Author Topic: New opening scene for Winter's Bite Chapter 1, MG or early YA fantasy, 207 words  (Read 30766 times)

JackmanWH

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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.

Offline 510bhan

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Could she be a 'tween' and hate it? ::)

Artemis Quark

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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
« Last Edit: June 13, 2014, 06:03:21 PM by Artemis Quark »

Offline 510bhan

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The one who is twelve. No longer a child, not yet a teenager, in between . . . :-X

Artemis Quark

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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.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2014, 08:35:11 PM by Artemis Quark »

Offline Dashway

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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!

Pale Writer

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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'.

Artemis Quark

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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

Artemis Quark

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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
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 12:32:14 PM by Artemis Quark »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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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.
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Artemis Quark

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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

hillwalker3000

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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.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 01:35:58 PM by hillwalker3000 »

Wolfe

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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.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2014, 04:52:14 PM by Wolfe »

Offline Alice, a Country Gal

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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.   
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The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser, poet and activist (15 Dec 1913-1980)

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I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
-Mohandas K. Gandhi

Artemis Quark

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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