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RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 703

I'm in for Q4. I worked through multiple crits on this one, deepest thanks to everyone who helped me polish up my story! Special thanks to Wulf for taking time out of his busy schedule to take a look. I'm proud of the story I submitted. Best of luck to everyone getting theirs in over the next three weeks! I'm available for crits if needed.

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Posted : September 6, 2020 6:14 am
Retropianoplayer
(@retropianoplayer)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 224

Wulf, I guess you need a guinea pig for the purposes of illustrious example.

No other takers.

So, as I used to say at age 8, "I guess I'm IT," lol. No problem. I have strong shoulders.

I patched this together from an earlier FLASH PROMPT.

Here is VITAL FLAW.

VITAL FLAW

Clearly distraught, thirty-something Lori Ratchett flipped through shocking tabloid pages of the only magazine on the end table near her uncomfortable hospital bed in Maternity Ward Room 3B, New World Order Hospital Ten. Her nurse still hadn’t arrived. Impatiently, she drummed her fingers on another boring article, heard footsteps in the hallway, put on her best boring face, and glanced up as Nurse Boon entered the room pushing a tiny blanket-wrapped trolley in front of her and smiled. “Morning, Lori.” Her smile was practiced and efficient.
Lori was in no mood for pleasantries. “Where is my baby?”
In one smooth motion, Boon tidied her blue-and-white-checked uniform and cap, reached down, and held up an infant, still in his swaddling, as if he was a trophy. “He was especially hungry this morning. Sorry about the delay.”
“I’m a bit jittery. Thanks.” Lori softened. “I selected you on the hospital questionnaire.”
“You’re such a good girl! You know the rules--the quicker you send your request in, the sooner it’s processed.” The gray-haired head nurse giggled. “Have you given him a name?”
Lori nodded. “The Hospital and I both agree”--she grinned--“And, of course, I consulted my significant other--
“Of course.” Boon covered her yawn with one hand.
“His official name should be Kinton 33.”
Boon raised her eyebrows. “It’s original.” She hesitated. “I didn’t realize we were up to the Kinton series.”
“I always stay on top of the latest trends.”
“As you should. Mommies always know best--she paused--“Most times.”
Lori’s tone became businesslike. “Tell me more about my son.”
“His eyes are deep blue. His smile is warm. I can tell he has a kind heart.” She handed the infant to Lori.
“I’m glad I followed your suggestion.” Lori burped the baby. “All this literature on gene implantation makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t my baby’s eyes be the exact shade I ordered?”
On her clipboard, Boon glanced down at some notes. “Says here you wanted a ‘smile which will mesmerize crowds and make them do the owner’s bidding.’”
Excitedly, Lori tossed the magazine onto the wooden floor. “I chose from a laundry list of famous world leaders.” She winked at the head nurse. “It’s our secret. Forever. You know whose smile I chose.”
The older woman bent over to inspect Kinton 33. “His smile was cloned to perfection.”
Eyes distant, Lori glanced at nothing. “His heart will melt all his followers.”
“It’s our secret.” Boon chuckled. “Let’s just say--well, I’ll say it for you--that smile created a religion.”
Lori leaned back on her pillow. “My son is holy.”
“Your son is holy.”
“Mama loves you so much, Kinton 33.” Lori kissed him on his cheek and noticed a small scar at the base of her child’s skull. She pointed at the aberration. “What’s this?”
“Nothing to worry about. The midwife was inexperienced. Kinton was inoculated with extreme intelligence.”
“I didn’t order that.” Lori’s face crimsoned. “He won’t get along with the other children in chamber. He’ll be bullied.” She scooped up a brochure form the end table and waved it in front of the older woman. “I ordered an average child. Is that so difficult? I checked all the stupid boxes. I asked for an average child.” She sobbed. “You gave me a genius. What am I supposed to do with this kind of disability? There are zero places to send him. No schools which will teach him. No universities. No politician will recommend him for higher position.”
Appalled, Nurse Boon stepped back. “You’re right. I’ll speak with the Director at once. This is a vital flaw.”
Lori scrunched her face. “What are you saying?”
Boon unclipped a manila brochure from her clipboard, adjusted her spectacles, and brought the pamphlet closer. “Says here in the Hospital Code of Rules and Regulations, a ‘vital flaw’ is any distinguishing characteristic of an infant upon presentation to the parent or parents of a condition which will adversely alienate the aforementioned child from society at large.” Her grin was thoughtful. “No worries, Mommy. Your child has a vital flaw. He’ll qualify for additional augmentation. Let me take him back now.”
“Thank you.” Lori relaxed. “You’re so kind.”

THE END


P.S. Do I get extra credit for this, another quarterly critique, OR, a box of Girl Scouts Thin Mint Cookies?

Best,

Retro

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Posted : September 6, 2020 9:31 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

Thanks, Retro! I'm glad you stepped up to the plate. Although, I must admit the plate is overflowing, mashed potatoes and gravy sloshing over the sides and splatting on the floor. Three paragraphs for this exercise. You must have missed the memo, but we'll take the extra helpings. Smile

So let's look at the first three paragraphs and see what we've got:

_____________________________________

Clearly distraught, thirty-something Lori Ratchett flipped through shocking tabloid pages of the only magazine on the end table near her uncomfortable hospital bed in Maternity Ward Room 3B, New World Order Hospital Ten. Her nurse still hadn’t arrived. Impatiently, she drummed her fingers on another boring article, heard footsteps in the hallway, put on her best boring face, and glanced up as Nurse Boon entered the room pushing a tiny blanket-wrapped trolley in front of her and smiled. “Morning, Lori.” Her smile was practiced and efficient.

Lori was in no mood for pleasantries. “Where is my baby?”

