Author Topic: Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted  (Read 181 times)

Offline gra_200

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Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« on: June 19, 2020, 12:23:14 PM »
Hey, I'm new to this and am looking for some honest feedback on the first part of chapter of the novel I'm writing. You don't need to know much before reading, really only that it's set in a place called the Manipulator's Realm where everyone have these 'abilities' such as telekinesis. The word count of the following is 1193 and genre is fantasy. This chapter is in the POV of the character Autumn Night.


I woke up screaming.
It was a raw sound that ripped from my throat and tore across the room. The noises were muffled almost immediately as I shot up, clamping my hands across my mouth. The next few seconds were an utter silence, somehow more deafening than the screams. It was as if I’d forgotten how to breathe. I dropped my hands down, they clutched my duvet as my shoulders started to heave up and down, my breath coming out sharp but unlike before I just couldn’t get enough air. It was as if I’d been running. Running - trying to escape something, or someone. I wasn’t sure why I thought that, maybe it was the voice that whispered at the back of my mind. So familiar yet strange at the same time. It repeated the same word over and over again, that much I knew. But, why the importance of understanding what it said, why it was important that I had to remember my dream - why I needed to remember, that escaped me.
There was a noise to my left and another, this time a tapping sound as a dim light flickered on. Then footsteps, making their way across to my bed. I didn’t look at her.
“Autumn, calm down, you’re safe.”
Hands gently touched my shoulders as they stopped shaking so badly and my breathing finally got under control. I fell forward, my head burrowing into Lily’s shoulder. I felt her arms wrap around my trembling body. I wasn't sure how long we stayed like that, entertwined with one another. At some point I heard Lily speak again.
“What was it about?” Her voice was quiet, soft.
“I don’t remember.” I pulled away from her embrace as a familiar rage washed over me, so hard and sudden that it made me want to scream. “I never remember!” My fist hit the wall and I felt the plaster break over my touch. It rippled, sending a fresh crack up and across the green paint. Lily’s hand closed around my fist and that angry feeling vanished.
“Hey, it doesn’t matter.” She locked onto my gaze, her soft features easily reading as worried and concerned. It was the first time I really saw her that morning. Her straight blonde hair was tied up in a messy knot, strands of it falling over her face and in front of her blue eyes. The darkening under her eyes was just starting to show. Every time I woke up from nightmares, Lily was there. And it was starting to affect her. Drain her from the nights awake.
“It does! He was there again. He’s trying to get through!” My heart started to pound in my head louder than before as my breathing grew rapid once again.
“You’re protected here and you don’t even know that it’s him. It can’t be the Overlord.” As much as I wanted to argue with Lily, tell her she didn’t know that but I just couldn’t get out the right words. I couldn’t explain how I knew and instead tried to convince myself that Lily was right. She was always right. He didn’t know the location of the school. That was impossible, even if he searched for a hundred years. Yes there were loopholes but the portals hadn’t been opened in years and even when they rarely were it was still near impossible.
With that thought in mind I was put slightly at ease. The Overlord couldn’t reach me by telepathy or dream either. Even if he’d used the most powerful Dream Caster, the forcefield stayed impenetrable and the school invisible.
“I know. I know.”
Just then the bell rang. It was a single screeching note, a sound that stayed ringing in your ears long after it had stopped.
We both jumped. Lily let go of my hand and moved off the bed. I noticed her stifling a yawn when her back was turned. That made me sick with guilt. I needed to stop screaming when I woke from nightmares. I knew I could if I tried.
Lily Rosabelle was my one friend and I was hurting her with my own pain. She trusted me for some reason and I didn’t want to jeopardize that. There was only one other Manipulator who also trusted me - at least I thought he did. After all, the Fire King was letting me attend the School of Powers. He promised me he’d protect me all those years ago and I believed he would. I was protected from the Overlord as long as I stayed here, hidden away from his eyes. But I still knew he was trying to reach me and even if I kept telling myself he couldn’t - deep down I knew that wasn’t true. How else could I explain the nightmares I kept forgetting.
I got out of bed but didn’t bother to make it like Lily had, and made my way over to the wardrobe on the opposite side of the room. Opening one of the three doors I pulled out a plain shirt, jeans and a slightly oversized hoodie with a silver dagger on the chest that looked as if it was dripping with paint. Once I’d changed I grabbed my brush and pulled it through the tangled mess of my hair.
I was ready when the second bell rang.
“Are you coming, Autumn?” Came Lily’s voice, snapping me out of my thoughts. She was sitting on her own bed, wearing light clothes, her long blonde hair parted and done half up, and was staring at me.
“Oh. Um. I’ll be a minute, head off without me.” I just needed to get a grip on myself before I went out there. My latest dream had really shaken me up - yes I’d woken with a jolt and a scream before - but never like that.
“Are you sure?” Lily asked.
“I’m sure.” I said more confidently with a shaky smile. Lily gave me one last, almost desperate look before getting up and leaving through the door. It hung open just in case I decided to follow after. I let out a small sigh and sat down on my bed. Lifting my hand I traced the cracks and bumps cascading across the wall behind me. The one I made earlier was by far the biggest. It cracked the wall completely, tearing through it and subconsciously my telekinesis had added the power it needed to cause the extra damage. It always did. By the evening the crack would be sealed with nothing left than a bump in the paint.
That wasn’t the only thing that would change. A third bed had appeared and the wardrobe extended with another door in the night and by the end of the day, both would be filled. An Off-breed, was moving in. Whoever she was I knew she had to use the portals to get here and I knew the sick feeling now in the stomach would stay there until she got here. All I knew was that she was from the Human Realm, oblivious to what was happening in this one, oblivious to who I was too. I knew only that and her name: Alexa Santiago.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2020, 06:32:46 AM by gra_200 »

