View Full Version : First few paragraphs

September 29th, 2015, 12:21 AM
Below is the beginning of a sci-fi novel I have written. I do not like this first page. Everything in the excerpt below applies to later in the novel--the tone, the personality of Marc, the dog, etc. I have re-written this page 50 times and my brain is turning fuzzy.

Is there a sufficient hook? Here is my big problem: The character does not know what is happening to him until Chapter 4. From his standpoint there is no in-his-face problem until the...well, I won't say. But it happens after the paragraphs below. Thus, how do I present "the problem" when it doesn't immediately appear in the story?


The path snaked downward between prickly pear and tarweed into the heart of the ravine. The trail gave his body and mind time to work well again after just overcoming a vicious four-day fever.

From his childhood, the canyon was his refuge beneath San Diego’s streets among the scrub oak and the towering pampas grass. In elementary school he used to cut through the canyon instead of going around it. He had to avoid what everyone called licorice plants or the other kids would smell it on him and tease him, most likely because they were jealous of his adventuring on the way to school.

Marc found the solace he needed until a dog’s yelp in the bushes ahead of him jolted nearby birds into flight. Given his profession, he was ordinarily generous and sensitive, but presently he had no spare energy. After already having his fill of suffering, he winced and ignored the call for help. He already thought himself foolish for being down there in his condition, and nearly succeeded in walking on until the concealed dog began an anguished moaning that caused his weakened muscles to tighten against his will until they stopped his walk entirely.

He turned on his heels toward the pleadings. In spite of all the advice he had received against approaching wounded animals, he left the trail and entered the brush.

A sandy clearing opened to him and on its far side lay the black mutt. Marc’s eyes at that moment no longer worked in unison. He closed them, standing impatiently until the nausea passed.

“Hey, fella,” he said. Use of his high-pitched, nice-doggy voice only made him cough. To Marc’s surprise, the dog answered with a growling fit so severe that Marc retreated into the brush. The chemical constituents of anger and insult surging through him urged him to despise the ungrateful beast.

“Fine. Be that way,” he said. His eyes acted up again. He frowned but was more perturbed by his dizziness than the creature before him. Thorns and dried leaves pricked through his sweaty T-shirt. He combed back his black hair, which was still matted from his fitful night.

Harper J. Cole
September 29th, 2015, 10:40 AM
I don't think that there's anything in principle wrong with a slow build-up; plenty of published novels take a few chapters to introduce the main crisis of the story. This looks a solid start to me.

One thing that stuck out a bit was that you introduced the main character in the second line with the word 'his', not naming him until paragraph three ... it's more normal to establish characters by naming or at least describing them before using words like 'he', 'his' etc.


Björn U. B.
September 29th, 2015, 11:57 AM
I agree with HarperCole. In principle I don't think that this is a bad beginning for a novel. Sometimes it can even be really interesting to not give any clue what the problem's gonna be later on in the novel, as long as it is logically coherent with the plot. One thing though that I noticed: At times I think your sentences read a bit too formal. One example: "The chemical constituents of anger and insult surging through him urged him to despise the ungrateful beast." That reads a bit stiff. I know as writers we sometimes think that we have to write as complex as possible to make it sound beautiful. However, often, more moderate style can be easier to digest for the reader. I'm not trying to change your style. It is just something to think about. After all, the beginning made me curious and I'm looking forward to see more.