What I'm looking for: 1) comments on these lines are welcome 2) I'd like readers for the first chapter (1300 words) or two (3100 total) or three (5000 total), to tell me if it's confusing--especially new readers.
Explanation (of what I want, not of the book): This is the second book in a series. I don't want to hide that another book precedes it, but I want people to be able to read this one first, and enjoy it. On my last try (some time ago), the consensus from readers who had not read the first book came back that it was too confusing. I'd like to know if this time works better, so I'm particularly interested in people who have read neither the first book, nor my previous posting of this one.
First thirteen lines begin here: ================================== What with all the concerns running through Lorann’s head regarding the livestock and the unusual cold this winter, it took a moment for the worry in Jeniele’s "Mama?" to catch her ear.
Lorann set aside her knitting and turned. "What’s wrong?" Jeniele was sixteen years old and the sweetest child ever, though not much to look at--as Lorann herself admitted--except when she smiled, which was nearly all the time, so it hardly mattered.
She wasn’t smiling now. "I hear something. Outside."
A layer of ice formed around Lorann’s heart. She rose, stepped to the door, and opened it, ignoring the flurries of snow and the swirl of biting cold air that swept in. She concentrated instead on listening for sounds that didn’t belong. Yes. Hoofbeats, and getting louder. She shut the door and said, "Find your pa in the barn, send him in, and don’t come back." ===================================
[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited February 09, 2007).]
Jeniele is likely not exactly a child now, if this is before modern times; she's practically marriageable. But it may be that in this society, she's still a child. This is a thought, not a complaint.
The "A layer of ice formed" paragraph: this is more troublesome for me, because Lorann obviously fears something, but you don't tell us what. This I don't like, and it makes me want to skip down to wherever you tell us.
Find your pa in the barn, etc.: I really like this line.
I think that if you told us that Loran was knitting while thinking about the livestock and the unusual cold, that establishes the scene pretty well. Maybe throw in a reference to Jeniele, description and whatnot. Contrast Jeniele's sunny attitude with the Loran's worrying. Then paragraph.
A couple of things stuck out for me - The opening "what with all" seems off. I think you are going for narrative tone here, but it put me off as the first sentence-- just drop the "what" unless you will use this tone consistently.
The other thing is that we are in Lorann's POV, so to me it is repetitive to say "as Lorann herself admitted"
Ditto on the layer of ice -- this sticks out from a grammatical sense, although I don't have any problem without knowing the cause in the next sentence or two.
[This message has been edited by Omakase (edited February 12, 2007).]
This is well written and I would read on with patience and interest to find the answers to the obvious hook. You have a style of your own that I can tell I would adjust to quickly. I already like it. Do you ever read a book and realize later that you have picked up some of the writers style in your conversation. I always think thats a sign of talent beyond mastering clean writing.
1) Was Jeniele's "Mama?" verbal with her concerns for the livestock? Or can Jeniele read minds?
2) What is Lorann's actual relationship to Jeniele? And is it an important distinction? (What's the difference between what Lorann acually is to her and Jeniele's "real"mother?")
One small aside:
My wife was adopted by her grandparents at 21 days old. Her "mother" was going to offer her up for adoption. However, her grandmother--MOM--interceded, she wasn't about to let a blood-relative be adopted by strangers.
My wife would tell you that there are no quotation marks around MOM, although there are instances for them around "Mother". She would call the woman that gave birth to her Shiela; the woman who raised her, defended her, worried over her, tended her when she was sick... she would call THAT woman Mom.
Sorry about getting carried away by the rant--her grandmother recently passed away.
I liked the sentence: "A layer of ice formed around Lorann's heart." It struck a chord with me; put me in her place.
I would be glad to read on. As I'm an avid reader, whatever you want to send is good for me.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited February 12, 2007).]
I'll send the first chapters/chapter (respectively) to you.
As to your questions, Babbler--when I use quotation marks, I almost invariably mean that someone is speaking. Does that answer you? I know I will have to rework that first sentence (though I don't expect it will be done in what I send out).
tnwilz: Thanks for the nice comment. Did "I would read on with patience and interest" mean you want to take a look at the first few chapters? Or was it just a comment on your reaction to the beginning in the event that you had the finished book in your hand?
Omakase, that's a good point about POV.
