Author Topic: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel  (Read 786 times)

Offline ysobelblack

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1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« on: December 07, 2018, 10:26:51 AM »
This is the prologue to my first story, Banjaxed in Bachviet. What do you think?



The Hooded Woman nodded to the Shapeless Man who held out a bundle to the Dapifer.

The bundle seemed to materialize out of nowhere as the Shapeless Man extended it across the small table. Even sitting right across from them in the brightly lit room of the inn, perpetual shadow cloaked the Shapeless Man, the Hooded Woman, and the Aerialist. It wasn’t like they were hidden, not completely anyway. He could see them easily enough, and discern facial expressions. It was more like they were made of shadows rather than hidden in them.

“Again?” he asked as he accepted the bundle. “And I suppose you’re going to tell me next to nothing so I can tell them next to nothing. They always have so many questions.”

“We know. That’s why we don’t tell you anything,” the Shapeless Man laughed.

The Hooded Woman smiled. “The time isn’t quite right to tell them more yet.”

“When is the time going to be right?” the Dapifer asked. “Anytime soon? Don’t you think this has been going on long enough?”

“You have no idea,” the Hooded Woman muttered under her breath.

“They aren’t the only ones who have many questions,” the Shapeless Man said wryly.

The Dapifer sighed, knowing they would only tell him what they wanted to and nothing more no matter how many questions he asked. “What can I tell them?”

“They must take this to Báchviệt,” the Hooded Woman replied.

“Hang Sơn Đoòng,” the Aerialist added.

“Yes, and hide it in Hang Sơn Đoòng,” the Hooded Woman agreed.

“Hang Sơn Đoòng? Where’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”

“In Báchviệt,” the Hooded Woman laughed.

The Dapifer scowled.

“It’s the biggest cave in the world,” the Shapeless Man answered, taking pity on him.

“That’s it?” he asked when it appeared no more information was forthcoming. “There’s got to be something else I can tell them.” 

“You can tell them they will need to find a guide,” the Hooded Woman said.

“What’s the guide’s name?” he didn’t expect an answer, and so was not surprised when he didn’t get one. He sighed. “Can I at least tell them where to look for the guide they’ll need?”

“Oh, they’ll definitely know when they’ve found their guide,” the Shapeless Man said, amusement tinged his voice.

“How?” the Dapifer asked. “There must be hundreds of people that can show them the way to Hang Sơn Đoòng.”

“Not so many as you’d think,” the Shapeless Man said.

“There will be only one,” the Hooded Woman said.

“So close,” the Shapeless Man murmured.

The Hooded Woman smiled. “In Báchviệt they should make their way to Phong Nha on the Rao Thuong River. They’ll find their guide there.”

“You can tell them to follow their nose,” the Shapeless Man laughed.

“So I’m to tell them to go to Phong Nha on the River Rao Thuong, and let their noses lead them to the one guide that will take them to Hang Sơn Đoòng so they can hide this?” He hefted the bundle. “That’s even less than you normally tell me. Can I tell them anything else at all?”

The Shapeless Man exchanged a glance with the Hooded Women. He was usually more sympathetic to the Dapifer’s frustration with the lack of information they gave out. Finally he gestured to the bundle and said, “His name is Thuận Thiên. He can be…insistent.”

“That’s something, anyway,” the Dapifer muttered.

“Look up, up, up!” The Aerialist ordered.

The Dapifer’s eyes darted to the ceiling and he visibly relaxed when he saw nothing there. Firebrand, one of their usual party was missing, and it wouldn’t surprise him if she was hiding so she could drop from the ceiling to scare him for fun. He shuddered. She always made him nervous. She had a way of looming over you, making you feel as if she had judged you, thought you should die, and would be happy to kill you. “Where is our friend Firebrand?” he asked nervously.

“She’s not here at the moment,” the Hooded Woman assured him.

“They need to look up while they’re in Báchviệt,” the Shapeless Man said.

The Dapifer stood.

“Oh, you want to go?” The Aerialist asked, sounding disappointed.

“If this is like all the other times I’ve had to do this to them there’s not much time,” the Dapifer replied. “If you three would give me some notice, or show up when there’s not apparently a world ending crisis I could stay longer.”

“Don’t let her touch that,” the Hooded Woman warned, indicating the bundle. “She is not to use it, talk to it, or get her blood on it.”

The Dapifer snorted. “If she did get her blood on it the thing would probably dissolve.”

“It would, but not in the way that you think.” The Hooded Woman and the Shapeless Man laughed. “Can you imagine what Hellion would do?” 

The Dapifer made his way to the door. He’d opened it and was halfway out when the Hooded Woman’s voice stopped him. “Wait.”

