Decided to post my first 13 today. It’s for a sword & sorcery fantasy titled Knights Valor, completed at 96,000 words. Sort of at a crossroads with my writing. Have had friends read, and got positive results back, but I am looking for more impartial opinions.
1. As far as the first 13, I want it all, anything and everything you can give me: does it hook, start too early (this would be a shock), too late, bad grammar, POV, you get the idea. Done in the framework of constructive criticism, I should be able to take it.
2. If I survive the first 13, and some of you have the time and are inspired to read more, I would love to have the first chapter, or two looked at so I can get an idea where my problems may lay, and areas that I could use to work on.(chapter 1, 1,700words)(chapter 2, 3,300words) Obviously, I would be happy to return the favor.
Anyways, here goes:
Roselyn staggered. The Five! Gods no! Trevain was raising The Five. She looked back towards her pleading father. He was down, sprawled at the feet of Trevain. Even then, she wanted to run to him, lose herself in his arms. But she couldn’t. She wouldn’t. She alone would stand against Trevain. She alone- “Ten,” Trevain’s voice sounded. Ten. That was how old she was—only ten, so small, so young. And she hoped to stand against Trevain. How? A wave of fear swept over her and tears gathered. She shook her head. I can’t stop, father. They’ll kill me; rip me to pieces as you watch. She ran on. I’m already dead! “Nine.”
Edited: forgot the italics
[This message has been edited by Tiergan (edited March 29, 2008).]
[This message has been edited by Tiergan (edited April 03, 2008).]
I think the inclusion of "The Five! Gods no!" is a little awkward/clumbsy. Without it the beginning is snappy, precise, intense. Its like a series of drum beats with one beat replaced with a fart. Also, the repetition of the words "the five" doesn't really work well. But perhaps "Gods No!" could be placed after "Trevain was raising The Five." Like this,
Roselyn staggered. Trevain was raising The Five. Gods No! She looked back towards her pleading father...
Also, I'm not sure I like the idea of a countdown, you could introduce the fact that she is ten without it. I understand that its a way of dividing the beat with a heavy "bass" (sorry, I seem to be stuck with this drum analogy) so the mind doesn't get overwhelmed by the number of thoughts, but it sounds... kinda silly. Unless of course he is giving the countdown in order to co-erce someone into doing something before the time is up.
I also hope that you don't employ this writing method throughout the whole book. It would get tiring on the mind to have to read 32,000 beats in 96,000 words.
Hi. Congratulations on your first attempt. It's not too bad, but could use some cleaning up.
quote: Roselyn staggered. The Five! Gods no! Trevain was raising The Five[Five What? Your PoV character knows, so we should too. Perhaps you can establish a feel for the age through inner dialogue and leave this part until a little later.]. She looked back towards her pleading father.<--[This sentence is clinky. Does she think of him as "Father"? Then just write that, and I think the pleading is more at home as part of the next sentence.] He was down, sprawled at the feet of Trevain. [Even then,<--[IMHO, loose this, it's clutter.] she wanted to run to him, [lose herself in his arms<--This sounds more like a lover's action.]. [But<--[Don't need this.] she couldn’t. [She wouldn’t.<--At this point, this is clutter, it slows down the pace.] She alone would stand against Trevain[Why?]. [She alone-<--[Clutter.] “Ten,” Trevain’s voice sounded.[Why is he counting? It feels like a way to stall while trying to build tension, but I don't see any consequences threatened.] Ten. That was how old she was—only ten[, so small, so young.<--PoV? Ten year olds think of themselves as invincible--at least my kids--not "small" or "young", they have no comparison.] [And she hoped to stand against Trevain.<--These should be joned into one question-->How?] A wave of fear swept over her and tears gathered.<--[NICE characterization!] She shook her head. I can’t stop, [F]ather. They’ll[WHo? I didn't know there was anyone else around.] kill me; rip me to pieces as you watch. She ran on[WHen was she running? I knew she staggered, but from what I knew not: running, a blow to the head, the sight of her father being tortured...]. I’m already dead![Eh?] “Nine.”<--[Again with the unexplained counting.]
What I should know: Who; Where (It can be as vague as outside on the grass); time/era; What's Happening.
What I don't know: Where (Inside a temple, outside in a cemetary, along a sidewalk, in a spaceship...) When (Now, The future, The Distant Past, One of those on a different planet...) What's going on (I gather she's running away, but from what and why is this happening? And why is her father sprawled before the statue of a god?)
quote: I think the inclusion of "The Five! Gods no!" is a little awkward/clumbsy. Without it the beginning is snappy, precise, intense. Its like a series of drum beats with one beat replaced with a fart.
That's sounds like mockery more than constructive criticism.
[This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited March 29, 2008).]