Anyone else? I don't have any limit on this.
[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited February 13, 2007).]
To be honest, I liked the whole thing, except for a few adjustments to the first very long line which is hampered first by the words "What with all..." I would condense and make it two sentences.
Otherwise, I think this is the best opening I have read here on the novel crit board. I'd like to read more if you want to send it to me.
I could be wrong, but I believe this is my first reading of this novel series. Of course if I had this as a book in hand, I’d know some things just from the cover and blurbs, and from the reason I had the book in hand in the first place, but simply reading these paragraphs in isolation, I’m unsure about time and place and genre. Since this is a novel, you have more time to divulge all this, and maybe reading at least the full first chapter would suffice to clear up my confusion. If you’d like another set of eyes, I’d be willing to read even three chapters. (That should really do it. )
Nits: Flow is good, though I’d suggest leaving off the ‘what’ at the start and maybe trim that sentence by placing ‘winter’ before ‘cold’ with no ‘this.’ In the fourth paragraph, end the second sentence at ‘it’ and join the ‘ignoring’ part with the ‘she concentrated’ sentence. Then leave ‘Yes. Hoofbeats. And getting louder’ all as individual sentence fragments.
Thanks, Kolona. I'm pretty sure also that you haven't read any of this, and I'd love to have your opinion. I'll send the first 3 chapters, but give me a couple of days. I'm making some changes based on previous feedback.
Posts: 932 | Registered: Jul 2001
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You know Rick, it’s so hard to isolate yourself from your story and see it as others would see it when the whole thing is held so cinematically in your own head. You hold the whole thing as a singe concept in your own mind.
So I read the three chapters you sent and Dude (picture Randy Jackson rolling back in his chair pulling his hand up over his bald head and wearing that pained look). Ok look , like all stories this one quickly raises questions in the readers mind – great – good, that’s what we want pull the reader in. Trouble is at 2000 words you still haven’t answered them. What is a “quistril” or a “cadril,” (almost sound like breeds of Baboon), where are we, when are we. There was conflict in the start that made me willing to put these questions on the back burner. Were they going to take the girl? She ran and hid, would they find her? Would she have to run for her life? Would the parents risk their lives trying to stop them from taking her…. Buuut then they just didn’t take her, acted kinda nice and rode off chatting about an old girlfriend from another world (not the soap opera). Then without answering any of the afore-mentioned questions you introduce new ones. So what’s a “senoral” and what’s this “conjunction?” Bare in mind we’re over 2000 words now and I have very, very little idea of this story-verse that is alive and well in your head. By page 10 chapter two I should be fully engaged, pursuing resolution to conflict but I’m not. I’m pursuing the setting if I can be bothered to read on.
Now House is on in the other room, how will he tease the hospital administrator this week hehe? One of these episodes he’s just going to be wrong you know…
I bet this is a great story that is dear to your heart. About an alien robin hood, a righter of wrongs and the difficult path he must walk to stay true to himself. Don’t give up, that’s for sure, just get your reader on the hook and keep him there without frustrating him.
Now, I picture Randy Jackson barking and saying, "That was hot, man!"
I thought the story adequately explained things by inference and context. For instance, from page four: "one wore a senoral’s cloak, though the other was only a vasik." Obviously, clothing/uniforms indicated rank. Personally, I don't need to know exactly how the ranks worked or how many different ranks there are, but relevant to this passage, one of these quistrils outranked the other. Maybe later more info will be needed concerning the ranks, but maybe not. This might be sufficient, although in chapter two we do get an affirmation that these are ranks.
The fact that you were caught up short at the end of the first chapter put you where Lorann and her family were at that point. Isn't that called an unexpected twist? And weren't you then identifying with the family, which means you were emotionally involved?
The catch-22 here is that if an author stops to explain things like "senoral" and "conjunction," he risks info-dumping and boring the reader. Usually he knows more about his world than he ever reveals in his story, which is a good thing. I wouldn't want to dredge through an author's background material, which is too often what info dumps are. A few salient facts can be enough.
Too, to my mind, allowing the reader come to some conclusions respects the reader.
I've already told Rick my opinion via e-mail but thought I'd say here my opinion fell in between the two above views. I think the story has good potential once it's cleaned up a bit. Like Kolona, I didn't have a problem following what the new terms meant, though I thought some of the explanations could have been slipped in a bit earlier.
