Helena Beaumanoir says
The recherché world of a pretentious French nobleman befalls to one of distorted turpitude after the apparition of his recently assassinated brother induces him to perpetrate a succession of murders to liberate society of decadence and immorality. Subsequent to being manipulated into avenging his brother’s death, Antoine is tormented into eradicating the streets of Paris of corrupt members of populace, defiling his own integrity in the process. As his sanity vacillates and his heart begins to blacken, his yearning for virtue and rectitude deepens profoundly. The naïve chevalier conspires with his brother to murder King Louis, whom he deems the most treacherous and depraved man in France. After all but tasting victory, Antoine is incarcerated and awaiting an appointment with the guillotine. He confronts his own mortality, and determines his brother’s apparition to be none other than a phantasmagorical replica of his own iniquitous principles.