Story Opening

Mike Donoghue

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This is the story opening. I'm trying to show the main character, Kaena, lounging in high-price luxury in the master bed room a yacht with the yacht's owner. I'm hoping for advice on more effective ways of writing the opening paragraph.

Start:

Kaena lounged against albatross down pillows on a bed filled with mare’s mane. Lanolin from mountain sheep softened her skin. Gardenia extract from remote islands scented her hair. She sipped fine wine from the purest of crystal glass while laying on the bed inside the master cabin of a luxury yacht fit for a king—or a lavishly wealthy man.

The man traced tender circles on the curve of her hip where the creamy silk melted into her skin. He returned her gaze with the warmest of his own. “You are an incredible woman, Kaena,” he said. “You are intelligent and young, fierce, wise beyond your eyes, and beautiful beyond description. I must say, I can’t help but feel a bit humbled in your presence.”

Kaena gave a sly chuckle and took a quiet sip from her glass.

End

Thanks,
~Mike
 

The Judge

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Is this set in a fantasy or SF world? The reason I ask is the "ingredients" for the luxury sound odd to me. I've no idea how soft albatross down is, nor mare's mane, but I find it hard to believe that (a) they're luxury typified or (b) rich people would boast about them in quite this way so she'd know, even if they are shockingly expensive due to the creatures dying out. And while lanolin does come from sheep and is used in body creams, women don't tend to luxuriate in the fact they're smearing themselves with animal byproducts, and gardenia isn't a particularly expensive ingredient for scent.

If this is set in the present day, I'd suggest you look at real world luxury items and use them, but if it's set in eg the near future in an SF story, consider not only what animals/plants may be near extinction and therefore expensive, but what technology has brought to the rich. If you're in a fantasy world, I'd suggest you create new ingredients, so as to distance yourself from real life and immediately bring in an air of the fantastical.

My first thought in that opening para was that you needed more from Kaena and what she thinks/feels about the situation in order to get us into her head -- something as simple as changing "lounged against" to "revelled in" would give us something. However, having got to that last line, I assume Kaena isn't quite what she seems, so you've deliberately not given internal dialogue to avoid ruining the impact when she turns out to be eg an assassin. I think you could still bring in some emotion without hurting the surprise, though, and in any event if you are leading up to a shocking murder (yes, please!) I'd suggest you remove that last line as it's too much of a hint, unless the killing happens in the very next para.

I don't think the man's little speech helps the opening, though, to be honest. He sounds to me as if he's well into his 70s or older and not Western, so if that's your conception of him it works to that extent, but the whole encomium sounds like Mary Sue territory coming up as she's so incredibly beautiful etc etc. Frankly, I'd have stopped reading at that point if I'd picked this up elsewhere. Some wealthy men may compliment women, even after they've had sex, but this line "I must say, I can’t help but feel a bit humbled in your presence.” is something no rich man has said to anyone, ever. Very few really wealthy people are other than arrogant and entitled. Read a few exposes of what it's like working on luxury yachts to get an idea of how women in particular are treated. And if he is to be killed, you want to make him sound the complete jerk he really is!

By the way, it's "lying on the bed" not "laying" (unless she's a chicken!), I think you mean "wise beyond your years" not "eyes" and if this is SF or fantasy be careful of lines like "silk melted into her skin" as in genre novels one can never be sure if something like that is literal as opposed to metaphorical!

Anyway, hope some of that helps. Take what you need and discard the rest. And good luck with the story.
 

Elckerlyc

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The be honest, I see little in these 2 short paragraphs that would entice me to keep reading. Too slow, too many (at this point) uninteresting details to paint a picture of luxury. There is no tension or foreshadowing of something interesting going to happen. The prose isn't really catching either.
My advice would be to shorten it and insert something to give it some tension or indication there's something unusual in this situation (depending on where you're going with your story.)

Something like (if I may be so bold):
Kaena took a slow sip from her glass, savouring the taste of exquisite wine she expected never to taste again. The red liquid sloshed a little as the Anastasia, a yacht fit for a king, moved on a unruly wave. Lying on the bed in an overly luxurious master cabin, the owner of the yacht was busy stroking her hip while uttering inane compliments. Keana took another slow sip.
 

paranoid marvin

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Some good points already made. Albatross down, sheep wool and horse hair sounds more like the trappings of an impoverished person rather than someone who is mega-rich. If it's from our world, read up on the description of the bedrooms of princes, kings or tycoons. If it's from a fantasy world, make it sound rare and/or exotic, eg 'bedsheets of the finest spun silk'.

Hi, I think your opening is too brief, and our knowledge of the story too limited, for me to give any suggestions on an alternative opening. Is she a concubine? Is 'the man' her master, or the captain of a ship? Is she his wife, and is she pleased with his caresses?
 

Wayne Mack

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I think the opening does do a good job of painting a picture of a luxurious bedroom. There are, however, more things that I expect to learn from an intro, but the presented text feels much too short. Some points to consider.
  • I would prefer to have the characters fully named. "Kaena Smith sipped fine wine ... " "Bill Blueblood traced tender circles ..."
  • I prefer to see activity (not necessarily action) rather than static description. Consider starting with the third sentence, "Kaena sipped ..." then decide if the previous two sentences are still needed to convey the setting.
  • I have a hard time imagining drinking while lying down.
  • The final line needs to be extended. What, exactly does Kaena think about the situation?
I think have a longer extract would help in the review. I think the setting is captured well, but the section is too brief to cover the other aspects that I would expect in the opening section of a story or book.
 

