Beta Tester's Wanted/Needed

Today I got inspired to write a novel/web serial (i hope), and it's a scifi story, my first scifi story ever. I've got what I think is a solid opening paragraph, but I'm not really sure. I'd like to gauge you guy's reactions to it. If you like, I'll try to turn into into a web serial. If not, well it's back to the drawing board for me. So please read and be brutally honest with me.

My name is Josselyn Danielle. I was born on the 23rd day of March in 1984. You might be thinking to yourself why one such as myself would hold on to information like that. Others like me have long since forgotten their names, their original names, and in my opinion forgotten who they are. I don't want that to happen to me. I want to hold on to as much of my humanity as possible, after all I didn't ask for this. I don't believe any of us did, and I don't want to meet those of us who did. Sadly, what's done is done, it can't be changed, and I can't go back to what I was. What I can do is keep this evil from spreading, I won't let what happened to me happen to others. Maybe it'll gain me points when all this over. I hope so because I really don't look forward to what's in store for me at the end.

Gudy's picture

Embodiment

... caffeine-deprived thoughts on this:

Stylistically, the language feels a bit unwieldy. Which may be fine if that's just the way Josselyn talks, but it feels like it gets in the way of telling the story on occasion. The style, especially in sentences 3 and 4, also clashes a bit with the mix of laconically resigned and grimly determined I get from the character.

Contentwise, I feel that you might want to drop a bomb somewhere - there's too much teasing and not enough gut punching, and this feels to me like a punch in the gut is called for somewhere in the opening paragraph.

Chuck Gregory's picture

You really made me take notice with the choice of birthdates. I was born on the 23rd of March in 1952. Of course that particular impact is going to help you less than one third of one percent of the time...

I'm intrigued by the character, already wanting to know what has happened to this person and all those others. I like the 'tease' approach rather than dropping a bomb at this point, but a clue might help; also some of the sentence structure is quite awkward.

Consider replacing:
You might be thinking to yourself why one such as myself would hold on to information like that.
with:
You might wonder why a cyborg would hold on to information like that for several centuries.

[replace cyborg and centuries as appropriate, I'm guessing]
Go for it!

fremmed's picture

Petitioner

It definitely pulls me in, but I feel like you have hedged some of the language and it drains some of the power out of that first punch.

"in my opinion forgotten who they are"
"don't believe any of us did, and I don't want to meet those of us who did"

When I read those first lines, I'm looking into the character, not necessarily the subtleties of the positions she holds and the world she lives in. Just my opinion.

Now I'm curious though ... Smile

Pedes's picture

Postulant

I am a bit sleepy so I might be slightly unorganized; I'll try to write clearly and briefly although in random order:

First thing: you don't ever want to begin a webnovel in that way. I know it's pretty possible to pull it of but you really need that something to become with "my name is..." scheme. Whether a novel or a webcomic, you really need some skill and something extraordinary to pull it off. To be honest, you lost me before second full stop and the only thing that kept me reading (apart from wanting to help) was the fact I was born in 1984.
I'm not saying you can't put this fragment, but it can't for any means start with those sentences. Even if you just moved 4&5th sentence to the beginning it would be better.
Why?
It is said that on the internet you have 3-5 seconds to draw the interest to your site. I like something someone in the webcomic community said about your potential reader - he is very critical and bored and has ADD.
Well, I think the 3-5 rule also applies to webcomics and webnovels: you have 3-5 pages (in case of a webcomic) and 2-5 sentences (novel) to get the reader interested. Of course, you want to make the whole chapter or paragraph/page interesting to turn him into a reader, but it's those first 3 that have to draw him in. You have no cover, no blurb on the back of the book, nobody is going to shuffle through your book to see a random paragraph to check if he likes it; all you have is 3-5 opening sentences falling on the whole beginning paragraph. This is where you show off, this is where you make the statement. Fail this part and you can pretty much not write the rest.

An example of a great beginning is here: http://two-rooks.com ; from the first page you fall onto the second and there is no way you won't at least finish the prologue, which just screams READ MORE!

As Gudy said, what you miss here is some kind of bomb, something slightly heavier, stronger, something that appeals to the reader. It can be word order, some words, but also pace, rhythm of narration. Now, I'm not strong in English punctuation myself, at least when it comes to commas, but I think you have something wrong with them there... Also semicolon can work wonders.
As for grammar.. ah, there are grammar nazis here, I'll leave it to them.

Andrea's picture

Supplicant

I haven't read what the others have said, but I'm really intrigued by the idea. Some of this paragraph feels a bit repetitive, though, so here's how I'd word it:

My name is Josselyn Danielle. I was born on the 23rd day of March in 1984. You might be (ETA wondering) why one such as myself would hold on to information like that. Others like me have long since forgotten their names. (A lot is implied by people forgetting their names, and you can show how far gone other people are later on in the story. Showing works better than telling. Also, by not including the bit about forgetting original names, it implies that the narrator doesn't consider any other possible name to be worth remembering.) I want to hold on to as much of my humanity as possible;(that should be a semicolon or the end of that sentence.) after all, I didn't ask for this. But what's done is done, and I can't go back to what I was. What I can do is keep this evil from spreading. I won't let what happened to me happen to others. Maybe it'll gain me points with karma(?) when all this over. I hope so because I really don't look forward to what's in store for me at the end. (Do you mean in the afterlife, or some punishment she's going to receive for whatever she's going to attempt? If you mean afterlife, leave the last sentence out.)

