Adrastia remembered her birth with hatred. But then, she remembered most things with hatred. On the valley below, the Emperor’s soldiers stood at attention, their armored feet trampling the very ground that had cradled her grown, naked body on the day she was born. It was raining that day, the frigid drops assaulting her sensitive flesh with the prick of ten thousand needles.
Having never felt before, the pain was amplified to the point of debilitation. She’d had some vague thought that urged her to move, to find someplace safe and warm to wait out the storm, but she didn’t understand what any of those words meant. And so she stayed where she was, naked and frozen, until He came and rescued her.
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A standout of the fragment is the agonist's name. From Greek mythology, Adrestia was a daughter of Ares, the god of war, and Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. Adrestia, goddess of equilibrium, means "she who cannot be escaped," accompanied Ares and attended Nemesis: Spartan deities all. Or spelled Adrestria proper? Or Adrastreia, the nymph Rhea assigned to nurse infant Zeus and protect him from Chronos? Not clear which.
From that name, cues and clues of what the narrative is actually about can be generally inferred and also which maybe some small reader engagement might transpire, though no other clue what the novel is about or what position or positions and attitudes the novel takes.
However, Greek mythology expression methods more so summarize narratives in a "tell" mannerism than show, anymore and for many years now a deprecated narrative method. The fragment accords that Greek tradition, and is back story, what Greek narrative arts labeled the chorus act, a sung summary of back story, character and setting introductions, and preface of the main events to come. In media res methods are much more favored and have been for decades. From tell emphasis to show emphasis spans from ancient Greece through to the present time.
A long fiction narrative about the adventures of the goddess of equilibrium holds strong promise potentials and appeals for present-day readers. A start fragment best practice in-clues that feature and, through it, engages readers.
Also, in medias res starts literally in the middle of the action, as well as immediately, personally amidst the action -- not a summary back story explanation and reflection, far removed in time and place from origins, or ab ovo: from the egg. If Adrastia's origins are relevant at the start, she best practice starts in contention and contest relevant to the whole action and such that the contest matters and is in the immediate now moment. On the other hand, Classic Greek era performances and audiences expected origin back story starts. Later era Aesop's Fables, though likewise summary tells, abandoned much of dramatic personas' back stories.
High fantasy portrays alternative or secondary reality places and mystical-magical motifs, of yet-later era Western folktales of witches-wizards and fey folk and so on, labeled fairy tales, rather than low fantasy's real-world reality places and fantastic motifs. "Epic" is another label applied to high fantasy: epic quests, epic adventures, epic struggles, larger-than-life events, settings and milieus, and persons, and epic poetry of Classic Greek era history, patriotic propaganda, and myth. A cue of a fantasy motif is wanted in a first page's thirteen lines of any fantastic fiction narrative, high fantasy cues in this case. Name Adrastia is inadequate by itself.
Several grammar considerations:
"But then," conjunction and conjunctive adverb glitch. Neither is necessary nor joins any prior and subsequent content and either and both uses are everyday conversation idioms. Omission of both doesn't change the meaning, actually, strengthens the main clause's emphasis and clarity and doesn't telegraph what's next and tell readers, hey, pay attention now to this next.
"_On_ the valley below," preposition error. On a valley floor or plain, maybe. Otherwise, //In the valley below,//
"Emperor’s soldiers stood at attention, their armored feet trampling the very ground that had cradled her grown, naked body on the day she was born."
Emperor who? Names contain magical powers of specificity and appeal. "stood at attention" is a modern military idiom, inapt for period authenticity. Greek warrior formations and maneuvers entailed numerous terms for assembly and execution. A Spartan equivalent to dress formation is stand in formation, a difficult action to describe in any case. Although, if their feet tramp, they march, mark time maybe, do not stand.
The sentence is a run-on overall that joins several main ideas and defuses any idea's emphasis and clarity. Tense sequence also confused, from simple past to progressive present to past perfect.
"It was raining that day" syntactical expletive "It," again, an everyday idiom, a false sentence subject. Also, that sentence, too, confuses tense sequence, past progressive to present progressive to simple present. What's the narrative point of view's main tense anyway? The fragment's tenses are all over creation.
"Having never felt before," felt what? At all? Tactile sensations? Emotions? Also, a dangled participle stranded out front far from any subject referent.
"until He" another unnamed persona. He who? Capital-H He, some god or God? Or capped for emphasis' sake?
I would not read a further as an engaged reader, most due to a lack of Adrastia's immediate now intimate engagement with a complication's motivations of personal want and problem at a personal conflict's stakes risked.
quote:Adrastia remembered her birth with hatred. But then, she remembered most things with hatred. On the valley below, the Emperor’s soldiers stood at attention, their armored feet trampling the very ground that had cradled her grown, naked body on the day she was born.
