The sun rose steadily over the horizon as Davas sat alone, thoughts of his future occupying his mind. His past was as clear and fixed as the windows peering into the building across the square, but his future was as transparent as the stone bench he was sitting on. If only, he thought, could he be as certain of his future as he was his past.
His thoughts wandered as two birds sang an inviting tune in a tree a short distance away as the frigid breeze swept across the ocean's surface, forcing Davas to cling tightly to his heavy cloak and ask himself why he had come to the Citadel so early.
"So birds. What would you do if you were me?" he laughed to himself.
Appreciate any feedback and I know this is just a small sample so if anyone would like to read the first three chapters I would appreciate that too.
You lost me with the first paragraph; faux philosophy is a pet hate of mine. My next problem: the prose feels contrived, as if you're hunting for a voice you're not comfortable with. Dare I suggest you're trying for a philosophical flavour; trying to endow this character with a 'spiritual' quality?
Either way, I don't get a feel for time, place, character, want or desire, or looming dramatic complication. And that's why it doesn't work for me.
Forlorn, perhaps due to isolation, as like a military recruit at a training camp or a student at college, or a camper at summer camp perhaps homesick, Davas figuratively contemplates his navel at dawn. He is stuck in a figurative bathtub with no guidance or direction for his decision of stay or go. No cause or antagonism given for his angst mood either. A prior cause or two are warranted.
Note nine uses of "as" for conjunctions. The first, eighth, and ninth are coordination conjunction uses and create run-on sentences. The remainder are paired adverbial-correlative uses and likewise create run-on sentences. The quantity is problematic in the first place. They are conventionally used for formal composition or conversational slang and are mixed, misused formal and slang uses in these cases. These signal careless prose writing and disrupt the all-important fiction dream. Prose use of conjunctions is best advised sparing, timely, and judicious. Though event sequences may be, in fact, fictionally contemporaneous, a best practice is to treat events sequentially: separate sentences for fluent event flow.
This is a transposed word order: " If only, he thought, could he be . . ." //he could be// likewise careless.
"Citadel," "the Order," and "Sentinel" entail empty expression, though those terms contain the greater significance value of the fragment; they suggest Clemson University. Taken together for a fantasy science fiction novel, they suggest a military-like semi-religious mystical training establishment. That could be a start of an action, if stronger realized by previously showing why Davas is moody. The fragment, though, is sentimentally melodramatic to an artless degree.
Also significance-wise, verbs express significance more readily than nouns, because verbs entail events familiar to readers. Nouns less so automatically familiar. The situation does to a degree develop Davas' character, somewhat angst-ridden, though is short on event significance; a slight amount of setting development, perhaps through an artful implication, as noted above about Clemson. Event, stuck-in-a-bathtub scene; setting, mystical training institution; character, youthful, angsty novitiate. Complication, clear, strong, and compelling -- antagonal, causal, tensional -- personal want and problem wanting satisfaction, nothing.
A strength of the fragment is setup of an emotional state, albeit angst.
For me, an appreciable shortfall of the fragment is the static portrait of Davas contemplating his navel. The scene could be an effect of prior undeveloped causes and antagonisms; in other words, the start could begin after an antagonal compulsion or two cause Davas to emote alone at dawn. Starts too late for me. I would not read on.
First, if you're only seven chapters in, I urge you not to worry about the beginning just yet. The first draft is to get the story down--only.
I suspect that the actual beginning of this story comes a few pages further in, but you'll have a better idea of where the story really starts once you've gotten all the way to the end.
The main weakness of this as a beginning for me is that it doesn't give me any reason to care about this character. Not even a clue about what he wants, but maybe thinks he can't get. Or a hint of conflict.
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quote:Originally posted by Meredith: The main weakness of this as a beginning for me is that it doesn't give me any reason to care about this character. Not even a clue about what he wants, but maybe thinks he can't get. Or a hint of conflict.
I concur with Meredith. The character is clearly troubled about something, but specifics are far better than vagueries for grabbing the attention of reader.
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Well, starting with the protagonist asking himself what he's going to do next seems a bit trite for me. This often suggests the seat-of-the-pants plotter's own bewilderment at what comes next.
I think compelling writing is usually about being specific. The scene opening here is almost relentlessly generic.
We have: a character. He's sitting on a bench by the ocean. There's a tree (unnamed and undescribed) with birds (unnamed and undescribed) singing (invitingly? what does that sound like?) in it, which is what generic "birds" do: sit in trees and sing prettily. They don't dart in and out with the waves like sanderlings do or dive for fish like cormorants or squabble over disgusting bits of organic refuse like gulls or, in fact,do any other species-specific thing. It's a generic-bird-in-a-generic-tree-doing-a-generic-bird-thing.
The character has: a dilemma (generic), which of course is given for protagonists. What else do we know about him? That he can recall his past but cannot predict his future -- again something which doesn't tell us very much about him. Did he flunk the Sorcerer's Academy entrance exam and is he now contemplating asking his uncle the commandant to pull some strings? Is he torn between joining the army or working for Dad's pogo stick factory? No, he's apparently got nothing but generic dilemma to chew on.
The one really idiosyncratic detail is the POV character's penchant for odd metaphors. What kind of a person actually compares his own inability to see the future with his inability to see through the chair he's sitting on? It has that same writer-casting-around-for-something-to-say quality, which might be witty if the POV character happens to be a blocked writer.
As Meredith observes, you don't have to get the opening right at this point. But you do have to write scenes which feel less schematic ('something goes here and then something is about to happen') and more true-to-life than this one does. If you have a tree, try to make it sound like you're transcribing your experiences an actual tree. Think about incorporating other senses if you're going for a descriptive opening -- is the bench cold? Is Davas' tunic scratchy or silky? Is there a rotten egg stench of low tide? Can Davas feel the beat of the surf through the seat of his pants?
Or, if you want to highlight the character's reflections on his situation, try to make those reflections sound like a real person- which starts of course with your having a thorough understanding of what his situation is. Everything in a good scene starts from your understanding, explicit or intuitive, of the underlying situation.
Aside from the lack of specificity you don't make any composition or mechanical blunders, other than using "laughed" as a dialog tag. That's a pretty good base to start from. Many people who try this end up sounding illiterate; you don't. You just sound tentative and unsure of yourself.
One last point: you don't have to do everything I or anyone else suggest. The thing about the 13 line exercise is that it's not very much room, and you don't want to clutter it by trying to please everyone. What you choose to do and not do are both important. As long as you do *something* interesting you needn't try to do everything.