Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New Beginning 52


How do we distinguish between what is beautiful and what is not? What causes one to think of another as attractive? For some, a kind face and loving heart do the trick. Others find beauty in a bright smile and adventurous eyes. And still, a deep intelligence and educated mind attract others. Carson King couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was that struck him about Isla Rose Lockhart, but just the same, she was beautiful to him.

Isla’s mind raced as she sat on her chair in the Mayne’s backyard, sipping quietly from her lemonade as she observed the commotion about her. As hard as she tried to focus on the womanly chatter surrounding her, she just barely managed to put on an interested face as she became lost in her own thoughts. Here comes Carson. He'd be worth getting lost in. Or with. Nice golfer's body, slim and tanned. A trust-fund yacht moored at the Mayne's dock. What causes one to think of a rich man as highly attractive? At least until one marries him, when suddenly those penniless, shirtless gardeners' assistants seem utterly irresistible? And how many more times can I play the alimony game before I run out of husband-material?

"None," Carson replied as he approached, "if you insist on choosing men with highly refined mind-reading skills." He poured her lemonade down her cleavage and added, "Consider our planned week in the Bahamas permanently off my calendar."

Continuation: J.E. Barnard


Anonymous said...

The continuation was hilarious. You don't get a story where the drink gets poured on the gal very often. And, " . . . golfer's body." Hilarious (unless you're talking about Tiger Woods who is built like an NFL wide receiver). -JTC

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I hate to say it, but this opening just doesn't impress me. And yet I can't pinpoint exactly why. I'm not thrilled with the ponderous first few sentences. And I'm taken aback by the POV switch between the first and second paragraphs. I don't mind POV switching in novels when it's done well, but it just doesn't work for me here...maybe because there hasn't been enough to establish the primary POV yet. If it's omniscient, I'd like a little more than just the speculation on beauty.

But that's just me. The 150 words after this opening would have to be pretty darn scintillating for me to keep reading.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, great continuation. I'm always disappointed when mine don't get used, but it seems there's always a better one.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fast and sloppy reader, so my first thoughts were that the piece was an essay about beauty; then I realized Carson was checking out Isla; then Isla's having lemonade in the backyard.

I guess I'd pick one of them and stick with them for awhile. Perhaps Carson notices how Isla arches her pinkie holding the glass, then realizing it won't bend because of That Horrible Accident.

vxtin -- sounds temptingly like vixen ;-)

Anonymous said...

First three sentences -- boring. Head hopping between first & second paragraph -- close the book right there.

I've seen a style of writing, in which the person with the action has the POV, which rather seems to be what's happening here. I've seen the POV switch every other paragraph (I dubbed this "ping pong POV"). It will cause me to put down the book. Not only do I quit reading, if I remember the authors name, I make a point of avoiding them in the future.

Can you tell that I *really* hate head hopping? I realize that there is a "liberal" attitude that goes something like "if you can get away with it, go for it". People do get published and read, but it has to be seldom and much more gracefully done if I'm going to be one of the readers.

The continuation was really good though.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, the first paragraph wasn't very compelling for me. It would have been much more interesting (to me personally) if it had opened with "Carson King couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was that struck him about Isla Rose Lockhart, but just the same, she was beautiful to him." I like that sentence.

The beginning of the paragraph made it seem like an article on beauty in a magazine. I'd rather it started it with Carson or Isla rather than some random facts.

Anonymous said...

So, the "golfer's body" wasn't supposed to be funny? -JTC

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

I recommend ditching the whole first paragraph. Not only does it read like an infomercial, but it sets up the expectation that we're about to read about what goes on in Carson's head. Then in paragraph two, here we are in Isla's head!

It's jarring and confusing.

Isla's outward calm, masking an inner conflict, is a nice place to begin and would keep me reading for at least another paragraph or so, to see what else is going on.

So start with the second paragraph, lose the adverbs and take it from there.

Anonymous said...

What ello said.

(Thanks for saving me a lot of typing, ello. LOL)

HawkOwl said...

The first paragraph sounds like the author is trying to be Jane Austen. "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." Except that Austen's was way catchier and then she cut to the chase.

I'd drop it.

Anonymous said...