In one smooth motion, Boon tidied her blue-and-white-checked uniform and cap, reached down, and held up an infant, still in his swaddling, as if he was a trophy. “He was especially hungry this morning. Sorry about the delay.”

_____________________________________

We have our protagonist, Lori Ratchett, in the first line. We even have an idea of her age, thirty-something. Excellent!

How about location? All in the first line again. Lori is in a hospital bed, in a maternity ward, and we even know the hospital, New World Order Hospital Ten. The name of the hospital hints at future (genre cue), so it appears this story is SF, not urban fantasy, and as we read a few more lines down, we are not disappointed. This is science fiction.

Do we have a Heart's Desire? Yes, Lori has a need. "Where is my baby?" As we shall find out, this is not just any baby, it's a made-to-order baby, and Lori is relieved to find out she got the most important item she ordered, that winning smile that can charm the hearts of millions.

The problem/inciting incident/catalyst appears a few more lines down, outside of the first three paragraphs. And that's fine, you need the setup before you introduce the problem. It's a good problem, a mistake was made, and Lori gets a side of fries thrown in as a bonus that she doesn't want. No problem, the hospital can fix this.

This opening sets up the basics. You have enough to be grounded as a reader to move into the story without being confused. Stage is set. Well done, Retro!

For a few pointers:

I wouldn't state "clearly distraught." If it's clear, you don't need to state it. The reader should be allowed to draw their own conclusions on the emotional state of your characters, based on how you wrote their reactions to events happening around them. Nobody likes being spoon fed emotions. The empath, Counselor Troi in Star Trek: Next Generation did this to everyone on the Enterprise, and she was the most annoying character on the show in my opinion. "You are feeling agitated." "I am sensing they are angry." "I can tell you are troubled by this, Captain." When the writers do their jobs right, we already know, and don't need a character standing in the sidelines pointing the emotions out. Or a writer jumping in to the narrative to tell us, "She's feeling angry!" We got this. Smile

I would have quickly given her some additional identifier, either in hair color, clothing, unique facial feature, something to make her stand out. You don't have to do it in the opening line--you already got age in, which helps--but giving her some other item to visualize her with as you proceeded would have been nice. You did it for the nurse, do it for your protagonist.

Another point is your ending, even though it wasn't part of this exercise. The ending could be creepy and even scary if the baby was treated like a hamburger at the drive up where they didn't hold the onions. If we got the feeling of 'no problem, we'll just cook you a new one,' and the mom sighs and says 'thank you,' it would make a statement about the danger of genetic engineering. That would make a strong story, without knocking us over the head with theme. As it stands, it seems like intelligence is just a module they can adjust in the baby, without destroying it, which is a milder ending. It's your story, so it's your call, but I think it would be stronger if you upped the immoral nature of what they are doing, and the selfishness of the mother. You want a strong ending, and it's unclear what's really going to happen here.

Again, good job, we got a good picture of your world, Heart's Desire, and dilemma in a minimal dose of words. Thanks for sharing! Virtual thin mint Girl Scout cookies for you. Let's make it a double! I'll get Margo, Edith, and Agnes to bring them right over. "Squid launcher! Oh yeah!"

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 6, 2020 11:28 am
Retropianoplayer
(@retropianoplayer)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 224

Good points, Wulf. Well taken critique. Waiting with bated breath for SET. YOUR. STAGE 5 AND BEYOND: THE DOCTORAL LEVEL 400 SERIES.

All kidding aside, your points are well taken and will be initiated into my programming in futuro. Thank you.

Best as always,

Your friend, and now Right Honorable Wulf Pack Member in Excellent Standing,

Retro

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Posted : September 6, 2020 12:33 pm
SwiftPotato
(@swiftpotato)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 549

Hey folks, sorry for the late prompt today - my calendar event didn't go off! Today's Monday prompt is: ELECTRIC (OR MAGICAL) DESERT.

R, 3rd place Q4 v36!!!
Stories in Apocalyptic, Cossmass Infinities, and Podcastle

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Posted : September 7, 2020 7:10 am
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

Hello everyone, I want to start participating in these super secrets as they look super helpful! I assume I can just jump in? I see that right now you are in the middle of an exercise that has different parts so perhaps it would be better to wait until the next one so I don't have to go back through all the parts of this one. So I'll just jump in then. Do I need to introduce myself or anything?

Also, this is random but SwiftPotato your prompt isn't giving me any ideas because I am literally already writing a story that fits it exactly haha

Edit: My apologies for butting in, I should have read the first page first. Sorry!

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Posted : September 7, 2020 11:56 am
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 703

No - there was a sign up window at the beginning of the contest year. DisgruntledPeony created a separate thread where people who didn’t sign up can participate and get feedback.

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Posted : September 7, 2020 1:42 pm
Eagerink
(@eagerink)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 118

No - there was a sign up window at the beginning of the contest year. DisgruntledPeony created a separate thread where people who didn’t sign up can participate and get feedback.

Ok, I'll check it out.

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Posted : September 7, 2020 1:56 pm
Retropianoplayer
(@retropianoplayer)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 224

EagerInk, the Volume 37 Challenge Beasties Writing Workshop began last October. All those interested at the time signed up. I believe there was, or is, I'm not exactly sure, seventeen members for this year's challenge.

My guestimate --and I wouldn't presume to speak for Wulf, not am I a mind reader, but if the Moderator of this Writers Forum decides to host another challenge for next year, say a Volume 38 Challenge Beasties, he would let us know. He is an extremely busy author - in addition to published author, Podcast Director, Editor, Moderator of Writers Forums, Lecturer at important science fiction conventions, Cheerleader in General, Morale Booster, he also has family social obligations. A busy guy, but always willing to give you his ear.

