This is the other introduction I have been pondering. Currently it's the beginning of the first chapter after the prologue. I may start with this and incorporate the prologue into the rest of the story. The main reason I wanted to start with the prologue was to tell the reader right away there is a sorcerer looking for Xander and convey the danger that that implies. The prologue has two parts, the first is a brief scene of the sorcerer looking for Xander through the magical sphere (not much longer than the 13 I've previously posted), the second is a narrative intro to village life in the Protag's home village. It might be more effective to start with just the sorcerer intro and take out the village intro, or maybe best to start with this dialogue scene.
1st revision: “I’m leaving tomorrow for a few days,” said Alexander, seated at a rough oaken table with chairs for six. The aroma of sizzling bacon and freshly baked bread saturated the air. “Can I come with this time?” said his younger brother, eyes twinkling with eagerness. “Your father will need your help with field work Timothy,” replied their mother from a wash basin as she scoured pots and pans with gusto. In truth she worried about rumors of unexplained disappearances despite her husband's reassurance that they happened far away. “My hunting trips to the mountain are as much to take a break from you as they are to bring back meat,” said Alexander. Timothy smiled and catapulted a lump of porridge from a wooden spoon at his big brother.
Optional first 13: “I’m leaving tomorrow for a few days,” said Alexander, a fifteen-year-old boy in a tattered brown leather vest and canvas trousers that were threadbare at the knees. He sat at a large oaken table with chairs for six. “Can I come with this time?” said his nine-year old brother, his eyes twinkling with eagerness. He directed the question to both his older brother and his mother. “Your father will need your help with field work Timothy,” replied a comely woman wearing a long apron. She stood near a large wash basin filled with the pots and pans of breakfast preparation. The aroma of sizzling bacon and freshly baked bread saturated the air. “My hunting trips to the mountain are as much to take a break from you as they are to bring back meat,” said Alexander.
Any and all comments concerning story and/or grammar are welcome. I have about 35k of the story written (shooting for approx 90k) if you would like to read/critique more specify how much you would like me to Email. I am always glad to do the same. Thanks.
[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited October 13, 2011).]
Hi! I'm not the greatest at grammar or punctuation, so I can't correct those for you. I had an editor make my corrections. BUT, for me the first 13 should have more action. I don't know what follows the 13 lines, but try to create tension with the way you MC is talking. Suggestion: (feel free to use it if you like it)
â€śIâ€™m leaving tomorrow for a few days.â€ť Fifteen year old Alexander kept his fists tightened under the oaken table set for six. His ragged leather vest matched the canvas trousers that were threadbare at the knees. â€śCan I come with this time?â€ť The eyes of his nine-year old brother twinkled with eagerness, trying to read Alexanderâ€™s face, then his gaze flew to their mother. â€śYour father will need your help with field work Timothy,â€ť their mother replied drying her hands on her floor-length apron. She rested her back against a wash basin overflowing with pots and pans. The aroma of crispy bacon and freshly baked bread saturated the air. â€śMy hunting trips to the mountain are as much to take a break from you as they are to bring back meat,â€ť Alexander snapped. The smile from his brotherâ€™s faded.
Still, there is not enough tension. You can begin to feel that Alexander does not want his brother to come with him - why? This is just a suggestion. I don't know what your other paragraph was like, but for this one I would need more tension to be grabbed. Is that the feeling you're going for? You're also writing from a third persons POV and that's a hard one for me. Most of my writing is in the MCs POV- the one who I know everything about. Keep writing. I hope this helps. Marta
Thanks Marta, your comments were very insightful. This opening scene is actually very light-hearted. There is purposely no tension except for Timothy wanting to come along on the hunting trip but having to stay home to help his father, and that's not even a big deal (but later that creates the question "what if he did go along?").
I can see how just these 13 lines might give the wrong impression, but no one is really tense. It's just another happy day in Xander's content happy household that set's the scene for an unexpected disaster that tears his family apart, which is the main reason I had chosen at first to include a short prologue to create tension.
Instead of just reading about a happy family the reader would know that there is an evil sorcerer who is searching for Xander, unknown to his whole family. The prologue would give the reader an entirely different view on the opening scene which hopefully would create the tension I desire to convey. Maybe not, but that's what I'm shootin for.
What is everyone's opinion on that idea; An opening that has no tension by itself, but has "implied tension" caused by a short prologue?
Hmm, I'm not sure which way to go with the tension thing. I have read published novels that had your type of opening but it does seem like the thing to do is start with tension or at least a hint of some adventure on the way.
