My Writers Circle

Workshop => Review My Work => Topic started by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 08:03:41 AM

Title: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 08:03:41 AM
A completely different opening to my novella WIP. Applying the advice of many of you, the Bind Rune Amulet (http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=53476.msg985284#msg985284) and the Magickal Mentality (http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=53716.msg990435#msg990435) chapters will be used much later.

Main reason: to reduce backstory and allow the reader to emotionally engage with the MC(s) at an earlier point in their life. As Clarius suggested, the story is essentially an orphaned hero's journey. I want to start it immediately after the mother's death rather than five years later implied in the above mentioned versions.

Besides the usual critique of the writing, word choice, etc. I would like to know

I am trying to be more patient, drip-feeding the details, but enough to entice. Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.

AQ

Chapter 1: Alone

Twelve-year-old Carnelian stood before the crypt. She stared at the names on the bronze marker. Sixteen ancestors. Four centuries of matriarchal lineage. The first name honoring Aramethea Moon—the oldest survivor from the 1620 crossing.

Tracing a freshly engraved name with her finger tips, Carnelian whispered, "They said it was an accident. Your body blown to bits." She looked at the starlit sky, "But your spirit will live forever."

Carnelian wrapped an arm around her little sister, "It will be all right, Morgana. Mother will always be near—in our heart and in our mind."

"But who will look after us? Where will we live?" Morgana asked.

"The Coven has gathered and the Elders have decided. They will help us stay in our own house. After all, Mother was High Priestess. They owe her."

Looking up at her sister, Morgana asked, "How do we live alone? What about school?"

"Without Mother, homeschooling is no longer possible so we will start public school this fall. We have the summer to get ready."

Morgana sobbed, "I miss Mommy."

"So do I, little M, so do I. We will survive. I promise you. And we will find out why the bridge blew up when Mother was on it."
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: 510bhan on June 13, 2014, 08:28:19 AM
Not necessarily but it needs more intrigue without it presented as backstory IMO
With a few tweaks -- the dialogue sounds too info-dump-ish to me.
Slightly confused by the set up with mentions of crypts/covens and dates like 1620 I wasn't expecting 'homeschooling' but something more old-fashioned. Maybe include a modern/contemporary reference to prepare the reader for the actual period -- four centuries plus 1620 = 2020 + mother getting old enough to marry/bear children, maybe another 10/20 years . . . 2030/2040? ::) ??? :-\

I am trying to be more patient, drip-feeding the details, but enough to entice. Any comments or suggestions are appreciated.

AQ

Chapter 1: Alone

Twelve-year-old Carnelian stood before the crypt. She stared at the names on the bronze marker. Sixteen ancestors. Four centuries of matriarchal lineage. The first name honoring Aramethea Moon—the oldest survivor from the 1620 crossing. Could be a style preference but to me this sounds like a run on and would be better with honouring changed to honoured.

Tracing a freshly engraved name with her finger tips, Carnelian whispered, "They said it was an accident. Your body blown to bits." She looked at the starlit sky. <<< full stop required, this is an action tag not a speech tag. "But your spirit will live forever."

Carnelian wrapped an arm around her little sister. <<< full stop, same reason. "It will be all right, Morgana. Mother will always be near—in our heart and in our mind." <<< I think it would be better to include this as a beat rather than the starlit sky sentence.

"But who will look after us? Where will we live?" Morgana asked.<<< as there are only two people in scene we don't need the speech tag. To indicate who is speaking I'd use an action tag and show the little sister's concern -- maybe looking up and chewing her bottom lip, or wringing her hands -- something appropriate to show her age and vulnerability IMO

"The Coven has gathered and the Elders have decided. They will help us stay in our own house. After all, Mother was High Priestess. They owe her."
clumsy -- find a better way of introducing this information
Looking up at her sister, Morgana asked, "How do we live alone? What about school?"

"Without Mother, homeschooling is no longer possible so No more homeschooling little sis'. We'll start public school this fall. We have the summer to get ready."

Morgana sobbed. "I miss Mommy." <<< this better shows the absence of the mother rather than the *tell* in the dialogue above.

"So do I, little M, so do I. We will survive. I promise you. And we will find out why the bridge blew up when Mother was on it." clumsy info dump -- find a better way of expressing this, also sounds a bit heavy for a 12 year-old to lay on her little sister. maybe some internal thought instead? :-\
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Dribbler Scribbler on June 13, 2014, 08:39:27 AM
Hi AQ,

I'm new to your project so I'll only go as far as to offer to a (rather inexperienced) critique on the new opening.

Regarding the length, I don't see any reason why it couldn't be used in a brief first chapter that acts as a lead-in to what follows but I think it needs to be more compelling. As a reader, I want to feel an instinctive empathy or parental level of support for two orphans. To do that, I think you'll need to expand on the isolation you're trying to create.

I had to re-read the piece for clarity twice. From honouring Aramethea Moon, Carnelian goes straight to talking about the accident. Originally, I thought it was Aramethea who was involved in the accident. On the third read, I realised that Aramethea and Carnelian's mother are two different people from the same family lineage. You've tried to 'show' this using the reference to a fresh inscription but it isn't abundantly clear at the moment.

