Wednesday, December 14, 2016

First Sentences In (Fan)Fiction the 17th


Spoiler alert: it was me.  Frozen pipes suck, especially when they freeze while you're at work.  Luckily, it takes more than a plumbing emergency to stop the OMPR-ing!  Head down below the break to see my thoughts on some first sentences.

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.   
Note that, as part of my ongoing tweaking/developing of these posts, I'll be taking a fairly liberal definition of "first sentence," so some "sentences" may be two (or more!) sentences long; "first complete idea" might be more technically accurate, but it's not as catchy.  Additionally, the review of each sentence will be split into two parts.  The first part will be my thoughts after reading ONLY the first sentence, and the second, my thoughts on it after having read the story, graded as BETTER, WORSE, or THE SAME when taken in its larger context.

No, I am Not a Brony, Get Me Outta Equestria!, by Bronywriter (story: 1 star)

The first line:  In one of the highest towers of Canterlot Castle, there was a room where few ever trod. It was a private chamber, filled with trinkets and baubles whose purpose escaped the understanding of many. It was a place where no mere mortal would enter of their own volition, at least without supervision.

Initial thoughts:  This basically sets a scene, but not in a particularly interesting way.  Moreover, it's got some writing decisions that put me off a bit (using "whose" to describe the trinkets and baubles isn't wrong, but it's rather inelegant in this case; the extraneous "where" in the last sentence).  There's nothing bad here, but I'd still only give this a two: it doesn't drive the story forward particularly well, even if it doesn't flash and dangerous warning signs.

After reading:  It's perhaps slightly WORSE, but only slightly.  It effectively sets its opening scene, but the room it describes isn't really used by the narrative going forward, which suggests it might not have been the best choice to focus on first in the story.  That said, this is still basically a "does what it sets out to do" opening.

Princess Celestia? Do You Have a Belly Button?, by Foals Errand (story: 1 star)

The first line: Mrs. Flower Petal clopped her hooves together—mostly in vain—while trying to get her class of twenty-two unicorns to return to their assigned seats.

Initial thoughts:  I'm mostly okay with this, as it quickly and efficiently gives us the situation, with a clearly implied setting and even time.  It does seem to have some odd extraneous bits (this is a strange juncture to specify the number of students, say).  Still, this does enough soon enough to get a firm, middle-of-the-road three.

After reading:  This opening is, as with the one before it, perhaps slightly WORSE in full context--but only slightly.  The problem is that it does indeed presage the sizable chunks of extraneousity in the fic proper, but it's also fair to say that the intro is in no way misleading.

Applejack's Tax Relief Plan, by Seether00 (story: 2 stars)

The first line:  If the apple trees of Sweet Apple Acres could feel emotions, they would take offense to the coarse language coming from their orange caretaker sitting at the picnic table. The bespectacled grey unicorn sitting across from her, however, remained unfazed.

Initial thoughts:  I like it.  It's light humor, but uses an amusing contrast to make "AJ yells at old man" feel both comic and understated.  Four!

After reading:  It's about THE SAME, seeing as the first line sets up the scene perfectly well, and the joke's basically self-contained.

Salvation, by Cold in Gardez (story: 5 stars)

The first line:  “Excuse me, um, do you need help c-carrying those, m-miss?”

Initial thoughts:  In media res cold dialogue opens are always a pain to evaluate in this context.  Their purpose is to make you keep reading so you can figure out what's going on.  So, by definition, they're very hook-y, but don't accomplish much else.  This one does suggest a bit of a scene, but basically its function is to get the reader on to the next paragraph, to see who's talking to who, where.  That's a three, I suppose.

After reading:  It's BETTER, because it leads smoothly into paragraph two, which showcases enough solid writing and characterization alike to get the reader a bit more invested.

Pretty In Pink, by DavidReinold (story: 1 star)

The first line:  It was wintertime, but any holiday cheer would have been in distasteful irony.

Initial thoughts:  This line treads dangerously close to empty cliche, and the fact that it ends so awkwardly ("distastefully ironic" would have been better, in construction if not content) doesn't do it any favors.  One.

After reading:  It's THE SAME, accurately previewing the major flaws of the fic.  Well, best to be up-front, right?

A Great and Powerful Heart, by Deep Pond (story: 2 stars)

The first line:  Trixie was still not sure how she had gotten into this situation.

Initial thoughts:  This is another "pure hook" opening, so there's not much to say.  I do like that the first sentence leaves it ambiguous whether the story's actually in third person, or just from Trixie's perspective, speaking in the same--that's a neat, if probably unintentional, bit of of cleverness.  Still three, though.

After reading:  THE SAME.  It's just what it looks like!


  1. The "is it first or third" question comes up an awful lot with Trixie fics. XD

  2. I've had the pleasure of going into the basement only to find the sump hadn't been working for days. My solution: I now live in a house without a basement!