Hatrack River Writers Workshop   
my profile login | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Monks and Demons

   
Author Topic: Monks and Demons
RationalDelirium
Member
Member # 9019

 - posted      Profile for RationalDelirium   Email RationalDelirium         Edit/Delete Post 
So, I thought I'd put up my first 13 in my fantasy story. Weighing in at over 41k, it's the closest I've been to finishing an actual manuscript before, so that's exciting.

I was hoping to get some feedback on my hook. Is it, I don't know... hook-y enough? This is the first time offering any of my stuff up for critique, so this is a bit unnerving, to be honest.


There were a few things about summoning demons that Maratís father taught him, but those were unintentional. The lessons were really meant for were for his older brother, the promised one, and the light of his fatherís eye. The younger boy often crouched behind a tree just out of sight of the campfire, peering at his brother and his father speaking in hushed tones over roasted venison and archaic spells. Hour after hour they would pour over that demon-skin book, tracing out pentacles in the dirt with sticks, bonding.
Marat tugged his dirty hand through his long, tangled hair and sighed, but not loudly enough to be noticed by the two sitting alone at the campfire. He had to strain to overhear what was being said, until he gave up and decided to get a little closer.

_____________________

Okay, here's the new version


There were a few things about summoning demons that Maratís father taught him, but that was unintentional. As he stood in a circle of his fellow monks, watching his older brother finish the runes bordering the edges of the pentacle, he felt that familiar sensation of jealousy and loathing grip his insides, like an iron snake would curl around a fieldmouse. Darius would never know how he felt about him. Making sure nobody noticed, his blue shoe slipped out from under the ceremonial cloak, smudging one of the intricate runes closest to him. If anyone but Darius were to look at it, it was unlikely they would notice the chalk was smudged ever so slightly on the scorched forest clearing. The leaders didnít like their monks to be too educated.

[This message has been edited by RationalDelirium (edited March 11, 2010).]


Posts: 12 | Registered: Feb 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
TrishaH24
Member
Member # 8673

 - posted      Profile for TrishaH24   Email TrishaH24         Edit/Delete Post 
Welcome to Hatrack, RationalDelirium!

I want to say, that first sentence is promising. So very promising. It is a good hook. And then you jump right into a flashback and I lose interest.

The thing is flashbacks are (almost always) a no-no. (The only reason I say almost always is because once in a while, a writer comes along and breaks some--or all--the rules, and they do it so magically, so wonderfully, we as readers forgive the transgression. So tread carefully when breaking rules.)

Flashbacks are clunky, passive things that turn me off at almost every point in a book. That isn't the same as referencing the past to give your character a history. Say your lead watches a car accident unfold in front of them and can't help but compare it (briefly) to the accident that killed their brother five years ago: that is referencing the past. But if a character is pulled back into the memory for a paragraph or more, it is a flashback. If you keep it short and sweet, and make sure it is essential to the plot (as in, it can't be sprinkled through the book in other ways) then it is (probably) okay. But starting your book off with a flashback usually means you started in the wrong place.

You either need to start earlier (by beginning with the event you are flashing back to) or later (by skipping the flashback altogether).

That being said, I think you have a very clear style here, and that first line and I really liked that first line. I hope this has helped some, but if not, feel free to disregard it. This is just one person's opinion. (Just a note, even if twenty people told you the same thing, take it with a grain of salt. You are the writer. Yours is the only opinion that matters in the end. Critiquing is just a way to get other perspectives. It's hard, but don't let it get to you.)

Good luck!


Posts: 184 | Registered: Jun 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RationalDelirium
Member
Member # 9019

 - posted      Profile for RationalDelirium   Email RationalDelirium         Edit/Delete Post 
Hey, thanks for the review. I tried hard to get that first sentence just right, and I'm glad it paid off.
I didn't know that the rest of it read like a flashback though, but reading it again, I can see your point. Too much exposition, methinks. Jump the scene forward a few years... hey, you've just given me an idea for a new beginning. A better one! I'll post it when it's written.


Posts: 12 | Registered: Feb 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
TrishaH24
Member
Member # 8673

 - posted      Profile for TrishaH24   Email TrishaH24         Edit/Delete Post 
Awesome! Glad I could help. And can't wait to read the new first 13.
Posts: 184 | Registered: Jun 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Posie70
Member
Member # 9036

 - posted      Profile for Posie70   Email Posie70         Edit/Delete Post 
I liked the first sentence as well... and also agree that I lost interest a little after. Also second sentence was a little awkward.

Also, pentegrams are kind of a common witch-crafty, magical symbol. Maybe you could come up with some other arcane-type symbols that convey the idea that they are dabbling in sorcery or include the pentegram with others?

