Is this beginning strong? (First 300 words).

I decided to start working on the edits of my novel and one of the things I wanted to change was the beginning of my YA sci-fi fantasy. Before, it started off right in the action where the characters were trying to save people from a burning building. But I thought this was a bit too fast and wanted to start just a little before that (because around this part is the inciting incident—a bit too fast paced when re-reading it). The new beginning starts off a bit slow where my MC and his girlfriend meet up at a restaurant to celebrate her nineteenth birthday until they get notified to go save people (they both work for the same thing—soldiers).

This at least allows me to do a little bit of world building in the beginning to set the story up.

However, I’m a little skeptical of how strong the beginning is (writing wise). Like, I feel as if there might be other ways around writing it but I’m unsure, so I’d like some help with the first 300 words to see how I can make it better. Due know that this is only a second draft. There will be way more edits in the future and I am planning on getting beta and sensitivity readers. :blush:

Now, before you read this, I’ll add in what you need to know about the book:

It’s a YA sci-fi fantasy, taking place in the far future (a few thousand years). It’s a mixture of low and high fantasy as it does take place on Earth, but there were multiple wars and natural disasters that caused a continental shift which also nearly caused the human race to cease to exist. There’s nine continents and no countries. Everything is ruled by a single government, a group of people called the Twelve Presidents. My MC lives in Lesian which would technically be modern day Africa. Belris—the city he lives in—is loosely based off places like Egypt and Algeria, but a lot of things that we know of today wouldn’t necessarily exist as a lot of history was destroyed in the Shift and wars. I’ve made a new map (because my old one missed a continent lol) and it’s shown below. The story is about my MC avenging the murder of his family.

Now, with that knowledge, here is the first 300 words of my story the Sorceress. I appreciate any and all criticism! :blush:

Hidden to keep the post looking short...ish.

The sounds of people’s shoes clacking on pavement and hovering vehicles faded away as Nicolas opened a door to a restaurant in downtown Belris. A podium stood a few feet away from the door, and a woman stood behind it, dressed in a niqāb, her green eyes showing through the small opening on her face.

“I’ve made a reservation earlier. The name is Nicolas Eissa and Prisylla Hassani.” Nicolas grinned, ecstatic to finally get to spend alone time with the love of his life.

The woman bowed her head once and said, “This way, Mr. Eissa.” She gestured her arm out for him to follow her. They walked through the building, passing tables, and went through a small hallway at the end. A set of stairs were at the back of the hall, and after climbing them, they reached the roof.

A table with white cloth, menus already in place, and a bouquet of roses stood in the middle under multiple strings of lights that crisscrossed each other. This was a special part of the restaurant you could reserve, and it was a special day after all. Nicolas turned to the woman.

“Thank you. It’s perfect.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Eissa. Your server will be along shortly.” She went back downstairs, leaving Nicolas alone to wait for his date.

He paced closer to the table, looking at the roses. They weren’t easy to find as flower shops weren’t abundant in the city considering they resided in the deserts of Lesian, the continent he lived in. Though, it might’ve been called a “country” once if he lived a few thousand years ago before the Continental Shift happened. But Nicolas was just glad he could find them as they were Prisylla’s favorite flower. Making tonight more lovely.

1 Like

The style of writing changed between when I first started writing and now…and I can’t always keep up with it, myself. But I will admit that it makes things punch more, feel in the moment…so, let’s see…

Clacking shoes on pavement and hover-cars muted as Nicolas stepped into the downtown Belris restaurant.

Or:

Nicolas stepped into the downtown Belris restaurant to the muting of hover-cars and clacking shoes on pavement.

Hover-cars and hovering vehicles is a style choice: one names a specific change in vehicles, the other describes what the changes are without giving it an official name. Mutes works like muting a TV: instant dampening while fades is gradual. Mutes sounds more tech-savy, too.

Cutting down the words isn’t as important as word order, for some reason. Everyone seems to hate on scenery being before person’s when it can come later, sound less passive.

