What I gleaned about the story: Sarah has hopped in a car with the wrong boy. Only it isn’t a car, it’s a space ship. And this is one joy ride that will not have her back before curfew.
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Analysis: That’s a monster of an opening sentence, and it’s being asked to do the job of at least three normal sentences. Cramming it all together like that presents the reader with so many elements at once that it’s hard to isolate the point. I got about half way through it and then had to start again, after adjusting my parsing plan. And having to restart the very first sentence is an automatic WTF.
But since we’ve stopped for the referee’s flag anyway, let’s take a look at the replay. I don’t normally address myself to specifics of wording, but I think this example illuminates a worthwhile issue with opening hooks. The point of the opening is to present the reader with something that catches their attention: an arresting idea, a thought, or even an image. Something that can draw them into the story, and the sooner you can deliver that, the better. So with a long sentence, the reader has to do some work before getting that first mental mouthful swallowed. But by using shorter sentences, you can present each of the same images, and plant them more surely, than you can with the behemoth. Compare the original sentence with this slight rewrite:
Sarah thought she could manage Reggardi. Right up to the moment he hit her. The force of his blow spun her, tearing one microhooked slipper free from the grabbit surface and damn near launching her into a crazy tumble across the control room.
It’s pretty much the same information, but by packaging it into smaller chunks, the focus of each sentence becomes much clearer. And that makes them easier to visualize, which is a powerful weapon in the pursuit of immersion and hook-setting.
Analysis: As far as secrecy what? As far as secrecy went? As far as secrecy could run? “As far as” is a comparative, relating to distance, so it has to be concluded by something suggesting distance. Maybe it’s just me, but that sentence threw an anchor of a period at me while I was going by at speed and the sudden halt ripped my undercarriage out.
Analysis: This sentence comes no more than a single minute after the opening slap. But bruises take a lot longer than that to form. They’re caused by blood leaking into the skin tissue and then coagulating, and thus darkening, which takes time. She might have a red mark at this point, sure, but not a bruise. Not for at least a few hours.
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