Your opening isn't bad to me but it is a touch boring too. But with the prologue readers will probably suspect something is going to change very soon, and maybe even wonder about what might happen to those left behind.
I forgot to mention that directly after this first 13 it is shown that Xander said the last line jokingly. His brother smiles and catapults a spoonful of oats as Xander ducks beneath the table waving his white napkin on his spoon in surrender. Mom reprimands getting a little of her personality out there, Dad enters and adds to the light-heartedness. It's all an attempt to create a sense of "everything is just peachy" to contrast with the devastation of the attack on the village.
I do understand that conflict creates a good hook and that I'm going about it in an unconventional way. My bane is that I'm inspired by and enjoy stories that start out very slow. I love lots of back story and lots of details between dialogue before the story really gets going so I feel like a part of the world. When a story starts out with action and no foundation I think "ok, so why should I care about this character that I know nothing about?" I realize lots of readers want instant action and get bored with backstory initially, only having the patience to read backstory if they have already been hooked by action, but I believe if I do it right, I'll be able to make this story appeal to both types of readers. Finding a balance between how I want to write and what others want to read is indeed the trickiest part of writing to me. It's difficult to lay down my pride and realize that it's still my story plot no matter what, but the way I lay it out should appeal to other readers the best way it can, or else why would I write it down? or maybe I should just write it the way I want to write it and it will be groundbreaking. Delusions of grandeur is my other bane.
You can totally write a good hook without it being outright action, certainly. It's trickier, perhaps, but i personally think that it's more important *how* you present your information than *what* you present, or in what order.
I believe the problem with this hook is that you focus too much on describing--in a very "tell" way--what's going on, most obviously by giving a point-by-point description of each character the moment he or she starts talking. It seems to me that you've got a very vivid image of the scene in your mind, and are trying to convey that image perfectly to your reader . . . which generally is not the way to go about things. You want to convey the *gist* of your scene, and let the reader paint in the details. Otherwise you'll spend all your time info-dumping rather than sweeping us up into the story. If that makes sense.
Me, I'd strip virtually all the descriptions out of what you've got so far, and leave room for another several lines to bump up into your first 13. i.e.:
quote:“I’m leaving tomorrow for a few days,” said Alexander, leaning back in his chair. “Can I come with this time?” said his brother, Timothy. Only nine years old, his eyes twinkled with eagerness. “Your father will need your help with field work Timothy,” there mother insisted, wiping her hands on her apron. She stood near a large wash basin filled with the pots and pans of breakfast preparation. The aroma of sizzling bacon and freshly baked bread saturated the air. Alexander ruffled his brother's hair. “My hunting trips to the mountain are as much to take a break from you as they are to bring back meat."
It's nowhere near a perfect "fix," not least because I went and put words in your mouth. But hopefully it demonstrates what I mean by not needing all the detail. At least not upfront in a baseball-card-stats kind of way.
These comments apply equally to your other intro, which I scanned before checking this one out. I had to re-read the first three sentences a couple times each, because there was just a lot of description with nothing to really pin my interest down.
And finally: I'm wary that you're beginning with an "evil overlord searching for the lost heir and only danger to his realm," and the "farmboy whose village is destroyed while he's away, thus setting him on his quest to reach his destiny." Certainly, cliches can still be done well. But it's just my impression that this set-up is the quintessentially cliche hero's journey, so recently rehashed by Paolini. Just a caution.
[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited October 12, 2011).]
Tryn, You hit on a couple points I've pondered about my own writing. I think very visually when I write, being a visual artist I constantly think of how my story would look on screen and in illustrations to a fault. I need to find the balance of what to describe in detail and what to let the mind of the reader put together. Conjuring images in the readers mind that you want them to have without spelling it out word for word is indeed an art.
Beware of rant. Read at your own risk: Writing any type of hero fantasy is going to relate somehow to the hero story cliche that makes the genre possible in the first place. I can only hope that the take I have on it is unique in some way. I get your point though, and I think you would find more parallels to many stories other than just the Inheritance saga in Xander, but comparing those stories with each other they all have parallels to, just the nature of the genre. Or maybe I'm just a hack Aren't all sci-fi novels the same, just a different take on the "science" and all fantasy novels the same, just a different take on the magic system? well, not really, but you know what I mean. It's the characters and how much you care about them that makes the story great, whether they are killing dragons or flying space ships, the world they are in is just a fancy exterior that's nice to look at, but it's what's underneath the skin that counts. Or maybe that's a cop out for not being able to imagine a unique world. I better really make the characters count then if I'm going to rewrite "The Lord of the Dragon Rider's Cauldron Chronicles". Just purging my brain. Ignore if you will. If I didn't do it here I'd do it on a thread I didn't start and that's just not very nice. Thanks for your critique, I appreciate it.
