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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » Prologue

   
Author Topic: Prologue
Denevius
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Slight edit below.

[ July 20, 2014, 12:51 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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Denevius
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A new prologue for the novel I've been working on. Any comments appreciated! Thanks!

[ July 19, 2014, 07:06 AM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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MAP
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Good start, but I have two issues with this.

1. I'm a little thrown by some of the details or lack of them. I think this is a common problem with SF and F openings of making it clear what the reader should take figuratively and literally.

First of all "He kept the mask tight over the features of his face..." Is he wearing a real mask or is he just masking his emotions? I'm not sure.

Second, how does he let the monster out, and where is the monster kept? I feel like this is important information that should be upfront to help me get oriented to what kind of world you are building. Is the monster kept in his luggage? Is the monster a part of him physically or spiritually? More details there will help me understand this world better.

2. I feel like something is off in his response to the "help us". First the thought is placed in his mind, then he calmly releases the beast, then he freaks out a little about who has invaded his mind. This feels wrong to me.

I think it should be first the stimulus (the help me thought) then the emotional response (what? who is putting this thought in my mind) then the decision how to react (release the beast and figure out who is sending the message).

That sequence feels more logical to me. I got thrown at the end because based on how he reacted so calmly at first, I had assumed that this was a common occurrence for Dae Lo, and at the end when I realized it wasn't, I was pulled out of the story.

Other than those two issues, I think it is a strong start.

Good luck with this.

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Denevius
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Hey MAP, thanks for the reply! The questions you asked are answered more throughout the novel than this opening chapter, though I wouldn't want a generally confusing beginning to turn readers off from getting to those answers.

Thanks again!

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extrinsic
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This opening begins mid interruption, no routine beforehand and no causality for the events of the fragment. The narrative distance closeness asks readers to grasp what's going on in the moment and without cues to understand what's going on.

Even in small fragments foreshadwoing and the like: pre-positioning, front loading, are important to understand the action of the moment.

Revenant Dae Lo has a monster inside him that wants out and is let out to find the people who think "help us," not speakers, thinkers. Theoretically, that's a first cause of the scene's events, though out of the blue of a routine airport lounge and no forewarning for readers that the event is pending but right into the middle of the routine interruption event. Dae Lo reads thoughts, evidently, and nothing beforehand clues him in this is not routine until the event is midway past. Nor is the routine portrayed in the depth and tension important to arouse readers emotions, curiosity at least, perhaps not a scene to arouse empathy or sympathy for Dae Lo though. Tension rises from what readers timely know beforehand. This scene is midway over before an understanding of what's going on now is accessible.

I feel the opening is rushed and forced, unnatural. I feel the later details that might reveal what the scene is about are out of position, organization jumbled, content shorted. Information, detail, antagonism, causation, tension, etc., all need to be where they timely matter at the moment to the reflector agonist, not withheld until later. Dae Lo, for example, happens to be at an airport, why, a coincidence, that the coincidence is someone thinks "help us," that summons the canine beast within: "snout."

The second and third sentences are the same syntax, sentence adverb ("Slowly," "Casually"), main clause; the third sentence with an apositive clause following up. Either a sentence adverb for the fourth sentence or only one sentence adverb or none would be more artful. I favor none, since this is an opening and even one so soon makes for a jumpy opening.

Consider a smoother, graduated opening, one where readers are gentled into the scene by Dae Lo's reflections of the setting, routine events foreshadowing the setting is not routine, nor is Dae Lo, that build up to the interruption readers are pre-prepared for.

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Denevius
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As always, thanks for the comments! This is probably one of four to six new chapters each of which will be about 3000 words that needs to be written in the next two months. it'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

Thanks again!

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Grumpy old guy
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Denevius, when I first read this I was immediately reminded of ‘Forbidden Planet’ and the “monsters of the Id”. I see what you are trying to do; it’s the execution that is letting you down as far as I can see.

Personally, I’d prefer to see Lo in the setting first, sipping his ice-cold beer with its condensation dripping off the glass etc, then the voice inside his head which causes him to pause mid-drink and finally place it back on the table. Normality interrupted.

I also think that you are trying a little too hard to impart menace to your ‘monster’. The phrases: crept from him on blood soaked nails and Something in persistent pain raised its hackles, its back arched, are a little overdone. I get the imagery, more wolf-like than cat-like, but I think it is a tad too much right here and now in the narrative structure. Soon, definitely, but not right now.

But, the biggest problem I have is with this: Something in persistent pain. I had to read it a couple of times to get the sense of it.

As I say, I get the intent, however I think it needs more subtlety.

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
Personally, I’d prefer to see Lo in the setting first, sipping his ice-cold beer with its condensation dripping off the glass etc, then the voice inside his head which causes him to pause mid-drink and finally place it back on the table. Normality interrupted.
It's an interesting thought, except nothing about Dae Lo's description of him in the airport or sipping beer would be normal. It's difficult to convey normality when your character is an abnormality.

