Author Topic: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel  (Read 747 times)

Offline Kit

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How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« on: April 08, 2019, 02:20:54 PM »
I’ve heard it’s a good idea to start a chapter where the action starts.  Which I’ve done in other chapters of this on-going novel.  I wanted to mix it up a bit and do this chapter differently.

Please tell me if it holds your attention or if you are bored beyond belief.

Thanks for your read and thoughts.


In a grove on an acre of land there was a family of trees with stalks that shot 100 feet into the sky before crowning out with bare, sturdy branches.  The ground below was covered with tightly woven plants, lying close to the ground, their tiny green and yellow leaves making a soft, forest rug.  Their early blooming flowers, just beginning to open, released a sharp and sweet aroma into the air. 

Settled on the ground, a new mother panther watched her two cubs playing.  They jumped and climbed on each other, pounced and tumbled, and when they got too rough, she reached out her thick, black paw and gently swatted one or the other.  Yards away, another panther rubbed his face against a tree trunk before striking his way up to a solid branch.  There he stretched out, lying flat on his stomach, four legs dangling over the branch, and faintly rumbled.

In the same grove, Casira sat at the junction of a tree trunk and a solid branch.  She had arranged her artist tray of paints and brushes securely, and a blank canvas stood in front of her.  The mother cat purred beneath her and Casira had a warm memory of her mother.

She must have been four or five and was playing with her friend, Giselle, whose father worked within the Regency.  They were crouched beside a tiny mud pool and enjoying its curious texture by plunging in their arms and stirring the mud.

Her mother, Celestin, had passed by and said, “I’m going to paint now, Casira.” 

Casira’s eyes widened and she bolted, abandoning poor Giselle to run after her mother. 

“You can join us too, Giselle,” her mother called.

“Ummm, no.  I want to stay here.”  She continued drawing circles in the mud.

“Where’s your easel?” Casira asked, skipping after her mother.

“It’s over by the climbing wall, but you will have to wash your arm if you want to help me.”

Casira sprinted across the grass to a water sprinkler and then found her mother getting ready to paint.  She had thought her mother must have been something of a magician.  Faced with a blank page, she’d somehow invoked it to bear its secrets and unveil an image of wonderful colors and shapes.

Reflecting on that day made Casira chuckle.  She remembered how she asked a heap of questions, why this brush?  Why that color?  Why that shape?  And that time she touched her little finger to the canvas.  Her mother side-eyed her then quickly painted her finger, causing the shocked Casira to gasp and then bellow in laughter.

Bringing her back to the present, was a graybird which landed on a branch near her.  She slowly reached towards its dark gray feathers, but it flited away.

Kylian signaled her through her communication chip.

No.  This is my day off, she thought.

Pressing her forearm she answered, “Yes?”

“You need to get back here now,” he said anxiously.  “The Fullon system, it… there was a glitch.”

Casira grabbed her sack hanging over a branch and began throwing art materials into it.  “What happened?”

“The event portion malfunctioned.”

She swung her sack over her shoulder, protracted the claws on her hands and climbed down the tree.  “I’m on my way.”

Offline nosuchmember

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2019, 09:27:45 AM »
I’ve heard it’s a good idea to start a chapter where the action starts.  Which I’ve done in other chapters of this on-going novel.  I wanted to mix it up a bit and do this chapter differently.

Please tell me if it holds your attention or if you are bored beyond belief.

Thanks for your read and thoughts.


In a grove on an acre of land there was a family of trees with stalks that shot 100 feet into the sky before crowning out with bare, sturdy branches.  The ground below was covered with tightly woven plants, lying close to the ground, their tiny green and yellow leaves making a soft, forest rug.  Their early blooming flowers, just beginning to open, released a sharp and sweet aroma into the air. 

Settled on the ground, a new mother panther watched her two cubs playing.  They jumped and climbed on each other, pounced and tumbled, and when they got too rough, she reached out her thick, black paw and gently swatted one or the other.  Yards away, another panther rubbed his face against a tree trunk before striking his way up to a solid branch.  There he stretched out, lying flat on his stomach, four legs dangling over the branch, and faintly rumbled.

In the same grove, Casira sat at the junction of a tree trunk and a solid branch.  She had arranged her artist tray of paints and brushes securely, and a blank canvas stood in front of her.  The mother cat purred beneath her and Casira had a warm memory of her mother.