Mike Donoghue

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The be honest, I see little in these 2 short paragraphs that would entice me to keep reading. Too slow, too many (at this point) uninteresting details to paint a picture of luxury. There is no tension or foreshadowing of something interesting going to happen. The prose isn't really catching either.
My advice would be to shorten it and insert something to give it some tension or indication there's something unusual in this situation (depending on where you're going with your story.)

Something like (if I may be so bold):
Kaena took a slow sip from her glass, savouring the taste of exquisite wine she expected never to taste again. The red liquid sloshed a little as the Anastasia, a yacht fit for a king, moved on a unruly wave. Lying on the bed in an overly luxurious master cabin, the owner of the yacht was busy stroking her hip while uttering inane compliments. Keana took another slow sip.
I like this sample you wrote. It makes me think more along the lines of what I'm going for. Thank you.
 

Mike Donoghue

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Is this set in a fantasy or SF world? The reason I ask is the "ingredients" for the luxury sound odd to me. I've no idea how soft albatross down is, nor mare's mane, but I find it hard to believe that (a) they're luxury typified or (b) rich people would boast about them in quite this way so she'd know, even if they are shockingly expensive due to the creatures dying out. And while lanolin does come from sheep and is used in body creams, women don't tend to luxuriate in the fact they're smearing themselves with animal byproducts, and gardenia isn't a particularly expensive ingredient for scent.

If this is set in the present day, I'd suggest you look at real world luxury items and use them, but if it's set in eg the near future in an SF story, consider not only what animals/plants may be near extinction and therefore expensive, but what technology has brought to the rich. If you're in a fantasy world, I'd suggest you create new ingredients, so as to distance yourself from real life and immediately bring in an air of the fantastical.

My first thought in that opening para was that you needed more from Kaena and what she thinks/feels about the situation in order to get us into her head -- something as simple as changing "lounged against" to "revelled in" would give us something. However, having got to that last line, I assume Kaena isn't quite what she seems, so you've deliberately not given internal dialogue to avoid ruining the impact when she turns out to be eg an assassin. I think you could still bring in some emotion without hurting the surprise, though, and in any event if you are leading up to a shocking murder (yes, please!) I'd suggest you remove that last line as it's too much of a hint, unless the killing happens in the very next para.

I don't think the man's little speech helps the opening, though, to be honest. He sounds to me as if he's well into his 70s or older and not Western, so if that's your conception of him it works to that extent, but the whole encomium sounds like Mary Sue territory coming up as she's so incredibly beautiful etc etc. Frankly, I'd have stopped reading at that point if I'd picked this up elsewhere. Some wealthy men may compliment women, even after they've had sex, but this line "I must say, I can’t help but feel a bit humbled in your presence.” is something no rich man has said to anyone, ever. Very few really wealthy people are other than arrogant and entitled. Read a few exposes of what it's like working on luxury yachts to get an idea of how women in particular are treated. And if he is to be killed, you want to make him sound the complete jerk he really is!

By the way, it's "lying on the bed" not "laying" (unless she's a chicken!), I think you mean "wise beyond your years" not "eyes" and if this is SF or fantasy be careful of lines like "silk melted into her skin" as in genre novels one can never be sure if something like that is literal as opposed to metaphorical!

Anyway, hope some of that helps. Take what you need and discard the rest. And good luck with the story.
What do you think might be a less thick way of him complimenting her but still depicting infatuation?
 

The Judge

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What do you think might be a less thick way of him complimenting her but still depicting infatuation?
How he speaks and what words he uses will obviously depend on his age, nationality/ethnicity, character and education, but I'd also say relevant factors would also include how he's got his money (whether inherited, self-made by legit means or crooked), how they met, whether he's already married and to whom, exactly why he's infatuated and even who/what she is (or, perhaps, what he thinks she is -- professional call-girl, enthusiastic amateur, or a social-climbing wannabe trophy wife). If you can answer all those questions you should be able to decide whether he'd quote Shakespeare or Arabic love poetry, whether he'd use terms of endearment or four-letter words about their sex life, and how he would think of her.

If all else fails, Google Jeff Bezos and see what remarks he's allegedly made to and about Lauren Sanchez.
 

msstice

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If all else fails, Google Jeff Bezos and see what remarks he's allegedly made to and about Lauren Sanchez.
Ok, this deserves a few search keywords. My pedestrian "lauren sanchez jeff bezos remarks" didn't turn up anything but fluff pieces.
 

Mike Donoghue

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Ok, this deserves a few search keywords. My pedestrian "lauren sanchez jeff bezos remarks" didn't turn up anything but fluff pieces.

Sounds very sappy, over-the-top, socially awkward, and excessive. I guess I wasn't too far off with my rendition.
 

Brian G Turner

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The problem here is that you're not using POV properly - read up on how to apply a close third or first person POV.

Secondly, the first paragraph isn't the opening of a story, it's an encyclopedia entry - details are like spices, wonderful when used sparingly, but too much too fast spoils the flavour. :)
 

Logan Selmes

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Sounds very sappy, over-the-top, socially awkward, and excessive. I guess I wasn't too far off with my rendition.

Good thing to keep in mind though, is that most people (hopefully) don't talk the same way they do in person as in texts/emails/etc. One unfortunate real-life exception would be D.J. Khaled.

Long-distance communication has a layer of separation that lowers people's inhibitions, for better or worse.
 

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