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  1. #11
    Member Guard Dog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    ...some twee commercial.
    Some " 'tween commercial", maybe?

    So far, so good, otherwise.


    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    “Got it.” The old man took the receipt and his change, shoving both into his pocket. A miserly thing to expense, but he always had.[/I]
    "A miserly concession to expense"... possible? Followed by "but he always made such."

    Or even just "A miserly concession to expense"?

    I'm not sure which, or either... but this last line loses and confuses me.

    Past that, a good beginning. I'd read on.



    G.D.
    Last edited by Guard Dog; February 8th, 2019 at 09:26 AM. Reason: typos, mis-typings...
    Leave it be and it won't bother you.
    Screw with it, and it'll eat you alive.

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    "The world is not what we wish it to be; it is what it is."
    "Freedom is the value, not protection."

  2. #12
    You've set the scene well, but I would want an incident of some kind to occur fairly soon.
    Incidents happen. Before and after. This section is no longer the beginning.
    Would I read on? Probably yeah, but of that is our of curiosity rather than engagement or investment. That's, again, largely because of the more distanced perspective. In this case I'm observing a scene. In the prior example I was 'in the scene'.
    In this case, the narrator is actually pulling away from the previous scene and setting the table for the next. This is a motif of the story and there's a reason for it.
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  3. #13
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Okay, so here goes nothin'. This is the opening paragraph of a current short story I've been working on. Tell me if you would keep reading and why. What works? What doesn't? Does it fit your idea of how a story should start? Is there a 'hook'? Have at it.


    He prodded gingerly at the skin surrounding his eyes, or, more precisely, where his eyes had been, with the tip of one finger. Each touch sent ripples of pain through his face. The skin was tight, swollen, and sticky with fluid leaking like pus from his orbital sockets. Gently he ran his damaged fingers over the curves of his face feeling nothing familiar, only a landscape of knobs and ridges where the flesh had been attacked, tested, fed upon and then abandon in search of softer feeding ground. His enemies were lazy creatures, they would eat almost anything, but they preferred their food soft and wet. He placed his palm gently over his right eye. The skin pressed back against his hand like a warm, rotting plumb.
    Hmm, to me it's too prosaic (heh, what do I expect from prose?!). In a short story I need just enough sense of the scene, the time, the area, the person, and not just what is being experienced; if I am to be pinned inside a char's head it needs to be really voicey. There are also a few mistakes and overly-easy constructions. Sorry. I am actually interested in this situation but would say this is too early a draft for me to get yanked in just yet.



    Quote Originally Posted by moderan View Post
    'plum'
    Otherwise cool. I wanna know why they took the eyes. It's interestingly weird.
    Try this'n, which nods toward a few classics:

    Crazytown, not sane, occupies one and a half acres of real estate in a desert city, known far and wide as Midtown, in a neighborhood that would be flattered to be called ‘barrio’. The run-down titty bars and cowboy churches are chockablock with the condemned motels and dilapidated duplexes and inconvenience stores that determine the ambiance and serve entertainment, drugs, and liquor to the populace.
    Pete the Perv, as he was properly known, was the maintenance man at 993 Creighton. He had the master key and was the sole gatekeeper as management had long ago abandoned the slowly-decaying buildings, providing a trust that kept the lights on. Pete collected rent when he felt like it or was broke but generally didn’t make a big deal out of it.
    Nobody really questioned the arrangement. It was just the way it was.
    Yeah, this sound cool. I like your Hill House-esque opener and the rough-round-the-edges style. I would - I know, people don't want critique - take out a little of the overwrite "determine the ambiance" (the text does that already), "was the maintenance man" and "he had the master key" (we see that), and so forth. But I'd go on with this.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

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    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  4. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by bdcharles View Post

    Yeah, this sound cool. I like your Hill House-esque opener and the rough-round-the-edges style. I would - I know, people don't want critique - take out a little of the overwrite "determine the ambiance" (the text does that already), "was the maintenance man" and "he had the master key" (we see that), and so forth. But I'd go on with this.
    It's really not (over-write). I'd argue that all day, but I'm trying to keep from arguing here. It never ends well. Thanks for the kind words and I'll just wear the rest.
    Hidden Content
    "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." - Groucho Marx

  5. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by moderan View Post
    It's really not (over-write). I'd argue that all day, but I'm trying to keep from arguing here. It never ends well. Thanks for the kind words and I'll just wear the rest.
    No, you're right. It could easily be voice or style. Just hard to say from a small extract.


