She had been walking in the park for about an hour when she stopped at a playground and settled absently into a swing.
She was a rounded, serious girl of about sixteen, with wire-frame glasses and sensible, straight brown hair that brushed her shoulders. Today she wore a hooded school sweatshirt and blue jeans to ward against the autumn chill. Her name was Jane.
Plain Jane, she thought, kicking her feet against the macadam to set the swing in motion. Who nobody talks to. Who nobody looks at. Who keeps her head down. Who's going to be alone for the rest of her life.
She swung higher. A brisk wind caught her hair and swept her cheeks. The forest around her seemed to hold still and watch. This was the good loneliness, that she could exult in; not the kind that came sidling along when she stepped into a crowd. This was quiet. That was alienation.
As she swung higher, she noticed winged creatures swooping toward her. She jumped from the swing to escape, but from the other side a troop of hideous beasts stormed toward her, crashing through the playground swinging axes and maces.
"Stay away from Princess Jane, you orcish orangutan!" a high sparkling voice squealed on her right.
"Orc can do alliteration too, spritely... thing," came the snarling reply on the left.
The orc chief turns to Jane as the bass line kicks in.
(To the tune of Summer Nights from the musical Grease)
Orc Chief: Argh lady, you come with me.
Jane: You've a pig face! Who could you be?
Orc Chief: Name is Splork and you be my queen.
Jane: I'm your queen? Just in your dreams.
Orc Chief/Jane: Come to park, drag her/me away, oh oh oh from her/my boring teen life.
Everyone: Well uh, well uh, well uh HUH
Orcs: We go now! We go now!
Orc 2: Before white wizard come.
Sprites: Come with us! Come with us!
Life with orcs is no fun.
Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huhhhh
Opening: Detritus.....Continuation: Pacatrue
The opening feels really distant. Who's the POV? Omni?
If you're going for Jane being the POV character--which it seems, from the lines: This was the good loneliness, that she could exult in; not the kind that came sidling along when she stepped into a crowd. This was quiet. That was alienation.
Then the line about being "about sixteen" doesn't work. She would know exactly how old she is.
Pacatrue - absolutely brilliant!
Author - I'm confused about POV too, but intrigued by what the story may be.
Watch the tendency to equivocate - "about an hour," "about sixteen," "seemed."
You set a tone throughout the opening that is interesting - - a little slow and lonely. It matches the character that you want to create.
However, what little action there is in the opening (swinging on a lonely park swing) is interupted by the second paragraph. Read it aloud and then DROP the second paragraph and read it again.
My advice drop the second paragraph and integrate the information into the story.
Now the other glaring thing I see is that awful sentence in the third paragraph - "This was the good loneliness" ...
That's not good writing. The reader doesn't know what you mean by "good loneliness." You have to explain it to them.
Loneliness and alienation aren't good solitude is, Tranquility is, Comuning with nature is, Celebrating your differentness (awful english) is good...
Do you see the difference? I'm guessing that she enjoys being alone or has accepted being alone.
You can't say "This was the good loneliness" change that phrase.
That really is an awesome continuation, Paca.
I like the writing myself. I might have thrown out an adjective or two. Maybe that would reduce the number of intrusive commas. But I liked it. I like lonely people in stories, they come up with some good stuff.
I liked this beginning because I used to be that girl. :)
I second what Dave said about the second paragraph. On the other hand, I didn't have as much of a problem with the "good loneliness" remark because that sounds like the thoughts of a sixteen-year-old.
It probably helps with the continuation to know that on the New Beginning page this was described as YA fantasy. For some reason, with her sitting on the swing, I imagined the scene from Grease with someone sitting along on a swing. Turns out that's John Travolta, but I was thinking it was Olivia Newton John. Anyway, no one remembers the song that Travolta sings on the swing, so I chose a more famous Grease tune. If anyone would like to submit further lyrics to this or some other YA fantasy Grease tune, I will post the start on my blog and you can add things in the comments. (Or if EE would like people to do that here, please modify my comment as you please or re-direct.)
As for the original. My main concern is that this might be a "Mary Sue" novel where the author is just writing themselves as a teen into a novel.
Hmm. This opening just struck me as self-indulgent. Why should I care about a tragically-mopey kid on a swing? Why should I care about her hair and how she's dressed? Tell me a story! Is anything going to happen soon?
Something like - ooh, for example - orcs marauding across the playground and trying to kidnap her! Oh, yes, my preciousssss; that'd be great!
OMG, another brilliant continuation!
This, too, sounds like me at about 16. However, author, I think I'd lose as many "about"s and "seem"s as possible; make them more concrete ("She's 16" - and she would know, because this is Jane's POV, right?). That sort of thing.
I think this has potential.
I'm not trying to pick a fight with Dave, I would be bringing a knife to a gunfight, but:
"You can't say "This was the good loneliness" change that phrase."
I disagree. Writing is art, say what you want (I'm not saying it'll get published). I agree with theo katz; that does sound like something a 16-year would say or think.
