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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Smoke From An Ancient Fire - Prelude

   
Author Topic: Smoke From An Ancient Fire - Prelude
andersonmcdonald
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This is the new version of the prelude to my novel, Smoke From An Ancient Fire. Finished at 8,591 words. Looking for feedback. Thanks!

When I was eleven years old my father threw me into the river.
It was a cold day, a sharp wind from the north whispering words of winter. I remember shivering beneath my furs as I stood silently next to my father; I shiver now at the memory. The river waited below us, rain-swollen and black as obsidian, while Elder Neakatot and several of our tribe watched from a short distance away. My father looked down at me. He said nothing, but the look he gave me brought tears to my eyes.
I do not want to do this, that look said. But my father was Chugiri, the chief warrior among my people. He was expected to do his duty.
My people were the Aslui, those the Pale Ones call savages. Until only a few days before I would have argued strongly


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MarinaLee
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When I was eleven years old my father threw me into the river.
It was a cold day, a sharp wind from the north whispering words of winter. I remember shivering beneath my furs as I stood silently next to my father; I shiver now at the memory. The river waited below us, rain-swollen and black as obsidian, while Elder Neakatot and several of our tribe watched from a short distance away. My father looked down at me. He said nothing, but the look he gave me brought tears to my eyes.
I do not want to do this, that look said. But my father was Chugiri, the chief warrior among my people. He was expected to do his duty.
My people were the Aslui, those the Pale Ones call savages. Until only a few days before I would have argued strongly

You've definitely caught my interest about why he isn't arguing about being chucked in a river. On the overall I like it. Question One: is the entire story told as he looks back, or just this first part? It might do a better job of characterizing this guy if you include this later.

Question two) Why is this first? Did this event shape him for life? Not that it isn't an amazing interest catcher, I'm just wondering.

The more I read this the more I like it. You describe this very well. It could be slightly better though, which brings me to...

Question 3) Do you want us to cry with the main character? We don't. The setting is very real, the emotional aspect isn't quite there. I think you could fix this in a couple of sentences, or you could wait until we care more about the characters to bring it up.

Keep up the good work!


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Crane
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quote:
I remember shivering beneath my furs as I stood silently next to my father; I shiver now at the memory.

You are using 'remember' and 'memory' in this sentence. I think you could get away without using remember. Simply 'I shivered beneath...' Also by reminding us that you 'shiver now,' you are asking us to take a step back from the story all ready, which robs some of the power I think.

quote:
The river waited below us,

Maybe its fine to say that the river waits, but it seems to me that its a strange verb for a river to do. The river could seem more menacing if it 'tumbled,' 'rushed,' 'spat,' or something more active than waiting.

quote:
My people were the Aslui, those the Pale Ones call savages. Until only a few days before I would have argued strongly

I'm not clear on if the narrator would have argued a few days before the river tossing happened or a few days before the time when he tells us the story.


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andersonmcdonald
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Thanks for the feedback! Anyone want to read the whole thing? It's 8,575 words. I'd like to get your take on it as a whole. Thanks

[This message has been edited by andersonmcdonald (edited August 20, 2011).]


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MDBHarlan
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I like it. Good imagery. I would be happy to give it a read for you.

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Crane
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I'll read
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andersonmcdonald
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Thanks guys! I'll send it right out. No hurry, just whenever you get the chance.
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Twiggy
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There might be a couple of issues with this but I was drawn into setting enough so that I didn't care.
I would read on, and will if you send it through.

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andersonmcdonald
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There's probably a lot more than a couple. LOL. I'll send it right out. Thanks!
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MattLeo
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I very much like the title.

One issue I see in the first 13 is the use of the word "remember" in this:

quote:
I remember shivering beneath my furs as I stood silently next to my father; I shiver now at the memory.

"Remember" is one of those tricky little "state of mind" words like "thought", or "realized". I find that a passage is nearly always improved by removing them. What they do is call the reader's attention to your state of mind as opposed to the picture you are painting, which is sometimes what you want but often not. I feel they draw the reader's attention to the narrator's state of mind in the frame of reference he's speaking in. Compare:

A: I remember he had a bloody knife in his hand.

B: I realized he had a bloody knife in his hand.

C: He had a bloody knife in his hand.

"C" is the most immediate and vivid. "B" is less so because you are calling attention away from the bloody knife and to your state of mind. "A" removes the reader even more because you're talking about your narrator's state of mind _as he tells the story_.

So what about "I shiver now at the memory"? That's fine, because it's using the present state of mind to emphasize that the sensation of coldness was in the past was so intense it has the power to reach into the present. "Remember" merely states the self-evident fact that the narrator hasn't forgotten the events he's describing.

"Shivering at the memory" show how sometimes skillful indirection can be used to intensify a description. Often this takes some kind of contrasting setup.

B2: I reached out to shake his hand then realized he had a bloody knife in it.

A2: I'll never forget how casual he seemed about that bloody knife in his hand.


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