That said, he does have a Wulf Pack membership where he posts additional Super Secrets, blogs, and other important information.

Best,

Retropianoplayer

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Posted : September 7, 2020 2:53 pm
scribblesatdusk
(@scribblesatdusk)
Bronze Member
Posts: 72

Hello everyone, I want to start participating in these super secrets as they look super helpful! I assume I can just jump in? I see that right now you are in the middle of an exercise that has different parts so perhaps it would be better to wait until the next one so I don't have to go back through all the parts of this one. So I'll just jump in then. Do I need to introduce myself or anything?

Also, this is random but SwiftPotato your prompt isn't giving me any ideas because I am literally already writing a story that fits it exactly haha

I (and others here too) just follow along on our own. It has helped me grow as a writer and reader.

V36:Q3 HM V37: Q 3R, Q4 SHM V38: Q1R, ?

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Posted : September 8, 2020 1:01 am
empressed
(@empressed)
Bronze Member
Posts: 89

No - there was a sign up window at the beginning of the contest year. DisgruntledPeony created a separate thread where people who didn’t sign up can participate and get feedback.

Thanks! I didn't know about that thread. Do you recall its name? wotf015

Victoria Dixon
Author of Mourn Their Courage
a 2010 Sandy Writing Contest Finalist
A Tribble Ate My Lunch: a Star Trek Cookbook (unpublished)
R=22
HM= 6
SHM=1

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Posted : September 8, 2020 3:46 am
PenMark
(@penmark)
Advanced Member
Posts: 44

Do you recall its name? wotf015

It's this one: http://forum.writersofthefuture.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=8000 ("Experimenting with Exercises from Wulf's Super Secrets" if you'd rather not click on the link).

V37 Q3: R
V37 Q4: SHM
V38 Q1: R
V38 Q2: Submitted
V38 Q3: In progress, resumed work

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Posted : September 8, 2020 4:44 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

I just wrote a long response about workshop membership, including thoughts on Year Three, and it blipped out. Grrrr. I have no more time to redo it.

Well, I can give you this, PHASE FIVE of the SET. YOUR. STAGE. Super Secret Exercise:

You just wrote three paragraphs to create a solid opening to a story. I'm curious how much of that you can get in one intriguing opening sentence, without it being cumbersome. Can you get a named protagonist in there? I should hope so. Can you get a defining detail in there, such as age, gender, personality trait, body type, apparel? Can you set this within some concept of setting? How about a genre cue? How about a Heart's Desire? Finally, can you even get a hint of the problem, ALL IN ONE SENTENCE, without it becoming bloated and driving your reader away?

A good opening line accomplishes many of these things. A great opening line does it so well, the reader is hooked without conscious recognition. IN ONE LINE.

Think about that. Brilliant opening lines can set the stage with character and setting and desire and often even the problem, and do it in such a spellbinding way, you are instantly bound to the character and the journey they are about to embark on.

So here's your assignment, two parts.

1. Give me an opening line from anything you have read that is a wonderful example of this. Cite the work, the author, and the opening line.

2. Write your opening line that accomplishes something similar, and post it here.

Here's my example of what you will post:

SET. YOUR. STAGE. Phase 5 Excercise: One opening line to rule them all, one line to bind them!

1. DUNE by Frank Herbert. Opening line:

In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul.

Why this line set the stage and hooked me:

Sense of motion: people are packing up and leaving, and it sounds like a massive move. Sense of place: they are moving to somewhere called Arrakis. Sense of drama: in all this hustle and bustle in the final week of a monumental move, time is taken to accept the visit of an old crone. She must be very important, this crone, to come stay in the last week of a move! Sense of characters about to take the stage in this scene: we have 1) an old an important crone, 2) we have a mother, 3) we have a male, the mother's child, and a start to his age--he's not an adult yet, 4) we have the boy named, and he is the only one given a name in the opening line, Paul, who we assume will become our protagonist.

Analysis: I get everything I need for this scene, and indeed, much of the book, in this opening line. I know a family is moving, and it appears to be a monumental move. I know the place they are moving to. I know the household is in a frenzy. I know the three major players in this scene. I am curious about an old crone, and how she carries so much power to interrupt this important move. Even the word crone carries so much about her, old, wise, dangerous. There is a mother involved, but you sense the real reason for the visit is about the boy. And I am glad he is the only one named in the opening line, because it tells me he must be very important. I'm going to hang my hat on him. I'm betting he's the protagonist, and this Frank Herbert guy better not disappoint me, because this is all I should conclude from the design of his opening! Smile I'm in. You gave me everything I need to get started, Mr. Herbert, and you did it with grace and style. Tell me your story!

2. My own ONE opening line sample. This one's from "Time Dusting."

Knowing he might die, Mr. Marcus C. Hayward had chosen for this misty Hallowed Eve in the year 2034 what he deemed the proper attire: a virgin wool overcoat for warmth; a navy-blue Harmani helix-weave suit for dignity and style; combat boots with cast iron cleats for grounding; and custom silvered goggles designed by a team of MIT engineers for one precise purpose--to ward off faerie dust.

Now it's your turn! This entire Super Secret is critical, as are every one of these assignments. Take your time, give me your BEST. You have one week!

Oh, and go ahead if you wish and dissect my opening line. Tell me what points I hit, what my purpose for them might have been, and if the opening line sets the stage and makes you hungry for more, or makes you wander out of the theater in confusion. Smile

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 8, 2020 10:04 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

Quick answer to all our various Ink colors and Ink emotions, lurking in the shadows. Smile

We love you. Please take advantage of everything we are doing. As has already been mentioned, enrollment occurs at the beginning of the contest year for a couple of weeks, open call, and then I close it to keep the size and posts to this thread manageable. Year Three will have some changes, and will be the hardest challenge to date. I will also have to reduce the membership size to help me find more time to do my own writing. I'll post more at the end of the month.