Sorry if it sounded that way, it wasn't meant to sound insulting. I simply meant to illustrate that I felt that those words had a negative affect on the flow of an otherwise captivating rhythm. I thought the analogy was a fitting one, I mean what could ruin a great drum beat more then if one of those beats was, in fact, a fart? But I apologize if its irreverant tone was construed as mockery of the substance which the analogy analogized (Is that even a word?) because it most assuredly was not.
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Hi Tiergan! Congrats on your first 13! Yeah, getting reads from friends can be tricky. I avoid it now. If they love it, I'm always suspicious that they're just saying that, or that they love me so much their just blind to my horrible writing.
So, here's my take:
Roselyn staggered. I found this a difficult first line. We're given a reaction with no context. Also, "staggered" is weird--my mind wants to know where did she stagger? Or what did she stagger (it can be a transitive verb, too).The Five! Okay, interesting, but this doesn't elucidate her first reaction at all. I have no idea how to take this, except that it's something horrible. Without knowing what's at stake, though, I'm not ready to jump into the storyGods no! Trevain was raising The Five Still not sure what's going on. Is he raising, as in caring for "the five"? Or as in summoning?. She looked back towards her pleading father. He was down, sprawled at the feet of Trevain. At this point, I'd suggest combining these to sentences, since neither of them bring in the factual elements I'm seeking. Even then, she wanted to run to him, lose herself in his arms. But she couldn’t. She wouldn’t. She alone would stand against Trevain. She alone- “Ten,” Trevain’s voice sounded. On first read this really confused me. Why is he saying ten? Was he pointing out her age? It's not until the end of the first page that i realize he's counting down, but I don't know what he's counting down to. Also, it's an awful long time in brain time (which seems like ages even though its seconds) to go not understanding something, especially since there's already so much stuff here I'm not understanding. Ten. That was how old she was—only ten, so small, so young. And she hoped to stand against Trevain. How? A wave of fear swept over her and tears gathered. She shook her head. I can’t stop Stop what? Also, this line sounds as if her father had asked her to stop, but there's no indication of it., father. They’llWho? The five? Some other minions? kill me; rip me to pieces as you watch. She ran on "On" implies to me she had been running before, but she hadn't, as far as I can tell.. I’m already dead! “Nine.”
My main issue with this is that I'm dumped in the middle of a scene and I don't know what to make of it. While the emotional energy is very high, and hence I'm sympathetic to Roselyn, I feel like I'm scrambling just to figure out what people are talking about. We've got three characters already--Roselyn, the dad, and Trevain, a god statue, reference to five more somethings coming, or at least coming of age, and an unspecified "they". On the other hand, I don't get a sense of setting--it could urban fantasy, etc.m and no sense of place.
It might be just a bit too much work to ask a reader to do this early on in a book. Even if you just hinted at what the five was--spirits, demons, dragons, etc, and what Trevain intended to do with them, I might be able to stick through it. It feels to me like you're starting the story too late.
The POV is nice grounded in Roselyn, and the style over all is good, though you could trim here and there. It also looks like you shorted yourself a line.
The statue of a God? Man, now even I’m lost, and I wrote the thing. Wow! Only goes to show that what goes on in my head isn’t what I manage to write down. Thank you for all the advice.
Needless to say, this needs work. Not wanting to taint any further critiques by explaining here and now the confusion of what is happening, I will rewrite the 13 and see if I can make it more clear there.
I do have one question though. I think the main problem lies with me cutting the scene before this one out. I felt it was to “info-dumpy” and it was told through Roselyn’s fathers POV. I can correct the “the info-dump”, but Roselyn’s father is not a main character, is starting with his POV acceptable. He quite literally isn’t even seen or heard from after chapter 1 until about ¾ of the way through the book. It seems easier coming from him though. I know that easier doesn’t mean better but it is his actions that set up Roselyn running and sets up the countdown.
Any thoughts? I will also post this question in discussions as it probably fits there better, and sees more action.
Is there a reason this can't be told from Roselyn's pov? If she's not present, would it severely mess things up if you inserted her and had her witness? Or you could back up even more and set up the story so that the scene with the father is no longer critical to our understanding of the story line (i.e. the info gets conveyed through other means than dramatization).
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No, there really is no reason I couldn’t tell it from Roselyn’s POV, she is there, at least at the point I started with.
But now what I fear is, I overlooked the importance of telling the first scene through her fathers eyes as I originally wrote it. The final scene, or at least the ending for a lot of the ‘threads’ is told through his POV and I feel I need to tell the first scene from his side for the full bookend, and emotional closure.
This scene I posted, would still be there just a page later. At least that is what I believe at this point.
