Strangers On A Train, 1950

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Post by Guest »

Your book's first paragraph sets the tone, introduces the character's voice, and leaves the reader at the heart of your action. Here's the standard for you to shoot for, from Patricia Highsmith's first novel, published when she was 29 years old. It startles and tantalizes, pulls us into an immediate sense of personal danger, and promises us unforgettable textures.

"The train tore along with an angry, irregular rhythm. It was having to stop at smaller and more frequent stations, where it would wait impatiently for a moment, then attack the prairie again. But progress was imperceptible. The prairie only undulated, like a vast, pink-tan blanket being casually shaken. The faster the train went, the more buoyant and taunting the undulations." ~ Strangers On A Train, 1950

If you'd like to grab your readers with writing like this and keep them enthralled, let's talk.

Post by Jane »

To me, speaking as some one with a couple of post graduate degrees in English , Patricia Highsmith, to me, has always sounded like she was trying to mimic Faulkner. Two problems with this. One, she’s not Faulkner. Not even close. Two, I’m not really a big fan of Faulkner. And yeah, I know he’s a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. I’m still not a big fan. That’s allowed. He probably would not be a fan of mine, either. Ditto for Patricia Highsmith. Also allowed.

Bottom line, I do not see this as a “standard” I need or even want “to shoot for”.

In fact, I find the whole concept of shooting for a standard set by another writer, any other writer, limiting. That all but guarantees a mediocre career.
I would advise you to do a survey of the great American novel over the past 100 years or so. You might be surprised to see that the vast majority of best sellers and Pulitzer Prize winners, the stories that make the biggest impact on society, are not, always, original stories. But the truly great novels are the ones that are told in an original, authentic voice. That should be the standard novelists shoot for… write the best story you can write, in a way that only you can write it. That should be the goal for every aspiring writer.

And the tag line for every writing coach.

Post by Sally »

A pet peeve of mine is objects being assigned emotions. Don’t get me started on weather or nature being emotional. It’s just a train. What could it have to be angry about? Does it wish it was something else? And who the character supposedly being introduced here? The train? It’s got action, sure, but doesn’t do anything for me.

Post by Jessica »

A lot of negative responses. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing, but some people are just being curt for no reason. Funnily, these people may be the most likely to react poorly to criticism.

Post by Melvin »

It is unfortunate no one saw the brilliance of the descriptive language and missed entirely the point of building suspense in your opening chapter!

Last bumped by Anonymous on Fri Sep 02, 2022 9:41 pm.
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