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Author Topic: Opening Paragraphs: The Great Republic  (Read 711 times)
J. Paul Barnett
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« on: October 06, 2017, 11:16:24 AM »

Now that I've found this awesome community, I thought I'd throw up the first couple of paragraphs of my new WIP, The Great Republic. Like all of my work, I struggle to know what the genre is, but I think some sort of thriller probably. Smiley

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This couldn’t be happening. He grabbed the gas mask from the bottom drawer of his desk and fumbled to get it over his face, just like he had practiced at least a dozen times. There was no immediate need for it yet, but the explosions were harbingers of the noxious air to come. A very specific set of steps was prescribed for a situation like this. What were they? Screw it. Getting out. That was the plan.

He took a picture frame from his desk and stepped into the hallway, only to run directly into someone else. The two bodies careened away from each other, but both kept their balance. It was John. Between the gas masks and the warning klaxons, they couldn’t hear each other talk, but John motioned down the hallway. John would have paid more attention in the briefings. Following him was a good plan.

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« Last Edit: October 06, 2017, 11:18:25 AM by J. Paul Barnett » Logged
alislove
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2017, 04:57:50 PM »

Now that I've found this awesome community, I thought I'd throw up the first couple of paragraphs of my new WIP, The Great Republic. Like all of my work, I struggle to know what the genre is, but I think some sort of thriller probably. Smiley

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The explosions detonate all around him, harbingers of the noxious air to come. He grabs the gas mask from the bottom drawer of his desk and fumbles to get it over his face, just as he's practiced at least a dozen times.  Very specific steps are prescribed for a situation like this. What are they? Screw it. Get out--that's the plan.

He takes a picture frame from his desk and steps into the hallway, only to run directly into someone else--John. Between the gas masks and the warning klaxons, he can’t hear, but John motions down the hallway. John will have paid more attention in the briefings. Following him is a good plan.




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This is just how I see the opening.  A little more active, keeping the tense present. Watch for POV shifts. Good start because I want to know where they are, who the MC is, and why he didn't pay attention as well as John did! Yes
« Last Edit: October 06, 2017, 05:17:46 PM by alislove » Logged
J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2017, 06:52:23 PM »

This is just how I see the opening.  A little more active, keeping the tense present. Watch for POV shifts. Good start because I want to know where they are, who the MC is, and why he didn't pay attention as well as John did! Yes

Thanks! That's all very helpful. Writing an entire book in the present tense seems like it would be exhausting and difficult (probably because I've had no practice at it). Though, I understand that it does bring more immediacy to the narrative.

If you don't mind, could you point out where I have POV shifts? I've been trying really hard lately to make sure I don't use filter words, so the idea here is that everything is from the perspective of the main character. Are there parts that seem more like they're from John's POV instead?

As for why he didn't pay attention as well as John did, I hope it gets published one day and you can find out! Smiley
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MichelleG
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2017, 06:57:41 PM »

Very interesting beginning.  

In the first paragraph, I would suggest changing That was the plan. to That was his plan. I think it is more supportive of the Screw it comment.

Is there a reason you don't tell us who is in the picture?  If so, fine, if not - how about he grabs the picture of .... from his desk.

John will have paid more attention in the briefings.  seems a little casual for the urgency.  Maybe a bit more on John. and could it be his plan to follow John instead of John's?

 John was a pain in the ass, but he was the kind of a pain in the ass who paid attention in briefings. New plan, follow John.
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"You look at these scattered houses, and you are impressed by their beauty. I look at them, and the only thought which comes to me is a feeling of isolation and the impunity with which crime may be committed there." - Sherlock Homes, The Copper Beeches - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2017, 07:09:49 PM »

Very interesting beginning.  

In the first paragraph, I would suggest changing That was the plan. to That was his plan. I think it is more supportive of the Screw it comment.

Is there a reason you don't tell us who is in the picture?  If so, fine, if not - how about he grabs the picture of .... from his desk.

John will have paid more attention in the briefings.  seems a little casual for the urgency.  Maybe a bit more on John. and could it be his plan to follow John instead of John's?

 John was a pain in the ass, but he was the kind of a pain in the ass who paid attention in briefings. New plan, follow John.

Thanks! I especially like the bit at the end because, as it turns out, John is supposed to be a pain in the ass (which you find out later in the chapter). I also like the idea that the MC would take the more active role of deciding to follow John.

I don't suppose it would hurt to say who the picture is of here; it's really why the picture is important that needs more background later.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2017, 07:12:25 PM by J. Paul Barnett » Logged
J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2017, 11:38:46 AM »

Based on the excellent feedback, I've rewritten the new opening to this:

The explosions were harbingers of the noxious air to come. He grabbed the gas mask from the bottom drawer of his desk and fumbled to get it over his face, just like he had practiced at least a dozen times. The smell of plastic was almost nauseating, adding to the feeling of claustrophobia that the apparatus already provided. A very specific set of steps was prescribed for a situation like this. What were they? Screw it. Getting out. That’s the plan.