You can get everything you need to succeed by reading and applying these Super Secrets. All free, and freely given. You also have the wonderful Writers of the Future Online Workshop. But if you want to speed up the process and get some one-on-one time with me, might I suggest taking one of my master classes? The last sold out, and the next two are well on their way--they will sell out again. The link in my signature has the details. Regardless, keep up the good work. I am very happy so many are benefiting from this workshop, inside and out. Do take advantage of that thread Elizabeth Ticknor set up to post exercises to. I do read them.

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 8, 2020 10:26 am
Retropianoplayer
(@retropianoplayer)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 224

So here's your assignment, two parts.

1. Give me an opening line from anything you have read that is a wonderful example of this. Cite the work, the author, and the opening line.

2. Write your opening line that accomplishes something similar, and post it here.

Here's my example of what you will post:

SET. YOUR. STAGE. Phase 5 Excercise: One opening line to rule them all, one line to bind them!

SET.YOUR.STAGE PHASE FIVE ANSWERS:

1. This world-famous author needed two lines to introduce the setting and MC, but I made allowances as the novel was written in 1967 and writing styles differed. I feel these two lines really act as one. He was my favorite author of all time. His name was Alistair MacLean. Most of his novels were made into cinematic masterpieces. My favorite novel then, my favorite novel now, WHERE EAGLES DARE.

The first two lines: "The vibrating clangor from the four great piston-engines set teeth on edge and made an intolerable assault on cringing eardrums. The decibel-level, Smith calculated, must have been about that found in a boiler factory, and one, moreover, that was working on overtime rates; while the shaking cold in that cramped, instrument-crowded flight deck was positively Siberian."

These sentences transport me into the fuselage of an Avro Lancaster bomber during World War 2. This isn't your average wartime drama; there's hints of intrigue and espionage. I believe Sir Richard Burton called it "the best adventure story I have ever read." He should have. He starred as the main character, Major John Smith, along with Clint Eastwood as Lieutenant Schaffer, and other internationally-famous actors and actresses. Burton was perfectly cast in the role. Some other movies based on MacLean's novels - The Guns Of Navarone; Force 10 From Navarone; Puppet On A Chain; Ice Station Zebra.

For those diehard fans of WHERE EAGLES DARE, you can take the cable car which leads to Castle Hohenwerfen, where segments of the movie were filmed.

For the purposes of this presentation, my opening line is from HIVE MIND, a KYD FLASH PROMPT.

HIVE MIND

Hoisting his baby sister Agatha up the steep incline where the Dinosaurs used to breed, sweat dripped down fifteen-year-old Jolak’s weary face swabbed with honey, and his ears assaulted by a familiar humming noise which started every sunrise and ended each sunset; the Hive Mind was all-knowing and he knew the Bees mandated which forty-day period would be the time for human sacrifice this year.

Best,

Retro

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Posted : September 8, 2020 12:42 pm
RETreasure
(@rschibler)
Silver Star Member
Posts: 703

1. The Trade, by C. Winspear "It was the best view humanity had to offer, but I still felt unfulfilled."

We've got character, setting, a hint of the problem and heart's desire, and genre implications--all in 14 words. Best view and the character isn't into it? That's a hook and tells us the character isn't solely impressed by spectacular views. Humanity - inclines me to suspect scifi. Unfulfilled - so the view is something that should be fulfilling, an accomplishment of some kind, but it didn't work for this character.

2. My attempt (this is hard!):

Grace got away by sliding under the wizard's raised staff, thanking the short stature she'd gotten from Mama, who hadn't escaped, and the cunning she'd inherited from Father.

Wulf's sentence and analysis:

"Knowing he might die, Mr. Marcus C. Hayward had chosen for this misty Hallowed Eve in the year 2034 what he deemed the proper attire: a virgin wool overcoat for warmth; a navy-blue Harmani helix-weave suit for dignity and style; combat boots with cast iron cleats for grounding; and custom silvered goggles designed by a team of MIT engineers for one precise purpose--to ward off faerie dust."

Character, setting, genre, lots of details of setting and character, and a problem. Not sure about a heart's desire, unless living through the night counts! If I were critting this, I might suggest that 67 words is a bit long for a first sentence, but this is rich with language and hooks so it comes down to the kind of story the writer is telling and the language the rest of the story uses. Still, if I were reading this, if every sentence were this long I'd get a little overwhelmed--but knowing Wulf, the next few sentences will be punchy and direct.

Retro's:

"Hoisting his baby sister Agatha up the steep incline where the Dinosaurs used to breed, sweat dripped down fifteen-year-old Jolak’s weary face swabbed with honey, and his ears assaulted by a familiar humming noise which started every sunrise and ended each sunset; the Hive Mind was all-knowing and he knew the Bees mandated which forty-day period would be the time for human sacrifice this year."

We've got character, setting, genre, a problem, and strong hooks. Again, I'd say this is a little long for a first sentence and there is some restructuring I might suggest--"Jolak's weary face swabbed with honey" is a little awkward for me, are both details necessary? We can guess he's weary from "steep incline" and "sweat dripped". Also, having been told about the sweat on his face, the honey detail forces me to go back and add honey on top of it. Could that description be simplified? The "he knew" is a bit heavy-handed and a filter, distancing us from the reader. Everything after the semi-colon is, for me, a touch of an infodump since the character knows all of the info - it's only there for the reader's benefit. Could some of those details be buried and disguised with the humming? Eg. "assaulted by the Hive Mind's familiar humming, all-knowing and unending from sunrise to sunset, dictating the time had come for the annual human sacrifice." Or some such. I want to read this story, Retro! Dinosaurs and Ruler Bees? Heck yeah!

