Friday, February 29, 2008

'Nother opening

Hi Alicia & Theresa,

I'm an IFOI (Internet Friend of Ian's) and a former ISOA (Internet Student of Alicia's). I thought I'd submit the first three sentences of the opening chapter of my novel:

"Hey, that was no love tap, bubzy cakes."

Christian pushed me onto the bed and gave me another swat on the behind. "But you're the naughty birthday girl."

I glanced at the layer cake on my nightstand, denuded of its icing, the main attraction from last evening's lovemaking.

The other question I had relates to an article of Alicia's I read almost three years ago on the Hot Premise.

After working on a premise for my first novel based on that article, I came up with a premise that got my several requests for partials. The premise was probably better than the book because that's as far as that book got.

Now, I'm getting ready to pitch my second book and wrote a hot premise for it. If you are weary of critiquing openings, do you have any interest in critiquing Hot Premises on Editorrent?

Thanks for your consideration!


Sure, but let us get through all the openings first. :)

Starting with yours!

"Hey, that was no love tap, bubzy cakes."

Christian pushed me onto the bed and gave me another swat on the behind. "But you're the naughty birthday girl."

An intriguing opening! Bubzy cakes is a new endearment, at least to me!

This is, I submit, an example of a problem with starting with dialogue.

(Everyone please note-- we are honest. And I honestly don't like openings that start with a stray line of dialogue. :)

It's not at all clear who said it. At first I thought it was Christian, and the line was a clue to why he swatted her. But he says something else, so presumably the first line belongs to "me". There's a fine line between intriguing and confusing... make sure you don't accomplish the second in the attempt to get the first.
Christian pushed me onto the bed and gave me another swat on the behind. "But you're the naughty birthday girl."

I like the casualness of the diction, which goes well with a first-person narration-- swat, behind, naughty, girl.

I'm not sure about the blocking of the action-- is she facing him when he pushes her onto the bed? Or away from him? We're in her POV... I'd rather be more clearly inside her body, which means a line from her perspective-- what she sees or hears or feels before Christian's actions take over. You can't do omniscient or objective in first-person... at least you shouldn't. It's a trade-off-- when you choose first person, you choose to put us very squarely in this narrator's body and mind. So can you maybe connect a line from within her to that dialogue? Even "I said teasingly" as a quote tag might work. See what I mean?

I glanced at the layer cake on my nightstand, denuded of its icing, the main attraction from last evening's lovemaking.

Well, that certainly sounds enticing. :)

Again, though, check your blocking. He was able to swat her behind, and she's on the bed, so isn't she on her stomach? Of course you can lie on your stomach and look over at the nightstand, but it's going to feel differently than if you're on your back. We're in her body... what does it feel like? Does she flop over on her back? Or does she turn her head to see the cake?

One other note, and this I'm not at all sure how to fix. What's the main attraction? Is it the cake, or the icing? It's very late, and I can't figure out why I'm confused, but I think it might have something to do with the punctuation, those two commas-- which are correct, but make "denuded of its icing" and "the main attraction" both seem to modify "layer cake". So how would you recast that? I'd consider putting the icing last, which might be fun anyway because then the icing will be presented as most important.

I glanced at the layer cake on my nightstand, denuded of its main attraction from last evening's lovemaking-- the icing.

Anyway, a neatly playful and sexy opening!


Ian said...

Hehehe. I volunteered to this author to critique her book. And I was getting INTO it, you know? For someone who does NOT read chick lit, I was INVESTED in these characters. And then after I got halfway through it, she told me to stop because she was making some changes.

I was steamed. LOL

Hey, wouldn't it be cool if IFOI becomes a new internet tag?

I'd love to send you all another opening if you're running low on victims - I mean volunteers. I have another project basically at query stage.

Late Night Rambling Ian

Shalanna said...

Hey! No fair--I sent in my openings a little bit ago. I wonder if they got there? I suppose everyone could mock them from here. OR just ignore them.

By the way, those who have not taken an online course from Alicia Rasley are missing out. Years ago I took one from her and during the class I developed the premise of one of my books MUCH more deeply than I had thought about doing before. I can't remember which class this was--way back when Camille (Candice? What was her name??) ran the online class site--but I'm sure the classes are even better now!

Tell me where to send openings . . . or just everybody start throwing pitchforks.

All the Underwoods have guardian angels.

Furthermore, most of them claim to have seen their angels at least once during this life. A few are sure they've barely missed out--having heard a rustled drapery or caught a flash of light just as the save took place, but being otherwise too occupied with the crisis as it happened to watch closely until it was too late and the angel had flown.

Kay Underwood Fisher was one of the latter.

