Wednesday, August 16, 2006
New Beginning 77
Daniel lingered on the upper deck of the ferry, taking in the familiar sight of San Francisco. He wished he hadn't had to leave it behind over a year ago, but he was back for good and nobody would drag him away again. As he leaned over the polished wooden railing he hoped he'd have better luck in turning his whole life around. He was counting on that. It was the only hope he had so far and he needed to hang on to it for as long as he could.
At nineteen, it was now or never to make his big move. Didn't matter he wasn't sure about how he was going to end up doing it. 1926 had proven to be an unfortunate year so far and he was determined to change all that somehow. As the ferry approached the bustling city Daniel made a promise to himself.
"As God is my witness, I'll never be without sourdough again."
He adjusted his green velvet dress. He would open a nightclub, a club where he could dance in his dress and no one would laugh. San Francisco was the perfect place for it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but more people like him would come. This wasn't the last ferry to San Francisco.
Posted by Evil Editor at 11:29 AM
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Too much exposition. I can totally empathize with him, but I still got bored reading about it. And the fact that he's 19 annoyed me. Granted it would be just like a 19-yo to have such feelings, but you kinda want to say "get over yourself, pup - you haven't seen hard times yet."
It has potential and I wouldn't mind to find out what happens later on, but you really need to make this snappier. Get some kind of something happening first, and you can flashback to the backstory later on.
Oh Holy Crap that continuation did me in.
The original story is kind of a boring beginning to me. I like the idea, but it is dragged out too long.
whoever said "dragged out".
I think you could make this more engaging by taking some words out. "He hoped he'd have better luck in turning his whole life around" means about the same as "He hoped to turn his life around." "It was the only hope he had so far and he needed to hang on to it for as long as he could" seems to mean "It was his only hope, and he needed to hang on to it."
I have a sense that I'm being told everything twice: "he was back for good and nobody would drag him away again."
"He was counting on that. It was the only hope he had."
"He wasn't sure about how he was going to end up doing it" and "he was determined to change all that somehow."
I also thought the continuation was great, especially the last line.
Unfortunately, I also thought the original was a bit boring. The character seems week if someone dragged him away just a year ago against his will. Also, if it is 1926 we already know his luck isn't going to turn around. The Great Depression is only a few years away! -JTC
I love the continuation!!
Dear author, consider beginning the story with some action. Most of this beginning could be scrunched into a few sentences. Perhaps something along the lines of "As the ferry approached San Francisco, Daniel made a promise to himself..."
Readers can be filled in to any necessary backstory later. Your job now is to get them involved in the story.
The point of view is not very intimate. I haven't heard Daniel speak or think yet, just heard an author talking about what Daniel is thinking about. For example, "he hoped he'd have better luck in turning his whole life around" is not a sentence I would expect to find anyone thinking. I am dying to hear Daniel's promise directly after all the indirection of the first two paragraphs.
I agree that a lot of this can be cut without harm to the basic sense of the opening. Here's a first-try blue-pen version:
Daniel lingered on the upper deck of the ferry, taking in the familiar sight of San Francisco. 1926 had proven to be an unfortunate year so far and he was determined to change all that somehow. As he leaned over the polished wooden railing, approaching the bustling city, Daniel made a promise to himself.
Yeah, way redundant. Never say anything in three long sentences if one short one will do.
Also: He wished he hadn't had to leave it behind over a year ago, but he was back for good and nobody would drag him away again. sounds too infodumpy this way. It would come off better just to reword it a little. He wished he'd never had to leave it behind, but after a long year abroad, he was back, and nobody would drag him away again.
This version gets rid of a bit of redundancy, plus the glut of hads plaguing that sentence. The fact he's been gone for a year doesn't come off so much as if it's on a list of facts in a textbook.
he hoped he'd have better luck in turning his whole life around. Even just the removal of the word "whole" would improve this.
This could be tightened, and then tightened again. I don't mind starting the book at a point like this, but the meandering pace of his thoughts--and all the repetition--makes me feel like maybe this guy isn't much smarter than a sack of barber hair. Self-absorbed and dumb. Yeah, that's your average 19 year old, but I'm not that interested in reading about him.
