I am trying a different approach to starting this story and I'd like some feedback on these first 13 lines. Originally, the story opens the night Troy burns as the Mycenaean's sack the city. It's pretty full-on battle right at the start.
But, someone suggested that's not the way most publised SF starts. In fact, according to him, 85% of all SF starts with situational or some other type of exposition to set the reader's mind in the right place.
This is my attempt. The story is fantasy and set predominantly in a different reality. Any comments appreciated.
PS: Hope I've done this right.
The gods of man are multitudinous, and nowhere to be seen. Always, some claim to have seen god, talked with god, been gifted by the godís; but no one has seen God in the marketplace. Always man interprets the will of the gods; the crops failing and children starving are the gods punishing us. Never though, do we see a living God point the finger of doom, and pull the trigger. That is here, on our world, in our reality. But is our reality all there is?
In another reality, beyond the corner of our eye, an envious God makes a fateful choice. He moves, and doing so, bumps his reality into ours and the tiniest of fissures appears. He takes only what he wants from our world then dismisses us from his mind. Aeons pass before he realises his mistake.
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The writing here is fine, but you haven't given us a character to follow, or a reason to care. Could you post your original first thirteen, so we can compare?
Posts: 1165 | Registered: Jan 2008
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These are the original 1st 13 (slighty amended after some critiquing):
A burning city does not die quietly and Troy was no exception. Khryseis grunted when the Mycenaean hoplite shrugged the shoulder he had thrown her over. She had stopped her struggles. Let him think I have accepted my fate as captive, slave and concubine, she thought. I need to get the dagger out from behind my belt without cutting off my own fingers. And dangling over a shoulder isnít making it easy.
As its razor sharp edge sliced through the hamstring behind the Mycenaeanís left knee, Khryseis tried to break her legs free of his grasp. She was only partially successful. As he screamed and crashed to the ground, her right leg was trapped under him. Worse, her dagger was knocked from her grasp and clattered out of reach on the cobblestones.
I think the opening you wrote first--the "action scene"--is better, for the reasons Shimiqua mentioned--giving us a specific character and a focused scene to follow. However, I think even that intro doesn't feel very immediate, because of your use of . . . not quite passive voice, but it *feels* like passive voice . . . Like, the sentence structure of "As this, then this" makes the action feel less urgent. This sentence was particularly confusing:
quote:Khryseis grunted when the Mycenaean hoplite shrugged the shoulder he had thrown her over.
partly because the name Khryseis really doesn't tell me instantly the character's gender, so I'm not sure who's been thrown over whose shoulder. And then it takes me a moment (and the next sentence) to realize you mean she's actually being *carried* over his shoulder, as opposed to having been thrown Judo-style to the ground, "over" his shoulder. Ya know?
If you're gonna start with action, then use very immediate, in-the-now sentences. Don't tell me she "had been" thrown over his shoulder--rather, tell me that she *is* hanging like a sack of flour or a slain deer (or some such world-relevant comparison) over the man's shoulder. Then stay very present-tense as you show what she does about it. (without being *literally* present-tense . . . If that makes any sense.)
Alternately, I actually did find the concept in your "world-setting" first 13 interesting--the only problem is it took you a while to get to it. The entire first paragraph is just philosophizing . . . which is much harder to turn into an interesting start. If you just cut that first paragraph and started with the second, I think it would be much more engaging. In fact, you don't need *anything* beyond that second paragraph to set the basic scene and situation. It's less a "prologue" and more a . . . I dunno, like one of those quotes placed at the head of a chapter, you know? Sets the tone, but is so short and concise that it doesn't interrupt or hinder the flow of the reading . . . it tells me that this story will be fantasy, thanks to alternate realities and clearly active gods; and it tells me that you will be crossing our familiar reality with your fantasy one. Which is all the information I need to go on. The rest of your setting will be better described in context, as the story progresses.
Hope my ramblings are somewhat useful! Good luck to you.
Posts: 110 | Registered: Feb 2011
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Thanks for pointing out I'd written an intro for an intro. Sometimes a writer can't see the bleedin' obvious. And now I realise that the name Khryseis is not one you'd immediately asociate with a woman, like Elizabeth. Makes me feel like an idiot.
The 'new' 1st 13 now looks like this:
In another reality, just beyond the corner of our eye, an envious God moves. And in doing so, his reality bumps into ours. He takes what he wants and dismisses us from his mind. Millennia pass, and realising his mistake, he moves again. In our world, he changes some genes in a male embryo, and creates a link between realities. Sixteen years later, he returns and whispers into the mind of a man named Odysseus, a King desperate to go home.
Burning cities do not die quietly, and Troy was no exception. Khryseis stopped her struggles, then grunted when the Mycenaean hoplite shrugged the shoulder she was dangling over. Let him think I have accepted my fate as captive, slave and concubine, she thought. I need to get the dagger from behind my belt...
Mmmm . . . I actually like the original version better, of the "envious god moves" bit . . . it's intriguing, yet vague, and simply sets a backdrop/tone. This new one tells me more of what's going on, but the more specific details takes it away from "tone-setting" and more into straight-up back story, which for whatever reason I'm not liking as much. I dunno. This comment can't be terribly helpful, sorry.
And then, hitting a point I didn't bring up last time--I'd probably cut out the line: "Burning cities do not die quietly, and Troy was no exception." Because it has little to do with the more immediate action going on with Khryseis. And K's dilemma, in turn, does nothing to support the claim that Troy isn't burning quietly--there's not much noise involved, as yet. . . .
And hey, no need to feel like an idiot! We all miss the insanely obvious, when it comes to our own work. Every nuance and connotation is so solidly fleshed out in our own minds (sometimes), that it's hard to remember that the reader hasn't been living in the midst of this nebulous story in our heads, as we have ourselves. And that's what we Hatrackers are here for: to point out the blatantly obvious to one another.
Posts: 110 | Registered: Feb 2011
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The advice to start with exposition could be good advice, but there's more than one way of getting a reader into the right frame of mind. It could be an image or a piece of dialog. I suspect that spec fiction readers are a bit more willing to take exposition in an opening than other genre fans, but that privilege ought not be abused for world-building purposes. That's a long row you've got to hoe and there's no shortcuts. But exposition for thematic purposes is a different kettle of fish.
Personally, I like the "The gods of man..." opening better, although I begin to have my doubts by the second paragraph. If this went on for pages it would be too much, because you want to get the story moving, introducing the characters and their problems. One paragraph is OK, half a page is acceptable, longer than that exposition quickly wears out its welcome.
I liked the second, "Khryseis" start less well, because it is melodramatic. Of course the *scenario* is inherently dramatic, but remember that it is very difficult to establish an emotional connection between readers and characters on the very first page. Often putting them in peril so soon doesn't have the desired effect. But if you contrive to make the events of the attempted rape of Khryseis (not by Agamemnon?) an example of the kind of "fateful choice" a god makes, it might work.
In the third version "In another reality, just beyond the corner of our eye, an envious God moves," note that "god" should not be capitalized unless you are talking about the Almighty God of monotheistic religion. This version seems a bit cluttered to me, like you're trying to put too much into it (in response to suggestions?). We've got a lot to process here, and not much focus.
In the third version, consider using free indirect speech (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_indirect_speech) for Khryseis' thoughts. The narrator can speak them directly without tags once the focus is on her predicament. You can go from cosmic items, to Khryseis' perceptions, to her thoughts, like focusing a camera.
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