Try not to give out all of your information at once. The opening line should maybe leave out Carnelian's age. I feel that a simple 'Carnelian stood before the crypt' is more effective and gets the reader asking questions. Who is she? Why is she there? What is she doing? Who's in the crypt? Is she in danger? Leave the reader to build a picture. Your dialogue makes it very clear that these are two young children. You can expand on the detail such as age elsewhere (such as when Carnelian goes to school for the first time). If you really want to use such a brief opening, leave the reader wanting more. Even in such a short piece, I feel you've given out too much.

Keep your dialogue brief. Two children at a crypt might be natural in this particular world but most kids would be too petrified around the dead to be so conversational. Work on their isolation here. Their world is in turmoil. It's as if their voices have been taken away from them by the trauma. How can you convey their story through conversation using fewer words? The dialogue isn't too bad. It's just a little 'chatty'. I'd expect fewer words if this were a real-life situation.

I think you have the monster on the table. You just need a storm and a bolt of lightning.to bring it to life.

Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 09:13:54 AM
Thanks for taking time with a detailed critique Sio. All points will be addressed in a revision. Particularly with the still-info-dumpish dialogue and insufficient intrigue. It will make the scene a bit longer too. A good thing I think.

Also, clarifying the time period and avoiding confusion about the named crypt member and the MC's mother. (This part confused DB—see next critique after yours—and is worth an edit as well).

I appreciate the lesson on effective and proper use of dialogue tags. I have learned by reading so have missed the subtleties.  :-*

Please continue with feedback. Given all the angst expressed in the thread about critiques—to be harsh or to be kind. That is the question. I vote for honest so the writer can be better armed to face a sea of troubles with a little help from friends.  ;D    Sorry for mixing Macbeth and Beatles metaphors.  ;D :D

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Dashway on June 13, 2014, 09:22:09 AM
The scene did not seem too short for an intro and kept me hooked, wanting more.  I’m not sure what else could be added to entice the reader more, but I agree with 510Bhan’s comment about the time/setting being a bit confusing.  Maybe some more clarification about the setting would help.  If this is for young readers, it might be helpful to describe the crypt.  There is a good chance that most will know what a crypt is, but some will not and the description could help build the stone coldness and weight of the scene. 

Some of the dialog seemed forced and detracted instead of added to the flow.  For example:
"They said it was an accident. Your body blown to bits." She looked at the starlit sky, "But your spirit will live forever."  A 12-year-old girl who just lost her mother at first seems to be somewhat in a state of denial with the comment “They said it was an accident”.  This is very natural and illustrates the emotional impact.  But then it is contradicted with the detached, unemotional statement “Your body blown to bits”.  That statement could be removed and her emotional response would be stronger and more effective.  It comes across as a lazy way to reveal information that may not need to be in this section at all.

When I got to the younger sister asking about their future plans for living conditions I was slightly pulled out of the moment because of the questions it raised.  Why are they just now thinking about this after the burial and service?  They would certainly have concerns about their future but it was hard to believe that they had no idea where they would live or who would take care of them.  I’m not sure how to display the concern, because I like how it leads into the introduction of their mom being a high priestess.  Although, this could be introduced more effectively as well, rather than through the straight forward approach of the MC reminding her little sister of that fact.

Overall, the introduction is compelling and held my attention.  It is a great set up for a story that sounds like it might be interesting.  The isolation of the abandoned daughters comes across and drives the reader on elements of survival through such a great loss.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 09:26:04 AM
Hi DB,

Thanks for the feedback. More empathy-inducement needed. Check.

I understand your point about confusing Aramethea Moon with the MC's mother (Ironically, I held back her mother's name to avoid confusion). Need to work on that.

As I mentioned in my initial request for help, I am struggling to avoid info-dumping and expository summary. Trying to drip-feed backstory and details. I lazily added 'Twelve-year-old' to the opening line as an after thought to 'explain' to the reader the young age of the MC and her 'little' sister. doh! Not so subtle? Must change it. :'(

Thanks again,
AQ

Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 09:36:46 AM
Thank you for the helpful suggestions Dashway.

I like your idea to describe the 'stone coldness' of the crypt to add to the tension in the scene and reach more MG readers.

"Your body blown to bits." ? I agree I am guilty of lazy info dumping. . . Again.   :-\ It does read better without it—to sustain the emotion/grief over loss.

You've given me something to chew on with the timing of events and the fit with the dialogue.

I am glad you found it compelling.

With an attitude of gratitude,
AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Dribbler Scribbler on June 13, 2014, 09:46:01 AM
Hi DB,

Thanks for the feedback. More empathy-inducement needed. Check.

I understand your point about confusing Aramethea Moon with the MC's mother (Ironically, I held back her mother's name to avoid confusion). Need to work on that.

As I mentioned in my initial request for help, I am struggling to avoid info-dumping and expository summary. Trying to drip-feed backstory and details. I lazily added 'Twelve-year-old' to the opening line as an after thought to 'explain' to the reader the young age of the MC and her 'little' sister. doh! Not so subtle? Must change it. :'(

Always with a view to finishing on something positive, I can still visualise this scene. Two desperately sad apprentice witches with the eldest looking for answers over her mother's death and the added burden of a little sister who needs her now more than ever. You have the tools here to create as much as empathy and tension with your reader as you'd like.

When you talk about the rest of the coven 'owing' Carnelian's mother, you could also add an element of mystery. I saw this comparison after my original post so I'll highlight what I mean below:

YOU:
"The Coven has gathered and the Elders have decided. They will help us stay in our own house. After all, Mother was High Priestess. They owe her."

