Monday, 7 February 2011

Dark and Stormy Blogfest

Before I show you the first line to my horror novel, The Devil’s Song, I must make a confession and apologise. When I signed up for The Dark and Stormy Blogfest (hosted by the wonderful Brenda Drake) I committed the cardinal sin – I didn't read all the rules. The first line must come from a finished manuscript and The Devil’s Song is nowhere near finished.

So, my entry is not eligible for the competition prizes. But as I’d already posted my name on the linky, I thought I might as well give you my first line and seek some feedback. I hope none of you will think me rude and be assured I will be checking all the rules before I sign up for another blogfest.

To help you judge my first line, here is a little background to The Devil’s Song:

Kristi and Warwick Black don't have the perfect marriage. But Kristi believes their love for one another is strong enough to survive leaving their jobs and moving to an isolated house in the countryside, so that she can immerse herself in the tranquil setting and begin her writing career. But as morning dawns on her first day at The Old Mill and a myriad of crows begin their devilish chorus, Kristi discovers she has failed to do her research. Before purchasing The Old Mill and adjacent rental cottage, she was told novelist Morwenna Maddox died there some 30 years earlier, but she was not told how Maddox died and soon a force more evil than she can imagine is unleashed.

With only a local historian, who is still in love with the dead novelist, and a policeman who seems too keen help her, Kristi begins to suspect that no-one is who they first appear to be, including her husband. She must discover the truth of what really happened to Morwenna Maddox if she is to survive another morning chorus.
Here is the first line of the prologue:

Morwenna was not sure which had awoken her, the noise of her notebook dropping to the wooden floor or the cacophony of crows that cawed their strange and unmelodic morning chorus amongst the trees that surrounded the cottage.

What to you think? Does it make a good opening line? Is there enough of a hook? Are there too many words starting with the letter C?


  1. I like the alliteration, Ellie. I'd leave it in.
    Not sure if it's a little too long for a first sentence though, but what do I know! :P
    I definitely think it's a good enough hook for a first line.

  2. I like the Cs. Although, I don't get much of a hook from it. Not that I wouldn't continue because I'm more of a first paragraph rather than a first line reader. Do the crows pay an integral part in the story??

  3. First of all, I love the name you picked. Morwenna is very powerful.

    You certainly know how to spin a first sentence, but I might soften it a bit. A lot is going on for one sentence.

    I would definitely read on.


  4. You definitely have a way with words and weaving them in pleasing ways (read: yay poetic devices in prose!). It does read a little long and slow. Some trimming or breaking up into smaller sentences could be an easy fix.

  5. The name is fabulous - witchtastic.
    I did a little tightening - what do you think?

    Morwenna was not sure what had awoken her, her notebook dropping to the wooden floor or the cacophony of crows cawing their unmelodic chorus in the trees around her cottage.

  6. I thought this was a tad long for one sentence. While the contest calls for first lines, since you’re asking for feedback, I think we should fudge and make this two sentences. One to set the mood and the other to set tension.

    The story introduces crows and Morwenna, so you want to amplify both malevolence and vulnerability. Not that the example below is ideal, but it might kick start some ideas for you.

    A murder of crows screeched at Morwenna’s window, their incessant noise like a savage cry for help—or warning. Morwenna awoke, too startled to breathe.

  7. Maria's got the right idea. Cut out the passive verbs and substitute more active ones.

    Unmelodic is not a very pretty word and doesn't really say much.

    And it's an unwritten rule that you should never start a story with your MC waking up. It's too cliche. Even with a murder of crows hanging around. hehe.

    However, I think you've got some good stuff to work with and I'm dying to know what the heck is going on with Morwenna, the setting, the time, etc. It just needs polishing.

  8. I love the C's!!!! I love the blurb!! Particularly this bit:

    " is who they first appear to be, including her husband".

    WOW!!! I'd read this asap!!!

    Your opening line is fab!!! You gotta have a cacophany of crows cawing in a horror story!!