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2020, 07:06:21 AM »
First impression - just so you know, starting a novel with your main character waking up is considered a cliché. Having said that, I've used it myself on one occasion because it was central to the plot - and I think you managed to justify yourself here. . . but only just. The problem is, the moment of suspense is over in a flash as soon as you begin to over-explain how it feels to wake from a nightmare. You hook the reader, but what follows is more likely to bore them than add to any sense of intrigue.

You then make matters worse by introducing a rather cheesy switch of focus:
Quote
'It was the first time I really saw her that morning. Her straight blonde hair was tied up in a messy knot, strands of it falling over her face and in front of her blue eyes.'
Is it important right now that we know Lily has blonde hair and blue eyes? I doubt it. Readers discover more about your characters by the way they behave and interact than by the way they look.

My advice - cut to the chase. Something along these lines might work just as well:
I woke up screaming.
Lily was already soothing my hair. "Autumn, calm down. You're safe."
But my heart continued to pound in my head louder than before as my breathing grew rapid once again. “He was there again. He’s trying to get through!”

It keeps the plot heading in the right direction and gives the reader enough information to figure out Autumn is somehow under threat.

Unfortunately, what follows is a bit of a mess. There's the Overlord (another cliché), loopholes and portals, a Dream Caster and a forcefield that makes a school invisible.
I guess you've dumped all this on the page to bring the reader up to speed with the nature of the world you have created in the quickest way possible. But I feel it's too much to absorb all at once.
And before we can catch our breath you throw in a Manipulator, the Fire King and the School of Powers.
Wow.

Once that's out of the way the plot reverts to a normal school day - your heroine choosing what to wear, which is about as boring as any story can possibly be. Every reader knows the morning routine. It doesn't make this the least bit interesting.
Oh, and there's an Off-breed from the Human Realm about to join the dorm.

You obviously have an interesting tale to tell, but this opening chapter is doing you no favours. It's almost 100% set-up, as if you've listed all the main elements of you world on paper for your own benefit to make sure nothing is left out. But this means it's not much fun to read and it hasn't made me desperate to continue reading. Unfortunately, that's what your opening chapter has to do - hook the reader and make them want more. Maybe the story starts in the wrong place - only you can answer that. There are so many fantasy tales out there and most of them follow the same, well-trodden path of setting (Hogwarts) and characters (Hunger Games).

So far yours doesn't appear to be amazingly original. Did you ever consider having Autumn wake up from her nightmare to find herself being comforted by the Off-breed? Immediately this turn of events raises questions in her mind - who is this strange creature, where did she appear from and where's Lily?

Just a thought - feel free to ignore, but thanks for sharing.

Offline gra_200

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Re: Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2020, 07:20:22 AM »
Thanks so much for the advice. I'm going to take it all to account when I edit and change some things later. You've actually pointed out a few things that I didn't like to begin with and this has given me the confidence to change them.

Quick question. Would you be interested in reading the rest of this chapter if I post it and give feedback similar to this. You obviously don't have to but it would mean a lot.

Offline PIJ1951

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Re: Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2020, 07:22:24 AM »
Happy to take a look - but I might be some time before replying.

Offline ariwrites

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Re: Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« Reply #4 on: June 21, 2020, 09:42:27 PM »
One of the best pieces of writing advice I've ever come across is this: "Start the story in the last possible place the reader can come into it without being confused."

I take this to mean that you should push yourself to begin somewhere right before the inciting incident happens. I also think you should try to be a little different in where you start your story. Starting with the main character waking up is... a little boring.

There are some cool elements that I see coming through in this chapter. But from what I can see we are given a wake-up sequence with some info-dumping. It's hard to know where to give information when you're writing fantasy. There's a whole world you've got to try and incorporate alongside the plot and sometimes it takes a lot of tries! May I suggest having your main character think about her dream later in the day, explaining the Overlord part then?

I think you'd really benefit from changing up this introduction to your story so that it's fresh, and then adding in some information about the world.

Offline gra_200

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Re: Manipulator (Start of chapter 1) - Feedback Wanted
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2020, 12:35:05 PM »
Thanks for the feedback - I'll probably change up the start and use what you've suggested to make it not so much of a cliche.