He stopped and looked back. “What is it?”

The Hooded Woman had her eyes closed. Her head was tilted as if she was listening to something no one else heard. She opened her eyes and smiled. “When they return to Qataban you can tell them about the map and the chest.”

“Finally,” the Dapifer exhaled, glad that at least that much secrecy would be over soon. He opened his mouth to ask something else, but the Hooded Woman and the Shapeless Man were murmuring to each other in urgent whispers, their heads turned away from him. He turned to leave. They probably wouldn’t answer him anyway. 

“Watch over them in Hang Sơn Đoòng,” the Hooded Woman said, stopping him in his tracks again. Her voice was full of something he’d never heard from her before. He tried to identify the unusual tone of her voice, but when he looked back they’d already disappeared into shadow.
The Dapifer continued out the door and made it two steps before he stopped again as he realized what he’d heard in her voice.

Dread.

Offline Il Penseroso

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 11:20:59 AM »
I'm interested and would want to read more.

However, I'm also frustrated with the secrecy. If you want to keep me reading, you'll have to give me some clues as to what's going on sooner rather than later, or you'll have lost me.

As far as spelling, grammar and punctuation goes, nothing stood out to me. I didn't actively look for it, but when a piece falls short in that respect I will notice almost immediately without having to look.

Offline landmersm

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2018, 01:35:06 PM »
I didn't see anything grammatically that stood out, so that's a good thing.

Fantasy isn't my favorite genre, so I'm looking at it from an "is it attention grabbing?" point of view. I think it was at least initially. After a few conversation points, though, I lost a little interest. As the poster above me said, give a little clue as to what is going on. You certainly don't have to and shouldn't give everything away, obviously, but a little hint or a wink to your readers as to what is coming would be nice.

Stylistically I didn't find anything wrong.

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Offline Tak

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2018, 02:12:43 PM »
As a story, I liked it, though agree about letting the reader in a bit more.

The writing. For the most part it did not cause me to stop, but you are not very efficient with your wording at times. You tend to give the reader an image and then rather than leave it to their imagination to fill in the gaps, you fill it in for them. So for me, it cheats out the reader's participation with your character. It also adds a lot of words by the end of a novel.

Now I read in your introduction to how you became a writer, and you mentioned that you had 18 books out, so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I did like the story, but your sentence construction would wear me out in a bit.

An example:

Quote
The Hooded Woman nodded to the Shapeless Man who held out a bundle to the Dapifer.

The bundle seemed to materialize out of nowhere as the Shapeless Man extended it across the small table.


I mean that whole above quote is awkwardly expressed, repeating without building. The images are separated rather than working actively together for the story/scene.

Everything is there, but the flow is staggered. When you do this, it steals away from that first image which captured me.

Give the reader a chance to become active. You don't need to explain everything; They can get it if you wrote the story well. A scene doesn't rely on a single line. Each one is attached, moves the story forward, has meaning.

Again, just my thoughts

Tak
« Last Edit: December 07, 2018, 02:14:41 PM by Tak »

hillwalker3000

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2018, 05:23:47 PM »
I'm not a fan of fantasy so take my comments with a pinch of salt.

I quite like the title, but I always wonder why fantasy novels have prologues instead of opening with chapter 1. Publishers mostly dislike prologues, but I'm guessing they're all part and parcel of the genre.

On this evidence, you write well enough but you tend to report rather than tell us a story.

Quote
The Hooded Woman nodded to the Shapeless Man who held out a bundle to the Dapifer.

This opening sentence is terribly clunky. You introduce three characters in the space of 16 words with labels that mean absolutely nothing to the average reader and actions that are cloaked in mystery. All three characters might well have featured in a prequel but I personally feel left out because I have no idea who they are or why you refer to them this way. We need some context so we can form an image in our heads.

Then in the next paragraph we have yet another character - the aerialist. That's a lot to keep track of right from the off. It's as bad as starting a story with 'The man did this and the woman did that' - there has to be a better way.

You go on to tell us 'He could see them easily enough, and discern facial expressions.' without making it clear who you're refering to. Is 'he' the Shapeless Man? If so, why in the next sentence does 'he' change to the Dapifer (since he's the one who receives the bundle)? It's a very confusing opening and there's not a great deal here that would make me desperate to continue reading.

The dialogue that follows is meandering and impossibly unfathomable.

Quote
“They must take this to Báchviệt,” the Hooded Woman replied.
“Hang Sơn Đoòng,” the Aerialist added.
“Yes, and hide it in Hang Sơn Đoòng,” the Hooded Woman agreed.
“Hang Sơn Đoòng? Where’s that? I’ve never heard of it.”
“In Báchviệt,” the Hooded Woman laughed.

