Trent told me about the day the cops came. He’d heard them coming up the front porch, reaslied what they had come for, and jumped onto his computer to wipe the hard drive clean. Then they began pounding at the front door.

I woke from the commotion and stepped out of my room about the same time Chris stumbled out of his. Ahead of him, through the opaque glass which framed the front door, I could see the fluoro vests of the officers. I walked toward Chris who was trembling and whining in confusion. In keeping with his midlife crisis, he disallowed responsible thought processes.

 “Darien, what the fuck is going on?”

“Go into your room and close the door.” I glanced at his marijuana-print shorts. “They’ve no reason to search in there.”

Chris scurried back into his musky lair. The cops hammered at the door again.

“Hello?” came a woman’s voice. It was loud, firm and reasonable. “We’ve got a warrant for the arrest of Trent Cooper. Please open the door or we will forcibly enter.”

I stood at the front. Trent’s door was ajar and I pushed it open. He was at his desk with his face in his palms, black hair twisted through pale fingers.

“Trent, I’m gonna open up,” I said. He didn’t move. I turned the lock on the front door. The door was pushed open from the other side and I stumbled back.  

Instructor Response

Good work. I’ll suggest some changes and try to express my reasoning. With as much talent and craft skills as you have, I’d like to help you see how a reader might be more engaged in these crucial opening lines. I’ll use color coding: green for narrative looking back to the past. Blue for exposition. Highlight for in scene. I’ll leave dialogue as is but make comments and suggestions. Overall, there is too much expressed, and not enough focus on engaging. You’ve done an excellent job on who, where, and what! I’ll give some examples, not necessarily to be used but as possibilities to show what I mean about grabbing the reader and focusing on story. I’ll use some of the essentials given in the assignment directions and some references. I’ll underline when I’m commenting on the writing.

Trent told me about the day the cops came. He’d heard them coming up the front porch, realised what they had come for, and jumped onto his computer to wipe the hard drive clean. Then they began pounding at the front door.

I woke from the commotion and stepped out of my room about the same time Chris stumbled out of his. Ahead of him, through the opaque glass which framed the front door, I could see the fluoro vests of the officers. I walked toward Chris who was trembling and whining in confusion. In keeping with his midlife crisis, he disallowed responsible thought processes. [The last two sentences are information too early for this beginning. Overall, there is a shift in story time, and a lot of information that could be used later, even in some of the characterization. See below.]

 “Darien, what the fuck is going on?” [This needs attribution. It is important to leave no question as to who is speaking.]

“Go into your room and close the door.” I glanced at his marijuana-print shorts. [This information is too early. And it is not clear if he’s a user, a dealer, or just likes the shape of the leaf. You could straighten all this out at another time. To suggest it here weakens the opening I use for momentum in the example below.] “They’ve no reason to search in there.”  This is too obvious and sounds like fill. Need to be succinct in the opening.

Chris scurried [not the right word. Chris doesn’t sound like the scurry type. This would be an opportunity to got more accurate characterization in a single well-chosen word.]  back into his musky lair. The cops hammered at the door again.

“Hello?” came a woman’s voice. It was loud, firm and reasonable. “We’ve got a warrant for the arrest of Trent Cooper. Please open the door or we will forcibly enter.” [Work to keep dialogue succinct and story specific. See Dialogue, and Improving Dialogue essays.]

I stood at the front. [Of what? Be specific.] Trent’s door was ajar and I pushed it open. He was at his desk with his face in his palms, black hair twisted through pale fingers. [Too wordy for a beginning.]

“Trent, I’m gonna open up,” I said. He didn’t move. I turned the lock. on the front door. The door was pushed open from the other side and I stumbled back. [How about something like: “I turned the lock; the cops barged in.” In action, excessive words dilute the intensity.]

 

Here’s what I see as essentials for this opening:

                1. Introducing “I” and Chris. Darien too. Not clear about his role. A woman, not clear where she is in scene or who she is. Outside? A cop. Trent. [There are a lot of people and it’s not clear where they all are—many in different places and not clear how the front door relates to the other doors mentioned, and why and how all these people are related.

                2. Cops come.

                3. “I” decides to open front door and cops come in.

See how, with a little reorganization, you might increase threat and mystery.

               

We were all inside the house—Chris, Helen, Darien, Trent, and me. There was loud pounding on the front door. Through the glass window I could see cops in riot gear. “What the fuck?” Trent said from inside his room. “Jesus,” Chris said, sweeping packets of marijuana off the coffee table and stuffing them under the sofa. I turned the lock on the door. Trent came toward me and hit my arm. Too late. The cops burst in. 

 

Not great, but I hope it demonstrates bare-bones action, introducing characters and exposition, and shortened dialogue.

Recommend reading: Dialogue and Momentum

WHC

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