It's time for another first paragraph critique! Hooray!
A reminder about my critiques:
You can email paragraphs to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or if you have a Goodreads account you can post them in this thread.
Before you submit, you might want to read this post on what I think makes a good story beginning (and revise your paragraph accordingly). And try not to go over 100-200 words. That might not seem like a lot, but I try to be very thorough. Also, I will always get your approval of my critique before I post it. :)
This paragraph comes from my Goodreads friend Cara. Hope you all enjoy this and find it helpful! :)
"The night is quiet and snow softly falls around me. There's a thin layer of it covering the road I walk on. There are no stars out, no moon. The lights of the big white houses are all out. No lights are allowed on after midnight, except for the streetlights. The air is cold but it's not too bad and there's no wind. It would be the kind of night Pax would call perfectly beautiful, except she is not here and the beauty is ruined by the remnants of a burnt down house."
1. This opening instantly puts the reader in a clear setting––on a dark street, lined with big white houses, and it's snowing. Right away, the reader has a clear picture of where the beginning of the story is taking place.
2. There are surprising and mysterious elements in this paragraph which create an air of intensity. There's something "off" about the whole thing that grabs the reader's interest. There's not much explanation, but there doesn't necessarily need to be ... because it shows a lot without telling, while still leaving room for curiosity. The reader gets the feeling that we're in some sort of creepy futuristic/utopian society. ("No lights are allowed on after midnight, except for streetlights.")
We don't know who Pax is, although it can be assumed she is a friend of the main character––and the narrator pointing out that "she is not here" adds to the creepy feeling. Who knows––maybe I'm reading into things too much, and Pax is just not there because she's at home. But the fact that her absence is mentioned, alongside the sudden mention of a "burnt down house" seems to suggest that something bad might have happened to her. Either way, the reader is immediately engaged and has several questions in mind: Where is this taking place? Who is Pax? Why is she not there? Why is there a burnt down house?
What could be improved:
1. "The night is quiet and snow softly falls around me. There's a thin layer of it covering the road I walk on. There are no stars out, no moon."
--> This doesn't immediately grab my attention because it's just a description of snow. I don't feel engaged/interested in the paragraph until "No lights are allowed on after midnight ..." This is the first striking sentence to me, because it's unexpected and original. I suggest rearranging the sentence so that you start with this sentence and build the rest of the paragraph around it:
"No lights are allowed on after midnight, except for the streetlights. The lights of the big white houses are all out. The night is quiet and snow softly falls around me. There's a thin layer of it covering the road I walk on. There are no stars out, no moon. The air is cold but it's not too bad and there's no wind. ..."
2. "The air is cold but it's not too bad and there's no wind."
--> "Not too bad" is a bit vague. What exactly do you mean by that? If the air is cold, why is it "not too bad"? Does the narrator not mind the cold, or possibly even like the cold? Or you could even cut out the "not too bad" and leave it at, "The air is cold, but at least there's no wind."
You do an excellent job setting a tone and setting. I recommend grabbing the reader's attention just a little sooner, and being more specific in places, but over all this is a pretty solid beginning. Great job!
Good luck with your writing endeavors! :)