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I was wondering if this opening of my book enticed readers to read further. The book is a dystopian novel. This is NOT a complete chapter, it is only a part of it. Please leave comments on how I can improve this or what changes are needed. Please be critical.

My eyes were open before my alarm sounded. Normally I would be tired or groggy, but not today. I was wide awake. After quickly shutting off the alarm, I sat up and glanced at the display. 8:30am, August 31. The last day of the month.

I got up and headed to the bathroom. There wasn’t a need to splash cold water on my face to wake myself up, but I did it anyway. Going back to my room, I found an outfit of clothes already put out for me. Mom; she must be worried. There wasn’t any other reason a parent would dress their 17 year old son.

Downstairs, my mom was cooking breakfast in the kitchen. I smelled eggs and toast. The smell of eggs made my mouth water a little. We rarely had eggs for a meal. The only way to get eggs in Sector 4 was to buy them from the market at the crack of dawn.

When my mom saw me, she put on a smile. “Morning, sweetie.” Her eyes had slightly dark circles under them. It looked like she barely got any sleep last night.

“Morning mom.” I took a seat at the table.

She brought over a plate of eggs and toast along with a glass of water. “Here you go.”

As soon as I began eating, my dad came through the front door. He had taken the night shift and must have just gotten off. He was dressed in his work clothes which consisted of an orange vest, white shirt, jeans and boots.

He was a Divide Keeper; they monitored the wall and made sure it was secure. Many of the residents of Sector 4 were Divide Keepers. The hours weren’t too long and it paid enough. It was one of the only decent jobs anyone in our position could get.

“Hey buddy, good morning!”

“Morning Dad.” I said, “Want some breakfast?”

He was obviously tired, but he grinned at the sight of the food. “Are those eggs?”

My mom placed another plate of eggs on the table. “Yes they are and these are for you.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek.

He sat down next to me and shook salt onto his eggs. “So, are you nervous?”

To be honest, I wasn’t. I knew I should have been a least a bit nervous, but I really wasn’t. “No, I don’t think so.”

My mom pitched in. “It’s alright to be a little nervous, but you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Somehow, I don’t think she was talking to me. It felt like she was saying it to my dad and herself.

“I’m fine guys, really.” I assured them. “Besides, they say it's only a 2% chance I'd be compatible.”

“You never know bud, you never know.”

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1  
My immediate thought is that this is a fairly direct lift of The Hunger Games with a little Divergent thrown in. So no, I don't want to read any more, because it smacks of "ripoff" to me. Sorry. Your story may in fact be quite original, but that's not the vibe I'm getting here. –  Lauren Ipsum Aug 26 at 10:17
    
Got it, thank you. This part of the story does seem like a rip off. I'll skip it and start at a non-rip off scene. Thanks again –  Nate_Writes Aug 26 at 11:00
1  
If this is a rip-off of THG's start, then THG's start is a rip-off of The Giver's start, which in turn is a rip-off of Ramona the Pest's start. How many books start with a kid/teen/adult waking up [StartOptional] and having a special breakfast with family [EndOptional] on an exciting, future-determining day? –  dmm Aug 26 at 16:37
    
Yes it does make me want to read further and figure out more about being 'compatible'. Good stuff –  Victor123 Aug 26 at 17:11
    
I always thought the Hunger Games was a rip off of Battle Royale: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_Royale_(film) –  Alexandro Chen Aug 27 at 6:21

3 Answers 3

My personal opinion? Do not rush it. Do I need to know that its 31st August? Do I need to know that main character is 17 years old boy? Do I need to know that there is some "Wall" which needs to be protected?

The intro should give me a hint about what’s going to happen. And not little details about something which can be revealed later. I will think about it and edit my answer later on, how you could improve on this.

But, yes, it makes me wonder what is going to happen. But also, I am going to place a bet on the fact, that the main character will be compatible (whatever it means)

EDIT. Ok, here we go. I don’t know why, but I feel like that you should write the dystopian scifi in hardboiled way:

I did hit the snooze button exactly one second after it went off. There was no need for alarm today, I was already wide awake. I knew what is going on today, but still, it was time for my every day routine.

Glanced at myself in the bathroom mirror. There was no need to splash self with cold water, but I did it anyway. "Today is the day," I tried my best deep voice, but it sounded more like child who is trying to impress someone. And I was not impressed.

Smell of the eggs from downstairs made my mouth water. Another reminder, that today is somewhat special day. My mother had to go to the market when it was still night, just to get those for me today.

When I came down, my father just went in from his night shift at the Wall. "Good morning! Are those eggs?" he smiled, but wrinkles on his eyes gave me the information, that this was yet another hard day in the job.

