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#17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

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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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby glorybee » Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:44 pm

Excellent!
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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby Kiwi kid » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:01 pm

This is from my new short story. I'm not entirely happy with it yet, and it hasn't been proof read, but I like the beginning because I think it sets the scene well.


'Batt stared blankly at the brick wall out the window and made the decision to go for it. It was a difficult decision to make, and she had already made it 6 times that morning alone. Flipping like a fish in shallow water she had gone from one side to the other searching for the right answer. If only she knew, could be sure, of what God wanted her to do. Maybe she should think about it some more.'
Emma

'if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.' - 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby glorybee » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:19 pm

Kiwi kid wrote:This is from my new short story. I'm not entirely happy with it yet, and it hasn't been proof read, but I like the beginning because I think it sets the scene well.


'Batt stared blankly at the brick wall out the window and made the decision to go for it. It was a difficult decision to make, and she had already made it 6 times that morning alone. Flipping like a fish in shallow water she had gone from one side to the other searching for the right answer. If only she knew, could be sure, of what God wanted her to do. Maybe she should think about it some more.'


Kiwi kid, there's quite a bit of good content here. You introduce a character right away, and the conflict. You've got a great image with the flipping fish. I'd do a few edits for miscellaneous mechanics--something like this (reasons below):

Batt stared out the window and made the decision to go for it. It was a decision she had already made six times that morning, flipping like a fish in shallow water. If only she could be sure of what God wanted her to do. She sighed and thought about it some more.

Reasons for the changes:

1. Staring is usually 'blankly', so that adverb is unnecessary. I'm a big fan of trimming adverbs and using stronger verbs.

2. Unless the brick wall is necessary to the setting (hard to tell with such a short excerpt), it's not needed here, and the sentence is tighter without it.

3. Since she has already made the decision six times, it's obviously a difficult one. That can be trimmed (it's telling instead of showing). And since I chopped a lot of that sentence, I added the flipping fish to it, to make it a more interesting sentence. But I chopped the "going from side to side" and the "searching..." because the fish image has already taken care of that. Again--showing is preferable to telling.

4. I trimmed "she knew"--unnecessary

5. Since the paragraph is largely abstract, I added a little bit of action ("She sighed...") to bring The character back into the readers' minds.

As I said in a previous post, writing is an art, not a science, so none of these changes are engraved in stone. I'm just always a fan of trim, trim, trim--make each sentence say as much as possible in as few words as possible.

What do you think?
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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby Kiwi kid » Thu Jun 14, 2012 6:41 pm

Thank you so much Jan, That was really helpful!I'm the opposite of you and usually burble on for pages :D so it is really good to have help to see what can be cut.

To my inexperienced eyes, I think the brick wall is important, but on reading the whole story you might not think it matters at all. When she doesn't know what to do the wall is bare, but after she knows it is covered in flowers. So, thinking while I write, maybe then I really need to say that it is a plain brick wall?? Or maybe it is okay to leave it out as it is just a side bit of imagery. (I'm a 'pictures' person).

I did have the second paragraph starting with 'She sighed....' but I liked it now in the first paragraph so I have reworded the second one and I think it is the better for it.

If I could be so bothersome as to ask another question, I've used the same phrase several times in the story, and I'd like to know what you think of things like that. I've heard both ends of the spectrum, but never why.

Sorry, I should give you a bit of a clue as to what I'm talking about. (Yes, this is how my brain works and no, no-one else can follow me either...) Batt is very imaginative, but she doesn't see this as a talent, or even a good thing. She has spent her life trying to "be normal" which she sees as academic. This is the story of God telling Batt that he made her creative because he wanted her to be creative. Once she sees that, then the 'difficult decision' that she has to make becomes easy. Each time she makes the decision (first for it and then against it etc) I say it was a difficult decision. So at the end I say it wasn't difficult. Does that make sense? I guess my question is, is it lazy or boring to write like that or do you think it could work?

