Just an opening for a fantasy novel that walked, uninvited, into my head. My first attempt at first person. Not sure where it will go or what age group it'll ultimately be targeted at.
quote:They called me rabbit because I always ran. Not that I wanted to. I wanted to fight like the other children, to trade blow for blow with fist and rod. I was not afraid of them. But I did fear Reijin, and she told me never fight another of the clan.
The tall pampas grass promised refuge. I didn’t flinch from the leafy blades that cut my skin. The boys would do worse to me if they caught me. Deep into the thicket of green swords I plunged. I knew whatever safety I had was temporary. The boys would pursue. Already I heard them prowling around the outskirts of the thicket, like a pack of wolves encircling their prey. I would have to keep pushing through to the forest beyond.
“Come out, rabbit!” “Dig your hole, rabbit!” “We’ll drag you out and cook you!” “Let’s just cook her now!”
quote:The other children thought me a coward. I gave them every reason to. The wooden sword at my feet tempted me to wield it. If I looked down at it, I might have given in. Instead, I looked up. A raven circled above. Reijin watched to see if I would break her rule and fight a member of the clan. I kicked the sword away.
They called me Rabbit, and the chase began.
The pampas grew twenty paces from our encampment. The sharp blades promised refuge, while the trees beyond offered escape. My feet outran my hesitation. I dove through the slashing leaves and a dozen fresh cuts joined yesterday’s wounds on my skin. But my pursuers lacked my conviction. I heard one boy find his timidity rebuffed by these living swords. No one made an effort to crash through as I had.
It is...okay, but you haven't really drawn me into the story yet.
I found the sentence -- Deep into the thicket of green swords I plunged -- to be jarring because of ending with the subject. I know this is valid. For some reason, though, I found it didn't work for me in the case.
Also, the bad boys had surrounded this thicket -- right? But then it seems the thicket gives on to the forest? Confusing -- to me.
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This opening depicts a young woman or girl chased by young men or boys. That's a problem for the girl, a dramatic complication in the offing. Though I don't know how she feels about it. Hiding among pampas grass's sharp blades suggests she's desperate to avoid the boys but not as clearly developed as I think would be ideal.
This opening is bumpy for me. The first six sentences alternate between positive and negation statements, followed by a hyperbaton sentence: inverted syntax; object, subject, predicate, as arriki notes. Those and frequent tense shifts, awkward diction, a heavily self-involved narrator-viewpoint character, and underdeveloped features leave me ready to stop reading at each sentence.
"Thicket" suggests a dense shrub or small tree grove. Pampas grass grows in tussocks of tufts.
Why Rabbit doesn't fight is given, though why Rabbit fears Reijin isn't. I think that needs more context and texture development before moving forward, since the contextual meaning relates to Rabbit's stakes, motivations, and conflict. Fight back and suffer Reijin's displeasure or refuse to engage and enjoy Riejin's approval? Who is Reijin to Rabbit?
Though hyperbaton is a common feature of poetry, as well as alliteration, and prosody is an engaging feature of prose--strongly organized prose sentences and paragraphs emulate poetry and by itself syntax pulls readers forward until a convenient and intended pause for reflection or stopping point is reached--this opening's poetry feels awkwardly constructed to me, causing hiccups.
Alliteration examples: "blow for blow" and "fist and rod." The blow alliteration is obvious. The second less obvious, from three stressed one-syllable words. And the last two sentences of the first paragraph, "-ing-itis," "prowling," "encircling," and "pushing." Rather than resonating, these alliterative parts to me feel inharmonious when taken with the other hiccups.
Though the strength I see of this opening is Rabbit's complication from the boys stalking her, it seems to me insufficent to sustain the whole. One reason, obviously, she's been stalked before, a lot. She has a strategy of hiding in the pampas grass tussock and escaping into the deeper woods. Might she have developed a more successful strategy over time? How was she cornered in the first place? What I don't see is how her being prey for her clan kins' hunting games is problematic to Rabbit for the whole.
She just gets away from or is caught by the boys are the only outcomes I see, and not much per se dramatically appealing in those. I think a hint or cue implying what Rabbit's overall complication is is warranted in this opening. Actually, I believe introducing a main dramatic complication within one hundred thirty words or so is a number one feature essential for a novel or any length narrative.
One of first person's challenges is developing viewpoint character identity for the purposes of developing reader empathy and curiosity. One method of accomplishing that is to develop personal wants and problems wanting satisfaction. Though Rabbit is the personal target of the hunting boys, their preying on her is done to her and not hers personally. It's the boys' routine that she is part of. How does she interrupt the routine? And what is her personal routine that is upset by the boys' hunt?
