This is the first 13 lines of a prologue to a book I'm writing. I've been working on the general idea for several years, but have finally settled down and feel like I have a fair grasp on where I want it to go. I have about 2 chapters written so far but they're not ready to be critiqued (I haven't edited them myself yet), but I want to know if this makes you interested not only to keep reading but in the character, and any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.
The winter wind swept through the forest, sending shivers through snow covered branches then racing up the slopes of the towering hills that guarded the village of Wynnmere. Raylinor sat on a boulder near the summit of the largest of the hills, scanning the forest for any sign of life. In the south-west, the light of the fading moon could be seen reflected on the frozen surface of the Wynne River. Raylinor let out a long, slow breath as the peace that exists only in the hour before sunrise settled in his heart. He looked up at the starless sky, a silver pallate awaiting the artist's brush of the morning sun. It was his hour, his sanctuary that would give him strength to face whatever challenges the day would bring.
"snow covered" should probably be hyphenated, and "pallate" should be "palette", I believe (but great image of the pre-dawn).
As noted, I'm less concerned by "hook" in a novel first 13 than I am in style and feel of the writing. This does a better job than many of setting this scene, although it's still a bit generic: we have "forest", "hills", a "river" and a sky that I presme must be cloudy if it's starless, yet the moon is visible (and by the way, if the hills are really "towering", why aren't they mountains?). More careful word choice can give your scene more precision and depth without dragging on too long.
quote: The winter wind swept through the forest, sending shivers through snow[-]covered branches then racing up the slopes of the [towering<--I agree with Tchern that "towering" doesn't resonate well with hills. Maybe an adjective matching the affect your hills have:bulky] hills [that<-->which] guarded the village of Wynnmere. Raylinor [Man or Woman?] sat on a boulder near the summit of the largest [of the<--cut.[/c]] hill[s<--[b]cut], scanning the forest for any sign of life. In the south-west, the light of the fading moon could be seen reflected on the frozen surface of the Wynne River.
[Raylinor let out a long, slow breath as the peace that exists only in the hour before sunrise settled in his heart.<--[This doesn't really add anything except that Raylinor is a guy--which the next sentence does.] He looked up at the starless sky, a silver pallate awaiting the artist's brush of the morning sun. It was his hour, his sanctuary that would give him strength to face whatever challenges the day would bring.
All in all. This is inactive. My problem's not so much about the hook as it doesn't put me into a story, nor does it show me what I should be looking at. What era is this? What type of village? Is Raylinor human or other?
I only know that it is early morning and he likes it. Not a lot for an opening.
I agree it sets a nice scene. My question is, do you really want to start with a weather report? No matter how well you do it, at this point, it's still a Christmas card to me.
Not that it can't be done. But you need to put something in to intrigue me and draw me forward with this kind of opening. Take a look at the first page of Patrick Rothfuss' NAME OF THE WIND. It's all about silence. And yet, there's enough mystery added to that silence and it's connection to the MC that it pulls you forward. You want to find out what's behind the first two silences and why the third silence belongs to Kvothe.
I found it rather boring. There's no sense of movement, of anything really happening. Just some guy sitting on a rock, relaxing. He's not waiting for anything or even thinking. Just sitting there. I know thirteen lines isn't much, but there really isn't anything there.
Why is he on the rock? You mention him watching for any sign of life, but he doesn't see anything. Why? And sitting on a rock on a cold, dark night doesn't sound comfortable, but he seems perfectly content with it. And a content character does not make an interesting story.
How is this the beginning of the story?
[This message has been edited by Emily Palmer (edited December 29, 2009).]
Thanks for the thoughts everyone. I've reworked it a bit. Trying to get more to the point of the scene in these first 13 lines. Let me know if its any better.
Raylinor stood alone near the summit of one of five hills that shelter the village of Wynnmere. He wore his brother's old winter coat, its hood pulled over his head to protect him from the wind, and carried only a small pack with a single change of clothes, a ceremonial dagger, and a block of smooth wood taken from one of the trees in the village. His hunting knife hung from his belt, along with a pouch that held five silver coins. Hardly enough to begin a new life, he though; but it was all he had. In the sky, the stars were beginning to fade as the blackness of night slowly dimmed to silver in anticipation of the coming morning. Soon the rising sun would light the sky with red and yellow flame, and a new day would be born.
Much better! I like the sentence “Hardly enough to begin a new life, he thought; but it was all he had.” (You could perhaps drop “he thought”.) It leaves me wondering why he is leaving home (please explain soon), and resonates with a new day dawning. You’d better tell me pretty quick how he feels about leaving home: freedom and excitement, regret and sorrow, fear and fleeing? Is he leaving by his own choice? Some hint up front would be welcome.
You didn’t say he lived his whole life in Wynnmere, but it’s implied by his “new life”.
Nits: “sheltered” “pulled over his head” - > “up” or “pulled up”
The phrase “a block of smooth wood taken from one of the trees in the village” seems like too much and not enough information. I’d suggest trimming to “a block of wood” and then explain later where it came from, and what it’s for or what it means to him. (Or cut to “a block of wood cut from a tree in the village”; it does sound like a piece of home that he is taking with him.)
Don’t need “in the sky” and “in anticipation of the coming morning” (although I do like the word “anticipation”). (Maybe get rid of "and a new day would be born" instead, since its a tad cliche.)
"the stars were beginning to fade" -> the stars faded
Are the "five" hills and "five" coins significant? If not, then maybe drop or change one of them.
[This message has been edited by MrsBrown (edited January 07, 2010).]
The phrase that got my attention in the second go was "hardly enough to start a new life." This leads me to wonder why he has to leave behind his old life, with so much, where he'll go, and what he'll do.
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Mythranor, I like the second version. I don't really have details to add, just wanted to voice that I would continue reading. Adding crits behind this group is tough... they are very thorough and well thought. Welcomes ta'ya.
I would be interested in reading more if you were so inclined.
But I found the visualisations of the first one fantastic. My mind raced through the underbrush of the snow covered trees and up the mountain to where he was sitting. I saw the bolder and the gleam off the frozen river. It felt like it flowed and it had a poetic touch to it at the end. 'Painting the morning' or whatever it was that you said.