Advice on my Intro?

Penny

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#1
I have been working on this for a while, I am not a trained writer so there are probably a hundred million things wrong with it but, this is the intro to my story, tell me what you think, specifically is it interesting, could it be more interesting and am I possibly infodumping too much. *winces at oncoming storm of critiquing*


==========================================================
Dust motes glittered in the light coming from the tiny gap in Ravyn's sleep capsule door, the tiny particles dancing in the sliver of light. From outside came the constant dull roar of the city, somewhere nearby music played softly, probably from another capsule. Ravyn struggled into a sitting position in the cramped confines of her capsule, Leaning back against the wall of the capsule she sighed. Starting to doze off again she was jolted from her semi slumber by the sounds of the couple 4 capsules over having their morning row. It sounded like it was about money again today. She yawned.

Ravyn's sleep capsule was just big enough to sit up in, it was padded on all sides for sound insulation and had several storage alcoves along the sides for storing clothes and other belongings, one of which had a small kitchenette setup. She had to share shower and toilet facilities with the 15 other capsules on her level which was fun, especially when the shower or toilet broke.

Shuffling across she scrounged up some breakfast in the form of instant noodles, Ravyn pressed the heat tab beneath the small cup and waited while it vibrated and bubbled away eventually making a small beeping sound when ready to eat. She shuffled across to the capsule door, opening it she sat in the entrance looking out into the city beyond as she slurped her noodles with the plastic fork provided, the light streamed from the rising sun between the vast mushroom shapes of the urbstacks across the way. Houses, Shops and shanties clung like fungal growths to the huge structures, billboards, shop signs, cables and piping all mishmashed together in a wild cacophony of different styles and methods. The huge Urban Stack's projects had been long ago abandoned by whatever corporation thought up the idea, and now the immense structures littered most cities, they were completely unregulated and there were many even the police and corp cops wouldn't dare enter without overwhelming backup.
 

pyan

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#2
I think you really need to look up the phrase 'comma splice' and sort out those run-on sentences.

Don't be put off by criticism, though - no-one ever got it perfect first time :D
 

Appello

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#4
Have you tried reading this aloud to yourself? Like, really, talking-to-yourself-in-the-mirror aloud. It can seem strange at first, but it's a great way to take note of how your story reads and make sure your punctuation is in keeping with that rhythm. For instance, if you read your second sentence aloud, it becomes obvious that you need a longer gap between "city" and "somewhere" - hence, you need to put a semi-colon there, instead of just a comma. There are a lot of other examples just in this short excerpt, so I would definitely suggest making this something to work on :)

Grammar aside, I do think there is too much info-dumping in this. You are falling into a common trap of rushing to explain everything to your reader straight away, and thus eroding some of the mystery and the fun of discovery in the process. The reader doesn't need to know everything from day dot, and don't forget, a lot of what you are telling here will probably come up later anyway, as a natural consequence of the story unfolding (eg. rather than tell the reader she has to share a bathroom, have your narrator get up and shuffle off to the toilet, only to have to wait while her annoying neighbour finishes up).

As a general rule of thumb it's always better to show the reader a world, rather than just telling them. And remember, at this early stage of reading your hypothetical audience isn't invested enough to care a great deal about the descriptive nitty-gritty. You'd be better off giving them an authentic and engaging character experience, and then letting the world build itself gradually around that. Think of it like outlining the central figure of a painting before you start filling in all the tiny pine trees on the horizon.

Hope that helps :)
 

Penny

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#5
Yeah, I think some of my dungeons and dragons stuff crept in there, tried to describe way too much. Need to find some way of checking my grammar :p
 

tinkerdan

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#7
This is interesting; though not interesting enough for the beginning of a story.
This is all info dump; nothing is happening. There is no hook.
This might work well placed somewhere inside the novel--when you want to change pace.
However there are some mechanics that need adjusting.

