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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Magic and Power -- YA Fantasy Romance--96k Words

   
Author Topic: Magic and Power -- YA Fantasy Romance--96k Words
Meredith
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I just finished the revisions to this one about a girl who thinks she has to choose between her magic and love--until her view of the world expands.

I'd love to have a reader or two on this draft. I would, of course, be happy to reciprocate.

First 13:

revised:
quote:
Ailsa pushed a low-hanging branch out of her way, her concentration for the moment more on the unusual number of dead and dying trees in these woods than on the trail ahead. This was very nearly the heart of Far Terra. If the magic was failing even here, how much worse would it be when she crossed the surrounding desert? Without more mages--and soon--Far Terra would die. She prayed silently that she would prove to have such useful magic when she was tested. Distracted, she let go of the branch and winced as she heard it slap back. From the sounds, it had barely missed Elina, riding behind her.

"Careful!" Elina shouted and mumbled something that was almost certainly uncomplimentary.

"Sorry," Ailsa called back, though she wasn't really all that sorry.

original:
quote:
Ailsa pushed a low-hanging branch out of her way, her concentration for the moment more on the unusual number of deadfalls in these woods than on the trail ahead. So many dead and fallen trees. Even here, in the heart of Far Terra, there were signs that the magic which sustained her homeland and kept it from the encroachment of the desert was failing. Without more mages--and soon--Far Terra would die. She prayed silently that she would prove to have such useful magic when she was tested. Distracted, she let go of the branch and winced as she heard it slap back. From the sounds, it had barely missed Elina, riding behind her.

"Careful!" Elina shouted and mumbled something that was almost certainly uncomplimentary.



[ February 26, 2014, 11:38 AM: Message edited by: Meredith ]

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wetwilly
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I'll read. I don't have mine ready for you to read, but I'll take a rain check.
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extrinsic
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This fragment's strength for me is it begins to close into Alisa's viewpoint, closing narrative distance. Mid paragraph, though, the distance pulls back and out of Alisa's moment beyond narrator and onto writer's desk. The pivot for the unsettled narrative voice is the mid paragraph sentence fragment "So many dead and fallen trees." Patently character thought.

A few grammatical glitches: faulty clause compunding--look to conjunction words and prepositions for their misuse. Faulty paragraph syntax too, the first paragraph is three separate parts, three separate main ideas. Alisa's viewpoint, narrator-writer viewpoint, Alisa's viewpoint again. The second paragraph is a fourth idea, suitably separated.

"Such" as it is used is vague, unstably interpretable. How Alisa feels about "useful magic," is unclear from that emphasis term. Does she mean "useful" ironically? Does she mean "useful" straightforwardly? Does she mean "useful" ambiguously? And in a way that the ambiguity is stable?

The voice generally for me feels lackluster, made more flat by the unsettled voice switching distance abruptly mid paragraph and the minor grammar glitches disturbing the flow. The voice switches from personal viewpoint imitation, showing, to omniscient summary and explanation lecture backstory, telling.

Craft-wise, I feel that lingering in Alisa's viewpoint is warranted, so that the backstory details are obviously her viewpoint, and so that the scene's import is set up. Stronger emotional attitude, Alisa's, I feel is also warranted.

If those features were strengthened and clarified, I think the opening appeal would be more engaging.

[ February 26, 2014, 03:55 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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lala412
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I thought the "useful magic" line was clearly straightforward. I could be wrong, obviously. But it seems that Alisa cares deeply for the trees and holding back the desert so that her land will not die, and wants to be able to help.

I would love to read it. Mine isn't done, but I would like someone to read what I do have done, if you don't mind reading a half-baked document. :-)

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Denevius
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It's interesting, but it does pack a lot of information in a very little space. I don't know what 'deadfalls' are. Then you basically repeat the words again with 'dead and fallen' trees, but *if* that's what they are, why make up a word for them? Why not just cut straight to the dead and fallen trees?

Then we have 'Far Terra', which I also haven't been introduced to. The threat of an encroaching desert, which is confusing. And I don't know who Elina is.

So, interesting beginning that seems like would benefit from a bit more spacing of events and information.

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extrinsic
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Deadfall is a type of trap that the fall of a heavy weight, such as a heavy tree limb, falls and kills prey, or dead and fallen tree or trees, or standing dead trees or heavy limbs that may fall and kill. Woodlore. The word was coined circa 1600.

"More spacing of events and information," yeah, a little lingering in scene is usually an effective technique for scene development.

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Denevius
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Ah, cool. Well, I'm a proponent of telling people to "go get the dictionary", or just google, so that was my fault. At the same time, in this fantasy setting, I just assumed that it was something the writer conjured, as it sounds sort of fantasyish. I think this goes back to how the opening is too packed. A description of what she's seeing beyond just it's name would help pull the reader further into the scene.
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Meredith
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Thanks, extrinsic. Yes, it's a real word. But, if enough people don't know it, it's not doing its job.

See the revision above. Hopefully better on both counts.