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by moderan View Post
    'plum'
    Otherwise cool. I wanna know why they took the eyes. It's interestingly weird.
    Try this'n, which nods toward a few classics:
    I'll come back to your opening in another post, Mod. I want to give it the attention it deserves. Thanks for the input. This is from a 1,000 word flash piece I've been working on and "interestingly weird" is just what I was looking to achieve. I'll go into more detail later in this post. 'Plum' yeah, honest to Cthulhu I know the difference between 'plum' and 'plumb' but apparently my fingers forgot.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guard Dog View Post
    Terry D;

    Yeah, a +1 on the "interestingly weird".

    ...though I think a good case can be made for "disturbingly weird" as well.

    Regardless, it's an attention-getter. G.D.
    "Disturbingly weird" is even better, G.D. thanks. Knowing I had a very limited word count I was trying for a gut-punch right up front. There was no time to ease into the story. Check out my explanation below to see how good your guess in one of your replies to Emma was.

    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Instead of describing the situation, you drop us in the middle of what is happening. Nice. The story continues smoothly from the first line.

    I have been thinking about how that unavoidably creates mystery, and how authors deal with that. You, I think, prolong it. We want to know who the MC is, and what happened, and who did it to the MC, and you don't fill that in. That's one approach.

    I expect the next paragraph to continue the events of the story and slowly fill in the missing information. True? If it switches to a flashback, I would probably prefer a mixture of feedback and that first paragraph. (But I am not your target reader, I don't appreciate the genre you are in.) What is the next paragraph?
    Thanks, Emma. I very much appreciate your time to read and comment, particularly since the genre isn't your cup o' tea. I'll take 'smooth' all day long. I do go into flashback mode after a couple of paragraphs to bring the reader up to speed about what's going on.

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Istine View Post
    I felt a bit grossed out and part of me wanted to stop reading. This was in conflict with my curiosity that wanted to find out not so much what happens next, but how that situation occurred in the first place.
    Yes, I would continue reading, but would need you to start drip feeding answers fairly soon.
    Thanks, Phil. I feel successful when I push readers to the tipping-point you are talking about between revulsion and curiosity. Since I'm a firm believer that flash fiction at its best tells a complete story, this one does start explaining itself very soon.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Great idea for a thread!



    This is the type of beginning I call 'the close up'.

    Effective when it employs good visual imagery, as this does. The hook is in the sheer strength of the imagery with the proximity to person 'he'. It remains effective by closely following the way a typical person might react to whatever the hell is going on here. By not breaking that credibility, it remains gripping.

    I'm not sure what immediately follows this excerpt but I hope to god it consists of no more anatomical descriptions because, for me, this is about the sweet spot for this type of 'introduction'. There's just a claustrophobia to it. A lot to visualize here very quickly and through essentially the same medium. I am presented with a dense packing of images and have to put them together quickly.

    ...Which is okay, just so we are clear. It just can get exhausting. Purely because of the quantity of images. It's a heavy meal. And that's true even if the quality of the images is exemplary.

    Would I read on? Yeah, I would, on the understanding that the subsequent text is going to present a different visual - less of a 'wall of words' and a more gradual, nuanced approach. It's if/when that does not happen I personally tend to lose a little interest. Other readers mileage may vary.
    "Close up" is an apt description. Thanks, Lucky. The second paragraph does get less graphic, but I try to keep the sense of claustrophobia intact. I'm not trying for torture-porn in any way but the strength of this story (if it has any) is in the brutality of the situation, not the actual events, if that makes any sense?


