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MLMarkland
August 31st, 2005, 05:19 AM
Greetings everyone... I'm working on a short story right now, and I want to craft an opening that really draws the reader in. I'm open to any criticisms. I am posting the opening of the story, with the question in mind, "do you want to know more about this situation and these characters?" Or, are you quickly disinterested? Thanks for the feedback. Any other comments are greatly appreciated as well.

Sincerely,

Montgomery

P.S. While the content of the opening doesn't appear to be of a sci-fi nature, the overall work as a whole falls squarely into the realm of science fiction/speculative fiction.


Sam felt someone watching him from the street, through the candle-lit window in front of his desk. The paranoid part of his mind warned him that he could be shot dead. The marksman in him said the shot was difficult, at best, even if someone intended him ill, and that he shouldn’t worry with such thoughts, because if he was to be shot, then so be it. He would be shot… and all the secret histories and world-shaking mysteries he had uncovered in the past year would ride with him in a horse-drawn hearse to his grave.
Bang…
Sam fell away from the desk, knocking the rickety wooden chair back onto the thick, red and gold rug that covered the marble floor.
Someone knocked on his door again. Sam looked down at his body, clutching his stomach, pulling at his loose, cotton shirt. He looked down at the upset chair. Again, someone knocked at his door. Sam shook his head and smiled. He picked up the chair, and pushed it up against the desk, covered with dusty, ancient, leather-bound tomes. Someone knocked again. Sam moved towards the door.
Then he stopped. He glanced back at his desk. He reached over to the desk and quickly flipped one book closed. He kept his rough hand on the worn-brown leather cover. He ran his fingers over the letters on the cover. Someone, long ago, carved ten letters into the leather and stained the indentions black with some sort of animal ink. The letters read, “Mahabarata.” Someone knocked again, twice in a row, and a muffled voice filtered under the door.
“Coming.” Sam said, as he moved away from the desk, to let in his visitor. The door burst open before he could get there. Sam, surprised, halted in his tracks. In the doorway, stood a tall man, with a thick beard and a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. The man wore khakis. He carried a small walking stick. The walking stick looked more like a cudgel, the type of weapon toughs used to shanghai unwitting men on their way home from saloons, or brothels in dark, oriental ports in far off lands. “I said coming, not come in.”
“Thought you said, come in,” the old man replied.
“I did not.” Sam narrowed his eyes.
“You should keep your door locked, regardless. Unwise. A man might get himself unmade or worse.” The old man rapped his cudgel on the floor.

bill_haverchuck
September 2nd, 2005, 11:20 AM
Hey,

Yeah, I was still interested, although you lost me a bit during the paragraph that begins "Then he stopped..."

Also, on first reading I thought Sam had actually been shot. It wasn't 'till I re-read that I twigged to the gunshot/door-knock conceit. When Sam clutches his stomach, you could mention that he doesn't actually find a wound - just for the benefit of less alert readers... like me....

There's a few minor punctuation thingys, but I guess you'll pick 'em up later.

Overall: Nice work!

MLMarkland
September 3rd, 2005, 03:22 AM
Thanks for the feedback. My gf mentioned that she thought he was actually shot as well until rereading, so I do need to rework that bit towards the end of the paragraph. "Then he stopped" does drain the energy, you are right.

Thanks a lot for the feedback,

Monty

Amadeus
September 3rd, 2005, 05:15 AM
3 minor things, 2 bad, 1 good:

1.) Do we really need to know his shirt is made of cotton? :)

2.) The ancient tomes probably shouldn't be called ancient unless verified by a character as ancient. Dusty is good.

3.) Salt-and-pepper hair is very creative. Makes for a good visual picture, and a unique character.

You kept me reading, so you're probably on the right track. Don't be afraid to slow things down a tad; the intro tells too much. You know, pull the reader in with the buggy to the grave thing, then release info as you go.

I can picture the old man, he seems like he'd smack someone with his cane if someone looked at him wrong.

MLMarkland
September 3rd, 2005, 04:24 PM
Thanks for the feedback! I appreciate it.