POSSIBLE ALTERNATIVE
"The Elders have decided. They'll help us stay in our home because of Mother. They owe her."

Rather than dumping info on the reader and explaining everything, the reader now has a reason to feel engaged. Who are the elders? What has the mother done to deserve a debt of gratitude from them? Are the elders on the side of the characters? Are they acting willingly or begrudgingly? Do the elders have a motive with the two young girls?

I guess using 'elders and 'coven' together is too informational; do we even need to know the characters are witches yet? It's the old 'show and tell' thing again and something I'm highly prone to doing myself. Can withholding that information add an element of surprise to your story later on when you reveal the characters are part of a coven or young witches because they cast a spell in a tense situation to help or save themselves?

These are just random thoughts that are probably helping me more than they're helping you but ma100 made a great point earlier today about asking questions of your plot. I guess I'm all over that one already!  ;)

Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 10:07:37 AM
I read your thread about plot development before I read your follow-up suggestions. Interesting how helping others helps the giver.  :)  The Wiccan law of threefold return: Mind the Three-fold Laws you should, three times bad and three times good. (learned that from my research on Wicca)

Your suggestion to leave out reference to the Coven is a good one. Less is more . . . Again. Funny how the serpent aka telling-info-dump slithers into my writing. A common affliction in dire need of a cure. Your alternative helps.

BTW, the witch sisters have not developed their powers and do not yet realize just how powerful it can be. The lunar gift—inherited through their matriarchal lineage in the Moon family is key to their ultimate survival. As for the support of the Coven, it turns out the High Priest is not so helpful. He is in fact the greedy, power-grabbing antagonist in charge after the mysterious death of the MC's High Priestess mother. So much to tell.....err.....show. All in due time.  :)

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: hillwalker3000 on June 13, 2014, 12:18:31 PM
I'm assuming this takes place some time after their mother was killed (somebody had time to carve her name in bronze - hardly a five minute job). So I'm wondering why they are at the crypt today of all days? And why are they having this conversation now?

Carnelian whispers 'They said it was an accident.' Is she disputing the fact? Or is this for the reader's benefit? One again assumes the child already knows how her mother was killed - weeks or months ago maybe.

And then they decide to have a conversation about schooling - presumably to set the reader up for the following chapters that will take place at Hogwarts (oops - sorry. I'll go and wash my mouth out).

Is the chapter too short for an opening chapter? No.
Am I enticed to read on? Ask me after the redraft.
Is there anything else that should be added?

Lots -
There has to be a reason why these two children are there now. Maybe Morgana wants to leave some wild flowers she's picked because today's her mom's birthday.
There has to be a reason why Carnelian is talking about the way her mother was killed. Maybe she was told one story - but has since discovered the truth.
The dialogue is unrealistic for the age of the characters -
"The Coven has gathered and the Elders have decided. They will help us stay in our own house. After all, Mother was High Priestess. They owe her."
and
"Without Mother, homeschooling is no longer possible so we will start public school this fall. We have the summer to get ready."
They sound as if they've strayed from a Jane Austen novel.

I'd suggest you choose whether it's the Coven or the Elders who decide what happens - and make it a simple enough statement for a young child to understand. Something along the lines of:
'We'll be OK. Mom was High Priestess so the Elders will make sure we're allowed to stay in our house.'
and the unwelcome requirement to attend school with a bunch of strange children (maybe?) can be hinted at, increasing their sense of being alone and being different:
'We'll have to go to the same school as everybody else. Won't that be fun? Not.'

H3K
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 03:26:28 PM
Thanks for the suggestions. My reply is in blue font. AQ

I'm assuming this takes place some time after their mother was killed (somebody had time to carve her name in bronze - hardly a five minute job). So I'm wondering why they are at the crypt today of all days? And why are they having this conversation now?

The timeline needs tweaking for sure. At the moment, the scene occurs one week after the bridge collapsed. The resident carver just needed to add a name and dates to the existing marker stone—less than a day. [in a new edit in progress, I've changed the bronze plaque to a granite slab. It promotes a colder image to build on the isolation/alone theme].

After the bridge collapsed, the authorities deemed it a coincidence that the mother was on it at the time. No body recovered. But her completely destroyed car was found. A memorial service within a few days brings the story to this opening scene. Why now? I like your suggestion about wild flowers and the mother's birthday. Will work it into the next edit. Thanks. The timeline still needs work.

Carnelian whispers 'They said it was an accident.' Is she disputing the fact? Or is this for the reader's benefit? One again assumes the child already knows how her mother was killed - weeks or months ago maybe.
Reader's benefit. I need to find a smoother way or maybe just delay this point for later.

And then they decide to have a conversation about schooling - presumably to set the reader up for the following chapters that will take place at Hogwarts (oops - sorry. I'll go and wash my mouth out).
I have only read a few excerpts of the aforementioned novel, so any similarity is entirely coincidence.  ;D Yet, as Clarius has pointed out in a different thread, this is a hero's journey tale. I'll take your comparison as a compliment Hilly.  :)

Is the chapter too short for an opening chapter? No.
Am I enticed to read on? Ask me after the redraft.
Is there anything else that should be added?