I like the idea of a father teaching an elder son and the younger being the true natural talent, or the one to learn it in secret. I'd be very interested in hearing more about it.

Good job.


Posts: 36 | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Posie70
Member
Member # 9036

 - posted      Profile for Posie70   Email Posie70         Edit/Delete Post 
I just noticed you called them pentacles and not pentagrams...sorry. That's actually a better word than what I thought it said...so you can disregard prior note on that. (and I should pay better attention hehe )
Posts: 36 | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Teraen
Member
Member # 8612

 - posted      Profile for Teraen   Email Teraen         Edit/Delete Post 
I disconcur with what has been said. I don't think this flashback is bad or out of place. The "flashback" is an explanation of the intriguing first line. As such, not only is it not out of place, but I think it is NEEDED. It explains what we need to know, and does so within the confines of the freebie first paragraph. And then, the story goes right into the MC participating in one of the very events that the "flashback" was explaining.

Furthermore, I think is done well. This isn't a boy reminiscing over his brother getting more baseball time with dear ol' dad... they are summoning demons! And that the MC was not supposed to know... interesting stuffs indeed. I is hooked.

But, for those other folks, just about the only thing that could help massage over the impression that it is a flashback would be to bring the event to the fore earlier, as in:
...and the light of his fatherís eye. ON NIGHTS LIKE TONIGHT, the younger boy often crouched...

Boom. Then we know it is setting, not flashback.

Good job.


Posts: 496 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RationalDelirium
Member
Member # 9019

 - posted      Profile for RationalDelirium   Email RationalDelirium         Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, what I was initially trying to do was what Teraen thought I was doing, as in giving the beginning line some sort of context.
I guess the main problem was that I was writing it after I had written a lot of the story already, and this scene takes place several (read: 35) years earlier, and some of my verb tenses may betray that fact.

But thanks for all feedback! This is quite excellent. Different versions will ensue as soon as real life stops getting in my way...


Posts: 12 | Registered: Feb 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RationalDelirium
Member
Member # 9019

 - posted      Profile for RationalDelirium   Email RationalDelirium         Edit/Delete Post 
Okay, new version up.

Posts: 12 | Registered: Feb 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
TempestDash
Member
Member # 9026

 - posted      Profile for TempestDash   Email TempestDash         Edit/Delete Post 
I wouldn't have been so quick to abandon your first version, I think there are things it well, maybe even better than your new edition.

I partially agree with Teraen. In the first paragraph, when the Marat remembers his brother learning spells with his father, it's establishing context. Not just context for his statement, though! The last line of that paragraph does something subtle, which is create the feeling of resentment without outright stating it. This line:

quote:
Hour after hour they would pour over that demon-skin book, tracing out pentacles in the dirt with sticks, bonding.

The last word, "bonding" is thrown in there almost contemptuously. It drives home the feeling of anger he feels that he wasn't included in these sessions.

The second paragraph of your original version, however, continues on suddenly as if one of those remembered training sessions were occurring in the present. It's not as interesting as the reminiscing, so here I'd recommend jumping to your second version and the circle of monks.

Now, though, because you've already established the resentment, you don't need the line about "jealousy and loathing gripping his insides." In fact, it works better without it. Ditch the line about Darius never knowing as well, it's just repeating what we already know. Besides, it's normal for people to hide their jealousy, we can assume without being told.

Finally, my last suggestion is just to make the line that starts "Making sure nobody noticed..." a new paragraph. It's best not to mix action and reaction in the same paragraph.


Posts: 52 | Registered: Mar 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post 
This is interesting because there are things I like about both openings.

Version 1

quote:
There were a few things about summoning demons that Maratís father taught him, but those were unintentional. The lessons were really meant for were for his older brother, the promised one, and the light of his fatherís eye. The younger boy often crouched behind a tree just out of sight of the campfire, peering at his brother and his father speaking in hushed tones over roasted venison and archaic spells. Hour after hour they would pour over that demon-skin book, tracing out pentacles in the dirt with sticks, bonding.

I really like this part because it shows why Marat would be so jealous of his older brother. It also flows very nicely from the first sentence which I love. The prose could use some tightening, but I don't want to do a line by line if you're not going to use this opening.