But anywho, I'll take a more gradual opening under consideration. When I sat down to write this chapter, which is now at 1300 words, I wondered how I should open it. Sitting in front of a blank page produced nothing until I got to the heart of the matter, which initially was 'Help!' This became 'Help us!'

Either way, thanks for the comments!

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Grumpy old guy
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Denevius, I think you misunderstood me. All I was suggesting was to begin the narrative you've written with Dae Lo picking up his glass in the airport lounge and then getting the thought in his head. To my mind a single sentence restructure will show Dae Lo in a normal environment doing normal things -- and then the interruption to his status quo.

Phil.

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Denevius
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quote:
To my mind a single sentence restructure will show Dae Lo in a normal environment doing normal things -- and then the interruption to his status quo
I do get what you're saying here, but it would be complicated to pull off because nothing the character is doing is normal (since normal is subjective), from the way he's sitting to the way he lifts the glass, to even him drinking the beer. So I would either have to lie to readers, or begin the scene with what boils down to explanation.

But I'll definitely keep it under consideration. Thanks again!

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MattLeo
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>>The thought slipped into Dae Lo’s head. Help us!

This personification of "thought" as something that can act is a dead metaphor, which I think is OK. Just pointing that out.

>>Slowly, he lowered the Asahi beer from his lips.

I find the brand name thing distracting.

>>Casually, he set it on the airport seating’s square gray table, the icy beer’s condensation wet on the tips of his fingers.

The fingertip condensation is a nice detail, but to me it feels out of place given the kind of numinous feeling you're trying to communicate.

>>He kept the mask tight over the features of his face as he let the monster out to find the speaker. The beast crept from him on red tinted nails, sniffed the air around him with a cold snout.

I had a problem with this: am I supposed to picture this *literally*? Unlike MAP I didn't have a problem with "mask"; I have more of a problem with how I'm supposed to picture the beast emerging -- starting with whether it's metaphorical or something magical. I'm going with magical, but I don't know how to picture the thing emerging. Is it coming like a mist out of his entire body then condensing into something more solid-ish? Is it emerging like the parasite in Alien, fully formed from some part of Dae Lo's anatomy?

>> Something nearby in persistent pain raised the beast’s hackles, its back arched while exhausted humans pulling luggage hustled down wide, polished terminal floors, all unaware of its existence.

This by the way is what made me decide the "beast" was something literal as opposed to figurative. I first took it to be figurative. The effect is like what Stephen Pinker calls a "garden path sentence", although spread over two sentences. First I pictured the beast as metaphorical, then I had to rescind that picture based on this sentence.

I agree with extrinsic that this opening feels "rushed and forced, unnatural." I think this is because you're trying to grab our attention, but you haven't got us into Dae Lo's head yet; we don't have enough context to make sense of what's going on and how to picture it.

This is in part due to the limitation of the "first 13" exercise. This leads people to think you have to hook the reader in those lines, but I think this greatly overstates the case. You just have to keep the reader reading, and that means avoiding creating a sense of confusion. Trying to hook the reader with the material you have only creates confusion.

I entirely agree with extrinsic's recommendations. Open clean and confident.

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Denevius
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Hey Matt, as always, thanks for the comments!
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Denevius
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Thanks for the suggestions!

[ July 20, 2014, 07:35 PM: Message edited by: Denevius ]

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Craig
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Denevius, from a readers point only, this is what stands out to me.
_________________________________________________ Quote:The thought slipped into Dae Lo’s head.

Is this a thought Dae Lo has been waiting for, "The" thought or just a random thought?

quote:Slowly, he lowered the glass cup from his lips.

First thing I thought of was coffee or tea. When I got to the beer part, wait, no one I know drinks their beer from a cup, glass or otherwise. mug, glass, pint, bottle, can, but a cup?
Would you like some nuts to go with your cup of beer? Now I'll be the first to admit that I don't know how all culture's refer to their beer containers, but cup is a first on me.

Now for me personally, as a reader I don't care what color the table at an airport is. He Set his beer on the table, IMO, is fine. The table could be anything I picture as a reader. Unless of course there is a reason for the gray table.

quote:Settling his hands on his knees as the words pealed through his mind like thunder, he did the unnecessary; he swallowed in a dead throat. Help us!

A dead throat? What is a dead throat? If he has a dead throat, would he be able to swallow? Or is it a parched, dry, hoarse...

instead of pealed, maybe rolled through his mind like thunder...

This is just my humble opinion, but maybe something like...Seated at a table in the airport lounge Dae LO raised the ice-cold beer to his lips and was about to take a gulp when two words suddenly entered his head. Help Us!

If you get rid of the beer condensation, maybe you can get more in about your monster.

Maybe it helps a little, maybe not, but that's how it sticks out to me.

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Denevius
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Hey Craig, thanks for the thoughts! Greatly appreciated.
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Denevius
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The overall consensus is that it's too confusing. Ah well, win some, lose some.

Thanks again all!

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