    Okay, here's why I did what I did and how that fits into the rest of the tale. As I said before this is a flash piece targeting 1,000 words, so every paragraph, generally, is about 10% of the tale. I want all my flash fiction to be full stories, not scenes, or vignettes. To do that, I need a beginning, a middle, and an end. Events need to happen fast and there's not much room for developing every aspect of a good story; setting, time, characterization, tone, conflict, and resolution. I usually pick one or two to anchor the story and run with them, just dipping my toe into the others. In this one I picked tone, conflict, and resolution.

    CAUTION: From here on there be spoilers!

    This is one of the stories I wrote for this year's Grand Fiction Challenge, but, of course, not the one I'll be submitting for that contest. The story is in a 'frame'. It opens in the current time, then flashes back to show how we got here, and then rolls back into the present for the end. I find that a frame structure works well for flash fiction because you can start with a powerful scene with no build up and after you get the reader involved you can step back a bit and do some 'splainin. I tried to use the strong visuals in the opening paragraph to get some empathy for the protagonist -- empathy most readers will lose during the flashback. What reader wouldn't feel something for a character whose eyes had been eaten out of his face? This character is in deep do-do. And I wanted the reader to wonder why. The 'hook', if there is one, is intended to be the phrase "...or, more precisely, where his eyes had been,...". People are sensitive about threats to their eyes and I used that. The only other really key part of that paragraph, for me, was the introduction of "his enemies", which serve as the story's antagonist. I was tempted to try and keep the identity of the antagonist a mystery and have a big reveal at the very end, but decided not to worry about keeping secrets, because I thought the big surprise (which I doubt would have stayed a surprise) would be amateurish. Instead the 'enemy' is revealed during the flashback. So, my goals for the intro were to 1. Establish the 'hook' 2. Introduce the antagonist 3. Create empathy for the protagonist 4. Be very visual.

    As for the genre, it's horror, I guess. Most of my stuff has horrific elements. I can also see this story fitting in the old pulp 'adventure' category. Here's a quick plot synopsis:

    A lone big game hunter, after illegally killing a jaguar in the Amazon jungle, breaks his leg while crossing a fallen tree. Immobilized and in shock, the hunter watches helplessly as his kill is devoured by army ants (10 points for Guard Dog!), knowing that soon the ant swarm will find him.

    If there's any interest in seeing how I cram all that into a bit of flash-fiction, I can post the entire story in the Workshop. Thanks again, everyone, for the good discussion.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

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  7. #17
    Crazytown, not sane, occupies one and a half acres of real estate in a desert city, known far and wide as Midtown, in a neighborhood that would be flattered to be called ‘barrio’. The run-down titty bars and cowboy churches are chockablock with the condemned motels and dilapidated duplexes and inconvenience stores that determine the ambiance and serve entertainment, drugs, and liquor to the populace.
    Pete the Perv, as he was properly known, was the maintenance man at 993 Creighton. He had the master key and was the sole gatekeeper as management had long ago abandoned the slowly-decaying buildings, providing a trust that kept the lights on. Pete collected rent when he felt like it or was broke but generally didn’t make a big deal out of it.
    Nobody really questioned the arrangement. It was just the way it was.
    This is a great contrast to what I posted. It has a nice 'settling-in' feel. I have the impression I'm in for a longer read and that's okay because there's a good flow to the language that keeps flowing forward. Good information is being shared even though there's no 'action' quite yet. I'd keep reading just to go walk-about in this decrepit town. I was going to say that there is no traditional 'hook', but then I realized there is. It's just artfully subtle (IMO). The hook for me is in, "...as management had long abandoned the slowly-decaying buildings, providing a trust to keep the lights on." That makes me want to know why 'management' would make such an un-business-like decision. It also hints at a dystopian world. I wonder why, when reading about Pete the Perv, my mind conjured up an image of Steve Buscemi, or was it Giovanni Rabisi? Thanks for sharing.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

    Hidden Content






  8. #18
    Pete the Perv is probably closer to Uncle Hank. But yeah. Accurate assessment. Definitely dystopian, but with a twist. There's actually a scene before this that helps to explain why Pete has that nick, but it isn't suitable for this venue. Let's just say that Onan would approve.
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  9. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    The second paragraph does get less graphic, but I try to keep the sense of claustrophobia intact. I'm not trying for torture-porn in any way but the strength of this story (if it has any) is in the brutality of the situation, not the actual events, if that makes any sense?