However, I was disappointed with the stakes, which is part of what I think Tracy was commenting on. The first chapter really had me hooked with the questions on how things would turn out. I could feel the danger and the worry. I felt like the outcome of this confrontation really mattered and that the stakes were high for the family. Then, bam, it turns out that they were worried for nothing. We switch to another POV and immediately get the explanation of why 'Robin Hoods' did what they did. I expected to learn the stakes in this for the new characters. What were they risking by doing this? Should I worry for them? But they weren't worried, really. Not about the bad storm, not about getting caught. They don't even seem to get a lot a satisfaction out of helping the family. It felt like "just another day at the job," and I started to lose interest. When the stakes pick up at the end of chapter two, once again it's ho-hum just paragraphs later. It's immediately clear that the wounded fellow will survive. Except for the initial worry about the escaped enemy survivor, the characters don't act worried that they might get caught during the bandaging or after they leave. After the high stakes in the first chapter, this was a major let-down for me.
(In more general terms), I'm not trying to recommend writing a story that never releases the tension, but I do think that it always needs to be clear what the actions mean to the character. The overall question of how things will turn out should always be hanging in the balance. If the main characters never worry about this, then the readers already know that things will turn out fine. Why keep on reading? If the main characters worry, but they always make the right decisions and the threats against them don't merit that worry, then the main characters just seem like worry-warts and the reader knows everything will turn out fine. It can be a hard balance these elements just right when you, as the author, already know how things will turn out. But my favorite books are the ones that excel at doing this.
So there you have it. I'm Randy, Kolona is Paula, oh yes, definitely Paula and Debbie is Simon. LOL. oops almost fell off my chair I'm so funny.
What was very prevalent in my mind as I was thinking about this was OSC’s book on characterization and POV. If you don’t have it, get it its really, really helpful and entertaining to read. Kathleen was very right about helping others. This has really opened my eyes to the same problem in a couple of my stories.
Paula (hehe) is right, you do hint at what these things are almost sufficiently. The conjunctions are explained somewhat on page 10, at least good enough if the story was more compelling. Where I’m really lost is the where and when. Also on further thought, you don’t really let the reader penetrate the mind of the MC very much. I can’t read him yet. Does he have any habits, weaknesses, strengths, loves or emotional baggage? Again I’m referring to OSC’s book on engaging characterization.
I’m probably somewhat behind you in skill so take that into consideration but this site is amazing. There are many published authors floating around here. If we can’t figure it out in this company we’d better take up knitting. Every group I was in before was mostly the blind leading the blind. I’ve learned so much in just a few weeks - I’m quite excited.
Rick, if you want to take a chance on my opinions once again, I volunteer -- if it's not too late! I see the original post was a week and a half ago. I would like to see what you've changed. My email is the same: buce at charter.net, although since my computer has not been behaving lately, I might be a bit slow on a reply.
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Late to the party, new to critiquing, but one thing stuck out at me...
The ..."and don't come back" part. I'm relatively sure that the 16 year old is being sent outside, where those ominous getting louder hoofbeats are coming from, and being told not to come back! Yikes!! I'm scared for her, not for the mama who is seemingly getting ready to make a stand (with papa who is going to be coming from the barn), and I have the feeling I should be more worried about the mama.
Sorry I didn't get back to this sooner--I was out of touch for a few days.
Thanks for the comments, Randy.
quote:it’s so hard to isolate yourself from your story and see it as others would see it when the whole thing is held so cinematically in your own head
Actually, the problem is that it's written down so clearly in book 1. That's what makes it hard for me to remember what the readers don't know. (Readers of the first book do NOT have any of the confusion complaints that this one has been struggling with.)
KayTi--good point about going outside, but I think it's clarified right away--the sounds are heard best at the front door, and Jeniele goes out the back; then the riders of the horses come right to the house, as Lorann expected.
Elan--since you might be a bit slow on reply, I'll be a bit slow on the sending. Although the latest round of critiquers did not (generally) find themselves nearly as confused, OR confused by the same things, as the first round, they did make some good suggestions that I want to stick in. And since I'm also trying to work on the other end of this book, it may be a week or two before I get the early chapters to you. If you are going to be unusually busy for a long time at that point, let me know and I'll try to get it to you sooner.