I surveyed Vol. 36 for the first lines - they have a few things in common. One, they almost universally start with character. Not abstract descriptions of setting or backstory - active characters. Two, they're fairly short. Three, they all raise questions/hooks of some kind whether it is through intriguing language, genius octupi, a dying man, conflict, or the promise of magnificent scope.

V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: F, P
Available for critiques - PM for availability.
www.rebeccaetreasure.com

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Posted : September 9, 2020 2:18 am
Retropianoplayer
(@retropianoplayer)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 224

Editor's Note: The "face swabbed with honey" becomes the Catalyst one sentence later.

Best,

Retro

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Posted : September 9, 2020 2:40 am
Disgruntled Peony
(@disgruntledpeony)
Gold Star Member
Posts: 1059

Editor's Note: The "face swabbed with honey" becomes the Catalyst one sentence later.

Best,

Retro

That may be so, but one can only critique elements that one sees in what one is reading.

If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells
R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, SHM, ?, ?
Ticknor Tales

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Posted : September 9, 2020 3:54 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

Retro offers up our first maiden for ritual sacrifice!

Okay, sorry, Retro, but I did say find me examples that exemplify setting the stage in ONE line. So on the published story part of the exercise, YOU'RE OUT! Smile

So let's look at your own shot at this:

Hoisting his baby sister Agatha up the steep incline where the Dinosaurs used to breed, sweat dripped down fifteen-year-old Jolak’s weary face swabbed with honey, and his ears assaulted by a familiar humming noise which started every sunrise and ended each sunset; the Hive Mind was all-knowing and he knew the Bees mandated which forty-day period would be the time for human sacrifice this year.

Here's the good stuff:

1. We have characters named, Agatha and Jolak.

2. We have age identifiers, helping us form a picture of these characters.

3. We have tension in the form of a steep incline, sweat dripping down, weary, assaulting sounds, and HUMAN SACRIFICE! Great! There's drama here.

4. We have setting that includes world building with the Dinosaurs and Bees and mandates and human sacrifice, oh my!

Here's the work on stuff:

1. You have crammed too much into one line. By the time you get to the Bees mandating a forty-day period, it's too much. And it's not necessary to open with all this. You want to whet our appetite while leaving us hungry for more--you do not want to cram your entire story's premise down the reader's throat in one gulp. You've got time, play the story out.

2. Because there is too much in this one line, it doesn't read fluently. It should roll from the lips, it should display finesse and grace. Alas, this clunks a little. Streamline your machine. This is your lead into your story!

To help, here is how I would write this opening line. Your mileage may vary.

Fifteen-year-old Jolak hoisted his baby sister up the steep crevice where the Dinosaurs used to breed, sweat mingling with honey that he had swabbed across his face, to please the Bees.

Even that's probably a bit much, but it's better. And it would have been best to work in a heart's desire if possible, even a subsidiary one, so we gain some emotional attachment in the first line. For all we know, he is like the Maya, happy to die or to have his sister die to please the gods. Which would be an interesting twist, especially if the story denied him that. Smile

Thanks for jumping in first! Please do not resubmit changes, folks. Let's keep this clean for the next challenge member.

I should note: Just because I gave you a long opening line as my sample to this exercise doesn't mean you should. I do know my opening line works, even though it is longer than the majority of opening lines in stories and novels. Can anyone tell me why it works? The secret is in L. Ron Hubbard's article on art, which was in the WotF Online Workshop.

Carry on! More! More!

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
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Topic starter Posted : September 10, 2020 7:20 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

I am happy to announce your Beastmaster has sold an SF novelette to DEEP MAGIC Magazine, which will appear shortly in the Fall 2020 Issue.

"Muzik Man" is the story of an android minstrel missionary, sent to save a tone-deaf world. This time, he won't screw up! Full of heart, with all the feels you got in "Super-Duper Moongirl." Dare I say, even more? You decide. Coming soon!

A couple of teaching notes, since I'm here to help, and I think it's important to understand realities and not gloss them over. Selling novelettes to pro publications is hard for anyone that isn't a "big name." They take up three, four, and even more times the space than most short stories. They push out other stories by authors that might bring a bigger following to the publication. They are difficult, nearly impossible to sell, for new writers. This is only the second I've sold in my career, although "Weep No More For the Willow" that also sold to DM was just under the threshold--7,500 words--that makes a short story become a novelette. That was intentional, by the way. I trimmed "Willow" way down, under the novelette mark, so it could sell. And it did! So YAY for Dave's semifinalist critique, and YAY for me for finally getting the point!

But I want to show you what you are up against in these upper tier markets, and why it's so hard for you and I to break in. At DEEP MAGIC, they get over a thousand submissions with each open call, which basically runs each quarter to fill the next issue. But all publishers already have their stable of authors they've purchased from previously. If they wrote great stuff and were great to work with, they're going to pay close attention when that author sends them another story. Next, there are all the NYT bestsellers and Neb and Hugo winners sending them stories. These "big names" have a following and help sell issues. They don't have to write a breakout story to get in--they are already breakout writers, and editors are happy to have their names on their covers and in their Table of Contents. Next, in Deep Magic's case, they publish many openings to novels by bestselling authors, providing samples they believe their readership will enjoy, making it easy for them to find their next book to read. By the time all of these gold nuggets are sifted from a publisher's pan, how many openings are available from the general slush? Well, I'll tell you. It's the same as in a WotF quarter, only now you're competing against professionals that know how to write a shining story, not against near-professionals that you are up against in the top tiers of this contest. Can you see why Writers of the Future is such an important institution, and why L. Ron Hubbard saw the vital need to establish this for the community, and indeed, the world?