He took the picture of his parents from his desk and stepped into the hallway, only to run directly into someone else. He careened away, but managed to keep his balance. It was John. Between the gas masks and the warning klaxons, he couldn’t hear anything John was trying to say or make sense of his gesticulations. John was an ass, but he was an ass who paid attention in the briefings. New plan – follow John.
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Munley
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2017, 01:01:37 PM »

Your prose has a nice cadence to it.

Personally, I find it hard to get into an emergency opening or an opening scene with anyone in serious danger from any source if I have no idea who these people are and haven't a chance to care about them, or even where they are beyond a generically described space like a building or a forest.

It's like the difference between getting on the Internet and seeing a headline that says:

Man trapped under bus in England to have leg amputated on the street.

And getting a phone call and hearing:

"Get home quick! Your mom's trapped under the combine, and they might have to cut her leg off right there in the cornfield."
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J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2017, 04:14:49 PM »

Personally, I find it hard to get into an emergency opening or an opening scene with anyone in serious danger from any source if I have no idea who these people are and haven't a chance to care about them, or even where they are beyond a generically described space like a building or a forest.

I can respect that perspective, and to some extent I do agree in most cases. It's hard to understand the opening paragraphs without the context of the story that I'm trying to set up, but the backdrop for this entire story is a cold war becoming hot. So beginning with this event sets the stage for what I hope is the oppressive threat of nuclear war.

I've also played with this some more and tried it out as first person, present tense. I think I like it. I'll post the new version when I'm at the other computer. Smiley
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J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2017, 10:58:33 AM »

Even though I scoffed at the idea of using present tense when it was suggested above, I decided to experiment with it anyway, which changed the entire tone of the book (and caused me to change from third to first person). Thoughts?

The explosions are harbingers of the noxious air to come. I grab the gas mask from the bottom drawer of my desk and fumble to get it over my face, just like I’ve practiced at least a dozen times. The smell of plastic is almost nauseating, compounding the feeling of claustrophobia that the apparatus provides. A very specific set of steps is prescribed for a situation like this. I can’t remember what they are. Screw it. Getting out is the plan.

I grab the picture of my parents from my desk and step into the hallway, only to careen into someone else. I almost lose my balance, but manage to stay upright. It’s John. Between the gas masks and the warning klaxons, I don’t know what he’s trying to tell me with his wild gesticulations and murmured sounds. John’s an ass, but he’s the type of ass who pays more attention in briefings than I do. New plan – follow John.
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J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2017, 04:02:25 PM »

Ok - I realize I'm the only one responding to my own thread at this point, but it helps me to have this record of changes I've made... So after getting pretty far into the book (~10k words), I decided I hated it.

Here's the new first paragraph, which starts at a completely different place in the story. I would appreciate any feedback, especially thoughts on whether this new one is more or less intriguing than the original. Thanks in advance!

Diane Navarro was turned out on the streets with only the clothes on her back, the key to a storage building, and the pain of barely healed scars on her wrists. Her shirt was inside out because the orderly insisted that she would be safer on the streets if no one could see Mickey Mouse smiling back at them. Though it was hardly the reason that she had tried to take her own life, the fact that she now lived in a world where Mickey Mouse was no longer welcome was, at the very least, symbolic of everything that was wrong in her life.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2017, 04:11:37 PM by J. Paul Barnett » Logged
Munley
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2017, 08:07:35 PM »

I find this much more intriguing than the emergency escape in the earlier version.

It's only the first sentence that I have a quarrel with: being turned out on the street with only one's clothes on one's back is such a commonplace saying. But what follows is original and intriguing. You can get around that cliche opening by simply dropping it. We can assume, for starters, that she has clothes on, unless otherwise stated. I really like what you've done with the Mickey Mouse shirt.


Diane Navarro was turned out on the streets with only the clothes on her back, the key to a storage building, and the pain of barely healed scars on her wrists. Her shirt was inside out because the orderly insisted that she would be safer on the streets if no one could see Mickey Mouse smiling back at them. Though it was hardly the reason that she had tried to take her own life, the fact that she now lived in a world where Mickey Mouse was no longer welcome was, at the very least, symbolic of everything that was wrong in her life.
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J. Paul Barnett
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« Reply #11 on: October 19, 2017, 07:38:23 AM »

It's only the first sentence that I have a quarrel with: being turned out on the street with only one's clothes on one's back is such a commonplace saying.

That's a good point. I do like that sentence having a triplet, though, so how about:

Diane Navarro was turned out on the streets with an empty stomach, the key to a storage building, and the pain of barely healed scars on her wrists.
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Munley
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2017, 07:43:48 AM »

It's only the first sentence that I have a quarrel with: being turned out on the street with only one's clothes on one's back is such a commonplace saying.

That's a good point. I do like that sentence having a triplet, though, so how about:

Diane Navarro was turned out on the streets with an empty stomach, the key to a storage building, and the pain of barely healed scars on her wrists.

I like it!
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