I did the first module of my creative writing course.
It was all about voice, narrative, and tense. Good start. These things are basic, but something that you seem to take for granted.
After listening to the module, and reading the handouts, the group had to write a first paragraph. We had to write it to make is stand out from the 'slop' pile of manuscripts that a publisher might get.
This was mine:
Quiet. Got to be quiet. The darkness is solid black, but her eyes are wide open. Her little body is curled up in the womb of her sheets. Wet. The acrid smell of her own urine, but she lays still, unable to move. There is one strip of light, shadows moving across it, where the voices are coming from. Her father's rage. Her mother's screams and sobs. She is frozen on her mattress, listening for what seems like ages, her heartbeat rocking through her whole body. Then the thumping began, the pounding into the soft flesh of her mother. The shrieks. Then silence.
I wasn't conscious of some of the things that we learnt in the module, though. I obviously used the third person, but tried to get a personal narrative happening. I tried to keep the sentences short, so the speed of the paragraph flowed fast and created more tension. However, I jumped around with my tenses a bit, and my grammar wasn't fantastic.
Here's the comments from the online tutor:
Oh, Jacqui, this is heartbreaking. And technically very well done except for some small niggles.
Good use of sentence fragments and internal discourse. Nice pace and good suspense.
The niggles? You shift tense. You are in present tense the whole time until ‘began’, which is past tense. It should also be ‘lies there’, not ‘lays there’.
Otherwise, this is working well. However, I want you to think about why you are using present tense, which is more demanding both of readers and of you. It is technically harder to tell a story in present tense, so if you choose it you should know why. I’m not saying ‘don’t use it’ – but make it a conscious choice, not something you just fall into.
So far, so good. I'm learning, which is the main thing. Just got to write!