Your rant is very true. And really a bit mild-mannered to deserve the term. lol
No seriously, I do know what you mean. And yeah, "it's all been done before," and yet so many new books manage to do it again in such an engaging way . . . still, to start in that particular place is REALLY hitting it on the nose. Personally, I have a particular fondness for reworkings of any trope, be it parody or sincere reimagining. I love, for instance, retold fairy tales. But I don't want every one of them to still start with "once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there lived . . ." I'd rather get a glimpse of your twist on the story. The bit that *is* unique, and will add an as-yet-unexplored spice to a belovedly familiar story or genre.
For instance, if you were to start with Xander as a hardened adult working as a lance-corporal in the Overlord's army, looking back on his past and the village and family that he lost that fateful day, and how he still hadn't learned who was responsible . . . . that would still be a thoroughly recognizable tale, yet it would be starting in a less common place. Or, say in your world magic bats act as nursemaids to all children under ten, and you casually mention that world detail within your intro, while Xander and Tim and their mom are chatting. I'd be like, "ooh, that's curious. I wonder what the rest of this world and magic system look like and how that will affect the otherwise familiar tale?"
So. Long "rant" back atcha, friend. Which boils down to: your premise doesn't have to be absolutely original, but the "hook" comes in part from what about it *is* original. Why should I keep reading? What makes this story not "yet *another* hero's journey," but rather "another fantastic example of the hero's journey!"
Actually, "Lord of the Dragon Rider's Cauldron Chronicles" sounds entertaining, to me.
Much luck with your writing. Hopefully my comments can prove useful to you in some measure, even though I ramble a lot.
[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited October 13, 2011).]
Oh, and on the "how vividly to paint the scene" note: I've worked on this particular issue a lot in my own writing, and level of description is definitely one of those things that varies widely from author to author, and in readers' tastes. But my general approach, if I can figure out how to put it into words . . .
The only details I mention are those that are somehow, in that moment, affecting or being observed by the point-of-view character. In the case of Xander's mom--when I look at my mom, I see "Mom." I don't see this:
quote:a middle-aged woman came through the door, in dark jeans and a colored blouse, holding a red handbag and matching jacket. She had bags under her eyes, and headed straight for her room.
If you ask me three seconds after she walks into her room IRL what she'd been wearing, I'd likely be unable to tell you (but then, I'm a particularly unobservant person sometimes . . . ). On the other hand, I *would* notice, and therefore list, anything that was unusual about her appearance, or anything that for some reason caught my attention. i.e.:
quote:Mom walked in and flung her purse onto the couch, where it bounced lightly before landing upside-down. Mom rolled her eyes at it, then continued toward her bedroom, shedding her jacket as she went. "I need my afternoon nap more and more, lately," she sighed. "Maybe it's time to retire and do that whole 'stay-at-home-Mom' thing."
And from that intro, do the minds of my readers conjure jeans and a colored blouse on my mom? Maybe. Maybe they pictured slacks and a white button-down, or a full-on business suit, or even gym sweats. (though I don't know why she'd be wearing sweats to work.) Does that detail matter? Not so much. Did my few lines a brief personalization give you enough of a gist to get the era and general clothing options down? Probably. If you're starting out an epic fantasy in a homely, comfortable cabin with the smells of baking bread, I'm gonna mentally dress the characters in basic brown and off-white woolens. Don't really need to hear it explicitly from you. And if you throw in, instead, a detail about the fresh-baked-bread smell being a welcome change from all the gruel they've been subsisting on recently, then I'll mentally add a few patches and bare threads to MC's duds. And this definitely applies to more than their outfits. I just happen to be fixating on that detail just now, it seems. Set up the context, and we'll color in the details.
And again, I'm rambling all over your thread. I'm thinking this means I need to spend more time writing my own material, since apparently I keep trying to create mini-stories here in your critique thread . . . lol. Don't mind me.
Also, correction: Upon rereading your first 13, the mom thing in your story isn't really a problem, by itself. It just came as the third strike after reading your MC apparently think of himself as 15 and proceed to catalog the outfit he stands in, which is odd, and then do the same for his brother and his mum.
Still, does my example make any sense whatsoever? I'm too tired (or wired?) to tell. Or to stop typing. I'll stop now.
[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited October 13, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited October 13, 2011).]
