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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Xander

   
Author Topic: Xander
RyanRussellLunde
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I have been critiquing on the forums for a little while now and through stories that have been emailed to me from other members. From the insight I have gained I modified my first 13 to included a little more information. I didn't add or subtract anything, but simply rearranged sentences, placing some lines that would have been after the first 13 onto the first page. I also polished it up a little after what I have learned here gave me a different perspective.

I would enjoy critiques on my first 13 and would like to send the first few chapters to anyone interested in doing a more in depth critique.

First 13:
Deep beneath the ruins of an ancient fortress a pale skinned sorcerer gazed into an obsidian sphere. Utter darkness surrounded the figure robed in red. Cool colors emanating a faint glow churned within the orb like storm clouds over a raging sea. Gently he placed his hands on the sphere and closed his eyes. The clouds disappeared, replaced by an image of a forest.
“Where are you First Born? You can not evade me forever.” The view of the forest shifted and followed a path through the dense undergrowth. The orb flashed bright white then revealed the forest from high above its canopy. He desperately searched through the eyes of many wild creatures for a clue that would lead him to the boy. The boy that threatened to destroy everything he had created.


The manuscript is currently at 32k+ words, shooting for approx. 85-100k. It's light on politics, and heavy on character and world development. It is targeted to teens/young adults.

I have toyed with starting the book with a more "traditional" scene (MC intro with dialogue), but have chosen to save that scene for a couple pages later. I keep coming back to the following, a short prologue introducing the antagonist which I believe sets up the story a little better in this case, giving it more depth. The prologue is followed by an introduction to village life around Xander's home, then straight into a dialogue scene introducing the MC and his family around the breakfast table where the story really gets rolling. I will possibly post the first thirteen lines of those "potential intros" in other threads per the instructions on the forum title page at a later date to gain more insight on creating the "best" into.

Thanks in advance for your time. I definitely am willing to critique your stories also, not only as a trade off, but to learn more myself.

Edit: I moved the first 13 to in front of the summary, hoping that your critique of the first 13 will not be influenced by it.

Edit: removed summary, working on a different summary.

[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited September 26, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited September 26, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited September 26, 2011).]

[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited September 26, 2011).]


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Corky
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From looking at your description of your book, I find myself wondering how it happened that the demons attacked while he was away, hunting in the forest. Was there something (magical) that got him out of the village so he would be sure to survive the demon attack?

Starting your story with what appears to be a scene about why the demons attack that village at that time (and not in the years he was growing up) may seem the most dramatic, but why is the sorceror looking for him now and not earlier?

First off, I'd be more interested in what got him into the forest, and then later, how he finds out why his village was attacked, than I would in the sorceror who is seeking him.

But (second off), if you really want to start with the sorceror, I'd recommend that you show what happened to make the sorceror look for him right then. Did he receive some kind of magical omen that told him "the First Born" existed, or had he known all along and had he been searching for him all along? If he's been searching for him all along, what made it possible for him to find the village this time?

Do you see what I'm getting at? Why him? Why now? Why was he not where the sorceror's search say he would be?

I think you need to consider these questions in order to help avoid making your story just a series of coincidences.


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RyanRussellLunde
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Thanks for your input Corky. I attempted to send you a long email but it was returned as "delivery failed" twice.
Your critique was definitely influenced by the summary, my fault and not my intention. I might change the summary or delete it altogether but I'll wait to see what others think first. It all is explained and makes sense (in my head anyway) and I consciously try not to confuse the reader or make them bring up questions that should be answered. Hopefully in the actual manuscript I have done this better, but I see now that I have given too many mysterious cheap trick clues in the summary (trying to get people interested in reading and critiquing more of the manuscript) and just made you annoyed which is exactly what I try not to do when writing a story.

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Corky
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Oops! Sorry about the email address. I don't have that one any more, but the website says if I change to a different email address, I'll have to register all over again, and I'm not sure I want to do that.

I'd prefer discussion here anyway, rather than in email.