The first five sentences are entirely unnecessary and in fact terribly boring. It sounds like the beginning of a sociology lecture. The use of the first person plural might be an attempt to include the reader in the question, but it doesn't work that way; instead, I immediately felt I was going to be told the answer, whether I agreed with it or not.

Then to switch to the completely impersonal "one" in the second sentense... and then into Carson's mind, and then into Isla's mind... whoa.

I think the entire section has to go.

Other nitpicks: Mayne's should probably be Maynes' if it's a family's house. If she's observing the commotion, tell us what kind. Kids playing cops & robbers? Consternation over a murder? Fistfight over the last piece of cheesecake? Backyard Wrestling tournament? What is "womanly chatter"? Is that the commotion?

Unfortunately, I came away from this understanding that the author wanted me to know that the story would be about beauty being in the eye of the beholder... but I knew almost nothing about the characters, the setting, or what was happening.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the 'chop the 1st paragraph'. Unless its a phillosophy book. Then... still chop the 1st paragraph. It sounds... stale.


The second paragraph might actually work as an opener.

Anonymous said...

I'd have to agree that the first paragraph is slightly boring. YOu just have to cut to the chase. If that means cutting out the first few sentences altogether, so be it. Trust me, you can spare them.

The second paragraph is a little...hard to read. It's not something that a reader could just skim over and understand, you have to read it carefully to understand. It's the way you have structured your sentences. for ex: Isla's mind raced as she sat on her chair in the Mayne's backyard, sipping quietly from her lemonade as she observed the commotion about her."

Sentences don't have to be that long, or have that much infomation in it. Chop it in half. "Isla's mind raced as she sat on her chair in the Mayne's backyard, sipping her lemonade quietly. She observed the commotion about her, without much interest."

You see? It's just easier to read. The same can be done with the second paragraph.

Bernita said...

Ponderous beginning

magz said...

Yawn. Bottom of the stack in the bathroom unless something really cool happens really soon. A bodice-ripper generic romance beginning,
most likely very saleable at Harlequin.

Tho the continuence was waycool.

(No offense intended Author, just not my first choice. Punch it up a bit?)

Anonymous said...

I thought I stumbled onto a query letter for a minute...then I got to the end of the first paragraph and realized that this was indeed a novel.

As others have said, I would cut the 1st couple of sentences. Questions like that irk me, as if I'm back in school having to do essays - yuck.

You have an interesting idea, author, but it needs to be punched up a bit. Maybe start with the 2nd paragraph instead?


Anonymous said...

Maybe the rest of the book is beautifully written, but I wouldn't take a chance. This section is ponderous, wordy, and awkward (Isla's little paragraph uses "as" five times). The pontificating in the first paragraph promises more ponderousness without insight. I have met two people I don't have any reason to care about, in a setting so vague I can only generalize to more or less modern times (later than 1750, probably), probably in the US, Canada, Australia, or something like that. And nothing about it gives me any confidence that the writer can actually tell a coherent story.

I'm sorry to be harsh, but I don't think I'd be doing you any favors if I found nice things to say.

braun said...

I definitely found this confusing the first time through. It's definitely the POV that threw me.

On closer reading I'm not sure if the author is trying to establish some sort of omniscient POV or if they have simply switched POVs between paragraphs. If the former, it needs to be better established. If the latter, the handoff needs to be a little smoother.

My $.02.

Anonymous said...

Grandiose philosophizing, head-hopping POV, complete absence of identifiable setting, utterly forget-able characters, and all in 150 words. Impressive.

I see in this opening a generic boy-meets-girl with nothing to make the following story seem original or interesting. Even if it had a scrap of potential that way, I too would close the book at the first head-hop.

And I'll own up to this continuation, which is better than what I originally submitted because of EE's judicious editing. The 'golfer's body' was part of mine, and was supposed to be funny, so I'm chuffed some people got it.

Beth said...

Lose the first paragraph entirely. Rewrite the second one. Take a look at how many times you used the "as" construction:

"...as she sat...as she observed...as hard as....as she became..."

Vary your sentence construction, and will you're at it, show us something interesting about the character. Make us want to keep reading because we have to find out...[fill in the blank].