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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Vision Quest #1: Daughter of the Sun (Fantasy???)

   
Author Topic: Vision Quest #1: Daughter of the Sun (Fantasy???)
babygears81
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I need some feedback on my first 12 lines. I've been told that fantasy books should start in the middle of something, that something being action. I have to admit I don't read a lot of fantasy and as a reader what draws me into a story is the characters, not necessarily the plot. I know both are necessary, but I prefer character driven novels, rather than plot driven ones. As a result, my book starts with dialogue. My ultimate goal is to be published, so if you think this would seriously hinder my chances, please let me know. I would also like someone to review the first five or so chapters. It's about 50 pages in total, that way you can get a feel for when the plot picks up and let me know if you think the beginning is a deterrent or not.


CHAPTER ONE: WORDS AS WEAPONS

The pudgy faced Native American woman stared out the window into the glaring sun.
“I hate the heat,” she said.
“No Stick today?” her mother said.
Stick was a freedman boy and Virginia’s best friend. If Virginia was fire, then Stick was earth, steady and enduring. They were both thirteen, but Stick always seemed, in some way, old for his age. Neither of them had discovered the curiosities of the opposite sex and there was innocence in their still plutonic relationship. Still, Carolina knew, in the way that mothers do, that Stick loved her daughter. Even at thirteen he gave her everything she wanted and asked for nothing in return.
“Not today,” she said, adding whiskey to her coffee.

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Meredith
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quote:
Originally posted by babygears81:
I need some feedback on my first 12 lines. I've been told that fantasy books should start in the middle of something, that something being action. I have to admit I don't read a lot of fantasy and as a reader what draws me into a story is the characters, not necessarily the plot. I know both are necessary, but I prefer character driven novels, rather than plot driven ones. As a result, my book starts with dialogue. My ultimate goal is to be published, so if you think this would seriously hinder my chances, please let me know. I would also like someone to review the first five or so chapters. It's about 50 pages in total, that way you can get a feel for when the plot picks up and let me know if you think the beginning is a deterrent or not.

Don't make assumptions. I can think of plenty of great fantasy novels that start more slowly. Read in the genre. If you need suggestions on what to read, ask. Plenty of people will have ideas for you.

My main criticism of this opening is that I don't know who's who. I'm not sure if Virginia is the one looking out the window or somebody else. I don't know if Carolina is Virginia's mother or the mother of the woman pouring whiskey into her coffee (which I assume is not the twelve-year-old girl).

Starting with twelve-year-olds, this would most likely be considered middle grade fantasy.

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babygears81
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Meredith,
I think who the characters are become more evident as the dialogue progresses, but you are right. It should be clear immediately. I don't readers to miss the importance of the dialogue because they're trying to figure out who the characters are. Thanks!

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babygears81
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For the record, Carolina is the one looking out the window and pouring whiskey in her coffee. She is Virginia's mother. Carolina's mother is Georgia, and that is who she is talking to. If I could have fit one more line I think that would have been a lot clearer. But I'll add more specific tags.
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Meredith
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It's not just tags, although that would help.

It's also not a good idea to refer to the same character in several different ways--by name, as another character's daughter, as the pudgy-faced woman.

I recommend Browne and King SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS for some tips on things like that.

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TempestDash
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The opening line is not enough to strongly establish location. Is it a car window or a house? It's not immediately necessary to establish, but some more scenery details should come soon.

I'm not sure if you're being sly or not, but I have a feeling that where you put "plutonic" you meant "platonic".

I'm a little thrown by the 13 year old adding whiskey to her coffee. It really collides against the comments about innocence her mother was ruminating about. If that was intended, then good show, it caught my attention.

I have another more esoteric concern, though. I'm not sure how a comment about the heat led to a question about a boy and then a paragraph about the boy's romantic intentions. The topics don't appear (on the surface) to lead into one another fluidly enough.

If Caroline is a doting character, then I could see it making sense. Maybe Caroline relates everything to Stick and Virginia's relationship?

That's just my opinion, though. I can be picky.

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babygears81
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TempestDash- Yes, I meant platonic oops [Smile] The 13 year old isn't the one adding whiskey to her coffee, it is her mother. The fact that you thought it was the thirteen year old only proves the validity of Meredith's criticism.

The comment about heat is just the mother, Carolina, making small talk. The grandmother, ignores the comment and asks about Stick. Carolina is looking out the window, once the grandmother says any sign of Stick, I was hoping the reader would gather that the mother was looking out the window for Stick. I had all of this laid out in the original version, but cut it out because I thought it would be more concise this way. Perhaps I cut too much?

The bit about the boy's romantic intentions is the narrator basically explaining who Stick is and his relationship to the MC, Virginia, who is the 13 year old daughter. (She enters in the 2nd chapter. I do this because the conversation between Carolina and Georgia about mythology sets up the rest of the story. They also have a very tumultuous relationship that sets up the series as a whole and is evidenced in this conversation.) I added that in last minute because I thought it would help establish his character. Since his name is Stick, I didn't want people to be confused or think she was talking about wood [Razz]

So here is another possibility for the opening. Let me know if you think this one is better or not. I cut out the bit about Stick and fixed the multiple character reference issue. FYI- There is a line where Georgia, the grandmother references an old Cherokee myth called Daughter of the Sun. I plan to have the myth written before the chapter starts, so the reader will understand the references.

Carolina stared out the window into the glaring sun.
“I hate the heat,” she said.
“No Stick today?” said Georgia.
“Not today,” Carolina said, adding whiskey to her coffee.
“A little early for that, isn’t it Carolina?” Carolina ignored her and added more.
“The sun has not yet made it to her daughter’s house in the center of the sky, and already it is this hot,” Georgia said.
Georgia was like that. She had that old time Indian spirit and talked in poetry, like her ancestors were speaking through her. It’s what people who knew Georgia liked best about her and what Carolina hated the most.
Carolina pushed the window up to open the last of them. A wave of

[ March 15, 2012, 07:54 PM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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TempestDash
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"The comment about heat is just the mother, Carolina, making small talk."

Is the small talk relevant? One normally considers small talk (in conversation) to be largely dispensable or of no consequence. I would hesitate to include something unnecessary in your first 13 lines.

"I added that in last minute because I thought it would help establish his character."

I believe (especially now, reading your rewrite) that he real issue is that you didn't say WHY she was looking for Stick. Launching into Stick's relationship with Carolina's daughter doesn't explain what the reader wants to know at that point, which is why would Stick be out there to see.

"Since his name is Stick, I didn't want people to be confused or think she was talking about wood"

I wouldn't worry about this. The capitalization makes it clear it's a proper noun, and you can get the rest from the context of the discussion.

"“I hate the heat,” she said.
“No Stick today?” said Georgia.
“Not today,” Carolina said, adding whiskey to her coffee.
“A little early for that, isn’t it Carolina?” Carolina ignored her and added more.
“The sun has not yet made it to her daughter’s house in the center of the sky, and already it is this hot,” Georgia said. "

This is largely a conversation about the weather, which is probably not the best place to start. You need something more engaging than this to get a reader's attention.

"Georgia was like that."

Like what? Even knowing that some part of that line references a myth you will include in the preface is not enough to understand this statement. Also, check out the Writing Discussion on prologues and you'll discover that, depressingly, many people skip everything before they see 'Chapter 1', so it's possible they won't even get the reference.

"Carolina pushed the window up to open the last of them."

Is the "them" referring to the window? It's unclear what this pronoun is referring to.

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babygears81
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Yes, yes, yes. OK back to the drawing board. This should not be my first 12 lines. I see that now. Thanks again.
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