    I'd cut out all your use of "that"s - but then I'm in editing mode on my wip and I'm snipping as many "that"s as possible so maybe just ignore me! LOL!.

    Take care and good luck with this!!

  9. Very atmopsheric! I'm with Old Kitty - take out all the 'thats'. And maybe chop a few of the adjectives, making the ones remaining that much more powerful. Fantastic name and a great start!

  10. Ooh great opening line Ellie :O)

  11. The crows are definitely a spooky note to begin the story!

  12. I like it! I would get rid of doesn't roll of the tongue very easily.

  13. I think the sentence is a bit on the long side to start, but I like how the imagery pulls you in to the story.

  14. I, too, think it's a bit long for a first sentence, but I like the crow part a lot; it really sets the tone.

  15. I love the first sentence, and having read the blurb about the book first I see the hook. I honestly don't know if the hook would be there if I hadn't read the blurb, but I do like the darkness of the line.

  16. I think the sentence is a bit long but I like the atmosphere you've created. See if maybe you can shorten it. I do like Elaine's suggestion.

  17. Steven Chapman - thank you for the feedback. The common theme in most of the comments is that it is too long. Normally I write short punchy sentences but I think I made the rookie mistake of over-writing my opening sentence!

    Hannah Kincade - thank you for your feedback. I'm a lot like you - I like to read the opening paragraph, and usually after I've read the back cover blurb. The crows do make a few appearances in the novel (most of which is at the notebook stage at the moment) and are integral as a symbol of the dark forces at work. Hope that makes sense!

    gideon 86 - I'm thrilled you liked the name; I spent many hours agonising over its choice! Yes. After reading all the comments, I can see that as an opening sentence it is too long.

    Christopher S. Ledbetter - thank you!

    Kate Haggard - thank you for the feedback; it is much appreciated. After reading your comment, I counted the number of words in my sentence. Thirty-eight! Way too many.

    Elaine AM Smith - thank you for your feedback! You did an amazing job with my sentence, and managed to cull eight words. I think I can see where I've gone wrong. I don't think it is the story idea itself, rather I've made the rookie mistake of over-writing. And the thing is, I should know better. I've had plenty of practice with my short stories.

    Maria Zannini - thank you for your feedback! You've given me a lot to think about. I agree the sentence is too long - I can see that now. The interesting thing is that although Morwenna wakes with a start she thinks everything is okay to start with. Well, for a few seconds anyway. Evil chuckle.

    Mara Nash - thank you for your feedback. Oh, no. Cliche. It's the word all writers hate to hear. Does that apply to a prologue? The opening to chapter one is nothing like the prologue. Emm...a lot to think about!

  18. Old Kitty - thank you for your feedback! I'm thrilled you liked it and I agree with you, I need to cut out all the 'that' words. I have a terrible weakness for 'that' word and need to be more ruthless. Could you send Charlie around to hunt them down? LOL.

    Talli Roland - thank you for your feedback; it is much appreciated. You are right about cutting some of the adjectives, there are too many and they sort of cancel eachother out.

    Madeleine - thank you!

    Janel - thank you! Maybe I should post the last two paragraphs to the prologue? Evil chuckle.

    Sharon K. Mayhew - thank you for the feedback! I can see what you mean about the word amongst - it's awkward and also weak sounding.

    Angela Felsted - thank you for the feedback. Most of the comments have said it is too long and I shall definitely be getting the red pen out!

    The Golden Eagle - thank you for your feedback! I will definitely be breaking it down into either two or one shorter sentence.

    Tony Benson - Thank you for the feedback. Yes. I can see what you mean about the lack of a hook, which has been worrying me. As a reader I always read the back cover first but do all readers do the same? Emm . . .a lot to think about!

  19. Morgan Lee - thank you for your feeback; it is much appreciated. Yes. I liked what Elaine was able to do with the sentence. I shall be re-acquainting myself with the my red pen! Ellie x

  20. I liked the length of the sentence (although it is longer than other pieces of your work that I've read) but I understand entirely what others have said.

