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#16--A GREAT BEGINNING

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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pheeweed
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Postby pheeweed » Tue Jun 29, 2010 7:24 am

I don't have a good story. The sentence was my first thought when I woke up yesterday. My second thought was, that's a good first sentence.

I wish I could remember the dream, then I'd have a story.

Phee
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"And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." Philippians 4:8 NLT

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Postby DanielK » Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:50 am

Question : Is it okay to start a story with the character's thoughts? For example,

This is so stupid. What am I doing here? Everybody else who braved this tomb died horrible deaths. What's to stop it happening to me?

That, of course, would be the thoughts of an Indiana Jones-type character investigating the latest lost treasure chamber.

Now, for my starting story. You could count Indy up there, but I'll do another one just for the fun of it. Besides, Indy's one isn't one sentence. So,

It was in that dreadful year that the bananas finally won the war.

That's a silly idea that's been brewing in my mind for a couple of years: The Banana Revolt. I wonder whether it has any potential?

Daniel

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Postby glorybee » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:35 am

Daniel, there's no rule about starting with a character's thoughts--purely personal preference. Since this is my column, I'll say that it's not my preference, for the same reasons that I don't care for starting with dialogue. It starts the readers off in a state of disorientation and confusion, and they have to backtrack once they figure out who' thinking and under what circumstances.

On the other hand, in certain genres--action, adventure, mystery, etc.--a bit of breathless disorientation might be desirable.

Love your idea of the banana wars, but I think a grapefruit could take a banana, hands down.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Tricia » Thu Jul 01, 2010 4:26 pm

How about this sentence, Jan?


I ducked behind a chair as a porcelain figurine whizzed by my head and splintered into the wall behind me.
Tricia

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5, 6 (NIV)

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Postby glorybee » Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:07 pm

Tricia, that's certainly got a lot going for it--action, conflict, great word choices...I'd definitely keep reading.

My only misgiving is that it's awfully similar to a pivotal scene in 'Gone With the Wind'. Have you seen it?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby Tricia » Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:51 am

glorybee wrote:Tricia, that's certainly got a lot going for it--action, conflict, great word choices...I'd definitely keep reading.

My only misgiving is that it's awfully similar to a pivotal scene in 'Gone With the Wind'. Have you seen it?




Jan,

No, I did not realize the similarity to God With the Wind. I read the book over 40 years ago and last viewed the movie about 30 years ago.

I'm writing a true story about a woman with Alzheimer's disease. Should I change the opening sentence?

Thanks
Tricia

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5, 6 (NIV)

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Postby glorybee » Fri Jul 02, 2010 6:54 am

No, I don't think so, not with the new information you've just given me which is very different in both characters and setting from Gone With the Wind. You're fine! Go with it!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby junglelife » Fri Jul 02, 2010 9:24 am

This is the opening line of an essay I was asked to write about hearing and responding to my call as a missionary:



I think I have finally learned the secret to doing God's will—at least it seems to be working for me!
"our first duty is to be faithful to the one we work for" (1 Corinthians 4.2, CEV)

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Postby glorybee » Fri Jul 02, 2010 9:43 am

junglelife wrote:I think I have finally learned the secret to doing God's will—at least it seems to be working for me!


Junglelife, this sentence has a lot going for it--the fact that it promises a "secret" later in the essay is definitely a factor that will draw in readers, and it's got a snappy brevity.

Here are some things to consider: By using the phrases "I think" and "at least it seems to be working for me", you're undermining your own sentence, making you seem less confident than you intend.

And I strongly recommend against using exclamation points in a formal essay. They're best reserved for dialog and for informal writing.

A possible re-write:

After ten years of trying to do everything my way and consulting God later, I've finally learned the secret to doing God's will.

That might not be exactly the point you want to make, but you get the idea--start with a phrase that's in contrast to the end of the sentence, and that taps into your strongest word, 'finally'.

What do you think?
Jan Ackerson

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Postby junglelife » Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:50 pm

Here are some things to consider: By using the phrases "I think" and "at least it seems to be working for me", you're undermining your own sentence, making you seem less confident than you intend.

And I strongly recommend against using exclamation points in a formal essay. They're best reserved for dialog and for informal writing.