Dust motes glittered in the light coming from the tiny gap in Ravyn's sleep capsule door, the tiny particles dancing in the sliver of light.
Notice in this first sentence you have light twice tiny twice and some oddity for punctuation that might be cleared up by economizing and changing structure.
Dust motes glittered. Tiny particles dancing in the sliver of light from the small gap in Ravyn's sleep capsule door.

From outside came the constant dull roar of the city, somewhere nearby music played softly, probably from another capsule.
Some extra modifiers that slow thing down and possibly comma splice that can be rectified by bringing the two subjects closer.
The droning roar of the city nearly drown the nearby music from another capsule.


Ravyn struggled into a sitting position in the cramped confines of her capsule, Leaning back against the wall of the capsule she sighed.
In some instances almost too many words and another comma splice. You can force them to become dependent.
Stuggling to sit in the cramped confines, Ravyn leaned back against the wall and sighed.

Starting to doze off again she was jolted from her semi slumber by the sounds of the couple 4 capsules over having their morning row. It sounded like it was about money again today. She yawned.
The whole paragraph has elements of passivity and it's capped off by her yawn and could use some tightening.
Nearly dozing she jolted at the arguing voices from the couple four capsules over. It's about money again.

Ravyn yawned.

I'll stop here because I'm not suppose to be rewriting your stuff.
The point is it needs tightening; but it should be done with your style of writing and your words. I hope this gives you some idea of things to do to improve the entire piece.


Ravyn's sleep capsule was just big enough to sit up in, it was padded on all sides for sound insulation and had several storage alcoves along the sides for storing clothes and other belongings, one of which had a small kitchenette setup. She had to share shower and toilet facilities with the 15 other capsules on her level which was fun, especially when the shower or toilet broke.

Shuffling across she scrounged up some breakfast in the form of instant noodles, Ravyn pressed the heat tab beneath the small cup and waited while it vibrated and bubbled away eventually making a small beeping sound when ready to eat. She shuffled across to the capsule door, opening it she sat in the entrance looking out into the city beyond as she slurped her noodles with the plastic fork provided, the light streamed from the rising sun between the vast mushroom shapes of the urbstacks across the way. Houses, Shops and shanties clung like fungal growths to the huge structures, billboards, shop signs, cables and piping all mishmashed together in a wild cacophony of different styles and methods. The huge Urban Stack's projects had been long ago abandoned by whatever corporation thought up the idea, and now the immense structures littered most cities, they were completely unregulated and there were many even the police and corp cops wouldn't dare enter without overwhelming backup.
Keep in mind that this might not work as the beginning of a piece--it doesn't contain a hook to hook the reader and it doesn't really tell us anything about the main character and their possible pitfalls or conflicts and doesn't give us anything to help us relate to and draw us into her story.

It might have a place in the story--however I'd clean it up a bit.

The writing style reminds me of stream of consciouness in some places and that can work, but requires a lot of editing because most inner streams of consciousness are loaded with too many words.
 

Brian G Turner

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#8
At the moment we look at your character, rather than share in their experience, which misses out on the Unique Selling Point of a novel. Have a look into POV use and character development - they go hand-in-hand - on how to really bring that experience more to life. You can find this covered in Jeff Vandermeer's Wonderbook and Brandon Sanderson's writing lectures on YouTube.
 

Ihe

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#9
Disclaimer: I'll be blunt, but don't worry, I also try to be helpful.:devilish:;)

The info-dumping is strong with this one! In terms of story, there is none here. You've fallen where many beginner sci-fi writers fall: being enamored with the everyday technology of the future (I've been guilty of that in my first time around too, mind you. I've also fallen to the cliche of starting the story with waking up, which isn't bad per se, but it's waaay overused. Actually, your excerpt reads eerily similar to my first SF attempts, so I know where you're coming from).

Analyze what has really actually happened in 3 whole paragraphs: Person woke up; ate noodles. The End. About 300-400 words, just for that. As mentioned above, if this scene was meant for reflection, say, the calm after a stormy scene, you MIGHT get away with it if written well, in appropriate context, and with purpose. But this doesn't seem to have any purpose, apart from very small-scale worldbuilding, which is usually not the right move for the start of a book anyway. Always ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish with a particular scene, and then look for ways to make it as interesting and dynamic as possible (unless there's a very specific, thought-out stylistic reason not to). Three paragraphs of empty worldbuilding is not recommended at any part of a story, much less the beginning, but if you go ahead with it, at least try to make it interactive, instead of being merely descriptive.