    I also like the alliteration (especially as someone who wakes up to Rooks!)so I wouldn't like the sentence to be be too truncated.

    It certainly left me wanting to read on....and I love the name Morwenna.

    (Off now to change opening of NaNo novel as it opens with MC waking up!)

  21. Hi Ellie - The information you've provided sounds intriguing, and I'm already rooting for Kristi to figure it out! The opening line reads a bit long to me, as well, and I agree with the person who suggested you replace the passive verbs with active ones to show me the scene rather than tell me about it. I struggle with the whole show/tell thing myself, and it drives me crazy.

    Your talent shines through loud and clear. At the end of the day, the only opinion that really matters is yours. No one else knows the story you want to tell.

  22. I like this. It was a little wordy though, especially this part "strange and unmelodic morning chorus". I think you could take out some of the adjectives and it would read better, maybe just say morning chorus instead and it would be stronger.

  23. The crows are cool. Nice foreshadowing if they have nothing else to do with the story, intriguing if they do.

  24. I would definately keep reading. It hooked me. Love the story idea.

  25. I like the poetic feel and the "c" words. I wonder if you could rewrite it without the word "was" in the sentence? Eliminating that word might lead you toward the hook.

  26. I like this sentence. It does read a little long, perhaps you can shorten the sentence so that it's a bit punchier.

  27. The whole thing intrigued me. I'd love to read the finished manuscript, so I hope you get it published! I was totally pulled in....

  28. I like it - I've got a great visual in my head already of the main character and the setting. That works :)

  29. #102 here. I liked it! It intrigued me and set the scene. Like many of said, it's a little wordy for a first sentence. I would cut out most of the adjectives. I went to a great class given by a superagent about first pages, and one thing the agent said was the first sentence shouldn't be a mouthful for the reader. I liked your action verbs a lot.

  30. My two cents: You should not need any background for a first line, let your opening line stand on its own.
    Next, it was a little heavy for me. I like my first lines neat and clean, and not weighed down with excessive or clunky prose.
    I've been watching these first line contests for a while now, and the winners always have very little description, with few adjectives and no adverbs.

  31. This is what is called purple prose, a great candidate in the likes of "It was dark and stormy.." lol... I suggest you remove at least 6 words.

  32. Love the name Morwenna. It sounds intriguing. I am in sync with the thought that the first sentence is a wee bit long. You can shorten it and make it crisper.

  33. Margo Benson - thank you for your feedback; it was much appreciated. I've posted two new sentences today. Oh...I remember you saying your Nano novel starts when the MC wakes up. We can be cliche twins! LOL.

    Lisa Ricard Claro - thank you for your feeback and wonderfully supportive comments. I guess as writers we never stop learning!

    Christine Arnold - thank you for your feedback! I've had a go at re-writing the opening and posted my new efforts today. Hopefully, they are an improvement.

    Lynda Young - thank you. I was hoping they would have that effect!

    Belle - thank you!

    Margo Kelly - thank you for your feedback - it was much appreciated!

    Cheree - thank you for your feedback. I've had a go at re-writing the sentence; hopefully the new sentence(s) is an improvement.

    The Words Crafter - Aah...thank you! Your comments have made my day.

  34. Jemi Fraser - thank you! You've made my day.

    Melissa Dean - thank you for your feedback! I'd love to attend the type of class you attended - such great advice. I've had a go at re-writing the sentence and posted two new ones today. Hopefully, they are an improvement.

    C Scott Morris - thank you for the awesome advice. I'm still trying to find my style/voice and seem to either produce short clean sentences or the more overly written poetic version. I think I know now which of the two works better!

    Myne Whitman - Oh, no. But you are right! Thank you for the great feedback.

    Rachna Chhabria - thank you for the great feedback - it was much appreciated. I've posted two new openings today and hopefully at least one of them is an improvement!


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