Let me say again. Selling to an upper tier market is as hard as winning Writers of the Future. Harder, because you have to write the equivalent of a prizewinning story, a breakout story, to make it shine above the other pro stories that rose to the top of the slush. When I posted my "Muzik Man" sale on Facebook, guess who told me they are also going to be in that upcoming DM issue? James Van Pelt, a pro writer that's published six novels, appears in Analog and Asimov's and Deep Magic regularly, and has been on the final ballot for the Locus Award, Nebula Award, and Campbell Award. The other is Eric James Stone. Ever hear of him? You should have, he won Writers of the Future in 2004, he was on the final ballot for the Hugo Award, he won the Nebula Award, and he's had more short stories published than I can count. These are great writers, and I'm thrilled to share TOC with them. But it does show you the reality of the level you must be writing at to break in.

Does this mean you shouldn't try? Hell no. But please don't lock into the mentality that you should only send your work to an upper tier or SFWA approved market. You can spend years wondering why you haven't sold, fighting doubts and fears that you may not be good enough. The fact is, in these pro paying markets, you are up against seasoned veterans with millions of words under their belts. It's like a white, yellow, orange, or green belt karate student going against a black belt champion in a tournament. As Karate Kid showed us, it can be done, but It's going to be hard to beat all those black belts and take the prize. You're going to need a perfect crane kick. Smile
Do get a sale under your belt. Just understand the reality of why you may not be selling to pro markets yet. It will come if you stick with it, and you should try them. But why not compete in a tournament you have a better chance at winning? Writers of the Future, of course, is a no-brainer. But there are other *respectable markets* that can be easier for you to get your first sale in, get you paid for your work, and help you believe in yourself because YOU ARE NOW A PUBLISHED WRITER. You can work your way up doing this system, a system I've described before in a Super Secret. All of you in this workshop have my article "Never Let Go" in HOW I GOT PUBLISHED AND WHAT I LEARNED ALONG THE WAY. I encourage you to read it again.

Happy writing! Happy hunting!

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 10, 2020 8:25 am
AjZach
(@ajzach)
Bronze Member
Posts: 92

So here's your assignment, two parts.

1. Give me an opening line from anything you have read that is a wonderful example of this. Cite the work, the author, and the opening line.

2. Write your opening line that accomplishes something similar, and post it here.

Here's my example of what you will post:

SET. YOUR. STAGE. Phase 5 Excercise: One opening line to rule them all, one line to bind them!

1. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

"The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child."

Why this line set the stage and hooked me:
This line sets us in the setting, an old house at Christmas Eve and we have a party telling ghost stories. You know you are expecting a ghost story, possibly in an old house very like where the tales are being told, and it is going to involve children. From how the guests are kept "breathless", you are eager to what story is being told. You don't know who the guests are, but it doesn't matter, like you, they are fellow listeners to this ghost story.

2. Here is my attempt to do something similar:

Their full cups filled them with warmth as they told their startling tales next to the fire, but when the cups were empty and they returned up the dark galleries to their own rooms, the thoughts wove through their minds that such events could have happened here, and might happen again that very night.

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Posted : September 10, 2020 8:39 am
Henckel
(@henckel)
Silver Member
Posts: 402

I am happy to announce your Beastmaster has sold an SF novelette to DEEP MAGIC Magazine, which will appear shortly in the Fall 2020 Issue.

That’s great news and an awesome achievement!
I also appreciate your context re competition in these pro magazines. Personally, I find it motivating.

(2014) V31 Q1 – R
(2018) V35 Q3 – HM
(2019) V36 Q3 – HM
(2019) V36 Q4 – SHM
(2020) V37 Q1 – R
(2020) V37 Q2 – HM
(2020) V37 Q3 – SHM
(2020) V37 Q4 – Finalist
(2021) V38 Q1 – Semi-finalist
(2021) V38 Q2 – tba

Publications
2019 Writing Bloc Cooperative – Escape Anthology
2020 Sci-Fi Lampoon – Winter 2020 Issue

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Posted : September 10, 2020 11:12 am
rjklee
(@rjklee)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 172

Congrats on Muzik Man! I think it kind of pairs well with the recent release of Bill & Ted’s. Heh. I was happy to take a sneak peek of it by being first reader. And congrats on getting it published. It took some patience to get the sale finalized!

I’ll have time for the assignment this weekend, but I just wanted to add that I also find the context of submitting to pro and why we may not have been published in a pro mag yet to be very motivating. I’ve just hit 85 submissions this year, all of them aimed at the pro-level market. I wanted to start high. So once I hit 100 submissions, then I’ll allow myself to start sending pieces a bit lower tier while also working on my next stories with what I’ve learned. I even got an unexpected personal from a publication that usually doesn’t give those out. So while it may seem demotivating to get all these rejections (I’m aiming for 100), it’s actually quite the opposite when I keep in mind what Wulf has said and my longer term goals, and the useful feedback I’ve received along the way. I’ll admit, getting the personal was frustrating, just as much as an HM, a silver HM, or even a semi-final is frustrating. You’re close, but not that close. You’re there, but you still have a ways to go. But on the other hand, knowing the context and having a process to move forward through helps keep your chin up.

R.J.K. Lee
WotF 2015-present: HMx6 SHMx1
My blog has monthly lists of upcoming deadlines and submission windows; let them motivate you to be more productive: https://figmentsdiehard.blogspot.com/
Give a listen to my creepy reading of my original flash fiction piece on the December 2020 episode of the Weird Christmas Podcast at the 22:10 mark: https://weirdchristmas.com/2020/12/23/weird-xmas-flash-fiction-2020-contest-results/. May Stosh persevere.

