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Working on the Craft: Three First Lines

Today’s exercise comes courtesy of a recent Writing Excuses episode, in which literary agent DongWon Song suggests rewriting drastically the first sentence of a work in progress three different ways. The result is, by necessity, short, but it actually took me a while to get the different versions to be anything I would want to start a story with. Funnily enough, I am now considering changing the original.

Disclaimer: the opening paragraph this is taken from is an establishing shot of a very non-terrestrial world. As such, it features some terms that are defined through context and might not make sense to readers in isolation. Hopefully, this won’t make the entire exercise unreadable for people who are not currently writing my book.

Original: Valen stood at the edge of the world and looked down upon the mists beyond.

Version 1: A world with no horizon greeted me when I reached the mouth of the cave, all distances drowned in the glowing mists of Ocean.

Version 2: An endless blue swirl of mist spreads before you as you reach the end of the tunnel, the dance of color at once calming and dizzying, making you put a hand on the stone wall so as not to fall into the abyss below.

Version 3: The Arc in the night sky bathed Ocean in its golden glow when Valen came out of the cave, and he needed a moment to orient himself, his sense of proportion dwarfed by the immense vista.

Published inWorking on the Craft

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