Wednesday, June 24, 2015

First Sentences In (Fan)Fiction the 6th

I'm home!  Or at least, I will be when this goes up; depending on when I get in, odds are I won't have had the time or energy to check up on the blog yet.  Let's go ahead and pre-emptively say it was a nice break.  Thanks for keeping the noise down while I was out!

Now, on to some first sentence goodness!  My thoughts on the openings of some of the recent fandom classics selections, below the break.

As a reminder, the first sentences here are being judged as first sentences, using my patented HEITSIBPMFTSIATRAEMTCR ("how effective is this sentence in both preparing me for the story I'm about to read, and encouraging me to continue reading") scale.  On that scale, a five equates roughly to "immediately evokes a specific tone, prepares the reader for the rest of the story, and encourages me to continue reading," a one is "makes me less likely to continue reading," and a three is "a perfectly adequate first sentence, which neither inspires great excitement or great dread."  For each story, I'll give the title with a link to my review of it, and the star rating I initially gave that story.  Tally ho!  

Without a Hive, 3 stars

The first sentence: The hive cut deep into the earth, twisting and curving upon itself in a network of tunnels and chambers.

Thoughts: This is immediately sets a location, but more than that, it creates the tone of the location. Granted "twisty, labyrinthine changeling cave" is a pretty common interpretation of their home, but it's common because it's a strong thematic fit. And (at least in the case of this particular story) it also is a good fit for the changeling personality. This first sentence may not be bursting with originality, but it's elegant in style, and effective in conveying both setting and racial characterization. Four stars.

Pinkie Watches Paint Dry, 4 stars

The first sentence: The room had been orange, and now it was not.

Thoughts:  This is the (well, a) kind of first sentence that I love.  It tells us something seemingly banal, but in such a way as to make it clear that there's more to it than meets the eye.  It tells us that the color of the room is important, while leaving the reader grasping for context--context that can only be gained by reading further.  It's the sort of thing that draws you in, and which sticks in your mind.  And importantly, the style in which this statement is framed preps the reader for the style of the story itself.  That's a five-star first sentence in my book.

The first sentence:  Milk. Cocoa powder. Butter. Water. Flour. And sugar.

Thoughts:  This is another case where I've taken then liberal view of what constitutes a "first sentence," but the list seems to me to basically be one idea.  It does ask a few obvious shallow questions (what's the list for?  Can I have some when it's done?) and gives some hints of context (whether shopping or cooking, it's something food-related), but even with that... well, there's just not much here.  A weak three, just barely meeting the "does what it sets out to" criteria.

Newsworthy, 3 stars

The first sentence:  The letter arrived early in the morning, marked with the N.E. insignia and stamped with 'URGENT'.

Thoughts:  That's a classic example of an opening hook if I've ever seen one, and it's never a bad way to start.  It gives us no sense of character or setting, however; this could be anyone, anywhere.  Also, it doesn't give us much of an idea of the tone; it's impossible to tell from this sentence, or even to infer from stylistic clues, whether we're looking at a comedy, drama, or romance at this point.  Still two stars, though, for that solid hook.

The first sentence:  “Not much, is it?” Spike said.

Thoughts:  Even if one were to include the second sentence ("He wiped his claws on his scaled belly, apparently attempting to clean them, but all he managed to do was smear the ash around a bit more"), this doesn't give the reader a lot to work with.  There's not necessarily anything wrong with that, of course--although a quick start (in terms of action, setting, or whatever) is always a good thing, that doesn't necessarily mean the very first sentence needs to have all of the same.  We get introduced to Spike--and with a typically Spike-ian bit of understatement, which is a nice touch--but that's about it.  So, just as a first sentence, this ranks a two.

The first sentence:  Twilight bit her lip and redoubled her efforts as she concentrated on the boulder in front of her.

Thoughts:  This is pretty much the definition of a three-star sentence, for our grading purposes.  It gives us character, some pieces of setting/event, and doesn't have any obvious glaring weaknesses, but it's more "competent" than "artistic."  So, as I said, solid three from me.

The first sentence:  Yuuno Scrya was not having a good day, not in the least.

Thoughts:  Much like Brief Reign, this gives us an immediate character introduction.  Rather than introduce a struggle directly, however, it goes with "humorous understatement."  That's an equally respectable choice, and one which... well, it doesn't fit the tone of the story terribly well, but it's not distracting departure, either.  Another three.

The first sentence:  “AHA! I knew it!” Twilight Sparkle strode forward with her jaw firmly clenched. “Who are you? How long have you been here? What did you do with the real Rainbow Dash?”

Thoughts:  Again, I've gone with the liberal definition of "first sentence," though really the reading comes out about the same even with a strict interpretation of what we're looking at.  Either way, we have Twilight, a changeling (okay, it doesn't say that, but the title and coverart are kinda giveaways) and an immediate hook.  One more three to end on.


  1. Yes. It certainly was... quiet while you were away. You are welcome.

    It always confuses me to see the story's star rating a the top of the assessment, then to read the star rating of the first sentence at the end of it. It seems like it would be better just to leave off the first one and have the usual star rating thing at the end or something. But who am I to judge?! I don't write One Man's Pony Ramblings! Only one man does that, and also sometimes guests.

    Anywhoo, welcome back! Hope you had a nice trip. See you next fall. April showers bring May flowers, etc. etc.. Now if you will excuse me, I have some empty airhorn canisters and strobe lights to dispose of.

    1. Don't think I didn't see the mess you made of the Friday comments section, mister! Consider yourself on thin ice...

      Also, you're at least the second person to get confused by the way I write out the ratings. I'll probably see about changing that up in the future.

    2. Yeah, I recall making an ass of myself over those...

      Anyway, welcome back, Kott- er, I mean, Chris! How's New York doing? I haven't been there since the Clinton administration