In terms of description, look to trim whatever doesn't contribute to the plot in these first paragraphs. You can get away with fattening your narrative later on, but at the start of a story each word counts. A lot. It is a book's prime real estate. It is here where you gain or lose a potential reader, so it's imperative to have a beginning that is leaner, to the point, and with less fluff (there are always exceptions, yes, yadda yadda). Explaining the sleep capsule's storage capacity or the way she heats her noodles is not a priority at this moment in time, specially when nothing else is going on.

And this brings me back to "purpose". The main goal of a beginning is to convince the reader to read your story. That's it. Many can wax poetical or theorize about the magic of a first paragraph, but in the end it all comes down to: "please, I beg you, stick around and read my stuff" (we writers are all terribly needy and insecure people, as you will soon find out and others here can confirm :D). Clever plot, emotion, twists, and amazingness will all come later, but you first need an invested (or at least curious) reader to decide to stick around. Write accordingly. Waking up to noodles isn't enough to achieve that (unless the woman is inexplicably waking up in the middle of an alien battlefield and the automated sleep capsule, unaware of the situation, repeatedly pokes her face with a spork, trying to feed her noodles while she is desperately busy stopping man-sized crab monsters from breaking in). Obviously not all starts have to be bonkers, but they do have to offer a sliver of something worth the time, a teaser, a promise of bigger and better things: an interesting moral dilemma, a strange personality trait or flaw in action, a fraction of internal/external conflict, a sparkly conversation, etc.

Back to to the nitty-gritty: be aware of run-ons and repetition of words ("capsule" repeated like 5-6 times in a single paragraph!), as it's been mentioned. Repetition in particular can be a symptom of bad description or paragraph structure, so do look for alternative ways to describe what you want without over-relying on a particular word. Sometimes it's as easy as condensing several things into a single sentence, or rearranging.

Everything I've said can always be taken with a pinch of salt, of course, so as I always say: take what you want into consideration; discard the rest.

And keep at it.
 

Penny

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#10
Thanks, guys :) I think I've got a black eye from that. I shall do a complete re-write of my beginning. I do have an action scene I wrote for VR that might work here instead, you have given me much to think about :p
 

Penny

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#11
Ok so I decided to put this in front of the above scene (which will be much more streamlined) Ill put a linebreak between to show change of perspectives, this scene contrasting with the calm everyday approach of the above scene I think gets the point across that something is happening. and hopefully makes people curious about what brings the two together. I will have little snippits from Henry cropping up throughout. unsure if Henry will ever pov while watching the heroine... that would be creepy.

Tell me what you think about this approach.


===============================================================================
Henry smiled as he cleaned his glasses, humming to himself as he did so. He picked up the clipboard and scribbled down some notes. The man behind him on the table sobbed and sniffled.

"Quiet yourself young man, there will be time for crying later when you have answered all my questions." He said as he examined the bloodstained handkerchief.

Later when it was done Henry sat and ate his sandwiches, tuna and corn today. Dusting crumbs from his pants he carefully packed his tools, then the body and got in his car. Henry drove into the night, the stereo playing Beethoven 9th symphony.
* * *

Dust motes blah blah blah... or something.
 

Ihe

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#12
For me, the problem at present isn't what comes before the original excerpt. It's the excerpt itself. At this point of the story, no matter what you write before it, the original excerpt will still be weak. When I say the excerpt could work after a stormy scene (and that would need a hefty re-write of the excerpt itself as well, IMO), I mean it has to be earned--that is to say built-up--and be contextually related, which those two scenes don't seem to be. It'd be about showing the heroine in different states of mind, and it doesn't seem like she's anywhere in this first new scene. One thing is showing the woman in the calmness of the mundane after a tough battle, heated life-changing argument, or torture scene. Now that contrast can bring out an emotional impact if done right (and even then, if you were to do that at the very beginning, there would be no impact at all because the reader wouldn't care about the heroine yet). Something else entirely is just sticking something in front of it, out of nowhere, and then going back to the same thing. The problem will persist, and now it'll be worse because clearly the beginning scene is much more interesting than what comes after, and you really don't want such a drop-off in interest straight out of the gate.