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RyanRussellLunde
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It was quite a long response that went into detail about the story, answering your questions about the summary. I didn't want to post it here because this critique is supposed to be about the first 13 and didn't want to spark anymore debate about. I saved it and will post it at a later date.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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The thing is, RyanRussellLunde, unless critiquers volunteer to read the rest of your story, all they have to go on is what you post.

You might consider the questions asked in feedback as an indication of what you need to think about for the story, and not so much things critiquers want you to tell them outside of the story.

One of the things OSC recommends having a "wise reader" for is to learn what questions come up as your manuscript is read. The answers to those questions are things you may need to put in the story (or in the 13 lines, here on Hatrack), and not things you explain to the reader.


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RyanRussellLunde
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I thought putting the summary in per instructions on the title page would be good, but considering the responses I completely failed in laying the story out. By including a much too detailed summary I ruined the flow of the story, creating expectations in the reader that they should not have yet.

The questions that Corky asked would not have been asked if I had just posted the first 13 with no summary as the story should be read, so I am going to edit it out for now, leaving just the first 13.

Corky's comments were very good food for thought, I appreciate it, and it did make me double check the validity of my story but I'm looking for a critique on the first 13, and then on the rest of the story as it is written in the order it should be read.

It's completely my fault for ruining the flow of the story by adding too much detail in the summary. That summary might have been ok for a dust cover, but not in this forum situation for critiquing purposes of the first 13. I apologize.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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You can ask for feedback on your query letter (which would contain a summary) when the time comes. So posting summaries is not always wrong.

I would guess that it was confusing in this case, though, because the 13 lines didn't relate all that closely to the summary.

How about posting a summary that relates more directly to the way you actually started the story?

Edited to add: explaining that your 13 lines is from a prologue is a good idea, and should help prevent confusion.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited September 26, 2011).]


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LDWriter2
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Hmm, just got here so I missed the original. From the conversation I assume the demons attacking the village was in the summary. In which case I didn't miss anything from the story.

But I think it is a traditional opening. That is many stories and novels start with a scene along these lines. But since it's a prologue type of opening it will probably work. At the same time, as someone said already, some ideas of why he was looking for the First Born---I assume it's Xander--- now.

It may not be possible in 13 lines but I think he needs to do something more than touch the globe. Say a word or concentrate on the First Born or some such. And I think the description of the colors could be done better.

Over all you give a good indication of what is happening, it just needs a tweak or two. Maybe a different comparison of what is in the globe, storms are used a lot for that type of thing.
Oh yes, came to to say the idea of him using the eyes of various creatures was a nice touch.

Oh, are you a Buffy fan?


[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited September 27, 2011).]


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RyanRussellLunde
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I wanted to give the reader a sense of danger immediately without giving too much information. As the rest of the story unfolds the reader only find outs what is going on at the same time the MC does. The prologue is the only exception.

There is a little more information in the rest of the short prologue after the first 13, but it is still not revealed why he is looking for Xander or what prompted him to search at this particular time. It is revealed later in the story when a character tells Xander. Maybe I should incorporate part of that answer into the prologue to satisfy the reader enough until it is fully revealed. There are many levels to the question and it can't be answered without many words. It might seem like a back history info dump and if I didn't explain enough it might just cause more confusion.

I'm glad this was brought up, it's really making me dig deeper in the back story that I sometimes forget about when I'm just concentrating on the forward motion of the story.

The storm cloud comparison has bothered me a bit to, and do storm clouds over a sea look any different than storm clouds over land? I'll ponder that one for sure.

His ability to use the orb to see through the eyes of certain animals is more complicated than just that and one of the things I'm struggling to make sense of. It ties into the main story more than just a "magical surveillance camera" How it works and how the sorcerer created it is relevant . I'm glad it caught your attention as interesting.

Thanks for your input, this is exactly what I was hoping to get out of the forum. Lots of food for thought from your insights and insights from my own ramblings as I attempt to explain the story.