Its amazing to me, how characters take on a life of their own as we write, and growth and changes for even what I believed as secondary characters seem so important now. It seemed so simple when I wrote it. A little girl sacrifices her life and summons a Death Knight to save her family. But when I finished the book, I realized it was much larger to me to me than that. Yes that’s the story I wrote, but that’s not the umph behind it all. Maybe the largest realization was her father. While I thought her father was a secondary character and he is, his story seems just as important, maybe not as large in words, but needs to be completed for that full satisfying ending that we all crave. Of course maybe as a father of two little girls I just relate to his fear of failing his little girl and am just a little biased.
Anyways, I have some thinking to do. Thank you so much for your advice, and if you have anymore thoughts on this please let me know.
A knee drove into Bolan’s back, dropping him to the ground, draining all fight from him. Cowards! Paralyzed in fear, the townsmen had done nothing. He didn’t blame them. He had stood against Trevain and now he was down, bleeding in the dust of the street, while his daughter fled for her life. Gods no, not my little girl. “Rosie!” he cried clawing to his knees. He looked up at Trevain towering above him. “Please. She’s just a child.” Trevain unslung his shield. Horrified, Bolan watched as Trevain’s fingers traced the raised cross on the shield, caressing the five demented demons that clung to the symbol of faith. The Five! Bolan lunged to his feet. “No! They’ll kill her!"
Hu? I'm really confused, but it might just be me. That's happened before.
Who are all these people and what is happening?
quote: A knee drove into Bolan’s back presumably he's face down and can't see the knee. Who is the POV? Not Bolan. , dropping him to the ground, draining all fight from him.
Cowards! Whose thought is this?
Paralyzed in fear, the townsmen Hu? What townsmen? had done nothing.
He Who? And if this is Bolan is he really going to think of the townspeople when someone's trying to hurt him? didn’t blame them.
He Who? had stood against Trevain Oooh, a new name and now he [/b] Trevain? [/b] was down, bleeding in the dust of the street, while his still the last noun rule - this is still Trevain's daughter fled for her life.
Gods no, not my little girl. “Rosie!” he cried Bolan said clawing how does he do this generally, but more so with a knee in his back? to his knees. He looked up at Trevain towering above him.
“Please. She’s just a child.”
Trevain unslung his shield. seems an odd word use. Makes it sound like a bow especially when something seems like it's about to shoot out of it
Horrified, Bolan watched as Trevain’s fingers traced the raised cross on the shield, caressing the five demented demons that clung to the symbol of faith. literally?
The Five! Bolan lunged to his feet. again, how does he do this and why doesn't he just grab Trevain's crotch to gain the child more time to flee?
“No! They’ll kill her!" Hu? They are part of the shield. I'm confused.
While you are starting mid-action, which can be good, there is too much "alien" going on for me to understand the scene. Could you start when Bolan challenges Trevain? This is a novel, you have time to develop the world. You'l probably do better on this one if you do.
[This message has been edited by kings_falcon (edited April 03, 2008).]
Hey kings_falcon if you are out there, could I possibly get some clarification on some things. I really appreaciate everything you said, I just want to learn from my errors, and some clarification might help.
First I agree, I messed up the POV, was trying for Bolans, which I believe you gathered. Also, I agree I'm trying to hard to get to the part of The Five(the demons trapped in the shield.) So I think I'll slow things down, and start earlier. Probably the only newbie 13 that ever started late.
So with the first paragrpah set aside for now, could we revisit the following so I see where I went wrong.
quote:Trevain unslung his shield. seems an odd word use. Makes it sound like a bow especially when something seems like it's about to shoot out of it (1)
Horrified, Bolan watched as Trevain’s fingers traced the raised cross on the shield, caressing the five demented demons that clung to the symbol of faith. literally? (2)
The Five! Bolan lunged to his feet. again, how does he do this and why doesn't he just grab Trevain's crotch to gain the child more time to flee?
“No! They’ll kill her!" Hu? They are part of the shield. I'm confused.(3)
1. Unslung - the shield, a large shield strapped to his back. Unslung seemed more direct and ominous than unstrapped, removed. That was why I went with that word, not sure its a word though.
2. Literally - You lost me here, are we referring to the demons literally clinging to the raised cross. Or literally caressing? What I was going for was a shield with a pattern a coat of arms raised from the surface, not just painted, five demons clinging to the cross. Trevain caressing the pattern, was my way of showing his love or pride in it, as a man runs his hands over his baby, his red car.
3. The Five are trapped in the shield, which I am assuming you gathered as you mentioned something shooting out of the shield at point (1). My qustion here is, does everything have to be truly revealed at one point? Was it to far of a leap for the reader to put the two together. Trevin was caressing the shield with five demons on it, then thinks The Five. And if they did wasnt that enough for now.
I was attempting to wait until Trevain actually summoned The Five from the shield before going into detail on their descriptions. I thought that hinting that they were demons for now would be adequate considering the action involved, and whose POV it was. Although I screwed that one up. In other words a man who is broken and battered, and whose daughter is fleeing probably wouldnt think about the descriptions of The Five, but would still be scared of them. Is that fair to say?
