This is topic NaNo 2012 - Would you read on? in forum Fragments and Feedback for Books at Hatrack River Writers Workshop.

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Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Working on my NaNoWriMo novel, and I'm wondering whether this opening is enough to pull a reader a little further in. I'm trying to start with a little bit of domesticity, so that there's a hint of what life was like before everything goes to heck by the end of the scene.

Don't worry, I'm still plowing forward, not poking at revisions, but this beginning is niggling at me.



Kieran's fingers danced over the holes in her wooden flute. The last embers glowed in the hearth, barely illuminating her elder brother Malachi where he sat on a stool, whittling. Deep orange light glimmered off his russet curls, turning them nearly copper. An owl hooted outside, low and resonant. Kieran brought the jig to a close, ending on a low trill.

Malachi glanced her way. "You're nearly as good as father was," he said. "You should set out your hat at the next feast day."

A slow blush crept up Kieran's cheeks. "It's kind of you to say, but I'll never be good enough to play for other folks."

Malachi set down his stick and knife, then rested his hands on his knees. "Since when have I taken up lying, Kieran?"
Posted by GhostWriter (Member # 9963) on :
The question is "would you read on?" so I will answer that. If you would like a full critique, just ask (but after NANOWRIMO!) =)

I am not totally sold on reading on. Questions arises in my mind like "What is out of the ordinary here?" and "What is spectacular here?" A good hook leaves the reader asking questions on the first sentence. Maybe mention something about how she feels or about the way she plays or why she is playing, basically, add depth. EX "Kieran's fingers grip tightly around her flute, her father's face burned in her mind..." ETC...

Keep up the hard work! Good luck with your NANOWRIMO and may your pages be ever full!
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Thanks for the feedback, GhostWriter. I usually try to start with a bit more of a bang, but wanted to try something different this time. Wasn't sure whether it worked or not. =)

I appreciate your taking the time to comment.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I'd read on. But, I'd need to have a reason to keep reading within the first page. I know that 'the first 13' is supposed to be an exercise in grabbing an editors 'interest' immediately. However, sometimes I think the 'hook' can be the writing style, rather than action/emotion/drama in the first line.

I enjoyed the opening paragraph and the style it was written in. All-in-all, it provides me with a hint of place and atmosphere, as well as character.

It could do with a little polishing, but I like it.

Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Thanks, Phil, for your thoughts.

I'm hoping that the kidnapping of the brother that occurs by the end of this scene happens soon enough. I was hoping that the style would be enough to pull a reader just that little bit farther.

And yes, definitely polishing. It's amazing the number of straaaaange sentences that show up while writing fast during NaNo.

Thanks again!

Posted by Owasm (Member # 8501) on :
I'd certainly read on, however there isn't a speculative element in the first 13. 'Setting one's hat' is a bit too ambiguous. To me it means saything that she's eligible for marriage and that doesn't seem to go along with the flute playing. I think you did a nice job with the setting and getting a bit of characterization. I agree that the beginning might be a bit too languid for some, but not for me.
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
This is a serious challenge for me with my NaNo, Owasm. There's very little magic. In fact, so far the only magic that's been seen is at the end of this scene when the brother gets kidnapped. Kieran gets frozen in place by magic. So far the rest is about intrigue and mystery and, as a side dish, Kieran coming into her own as a professional minstrel. Set out your hat, in this case, is meant as leaving out a hat for tips.

Thanks for your comments! I'm definitely going to have to figure out how to deal with the lack of magic in a purportedly fantasy tale.
Posted by Grumpy old guy (Member # 9922) on :
I don't know about the lack of magic. I've got 50K words of a fantasy story written, and in all those words, there's very little magic, in fact, none that is described directly. Fantasy stories do not *have* to have magic in them.

Think of Lord of the Rings. How much *magic* is there in that, really?

Posted by MrsBrown (Member # 5195) on :
I like it, and I like this kind of opening in general. The hat made sense. The only thing that didn't jibe for me was the contrast in the pace: her fingers flew as she played a jig, but the setting is mellow and calm and quiet. Could she play something calm and slow to match the rest of the mood? Or else liven up the setting/mood to match the music? Ending on a low trill does help.
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
Really good comment on the mismatch of the music and the mood, MrsBrown. That's an important detail that I'll be wanting to keep a close eye on when it comes time for rewrites.

Good eye! Thanks!
Posted by enigmaticuser (Member # 9398) on :
I'm in favor of some domesticity. I mean sometimes I get fatigue reading through 13 lines and there having to be some "bang." I'm sure its focused at a very real problem of reader attention, but it depends who you want to read. Are you looking for someone who can facebook between pages of your story, or someone wants to really get engrossed? I see no need to feed the vapidness.

In answer to the question though, would I read on? Eh, maybe.

Domesticity is good, but you have to compel us with the characters in that case. I don't mean have them all feel angsty, like something is about to happen. I mean make the people or scene seem like something real that we'd want to visit or visit with.

In your scene, it SOUNDS like you're trying to establish a relationship between two siblings. Which is great, I'm all for that, but it SOUNDS like that's what you're trying to do. It doesn't FEEL like I just walked in on an exchange between two people.

Fix? I bet by the time you're well into the story, you have a much better grasp of the character internals and at that point, this scene rewritten would be great. Right now, they don't feel real yet. Once they're real, I'll read on.
Posted by rabirch (Member # 9832) on :
I totally hear what you're saying, Enigmaticuser. That makes a lot of sense, and you're right, I definitely have a better grip on the characters now for when I come back to this.

I appreciate your time!
Posted by JeanLG (Member # 9995) on :
Hi Rabirch, You are probably through NaNoWriMO and far along by now, but I wonder if there could be less physical description and more showing what the character and scene is like through action. I got the meaning of the hat. Good interaction between the brother and sister. Would be eager to read more about them. Feel that they will both be strong characters.

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