My mom was just preparing the breakfast - and dinner for my dad: "Yes. And there are some for you." answered and gave him kiss on the cheek.

"Happy 17th birthday," told me when I received my plate. "Today is the day."

My dad looked me in the eye and told me: "It’s all right to be a little nervous, but you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Somehow, I don’t think he was talking to me. It felt like he was saying it to my mom and himself.

“I’m fine guys, really.” I assured them. “Besides, they say it's only a 2% chance I'd be compatible.”

“You never know bud, you never know.”

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Your re-write needs editing, but I like how you've winnowed out the chaff. –  dmm Aug 26 at 16:40
    
Feel free to use it, tweak it or edit it. I am not saying that this is the best way of doing it, but at least somewhat better ;) –  Pavel Janicek Aug 26 at 18:50

It's science fiction, and more specifically dystopic fiction. That means the purpose of the story is to highlight the differences between the fictional, 'incorrect' reality and our own 'correct' one.^ That means that in order to keep the reader interested, you have to start the scavenger search for anomalies as soon as possible. What you should be concerned about is the reader being bored.

Similarities between the fictional world and ours serve to throw the horror of dystopia into relief, at least in a novel. They become more effective the more the reader knows about the underlying horror. Due to the pacing the introduction you write reads more like a short story with a punchy twist ending. A lovely genre in its own right, but radically different stylistic conventions.

Most of the best, most memorable openings I recall in all the SFF I read introduced abnormality (and by extension mystery) in the first or second sentence. Here, the reader doesn't know the significance of the last day of the month, or of fried eggs, which makes them boring. I can see that you're trying to create an ironic paralel between a typical 'first day of school' story and what I assume is some sort of human sacrifice. You want the reader to know that as soon as possible.

To make the opening gripping you need to move it along more briskly and trim the fat. Establish the significance of the event early on. Skim on the day-to-day details, and focus on the narrator's reaction. Instead of describing dad salting the eggs and letting the reader surmise that the narrator slept poorly due to fear, try doing the opposite.

In conclusion: think about the story from a reader's point of view. The question a reader asks immediately upon opening a book is, 'Why am I reading this?' To find your perfect opening scene you need to identify the answer to this question. And then deliver what you promised.

^Unless you want to get political by allegorizing an injustice in our own present day world.

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I just tightened it up, removing verbs of the to-be form, removing adverbs, and any redundancies. I agree that the Sectors seem a little too Hunger Games, but otherwise I didn't have a problem with it. As one of the other posters said, lots of books start out like that.

As a professional writer, I think the writing style could use some revision and honing to make me want to keep writing. In terms of the subject matter, I'm interested.


My eyes opened before my alarm sounded. Normally tired and groggy when I woke, today I was wide awake. I waited in bed until the alarm went off. 8:30am, August 31. The last day of the month.

There was no need to splash cold water on my face to wake myself up, but I did it anyway. In my room I found an outfit of clothes already put out for me. Mom must be worried. There wasn’t any other reason a parent would dress their 17 year old son.

Downstairs, I smelled eggs, my mouth watering as the unexpected treat. The only way to get eggs in Sector 4 was to buy them at the crack of dawn.

When I entered, my mom put on a smile. “Morning, sweetie.” Her eyes had dark circles under them, like she'd barely gotten any sleep last night.

“Morning, mom.” I took a seat at the table.

She brought over a plate of eggs and toast. “Here you go.”

As I took the first bite, my dad came through the front door, still dress in the orange vest, white shirt and jeans he wore to work. He'd taken the night shift and just got home.

He was a Divide Keeper, his job was to monitor the wall and keep it secure. Many residents of Sector 4 were Divide Keepers because the hours weren’t too long and it paid enough. It was one of the only decent jobs anyone in our position could get.

“Hey buddy, good morning!”

“Morning Dad.” I said, “Want some breakfast?”

He was obviously tired, but he grinned at the sight of the food. “Are those eggs?”

My mom placed another plate of eggs on the table. “Yes, they are. These are for you.” She kissed him on the cheek.

He sat next to me and shook salt onto his eggs. “So, are you nervous?”

My mom stared at us, frozen in mid-step.

To be honest, I wasn’t. I knew I should have been, a least a bit, but I really wasn’t. “No, I don’t think so.”

My mom pitched in. “It’s alright to be a little nervous, but you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Somehow, I don’t think she was talking to me. It felt like she was saying it to my dad and herself.

“I’m fine guys, really.” I assured them. “Besides, they say it's only a 2% chance I'd be compatible.”

“You never know, bud, you never know.”

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