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#1 ABerman

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Posted 31 October 2017 - 10:48 PM

Hi everyone- just looking for feedback on what you think of this first sentence for a science fiction/alternate history novel:

 

Part 1: Serpent and Remora

 

As if telling his shrink about four-dimensional alien hallucinations wasn't stressful enough, Wasd Abcdef had an appointment to murder someone that day.  

 

What do you think?  Too confusing/sci-fi-ish?  



#2 A.M.Rose

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 12:29 PM

Hi everyone- just looking for feedback on what you think of this first sentence for a science fiction/alternate history novel:

 

Part 1: Serpent and Remora

 

As if telling his shrink about four-dimensional alien hallucinations wasn't stressful enough, Wasd Abcdef had an appointment to murder someone that day.  

 

What do you think?  Too confusing/sci-fi-ish?  

Judging a first sentence is tough, and this is just IMO.

It is an interesting start, but I think you are trying to put way too much into this first sentence. The first sentence should be grabbing and make you want to read the next, and the next, and the next. I feel like you are trying to set up too much and have too many eggs in this basket. Consider simplifying. On a side note, when I got to his name I was completely taken out of the story and stopped to make sure I was reading it correctly. 

Good luck. 


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Not Innocent available from Entangled Teen Spring 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


#3 BadgerFox

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 12:43 PM

I think it's attention-grabbing and you're definitely heading in the right direction...but I second the idea that there is too much happening. Tonally it's also a little uneven, maybe? The first part of the sentence sounds like a zany comedy I could love, but then the second half (I know it's not much to go on, buuuuuut...) is more like the intro to a gritty thriller. Not to say there can't be zany comedies about murderers, of course, but maybe it would be best to pick one of these major directions - alien hallucinations or murder appointments - and pursue it? :) There is excitement in spades in either one, so maybe don't feel you have to throw multiple wild scenarios at the reader immediately.

 

Someone else on the boards gave a really good piece of advice roundabout here, on the opening line being about 'connecting' with a character. So even if he's only saying something ostensibly mundane like 'Ugh, don't you hate it when you suddenly run out of sugar in the middle of making your ex's birthday cake?', that's ok because it's the 'connection' part that makes the line attention-grabbing, more than the premise of a thrilling scenario. I thought it was good advice for an opening, which we could all make note of :)

 

The name is also quite hard to mentally spell out and not see as a sort of blip or typo. I expect there is a good reason for the curious name, but I know I've had to try and cut down unfamiliar words in my beginning because it really can derail early momentum, so if there were a way to give us only his first name at first, that might help ease us into the unusual language? I had foreign-language phrases in one of my openings and it was hard to make it work. I suppose we don't want to give readers excuses to put the book down in impatience.


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#4 ABerman

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 05:16 PM

Hey thanks man!  Yeah, I always have trouble choosing just one idea to focus on.  I get a lot of feedback that my writing has been more just collections of interesting ideas than real storylines.  I'm definitely trying to work on that though. 

 

As far as zany comedy vs. murder mystery - the story definitely leans more towards satire than mystery.  Later on it's revealed that a "murderer" in this story is just someone who helps people with massive student loan debt fake their own deaths.  To be fair, the rest of the first 250 words isn't all that attention grabbing, it just sort of follows a natural course of conversation.  I'm not really sure if it's a good way to start the story, but the rest of the 250 is here:

 

As if telling his shrink about four-dimensional alien hallucinations wasn't stressful enough, Wasd Abcdef had an appointment to murder someone that day.  His visit to (the highly recommended) Dr. Barnsquire at 4108 North Haverbridge Drive, Wintersworth, Old Hampshire went something like this:

 

“So, Mister—is it-- Ab-cid-def?  Is that how you say it?  Ab-cid-def?”

“Yes,” he replied.  Regretting the decision to see a shrink almost immediately.  He had never actually seen a shink before, but then again he had never seen a four-dimensional alien before and he figured that, at least while causality was alive and kicking, one ought to precede the other. 

“Mister Abcidef?  It’s spelled A-B-C-D-E-F here.  I don’t want to offend you.”  Wasd sighed. “Honestly I thought it was a placeholder when I first-”

“No, it’s fine.  Let’s just get on with it, okay,”

“Good.  Mister Abcdef, yes.  It’s an odd last name.  I mean- we can come back to that later,”

Wasd was silent.  He’d had heard the routine many times.

“So you made an appointment to see me today because you- well, please correct me if I’m wrong here, but, you say you see visions.  Is that right?  Mister Abcdef-”

“Well, yes.” He replied honestly, leaning his head back in the padded felt chair.

“Visions,” the old shrink repeated.  Incredulous. 

“Yes.”

“When you experience these visions,” Dr. Barnsquire began, pulling out a sheet of paper and placing it crisply on the small wooden pad before leaning back in his own chair.  “What- uh, brings them about?”
 



#5 dinosaurinhats

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 11:35 PM

Very interesting beginning to the story, and it definitely comes off as satire-ish considering the tone and even the character's name. You start off really well with clarifying his name, and jumping right away to the visions. It sounds really creative and very interesting, so you've done a great job with that. 

 

The one thing that's missing is mostly setting. Is this the future? Present? Is Wasd a human? What does 'four dimensional alien' mean? 

 

So far, so good. I just recommend clarifying setting a bit more. :) 



#6 BadgerFox

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Posted 03 November 2017 - 06:22 AM

Tiny point on the psychiatrist: probably a medical professional would say something more like 'hallucinations' or 'experiencing psychosis', or maybe even 'dream's/daydreams' if s/he wasn't sure. 'Visions' is a bit religious and mystical nowadays.

 

Beyond that I have virtually nothing correction-wise to say -  I absolutely love it and I would definitely read on. The tone has that awesomely Monty Python flavour you get with good satire/comedy, where the characters themselves are taking the scene fairly seriously, not noticing how absurd it's getting. I get the feeling you've read a good bit of Terry Pratchett :)

 

I think this scene is a good one to start on, and good job flagging up the peculiar name. You anticipate that a reader is immediately going to squint at the name so heading that off by addressing the curious spelling helps a lot. I agree that it would help a bit to know roughly when this is taking place, whether it's an alternate dimension or the future or ?, but you can probably find a way to slip a suggestion of that into the first 500ish words somewhere. There are one or two points where the dialogue tags are a little unclear (when Wasd sighs, it seems like the surrounding dialogue belongs to him, even though it's really the doctor?), but it's a minor issue and a good beta-reader or reading through your dialogue parts out loud should fix it fairly easily.

 

I think you should just carry on in the same vein :)


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#7 ABerman

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Posted 03 November 2017 - 05:22 PM

Hey thanks for all the great feedback guys!  To answer your questions: @dinosaurinhats The story is set in the near future in an alternate history.  The name Wasd is unexplained for quite a while in the book, but it's eventually revealed that his parents, rather than typing his name into a computer for his birth certificate simply mashed the keyboard.  His surname comes from a similar act done by his grandfather during immigration.  The "four dimensional alien" thing takes a long time to explain - but the main conflict of the story revolves around the government trying to make a time machine by opening a wormhole, which causes a bunch of strange side-effects on spacetime.  Much of the conflict in the story revolves around various characters trying to understand these effects and eventually trying to reverse them by destroying the wormhole.  

 

@Badgerfox Definitely agree- the psychiatrist definitely needs be more professional, I'll definitely go with "hallucinations".  Actually never heard of Terry Pratchett before now!  I've got to check his stuff out.  I was always inspired by Neal Stephenson, but he's way above my head.  






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