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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Steampunk Fantasy - explanation and 13 lines

   
Author Topic: Steampunk Fantasy - explanation and 13 lines
Crashburn274
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"The sets over thick, mustard-yellow clouds. They are heavy with sulfur-chlorides and acids, intrinsically deadly to human life. The clouds form a solid layer across the horizon - indeed the whole planet. This poisonous ocean is called the choam. Above the choam the light is warm, the air pure, but dry. By its nature, the choam remains at a constant altitude, leaving habitable atmosphere above it. Beyond the horizon, mountain peaks and ranges shelter birds, beasts and men, but here there is nothing. Blue above fades rapidly to black and the choam is an unbroken cloud sheet, as beautiful and deadly as the sky of Venus.

The choam's peace is wrecked by a swirling vortex, then ten, then a hundred small whirlpools of dirty clouds. Choam-clouds flow outward in a choppy wave on the mustard sea. Something rises..."

The Enforcer of Fresiya (working title of this fantasy in the steampunk aesthetic), is about the young mage Jared Caspian, who has ambitious dreams. His older brother, Gavin, is much more cautious, and will actually become the antagonist of the story as he gradually opposes Jared's plans. Key to understanding the story is its setting. The only habitable portions of the world are 1300 meters above sea level. Everything below that belongs to the choam – a distinct environment of toxic gasses, acid precipitation, and strange monsters. Fresiya, their city, literally flees from political turmoil, while steam-driven airships conduct piratical raids to supply it. Please pardon my introduction, but I felt that the first 13 lines are too little warning for a perspective reviewer.

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MartinV
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First of all, I read the whole section with Carl Sagan's voice in my mind. So that's an interesting achievement right there.

I think there are better ways to start a story. It's one of those 101 rules: "Never start with desciption of a setting. Go for character interaction and/or action." The first 13 lines don't mention any of the characters you talk about later.

And don't worry, we've all been there.

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Crashburn274
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I wrote these "first 13 lines," before the characterless introduction scene, but moved it to page 2 because I felt it started too much 'in medias res.'

“I'm gonna give you the benefit of assuming you're new here or something, and not break your nose yet. Soargi is the family here. You don't question them, and in return, no one else questions you. Are you understanding yet?,” I said to the mirror.
The door opened, then closed with a bang. The mirror rattled on the wall in front of me. Its dusty surface made my stout reflection bounce.
“That was real good, Jared,” my brother mocked. “Now, get the gravy off your hands and the parsley out of your hair, grow two feet and maybe they'll even take you seriously.”
“Oh, come off it, Gavin.”
“No, no, I'm very intimidated! Shaking.”
“You should be! I'm going to join the Soargi family..."

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MartinV
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I like the new opening better. It immediately introduces key characters, the relations between them and already gives me the main motiff which is a juvenile person with the urge to grow up. Since I like to reveal information through dialogue, this opening suits me.

It would make sense to add details about the setting in between the dialogue: is he boasting in the bathroom mirror (modern setting) or in a nomad tent (fantasy setting)? This gives the reader the basic necessary description of the place and it would also slow down the pace of the story. Right now it doesn't feel like a novel but a short story.

Doing good.

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Treamayne
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I agree the second example is a more powerful opening. I probably wouldn't turn to page 2 from the first example, but I would from the second. A question on the first example - you mention Venus, so is this supposed to be future Earth? If not, then how would the inhabitants know to compare their lower atmosphere to Venus? It just seems more like the Author talking to the reader, then the reader seeing the world to me.

Hope that helps.

V/R

AT

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Crashburn274
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Thank you both for the advice!
quote:
so is this supposed to be future Earth
This is set in an alternate history earth - but the timeline and the Earth are radically altered. (it is currently ~1800, and the most significant changes to the timeline occurred ~250AD). This fantasy has such an alien world that I feel referencing general knowledge of science and mythology helps ground the reader. That question, though, probably deserves its own thread.
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MartinV
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OK, now I'm curious. What happened in 250AD? I don't remember reading anything about an envinronmental catastrophe in that time.
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Treamayne
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quote:
Originally posted by Crashburn274:
Thank you both for the advice!
quote:
so is this supposed to be future Earth
This is set in an alternate history earth - but the timeline and the Earth are radically altered. (it is currently ~1800, and the most significant changes to the timeline occurred ~250AD). This fantasy has such an alien world that I feel referencing general knowledge of science and mythology helps ground the reader. That question, though, probably deserves its own thread.
Ok, that makes sense. however I would beware the timeline and grounded knowledge. Unless the shift (I'm guessing in your world something happened around 250 AD that didn't happen here) caused a quicker increase in technology/science (such as no Dark Age Period that resulted in a setback of the sciences) then I would caution you to be careful with what they would know/postulate in the 1800s of your time. Here, Venus was guessed to have an atmosphere in 1761 - but it wasn't until the 1960s (with Mariner 2 and Venera 4) that it was confirmed and the composition of the atmosphere was discovered.
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