The revision is MUCH better. Puts me IN the scene, rather than merely describing the scene to me. One nit-pick, though: you shift into Mom's p.o.v. when you describe what's going on inside her head. Unless you want this whole scene set in Mom's p.o.v., then I'd suggest having Alex think about how he sees worry in his mother's eyes, or he knows the real reason she won't let Timothy go, because he was there when she and her husband had talked about it . . . some such so you can give us the same info, but without the p.o.v. shift.
Props, though, on applying the comments so far to such good effect.
Tryn, that's a tricky one, but I get your point. This is Xander's story, but I do switch POV often. Some chapters are totally in another characters POV after the family is separated. They are all together in this scene of course and it could be in anyone's POV, but the problem is that even though Xander thinks his mom is really just worried about Timothy's safety on the hunting trip he doesn't know the true reason why she is worried. He thinks it's just the normal "worried, overly protective mother" scenario. The rumors of disappearances and demon attacks on other villages have been kept secret from the secluded village of Petras. Mom and Dad know about them but few others do. They have chosen to let the other villagers and their families live in ignorant peace rather than fear. Having information that only certain characters know forces me to switch POV at times, when I don't want to keep that info hidden from the reader. Thanks for pointing that out. Maybe explaining what I just did in less words is the answer, and indeed what I think you suggested.
The first issue that comes to mind is that I've been chastised for too many "Xander thought, Xander saw, Xander knew." I'll have to work around that, but figuring out a way to get the point across without those repetitions does usually make for a better sentence.
[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited October 14, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited October 16, 2011).]
Switching p.o.v.'s is a dandy thing to do, but if you do it "willy nilly" in the middle of a paragraph or scene, you'll throw people off and make 'em look at you funny. From what you've said, I could easily imagine either setting that whole scene in Mom's pov, or else let the reader think with Xander that his mom's just being "over-protective" . . . until a few pages later or something, when Mom and Dad can have their own scene and share the relevant details. Or some such.
And on the "he knew, he thought . . ." repetitions: once we're firmly established in a character's pov, we'll pretty much assume that everything that's mentioned in the prose is in some way filtered through that character's perceptions, even though it's not first person or anything. So if you just trust to that, you should be able to cut back significantly on actually saying "he thought."
Like, it'd be the difference between saying: "Their mom was just being over-protective, Xander knew," or, "She's so over-protective, Xander thought"; versus: "As usual, their mother was overly protective of Timothy." They say basically the same thing, and all three are clearly Xander's thoughts, though they're expressed in different ways. The last one just doesn't bother being explicit about it, and is phrased in a more distant, narrative way, but it's still through Xander's pov and therefore filtered through his perceptions, and can be considered the narrator's interpretation of his thoughts, as it were. Ya know?
[This message has been edited by Tryndakai (edited October 16, 2011).]
Thanks again for the input. It seems to be a common mistake that newbie writers make; using "he thought, he knew, he saw" instead of assuming the reader will assume that it is through the characters perspective.
Lots of assumptions going on there, but as I revise my draft I find that I make that mistake a lot, in an attempt to keep the reader inside the characters head, but I'm not giving the reader enough credit. Most readers don't need that guidance, if I write well enough it will work out effortlessly and I can assume that the reader will assume correctly, right?. In published novels I do catch "he though, he saw" sometimes, especially now that I have an eye for it, but I don't think it is a bad mistake, I think it is the too frequent repetition of it that really throws off the voice/flow.
Thanks for your view on the subject. It really helped with figuring out the POV for the first 13. Having my main character ignorant to main details of the story plot is proving to be a nasty creature that is difficult to tame while editing. I thought I had a good handle on POV, starting a new chapter when the POV changes to a secondary character, but I am finding sloppy POV all over the place now.
[This message has been edited by RyanRussellLunde (edited October 16, 2011).]
You're all sorts of welcome. Sorry if I seem to be hogging your board . . . but just so you know, I often nit-pick the most where I see the most potential. So it's a compliment that I keep bugging you, I promise.
If you want to send me a few pages or chapters of your story once you've revised whatever you want to, I'd be happy to try to find time to look at a larger chunk.
No apology necessary. I'm glad to have someone to through ideas back and forth with.
I'll send a few chapters soon. Thanks for the offer. It could be a day or two as I'm working on another round of editing before I send it out again, it seems everyday I learn something new and end up starting the editing process over again.
You can start with a small goal your character has and his brother is a distraction for that goal. It could be as simple as the main character trying to find his favorite shirt, and his brother interupts with wanting to go hunting with him.
In every scene I write, I give a character a goal, no matter how small, and I make it difficult for him to reach that goal = tension. It's easy to create and still open with the info you wish to open with.