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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » MAGE STORM--Two Openings

   
Author Topic: MAGE STORM--Two Openings
Meredith
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Curious as to which is better.

Original:

quote:
Rell jumped to his feet when his sister brought the water jug around, brushing the heavy clay soil from his hands.

"Back before the War, we'd have had a mage bespell the seeds before we planted," Da said as he pushed himself to his feet. "That'd make the corn grow faster than the weeds and choke them out. Things were easier, then."

How many times did Rell have to listen to the same stories about what it had been like before the Great Mage War?

"Well, there aren't any more mages," he answered, trying to cut Da's stream of nostalgia off. "They killed each other in the War. And we wouldn't be planting corn at all if the mages hadn't destroyed the orchard along with the forest."

His father only grunted in reply.


Condensed version:

quote:

Rell stood, brushing the heavy clay soil from his hands and watched the dark line of clouds on the northern horizon. There'd be a storm later. At Da's glare, Rell sighed and started to turn back to the row of corn he was supposed to be weeding. From the corner of his eye he saw the lightning fork down from the distant clouds. He froze, half bent to his work and stood up straight again. That bolt had been red! He would swear to it. He watched for another ten heartbeats, waiting. Another bolt. This one was green. He cursed every one of the seven gods. Not just a storm--a mage storm.

"Cover!" Rell shouted. "Get to cover quick. Mage storm."


Intermediate Opening:

quote:
Rell brushed the heavy clay soil from his hands and took the jug from his sister. Cool water sloshed over his hand as he poured himself a cup full. Even this early in the season, weeding the fields was hot work.

"Back before the War, we'd have had a mage bespell the seeds before we planted," Da said as he pushed himself to his feet. "That'd make the corn grow faster than the weeds and choke them out. Things were easier, then."

Rell handed Da the jug and turned to watched the dark line of clouds on the northern horizon. "Looks like there'll be a storm, later."

"All the more reason to get this done earlier. Quit your daydreaming. Back to work, Rell."


MORE Condensed Opening:

quote:

Rell stood, brushing the heavy clay soil from his hands. The lightning he'd seen from the corner of his eye had been red. He would swear to it. He watched for another ten heartbeats, waiting. Another bolt. This one was green. He cursed every one of the seven gods. Not just a storm--a mage storm.

"Cover!" Rell shouted. "Get to cover quick. Mage storm."

The towering clouds scudded across the sky with unnatural speed, powered by magic. The underside of the clouds flashed with shifting colors--white, red, green, blue, yellow.


[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 04, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 04, 2011).]


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Smiley
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I like them both but the condensed version has way more pop as a hook.

First one seems like a slower intro to your story.

So, yeah, the second one.


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Reziac
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Hmmm.... I think somewhere inbetween might be best. What happens when you combine 'em (then weed out the redundancies)?? Tho as Smiley says, the 2nd moves faster.

[This message has been edited by Reziac (edited January 26, 2011).]


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Josephine Kait
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I like the second one much better. IMHO there is plenty of time for the dadís nostalgia, and perhaps more understandable frustration with it, after the Mage Storm (first crisis) has passed.
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Corky
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I like the second one better, too. A couple of nits/suggestions, though.

First, I'd recommend changing the last sentence in the first paragraph to say something like "Not just a storm--something even worse."

That way, you don't repeat "mage storm" so soon when Rell says the words, and it gives a tiny bit of foreshadowing, and, it also gives a tiny bit more information (that mage storms are worse than regular storms).

Second, I think it would be fine for you to put another exclamation point in the last line--after "mage storm" because he is surely going to be yelling that as well. Maybe word it in a parallel way to the above last sentence: "Get to cover quick--mage storm!"


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MAP
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I like the second one better.

With this being middle grade (right?), I think it is better to start with action.


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Meredith
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Right, it's upper middle grade (ages 12 - 14, roughly).

I'm torn. I like the hint of characterization that the dialog gives. It also makes a very neat resonance with the ending (when Rell does use magic to make the seeds grow faster than the weeds). But, that's not exactly sacrosanct, either.

Usually, I expect to give a novel a little more than thirteen lines to get off the ground. But, middle grade . . . I don't know. Maybe more like a short story where you need to hook a bit earlier.


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Lissa
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Definitely the second!

Lis


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Grayson Morris
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Er...I liked the first one better. A lot better. It had more immediately accessible imagery for me, and the dialogue told me a great deal about the story that the second version didn't tell me at all. What was in the second version felt like infodump to me, and I was glazing over.

But, given the number of people who liked the second version better, maybe that's just a me thing.


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History
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I prefer the condensed version.

The original version seemed more of an info dump and did not scan as smoothly as the condensed version. It also lacked the immediacy of presented conflict with the arrival of the Mage Storm that is found in the condensed version.

The conflict I perceived is presented in the original version is between a lecturing father and a son not diligent in his chores, whereas in the condensed version the conflict is the arrival of the Mage Storm, which I found a much stronger hook.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

P.S. With humble nod to the previous poster, it still amazes me how we (as readers) can be so disparate in our personal preferences.

[This message has been edited by History (edited January 27, 2011).]


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melindabrasher
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The two seem like different novels, actually, because the first seems like one where Rell doesn't know much about magic (because the mage war killed off all the magic-workers). So he wouldn't know what a mage storm was, and the second one he seems quite aware of the magical characteristics of the storm. So, depending on which novel you're writing, consider which impression is best.