Keep working on the story. I think it has potential. -JTC
Ha, pacatrue, I thought 'Mary Sue' as well (though Amber Mist is a stronger contender, I think) and that's what my (pathetic, withering in the brilliance of your sunlike splendour) continuation played off.
I was imagining the orcs performed by Miss Snark's Nameless Faceless Evil kickline.
Overall, I like this opening, esp. the first and last paragraphs. However, I recommend taking out the second paragraph entirely. One thing I've learned about POV is that if you're writing from a certain character's perspective, you should avoid the temptation to give a 411 description of the character. Jane knows her name is Jane, she knows (as another commenter pointed out) exactly how close to 16 she is, and she's probably not examining what she's wearing because she already knows.
Instead of giving readers a quick head-to-toe profile, which jars us from the character's perspective, introduce this information subtly within the narrative, and only as necessary. For example, "Jane pulled the hood of her school sweatshirt over her head to further ward against the autumn chill" instead of "Today she wore a hooded school sweatshirt and blue jeans to ward against the autumn chill." Do you see the difference? The revised sentence makes the description part of the story itself, while the original sentence is just flat description with nothing happening.
This is a nice opening that quietly draws readers in. I especially like "the kind that came sidling along when she stepped into a crowd." Keep up the good work, author!
That's a good point, Pacatrue--maybe His Evilness needs to note genre at the top of the posting as well as on the opening page.
Okay, you guilted me into it. I'm sending an opening. See how we respond to your directives? Dance, puppets, dance!
word ver is "zwgljiss"--sounds like the name of something embarrassing from Nanny Ogg's Cookbook.
Though it has potential to turn self-indulgent fast, I really liked this. The mood you set up was great. I could really sympathize (that might be partly because I, like so many others, was that girl at 16, but heh).
I do agree with the others that you should cut the dithering words, though, and I noticed a lot of "was" and "is" and "had" -- they're not always bad, but they did poke at me a bit.
This was the good loneliness, that she could exult in; not the kind that came sidling along when she stepped into a crowd. This was quiet. That was alienation.
I liked this a lot.
At the risk of being ridiculous (and that's more certainty than risk, since I frequently achieve such level), I reacted strongly (and negatively) to this opening when I got to "Plain Jane."
I was once 16, rounded, wore wire-frame glasses, had straight brown shoulder-length hair, loved hooded sweatshirts and blue jeans. And my name was Jane.
I hated all of the stupid names like Plain Jane and Calamity Jane and the Tarzan and Jane jokes. I would never have willingly applied one of those cliches to myself. Even when I went through a morose stage at age 16-17 and moped around and wrote poetry about being abandoned and lonely and all of that--I would not have one second of calling myself Plain Jane.
So right there-you lost me. Ask a few girls and women named Jane if they have ever thought of themselves with that term. Its a term others apply, but even in the dark and dreary world of depression, I didn't screw with my name.
Perhaps I'm an oddball.
Hey - JTC and Theo -
point well made about "good loneliness". As I've said before, I only make suggestions. I don't get upset if the Author rejects them.
Who says nobody remembers the song on the swing? Didn't it go something like this...
Pacatrue, baaaby, I'm in misery
I failed to chart, you nailed this part
There's nothing left for me
Every time you make a rhyme
In Evil's heart it sounds a chime
Always on key
Not like meeee
Mixed feelings on the opening. I wasn't keen on the description in para 2 - partly because of POV, partly because it's just not a very exciting start. Had you considered starting with para 3 and uncovering the description etc as you go?
Ignore the POV people. Truly decent fiction doesn't give a frack about POV.
On the one hand, I found this relatable, because who hasn't been there? On the other hand, well, who hasn't been there? It's kinda like that feeling you get when you're constipated and you need to go but you can't. Maybe it's so relatable, there isn't any merit in being able to make it relatable.
I need an Excedrin.
Very nicely done, McKoala. I'm gonna steal it and stick it in my blog entry's comment - just because.
Props to the very brave Detritus, by the way. That's three beginnings you've had up recently, isn't it? You are made of stern stuff, my friend.
Mr. Detritus, him diamond!
Wow, I actually get the "him diamond" thing. LOL
whitemouse: No, I'm not brave. Just prolific.
Truly decent fiction doesn't give a frack about POV.
It's all yours Pacatrue.
For better or for worse, I care about POV. Hawkowl, I know you don't, and that's fine. I like the way that you stand up for what you think. But when I'm reading unexpected POV shifts throw me off all the time. In published novels too. Not, however, where the story is clearly omniscient, or where there are several POVs, that suits me fine. But sometimes POV shifts for no discernable reason and it freaks out my furry little head.
LOL It's funny because when I'm reading, I notice if the author has received POV indoctrination, and it annoys me. I wonder if there are any books we both like. :)
Well, we know that we both have issues with Life of Pi... It's probably easier to find books that we dislike!
BTW, I've never been indoctrinated in POV (no writing courses here!), it's just something that I've always noticed, even before I started writing seriously. On the other hand there are many other writing flaws that totally go over my head that other people spot. It must be my brain wiring.
I'll visit your blog shortly and tell you some books that I like. Hmmmm....sounds of thinking...
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