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Author Topic: Jack Emmanuel-Prologue
Faith A.
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Hi everyone! I started writing this book almost three years ago as a side fun project and work on it when I have time. I am looking for some honest feedback about everything I have written. I am stuck and not exactly sure where to go. This is my first attempt at writing anything like this. I have approximately 27,000 words according to the computer but that includes some notes for myself and extra sentences. This is a teen action fiction type book.

Having thousands of beady eyes stare at you as you gasp for air isn’t the most pleasant thing in the world. Knowing that hundreds of young boys’ lives depended on if you lived would drive any one to insanity.
I could think of nothing but the eyes of the boys that were forced to watch me die, watch me struggle for air. I had to protect them. I had to live or they would all die. Even if I make it through this, can I save all of them? Do I have the strength to?
One pair of eyes stood out above the rest, cold and unnaturally yellow. Not the eyes of one of the boys, but of a man, the man that was having me killed. His eyes were filled with hate, and conceit, and, for a moment, fear.

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Member # 3079

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Confusing in the end.

IMO -- I don't think it would drive a person to "insanity" but perhaps to desperation.

The second paragraph -- to me, IMO -- seems like it is also trying to be the opening paragraph -- the ideas presented seem to be a rehashing of the ones set forth in the first paragraph. Maybe other commentators will disagree.

With the third paragraph the story does move on a notch.

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Prologue openings are widely deprecated. This one doesn't quite feel like a prologue though. Generally, a prologue is given in a narrator's voice, removed from the persons and time, place, and situation (or setting) of a dramatic action. This opening is reported from within the time, place, and situation, and from a character's viewpoint, albeit first person narrator.

The first two sentences given in second person impersonal signal a deeply introspective piece overall. Then the first person narrator comes into the foreground.

Thirteen lines, one hundred thirty or so words isn't much real estate to introduce a narrative opening's many essentials. This one introduces a narrator and character voice, the central character, a dramatic complication (a want or problem wanting satisfaction), and a villain. Who mostly and to a degree what. Where, when, why, and how are pending, though I think their introductions could be brought into the thirteen lines.

Where does this execution scene take place? I project a swimming pool for no reason I can ascertain, that's a possible how answer anyway. Maybe because the narrator implies she's drowning from gasping for breath. I also project the narrator is a she from voice features, like "beady eyes," "isn't the most pleasant thing in the world," and other feminine voice characteristics.

When in relative time does this scene take place? How about including a time marker that readers can relate to? Giving a where clue or two could serve to introduce the era when this takes place.

What is the dramatic situation of the scene? Someone is being executed in front of a large audience somewhere and somewhen and somehow, that's partially what, but executed for what? Also why? Again, I think a clue or two could be given in this opening.

Rhetorical questions are also widely deprecated. "Even if I make it through this, can I save all of them? Do I have the strength to?" An issue with rhetorical questions is they summarize dramatic questions that as a best practice should be posed artfully, so that readers raise them, not narrator or writer. However, timely, judicious rhetorical questions are part of teen reader appeal.

One grammatical glitch, second sentence, "any one." "Any one" pronoun phrase refers to the subject "young boys' lives," any one of the young boys' lives. Impersonal pronoun anyone, meaning any person at all, I think is what you intend.

[ June 09, 2013, 01:16 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Faith A.
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Thanks, I will keep that in mind. I have always enjoyed knowing a part of situation and learning details as I read, but that is just me. Questions such as when, where, and why are answered as the book goes on...though I will admit that the why is not completely written but is still in the drafting process.

Jack is actually a boy. I hadn't even considered the fact that his language might seem feminine (but makes sense considering I am a girl). I will work on that.

Arriki, I used insanity because of other things I have/had planned to happen to him before this.

Thanks again.

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1) The most common reasons for writer's block in speculative fiction is not knowing the world well enough or not knowing the character well enough. If you fleshed both out a little further, you might have a clearer picture of:
  • What your setting looks like.
  • What Jack's feeling (and Jack is a cliche name, so you might want to rethink that).
  • Who is trying to kill him and why (and yes, we can read on and find out, but you have to show us you have enough of a command over the situation as a writer to make us believe you will come through if we go on).
  • Why he is not able to just run away, or has no friends.

2) Defending what you wrote is a sign you need to develop what we like to call a "thicker skin." I had to learn this lesson the hard way. So, I'll try and explain: You cannot explain what you mean to readers who pick your work up, and, as a writer, you shouldn't have to. Setting the scene, character and time period should never be something the reader has to dig for. If they do, they won't go on. If we tell you something is confusing to us, don't explain, look at why we could be confused. To paraphrase Robert Louis Stevenson, Our job as writers is not to write to be understood, but to never be misunderstood.

3) This scene has "floating head syndrome." All the reader can visualize is glowing eyes, and no way of distinguishing how Jack (unnamed) can tell boy-eyes from grown-up eyes, or how he can read the expressions.

I hope this helps.

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Jack is kind of a confusing name. It could possibly be a boy or a girl (even though in cliches it's used for boys) and there aren't any hints otherwise.

I also have been told that your beginning of a story is like a promise to the reader about the end. But this is like reading the promise through a foot of murky water.

We know he/she has to save the boys. But from who? Why? Does the character care just because? Or is the reason? Maybe the guy who has them (he's kind of confusing to me) took his/her little brother as well? I dunno.

Other than that, I think it is a pretty grabbing opening!

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Jed Anderson
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Start with the second paragraph. It's stronger.
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