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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Feedback request on 1st paragraph

   
Author Topic: Feedback request on 1st paragraph
Verdant
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The following is the first paragraph of a high fantasy novel. I am seeking general feedback and whether or not it piques the interest to the point that you want to read more. If you want to read more, be warned, there is a lot, but my main concern is if the paragraph instills the interest to read more.

Blue. Everything was blue. Deep blue water faded into the pale blue sky on the indistinct horizon. The sleek ship cut through the blue water churning up slivers of white foam that mirrored the thin wisps of cloud pulled across the sky by the wind. She stood on the deck watching the blue; for nearly three weeks the graceful boat had been an inadequate surrogate home for her and her family. Nearly three weeks away from the peaceful, song-filled green of the forest. So much blue.


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wbriggs
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I like a lot about this. There's only one thing I don't like (and it's easy fixed): there is just no reason not to name your MC.

It might be strengthened if we knew that the thoughts about blue were by MC rather than narrator, as they were being made. "Blue, Mary thought."

The sleek ship sentence is a little long, maybe, and I dislike description unless I see the emotional significance.

But those are nits. I like MC, I understand her problem, and I want to know more about her situation.


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Swimming Bird
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I think you're being a little repetative. I know what you're going for, the mesmerizing sight of the ocean that lay ahead, but you really nail it home all within the space of a few lines. You also shift pov three times in the first three sentences. You focus on the water, then the boat, then on (who I assume) is the main pov of the story. Are you purposely going for an omniscient pov, or are you simply trying to set the scene? If it's the latter, I rewrote it a little:

I took some poetic license, but this should give you some idea how to clear up the narrative while still expressing allt he information you want.

"Tabitha stood on the deck watching the blue water fade into the pale, indistinct horizon. Nearly three weeks and still it felt as though she were no closer to home then when they first set sail. Her and her family, five in all, stowing away on this inadequate surrogate heading toward Westeros."

Within the first paragraph you already know her name, that she's with her family, that she's on a boat. And, what your paragraph lacked, I added that her and her family were stowing away to add to some form of conflict.

I like how you don't bog us down with weird names of places and things which is so common for fantasy writers, but you're being too vauge. Your first few sentences felt like filler until we met a character.


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kings_falcon
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I liked the introduction.

The repetition of "blue" did start to bother me. Especially after I learned that "she" had been on the boat for 3 weeks. Some of that "awe" in her voice should have dwindled in 3 weeks. After three weeks on a boat, I'd be sick of it and wanting to get back to my forest. Maybe, that's just me though. It did sound like this was the MC's first lengthy voyage.

Is there a reason you aren't naming the MC? While I don't think it has to be in the first line, I did want to know whose thoughts I was "overhearing."

What is your definition of "high fantasy?"


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HSO
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I think in this case the repetition works. Though I'm not entirely sure, I might suggest using some other well-known "blues" for the descriptions, such as: azure, cerulean, cobalt, sapphire, et al. Give it some thought, but don't dwell on it too long. I don't feel it's vital.

What I do feel is missing, despite that it's vaguely hinted at, is the MC's visceral reaction to all this blueness. By that I mean, how much does she hate it, or does it bore her, or what have you? Consider giving us a strong emotive sense of how much this blue affects her. This has an added benefit of strengthening your POV choice by putting us in her frame of mind. (And yes, please do name her as soon as possible.)

This is a good start, nevertheless. Be careful not to launch into a flashback, though.


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Sara Genge
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Hmmm
First time thru I didn't like it. When I re-read it, I realized the problem was in the second phrase. It's a modifier-heavy. I'm not ready to read a description in the second phrase, if you do it, then make it so light the reader won't notice you're describing.
The repetition works, but I would cut back on it just a tad.
I would put a paragraph break when you begin to talk about your MC. I think she should have a name

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LibbieMistretta
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I agree that the repetitive stuff is a bit too much - or needs to be altered somewhat.

If I were standing in a book store, flipping to the first page of this novel to decide whether to buy it (my standard test run for authors I've never read before) I would put it down immediately - not because the premise isn't intriguing, but because all these color words stick out like a sore thumb and make me think, if this is the only first impression I can get of this novel, that you'll be one of those authors who uses very simplistic descriptions throughout, which I find a bit dull as a reader.

If you can get rid of the references to white and green, I think it will make your point about the hypnotic/disturbing presence of blue but with more polish. I understand that they're there to provide a counterpoint to the blueness, but either scale back the mention of blue a lot, or kick out the white and green - that's my impression, anyway!


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tchernabyelo
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Echoing what's been said.

Don't repeat "blue" so much, and give the MC a name. I don't necessarily mind unreferenced pronouns, but not when they crop up half-way through a paragraph that we didn't even know was in a POV at all.

Although I agree that awe might have worn off, it occurs to me you may be trying to convey how sick the MC is getting of being at sea, and in that case, arguably, you could play up the blue thing. "Blue, blue, blue... nothing but blue".

Finally - is there a reason you're starting here? She's been at sea for three weeks. Unless somehting is very much about to happen, I'd question whther you're starting in the right place.


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oliverhouse
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Ditto much of what others have said, especially HSO's comment about the visceral reaction. I'm not quite sure whether the blue is sickening or simply monotonous, for example. It's pretty good, and I'd keep reading.

I think I'd stick to "blue" rather than using different words, but I'd reduce the number of times I said it.

I'd also keep the ever-so-brief reference to green in there. It gives a sense of homesickness. I was in Saudi Arabia in 1994, and it was brown, brown, brown. When I saw green, especially vegetation -- even a picture of vegetation! -- it was pretty intense, and the longing for greenery was powerful. I got a sense of that here, too.

Regards,
Oliver


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Verdant
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First of all - you guys give fantastic feedback, thank you.