Lots -
There has to be a reason why these two children are there now. Maybe Morgana wants to leave some wild flowers she's picked because today's her mom's birthday.I like.
There has to be a reason why Carnelian is talking about the way her mother was killed. Maybe she was told one story - but has since discovered the truth. Not yet. Much later a new character (her future mentor) will lead her to believe her mother was murdered.  

The dialogue is unrealistic for the age of the characters -
"The Coven has gathered and the Elders have decided. They will help us stay in our own house. After all, Mother was High Priestess. They owe her."
and
"Without Mother, homeschooling is no longer possible so we will start public school this fall. We have the summer to get ready."
They sound as if they've strayed from a Jane Austen novel. Working on it. Thanks.

I'd suggest you choose whether it's the Coven or the Elders who decide what happens - and make it a simple enough statement for a young child to understand. Something along the lines of:
'We'll be OK. Mom was High Priestess so the Elders will make sure we're allowed to stay in our house.'
and the unwelcome requirement to attend school with a bunch of strange children (maybe?) can be hinted at, increasing their sense of being alone and being different:
'We'll have to go to the same school as everybody else. Won't that be fun? Not.'

H3K

Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Clarius on June 13, 2014, 03:31:32 PM
Yes it does seem too short, but probably because it's not bad. The style and quality make me want to read on, unfortunately the questions raised but not answered don't.

1. Why are they in this place at this time?
2. Why throw away the dramatic potential of that scene when the coven gather and the elder's decide the sister's fate?
3. Your MC is twelve years old, an interesting age for a girl. Why not work those issues into the narrative.
4. Wouldn't it be more dramatic if they were throw out of their house. That would lend authority to that Scarlett O'Hara speech at the end.

I'm not sure about the sister at all. Might your MC be an only child? Spoilt child cast down to live amongst the peasants where, by enduring and surviving, they learnt to be a better person. There's a character arc right there.

Interesting to watch this evolving/improving.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: JackmanWH on June 13, 2014, 04:31:01 PM
It doesn't work for me. It sounds like you are making your characters say things just for the readers benefit. And it doesn't feel believable that a 12 year old would look at the sky and say your spirit will live forever.

I suggest you start with a purpose for them being there and don't try too hard to tell us why, let the evidence slowly seep out as we join their adventure. And keep both the dialogue and narrative consistent with the age, then you may not even need to tell us she is 12.

For example, have them place a small bear at the foot of the crypt, then a reason starts to emerge and the action says some of what you are trying to say. But make sure it leads to the next piece of action instead of just looking and talking.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 04:35:13 PM
Yes it does seem too short, but probably because it's not bad. The style and quality make me want to read on, unfortunately the questions raised but not answered don't.

1. Why are they in this place at this time?
2. Why throw away the dramatic potential of that scene when the coven gather and the elder's decide the sister's fate?
3. Your MC is twelve years old, an interesting age for a girl. Why not work those issues into the narrative.
4. Wouldn't it be more dramatic if they were throw out of their house. That would lend authority to that Scarlett O'Hara speech at the end.

I'm not sure about the sister at all. Might your MC be an only child? Spoilt child cast down to live amongst the peasants where, by enduring and surviving, they learnt to be a better person. There's a character arc right there.

Interesting to watch this evolving/improving.

Thanks Clarius. I'm glad you see the evolution moving in the right direction. Your suggestions in the First Lines thread have been a guiding factor. I appreciate your continued interest.

The next revision I'll post soon adds the wild flowers for Mom's birthday (thanks Hilly) as a reason for the visit to the crypt less than a week after the memorial ceremony. Time will tell if it sticks.

I'll think about the eviction twist. Might add to the empathy I'm trying to build up with the reader. Too easy the way it is. Since the soon-to-be High Priest, the despicable Roane Redoute, is the antagonist, he will no doubt be the instigator of the eviction. It gives me a great way to show the struggle the Moon sisters will face with the new HP pulling strings.  :P

I'm thinking of deleting 'Twelve-year-old' from the opening line since there are many numbers in the paragraph. (Sixteen names, first, last, 1620). Thought it was too much but if I can use it to show another age-specific attribute of Carnelian, maybe I'll keep it in the opening.

As far as dumping Morgana, the novella as currently drafted has more than a bit part for her including who is her father and who is Carnelian's. I'll keep her for now.

With an attitude of gratitude.
AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 04:42:33 PM
Thanks for taking time to comment Jackman. I'm addressing some of your points in the next draft. I agree the dialogue needs work. Need to make sure it is young enough. Already deleted 'your spirit will live forever.'

What do you mean 'place a small bear at the foot of the crypt'? Per Hilly's suggestion, I am adding a sentence that shows the visit is on their mother's birthday and Morgana has picked some wild flowers to place on the grave. Is that what you mean?

Please come back to comment on the next revision I will post soon.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: JackmanWH on June 13, 2014, 05:07:48 PM
Oh, yes, I didn't read that suggestion before I posted mine. I thought a bear or a toy might show their age and might be more personal. But flowers are good.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: 510bhan on June 13, 2014, 05:19:27 PM
Could she be a 'tween' and hate it? ::)
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 05:54:27 PM
Could she be a 'tween' and hate it? ::)
Do you mean Carnelian or Morgana? At the moment, unless accelerated aging becomes a part of this world, they are twelve and seven respectively.  ;D
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: 510bhan on June 13, 2014, 06:30:09 PM
The one who is twelve. No longer a child, not yet a teenager, in between . . . :-X
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 13, 2014, 07:09:29 PM
Okay. I think I've addressed the holes and unanswered questions. The chapter has grown to 364 words. More comments requested. Thank you in advance.