I should say that I'm very new to this, Batt's story being the third thing I've ever written in my life. I wrote the first thing 3 weeks ago. So I don't pretend to have any idea what I'm doing really :?

Thanks for your advice

Emma
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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby glorybee » Thu Jun 14, 2012 7:58 pm

Emma, I'm afraid I don't quite understand your question. In general, though, I'd advise writers not to use any one phrase too often within the text, unless they are purposefully doing so for literary effect. If the phrase you've chosen to repeat is "difficult decision," I'd encourage you to re-think that, as that's not a particularly compelling or unique phrase.

If that's not what you're getting at--can you clarify? I'll give it another shot.
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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby Kiwi kid » Fri Jun 15, 2012 3:57 am

Hi Jan,

Sorry, I know I often confuse people :oops: .

I did sort of mean that I had put a version of that phrase "It was a difficult decision" each time Batt made the decision. Not exactly the same wording each time but in there somewhere, 4 times in total including the last time when it is changed. I just took them all out and read the story through again, and you are right, they are not needed. Sorry, I'm so new at this but I'm trying hard to get it right. I really appreciate your time :thankssign
Emma

'if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.' - 2 Chronicles 7:14

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby lthomas » Mon Jun 18, 2012 6:37 pm

Hi Jan -

Here's one I wrote some time back...personally I liked the opening because, most of all, it forced me to try and stay in syntax and rhythm of the story I was trying to tell. Set the tone, you might say. The title, however, could definitely have used some work: "No It's Not the Butter"

Anyway, here's the opening I used:

A lullaby, sweetly veiled behind fluttering sheets, waked the afternoon air, its rhythm as gentle and soft as the water lapping the nearby bank of the Mississippi River. Words merged without effort into lyrical hums as Irene pinched wooden clothes pins between her lips to hang her family’s laundry on the line. A voice calls out just beyond the drying clothes. “That’s pretty, Mama.”

Looking at it, I think I might have broken it up into 2 or even 3 paragraphs, but that would have been more about personal taste than anything else.

Loren.
"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." From "As You Like It." Wm. Shakespeare.

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby glorybee » Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:03 pm

Loren, that's lovely. The only thing I can see that I'd change doesn't have a thing to do with writing a good beginning, because you've nailed that. It's just a tiny slip in tenses, from past tense verbs (waked, merged) to a present tense verb (calls).

Nice to hear from you!
Jan Ackerson

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby lish1936 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:13 am

I've been on vacation with little opportunity to write, but I do have a question.

Of the following sentences, which one is correct; with comma, or without comma after "for?"

He was a people person and had a great deal of respect for and to the community
where he lived.




He was a people person and had a great deal of respect for, and to the community where he lived

Thanks for the answer. :D

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby glorybee » Tue Jun 19, 2012 10:34 am

Lillian, it's better without the comma, but it's still an awkward sentence, especially the word 'to.' I'd suggest a re-write, something like this:

He was a people person; he respected the community where he lived and they respected him.

Better still would be to eliminate the phrase 'people person,' as it's a bit of a cliche. Something like:

He was an amiable man (or gregarious, or some other adjective that fits your needs); he respected the community where he lived and they respected him.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby lish1936 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:06 pm

Jan,
Thanks so much for taking the time to answer. Much appreciated!
Wonderful suggestions, as always.


Lillian :thankssign
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I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:24 pm

Jan,

I'm so glad your wonderful lessons are still attracting students.
Steve
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things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: #17--A GREAT BEGINNING #2

Postby lthomas » Tue Jun 19, 2012 1:51 pm

glorybee wrote:Loren, that's lovely. The only thing I can see that I'd change doesn't have a thing to do with writing a good beginning, because you've nailed that. It's just a tiny slip in tenses, from past tense verbs (waked, merged) to a present tense verb (calls).

Nice to hear from you!


Thanks, Jan ~

I can "hear" the error of the verb tense, I just can't seem to "see" it when I go looking for it. :book2 I envy those who are gifted to both see and identify it.

Loren
"And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything." From "As You Like It." Wm. Shakespeare.

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