She hadn't seen her angel, but she knew she definitely had one. Because otherwise, that truck would have taken her out a nanosecond ago.

"Help!" Kay flailed her arms from a mud puddle at the curb where she'd landed. "I think I've broken my ankle."

The parking lot of Dallas Cable News Network was full of responsible types arriving to work right on time, so several passersby rushed towards Kay. A tall, rangy man in a plaid sportcoat was the first to reach her. As the others saw him taking charge, they detoured around, and she found herself looking him full in the face. An interesting face.

The face of a young leprechaun. Dreamsicle-toned hair in that boy-next-door-who-just-leaped-out-of-bed style. And freckles. Only a few scattered across his nose and cheeks, which lent him a Dennis the Menace appeal. But the little-boy image faded when he spoke in a resonant tenor.

"Are you all right?" He offered his arm, a little awkwardly. Then he apparently realized what she'd said, and amended with, "I mean, other than the ankle."


Hate those kinds of "philosophical statement, then focus-down" openings? Okay, here's an Elmore Leonard-style hardboiled satire thing.

Detective Mickey Viceroy hyperventilated through his nose, making a sound not unlike Ian Anderson's flute in Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," and prayed that this wouldn't be his final moment: standing in the wilderness, his back to a deep gully, with a latex-gloved hand clamped over his mouth, a gun in his ear, and a law-school acceptance letter in his pocket. He stared at the dwarf under the tree, who now had his full attention.

"You interested in hearing what I got delivered today, Viceroy?" The dwarf's gravelly voice hurt Mickey's ears. The grating tone was a surreal mismatch with her appearance: in that yellow cocktail dress, she reminded him more of Jessica Rabbit with a black beehive than of Jimmy Cagney as a thug. The beehive put him in mind of a pan of Jiffy Pop popcorn just after it burns and explodes.

He had to focus. What did she want him to say? "Sure." He took a deep breath and felt something poking him in the back, just under his ribs. Probably Turley's gun. He thought he remembered it was a Beretta. Small caliber, but effective at that distance.

"Wanna take a guess?"


Okay, crap. But I've read worse. Haven't you?

There's a long sentence early on in each passage. That's going to weed out people who aren't my kind of readers--I'll occasionally have a big word or long sentence. No sense hooking in the kind of reader who won't read a ten-worder, because that would be false advertising. *grin*

Comment readers: Ignore, delete, or whatever. Just thought I'd feed something onto the end of the queue.

makoiyi said...

What's interesting to me is that this snippet immediately 'labels' the novel for me. No disrespect to the author, but I know I wouldn't pick it up, because it's not my 'type' of novel, not because it may not be any good. From those three lines I'd be - right, not for me and pass.

It really is true isn't it, how important that opening para is both to show the author's style and the voice of the novel.

Dave Shaw said...

Shalanna, I'm sure that our hosts got a lot of openings to peruse, and that they're processing them as fairly as possible. I know that's easy for me to say, since they already did mine, but I did submit it the same day they made the initial offer.

Your openings are interesting, but I can tell enough from them to know that these books wouldn't be shelved where I would be likely to look at them, so this is the only way I'm likely to see them. I don't have time to make any other comments right now, but I may make some later, for whatever they might be worth. :-)

Edittorrent said...

Yes, we have openings in the queue awaiting comment. Also have questions in the queue awaiting answers. We've been trying to mix things up and rotate different kinds of content on the blog, which is why it may take a while to get through everything.

But send any openings to edittorrent at gmaildotcom, and we'll add them to the mix.


Shalanna said...

Susan and Dave--I appreciate your telling me this! I believe that we shouldn't do "false advertising" in the opening of a novel. If it's gonna be a "Harvey" or an "It's a Wonderful Life," don't bill it as a "Sixth Sense" or a "Da Vinci Code." What kind of book IS your kind of book, I wonder? If you don't mind telling me. They'd probably rather we leave this thread, though--you can always find me at my blog,

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for reviewing my opening. Very, very helpful comments and insights. Thanks for taking the time to do that. I also appreciated Susan's comments, too, and have accepted that not everyone wants the same kind of bathtub or beach read. Hopefully there's room for all of us. I think I'd like to send ahead my premise and see how it shapes up to the premise professionals. Gale

Dave Shaw said...

Shalanna, in fiction I mostly read spec fi (mostly SF, although occasionally fantasy). In non-fiction I like history, science, and technology. I'm only writing SF right now. You can get an idea of what I'm writing on my blog, newtahiti dot blogspot dot com. I'll stop by your blog and look around later. Thanks!

Edittorrent said...

Shalanna, we're making our way through openings-- it takes longer to critique 'em than to write them, I think! :) Just be patient, as at least one of us (me) is not very expeditious.