I'm in need of a second opinion for a rather drastic change I've made to the beginning of my short story Magi Rebellion (Part 1). I'd appreciate comments. If anyone is particularly inclined to look it over, that would be great, though it's been critted twice already.
New New beginning:
quote: Alak held his breath as Bensi moved his stone back and forth over their makeshift gameboard in the soft dirt by the pond. Bensi was trying to complete his triangle - he always went for triangles. But it left an opening on the left side, and if Bensi did what Alak thought he was going to do, he could interrupt the second move. Alak caught the Valanian guard grinning at the top of the embankment. Didn’t he have something better to do than watch two slaves playing a game of pegs? Alak wished he would stop smiling at the very least. Bensi might notice and wise up. Bensi hesitated with his stone over the last open part of his triangle. Alak tried not to flinch. Bensi played his piece, nodded, and picked up a stone for the second half of his move. “Got you now, Alak,” Bensi said.
quote: Dumb luck. Of all the times Alak and Bensi had played pegs by the pond, today had been the first time a patrolman had been walking by. And of all the times when he could have manifested, if that was what really happened, he had to pick a time when a master - a patrolman no less - was watching. They’d run immediately, of course, splitting up just across the stream. The patrolman had gone for Bensi. And now Alak was stuck in the Underground, withering under the glare of a High One named Denara. “It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a magus, boy,” Denara said. “The masters would kill you just as quickly as they would me if they found you up above. They saw the water listen to your command, or at least they thought they did. They’ll be hunting you just to be sure.” She looked him up and down with bright blue...
quote: Alak sat under the High One’s glare, eager to be anywhere else. “It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a magus, boy,” the High One said. “The masters would kill you just as quickly as they would me if they found you up above. They saw the water listen to your command, or at least they thought they did. They’ll be hunting you just to be sure.” She looked him up and down with bright blue eyes. Magi eyes. Alak’s eyes were good and brown. Had been since the day he was born. His mother had told him the Valanian doctor hadn’t wasted more than five seconds with him to check for magi blood when he was born. The masters - the Valanians - checked all Astosen children at birth. Astosen magi were executed. Valanians didn’t want their slaves doing magic.
[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited September 15, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by micmcd (edited September 16, 2011).]
I agree 100% Meredith. I think if you start with the kids playing, then threatened by getting caught, and interweaving Alak's concerns about manifesting while being chased, you'd have a nice opening.
Posts: 1043 | Registered: Jul 2010
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Hmm. That would be more fun, but that would also be (total guess) a thousand words to add. There isn't a limit for where I'm planning to submit, but their payment system has a clear hint when the rate drops off after the first 7500.
I'll see how many words it takes me. I also sort of didn't want to make Bensi a character b/c it's a short story. He exists in the story as is, but you never meet him and only care that he vanishes (not a good fate, sadly).
The other advantage that comes to mind of the current opening is that you meet the important characters in the first scene. Alak is the protagonist, but shortly later you meet Srii. (Denara isn't important.) Still, Alak is massively more important than anyone else, so maybe this doesn't hurt as much. Experiments forthcoming later today.
I see your dilemma with Bensi. However, if he is there just to play the game with Alak and then run off, then maybe you can cut him completely. Alak can be playing a game by himself in the woods, perhaps a magical game that would hint to anyone watching him that Alak is not 'normal'.
Cutting or merging characters is always a good way to get word count down, too.
Ah, but Alak is normal. It's the stones that aren't.
See, I've already read it.
If you don't want to make Bensi a character, or add too many words, maybe you could start with whatever Alak does that sets the whole thing off and then their horrified realization that it was seen and they have to escape.
On the other hand, giving Bensi just a little reality will make what happens to him hit the reader all the harder.
So, I gave the new opening a shot, and I actually sort of like the way it turned out. I think it works well (at the cost of about 775 new words, though I have yet to cut from parts it makes superfluous, which will save me probably 200). My only hesitation here is that it makes for a less interesting first 13. I could start right with what happens next (with all apologies to KDW - I hope this doesn't illegally circumvent the rule):
quote: Alak broke out into a grin and grabbed one of his own stones before Bensi could finish. He did his best impression of Peshnik, the guard at his master’s house that let him off early for helping him cheat at cards. “Fah-reeez-uh!” Alak called, ready to make the winning move. A chill ran down his arm. The pond crackled loudly. Both boys’ jaws dropped at the sight of the pond freezing over. Gods alive, it was like the water obeyed his command. But that would mean… “You boys! Do not move.” The guard hurried down the embankment at them. There was one rule about being a slave in Val Astos that all the boys knew. If a patrolman tells you not to move, run or die.
But I feel like I'd be doing that just to get more action into the first thirteen. And it's important to the plot that Alak's ability to freeze the water takes him 100% by surprise. I wasn't trying to build up a "this is just another day in my life as a slave boy" vibe at the beginning, just that his concentration is anywhere but on trying to make the pond freeze over. To him, that would be like staring at a spoon and willing it to bend.
Posting the next 13 lines as an alternative opening is iffy, as far as the rules go, but you can post as many alternative openings as you like. And if the next 13 lines WORK as an alternative opening, I'll let it pass, especially since you have indicated that you appreciate the rules enough to express concern about breaking them. Thanks, micmcd.
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I like the latest version the best, but I believe the sentence structure could use some work. Every sentence starts with "Alak" or "Bensi" except for the one that starts with "But" and the rhetorical question which might not be the best choices either. A little word rearrangement and I think you would have your best opening.
Posts: 59 | Registered: Sep 2011
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I vote for "Dumb luck" version. This communicates we have an exciting action story.
"Alak held his breath" as a first paragraph might scare the reader into thinking this was some kind of gaming story (I immediately thought of Pokemon, DragonBalls, etc).
I would also question "of all the times when he could have manifested, if that was what really happened". I am thinking that at this point Alak is still in denial and doesn;t believe he can manifest. He could just refer to it as a freak event having nothing to do with him.
Bit too much of an infodump. How about we say "And now Alak was stuck in the Underground." period. new paragraph. it all started when...and then you tell the amusing story of how bensi is a bad player and the onlooker is in danger of warning bensi that his move is a bad one, and then the inexplicable water event happens. that's a great, amusing story and a fun transition from lighthearted to panic mode.
Then finally tell us how he encounters the mage.its great to set up the relationship between bensi and alak first before introducing the character of the mage.