Hatrack River Writers Workshop   
my profile login | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Sention- Prologue

Author Topic: Sention- Prologue
Sara Luikert
Member # 10487

 - posted      Profile for Sara Luikert   Email Sara Luikert         Edit/Delete Post 
Hey Everyone! Its an Epic Fantasy and usually the prologue's are pretty long, mines short. So tell me what you think.

A single sprig of grass dared to wonder the blackened remnants of Ramel. It hadn’t felt the heat, the searing flames or the smoke which dowsed the sky in grease and ash.

From the terrace of his former home, Beniel stood. Flames licked, crackling and popping as they munched on what remained of his memories. Those delicate memories that crumbled at his feet, nothing but dust and pain.

His hand shook on the metal railings, his lungs filling with the acrid smoke. He wouldn’t leave. Someone coughed and his hand clenched, preparing himself. Below, far below, a mound burned, hot and furious. Bodies. The last of his blue-eyed people.

“You will die too,” he said, his throat raw.

[ June 11, 2016, 04:56 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

Posts: 14 | Registered: Feb 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Disgruntled Peony
Member # 10416

 - posted      Profile for Disgruntled Peony   Email Disgruntled Peony         Edit/Delete Post 
This definitely feels like first draft description. There are a lot of awkward phrases and grammatical inconsistencies. You're trying for an epic fantasy feel, but the current limitations of the prose sell it short.

The first sentence confused me right off the bat, because I didn't know what Ramel was. I later figured it out through context, but the goal of the first sentence is to draw the reader in, not to distance them. There's no clear subject in the second sentence, which leaves it rather vague.

The first sentence of the second paragraph is static. Beniel is just... standing. I honestly feel like you could cut the second paragraph entirely, because his hands shaking on the railing at the start of paragraph three is much more dramatic.

Paragraph three almost drew me in, but an undisclosed 'someone' coughing out of the blue pulled me back out. I'd recommend a paragraph break with that sentence, because it's really the start of a new series of actions. In my experience it's best to keep one idea per sentence and one group of related sentences per paragraph. If they stop being related, a new paragraph is in order.

Also, what is the significance of Beniel's people being blue-eyed?

[ June 11, 2016, 05:39 PM: Message edited by: Disgruntled Peony ]

Posts: 745 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Grumpy old guy
Member # 9922

 - posted      Profile for Grumpy old guy   Email Grumpy old guy         Edit/Delete Post 
Prologues: I find them about as useful as flashbacks--a waste of time and writer effort. In fact I consider them a distraction that robs all power from a story's opening. If the information is important to the unfolding narrative there are better ways to get it into the reader's head than by Prologue. Why not be radical and include it in the actual story?

Having gotten that bias out of the way (I have a few more, btw), let's look at the submitted fragment.

On the face of it a man sands on the edge of tragedy and, what, ponders, wallows in regret? We don't really know and seeing I don't know anything about him or the circumstances why should I care? He could be the world's bloodiest tyrant. In the end I find that this opening hangs in the air with nothing to support it.

As for the actual writing I am left wondering about a few things:

A single sprig of grass dared to wonder the . . .. What exactly does a sprig of grass wonder about?

From the terrace of his former home, Beniel stood. So, Beniel isn't exactly standing on the terrace but from it. Just where is he standing?

I would not read on.


Posts: 1937 | Registered: Sep 2012  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Sara Luikert
Member # 10487

 - posted      Profile for Sara Luikert   Email Sara Luikert         Edit/Delete Post 
Thank you Grumpy old guy and Disgruntled Peony. You have given me a lot to think about!

I added the prologue after I finished the first draft.

You are right, there does need to be more explanation! In an effort to build suspense I discarded the emotional pull.

Posts: 14 | Registered: Feb 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Disgruntled Peony
Member # 10416

 - posted      Profile for Disgruntled Peony   Email Disgruntled Peony         Edit/Delete Post 
It's easy to forget in the heat of the moment, but emotional pull is actually the best way to build suspense. The more the reader cares, the more they'll worry.
Posts: 745 | Registered: May 2015  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Member # 8019

 - posted      Profile for extrinsic   Email extrinsic         Edit/Delete Post 
An individual views the aftermath of a fire.

Interior discourse and close narrative distance challenge many writers, that curious transference of third person from first person that looks out from the inside of a viewpoint persona's perspective yet through a covert narrator's received reflections. That's well done in the fragment.

This is a prelude, though, not a prologue, or, more precisely, an after-lude. An after-action report given in scene mode, or show. Prologues are given in tell's summary and explanation mode and from an overt narrator voice.

