Good heavens, is this series of posts still going?
At Pub Rants: 9 Story Openings to Avoid, Part 6
Your opening pages might be in trouble if…
#6) Your novel opens with prose problems, such as flowery or overly descriptive verbiage.
I suppose! Of course whether a particular flowery, descriptive opening is a problem depends on the reader. The example in this post is certainly overdone:
This morning, while sipping my steaming hot and deliciously aromatic Mountain chai with creamy half and half and gazing out my window at the cerulean sky, I pondered on the inevitable curiosity borne of dissecting why working authors succumb to the passion of crafting overwrought prose.
But part of that is not the pile o’ adverbs and adjectives, it’s that some of the clauses are stupid. “Pondered on the inevitable curiosity borne of” is kinda nonsensical, which would interfere with an otherwise . . . still somewhat overdone sentence, granted. Cerulean is a great word, but, yeah, overdone here.
How about this opening:
No one really knew where Peri lived the year after the sea took her father and cast his boat, shrouded in a tangle of fishing net, like an empty shell back onto the beach.
Or this one:
While the ruler of the ancient city of Ombria lay dying, his mistress, frozen out of the room by the black stare of Domina Pearl, drifted like a bird on a wave until she bumped through Kyel Greve’s unguarded door to his bed, where he was playing with his puppets.
Or this one:
Her father ordered two full-grown trees to plant in the green area behind the inn. One was a kirrenberry, the tree of silence. Sit beneath it in spring or summer and its limbs, with their flat, dark leaves, would stretch noiselessly above you; in autumn or winter you would hear no rustle from its slender branches as it shook in the frenzied breeze.
Do you recognize those? The first two are books by Patricia McKillip: The Changeling Sea and Ombria in Shadow. The other is The Truth-Teller’s Tale by Sharon Shinn.
I wonder if, after being prompted by a handful of not-very-well-written intro sentences, an agent might be more likely to consider these sentences too flowery or descriptive? Granted you could load any of them up with a lot more adjectives and overdo it, but frankly they have plenty of flowery description already. I hadn’t quite realized how much McKillip does with metaphor when she’s writing description.
I don’t know that it would take too much to pull back that first bad example and make it sound okay. How about this:
This morning, while sipping my steaming hot and deliciously aromatic Mountain chai and gazing out my window at the cerulean sky, I pondered on why working authors succumb to the passion of crafting overwrought prose.
Still overdone? What do you think? Even with the cerulean sky, I’m not sure this would jump out at me as a bad example now — depending on what kind of book this was supposed to be. I could see this as the opening of a cozy mystery with an author or poet or someone like that as the protagonist.
Anyway, click through if you’d care to read the rest of the post and also get the links to parts one through five in the series.