Typical comment so far:
Dear author, consider beginning the story with some action.
Holy Jiminy, people. I just mentally went down my list of my favorite thirty books, and astoundindly, I don't think any of them--not a single, solitary one--has anything I'd describe as "action" in the first 150 words. You don't need to put the dead body on page 1. In fact, I'd prefer it if you didn't. At least tell me where we are first.
As long as the writing is good, I'll turn the page. Of course, something should happen fairly soon, but I'll give you a minute or two if you're earning it.
You do need verve, or maybe some "muscular prose," or an unusual point of view, or something to go on. If you're introducing me to an interesting-sounding guy, or describing something I've never seen before, I'll take that in lieu of action any day. In short, there is no rule that there be action on the first page.
This opening seemed entirely appropriate to me in this regard, though Marykaye makes some good points about tightening the writing.
OMG, that makes me miss sourdough!
Sorry but--opening with a character traveling and thinking is a cliche. And it's boring.
Try opening at a point of conflict.
You can still start with the same info, but make it active instead of passive. For example:
Daniel stepped off the ferry and spat on the ground. "That's the last time I'll ever ride that leaky tub." He looked up at the hills of San Francisco and smiled. Destiny awaited him. It was succeed or die trying -- nothing would ever make him go back to Oakland.
"As God is my witness, I'll never be without sourdough again."
Hee! I live in San Francisco, and I'm planning to repeat this shamelessly for the rest of my unnatural life.
What Mark said.
I would have kept reading. I don't need bullets flying, bodies dying or characters crying on the first page. In fact I'd prefer not to encounter such things until I've had a chance to meet some of the characters and look around a bit. A 19-year old who thinks he's going to "make his big move" -- I'm intrigued.
BTW, I think the author did a nice job of establishing the date -- 1926 -- without interrupting the flow of the story.
Action or no action aside, this wasn't a very engaging opening. Faced with the prospect of a book so heavy on telling rather than showing, I'd pass.
Hi * Well, this is my piece. Whew, your various comments made me think twice about my work in its entirety. Thanks for taking the time to give me your two cents, as well as some claps to the one who provided the funny continuation. I also appreciate that a few of you hung in there for my character, not minding his slow introduction. Nonetheless, I hope to make the whole story stronger with
rewrites, rewrites, rewrites. *
I have no problems with reading a story that starts at this point - it's where the narrator's life is about to change. What I would like to see is something more specific about his problems, e.g. why was he forced to leave? I'm not asking for a massive infodump on that in the first 150 words (in fact, please don't put a massive infodump anywhere within the first 150,000 words - seriously), but just a little detail, a hint, something to run with. As hilarious as the continuation is, the dress in that is actually an example of the sort of thing I'm talking about (the sort of thing, people).
The other thing I wouldn't mind seeing is some dialogue. Perhaps some of his resentment (at having to leave) and his hope could be conveyed through conversation. It's a ferry; he's not going to be the only one on it.
It's definitely an interesting situation, albeit that it has been done before. I'd be looking for a good indication of where the story's going pretty soon, but I'd read at least a few pages to look for that.
I wouldn't necessarily say begin with action but I agree with marykaye and some of the other commenters - the two paragraphs need tightening up. I liked 'polished wooden railing' though - nice detail.
I agree the writing could be tightened up in a few places, and I would prefer to be inside Daniel's head, "hearing" his thoughts, instead of being told about them.
However, I'd also rather read on for a while to find out why Daniel is different than every other nineteen year old with big dreams, than to immediately be plunged into action involving a character I know nothing about.
I, too, liked the way the year was slipped in. The "polished wooden railings" made me wonder when this was set, so I appreciated having that question answered right away.
Not that I'm an agent obviously, but I think from an agent's POV, this is simply a spin on having your main character waking up or driving in a car for the opening. A way to dump out some information.
Action doesn't necessarily mean a dead body on page 1, but you need an active way to set up what's coming. Could be great stuff around the corner, but an agent will see the cliche opening and not make it around the corner.
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