Chapter 1: Alone

Carnelian stood before the crypt. She stared at the names on the granite slab. Sixteen ancestors. A matriarchal lineage spanning four centuries. The first name honored Aramethea Moon—the oldest survivor from the 1620 crossing. Carnelian traced her finger tips over the last name at the bottom. It was freshly cut.

They said it was an accident Mom. How do they know? And your body was not found. It doesn't make sense.

Stone stairs, slick with ice, lead down to a large oak door. The lock is undisturbed. The spirits come and go as they please—no key required. For Carnelian, there is no reason to go inside.

Carnelian stiffened her back and wrapped an arm around her little sister. She looked at the starlit sky. "It's okay, Morgana. We must be brave. Here, put the wild flowers you picked on the ledge."

Morgana bit her bottom lip. In a tiny voice she said, "Happy Birthday Mommy. Why did you die?"

Carnelian thought, Yeah Mom, why just a week before your birthday? Why at all? I don't know if I'm strong enough to raise Morgana alone. Please help us.

Morgana shuffled her feet, "Carnie, who'll look after us? Where will we live?"

"The Elders met this morning to decide. I thought they would allow us to stay in our house." Carnelian hesitated. "I wasn't going to tell you before I found another way."

"What do you mean Carnie?"

"We can't stay in the Covenstead House. Only the High Priestess or High Priest is allowed.

Looking up at her sister, Morgana said, "I'm scared to live alone."

"We'll be okay. Wait a few days. Don't worry, I'll think of something." How am I going to fix this mess?

"What about school?"

"I checked with the Elders. We'll have to go to the same school as everybody else. No more home schooling."

Morgana sobbed, "I miss Mommy."

"So do I, little M, so do I. But we will survive. I promise you." A cold wind lifted their cloaks. "It's getting late. We better go."

Carnelian held her head high and fought back tears. And we will find out why the bridge blew up when Mom crossed.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Dashway on June 14, 2014, 10:20:36 AM
This has come a long way from the first post other day!  You did a great job on all the revisions.   I like how you resolved some of the information in the dialog with thoughts.  The story took me in deeper, kept my interest and moved along nicely.  The only sticking point for me was still the issue of where they will live and who will take care of them.
Quote
>>> Morgana shuffled her feet, "Carnie, who'll look after us? Where will we live?"

"The Elders met this morning to decide. I thought they would allow us to stay in our house." Carnelian hesitated. "I wasn't going to tell you before I found another way."<<<

For some reason this still seems slightly forced as a way to reveal this information.  I keep thinking that by this point in time the girls should have some idea about who will be looking after them, even if I do suspend the idea that a 12 year old can raise her 7 year old sister alone.   What if it were obscured just a bit, as in “What will happen to us now?  How will we go on without mommy?”  -or some way of raising the question without raising disbelief?  It is just a thought, but if there is a particular reason for the way it is introduced that has not been revealed yet, such as establishing their culture, then maybe mention that.  Overall, I am amazed at the transformation and enthralled in the story!
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Pale Writer on June 14, 2014, 10:27:19 AM
For me, you still filter the first couple of sentences. You mention 'she stared' but then you tell me what it is she stared at. So I believe you could make better use of those words to show me it better. Again, I am not saying I didn't understand the lines, but believe this could have been said with less but with more impact.

Good to see you working on your writing. It is always wise to take a bit of time to look into the critiques given before changing your writing to fit. Otherwise it is someone elses'.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 12:17:57 PM
This has come a long way from the first post other day!  You did a great job on all the revisions.   I like how you resolved some of the information in the dialog with thoughts.  The story took me in deeper, kept my interest and moved along nicely.  The only sticking point for me was still the issue of where they will live and who will take care of them.
For some reason this still seems slightly forced as a way to reveal this information.  I keep thinking that by this point in time the girls should have some idea about who will be looking after them, even if I do suspend the idea that a 12 year old can raise her 7 year old sister alone.   What if it were obscured just a bit, as in “What will happen to us now?  How will we go on without mommy?”  -or some way of raising the question without raising disbelief?  It is just a thought, but if there is a particular reason for the way it is introduced that has not been revealed yet, such as establishing their culture, then maybe mention that.  Overall, I am amazed at the transformation and enthralled in the story!


Thanks for the follow-up and encouraging words Dashway. I like your idea to obscure where they will live to avoid this hole in the story at this early stage. I will work on it.

I am happy that the transformation has amazed you. A good example of the power of MWC. The feedback from everyone drives us to make our stories better.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 12:24:31 PM
For me, you still filter the first couple of sentences. You mention 'she stared' but then you tell me what it is she stared at. So I believe you could make better use of those words to show me it better. Again, I am not saying I didn't understand the lines, but believe this could have been said with less but with more impact.

Good to see you working on your writing. It is always wise to take a bit of time to look into the critiques given before changing your writing to fit. Otherwise it is someone elses'.
The opening is so important. Each time I read it I think of another word or phrase that will strengthen it. I will think about a way to address the 'staring tell/show' with fewer more powerful words. It is all about the words isn't it? And the images they convey to the reader.

Thanks for commenting. Each time you deliver a pearl. Your observations about filter and filler words in other threads are examples to remember. I will try to apply it in my opening.