She must have been four or five and was playing with her friend, Giselle, whose father worked within the Regency.  They were crouched beside a tiny mud pool and enjoying its curious texture by plunging in their arms and stirring the mud.

Her mother, Celestin, had passed by and said, “I’m going to paint now, Casira.” 

Casira’s eyes widened and she bolted, abandoning poor Giselle to run after her mother. 

“You can join us too, Giselle,” her mother called.

“Ummm, no.  I want to stay here.”  She continued drawing circles in the mud.

“Where’s your easel?” Casira asked, skipping after her mother.

“It’s over by the climbing wall, but you will have to wash your arm if you want to help me.”

Casira sprinted across the grass to a water sprinkler and then found her mother getting ready to paint.  She had thought her mother must have been something of a magician.  Faced with a blank page, she’d somehow invoked it to bear its secrets and unveil an image of wonderful colors and shapes.

Reflecting on that day made Casira chuckle.  She remembered how she asked a heap of questions, why this brush?  Why that color?  Why that shape?  And that time she touched her little finger to the canvas.  Her mother side-eyed her then quickly painted her finger, causing the shocked Casira to gasp and then bellow in laughter.

Bringing her back to the present, was a graybird which landed on a branch near her.  She slowly reached towards its dark gray feathers, but it flited away.

Kylian signaled her through her communication chip.

No.  This is my day off, she thought.

Pressing her forearm she answered, “Yes?”

“You need to get back here now,” he said anxiously.  “The Fullon system, it… there was a glitch.”

Casira grabbed her sack hanging over a branch and began throwing art materials into it.  “What happened?”

“The event portion malfunctioned.”

She swung her sack over her shoulder, protracted the claws on her hands and climbed down the tree.  “I’m on my way.”

I enjoyed reading your story. It held my attention.      jt

Offline Stayce

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2019, 01:43:21 AM »
Hi there!

I'm new to these boards and this is the first time I'm posting some feedback, so I hope you can stand my half-crazed mutterings.

It's a good opening, with some effective little turns of phrase that flip the scene toward the end and grab the attention. I like it.

In terms of ease of reading, I do think there's some repetition of phrasing and vocab that makes certain portions a little tricky to parse, particularly early on. I've noticed this in my own writing too, and I think it usually results from trying too hard to make those first few lines grab a reader's attention.

An example; in the first paragraph, you use the same sentence structure twice in a row with a separate clause in the middle of each sentence. There's also frequent vocab repetition early on (e.g. 'branch' being used in the three consecutive sentences). Both of these seem to drop away as you get more into the swing of the prose and start to ease up a bit on scene setting.

I hope the feedback helps, and I look forward to seeing anything else you post.

Offline Pat Leo

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2019, 11:04:33 AM »
Hi Kit,
I'm new here and your piece is my first to read and critique.

You've set up an interesting scene to introduce your MC.  I suggest deleting the first paragraph and starting with Casira in the tree.

Casira sat at the junction of a tree trunk and a solid branch.  She had arranged her artist tray of paints and brushes securely, and a blank canvas stood in front of her. 

[Beneath]  a new mother panther watched her two cubs playing.  They jumped and climbed on each other, pounced and tumbled, and when they got too rough, she reached out her thick, black paw and gently swatted one or the other.  Yards away, another panther rubbed his face against a tree trunk before striking his way up to a solid branch.  There he stretched out, lying flat on his stomach, four legs dangling over the branch, and faintly rumbled.

The mother cat purred beneath her and Casira had a warm memory of her mother.

I'm curious about the claws on her hand. It makes me think she's not quite human. Is this intentional?
She swung her sack over her shoulder, protracted the claws on her hands and climbed down the tree.  “I’m on my way.”

I hope you find this helpful.

Best, Pat




Offline An Albatross Man

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2019, 09:40:02 PM »
First off, thanks for posting.  I haven't put anything of my own up here yet, so you're ahead of me in that regard.  That being said, here are some thoughts from my perspective:

1. I will echo the previous poster who suggested cutting the first few paragraphs and starting with the description of your main character. However, an important caveat:  if the panther mother-and-cub imagery is truly significant to understanding Casira's nature, personality, themes, etc, then feel free to lead with it--but make it bold.  Bring us into that feline world in a vivid, deep-perspective way, that sends a message to the reader: 'this is important, dingbat. I'm giving you clues here, so pay attention.'

