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I'm working on a new M/M romance novel about a guy who's trying out nudism and an experience nudist. Does my opening paragraph succeed in drawing in the readers attention and making them curious? Does it give too much information or not enough?

My public speaking professor from freshman year always told us to picture our audience naked when we got nervous. It was her no-fail technique for over coming your nerves. Well, apparently that doesn’t work so well when they actually are naked. And when you're about to be naked as well. My heart skipped a beat as I walked past one of the signs proclaiming the beach clothing-optional. It sent both a thrill and a jolt of fear through my body.

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Yeah, not bad. Keep it up. –  gmoore Feb 5 '11 at 3:11

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

I think this is solid in concept but flawed in execution. I can't help but wonder if you started out with something else about the dream where you suddenly realise you're naked and how it doesn't help if everyone else is too but thought that was too cheesy.

The problem with the whole "audience" thing is that I am presuming that your main guy is, at the outset, about to enter the nudist colony nude for the first time. Although I get the emotional beat of him feeling like the other nudists are an "audience" who will be assembled to criticise his body I don't think it's appropriate to compare the expected nudist audience with a literal audience sat in chairs and observing so directly. At least not all jumbled up in one paragraph.

I don't think it's a show stopper but I'd be tempted to simplify and pick apart this emotional experience of going somewhere you'd expect to be clothed without your clothes on. This is the age of the interwebs, surely you could hunt down a "nudist blog" that begins with someone describing their own first time sans apparel to get your head in that mode.

Having said that I can't think of a better place to start a story like this than in the "Undressing Room" before the first foray into the world of nudism. It's just I feel you don't have to put so many concepts in one place. It will work better if its simpler IMO.

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Here's my suggestions:

My public speaking professor from freshman year always told us to picture our audience naked when we got nervous. It was her no-fail technique for overcoming your nerves.

But was it the protag's technique? I don't care as much for what the professor thought worked--did it work for the protag until now?

Well, apparently that doesn’t work so well when they actually are naked. And when you're about to be naked as well. My heart skipped a beat as I walked past one of the signs proclaiming the beach clothing-optional. It sent both a thrill and a jolt of fear through my body.

The sentence "when you're about to be naked as well" is a great closer. The following sentences serve only to dilute the hook. Plus, it seems like there is a change of setting here: the opening sets us up to have the protag speak to a large group of naked people, while the closing sentences suggest that it's actually a nude beach.

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It is actually a nude beach. =P –  Ralph Gallagher Jan 21 '11 at 19:04
    
I agree with JSBangs the change in setting was strange, for some reason it gave me the impression of a job-interview and then -bang- your at the beach. –  Dan Hanly Jan 22 '11 at 17:42
    
okay maybe job interview was off the mark, but you do go from having no setting at all, to a beach setting pretty quickly. Introduce the beach slowly –  Dan Hanly Jan 22 '11 at 17:43

I wouldn't start out your first sentence the way you did. The problem with the sentence, is that "picturing your audience naked" is such a well known and oft repeated technique, that it borders on being cliché. I do think it's alright to reference the technique, but I wouldn't use it as your leading sentence.

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It could be "lampshaded": "It's such a cliché to picture your audience naked but ... " –  Malvolio Apr 15 '11 at 3:27

Fun idea. The professor's advice isn't the interesting part--get to the naked! I'd almost write your article in reverse.

My heart skipped a beat as I walked past one of the signs proclaiming the beach clothing-optional.

It sets up immediately the where and hints at the what. From there, you can get to the nerves, though I'd cut out the unnecessary freshman year detail:

My public speaking professor from freshman year always told us to picture our audience naked when we got nervous. Well, apparently that doesn’t work so well when they actually are naked. When you're about to be naked as well.

(I removed the "And" from the last sentence as well. If you're going to write a fragment sentence, then just do it. "And" seemed to dillute the impact.)

Then you can jump into the action.

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