Buffy, I vaguely remember watching the series and movie when I was a kid (maimed hot dog scene is unforgettable). It wasn't until you mentioned it that I remembered the character with the same name as my prot. I once thought it was original enough when I started writing the story but now I see the name Xander or Zander everywhere. Same with "Demon Wars", and "Demon Slayer".


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LDWriter2
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I don't have a lot of time right now but I wanted to get in a comment on the storm issue. Why have a storm? Something that looked like smoke swirling in the wind but could be alive? I mean put the might be alive in the text. That's a little cliche-ish too but think . Of course it's your story so you can go with an old stand by but try something different.


Ryan, I came back to add that with adding a reason for him looking for Xander, I don't think you need a full explanation right now. A short hint might do. I've notice that some writers will do that, instead of a while info dump they add a couple of thoughts or activities here and there that put together add up to a reason for something and at times they just throw out one phrase in the middle of a sentence.

[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited September 27, 2011).]


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RyanRussellLunde
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That is what I am attempting to do (hinting), although I'm not sure how well I'm succeeding. To create suspense of course and because the MC doesn't know either and only discovers hints along the way. Is the chicken or the egg first? I dunno, but it creates suspense for the MC and reader alike, hopefully not cheap unjustified suspense.

The reason the Antag is chasing the Protag is part of the main reason for the start of the plot, but how the MC comes to realize it is also essential to the flow of the plot. I'm ranting for myself here to understand my own story better.

The last sentence in the first 13 is the first clue. He's searching for Xander simply because he is a threat.

How he found out that Xander is a threat, and how he finally found out where Xander lives is much too complicated to fit into 13 lines. Why he is a threat nobody really knows (even the prot and ant until the end of the story, which could be genius or lame) except that their are vague prophetic dreams that might pertain to him. (Biblical similarities galore, but vaguely inspired and not too derivative, I hope) Hinting at it may cause more confusion, if I explained it all it would be a massive info dump, and possibly inappropriate because the MC doesn't know it yet. Or maybe I'm just not good enough to figure out how to work it into the first 13

Whatever the case may be, I thought it would be best to start off the story telling the reader that The Ant wants to find the Prot because the Ant knows the Prot is a threat to him. And then let the details that explain it unfold as Xander learns them himself.

Thanks again for your input. Don't pay too much mind to my own ranting replies, it helps me figure out just what in the world I'm attempting to do, not as an argument or something of the like.


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RyanRussellLunde
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2nd version

Deep beneath the ruins of an ancient fortress a pale skinned sorcerer gazed into an obsidian sphere. Utter darkness surrounded the figure robed in crimson. An iridescent amalgam with hues of molten sapphires and emeralds churned within the orb. Gently he placed his hands on the sphere and closed his eyes. The flowing marbled colors within the orb congealed to form the image of a forest.

Not so sure about this, it's late and my brain is congealing.

willing to read a chapter or two?


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LDWriter2
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Actually, I don't think it's too bad, and you came up with something different for the globe, even though it's kinda brainy sounding if you get what I mean. At least to me, see if anyone else says anything.

You almost should combine the two but as I said see what anyone else says.


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redux
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quote:
2nd version
Deep beneath the ruins of an ancient fortress a pale skinned sorcerer gazed into an obsidian sphere. Utter darkness surrounded the figure robed in crimson. An iridescent amalgam with hues of molten sapphires and emeralds churned within the orb. Gently he placed his hands on the sphere and closed his eyes. The flowing marbled colors within the orb congealed to form the image of a forest.

I agree with LDWriter2 - it's a bit "brainy." To me it almost feels clinical. What I mean by this is that on the intellectual level I understand your descriptions, but I am not connecting with them on the emotional level. I think the primary reason for this is that the descriptions are relying solely on the sense of sight. To enrich your prose and to hook the reader I would suggest trying out description that uses sense of touch, smell, taste or hearing as well.

If you like, I would be more than happy to read a chapter or two.


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RyanRussellLunde
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Thanks Redux, I Emailed you some of the story.
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redux
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quote:
Thanks Redux, I Emailed you some of the story.

Just sent you my critique.


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