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Posted : September 10, 2020 11:36 am
StarReacher
(@angelakayd)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 141

StarReacher gives us Stephen King for her opening line discovery, and the details are incredible:

“Jim Trusdale had a shack on the west side of his father’s gone-to-seed ranch, and that was where he was when Sheriff Barclay and half a dozen deputized townsmen found him, sitting in the one chair by the cold stove, wearing a dirty barn coat and reading an old issue of the Black Hills Pioneer by lantern light.”

Great share, StarReacher!

And her own attempt, based on the prompt: SHIPWRECKED, BUT NOT ALONE

Ears ringing, Dr. Gemini Marks pocketed a distress beacon and, ignoring the arthritic ache of her joints, wriggled through twisted metal, slid down the crashed shuttle’s snow-crusted wing, and gawked at the unexpected throng of fur-clad, six-limbed aliens awaiting her on ancient Earth’s desolate surface.

Here's the good stuff! We have a character, in a setting, with multiple problems. We have genre cue of SF for certain. We have an idea of age with "arthritic ache of her joints." We also have aliens on "ancient Earth" and Earth is desolate, so we wonder what's gone wrong with our world. Is this the past through time travel, or the distant future? Not sure yet, but lots of questions to be answered, which make for good hooks to pull the reader into the next lines. I also like how you reveal setting details as Gemini moves about, so it's not an info dump, it's active description as she interacts with her environment. That's a good trick, and a great way to establish setting.

Now Stephen King got in a helluva lot of details in his opener, and yet it reads clear and has great tempo. You also get in an incredible amount of detail, and the distress beacon and ringing ears and wreckage tells us all we need to know about Gemini's situation. It's the last two segments of the sentence that bogs it down for me. I think you are describing a little too much, either with the aliens, or Earth's status. Save something for your next sentence so the meter on these last segments doesn't go long compared to the other segments. Also, snow-crusted and fur-clad and six-limbed all pop out--using so many compound adjectives in one sentence can be too much of one spice in the sauce. It looks like you're trying to squeeze too much in. Do we need to know the wing is snow-encrusted (I think that's the word you were looking for)? It gives more setting, but perhaps saving some details like this for your next lines will make this sentence more streamlined. Good balance is important, and is the difference between streamlined, sparse, or clunky.

Great job with the exercise, StarReacher! Write this story, if you haven't already!

Beastmaster Moon

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Posted : September 10, 2020 3:30 pm
rjklee
(@rjklee)
Bronze Star Member
Posts: 172

SET. YOUR. STAGE. Phase 5 Exercise: Opening Lines

1. "Note to Self" by Sunny Moraine (Lightspeed Magazine Issue 124, September 2020)

Opening line:

The notion of the quantum mirror was first floated by two graduate students (Sapna Gupta and Mark Shaw) over a fourth round of beers in a small pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and therefore one should consider the role of intoxication in its initial conception.

Why this hooked me: Knowing that we're on the verge of either a disaster or an epiphany (or both), and the mix of this intriguing quantum mirror concept and coming up with ideas over a ton of drinks seemed to be both an odd juxtaposition, in that scientists should be in a serious setting to come up with smart stuff, but also a perfectly natural or familiar kind of scene, in that the crazy ideas are always produced from these drunken group moments, especially when it comes to those university grads. So, for me, it was this melding of familiarity and hint of the odd with just enough promise of foreshadowing of untold problems to come.

Analysis: The story starts with genre cue of "the quantum mirror" being floated by the named main characters "Sapna" and "Mark" who are given the defining detail of "graduate students" which gives us age and education level, and possible gender and race from the names. We have specific setting with "a small pub" and "Cambridge, Massachusetts". A problem is also suggested with "fourth round of beers" and "the role of intoxication" being directly linked to the SF genre cue. We have a possible heart's desire with this "considering" matters related to "its initial conception" and this "notion" being "floated". Do the graduate students want to sell some heady concept they created to some buyer? Do they want to create a new business? Do they want to finish their thesis on quantum mechanics? We don't know exactly. But we can assume they want their idea of the "quantum mirror" to succeed in some way, but that starting it off drunk will lead to some problems.

2. My own opening line:

When the runt landed in juvie and blurted out her fears over this hum in the highways, then started yelling curse words through the bars, the program coordinator Ronald Weston figured it was his fault, that he'd lost control, broken an innocent mind again, and should've felt guilty, but he was wrong--he should've felt scared.

R.J.K. Lee
WotF 2015-present: HMx6 SHMx1
My blog has monthly lists of upcoming deadlines and submission windows; let them motivate you to be more productive: https://figmentsdiehard.blogspot.com/
Give a listen to my creepy reading of my original flash fiction piece on the December 2020 episode of the Weird Christmas Podcast at the 22:10 mark: https://weirdchristmas.com/2020/12/23/weird-xmas-flash-fiction-2020-contest-results/. May Stosh persevere.

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Posted : September 11, 2020 3:56 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

Ryland: I like your sample of an opening line that fits our exercise. It has many elements necessary in an opening, and deploys them with finesse, even ending with an interesting hook: "...one should consider the role of intoxication in its initial conception." The only thing I didn't like were the parentheses in that example. I think em dashes would have been better, unless those characters will be of no further relevance to the story. Then, the parentheses are perfect for an aside. But it's a good opening line, rich with the markers we've been talking about, including a narrative hook.

As for your own, here it is:

When the runt landed in juvie and blurted out her fears over this hum in the highways, then started yelling curse words through the bars, the program coordinator Ronald Weston figured it was his fault, that he'd lost control, broken an innocent mind again, and should've felt guilty, but he was wrong--he should've felt scared.