I like it.
quote: It was raining that day, the frigid drops assaulting her sensitive flesh with the prick of ten thousand needles.
Here I’d like something more vibrant; it seems too passive for what she is experiencing. Maybe something like: “She’d howled at the pain of ten thousand needles which she only later understood to be simple rain.”
quote:Having never felt before, the pain was amplified to the point of debilitation.
Again this seems a more passive voice than is warranted. Maybe: ”Sensation as new as she was amplified her pain to the point of debilitation.”
quote:She’d had some vague thought that urged her to move, to find someplace safe and warm to wait out the storm, but she didn’t understand what any of those words meant.
Condense the first part a bit. If she doesn’t know rain then “storm” has no meaning to her. And not understanding the meaning of words isn’t what prevents her from seeking shelter. So maybe: ”She’d had some vague urge to move, to find someplace safe and warm, to escape, but she didn’t yet understand how to accomplish such a feat.”
quote:And so she stayed where she was, naked and frozen, until He came and rescued her.
I like this line. And it sets up well for anything to follow.
In addition to these suggestions, perhaps some connection between the presence of the soldiers and her newborn self: “ They had trembled when she’d howled…”
All in all: Adrastia remembered her birth with hatred. But then, she remembered most things with hatred. On the valley below, the Emperor’s soldiers stood at attention, their armored feet trampling the very ground that had cradled her grown, naked body on the day she was born. They had trembled when she’d howled at the pain of ten thousand needles which she only later understood to be simple rain. Sensation as new as she was amplified her pain to the point of debilitation. She’d had some vague urge to move, to find someplace safe and warm, to escape, but she didn’t yet understand how to accomplish such a feat. And so she stayed, naked and frozen, until He'd come and rescued her.
The tone is a bit difficult to access. However I have recently read two series that have the same issue but were well worth the read, Red Sister and The Summer Tree. So rather than putting me off, the more ancient tone is interesting to me. This is unlikely to be a universal experience though so the following story must be amazing enough to warrant audience persistence.
And truthfully I was less interested prior to reading extrinsic’s observations regarding her name. I love mythology in many flavors and am fairly well versed, but I did not make the connection on my own. What this tells me is that your jacket blurb needs to make this connection for your audience. That would be enough to do it. And stories relating to and using mythology are both well received and growing in popularity.
Terms "passive" and "passive voice" entail specific meanings for writers and grammar. Passive voice is a grammar concept that regards sentence syntax. Passive voice switches a verb's doer from sentence subject to sentence object position or omits the doer out of a sentence altogether. For formal or technical composition, If a doer is unimportant or unknown, passive voice might be apt. Generally, however, passive voice is widely deprecated for all composition (passive voice statement there, deprecated by whom?).
Dangled or stranded participles and participle phrases are on par to passive voice's deprecation. This sentence contains a dangled participle: "_Having never felt before_, the pain was amplified to the point of debilitation." Also, the main clause is passive voice. Who or what amplified the pain is not given. Active voice, passive voice's opposite, would express who or what amplified the pain in a sentence subject position.
Another grammatical voice type entails static and dynamic expression. Static voice expresses stasis state of being statements, to be verbs and auxiliaries, includes to have and to get verbs that express stasis states of being.
Stand-alone state of being verbs am, is, was, are, were, etc., are the first degree of static voice. Auxiliary state of being verbs attached to participle verbs, present progressive, simple present, and simple past tense verbs, is the second degree of static voice. The third degree is use of indefinite and nonfinite time span verbs other than to beverbs.
Passive voice is always static voice. Active voice can be static or dynamic voice. Dynamic voice expresses robust, definite, and finite process statements.
Examples: Passive voice; The pain was amplified. (by what or whom?) Active voice and dangle adjusted; Never before having felt pain, it debilitated her. And the latter is static voice; first clause, the second degree; second clause, the third degree. First degree static voice; "She’d _had_ some vague thought . . ." "she stayed where she _was_ . . ." Dynamic voice; She thought . . . Paralysis trapped her among the muck.
Other composition and expression, especially routine, everyday conversation, favor somewhat and tolerate some passive and static voices expression. Prose's dramatic expression criteria favors much less, if any, of either.
Exceptions notwithstood, for variety and for persuasive purposes and rhetorical functions; that is, say, to intimate a persistent state of ever present time and static state of being being stasis. Gertrude Stein and William Gibson's works' uses of static voice fit that criteria and function. Though their uses of progressive tenses wear thin from -ing ring rhyme nuisance.
Here at Hatrack, Ms. Dalton Woodbury introduced the concepts of static and dynamic voice for writer and critiquer benefit. Seymour Chatman, Story and Discourse, and Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction, also discuss the active-passive voice syntax and dynamic-static voice diction and syntax topics. Grammar handbooks remark upon passive-active voices, and somewhat scantily discuss weak-robust expressions, static and dynamic voices unnamed, though.
