Wednesday, February 25, 2015

First Five Sentences #ALT-1

TITLE: Eden Island

I must have been around two years old when mom began telling me the fairytale of Eden Island. She painted a picture of a magical place that only a few are privileged to go. She told me about my rare gift. How I will bring prosperity to the general population. I didn't fully understand this until much later. Over the years it has become a bond between my mother and me. Now in my sixteenth year, that hopes comes to fruition.


  1. This is all backstory. And there is nothing happening right now. I have no idea where she is. You need to have her do something. Is she standing, sitting? Is she in her room, outside? Is her mother dead or alive? And what good is a gift if it is so very vague. This is like a summary the author wrote as notes for the premise.

    I don't mean to be harsh, but none of this gives me any idea what is happening.

  2. Concrete details that tickle our senses would hook the reader even more effectively. "She painted a picture of a magical place" is very vague when compared to "She spoke of a land where waterfalls dripped skyward and silver unicorns spoke in riddles."

    Likewise, I found "how I will bring prosperity to the general population" to be very vague. Which population? The population of Eden? I thought Eden was a fairytale. What is the setting here?

    This definitely feels like YA-SF, though. I feel that a bit of polishing will make it much stronger.

    1. One more thing! Try to show rather than tell. You tell us that mom's sharing created a bond. You could show a child sitting in mommy's lap, memorized by the movement of her lips as she wove these tales.

  3. I didn't feel grounded without a concrete scene. I can't really see anyone and I don't know anything about the MC or the "real" setting. All the emphasis is on the fairytale. I recognize the island will probably be important to the story, but if the story continues with summary rather than a scene with the MC, I'll get antsy pretty quickly.

    I didn't feel SF at first, just fantasy, with the mention of the fairytale, magic, and gift. I got a different vibe with "general population," though, which did make me think of future/dystopia... or prison. It's tough to tell with short pieces, taken out of context.

  4. Ditto all of the above. It feels more like the beginning of an MG fantasy rather than a YA SciFi. You need to check your grammar, particularly tense agreement. Get rid of the "to be" verb and get active. After all that, I would like to read more about Eden Island and the MC's rare gift.

  5. I think the above comments are all pretty much on point for this. I am positive that this story is going to go somewhere interesting, but it's not properly sold here. Along with making it active and concrete, I think you'd get a lot of mileage from using many fewer words.

    Even without changing any words -- simply altering some word-order, it was possible to cut out nearly thirty, which adds to readability:

    I was two when mom first told me about Eden Island. A fairytale. A magical place where only a privileged few go. She told me how my rare gift will bring prosperity to the population. I didn't understand until much later; instead I just enjoyed the bond between us. Now at sixteen, that hope comes to fruition,

  6. It really does read like a summary and I agree that specific action and description would add interest. I also have a problem with the tense flow. Present perfect, simple past and future - they don't sit well together.

  7. I don't have a problem with starting with a summary that sets up the MC's situation, because I think that can work in an opening paragraph; the problem I see is that this is a bit too abstract. If there were just a few details that were more distinctive and visual, it would make a big difference.

    But I agree that the variety of tenses is problematic -- and the last line suggests this story is actually told in present tense, which I don't care for in any case, especially since many people have trouble keeping it consistent. Also, it should be 'where only a few are privileged to go' or perhaps 'that only a few are privileged to go to'. As it is, that sentence is ungrammatical.

    On the plus side, there's something about the quiet, thoughtful tone of this that I like, and while it probably feels a bit more like fantasy than SF, it does come across as YA speculative fiction.

  8. I'm drawn in by the first 2 lines, though I'd hoped the next few would show that painted picture. Maybe add in some description of the world, and connect it to what that means for your character and her relationship with the Mom. You want readers to see the image with her, not simply know she has the image in her own mind. A few descriptions with strong verbs that tie in emotion would work well.