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kmsf
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Merideth, Thanks for posting your lines. I come away with a good sense of the exterior challenge the MC faces, but I don't feel as though I am in the story with Ailsa. Overall, Ailsa's emotional and mental states could be reflected by her surroundings rather than expository writing. We are told she concentrates, is distracted, etc, but the story would be more alive if we were shown. One exercise in John Gardner's The Art of Fiction is to describe setting from the POV of a character who's son or father has just died without ever mentioning the death. I really think you could do a lot with the rich setting you have here.

To support my argument that you missed an opportunity here, let me point out that only when I reached the last line of the first paragraph did I realize Ailsa was riding a horse. (This drew me out of the story because it felt necessary to go back and re-read the lines, firstly, to find a clue I may have missed, and secondly, to redraw the picture.)

With the horse's presence there is another opportunity here to better bring Ailsa and her world to life by delving into specific, concrete details of life around her. My immediate thoughts go to the horse and how, specifically, Ailsa pushed the branch.

Ailsa pushed a low-hanging branch out of her way, her concentration for the moment more on the unusual number of deadfalls in these woods than on the trail ahead. So many dead and fallen trees

Some other notes:

If the magic was failing even here, how much worse would it be when she crossed the surrounding desert?
This was better put in your original as a statement. A statement in close narrative distance would do the trick for this reader.

mumbled something that was almost certainly uncomplimentary
This is pretty abstract, so it feels expository, said-bookish.

Again, the setting is ripe for transmitting Ailsa's mental and emotional states using the concrete world about her. And, you have clearly worked out what these states are, so you are a leg up (hehe, pardon the pun).

[ February 26, 2014, 03:19 PM: Message edited by: kmsf ]

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extrinsic
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Naming exposition, as I label using an uncommon word or a name like a brand name for description, I feel is a matter of the label not doing the portrait work clearly and strongly enough. "Deadfall," for example, if used, could do with a little more development for setting benefits. I feel this way as well about popular culture motifs, like song titles and groups, as well as a wide range of other non-audience specific and narrow fad cultural allusions.
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kmsf
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"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." - Juliet

Is she correct? [Wink]

I use the term "expository" prose to mean language that describes or explains in a more abstract way. At the other end of the spectrum, "purple" prose evokes by saturating with modifier words. Ideally, concrete language does the work of both - describes and evokes - unobtrusively.

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extrinsic
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I've run into numerous misunderstandings from writing terms' manifold definitions and variations.

For me, exposition is introductions, which tend generally toward summary and explanation lectures. Instead, artful introductions (expositions) show. Mid nineteenth century, exposition is how narrative's opening acts and section openings were labeled in the poetics vernacular. Rarely, though, if ever, in publication labeling.

Since that time, exposition as a poetics term has come to mean summary and explanation lecturing--telling--due to burdensome backstory summary and explanation lecture introductions and openings. Sometimes also labeled "info-dumps." I use the terms diegesis (summary) and exegesis (explanation) for tell instead. And mimesis (imitation) for show.

Juliet's line is about the rose metaphor ironically symbolizing romantic love. By any other name.

[ February 26, 2014, 05:48 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kent_A_Jones
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There's a lot of information, here. Other than the fact that it is all in the same paragraph, I have difficulty seeing how it is all related. In S1 your main character moves a branch and that is related to S6&7 in that the branch is a prop for introducing another character. It is unclear until S7 that (or whether) your main character is riding, and what the second character is riding; horse, buckboard, bike, ATV?
S2 simple statement of an unknown (to the reader) place/country/world.
S3 question of failing magic (does this tie in with the dead trees in S1?), question of severity of failed magic elsewhere (presumably more dead trees?), statement of setting surrounded by desert.
S4 statement of need for mages and consequence that place (setting is made of magic?) will die without them.
S5 main character prays for (mage?) magic at time of unspecified test.
S6 action, release of branch moved in S1, winces at sound of branch rebounding.
S7 refers to sound of branch, questions whether branch may have missed new character, new character riding behind main character.

The things I like to know during any opening are story related. I want to know the name of the main character (Got it, good). I like to know setting (Dead trees within a surrounding desert in the land of Far Terra. This gives me the feeling of information without substance. What do the trees look, smell, feel like? Does the character see the desert?) I like a beginning of plot (Why is the main character there? S5 suggests that she is there for testing, but this is unclear. Plot is what the character is going to do, and I don't get a clear indication of what she is doing or what she will do.) I like to know some conflict (Got it, magic is failing and somehow the main character wants to do something about it.)

If you were to sit me down and describe the picture you have in your head, what would you say? Take that picture out of your head, hold it in your hand and describe it to me. Who is in the picture? Where is she/they? What does the place look like? What is she doing? Why is she doing it? What do you find interesting enough about the picture that it was the first one in the album that you wanted to show me?

Internal difficulty: If she only hears the sound of the branch rebounding and there is no impact (there can be no sound of a near miss), then why does she wince at the sound?

I hope this helps,
Kent

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