At the end of the day, even if you're happy with what you're trying now, it still doesn't erase the fact that right after it, you'll have 3 paragraphs where nothing happens and which have no reason being there in context (unless that streamlining you talk about is very thorough). Get those paragraphs sorted (or scrapped altogether), and you won't need out-of-the-blue scenes to save your ass :D. There is a rule of thumb I like to abide by--and learning this has taken me a long time, and even now I struggle with it--and it's this: if you feel the need to wedge extra unrelated content to a particular story fragment, then it means the story fragment itself needs to be pulled out like a bad tooth, relocated, or at the very least have a root canal done.

There's nothing wrong with beginning at a calm, mundane scene. But you don't need to go out of your way to make it work. Just add a little something, be it character or conflict or even the possibility of conflict. Or just go with the interrogation scene, and roll with it for the remainder of the chapter (y). Having scene changes within the first page isn't my cup of tea, personally, as you're essentially asking the reader to go through TWO story starts in quick succession, which isn't a good start at all. If the writer him/herself can't commit that early in the story, don't expect the reader to! For what it's worth, I would do one or the other, not both.
 

Martin Gill

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#13
I like the premise, the Blade Runner/Judge Dredd type City, the instant noodles, her name, all of that. But, I’ll echo what’s been said already, maybe in different words. As an opener there’s no tension, pace or mystery, and no sense of who Raven is beyond she lives in a cramped capsule. We don’t get a sense for her experience. Is she aching and cramped when she Awakens? Does she burn her mouth in the noodles? Does she like them, or resent every bite because they represent her Poverty? But beyond that, not much happens. I disagree that every book needs to start in media res like a Bond movie, but we do need some way of empathising with Ravyn.

One of Pixar’s rules of storytelling is start with the protagonist doing what they do best. Again, not always the right advice, but I kind of feel like we could start somewhere else, with Ravyn doing something, being active, driving the scene somehow, not passively waking up. Maybe closer to the catalyst that kickstarts your story?
 

MemoryTale

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#14
To be honest, this reads like something that will end up on the cutting room floor once you've gotten further into the story. Someone once said the best way to start a book was to write a long detailed introduction to the character and their world, then delete it again once the action has started. Chances are you'll be able to drip feed a lot of the details in this snippet into later sections of the book. For example maybe Ravyn comes back home exhausted from a long day of whatever she's going to be doing in your story and trying to get some sleep, only for the sounds of argument from the couple four capsules down penetrating the supposedly sound insulating walls of her capsule.
 

Penny

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#15
I like the calm start best just needs the right kind of hook
 
Last edited:

Jo Zebedee

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#16
Be warned, I have teeth. :) Comments in bold below.

I have been working on this for a while, I am not a trained writer so there are probably a hundred million things wrong with it but, this is the intro to my story, tell me what you think, specifically is it interesting, could it be more interesting and am I possibly infodumping too much. *winces at oncoming storm of critiquing*


==========================================================
Dust motes glittered in the light coming from the tiny gap in Ravyn's sleep capsule door, the tiny particles Be careful about this - you've told us these are dust motes which are, by and large, tiny particles. Keep things lean if you can. dancing in the sliver of light. From outside came the constant dull roar of the city, somewhere nearby music played softly, probably from another capsule. Ravyn struggled into a sitting position in the cramped confines of her capsule,full stop Leaning back against the wall of the capsule she sighed. Starting to doze off again she was jolted from her semi slumber by the sounds of the couple 4 capsules over having their morning row. It sounded like it was about money again today. She yawned.Okay, so nothing has happened. And she's tired and bored. If you're going down the agent route you have around 250 words max to hook them. You've used 100 to tell me nothing that might keep me reading...