2. Be careful of starting too many sentences with prepositional phrases.  'In a grove... '  'Yards away . . .'  'Settled on the ground . . .' 'In the same grove . . .'   You can get away with anything once or twice, but consistently leading with passive descriptions of location weighs down your sentence structure and works against clarity.

3.  Between paragraphs 3# and 4# you switch from the current scene to the viewpoint character's childhood memory.  Taking a transition like that just twenty seconds after landing on the first page might disorient your slower readers (like me!).  The scene itself works great as is, but you might consider leading with it, and then pulling back to present, where Casira is painting the panthers.  That way, you only have one transition to worry about, not two. Transitions are one the hardest parts of writing, I think. At least they are to me.

4. You use the word 'protract' at the end--as in the opposite of 'retract'.  Most readers will trip on that word, and thus miss out on the coolest thing about this whole passage: IE the character you assumed is just a normal human has freaking claws coming out of her hands. Without getting too deep into it, could you maybe add some clarifying imagery about her claws?  Are the organic? Metal? Curved? Hooked? Straight?  Painted pink with sparkles?  Dripping blood?  I'm just suggesting a word or two more, embedded in an action clause, not a whole paragraph. 

5. Good, concise use of dialogue, with minimal attributions.  ;D  I like.
 
And that's my 2 cents, for what it's worth.  Thanks again for sharing, and good luck.

Offline Kit

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #5 on: April 21, 2019, 01:08:56 PM »
Thank you jt, Stayce, Pat and Albatross Man for taking time to read and respond to my writing.  I’m happy you all found it interesting.

I also appreciate your thoughtful critiques.  It’s so helpful for me when you point out things I had not thought of – I guess that’s why we are all here!  You’ve given me a lot to think about concerning phrasing, active/passive voice, and the effect of the timing of a character introduction.

Thanks again and I will look for your writings as well to offer a critique.

Best,

Kit

Offline landmersm

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2019, 12:18:30 AM »
I would be careful with verb tense.

Example:

Quote
In a grove on an acre of land there was a family of trees with stalks that shot 100 feet into the sky before crowning out with bare, sturdy branches.

This is followed by:

Quote
Their early blooming flowers, just beginning to open

and:

Quote
Settled on the ground, a new mother panther watched her two cubs playing


Maybe it's just me, but this seems to be going back and forth. Verb tense can get tricky - at least with me it does - and if I allow myself, I will get bogged down trying to figure out the best way to say something.  What you've written seems passive.

The rest of the piece doesn't seem to suffer from this problem as much. Maybe re-do the opening paragraph? Maybe start with the mother watching her cubs playing and then go into describing the Forrest they are in. That's starting with action. "Underneath the thick canopy of the trees with stalks shooting a hundred feet into the air, a pair of cubs are playing. Their mother, never too far away, lounges in the shade while keeping a wary eye on her babies."  Something along those lines.


Also
Quote
he said anxiously.
. Most of the time, the dialogue tag should be simple. He said. She asked. That's it. (You can break it up, but our eyes will not see those words. We see who is speaking and figure out the rest from what is being said. In other words, I know there's a question because there is a question mark, and the sentence makes sense as a question. I should know the person is anxious by either what they say or how they act when they say it. Use body language to convey the anxiety. Use the sentence to tell me they are anxious. If the scene is well done, the reader will know the person is anxious.

All in all, not a bad read. These are my quibbles and mine alone. Remember: I am an anonymous person on the internet saying things to you. Take it for what it is.

Best of luck.


 

My blog is  https://betterdevil.wordpress.com/  (It's new-ish!)

Also, check out my self-published first novel, The Last Time

@ http://a.co/d/hP980yk  (Amazon link)

Offline nkwritehope

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2019, 03:30:43 PM »
Hello, I too am new to the sight and this is my first read and critique. 
I liked it. I found it interesting, and you held my attention.
I agree with whoever mentioned beginning with your character in the tree. I like the freshness of the idea. I'm not sure what chapter this is and assuming most of these characters have already been introduced, it's fine. It might be a bit crowded if it's the first page of the first chapter. I especially liked the way you surprised us with your main character having claws, you got me there. I understood the meaning of 'protracted' too by the way.

That's my take on it anyway,
Best of luck

Offline Kit

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Re: How is this opening? 545 words of a novel
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2019, 01:30:55 AM »
Thank you landmersm and nkwritehope for your read and thoughts.  Look forward to seeing your writing as well.

Best,

Kit