I think this chapter has reached a point where it can stabilize for a while. Some of the suggestions do not fit my story and will not be used. They do stimulate the creative process and are always welcome for that reason alone. I make copies of the critiques to enable easy reference several times during my revision work. I appreciate your word of caution.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on June 14, 2014, 01:00:23 PM
It may be my fault, but I've not been able to 'fix' the time period your story is set in. The question of where the sisters will live is one that may have an influence of what era this is.

If they have no family to take them in and will be sent to live with members of the clan, it might be possible they would be separated. Partly because families were often larger than they are today.
And it would be another way to show the plot the new leader has in mind.

But, if it is set in more modern times, chances are good the local government officials would take a hand in deciding where the girls would go after their mother's death.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 01:22:49 PM
It may be my fault, but I've not been able to 'fix' the time period your story is set in. The question of where the sisters will live is one that may have an influence of what era this is.

If they have no family to take them in and will be sent to live with members of the clan, it might be possible they would be separated. Partly because families were often larger than they are today.
And it would be another way to show the plot the new leader has in mind.

But, if it is set in more modern times, chances are good the local government officials would take a hand in deciding where the girls would go after their mother's death.
Hi Alice,
I'm puzzling over where the sisters will live right now. In fact, I considered raising the threat of separation and still might write it that way. In the present draft they stay together. My present thinking is they hook up with a guardian who will become a mentor to Carnelian. That person will also be revealed as their mother's former lover before Morgana was born and is, in fact, Morgana's father. To prevent this from becoming a soap opera it will require a significant re-write.  :-\   But that is half the fun!

The time period is 2007-ish. I hoped the mention of a matriarchal lineage spanning four centuries from the 1620 crossing in the first paragraph would inform the reader. Does it still need more clarification?

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: hillwalker3000 on June 14, 2014, 01:32:52 PM
I've come back to this late.

In view of your intended audience (Middle Grade or young teenagers) you might still want to look at your vocabulary.

A matriarchal lineage. . .
I'd suggest a simpler way of referring to Carnelian's ancestry than this.

Similarly -
The first name honored Aramethea Moon—the oldest survivor from the 1620 crossing.
is a little forced if you're writing this in Carnelian's voice. Do you need to include the word 'honoured'? Most readers will figure out for themselves it's a memorial to dead people.

Her first bit of internalised thoughts reads odd to me. Not consistent with a grieving 12-year-old.
They said it was an accident Mom. How do they know? And your body was not found. It doesn't make sense.
I get a niggling feeling you're including this for the benefit of the reader rather than your MC.
You're trying to get across three points - mom died, it was an accident and there's no body. For one thing I don't see how the lack of a body makes any difference right now. Would a child even be given such devastating information?
She's missing her mother. Show us how. What would she really be saying if she could speak out loud to her?

Verb tense - you do a great job of describing in present tense how the stairs 'lead' down and the door 'is' undisturbed. But the rest of the chapter is written in past tense. It looks like a misstep rather than an intentional device.

Again, having Morgana put flowers next to the memorial on their mother's birthday is a touching moment - but would she really ask 'Why did you die?'
All it does is give you an excuse to leap in with more of C's internalised musings. But it's all become a little clichéd. I'm seeing someone in a rush to get the scene over and done with in order to get to Ch 2.

The business with not being allowed to stay in the Covenstead House (and the reasons why) is not a conversation between a 12-y.o. and a 7-y.o. suffering the loss of their mother. It's exposition through dialogue. The same applies to the discussion about their schooling arrangements.

What's Morgana really thinking?
Morgana sobbed, "I miss Mommy."
That sums up what a child this age would be focussed on. The rest would not register.

There are better ways of bringing up the loss of their home. Home schooling versus public education - is this even relevant to the plot?

Why or how the bridge blew up. I'd suggest you leave this for later. Carnelian is hardly going to be looking at investigating her mother's suspicious death so soon into the story - or even promising to discover answers.

What's Carnelian really thinking?
Can I manage to bring up my little sister by myself? What do we do now we have lost our home?
Losing their home is probably a more dramatic way of closing chapter 1 if you handle the situation with subtlety.

This is improving all the time but you need to be aware of pacing - and maintain a more credible voice for your characters given their ages.

H3K

PS - Just spotted that this is set in 2007. Really? I'd have put money on it being closer to 1707. Something else to ponder maybe. So far there's no contemporary feel to this.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Wolfe on June 14, 2014, 01:34:03 PM
Quality trumps quantity as far as chapter length. It's not too short, but it didn't tempt me to read more. Despite the hook, the dialogue stopped me from wanting more. It's wooden and reads like an information dump in disguise.

Let me offer some tips.

1. Don't put names in dialogue unless it's to stress a point. People don't do it, but for some reason writers do. It's unnatural and a cheap trick. Authors use it to identify characters for the reader. Don't do it.

2. When you edit, read only the dialogue aloud. Can it stand on its own as far as story? If not, it fails. If you stumble, or change words as you read it, edit the sentences into what you read aloud.

3. Do you read each character's lines with the same voice? If so, the character is also wooden and lacks individuality. Every character must standout and read unique.

4. Have the chapter read back to you through a text-to-speech program. I recommend Google's SpeakIt! If the read-back sounds mechanical, you've got a problem. When the machine's read-back sounds natural, despite the program's mechanical nature, it'll sound like aces when a professional reader or actor reads it.