Version 2

quote:
There were a few things about summoning demons that Maratís father taught him, but that was unintentional. I don't think this first line works anymore. It doesn't connect with the rest of the paragraph since Marat is not summoning a demon. I think you should start with the jealousy. As he stood in a circle of his fellow monks, watching his older brother finish the runes bordering the edges of the pentacle, he felt that familiar sensation of jealousy and loathing grip his insides, like an iron (cut iron) snake would (cut would and use curled instead of curl) curl around a fieldmouse. Darius would never know how he felt about him (cut about him that is obvious). Making sure (how is he making sure? Glancing around?) nobody noticed, his blue shoe slipped out from under the ceremonial cloak, smudging one of the intricate runes closest to him. If anyone but Darius were to look at it, it was unlikely they would notice the chalk was smudged ever so slightly on the scorched forest clearing (you mean ground?). The leaders didnít like their monks to be too educated.

I like this one too. The younger brother sabotaging his brother's attempt at summoning demons. What is there not to love?

I guess you hook me either way, but the second one does seem to get the story moving faster. Nice job.

[This message has been edited by MAP (edited March 13, 2010).]


Posts: 1102 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Teraen
Member
Member # 8612

 - posted      Profile for Teraen   Email Teraen         Edit/Delete Post 
I liked the first version better. What works about the second, though, is seeing him sabotage his brothers work. This is definately action, not telling. You may want to combine the versions?

One thing I would suggest if you want to leave that in is simply have him do that to his brother, without explaining why. Leave it up to the reader to start to wonder why he does it:

There were a few things about summoning demons that Maratís father taught him, but that was unintentional. As he stood in a circle of his fellow monks, watching his older brother finish the runes bordering the edges of the pentacle,
CUT HERE
he felt that familiar sensation of jealousy and loathing grip his insides, like an iron snake would curl around a fieldmouse. Darius would never know how he felt about him.
START HERE
Making sure nobody noticed, his blue shoe slipped out from under the ceremonial cloak, smudging one of the intricate runes closest to him. If anyone but Darius were to look at it, it was unlikely they would notice the chalk was smudged ever so slightly on the scorched forest clearing. The leaders didnít like their monks to be too educated.

See? Now we start to wonder why he would do that to his brother. Is it because he is protecting him? ("Leaders didn't like their monks too educated" maybe he is making his brother look imcompetent to protect him.) Is it because he is jealuous?

This, of course, depends on the rest of the scene. But seeing him act is much more potent than simply telling us he felt jealous. It functions as a good hook, plus it gets the reader involved because they are going to get curious about
1) what happens when the mark is smudged?
2) why did he do that?

So the combined version might look like:
There were a few things about summoning demons that Maratís father taught him, but those were unintentional. The lessons were really meant for were for his older brother, the promised one, and the light of his fatherís eye. On nights like tonight, the younger boy often crouched behind a tree just out of sight of the campfire, peering at his brother and his father speaking in hushed tones over roasted venison and archaic spells. Hour after hour they would pour over that demon-skin book, tracing out pentacles in the dirt with sticks, bonding.
He stood in a circle of his fellow monks, watching his older brother finish the runes bordering the edges of the pentacle. Making sure nobody noticed, his blue shoe slipped out from under the ceremonial cloak, smudging one of the intricate runes closest to him. If anyone but Darius were to look at it, it was unlikely they would notice the chalk was smudged ever so slightly on the scorched forest clearing. The leaders didnít like their monks to be too educated.

[This message has been edited by Teraen (edited March 13, 2010).]


Posts: 496 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Rob Roy
unregistered


 - posted            Edit/Delete Post 
Rational,

the story has promise. Between the two versions, I prefer the first, but certainly keep working on it. You've received some good feedback.

One thing to be aware of is that spell-checkers don't catch valid homophones. It's perfectly good grammar to "pour" something over a book (water? milk? sugar?) but people who are studying intensely are more likely to pore over it.

But don't worry. At least it's not as bad as "The throws of passion," which invariably leads to the throw of the manuscript, by the editor, into the bin.

Best,
Rob Roy.


IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
RationalDelirium
Member
Member # 9019

 - posted      Profile for RationalDelirium   Email RationalDelirium         Edit/Delete Post 
Ha! Oops. Curse the homophones! Thanks everyone for the awesome advice.

I'm conflicted over what I'm going to do with the beginning. The second version stems from a scene later on, but now I don't even know if I want to show this character so early in the plot. He's the antagonist (one of them), so where's the line between foreshadowing/prologue and being incredibly obvious?
It's quite the conundrum.

Maybe I should focus on actually finishing this thing...


Posts: 12 | Registered: Feb 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MAP
Member
Member # 8631

 - posted      Profile for MAP           Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Maybe I should focus on actually finishing this thing...


Yes, once you get to the end, it may become clear where you should begin.


Posts: 1102 | Registered: May 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

   Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Hatrack River Home Page

Copyright © 2008 Hatrack River Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.


Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2