__________________

Since you did not name the runt, I have to assume she's not a major character. Ronald Weston is named, which is good. We hang our hat on him as the protagonist, and you better not let us down. Smile You have an Other World cue, with the highway hum, and some dramatic tension from that, further escalated by Ronald wondering if it was his fault, that he had broken "an innocent mind again." You increase the tension by saying he had no clue how big this situation was, and I would read on, wondering what the problem is, how big it is, as breaking innocent minds seems quite serious already. Good setting, named protagonist, even an initial problem, all in one line. Well done!

I'd cut the "then started yelling curse words through the bars" or else work blurting to be cursing. It bulks up this sentence, making it a bit cumbersome to read. I do like the bars, however. Deeper setting detail, showing this is serious juvenile detention.

Great opening line! Write this story if you haven't already.

All the beast,

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 11, 2020 8:52 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

Before I forget, I share Candice Lisle's line. She follows along with all of you, doing every exercise, posting them to me faithfully. It's nice and clean, and a great one for a YA opening:

Toby could not sleep from wondering if the hints he had given his parents all year long would culminate in the most wonderful present a boy could imagine for his sixteenth birthday: a baby dragon.

Not too long, not too short, perfect length for a youth's mind to get the stage set so they can dig in. Note that she both named her protagonist, worked in his age, and revealed his Heart's Desire, which is so important. All in one opening sentence! Well done, Candice!

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 11, 2020 8:59 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

My apologies to StarReacher. I accidentally hit my edit feature to her post (a moderator function) instead of my quote feature. They are on the same line on my controls. Forgive me, StarReacher. Repost if you wish. I did include the salient points from your post in mine. Again, my apologies.

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 11, 2020 9:37 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

AJ Zach gives us The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

"The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child."

All your points on this example are well taken. Smile

And now her exercise:

Their full cups filled them with warmth as they told their startling tales next to the fire, but when the cups were empty and they returned up the dark galleries to their own rooms, the thoughts wove through their minds that such events could have happened here, and might happen again that very night.

Good setting details. We have cups filling people with warmth, we have a fire, we have dark galleries and rooms, so perhaps a mansion. We also have a sense of foreboding, and the hint of a promise: that something might happen this very night. That's a good hook, a promise of something to come.

Some suggested improvements:

1. If you're not opening with your protagonist, it's at least nice to know who this group is. Like this: The Hartford family retired from the great hall's hearth after their startling tales were spent...

2. What events might these be? Is this a ghost story? A murder story? Alien abduction? You see why genre cues are important. Ground your reader quick as you can as to the type of story you're about to deliver. They really are wondering, and you could have given them a clue here.

3. Up the stakes. Such events could be anything, and so it doesn't create tension. Instead of "such events," drop in "a murder" or something similar that's in your story, and see how the stakes and tension escalate.

4. Because this opening focuses on a group, instead of your protagonist, tension is diluted. We care less, because we don't get to focus on any of them. Give us a sympathetic character in your opening we can track this story through. You want to ground us in setting. You also want to ground us in your protagonist. We need somebody to care about, and it's your job to introduce us and make us care.

I hope that helps. But I did like all the warmth and fire and drinks at the start of the evening, contrasted to the feeling you get as the lights go out after stories are told...

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 11, 2020 9:58 am
Wulf Moon
(@wulfmoon)
Platinum Plus Member Moderator
Posts: 2099

RSchibler, Becky, offers us The Trade, by C. Winspear "It was the best view humanity had to offer, but I still felt unfulfilled."

Since it's a fellow winner of WotF, I will say it must have worked, or it wouldn't have won. Smile Thanks for hunting this up for us.

And we have Becky's example of an opening line:

Grace got away by sliding under the wizard's raised staff, thanking the short stature she'd gotten from Mama, who hadn't escaped, and the cunning she'd inherited from Father.

You have named your protagonist in your first word of your opening line. Nice! Get this done as fast as you can, challenge beasties. We need to know who our hero is! Next, we have an opposing force--a wizard, possibly our antagonist. So there's a genre cue--fantasy--and we have immediate tension. Mama didn't get away, and Grace barely escaped. We also have some details about Grace--she's short, she's quick, and she's cunning. This allows us to start picturing her in our minds, including what type of person she might be. We have a character that escaped capture, so there is dramatic tension. Good things to have in a first line!

Some comments:

I have no sense of setting in this opening. Contrast it to all the details in the Stephen King opening line that StarReacher shared with us. Stephen King nailed the setting of his scene down in vivid detail, and this opening could benefit from a few vivid details as well. Was grace in a black forest, an icy wizard's keep, a festering torture chamber? Was Mama fried by a fireball, or is she in a dungeon, where there might be hope of freeing her? We don't know. Without context, this becomes a generic scene, marshmallows moving about in nebulous space. Sorry, I know that's not fun to hear. It's just an exercise, and it is hard. But zinger opening lines that vividly set the stage are the mark of pros, the juicy sample of what is to come, and mastering them can make your reader salivate and read on to devour the entire course you are serving.

I did enjoy the tension created by noting Grace had escaped, but her mother had not. That was smart, and you used it to relate some character details, including sense of family. Also smart. Smile

Beastmaster Moon

JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://the super secrets.com
"Super-Duper Moongirl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler" wins WRITERS OF THE FUTURE VOL. 35 & BEST SF&F STORY OF 2019. Order WotF Volume 35 HERE!
“Muzik Man" wins BEST SF&F STORY of 2020
NEW! Don't miss "Shaken, Not Stirred" & "Behind the Scenes" & "Nail Your Opening" in DreamForge Anvil Magazine!
JUST RELEASED! BEST OF DEEP MAGIC ANTHOLOGY TWO! Three Super Secrets Workshop members made it into this best of the best anthology! KD Julicher, Brittany Rainsdon, and some guy named Wulf Moon.Click HERE to get yours!

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Topic starter Posted : September 11, 2020 10:32 am
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