I agree, the first sentence would be stronger without the hedging, "I think" and "it seems," so out they go.

On the other hand, while I understand your statement about formal writing, it is an essay, but an informal, somewhat lighthearted one, written not so much as "look at what I've accomplished" but "you can, too." In fact, I called the essay "Finding My Way by Getting Lost in the Jungle". So I kinda like my ! and I think I'll keep it. Thanks for the advice!

Ruth
"our first duty is to be faithful to the one we work for" (1 Corinthians 4.2, CEV)

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Still doing the furst sentence?

Postby writemefaithful » Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:15 pm

In the mirror stood a war ravaged boy, surrounded by the pond of human bodies
His creation

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Postby Shann » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:07 am

Assignment #1 Wrigley and the Fielding Family's Final Cherry Pit Spit Fit

I like it; although it doesn't show all of the quirks in this family. I know Wrigley's last name is Fielding and the reader would if they had read a Wrigley story before. Any parent that is wacky enough to name her child Wrigley Fielding has to be out there. Hopefully, the title suggests that Wrigley is confident enough in who she is to not let the similarity between her name and the famous baseball field in Chicago bother her.

Writing Assignment #4.

FIRST ATTEMPT:
Mom bolted upright from a sound sleep when her 14 year-old daughter's ear-wrenching screams made her shudder with fear; the realization of such noise in the middle of the night made her want to pull the covers over her head and hide from what she knew would invariably happen next.

As I reread your tips for a first sentence, I realized you suggested a short first sentence, and mine is anything but short. So let me give it another stab.


SECOND ATTEMPT:
Mom bolted out of bed when her daughter's shrill scream reached into her subconsciousness and jolted her awake.

Hmm still long -one more try.

THIRD ATTEMPT:
Wrigley's shrill scream jolted Mom awake; once again sleep would elude the entire household.

I still like the first, longest one the best. But I understand it might be a bit too long.
Shann

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Sometimes God calms the storm; Sometimes He lets the storm rage and calms His child

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Re: Still doing the furst sentence?

Postby glorybee » Mon Jul 12, 2010 5:58 am

writemefaithful wrote:In the mirror stood a war ravaged boy, surrounded by the pond of human bodies


writemefaithful, there are some powerful imagers in this first sentence, and I especially like the phrase 'war-ravaged boy' (note that I'd put a hyphen in the first word). It's obvious that something horrific has happened, and I want to move on and read more.

I have a few issues with the sentence, though. First, I'm not sure if the mirror is needed. I read someone recently advise that there's rarely a good reason to have a character look in the mirror (I wish I remember where I read that), and in this case, he's not really even looking in the mirror, he's standing in it--a phrase that I found a bit awkward.

And I'm not sure if the word 'pond' is the best to describe the human bodies. I think of a pond as a very small, shallow body of water--if your intent is to show that he's got bodies all around, you might want 'ocean' or 'sea'. Beyond that, if I use 'pond' as a metaphor, it's because of the liquid nature of the pond, or its quiet peacefulness--none of those seem to fit this situation. 'Ocean' or 'sea', despite being watery, too, don't really have the 'peaceful' connotation, and have often been used as metaphors for lots of bodies--but more often living crowds (like at Disney World).

I love that your sentence is short, using some top-notch words and images, and that it makes me think, above all--why is this boy here? What has happened? That's the most important quality of a good first sentence.

Thanks for stopping by!
Jan Ackerson

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Postby glorybee » Mon Jul 12, 2010 6:06 am

Shann, thanks for your contribution! I really like reading through your thought processes for each variation.

When it all comes down to it, each writer has to write in her own style--despite the fact that you had two alternate beginnings, the one you liked best was the long one. And it's not a bad sentence at all--it draws me in, wondering why all that screaming is going on.

There are a few minor issues with either word choice or punctuation in each of your variations, but most of them are more a matter of style or voice than anything, so I won't pick them apart.

You're from the Chicago area? Practically a stone's throw from me.
Jan Ackerson

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Postby FreedomWriter » Mon Jul 12, 2010 7:21 am

Thinking and reading good advice.
Last edited by FreedomWriter on Mon Jul 12, 2010 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
-Rikki
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11

Started my very long journey May 29th 2012 toward continued education.
Destination: Doctor of Psychology.

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