The language forces emotional charge and is on the awkward side, diction in particular. Terms like "A single sprig of grass dared to wonder" Presumably, "wonder" is a typo for wander. Though grass wanders across landscapes when it grows, a single live grass blade is fixed in place. Perhaps a word like dared by itself more emotionally and less awkwardly suits the context and texture. //A single grass sprig dared the blackened remnants of Ramel.//

Context: who, when, and where; texture: what, why, and how.

Likewise, somewhat less awkward, though, "smoke which dowsed the sky in grease and ash" "dowsed" is the problematic word there. Means plunged into water, extinguished, etc. Somewhat synonym drowned tests whether "dowsed" suits the contexture. I think not.

A word choice may be artfully awkward and work for me, work generally for readers. A label for that type of diction choice is "estranging metaphor," personal, private to a viewpoint persona expression that estranges a narrator's voice in favor of a viewpoint persona's voice, the agonist in this case, and metaphorically expresses substantive meaning. "Dowsed" almost serves that estrangement function, though confuses the sky's up for dowse's down. Perhaps a word like choked serves the intent, and that further expresses the pall's sensory effects on Beniel, visual and tactile -- that he chokes on the smoke (actually a proprioception sensation: perception of sensations internal to the self). Or gagged, or the like or something similarly though differently sensual, to mean sensation: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, and, most crucial of all, emotional feeling.

I don't often see proprioception sensations in narratives, though, when I do, they can have a peculiarly potent expression power.

The grease and ash laden sky, now that is profound and sublime. That's a subtle piece of foreshadowing that the grease in particular is fire-flashed grease from burned flesh. The grease and ash express artfully, imply, that this is a place raiders sacked and burned. Exquisite method.

This is confusing: "From the terrace of his former home, Beniel stood." Two grammar principles are on point therein. One that preposition from, a sentence object connector to a predicate and means a source or physical start place, starts the sentence and does not sequentially connect to the predicate "stood." The phrase dangles, somewhat like a dangled participle, though no verb within the phrase. The phrase is a noun phrase, not a verbal modifier.

Two, that "stood" can be either an intransitive verb or a transitive verb. Intransitive "stood" takes a particle adverb, like up, down, aside, off, out, to, etc., or a preposition particle, at, to, up, etc., and, consequently, takes a sentence object. Transitive verb "stood" requires a prepositional object phrase.

An awkwardness test for that sentence inverts the noun phrase and main clause sequence. //Beniel stood from the terrace of his former home.// "from" is the problematic word or entails a missing particle adverb. //Beniel stood [up] from the terrace of his former home.// Or //Beniel stood [at] the terrace of his former home.// In any case, the phrase-clause sequence is problematic.

Contrarily, prose's artful punctuation methods that emphasize important-to-the-action circumstances could also adjust the sentence, be less confusing, and be the otherwise grammatically inverted sequence. //At the terrace of his former home -- Beniel stood.// Any of the above examples or others reduce the sentence's confusion.

This sentence confuses from confused verb tense sequence and falsely fused ideas: "Flames licked, crackling and popping as they munched on what remained of his memories." Note the sentence contains five verbs and two tenses in a sequence of three tenses. And an awkward conjunction "as." Licked, crackling, popping, munched, remained. Verb tense sequences best practice progress in a two-tense sequence -- a past to present or present to past or other two tenses if a future or perfect tense is one of the two tenses. Of seven possible tenses, only two best practice per sentence, and otherwise, overall, tense consistency, one main tense.

Prose's best practice main tenses are simple past, just this very immediate moment past, or simple present, which is a challenge I won't go into at present.

That sentence can be broken into two separate sentences and resolve the tense sequence consideration, plus add punctuation. And eliminate the unnecessary and awkward "as" conjunction. //Flames licked, crackling and popping. They munched on what remained of his memories.//

As well, the tense of the present participles can be changed to simple past. Plus, the awkward diction "munched" changed to a more suitable word. //Flames licked, crackled, and popped. They ate what remained of his memories.//

"As" used for a coordination conjunction is problematic. The conjunction's function is to correlate ideas, not coordinate actions. Though that latter use has become common place in everyday conversation, it can be problematic for prose. Time coordination conjunctions are a best practice diction choice instead, like when and while, if a time coordination between clauses is indicated. For prose, they rarely are.

Best practices are to separate two sequential actions into separate sentences, use a serial list of three actions that implies a sequence of actions, or use more effective punctuation. Contemporaneous actions, likewise, rarely are contemporaneous and best practice is to use some method of separation, as above suggested.

I stall on "memories" too. For me, the word implies much though is vague from the abstract term standing for a place and its evoked memories.