5. If strangers heard your dialogue in a restaurant, would they stop eating and eavesdrop? This is the biggest test. And it's also why dialogue must carry conflict. If it's conversation, people will ignore it. If it's dialogue, people drop everything and eavesdrop. Tension is key. Remember that.

Hope these helped.

Edit:
PS - Just spotted that this is set in 2007. Really? I'd have put money on it being closer to 1707. Something else to ponder maybe. So far there's no contemporary feel to this.

This. I would've sworn this was fantasy or at least took place a few centuries ago. The names and, again dialogue, stress this point. It needs work if your setting is modern or aimed at Young Adult.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on June 14, 2014, 01:45:42 PM
Hi Alice,
I'm puzzling over where the sisters will live right now. In fact, I considered raising the threat of separation and still might write it that way. In the present draft they stay together. My present thinking is they hook up with a guardian who will become a mentor to Carnelian. That person will also be revealed as their mother's former lover before Morgana was born and is, in fact, Morgana's father. To prevent this from becoming a soap opera it will require a significant re-write.  :-\   But that is half the fun!

The time period is 2007-ish. I hoped the mention of a matriarchal lineage spanning four centuries from the 1620 crossing in the first paragraph would inform the reader. Does it still need more clarification?

AQ

I noticed the year 1620 and allowed 100 years per generation. The thing that left me questioning is the fact that a generation does not actually equal 100 years. The mother driving a car put it in the 1900 era, but still left a wide time span.

Or perhaps I wasn't sure because I so often place my stories in the distant past and having been taking a break from writing shortly before I read your latest rewrite, I was still living in the bast in my head.  ;)

I'll have to watch that.   
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 01:52:01 PM
Thank you Hilly. I will take some time to address the weaknesses you identified. I am continuously learning and I hope it is beginning to show. Your comments are always helpful.

Thanks Wolfe. The tips will help. Dialogue is my greatest writing weakness. Matching word choice to the character's voice is another. Awareness is step one to address it.

With an attitude of gratitude to all that commented on this thread.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Wolfe on June 14, 2014, 02:04:25 PM
Eavesdrop on people yourself. ;) Listen and note what catches your attention. You'll find gems. The following happened a few years ago at a restaurant. . . .

"I can't even look at you right now," the son said to his mother. He stormed out and left her, his father, and his fiancée behind.

After he left, the mother turned to the fiancée and said, "You can do better."

Not even the clatter of silverware broke the silence. After they left, everyone exploded into gossip. With one another. Complete strangers.

You want that. Years and years later, I still remember that drama and everyone's reaction. Exhausting for that family, but entertaining for everyone else.  ;D
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Max_with_word_processor on June 14, 2014, 02:10:32 PM
Eavesdrop on people yourself. ;) Listen and note what catches your attention. You'll find gems.

Excellent tip. Sometimes when I'm talking to someone at work I make a mental note of their voice and words and think, I'll use that.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 02:14:20 PM
I noticed the year 1620 and allowed 100 years per generation. The thing that left me questioning is the fact that a generation does not actually equal 100 years. The mother driving a car put it in the 1900 era, but still left a wide time span.

Or perhaps I wasn't sure because I so often place my stories in the distant past and having been taking a break from writing shortly before I read your latest rewrite, I was still living in the bast in my head.  ;)

I'll have to watch that.  
I checked online what number of years is considered a 'generation' and found 25, 30, 50 and 100.

I used sixteen ancestors assuming Aramethea was the oldest survivor of the Mayflower crossing, say she was 60-ish in 1620 and brought a teenaged daughter with her. If that daughter had a child by 1630, add fourteen more generations with average length of 25 years totals 360 years from 1620. Four centuries rolls off the tongue more smoothly than three hundred and sixty. I used 25 since each woman in the matriarchal lineage (I have to use words more appropriate for a twelve year old - see Hilly's comment above) likely had a female child in her early to mid twenties.

Of course, children died young during colonial times and women had children later than mid-twenties in the last century. It averages out. But this is getting too complicated. The purpose of including reference to the MC's lineage was to establish a long line of witches since the days of the Pilgrims on Cape Cod. Presenting it with 'mysterious' or 'olde' language was designed to set a tone. Perhaps I failed and simply confused.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.  ;D  Just kidding. I see that I still have some work to do establishing the time period early on.

Thanks for picking up on this detail.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 02:30:32 PM
Quality trumps quantity as far as chapter length. It's not too short, but it didn't tempt me to read more. Despite the hook, the dialogue stopped me from wanting more. It's wooden and reads like an information dump in disguise.

Let me offer some tips.

1. Don't put names in dialogue unless it's to emphasize a point. People don't do it, but for some reason writers do. It's unnatural and a cheap trick. Authors use it to identify characters for the reader. Don't do it.

2. When you edit, read only the dialogue aloud. Can it stand on its own as far as story? If not, it fails. If you stumble, or change words as you read it, edit the sentences into what you read aloud.

3. Do you read each character's lines with the same voice? If so, the character is also wooden and lacks individuality. Every character must standout and read unique.

4. Have the chapter read back to you via a text-to-speech program. I recommend Google's SpeakIt! If the read-back sounds mechanical, you've got a problem. When the machine's read-back sounds natural, despite the program's mechanical nature, it'll sound like aces when a professional reader or actor reads it.