I agree with the cotton/ancient bit for sure. TMI there.

Glad that already came across about the old man, your statement is accurate regarding his character.

Monty

Holbrook
September 4th, 2005, 02:28 AM
What follows is just my opinon not getting at you at all. You are free to take or leave any suggestions and they are just that, suggestions and opinons.

Also suggest that you put a line break inbetween your paragraphs when posting it makes it easier to read.....

I think you have a good idea, but it needs some work.



Sam felt someone watching him from the street, through the candle-lit window in front of his desk.

The second part of the sentence felt like an “add on” and reduced the power of the first part. That was a good hook


The paranoid part of his mind warned him that he could be shot dead. The marksman in him said the shot was difficult, at best, even if someone intended him ill, and that he shouldn’t worry with such thoughts, because if he was to be shot, then so be it.

Sorry but this sentence rambles on it needs to be made sharper and shorter. It feels like you are trying to cover all the bases

He would be shot…

This is not needed you told us in the previous sentences that he would be shot, I think you mean dead or would die, that would make better sense with regards to the following sentences


and all the secret histories and world-shaking mysteries he had uncovered in the past year would ride with him in a horse-drawn hearse to his grave.

and all the secret histories and world-shaking mysteries says way too much to soon about the plot better perhaps to just say all he had uncovered.

Bang…

I feel this is a bit of a gimmick or lazy way to describe what happened. Better I feel to describe the knock on the door, as in suddenly a low bang filled the gloom of the room, the vibration disturbing the flame of the candle. Or some such

Sam fell away from the desk, knocking the rickety wooden chair back onto the thick, red and gold rug that covered the marble floor.

Where had Sam fallen too?? The word fall denotes he went to the floor but your following paragraph sounds as if he was standing.

Someone knocked on his door again. Sam looked down at his body, clutching his stomach, pulling at his loose, cotton shirt. He looked down at the upset chair. Again, someone knocked at his door. Sam shook his head and smiled. He picked up the chair, and pushed it up against the desk, covered with dusty, ancient, leather-bound tomes. Someone knocked again. Sam moved towards the door.

This paragraph is quite good though you are tending to start sentences with Sam did, or Sam said… You need to think on different approaches to sentences. It is difficult I know, but helps the work flow better.

Then he stopped. He glanced back at his desk. He reached over to the desk and quickly flipped one book closed. He kept his rough hand on the worn-brown leather cover. He ran his fingers over the letters on the cover. Someone, long ago, carved ten letters into the leather and stained the indentions black with some sort of animal ink. The letters read, “Mahabarata.” Someone knocked again, twice in a row, and a muffled voice filtered under the door.

This paragraph is interesting it let’s the reader know something without giving too much away.

“Coming.” Sam said, as he moved away from the desk, to let in his visitor. The door burst open before he could get there. Sam, surprised, halted in his tracks.

I think Sam would be a bit more than surprised ;) you have him one moment thinking he is going to be shot, then taking someone bursting into his room in a somewhat casual manner.

In the doorway, stood a tall man, with a thick beard and a full head of salt-and-pepper hair. The man wore khakis. He carried a small walking stick. The walking stick looked more like a cudgel, the type of weapon toughs used to shanghai unwitting men on their way home from saloons, or brothels in dark, oriental ports in far off lands.

This description is good save for one thing, is this set on our world in our time? If so the use of shanghai is ok… If not you need to re-think it. Though you have used the word in a correct manner the word is also the name of a city and the root of it came as you most likely know from the press ganging of men in that city. Also feel with the use of this word you don’t need the rest of the sentence

“I said coming, not come in.”
“Thought you said, come in,” the old man replied.
“I did not.” Sam narrowed his eyes.
“You should keep your door locked, regardless. Unwise. A man might get himself unmade or worse.” The old man rapped his cudgel on the floor.

dialogue well done.

MLMarkland
September 4th, 2005, 02:36 AM
Excellent analysis Holbrook. Thanks for taking the time to go through it line by line, I agree with much of what you've said. I'm going to use all of your comments and repost a rewrite soon.

Monty