ETA: You could also start out with a scene that's more in-the-life of the narrator without any explanation except for maybe her immediate thoughts, and then have this paragraph at the end of the first chapter. Maybe an example of how evil she is without revealing WHAT she is or how it came about, or someone else getting turned into whatever she is, or a relevant but brief flashback from her past. Just make sure you do more showing than telling.

Good luck! I think this could be a really good story if you decide to run with it. :]

ETA: minor changes

NorthwoodsMan's picture

Embodiment

Sounds kind of like the intro to a couple movies I've seen. Payback (1999) is the first to come to mind.

But ya, needs some kind of hook. But being only one paragraph in, it's a good start and would like to see more...

Marri's picture

Supplicant

First impression: Once I made it past the first sentence: I was interested for the first half and then lost it in the second half.

My general thoughts: Beta readers serve a slightly different purpose than I think you want here. If you want someone to nitpick your writing and make sure everything flows right / you didn't mutilate your grammar / there aren't those annoying "but it seems so obvious to ME because I already know the plot, what do you mean this is confusing?" moments, that's what we are good for. (And I have proceeded to do so in length at the end of this post :D). On the other hand, in my opinion: the plot is the one thing that's really yours, here. If we like your plot idea, then you've got a shot at a serial. Fixing the grammar is easy. Fixing the premise is not! So focus more on the comments about your concept, rather than comments about your technical writing. If technical ability were the only requirement, Twilight would only be read by 4th graders Blum 3

And now, section by section comments! Be afraid Biggrin

"Pikachu42" wrote:
My name is Josselyn Danielle. I was born on the 23rd day of March in 1984.

^My fiction writing class' teacher informed us that we have only the first sentence to get people's interest. That in mind, he made us all spend two full classes writing interesting ones. For example: One day, the assignment was to bring in the first sentence of a book you liked. I hadn't heard the assignment the day before since I was zoning out, and panicked when I realized I'd forgotten the next day. But I thought of the book To Catch an Heiress, and remembered the opening line. "Caroline Trent hadn't meant to shoot Percival Prewitt, but she had, and now he was dead.". Except for the last names, I remembered it word perfect, despite having not read it in two years. That's the kind of opening sentence you need. My suggestion: even changing this to "I still remember my name. My name is Josselyn Danielle and I was born on March 23rd." would help. It's not quite right because then people are wondering why you mentioned the birthday, but it's close. Maybe "I still remember who I am." I don't know. You know what I mean (hopefully).

"Pikachu42" wrote:
You might be thinking to yourself why one such as myself would hold on to information like that.

There are too many "self" words in this sentence, and I don't think the first one is even grammatically correct. "You might be wondering why someone like me would hold onto useless information like that" maybe? All your "self" words are gone, and now people know that names like Josselyn are considered useless.

"Pikachu42" wrote:
Others like me have long since forgotten their names, their original names, and in my opinion forgotten who they are.

If you want people to wonder what names they have besides their "original names," just say they've forgotten their original names. They'll get it even if you don't separate it out with commas Smile Also, your second clause feels broken. "Others like me have long since forgotten their original names, but in my opinion they have forgotten who they are."

"Pikachu42" wrote:
I don't want that to happen to me.

...nothing to say here.

"Pikachu42" wrote:
I want to hold on to as much of my humanity as possible, after all I didn't ask for this. I don't believe any of us did, and I don't want to meet those of us who did.

Two knee jerk reactions here. First, that first sentence has two distinct clauses, and they should therefore be separated by a conjunction or semicolon or period. Second, life's not fair. She sounds whiny. If this is the point, well and good. If other people don't have that reaction, then ignore me. But if you're aiming for more of a "I didn't vote on this idea back when this whatever-happened happened and have always been opposed to it" tone, consider rephrasing. "After all, I didn't volunteer. I don't believe any of us did. I don't want to meet anyone who would volunteer for something like this." Erm... never mind. I don't like the word volunteer. But something along those lines.

Running out of steam... will finish commenting later Biggrin Summarized revisions so far:
I still remember who I am. My name is Josselyn Danielle and I was born in 1984 on March 23rd. You might be wondering why someone like me would hold onto useless information like that. Others like me have long since forgotten their original names, but in my opinion they have forgotten who they are. I don't want that to happen to me. I want to hold on to as much of my humanity as possible; after all, I didn't do this willingly. I don't believe any of us did. I don't want to meet anyone who would volunteer for something like this.

Andyl's picture

Embodiment

I disagree on the "and" -> "but" comment. "Others like me have long since forgotten their original names, but in my opinion they have forgotten who they are." sounds very strange to me. The two ideas are not in conflict - "but" would be more appropriate if the second clause read "in my opinion they have not forgotten who they are". My take on "and" is that the character is associating name with identity. Forget the former, forget the latter, and she's making a non-conflicting claim.

MeiLin's picture

Most High

...in email, since I has super email detecting powerz. Summary for here: You need to find Josselyn's voice. You don't have it yet.

Pikachu42's picture

Embodiment

everyone for your critiques. I'm gonna copy all of them, and keep them in mind when writing. This would be so much better if I had an editor. I'd like to work with Netta, but alas I have not the monies. Sad

V's picture

Embodiment

but it doesn't grab me very hard. Once I made it past the first few sentences I was fairly interested for the first 2/3 of the paragraph but things were tapering off by the end. The first hook could/should come faster and you might want to put a better or more unique hook at the end of the 2nd paragraph than "ooh cyborgs and strife!" Distinguish yourself from Terminator: Salvation Wink

Add new comment

Get an exclusive free ebook from the world of the Intimate History! Exclusive content, contests, new releases and more.