Anyways anything you can help me with here would be a big help, and thanks again for your original response.
1) Unslung - It may be a proper word for the action but it seemed odd to me because he's not taking it out of something like you'd take a bow out of its carrying case. But, it didn't seem to bother anyone else, so take my comment with a grain of salt.
2) It was a word choice issue. I was wondering if the demons were literally clinging to the shield. It might be better to make it clear that he carressed the image of the demons painted on the shield.
3) No, everything doesn't have to be revealed. You only have to reveal what the reader needs to know right at that moment and everything you do show must be clear. Because the images weren't clear to me, I was confused.
If the demons were literally hanging off the shield, I'd understand the fear in the next line. If it's just a relief or painting of them, I will need something in the story to tell me why he's afraid.
BTW- starting too late happens to all of us too, especially when we are try to start with an intense action scene. Keep at it. Hope this helped.
Also, if Bolan picked the fight, wouldn't he know the sheild has the images of the Five and know what it means? Why is there existance a suprise? It would seem to me that the surprise is that they are being unleashed at a child.
quote: A knee drove into Bolan’s back, hmm . . . true, he couldn't see the knee. But a knee doesn't feel like a foot or a fist. This didn't strike me as a POV violation, but I can see that it might be. Maybe "Bolan felt a knee . . ." Can't mistake that POV dropping him to the ground, draining all fight from him. Cowards! If our POV is clear at this point, we'll know exactly who is thinking. Paralyzed in fear, the townsmen had done nothing. This seems a bit out of nowhere, but, again, IF our POV is clear, then this is his reaction and it's also clear. It just seems a bit out of place. He didn’t blame them. Yes, he did. He thought: Cowards! He had stood against Trevain and now he was down, bleeding in the dust of the street, while his daughter fled for her life.Again, if POV is established, all the "he"s refer to the POV character (Trevain, buried in a prepositional phrase, doesn't command much respect as the "nearest noun"). However, he doesn't see his daughter running. Does he hear her footsteps or something? Did she start running earlier, and is she already halfway to Samarkand? Gods no, not my little girl. A strange time to think this. You've given us no reason to think that Trevain is turning toward her, or threatening her, at the moment. “Rosie!” he cried comma clawing to his knees. He looked up at Trevain towering above him. Trevain would be behind him at this point. “Please. She’s just a child.” Trevain unslung word seems fine to me, but you might want to add "from is back" so we don't think it's from his arm--the first step in removiing his armor his shield. Horrified, Bolan watched as Trevain’s fingers traced the raised cross on the shield, caressing the five demented demons that clung I thought the demons were really there, clinging--perhaps they appeared at that moment, as he traced the cross. That might have been how he called them to the symbol of faith. The Five! Yeah, if they weren't really there, simply seeing them on the shield shouldn't make him think that they were about to be called. Bolan lunged to his feet. “No! They’ll kill her!"
I think this is a lot clearer than the previous version, but still needs some tidying. Now, though, I can figure out exactly what's supposed to be happening, which means the tidying should be fairly easy.
[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited April 05, 2008).]
I didn’t understand why the fight was drained out of Bolan with him just falling to the ground. Is he weak? Is Trevain that strong? If his family is in danger, he would surely fight back after one hit. Were the townsmen looking on? Could he see them? If he could see them, then you should tell us that before he thinks his thought. That will help us put the thought into context. I was distracted by it, because it jumped up out of nowhere and I didn't know who it was directed at. Why did he cry out for Rosie? He surely didn’t want her to come back to the man who would kill her. If she has a chance to live by running away, then he should encourage her to do so. I didn’t get a visual of him clawing to his knees. Was he scrabbling to his knees? I got a good visual of Trevain unslinging his shield, just like you explained above. I understood that the demons and cross were emblazoned on the shield like a crest. I thought that tracing them would summon the demons though. Is that correct?
I think this is fairly tight, not a lot of extra information, but I don't think it is the beginning because I don't have a good idea of the characters and the setting. Without knowing the rest of the story, I can't make a recommendation as to where to begin your story. I will list a few questions so you will have an idea of what I wanted to know and maybe that will help.
Did Rosie get away because her father tangled with Trevain? Did Trevain come to the village seeking Rosie for some reason? Why? Is Trevain alone or does he have henchmen with him? Did Trevain come from far away or is he the Lord who rules over the village? How do the villagers know of him? Does he have command over these demons and summon them at will? I got the slight impression that they would be on their own to wreak havoc on the world.
I like the story. A jacket cover synopsis would help me get a better idea of what is going on, but I think that this is a good exercise to try to set up the story with just the first thirteen lines. It's like writing flash-fiction in 150 words or less. I forces you to cut out everything that isn't the story.