The two pieces of feedback I've gotten are very different in helpfulness. The first one is very helpful, and the second one isn't. At all. Below are my paragraphs and corresponding feedback.
Paragraph one: Submitted for the "Alex has somewhere to go" prompt.
Alex knew that if he wanted to reach the castle, he was going to have to do something dangerous, and most likely stupid. He estimated that there were at least twenty guards to get through outside the castle, and he knew there were many more inside the castle guarding the girl in the stone. All he had was a broken bow, a rusty dagger, a bag of the old inventor’s explosives, and his wit. The rest of his unit had been captured, so he was on his own. He smiled. He was going to have fun.
Feedback: I love the idea of your first sentence, but it could use some tightening. Like, “If Alex wanted to reach the castle, it would require something dangerous. And likely stupid.” By removing the “was” and the “Alex knew,” it feels more like we’re inside Alex’s head, rather than just watching him. Same with the next line where there’s “he estimated” and “he knew.” If you instead say, “It looked as though there were at least twenty guards” then it, again, feels like we’re inside his head. Very good concept, just pull the reader in tighter.
I love this advice! This is something I can do. I usually write in first person, so getting this feed back for third person is really helpful.
Second paragraph: Submitted for the free write.
“More depends upon that sheep pasture than you will ever realize.” Martha’s prophetic words came back to me as I stood in that very pasture, looking over my burning village. She had been right, mostly. Now I knew most of what depended upon that rocky piece of land. Even with the knowledge I possessed, it was still hard to believe that the fate of the village, the country, and possibly the world depended on a sheep paddock. But I am getting ahead of myself. I need to start on the day that the coroner came to town.
Feedback: I think this is a creative idea, and I’m curious about why the sheep pasture is so vital. Those last lines about needing to back up the story have been overdone, I think. Both in literature ... and in this contest : )
Um, okay. So basically I got axed because the judge didn't like it that the paragraph was a obvious hook. I came up with that paragraph on a whim, and though I don't know how the story ends or who's in it or even what the main plot is, I know that the part after that opening would be kinda slow. The reason that backing up the story is done is to let the reader know that something interesting is going to happen and that it's worth reading through the slowish beginning. It's been "overused" because it makes for a good hook, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
So those are my views, what do you think? Also, if you would like to give me more feedback on my paragraphs, I'd love to hear it. If you do, just know that one of the criteria for both challenges was that they needed to read like the opening to a story.