    You mention it being flash fiction, which would negate a lot of the issues with claustrophobia and heaviness I mentioned before - it's pretty much impossible to write flash fiction and spread anything out. I was thinking this was the beginning of a novel and the topic was mainly on books (as the originating topic had focused on novel beginnings). So the fact it is not changes the dynamic entirely.

    A factor that has not been mentioned (at least I missed it) is the length of the story. The shorter the story, the more impact each line, each word for that matter, has to have.

    If this were a longer piece, even if it was just marginally longer (so a standard length short-story), and this scene was to be progressed at more or less this pace and in this voice, I would personally look at introducing other elements to illustrate the emotive quality rather than focusing on visceral shock. Interweaving inner-dialogue can work if it's a single-character scene. Perhaps a dalliance into first-person, a forming emotions and thoughts, confused ones, hallucinations. All of these things can add a different layer to the construction.

    Something like this:

    He prodded gingerly at the skin surrounding his eyes, or, more precisely, where his eyes had been, with the tip of one finger. Each touch sent ripples of pain through his face.

    'Don't cry.'

    A dulcet voice in his head was speaking. A low, soft-edged voice that sounded not unlike his mother's had once, back when she was still alive and he was a small boy who had skinned his knee or burned his fingers. The voice was like honey.

    'Crying won't help any.'

    He didn't cry. Couldn't, even if he wanted to. The skin was tight, swollen, and sticky with fluid leaking like pus from his orbital sockets and a man without eyes could not cry.

    'A blind man,' mother corrected, her cold hand pressing over his own where it was still exploring the holes. 'That's what you are now, my sweet boy, a blind man. What you'll forever be if you'll live.'

    Gently he ran his damaged fingers over the curves of his face feeling nothing familiar, only a landscape of knobs and ridges where the flesh had been attacked, tested, fed upon and then abandoned in search of softer feeding ground.

    He wondered if he wanted to live.

    Perhaps he had no choice.

    His enemies were lazy creatures, they would eat almost anything, but they preferred their food soft and wet. He placed his palm gently over his right eye. The skin pressed back against his hand like a warm, rotting plum.


    ^ Not great, and I don't mean to bastardize your work, but I like these sorts of heavy scenes to be broken out in this way and figured it was best to kind of demonstrate.

    Slight tangent: It also only occurs to me now that you mention in the first line 'where his eyes had been' and indicating the eyes no longer there and yet in the penultimate line it mentions 'he placed his palm gently over his right eye'. So where is this eye? Is it detached or...? I assumed from earlier that the eyes were gone but maybe read it wrong?


    Last edited by luckyscars; February 9th, 2019 at 09:55 AM.

  10. #20
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    Here's one from me that I am currently shopping:

    Hexatina Sanders-Wittye, Sunflower to her father, is dead to her mother.

    Hexatina – or Tina, depending on which schoolfriend you ask – slouches on a riverbank, aged approximately nine. Twigs press themselves into her stick-thin body like friendship requests, and the minnows swim in a rapid swarm, the late morning sun glittering off their silvery bodies as they dart this way and that. How would it be, her child’s mind wonders, if right there, beneath the arboreal shade at the edge of the trickling brook, she could guess at their intent, maybe even influence their movements? Her eyes twitch to one side and the fish jerk anew, but whether they follow the path of her stare is impossible to say. She rolls onto her back and contemplates the sunlight coming through the woodland canopy, bound for its mid-year zenith.

    She’ll be hungry soon.
    It's a 2,480 word short. Any help I can get with it would be, frankly, a lifesaver


    Hidden Content Monthly Fiction Challenge


    Beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror which we are barely able to endure, and are awed,
    because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
    - Rainer Maria Rilke, "Elegy I"

    *

    Is this fire, or is this mask?
    It's the Mantasy!
    - Anonymous

    *

    C'mon everybody, don't need this crap.
    - Wham!





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