How do you expect any reader to keep up with this? I fear you're expecting far too much. I gave up reading at that point and skimmed the rest. Maybe I'm missing something. I enjoy a challenge, but reading should also be rewarding and entertaining. I found this prologue rather a chore. After the effort of reading 1200 words, what do I know that will help me prepare for what follows?
The Dapifer has been given a bundle to take to a cave and it's not going to be easy. It's nowhere near enough to grab my imagination. If you're writing an adventure, maybe you should cut to the chase and start the story where the Dapifer's mission actually begins.

Don't despair. Most writers ditch their openings when their novel is finished. It often acts as the scaffolding for what follows, but the novel can usually stand without any need of support once it's complete.

Just one opinion, use or lose.

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Offline Abreju

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #5 on: December 10, 2018, 10:36:37 AM »
It sounds really interesting, just a quick note: You might want to delete some of the phrase like "he said" or "she muttered" in your dialogs, as they are not really necessary that often.

Offline Mjhallden

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2018, 08:01:36 PM »
So many characters to keep track of, and you began to lose me with all the instructions and secrecy. I felt like I was trying to put a puzzle together without all the pieces.  However, I liked the first couple paragraphs as they were intriguing and made me want to know more- the description of the shapeless man was simple and straightforward. I hope this helps.

Offline Rantideva

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2019, 12:36:47 PM »
I love sci-fi/fantasy so this is right up my alley.  I really enjoyed it and would definitely read more.  Great set up for the story.  The only downfall is that you are introduced to a lot of characters really fast. 

Offline heartsongjt

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2019, 01:54:34 PM »
ysobelblack, It was a good read-even with all the characters. I don't know how I missed this story.   Jan
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Offline leah.anaya

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2019, 12:58:27 AM »
I enjoy fantasy books, and I actually disagree with several other comments about the secrecy.  Generally I get frustrated with the secretive nature of these types of books, but really that's part of the draw and excitement for them.

I realize this was posted a while ago so I'm sure you've redone a whole lot based on feedback, but aside from the rushed opening sentence, I think it's well written and I would like to read the rest of it.

Offline EliTaffJr

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Re: 1,200 word prologue for a fantasy/adventure novel
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2019, 05:04:44 PM »
Hi! Sorry I'm late to the party, I am trying to catch up to all of the writers who have been posting before I have become active on this site.

First, I want to point out what I liked. You clearly have an idea of who the characters are and how important they are to your story. I was immediately intrigued by the mystery of these characters and why they were meeting in such a public place.

I also like that you set up with a minimum of words, the setting: a brightly lit inn. Further sensory descriptions right at the beginning like the smell of the mutton or the heat of the fireplace, or the stench of unwashed peasants huddled together and grumbling about something would have further immersed me in the setting, but I don't mind the bare minimum description of a setting to let my imagination run wild.

Unfortunately, I did feel like I needed that extra description when it came to the characters. There seemed to be too much information about the mission this Dapifer was being sent on, from these three mysterious characters, that I found myself reading slowly and re-reading sentences to see if I had the subject or POV character correct in my head.

If there were less characters, and if there was less going on, it would help create the image in my head for me to really immerse myself in the writing. On first read, I felt like it was a little too much of an information dump, when I wasn't yet invested into the story or the world.

Secrecy is fine, and can work in a prologue, but I would either cut out some characters, so you only have two, or make the prologue much shorter and add some more action, instead of just dialogue. Or mention the other characters, but have them be silent observers in the background, so we see them, but they don't have to juggle the focus of the reader by injecting dialogue when we don't have any sense of who they are, what they look like, or what they sound like, etc.

The prologue should either give us a feel for the world or for the characters, and I feel like I haven't been given enough of either to hold my interest. The Aerialist, Hooded Woman, and Shapeless Man all seemed to be a little too 'samey' (cynical, sardonic, powerful and magical beings).

Something I like to do as an exercise is to imagine myself like a potential customer who is just browsing the free samples, looking for something to add to his/her library. If this potential customer, who knew nothing about my work, was picking this book up and flipping to this opening, would they want to shell out the cash to continue reading? What would get them to do that? 

Doing this for your prologue, here's what I came up with that I would do:

Make this prologue a prequel, develop it into a novella, and start the actual novel without a prequel. Or, if you're really set on keeping this scene, make it the first scene, and have the prequel be an action scene, to pique the interest of the passing reader and get their blood pumping.

I hope you stick with it, because I do want to read the story that this is eventually a part of!
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