Ravyn's sleep capsule was just big enough to sit up in, it was padded on all sides for sound insulation and had several storage alcoves along the sides for storing clothes and other belongings, one of which had a small kitchenette setup. She had to share shower and toilet facilities with the 15 other capsules on her level which was fun, especially when the shower or toilet broke.This is an info dump and can easily be culled. These details can be shown later: for instance, I've had a story on the ISS where the alcoves are used for an important McGuffin that's placed in it. Often, writing is about asking how things can be made to work harder.

Shuffling across she scrounged up some breakfast in the form of instant noodles, Ravyn pressed the heat tab beneath the small cup and waited while it vibrated and bubbled away eventually making a small beeping sound when ready to eat.Still no hint of a story yet :) She shuffled across to the capsule door,This is a comma splice. I don't mind the odd one or six, but this one doesn't feel like it serves a purpose (they can be useful in keeping pace up, for instance) opening it she sat in the entrance looking out into the city beyond as she slurped her noodles with the plastic fork provided, the light streamed from the rising sun between the vast mushroom shapes of the urbstacks across the way. Houses, Shops and shanties clung like fungal growths to the huge structures, billboards, shop signs, cables and piping all mishmashed together in a wild cacophony of different styles and methods. The huge Urban Stack's projects had been long ago abandoned by whatever corporation thought up the idea, and now the immense structures littered most cities, they were completely unregulated and there were many even the police and corp cops wouldn't dare enter without overwhelming backup.
I think, as you put in your intro post, this is mostly all info dumping - and we really don't need to know any of it. Not yet. Can I ask: what is your inciting incident going to be? And when will it come in? Can you take that incidenct (the bit where the proverbial hits the fan, normally) and try either hinting at it, or showing it, in the first 300 words? Trust your reader. We will be happy to learn about your world once you have us hooked (although there are subtler ways of getting those world details into a novel). But hook us first. :)

And good luck with it. Apart from a few commas and what not, the writing flowed well enough. I think you just need to settle down and learn the storytelling elements. :)
 

ctg

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#17
I think the best advice I can give you at the moment is to take part in the 300 word competition. Or 1000 words. When you get good at those, take another crack at this. It might annoy you at first, but given time and practice you can get better and learn at the same time main tools to write longer prose.
 

Penny

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#18
feh, ill manage it. I approach learning new things in life with a brute force approach. :p currently throwing myself into it wholeheartedly. I have learned heaps from this critique.
 

Phyrebrat

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#19
Hi Penny, congratulations on braving the lion's den.

I've read everyone else's comments and don't particularly want to bore you with repeats, but Jo's pretty on the money IMO. (n.b. I don't mean she's a pretty face on a pound note, I just mean, yep, I agree with 'er - although @Jo Zebedee is a handsome prospect :) )

Anyway, I just wanted to offer some balance on the alleged 'infodump': If you had tightened this up with less repetition (i.e. the motes) and given Rayvn some urgency, or conflict, I'd've been quite happy with the description. It may be too much, but it is written clearly and cleanly, and there aren't wafts and wafts of purple prose.

To put it in perspective, Stephen King - an omni writer - writes at this depth and goes off on ridiculous tangents, but the difference is they have some personal meaning to the MC.

I think, stylistically, it's important to write you, rather than what people say is popular at the time. I think the term infodump is an easy pejorative, often used as a blanket. It's about bringing balance to your description, with action, and conflict, or showing what the character motivation/wants/is after.

@ctg is absolutely correct; join in the 75 and 300 word challenges and watch your writing improve almost monthly, in a measurable way when you see how many shortlists or votes you got.

pH
 

Penny

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#20
Ugh, no, I'm not as bad at tangenting as stephen king :p
Currently I have a much better opening going on, theres almost no infodump and she's out of the capsule right now being beaten down by some cops :p who she knows, who are going to take her money. so conflict! woooo.
 

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