Another several grammar glitches here: "His hand shook on the metal railings, his lungs filling with the acrid smoke." "His hand" and "metal railings" is a number agreement consideration, the first a singular subject, the second a plural object.

That sentence excerpt contains a stranded participle, "his lungs filling with the acrid smoke." The opposite of a dangled participle, a strand ends a sentence; a dangle starts a sentence. The person subject of both clauses is the same, though not the true subjects of his hand and his lungs, and the action predicates of both are not related.

A test is too rearrange the clauses to the conventional complex sentence order: dependent participle clause first, main clause second. //His lungs filling with the acrid smoke, his hand shook on the metal railing.// Dangled participle -- the true subjects and actions are neither parallel nor coordinated. Separate sentences are indicated.

"with" is a preposition of the object "the acrid smoke," though a problematic diction choice. Lungs filled with acrid smoke is grammatically true; however, the present tense of "his lungs filling with the acrid smoke" is the consideration of substance. "With" means accompanied, along with, participated, etc., not to join separate action and object ideas. In other words, the clause is unnecessarily wordy. //Acrid smoke filled his lungs.//

"the acrid smoke" contains an unnecessary article, "the."

"Acrid" might be too sophisticated a word for the contexture and too flat, lacks emotional charge from being abstract and removed from Beniel's personal reaction to the inhaled smoke. The word is a narrator's summary and explanation tell that neutrally characterizes the smoke, not Beniel's perception of and emotional reaction to the inhaled smoke.

Adjectives, like "acrid", and adverbs and other parts of speech's primary prose function is emotional expression. What word other than "acrid" might be emotionally loaded and personal to Beniel's perception of the inhaled smoke? Consider the physical effect on Beniel. Corrosive? Caustic? Burns? Greasy and ashy smoke reminds me of soap making -- two of the principal precursors for strong lye soap.

Causality too, that the sentence as is inverts a logical time sequence. The smoke fills his lungs and then his hand shakes the railing. //Soapy smoke burned his lungs. His angered hand shook the metal railing.//

This sentence has import though is vague and confusing: "Someone coughed and his hand clenched, preparing himself." "coughed" could do with stronger development of the intent and charge; like, the intent seems to be someone is at Death's door, and only coughs? The cough is an aural sensation that tempts Beniel to see who, "preparing himself" to see who.

His hand already clenches the railing anyway. Another hand action is indicated.

Examples given above are for demonstration purposes only. Nor is the quantity of comment meant to condemn the fragment or the whole. Rather, that numerous grammar glitches are an easy publisher decline and a generic form rejection at that.

The narrative distance is close; for that reason, I might could read on. At least I'm curious why Beniel survives the brutal and inhumanly cruel catastrophe of the moment, and what he might do about it. I'm not as emotionally engaged as I am curiosity engaged. However, this prelude or after-lude, or nonlinear timeline segment, leaves me in doubt and confusion as to what the story is really about, one of the, if not the, matters that engages me most in a narrative. The fragment does imply Beniel might want to do something about the catastrophe, though for me, not strongly and clearly enough. Want, that's at the kernel of what a story is really about and story movement start. And the bumpy grammar accumulates and wears my interest thin.

[ June 12, 2016, 02:44 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

Posts: 6037 | Registered: Jun 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
M.D. Nelson
Member # 10503

 - posted      Profile for M.D. Nelson   Email M.D. Nelson         Edit/Delete Post 
Upon first read, the first line confused me completely. I didn't know what the subject was, and then I realized that you were talking about the grass. I think I was confused because you personified it. At this point, I think perhaps starting with the character and personifying him before the foliage would work better. Had I picked this up in the bookstore, I would have only skimmed it, gotten confused, and stopped.

I agree with Disgruntled Peony in that the sentences are awkward grammatically. I think you might be having some trouble with subject-verb agreement and/or unclear elliptical sentences/clauses, but I can't be certain (I don't have my trusty grammar book with me right now! Guh). Also, I think extrinsic can school anyone on the uses of grammar, so I digress.

As for the fragment itself, I'm not too emotionally invested. Most of the fragment deals with the setting, what's going on, not how Beniel feels about it. Perhaps later there will be time for setting, (as I've learned myself from the comments here!). Also, the dialogue feels a little cheesy to me. If I were sharing it with a friend in the bookstore, I would probably giggle at it a little. And I think that's because I'm just not really into the character; I don't know him enough to not laugh at his words when they have a bit of an over-serious tone. He's not really in my mind as a person yet.

Posts: 25 | Registered: May 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

   Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:

Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2