Another strength I see in this opening is the use of pampas grass to initiate setting development and a hint of milieu. Though by itself, I think it feels coincidental. Maybe the ground's texture and an equally strong visual sensation depicting the boys could work dramatic action now moment, place, and situation magic.
Leave it to extrinsic to send me off to the dictionary. Hopefully I've eliminated a lot of the hic-ups you had.
I generally disagree with the idea that the first 13 must have a hook, or that it needs a main dramatic complication (very few books I've read pull that off), but it is something worthy to shoot for. Hopefully, this does better.
The good news is that all the narrative questions you asked are explored in the chapter. You're right to suspect that the chase is not what's at issue here. That's really the backdrop. You are wrong in that there is another possible outcome to this chase than the two you identified.
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The second version is appreciably smoother. Still, it feels generic to me, when a few specific minor changes could engage me more strongly.
For example, "The other children". Does this troupe, tribe, clan have a name? Say, //The Yellow Prarie Clan children//. "The wooden sword at my feet tempted". //The wood sword Kicking Deer threw at my feet tempted//. "A raven circled above. Reijin watched". //A raven above, Reijin circled//.
And more self-involvement by the narrator-viewpoint character as well. More first-person pronouns in the second version than the first is a clue to increased self-involvement.
"Twenty paces from our encampment" Rabbit counts the paces? An encampment suggests the clan is temporarily settled, nomadic thus hunter-gatherer.
The language overall is a bit sophisticated for a nomadic girl.
quote:Originally posted by extrinsic: The lanuguage overall is a bit sophisticated for a nomadic girl.
Can you give me an example of what you mean?
Guilty as charged on the generic aspect. I haven't come up with final names for practically anything.
Anyway, for some fun Q&A: Say, //The Yellow Prarie Clan children//. A bit blunt for my tastes. And I don't believe she would think of the others that way ("Yellow Prairie Clan," to go with your example, would just be understood). But, I could do something like "The other children thought me a coward. To them, I was not fit to call myself Yellow Prairie Clan."
The wood sword Kicking Deer threw at my feet tempted Now, you're going for an American Indian feel as your first instinct. This is more Mongol. Maybe, instead of talking about an encampment later on, I should specify "yurts."
"A raven circled above. Reijin watched". //A raven above, Reijin circled//. I considered something along those lines. However, the stronger link implies that the raven is Reijin. Rabbit wouldn't make that mistake.
"Twenty paces from our encampment" Rabbit counts the paces? More of an estimate. I imagine that the first thing she does upon entering a new environment is look for ways to turn the terrain to her advantage. Keeping track of distances to potential escape routes is part of that. I'm not sure if emphasizing the rough nature of the measurement by saying "Around twenty paces..." adds anything.
An encampment suggests the clan is temporarily settled, nomadic thus hunter-gatherer. Correct. Included as a partial answer to your query of if she had found better strategies; it's a new chase each time.
Does any of this change your advice or ease misgivings?
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The most sophisticated part is "But my |pursuers lacked my conviction.| I heard one boy find his |timidity rebuffed| by |these living swords|". The sophistication wouldn't be as incongruent if this opening were written in a third person close voice.
Some of the Q & A bits give details I think should be given in the moment. In all, this opening feels hasty. I think slowing down and experiencing the moment closely from Rabbit's emotional sensation would strengthen it most by emphasizing the mystery of what's happening from Rabbit's perspective.
"'Twenty paces from our encampment' Rabbit counts the paces?" "More of an estimate. I imagine that the first thing she does upon entering a new environment is look for ways to turn the terrain to her advantage. Keeping track of distances to potential escape routes is part of that. I'm not sure if emphasizing the rough nature of the measurement by saying 'Around twenty paces...' adds anything."
Precise numbered measurements imply someone has taken great pains to orient to person, time, place, and situation. Numbered estimates are in the moment calculations when distance, for example, is critical, like a length of rope to span a gap. However, relative measurement terms can be more accessible and clear in the moment, like instead of twenty paces, //Thick pampas grass tufts grew |nearby or behind| Ateca's yurt.//
Though yurt implies pastoral rather than nomadic hunter-gatherer migrations. Pastoral folk generally keep animals as their mainstay. Their migrations are less nomadic or longer-term settled at any given time and follow grazing and water resource patterns along tried and true (owned) migration routes.
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