Ne, personally, unless it’s a title, I often change my layout to drop “of”–ehich isn’t something I do in my everyday writing and speech.

I’ll read the rest of it after a bit, and this isn’t “you must change this”. Just some thoughts on how I’ve dealt with this in the past.

1 Like

My feeling is that the whole interaction is there to feed some background information, but the thing is, unless the attendant is important to the story, I think you can start at the table, as Nicolas looks at the roses and waits for his beloved, then actually meets her or she doesn’t come, thus cutting out a junk character and interaction that is irrelevant.

If it’s important to keep it in, then watch out for too much info/in-setting words that are really useless atm and repetition of words. Podium stood/woman stood, special part/special day.

I understand that roses are special for this world, but trivial in ours from the text, but not from the feels of Nicolas, so I default a little bit to our world’s reaction roses on a date gives me. “If he wanted to make it truly special, he would have found something other than roses. Or he is superficial man, love=twelve longstems.”

1 Like

I didn’t really think much of it when I wrote that lol. :sweat_smile:

I know right? I never understood why, really. Personally, I love scenery first before I introduce characters because it adds more to the world building. If I introduce the character and not the world they’re in right away, it may turn into white room syndrome.

Thank you for your feedback! :blush:

I sprinkle the background stuff in through the first 1-2K words. The chapter is nearly 8,000 words and the new beginning eases into the background information whereas I used to have barely anything in the beginning and made it appear later in the chapter. I still sprinkle information between every other chapter with new things for world building (but it comes as the character interacts with the world) because I don’t want to info-dump it all.

The host (and later, server) aren’t important to the story. The reason why I didn’t start at the table was because the characters first talk (while standing) before they sit down because right after he looks at the table, he looks out at the city and then that’s where Prisylla comes in. This entire new section is mostly world and character building. It first shows he’s in the city which is the only time he’s there (otherwise, they’re constantly travelling—they don’t make it back to Belris until the sequel lol). Then he meets the restaurant’s hostess and waitress who aren’t necessarily important to the story, but are important based on world building due to their looks. The main cast we see throughout the novel don’t wear niqabs and hijabs, but I wanted to introduce some diversity from side characters. The two aren’t the only ones who will wear them as other side characters may, but not until later on. But I wanted to establish at least a small nudge to the location of where the characters reside, if that makes any sense?

The same goes for the reservation at the beginning where Nicolas says their last names—hinting that they aren’t white/American characters. In my previous novel, I had a character named Caden and he was British. I had a lot of people tell me “That doesn’t sound like a British name” even though you don’t have to be named traditionally like… from your heritage or whatnot. I mean, there’s been kids named after soups. xD But because this book mostly contains an all non-white cast, I wanted to do it right with surnames (and some first names) that sounded authentic, coming from Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, and a few other places. I don’t really use their last names a lot in the story as they’re all on a first name or nickname basis, but I wanted to at least confirm with the reader that they aren’t white. :sweat_smile:

Yeah, I have a list of phrases/words that I use way too often. “Stood” is on that list haha. :rofl: But with “special” I was actually using the repetition for the effect. :sweat_smile:

Thanks for the feedback!! :blush:

So now that I’m reading the overall segment (I didn’t want the explanation interfering with the read), the biggest thing I’d think of is making the descriptive active.

For example, the hostess only addresses him on the walk to follow her, but a “special area”, she could pause and ask if everything is in order, and then the space could be described through his eyes before he dismisses her.

I mean, in an edit, you’re going to be adding and taking away as you see the need, but it will feel more integrated the more things are shown through your ML/MC.

For some reason this is more difficult to do in the beginning of the story, but once we feel we have a world built, we do it more seamlessly. This is across the board with even well-known authors…almost to the point where I want to test myself by writing a chapter I don’t need and then just dumping them, see what that does for the style.

