Here's a quick blurb for The Princess, The Knight and The Knave. 3rd draft complete at 57,000 words)Any comments or insights are appreciated.
// When fifteen-year-old budding stage-illusionist Matt Collins' soul flashes from our modern world into the prematurely aged body of the wicked - but not quite evil - wizard Crius, he inherits none of the hard-living wizard's magical talents, but all of his determined enemies. Imprisoned in Crius' decrepit body and pursued by the wizard's relentless enemies, Matt has no time to contemplate the fleetness of life. Befriended by the wizard's alcoholic brother and an untrained apprentice, Matt must free the princess kidnapped by Crius, avoid an angry knight's vengeance,outmaneuver the machinations of a scheming knave, and foil a powerful wizard's plan to usurp the kingdom ...or Matt will never celebrate his sixteenth birthday.
In the fantasy land of Kotimaa, The Second Law of Magic specifies the price for magic. Magic extracts years from the practitioner's life causing premature aging. The more magic is practiced, the more the years accumulate. (Look at any witch near you, the vain quest for magical beauty has aged more than one). The wizard Crius has a way around the law: when excessive magic over-ages your body,swap souls for a younger body.
I'm not going to prescribe to anyone, but you may want to open less "in media res" than this. You're going into backstory right away, to tell about the transition. with this.
I'd personally be more caught up if you take that gem of a quirk--that the young man's an illusionist--and put him in the middle of a performance, paint all those details about him that ground us about the character, and then drag him out, to deal with being given an ancient body and all it's enemies.
I know, I know, how's that for sweeping criticism? I think you're not playing to your assets with this opening, though. I think I should have know Matt was such a fascinating guy before I had to try and sympathize with his being in an old man's body. That's it's own hook to me.
[This message has been edited by ArachneWeave (edited January 01, 2009).]
Originally, I wrote it the way you suggested, with the soul "swap" at the end of chapter 1 in the middle of his first live TV performance. This prologue is a recent addition that didn't require major revision of the other 57,000 words. Why? 'Cause I get 13 lines and I don't have the luxury for much character development in the hook. So jumping "into the middle" was my next option. I don't know the solution to this conundrum, but I am open to suggestions.
I like ArachneWeave's suggestion, though if this is a prologue and you immediately back up and tell the whole story, that would work for me. I definitely found your 13 lines hookable, and your synopsis, too. If you're looking for readers at any point, I volunteer (though it may take me a few weeks to get back to you with any feedback).
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Before I had read the synopsis, I had already been hooked by the first thirteen lines. Not only is it interesting, it immediately makes your style apparent.
My favorite lines were: "His father's hands did not protrude from his sleeves. These hands belonged to his grandfather."
The summary was also hooking. The main thing from the summary was the fact that Matt starts off at a disadvantage, and gains nothing from stepping into the shoes of a wizard. It seems easier to empathize with a powerless main character than one who can immediately do wondrous and amazing things. All that gives me a great first impression of Matt. Add that to the first thirteen lines, and I'm hooked even more. Of course, that's my first impression, but first impressions are what takes a book off the shelves and to the cash register.
I like your story blurb and the overall idea, but I also had a problem with this line: "Ignoring the request, Matt looked down. His father's hands did not protrude from his sleeves. These hands belonged to his grandfather." I didn't know whether to take this literally or figuratively, which made me reread it a couple times. Also, when you wrote, "His father's hands did not protrude from his sleeves." Who's hands are these? The kid's or Matt's? I'm guessing Matt's, but it's a bit unclear.
"Matt ignored the boy." Is there any other way to show how he "ignores" the boy? Just saying, "Ignore," so close together seems a little redundant.
[This message has been edited by Grijalva (edited January 17, 2009).]