This is a fantasy novel I am currently writing. I have written the first three chapters and was interested in getting feedback on the introduction. Is it enough to hold a reader’s attention? Thanks.
Alex sat at the edge of the stream resting as she examined the road in front of her. She had two choices, left or right. Not a hard choice to make, she thought as she glanced to her left. There the road was little more then a footpath that scaled the mountain with a dizzying steepness that made her already aching body tense with apprehension. The gravel was primarily made up of uneven sharp rocks that were displaced here and there by random weeds surviving on what appeared to be sheer determination alone. She leaned forward hoping to see further up the path, but the fog that surrounded her in a hazy lace quickly became a solid wall just a couple of stones from where she sat.
I am not sure I can articulate this properly, so bear with me as I think out loud. One of the problems I see with many writers is an opener that tries in the first paragraph to completely paint the picture of the surrounding environment. Lots of minutia about the details of the landscape.
The problem is: we don't care. The landscape isn't what makes your story. It's your characters and your plot that matter. Start out with THAT. Tell us about the character and what he/she is concerned about. Environment can (and should) be hinted at in your opener, but it isn't what matters. Your character is what will hook us in.
My specific suggestion is, tell us what Alex is thinking, and what her emotions are. Is she worried? Excited? I don't care about the road. I care about the internal journey she is on.
I'm not troubled by the setting stuff, really. In fact, I think it's all right. What I think needs development, in my opinion, is where Alex is going (there's a hint that she's simply wandering, but that's not necessarily implicit). Knowing this will solidify the opening for me. So, please consider working in what Alex's "mission" is, so to speak. Where is she going at the very least, and if you can allude to anything more, than all the better (but that's not vital). Even if she has nowhere in particular in mind, we should have a good feel for why she's making a journey. Something is making her decide between two paths... Can you give us a little more to go on regarding this?
Choices for a character are excellent in fiction. So, good job with that, but... Immediately after we learn Alex has two choices, we are told that it isn't a hard choice. This statement/thought pretty much kills any interest in what follows. My suggestion is to save the "not a hard choice to make" bit until after the two choices are presented to the reader. Let us mull over the differences first (or at least read them first) and, perhaps, decide for ourselves which might be the best route for Alex to take. When Alex makes her decision, we'll begin to see her true nature, what makes her who she is. Does that make sense?
On Elan's point: I think that the lack of character motivation is truly what troubled Elan, and it troubles me as well, which is precisely what my first paragraph attempts to address. Without that, the setting might be overwhelming; with motivation, the setting will be fine, is my point. Give us a reason to care about Alex if possible.
The problem with your description is that it isn't very clear. Some of this is due to simple errors in language, some to focus issues.
"Alex sat at the edge of the stream resting as she examined the road in front of her." You've got Alex performing three verbs in this sentance with a number of complex objects, and you've missed a comma where it makes a real difference to the syntax. I can figure it out, but it takes a bit. Unfortunately, I can't know which road is being examined here no matter how hard I try. Not that it especially matters, but it does create clarity problems. I also don't know the orientation of the stream with respect to the various roads described, which also may be unimportant.
Then you go on to use phrases like "there the road" "dizzying steepness" "tense with apprehension" in apparent ignorance of the not very subtle implications of these phrases in relation to the relative subjects. Finally, after a good bit of description based on Alex's observations, you tell us that she's surrounded by fog that prevents all observation beyond a short distance from her current position. I suppose that you mean it became impenetrable only in one direction, but since you don't tell us which direction that is, we can't draw much useful information from the text itself.
Yes, it would be nice if you connected Alex's milieu a little more sensibly to her motivations. Not least because then we'd have an organizing principle that might help us infer what you're trying to describe. But simply making the description itself marginally decodable would help a lot too.
I like your voice, but like Elan said: we don't really care about setting--at least not right off the bat like that. I'm one who loves description, but at the beginning of the story, I usually like to know what is going on with the character. For instance, where is Alex going? Why is she having to choose which way to go? Is she simply wandering or is she trying to get somewhere? I think answering these questions right off would help to make your opening more interesting.
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