5. If strangers heard your dialogue in a restaurant, would they stop eating and eavesdrop? This is the biggest test. And it's also why dialogue must carry conflict. If it's conversation, people will ignore it. If it's dialogue, people drop everything and eavesdrop. Tension is key. Remember that.

Hope these helped.

Edit:
This. I would've sworn this was fantasy or at least took place a few centuries ago. The names and, again dialogue, emphasize this point. It needs a lot of work if your setting is modern or aimed at Young Adult.

Much to ponder. As I rewrite, the muse is whispering in olde English. Or at least olde New English spake on Cape Cod.  :)
The energy I feel when writing the witchy, ancient lore parts is at the highest level. I should take the hint. At this stage, I will just write it (again) and let the words lead me. Thanks again Wolfe and Hilly.
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: hillwalker3000 on June 14, 2014, 02:40:09 PM
Much to ponder. As I rewrite, the muse is whispering in olde English. Or at least olde New English spake on Cape Cod.  :)

You need to give your muse a strict talking to. Watch contemporary teen TV. Train your ear to pick up the rhythm of their speech. Look at using some of the language they use (without tying it too closely to a set generation that can end up sounding even more dated than Olde English).

A contemporary witching story with links to the Pilgrim Fathers sounds a fascinating field to explore. Mixing ancient magickal skills with present-day insecurities and teenage angst - how original.


Keep going.

H3K
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 03:22:46 PM
You need to give your muse a strict talking to. Watch contemporary teen TV. Train your ear to pick up the rhythm of their speech. Look at using some of the language they use (without tying it too closely to a set generation that can end up sounding even more dated than Olde English).

A contemporary witching story with links to the Pilgrim Fathers sounds a fascinating field to explore. Mixing ancient magickal skills with present-day insecurities and teenage angst - how original.


Keep going.

H3K
I'll tune into MTV and the Disney Channel here. I've been reading YA book reviews on Goodreads written by teen reviewers. Picking up some of their slang.

Thanks for the encouraging word about the story idea. It wasn't sarcasm was it? Or am I too dense to realize it?

About a week ago in a reply to one of Clarius' posts I described the origin of the story.
(http://mywriterscircle.com/index.php?topic=53716.msg991255#msg991255)

My initial idea for the story evolved from a photograph of an icicle taken during a particularly cold winter on Cape Cod a few years ago. The stark background (and yes the weather) inspired me to write a short verse.

Oh glistening shard of Winter's Bite
Icy tooth from coldest night
Sharpened tip piercing dark to light
Bring sunshine warmth to air at dawn
Rising heat until you're gone.

The image and verse were combined to create a book cover. Cart before the horse, but the story followed, including the Wiccan slant, since the verse sounded like a witch's enchantment. Funny where inspiration is born.

AQ

Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: hillwalker3000 on June 14, 2014, 04:39:15 PM
No no no. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'd never do that even by PM.

H
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 07:29:47 PM
No no no. I wasn't being sarcastic. I'd never do that even by PM.

H
That's a relief. I do appreciate your advice and look forward to more.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 07:47:38 PM
I noticed the year 1620 and allowed 100 years per generation. The thing that left me questioning is the fact that a generation does not actually equal 100 years. The mother driving a car put it in the 1900 era, but still left a wide time span.

Or perhaps I wasn't sure because I so often place my stories in the distant past and having been taking a break from writing shortly before I read your latest rewrite, I was still living in the bast in my head.  ;)

I'll have to watch that.   
Hi Alice,
I have come up with a simpler solution to the dates-generation calculation confusion. Remove the dates and the number of generations. There were still too many numbers.

Pale Writer offered some helpful advice when I asked him about filter words that triggered this edit. The result is a new first paragraph that stays on point, setting up the rest of the chapter that amplifies reader empathy for the sisters that are experiencing loss, grief and fear of what lies in the future. The backstory about who her ancestors were does not belong here.

Here is the new paragraph. I'm taking more time to learn what I need to do with the weak, unmatched dialogue.

Carnelian stood before the crypt. Names of ancestors spanning four centuries were carved in the granite. Her fingers traced down to the last name. It was freshly cut.

AQ
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Alice, a Country Gal on June 14, 2014, 07:56:44 PM
Good for you Artemis, it's sometimes hard when we're in the midst of writing the story, or even editing it for the third or fourth time to pick up on something we need to change.

Just happened to me today, switched POV for one short paragraph.

Thanks to a good beta reader it was pointed out to me, so will now be fixed.  ;)

I know the old saying is "You can't see the forest for the trees."  But as writers, we need to see the trees and not focus on the forest at times.  ;)
Title: Re: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words
Post by: Artemis Quark on June 14, 2014, 08:12:54 PM
Good for you Artemis, it's sometimes hard when we're in the midst of writing the story, or even editing it for the third or fourth time to pick up on something we need to change.

Just happened to me today, switched POV for one short paragraph.

Thanks to a good beta reader it was pointed out to me, so will now be fixed.  ;)

I know the old saying is "You can't see the forest for the trees."  But as writers, we need to see the trees and not focus on the forest at times.  ;)
Yeah, but you haven't seen my new chainsaw.  ;D  You can call me Jason. Now where are those darlings that need some attention?

Seriously, I do appreciate your feedback and support.

AQ