Thursday, May 5, 2011

First Paragraph Critique

Would you help me out, lovely community of bloggers, friends, and writers?

I've been working on a literary short story, "The Tiffin Box," on and off for over a year. I'm getting ready to submit it to magazines, but I thought I'd play my own little game of "Are You Hooked?" before I take the plunge.

I'll post my first paragraph below and I'd love your feedback. Tell me if you like it or if you don't, if you'd keep reading or if you wouldn't, or any edits you would make. I'll take any and all critique very gratefully!

From the top of a boulder, Sylvie stared into a sea that appeared in the deceptive sunlight to be filled with jewels. A solitary, strange thought ran a pattern through her mind—if I jumped, if I jumped, if I jumpedwhat a beautiful way to die
  
Thank you for taking the time. I'm indebted to you!

18 comments:

  1. I can't believe you haven't submitted this yet. Actually, I can because I'm like that, but this story was almost perfect when I read it, last year.

    I'd keep reading ;)

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  2. In full disclosure, Myrna, I did submit it once and it was rejected. So I kind of went back to the drawing board - rewrote it - didn't like the rewrite - so went back to the original and just tried to deepen the characters and rewrite the beginning. I know that's a ridiculous amount of work for one rejection, but my list of literary magazines is a little short, so I don't want to waste my chances.

    Thank you so much for your feedback!! :)

    Amy

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  3. Very "hooking" opening lines. I absolutely would keep reading. Best of luck!

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  4. "the deceptive sunlight" threw me - it's one too many prepositional phrases, and the most likely to confuse: FROM the top of a boulder... INTO a sea ...IN the deceptive sunlight TO be filled WITH jewels. I don't think you need the word deceptive ... I think it's clearly implied, and it's a stronger passage without it.

    And (just a thought) - what if you left out "a pattern"? ... mainly for simplifying, but also because how, really, can one thought run a pattern?

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  5. I thin the paragraph should start with the hook, it would be ever so much stronger.

    If I jumped, if I jumped, If I jumped.... What a beautiful way to die.

    This thought pattern repeated through Sylvie's mind as she peered into the sea from the top of her favorite boulder. The sunlit sparkled like jewels on the water, dancing in patterns that echoed her thoughts.

    If I jumped, if I jumped, if I jumped.... (new thought that moves the story forward goes here).

    I say this because I was just at Sam's club this evening reading the first phrases of the middle-grade books.

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  6. The only thing I would suggest is to change "appeared in the deceptive sunlight to be filled with jewels" to say "appeared to be full of jewels in the deceptive light." But that's just me. Otherwise, I like it a lot.

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  7. Thanks for the great feedback so far! I so appreciate it. Gives me a lot to think about.

    Keep it coming. I'm learning from you all!

    Amy

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  8. Intriguing. She doesn't appear to be suicidal, but the thought of dying crosses her mind. I wonder why. I'd keep reading.

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  9. Amy, I would read on.

    I loved how the paragraph ended! It for sure made me want more...

    My only other comment would be that I stumbled over "deceptive sunlight." It didn't roll on my tongue like the rest of the paragraph.

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  10. I love it, Amy.

    You really are great at this writing gig.

    I may, as a reader, not a writer, feel that the string of prepositional phrases including "in the deceptive sunlight" was a little hard to wrap my brain around the first time through. Both the words and images are beautiful, though!

    Either way, I would keep reading.

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  11. Although I'm already hooked, I agree with Michelle. This is stronger:

    If I jumped, if I jumped, If I jumped.... What a beautiful way to die.

    The sea below Sylvie sparkled like jewels in the deceptive sunlight.

    If I jumped, if I jumped, If I jumped.... What a beautiful way to die.

    I'm not convinced we even need to know about the boulder. The urge to jump is so compelling, setting almost gets in the way here. Great opening!

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  12. As I read through your first paragraph, I really liked it. I might switch the wording to "...a sea that, in the deceptive sunlight, appeared to be ..." I felt it would make that sentence a little smoother. (And I do like the phrase 'deceptive sunlight'.)

    Well done! It makes me want to read on.

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  13. The last line really grabbed me! I definitely want to know what happens next. I had to go back and read the first line twice because "deceptive sunlight" didn't seem to flow. I can't wait to read more!

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  14. Very compelling! I am not a writer, but I agree with Michelle and Victoria. Starting with "If I jumped" would certainly grab my attention.
    -Aunt Sandi :)

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  15. I like this but if you want to be super-hard hitting, I think Michelle is right. If I jumped is action-driven and a better first line than your other descriptive (and lovely) first line.

    As a first paragraph, I'd keep reading.

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  16. Wow, great opening! I too think you could drop "deceptive" . . . the idea is already conveyed.

    You could switch it like Michelle and Victoria suggest, but I think I'd like it either way.

    Good luck! Oh, and I'd read on. :)

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  17. Esther VanderlaanMay 7, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    OK, I'm hooked. I NEED that story- like as soon as possible. What a beginning!!!

    Oh, and Happy Mother's Day!!

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