Comment to 'Feedback request - Contemporary Fantasy opening chapters'
  • Lynn, I'm only about a quarter of the way in - where Caro pushes in to Neil's apartment…

    At this point, I feel as though I've been jerked about, pulled in half a dozen different directions: too many promises in quick succession, with no apparent alignment between them. We have a fight building between the two of them, and I'm feeling increasingly detached from both characters.

    As a logical coherence aside, how is Neil near the end of the fourth show so early in the morning, when he gave up on sleep after two hours of bad and six of tossing and turning? That suggests a 6am-ish start, and if people are leaving for work, it's likely about 8:30… So it only works if those are 35-minute episodes. (But Murder at the Vicarage is 1h42.)

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    • Thanks very much for this, Rick. Your logic re the timings of the TV shows is faultless and I hadn't even w worked it out, so thanks for the pointer.

      Thanks also for the feedback re the opening para. You said you felt pulled around a lot. What do you feel would improve that feeling? Starting later in the story? Cutting the flashback to when Neil moved in? I'd value your opinion.

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      • Ah, Lynn, that's a tough question. It's sort of a generic Yes-ish.

        I don't know if there's any basic rule on this, but my working impression at the moment (only came up with it as a guide 10 minutes ago) is that if you're putting backstory in your opening chapter, no snippet of it should be more than half a sentence; this is to avoid it diverting the flow. As such, I would open with:

        Neil had seen ghosts all his life, but he’d never lived with one before moving to his flat in Milton Keynes; that would teach him to rent property without viewing it first.

        [Note the inversion in the life lesson; at least that's how I have encountered the expression, e.g. My face is a mottle of purple and black; that'll teach me to walk into lampposts.]

        The value of this is that it tells the reader that there is backstory here, and then it allows you to move on. Here's a promise of something that I'll explain later, once you're properly hooked.

        From there, I would move directly to Neil watching the film. It's 8:30, almost done, three glows competing for his attention: around the edge of the curtain, from the TV, and the ghost-light from the bathroom. (Again, only half a sentence hinting at where she resides - possibly as part of why he's such a slob now.)

        And then straight in to the knock on the door.

        Especially in this opening chapter, if it's not directly relevant to the immediate challenge, it can be deferred.

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        • This is fabulous feedback, thanks Rick. I've been a dope not to see how that back story slows the pace and is actually unnecessary - sometimes you just can't see the big issues, which is where this community is so brilliant.

          I'll redraft with that in mind. Many thanks

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