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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Homesake - YA fantasy

   
Author Topic: Homesake - YA fantasy
karriezai
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ETA: Okay, I thought adding a prologue might help. I haven't edited the first chapter's opening just yet, but the prologue creates a separate need for a hook, so I'm providing the first 13 for that below. I'd appreciate feedback, once again!

---------------------

Selenas’ skin slips through my fingers, but she turns back to me anyway, one eyebrow raised. “Problem?” she asks.

Yes. “No.” It doesn’t sound convincing. I flex my hand around Defender’s hilt and scratch the whiskers growing too long on my jaw. “I’m just supposed to ask this little girl to come with me? You expect her to listen?” Please don’t listen. The real question aches in my throat: Why do we need the Equitanian diplomat’s daughter?

Selenas’ laugh is full, soaking into the wood walls rather than bouncing back. “Might help if you shaved the beard.” My mouth twists—an automatic reaction to another jab at my beard. “But you have a friendly face. And she’s just four years old. She’ll do what you say.”

---------------------

Original first 13 (from chapter 1):

---------------------

I hate feeling like a criminal.

With my pack pressed against the wall, muscles tense, my breath loud in my ears, I wait for the watchman to move away. I only caught a glimpse of the red stripe blazed down the center of his tunic, but it was enough. My hand fists around Defender’s hilt until the tendons stand out, sweat slicking the leather covering my fivemark.

I knew it was a mistake to cut through the working quarter, but I wanted to get through the city as fast as possible. At least in the crowd of the market my covered fivemark would hardly be noticeable. Running into a watchman in the relative quiet of the working quarter, though….

---------------------

Any feedback is appreciated :]

[This message has been edited by karriezai (edited August 23, 2011).]


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akeenedesign
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The writing is very good, but I'm getting lost in the action, and not in a good way.

I feel like this beginning doesn't have an anchor. It starts off too quickly, without anything to ground me to the story. It's like I've opened the book to a random page, not to the beginning.

Action beginnings are fun, but all this action doesn't mean anything because I have no frame of reference as to what's happening, or why it's so important that this no-name, no-gender, abstract character needs to get through the city.


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A Yeatts
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The verb tense changes from present to past. Personally, I prefer past but that's your call. Wanted to know more about your character... male, female? How old? Where they? Hard to latch on without knowing what's going on. That being said, thought your sentences flowed nicely... smoothly... would like to read more.
Anna

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karriezai
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Thank you :]

I'm curious--I struggle with getting a sense of the character's gender/age/etc in right from the get-go. Does anyone have any examples handy of first person POV writing that gives you a sense of the character in the first 13 lines? I'd like to see some good examples of how it's done.


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A Yeatts
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Not my favorite book but it doesn't get much clearer than Moby Dick's first line: Call me Ishmael.

Middlesex by Geoffrey Eugenides does a fantastic job of getting pivotal, complicated info out to the reader immediately.

I'm not a huge fan of the Twilight series but she does get a lot of information across in the first couple paragraphs... age, sex, setting, tiny blurb of back story.

I'll try to think of better ones for you. Good luck!


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karriezai
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Thanks! I also looked at a couple of my favorite first-person books on my shelf and saw some pretty good examples. I've got an idea for how to strengthen this hook, just need to work it out. :]
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History
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Good opening first line hook.

I suggest active/action verbs. "I stood back against the wall, waiting for the watchman to move away. My breath sounded loud in my ears. ... "

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Try to avoid the mistake Stephenie Meyer made in telling Bella Swan's story in first person: people didn't understand that Bella is very self-sacrificing (because someone who is really that way is not going to think of herself that way), and instead considered her weak, wussy, whiny, waffly (sorry about the alliteration).

One of the big challenges with first person point of view is getting across the character's good qualities without seeming to brag.


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karriezai
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You know, I've never heard anyone talk about Bella quite that way, and it makes a lot of sense--both the observation on Bella's character and the challenge of first person writing. Thanks!
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Crane
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quote:
With my pack pressed against the wall,

I got thrown for a loop by the word 'pack.' It sounds like no one else had this problem so perhaps I just need to make myself a cup of tea or something. In my mind's eye the narrator was pressed against the wall with several other people, "the pack," and additionally they were some kind of were-wolves. Probably just me, though. Now I see that the character is wearing a backpack, probably.


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karriezai
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Thanks for that input, Crane! (Sorry I'm just noticing it now x_x) That is a problem with fantasy. The wrong word choice can evoke the wrong kind of fantasy. I'll have to keep that in mind.

I've added the first 13 of my brand-spanking-new prologue, and I'd appreciate feedback on that. Comparative feedback between the two (for anyone who also read the first lines of chapter one) might also be really helpful.

Thank you so much!


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MAP
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I really like the prologue. You've got me hooked. I really want to know why she wants him to get the little girl and if he will go through with it.

My only complaint is that it feels like you are missing a line at the beginning.

quote:
Selenas’ skin slips through my fingers, but she turns back to me anyway, one eyebrow raised. “Problem?” she asks.

Why is he touching her? Is he stopping her from leaving? It just feels like a strange place to start. One more sentence before that explaining why he grabbed her would work for me.

My only other issue is that there is no sense of setting. I think you can get away with it in the first thirteen because it is so interesting, but don't leave the reader hanging for too long. We need to feel grounded.

But overall, I really like it, so great job!!


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karriezai
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Thanks! I'm not sure how well I build the setting; possibly not very, since it's just a three-page prologue.

Would changing 'skin' to 'wrist' help? Yes, he's stopping her from leaving. I thought it might be overload to start it the moment earlier, which would go something like....

quote:
"You won't have long after Kant pulls the nursemaid from the garden. Go change while he gets into position. This is a task for plain clothes." Commander Flint nods dismissal and turns to head back to the banquet hall.

Kant and Selenas break to go their own way, but I reach out for Selenas. My fingers slip from her wrist, but she ... [from here it would be the same, basically]


It's a possibility, I guess, but I don't really like it as an opening. Any thoughts?


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MAP
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I don't think you need all of that just one sentence.

quote:
I reach out for Selenas. My fingers slip from her wrist, but she ...

Maybe add something at the end of the sentence just to make it clear, like: "I reach for Selenas to stop her from leaving..."

That would work for me.


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karriezai
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Thanks! Never would have thought of such a simple fix, haha.
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RyanRussellLunde
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I'm quite late in this reply but I am new and trying to get a feel for how this particular forum works and simply critiquing for my own education.

Before I read the other comments I was thinking the same thing. I didn't feel grounded in the story, didn't really know anything about the characters therefore I didn't really care what was happening to them. Kinda shallow but it's the way this fickle world works especially while reading stories. Someone you've never heard of dies on the street corner, oh well. Someone you feel close to dies on the street corner, it's life changing. Give me a reason to care, introduce me to the characters.

It's good to start a story with lots of dialogue between the MC's but this dialogue was kinda confusing. Like eaves dropping in the middle of a conversation that doesn't make sense because I missed the first part and don't have a clue what they are talking about.

I'd like to read more if I knew the character's better.


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