I have been struggling with the second sentance for more than a year and through ten revisions it has been pared down but it still sticks for me. Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

This is not a short story. It is a full-blown novel of more than 500 pages so far so I am trying to build tone more than get everything out in one blow. The blue is going to stay, but I could easily reduce the number of times I use it. The character's name, Daniri, comes in the next paragraph so I am not stressed about that either.

Thanks for the help thus far and good writing.

Verdant


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hoptoad
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I liked it.
Would read on.
The bow waves mirroring the clouds was an attractive image.

Have no major nits.

I like that she doesn't know any other words for blue because it indicates that she is out of her element. I am sure that she can think of a million different kinds of green. Even if there were a riot of different shades present in the water and the sky, in her mind they are all flattened into a single word.
It's almost a kind of cognitive 'retinal bleaching'. She don't see what she's not looking for.


Great start.

[This message has been edited by hoptoad (edited June 20, 2006).]


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oliverhouse
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"I have been struggling with the second sentance for more than a year" -- I assume you don't mean "Everything was blue." I assumed you meant "The sleek ship cut..."

It occurs to me that the sentence has a lot of "adjective noun" constructions in it. Maybe you can use fewer words and get a cleaner image. A comma, not technically needed but not wrong either, might help. Since you said all suggestions would be helpful, I'll take a stab.

-----
The sleek ship cut through the waves, churning up slivers of foam that seemed a reflection of the wind-driven clouds.
-----

Note that "sleek ship cut" has a very different cadence than the rest of the sentence, choppy rather than melodic. Read it aloud. It's a cool effect if that's what you're going for -- I like it in this context, and I wouldn't change it -- but if you're looking for a lyrical tone then that's something you might want to alter.

-----
The waves parted gently in front of the ship's stem, yielding slivers of delicate foam that mirrored the scudding clouds.
-----

The disadvantage here is that you don't know that there's a ship until all the way through the first clause, but it definitely changes the sound of the sentence. It's also more passive, with the ocean being more important than the ship.

-----
The ship's narrow hull sliced through the waves, yielding slivers...
-----

In that one you've got a lot of sibilances -- again, I'm not sure what style you're going for, so that could be good or bad.

> The character's name, Daniri, comes in the next paragraph so I am not stressed about that either.

Okay, but you have such an obvious place to put it, why not use that? "Daniri stood on the deck watching the blue..." That's better than the unknown "She", I think.

Regards,
Oliver


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Novice
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I think a comma would help your long sentence: "The sleek ship cut through the blue water, churning up slivers of white foam..." I'd be tempted to just end the sentence there, as the rest of it seems more of a poetic exercise and doesn't add much to the character's observation of the water. (You also could consider dropping "water": "The sleek ship cut through the blue, churning up slivers of white foam...")

I see two ways to soften the introduction of "she." You might go ahead and put her in the second sentence: "Everything she saw was blue." (Or some such) Alternatively, you could insert a paragraph break before, "She stood on deck..."

The semi-colon seems inadequate for the kind of pause and change of description you execute near the end of the fragment. An em-dash or some other, stronger punctuation would work better for me.

All in all, I quite like the poetic tone of this. I like the "slowness" of the scene, how her homesickness develops out of the descriptions. It works for me, and I'd turn the page.


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Aust Alien
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I liked it mostly. Very quickly we're contrasted with how things are (blue/sea/boat/family travelling) with what is "proper" (green/forest/home).
In my opinion, the repeating sensation of blue is good. I would not change that. I also don't think it does change pov: all these things are experienced by the MC - altho, yes, we need a name or some sort of tag for her. But given that some note a change of pov, maybe that could be cleared up.
"The sleek ship..." sentence sounds like an outsider describing it, but by now we are already in the pov character's head. "Standing on the deck, Mary/Jane/Lucy/Dark Angel watched as the ship cut through..." Does it matter that it's sleek, would it appear sleek to a person on the ship? That's more an impression that an observer would have.

I'd like to read more, but I'd want the 2nd paragraph to give me a little more of a reason to read. Keep me inside the pov-char's head .

I'm unsure what "high fantasy" is, so all my impressions may be invalid. What does "high fantasy" expect as a standard?


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mommiller
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You have a rather short excerpt, I think it is below the thirteen lines requirement so you could give us a bit more than you do, especially since it is beginning of a long novel.

I enjoy fantasy, although I do not quite "get," what you mean by your definition of High Fantasy, which makes me want to guess what you might be aiming at. So far, just from the "woods filled with song," I am thinking of the Sylvan Elf populations of Tolkien, but I could be wrong...

Also too, I found the repetitiveness of 'blue' distracting. Oceans and lakes even change their hue over the course of the day, whether it is cloudy or sunny, algae blooms etc. It makes me wonder how much else the author is going to be repetitive about even though for the rest of your fragment you show a good use of language.

How long is your first chapter? Is it ready for further critique?


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Verdant
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All, thank you again for your comments. Responding, I have always considered "High Fantasy" stories of completely different worlds ala Tolkein, Terry Brooks, Robert Jordan et. al. They are not the alternate realities of "what if" when we have dragons in our world or even OSC's Alvin Maker series. Mine is a completely different universe with a pantheon of dieties and essentially two races, Elves and Humans.

The first chapter is just over 4300 words and has been revised more times than I can recall and I would welcome reviews if you are interested.

I do appreciate the comments becuase you all have helped me see things I had not considered and helped me with an annoying issue with the "Sleek Ship" phrase that has bugged me because it disturbed the flow and tone of the paragraph.

Good Writing


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mommiller
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Go ahead, and send me the first chapter.

I look forward to reading it.


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Aust Alien
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Me too, Please send me chapter one if you'd like me to crit it.
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