1 Like

You don’t have to explain to me your reasoning in a wall of text longer than the one you were looking for feedback on, heh. It’s up to you to use the feedback or not. :blush:

1 Like

Oh I know. :sweat_smile: I was just clearing up any confusion if there was any. :sweat_smile:

I’ll reply back later on today when I’m not at work lol. :blush:


Thank you both again for the feedback! :hugs:

1 Like

Ah. Thank you! I didn’t think much about that lol. c:

I tend to notice it a bit more because I’m dialogue oriented. The description often isn’t there when I go back for the first edit. But it’s more likely to happen in the begining chapters, for me.

I love critiquing opening words. But all the suggestions are just my two cents, feel free to ignore. :slight_smile:

The sounds of people’s shoes clacking on pavement and hovering vehicles faded away as Nicolas opened a door to a restaurant in downtown Belris. A podium stood a few feet away from the door, and a woman stood behind it, dressed in a niqāb, her green eyes showing through the small opening on her face.

For me, that opening sentence needs to be stronger. I’d try to cut down on the number of words used to describe the event and make Nicolas the focus, not the sounds of the street. For example:
“Upon entering a restaurant in downtown Belris, Nicolas left behind the noises of bustling pedestrians and hovering vehicles.”

Domi was right about the “stood” repetition, here’s an alternative for you. “A woman dressed in a niqāb greeted him from behind the podium in the entry, her green eyes the only visible feature of her face behind the garment.”

“I’ve made a reservation earlier. The name is Nicolas Eissa and Prisylla Hassani.” Nicolas grinned, ecstatic to finally get to spend alone time with the love of his life.

Gah! This is a “show don’t tell” moment! Don’t tell us he’s ecstatic, tell us about the way his heartbeat quickens at the thought of time with her, how fidgety he is with impatience to sit down, how he can’t help but scan the crowd for a glimpse of her.

The woman bowed her head once and said, “This way, Mr. Eissa.” She gestured her arm out for him to follow her. They walked through the building, passing tables, and went through a small hallway at the end. A set of stairs were at the back of the hall, and after climbing them, they reached the roof.

A table with white cloth, menus already in place, and a bouquet of roses stood in the middle under multiple strings of lights that crisscrossed each other. This was a special part of the restaurant you could reserve, and it was a special day after all. Nicolas turned to the woman.

“Thank you. It’s perfect.”

“My pleasure, Mr. Eissa. Your server will be along shortly.” She went back downstairs, leaving Nicolas alone to wait for his date.

You can condense all of this without losing the imagery. "The woman bowed her head and gestured for him to follow. Bypassing all the other tables (walking is implied here), they headed for the small hallway at the back of the room and ascended to the roof via the staircase within.

Strings of lights crisscrossed over a table covered in white cloth and adorned with a bouquet of roses, menus at the ready. The only way to obtain this exclusive table was by reservation, and it was a special day after all. The hostess bid him good evening, and Nicolas settled in alone to wait for his date.

He paced closer to the table, looking at the roses. They weren’t easy to find as flower shops weren’t abundant in the city considering they resided in the deserts of Lesian, the continent he lived in. Though, it might’ve been called a “country” once if he lived a few thousand years ago before the Continental Shift happened. But Nicolas was just glad he could find them as they were Prisylla’s favorite flower. Making tonight more lovely.

I know you’re setting the scene for something interesting here, so try to downplay the parts of the scene that are unimportant (the hostess, the inside of the restaurant, the noise of the street) and focus on the parts that are going to end up being impactful later (Nicolas’s feelings, the roof of the restaurant/ambience, even the flowers at the end since they are Prisylla’s favorite flower). When they’re interrupted, that’s what the reader needs to care about—that Nicolas took all this time and care to set up a special evening only for it to be interrupted. Otherwise, this entire scene is unnecessary because the reader will think “well why did I need to know about her birthday and the restaurant if they were just going to get called away to do something else right away.” If the interruption is important, adds to Nicolas’s frustration/character development, or showcases how they were having a lovely normal evening only to be interrupted by something abnormal, then definitely keep it in. Otherwise I’m with Domi, you probably don’t need this entire introduction and could work all of this into a scene a few minutes ahead where they’re already sitting down (or Nicolas is, at least, just before Prisylla comes in and he’s admiring the accommodations or something).

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.