I don't think Josephine Kait is talking about passive voice in her feedback post, however.
My understanding is that she is describing the character as too passive (or not active enough - not doing enough to participate in the situation - just letting things happen without doing anything more than responding to them), which is "a whole nother" problem.
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I see what you mean, extrinsic. Unfortunate choice of words to put adjacent to each other. I still think the intention is not a misunderstood use of the term "passive voice" but the adjective "passive" applied to the writer's voice in the writing.
Unfortunate and confusing, yes.
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Think about the progression, as shown. Before meeting the character we’re told that Adrastia hated her birth, and pretty much everything else. From a reader’s viewpoint, so what? As presented, it’s a non-sequitur, because we have zero knowledge of who she is, how old she is, where she is, what’s going on in the scene, and why she hates those things.
Then we learn that she’s standing above a valley and looking at an unknown “emperor’s” soldiers, who are standing at attention for unknown reasons. You have the visualization of the size and placement of the soldiers, the size and shape of the valley, and why they’re there doing that. The reader doesn’t. So how can they visualize the scene? How can she be our protagonist if we're not privy to her actions and thoughts in the moment she calls now?
You next mention that they’re trampling the “very” ground where she was born. But given that it’s an army big enough to be seen from her mountain, only one or two of them can be standing on her birth spot. But that aside, you’ve placed her on that mountain for some purpose, so the reader expects it to continue, and begin making sense.
But it doesn’t. Instead, we abandon her and go back an unknown amount of time to learn of her “birth,” which sounds more like activation then birth. So why go to the effort of placing her, and the men, only to abandon both? If the idea is to come back to the scene after an info-dump of backstory, readers don’t react well to that.
If her birth matters, why confuse the reader by opening in her present and then immediately go back to before the story began? Frankly, it sounds as if you’re trying to impress the reader with “literary writing.” I’m certainly in favor of vivid and evocative language, and interesting situations, but here it seems to be at the expense of story rather than in service to it.
Next, I’ve been out in lots of rain, and though some was cold, and uncomfortable, raindrops are blunt, and large enough that they can’t feel like a pinprick. And, once you’re wet, the sensation of abrupt cold on warm skin is gone. That matters because you say it was raining when she was activated, so she was already wet and wouldn't feel it that way.
And then, we go to the next paragraph and abandon the army, and the situation we opened with. Instead, we’re dwelling on her being in the rain and waiting till an unknown “he” arrives.
Perhaps, had the reader some context for the events, it might me meaningful. I can see that you’re trying to make the reader want to know more, but to do that, it would seem to make more sense to be in the protagonist’s viewpoint, not that of the eternal observer, who explains things to the reader.
It is, after all, her story. Why not let her live it in real-time, and solve her own problems? As someone talking about the events in a voice that lacks emotion because the reader can’t hear you, the best you can do is be dispassionate. But she can live the story, in real-time, moment-by-moment. Won’t the reader enjoy being her, and sharing her life more than reading your view of the situation?
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A bit late to the game, so please forgive the piling on. I agree with the consensus that stronger verbs would solve a lot of the problems.
quote:Adrastia remembered her birth with hatred. But then, she remembered most things with hatred.
Love, love, love the idea, but with "hate" as the verb, it's much more striking: "Adrastia hated the memory of her birth. But then she hated most of her memories."
quote:On the valley below, the Emperor’s soldiers stood at attention, their armored feet trampling the very ground that had cradled her grown, naked body on the day she was born.
I'm a little dislocated here, maybe because you've got two different temporal spaces in a single sentence. It might also be because you jump from her birth in the first sentence, to the present with the Emperor's soldiers, and back to her birth. Also, if the soldiers are at attention, they're not trampling on anything.
quote:It was raining that day, the frigid drops assaulting her sensitive flesh with the prick of ten thousand needles.
I'm lost in time. You're probably referring to the day of her birth, but because it's 'assaulting' rather than 'assaulted' I'm not positive.
What happens if you move the soldiers to the next page? Her birth, the rain, and her eventual salvation are strong enough to sustain this opening. Here they're just an aside.
quote:Having never felt before, the pain was amplified to the point of debilitation. She’d had some vague thought that urged her to move, to find someplace safe and warm to wait out the storm, but she didn’t understand what any of those words meant. And so she stayed where she was, naked and frozen, until He came and rescued her.
Make this more personal. How does this feel.
Also, I think you need a better reason for her to sit out in the rain. Not having the vocabulary is not good enough. To take an extreme example, my dog is stupid as a box of rocks but even he knows to get out of the rain.
If the rain terrifies her, if the pain paralyzes her, if the thought that something worse might be waiting for her in the shadows, then I buy it.