I like the dialogue in the first, except where Rell says, "They killed each other in the War. And we wouldn't be planting corn at all if the mages hadn't destroyed the orchard along with the forest." That seems like exposition in dialogue, (dialogue where both people in the conversation know the information, but the writer's just using them to explain something to the reader. Avoid such dialogue. But I like Da's nostalgia, the feeling that things are different now, and worse. I kinda missed that from the second.

The second is tighter, more intense, more action-y.

So maybe a little mish mash is your best option.


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Meredith
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Hmm. No consensus, here. (That's probably too much to ask of a question like this, anyway.) But the majority seem to be running to either the condensed version or something intermediate.

Besides giving a hint of characterization, the dialog was meant to show the difference between the generations--before and after the War. Da can remember when magic was at least occasionally helpful. Rell has seen only the destruction it caused. And that colors Rell's reaction when he gets "infected" with it himself.

Well, that's not centrally important to the story. If I think about it, there may be another way to bring that out, perhaps through a bit of internal monologue.

FWIW, the mage storms are not caused by living mages. They're essentially made up of the ashes of the mages killed in the War.


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KayTi
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My primary reaction to the first versus the second is that with the first, I feel the author's hand - you're trying to make sure I know something, and I notice that. Many readers might not.

The second just feels like a story unfolding. As a result, I prefer the second.

I hope this helps! Good luck.


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melindabrasher
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I like your explanation about mage storms from the ashes. Sounds like good world-building.

As for consensus, the main thing I've learned in my physical writers' critique group is that if you're a good enough writer, you'll rarely get a consensus. Bad writing's easier to agree on. But if you spark a debate, look at it as a compliment. Different opinions are what makes it such a tricky art. I think the best thing is to look for patterns in the critiques--things several people agree on--or things you wondered about yourself--and then carefully reevaluate on your own. Oh, and you'll NEVER EVER get a consensus on where to put a comma.


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Tiergan
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Sorry late to the thread. I like the first, its a scene to me, but is nowhere as interesting as the second. The second while its still a scene almost reads like narration.

I think the 2nd version inst that far off, but as one paragraph it almost feels forced trying to get to the mage storm line. You do a really good idea of breaking the storm and Rell's actions into alternating sentences, bringing tension, but it is too close together for me. I would like to see the paragraph spread out over several smaller ones.

Does that make any sense?


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Meredith
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Okay, there's a third, sort of intermediate opening above. I included a little of the dialog. This doesn't get to the mage storm quite as quickly. However, while it didn't seem to bother anybody here, I suddenly realized to my horror that the condensed version was, ahem, opening with the weather! Ack! Never going to get an agent past that first paragraph! Even though the weather in this case is supernatural and colorful.

Any thoughts on the third opening?

Or is it better to go with a still more condensed opening and just cut straight to what's unusual about this weather? (Version Four)?

[This message has been edited by Meredith (edited February 04, 2011).]


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Reziac
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Looking at it as younger-folks story, I think most-condensed hops into it quickest. We can worry about the crops and why this is all important to 'em once we're safely under cover.


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bobbyshane
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I think a combination of both the first and second would be great. Your third and fourth ones don't really accomplish that though. Maybe pace the lightning so that the red flash happens and catches Rell's eye, then go into the dialog, then he see's the green and knows for sure it's a mage storm and cue in the "Cover!" etc. Does that make sense?
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bobbyshane
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Oh, I forgot to mention that I really like this idea. The world building and other story points you mention sound great also. I would definitely read on from what I know of the story.
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Tiergan
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I like the :

MORE Condensed Opening

The best.

My only nit if you will. Let him curse the seven gods, Let me hear his fear. It would draw me in all the more.

And I am with you on the middle-grade, maybe action is best at first. I haven't read quite enough in the category to know for sure.


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sfedders
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I like the first better. I like a little information, it makes me care about the story where as with mindless action you might as well go see a movie. And you impart the information with character so that it draws us in. Then when the mage storm happens we will actually care, but that's just my two cents.
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Josephine Kait
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I really like the fourth one with a few tweaks. I hope youíll forgive me for taking a bit of license with your work. (And I donít know what the sisterís name is.)
quote:
Rell jumped to his feet, brushing the heavy clay soil from his hands. The lightning he'd seen from the corner of his eye had been red. He would swear to it. He waited ten more heartbeats, watching. Another bolt. This one green. Curse the seven gods. Not just a storm then.
"Cover!" Rell shouted, "Da! Lainnie! Get to cover quick. Mage storm."
The towering clouds scudded across the sky with unnatural speed. The underside flashed with shifting colors, first white, then red, and green, blue, yellow. These storms were a plague, powered by the magic of long dead Mages, a living reminder of their folly.

And now thereís another line and a half free for more. Keep going, and let me know when you are ready for chapter crits. I'd love to see where you are going with this.


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Meredith
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quote:
And now thereís another line and a half free for more. Keep going, and let me know when you are ready for chapter crits. I'd love to see where you are going with this.


Thanks for the suggestions.

This is the one I'm currenlty querying. I just suddenly got highly insecure about opening with the weather.


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Grayhog
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I like the Condensed version. I read each a couple times and this was most engaging to me, I could see the story best.
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Josephine Kait
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Cool! Let me know when it gets picked up, I'd like to read.
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