Author Topic: 8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏  (Read 759 times)


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8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏
« on: August 15, 2011, 07:26:26 AM »
   Well, this is my submission. It's the prologue and first chapter of a book I am working on called Solitude, though that name may change. I came up with it when the novel was still in some early concept stages, and I'm not sure it fits with the idea I am working on now. But I like the title, and I find it easier to think of the book as "Solitude" than "Working Title," so for now it will remain Solitude.
   As to what it is, well, it's a fantasy novel. Aside from that, I will say nothing yet. None of you have read any of Solitude yet, or any of my creative writing period, so I'd rather you read this without preconceptions. I'm sure I'll have plenty to say once some comments have been posted.
   You're the first people outside my family to see this, or any of my creative writing. Let's see what you guys think.


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Re: 8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2011, 09:57:58 PM »
The Prologue:

I liked the first line.

Your world is interesting, and I am curious as to why the Aberrant Lands covered most of the world.

Something about yellow things being referred to as moist is starting to annoy me. I have a hard time exactly envisioning what a moist twig is. If it's wet, just say it is wet. The image isn't working for me. It happens twice, I've noticed.

There is a lot of telling in the prologue. Most of the telling isn't necessary. It feels eerie and disconnected from Serra's viewpoint. For example, the last paragraph of the prologue isn't really something that I believe Serra would ever think. There's a great deal of this in the prologue. The scene isn't flowing as well as it should, either. Namely:

All the trees around her now grew upward for only a couple of feet, before turning sideways and running alongside the ground. Branches sprouted from the trunks in all directions, some of them growing down and poking back into the dirt. Even from a distance, the yellow bark looked moist. Serra knew that it would be slimy to the touch, like a slug. The leaves grew into strange shapes, spirals and needles and even perfect squares. They would feel like rough, dry leather.

Serra felt complete, pure terror. She screamed and fell to the ground, dropping Elisa in front of her.

Serra feeling complete terror basically comes out of nowhere, unless she happens to be scared of leather. It took a few paragraphs until I was told why she felt that way. I want to be shown it.

I want to feel why she is entering the Aberrant Lands. I want to know more about her character. She can be summed up as "her father died, and she talks to herself to make her feel better." I at least need hints of other aspects of her character.

As for her character herself, I empathize with her father's death, but she's kind of disturbing. I need more time to understand her before I will start to like her, so I'll give the benefit of the doubt.

And she's ten, which is an interesting choice for adult fantasy. Unless it's not that sort of book.

Finally, not much happens in the prologue. Her father dies, and Serra goes into the Aberrant Land. Since I need more of her character to feel invested, the only reason why this prologue seems to exist is to show off the Aberrant Lands. You could probably cut it and we'd pick up the world as we went along. There's just not very much conflict here right now, which signals to me that we've started at the wrong place.

Prologues are notoriously difficult to do, anyways. It sort of needs to be separated from the main story--if it isn't, then why not make it chapter one--in either time, space, or character. I don't know exactly what makes a good prologue, but this one feels off.

Onto chapter one.

Okay, yeah, you can just cut the prologue. Nothing happens in it that I couldn't figure out from chapter one.

Still a lot of telling, like right after the prayer. How does Serra even know that in the past people prayed differently, and more importantly, doesn't she have more things to worry about? Is this really the next thing she would think about? Pretty much everything that starts with "When she had been younger," or a variant thereof, is something that you may want to look at very carefully and ask if this is necessary information.

The prose is fairly choppy, which sort of makes sense, given she's ten, but it needs smoothing regardless.

This chapter is repetitive. Wake up. She's lonely. Retrospect. Go to sleep. You could get away with one of them, but the second time this happens it became extremely obvious. Also, mentioning the word "still" so much is signalling "Yup, still trucking along. You didn't miss much last time you tuned in."

Okay, finished. I think a lot of my points about the prologue stand. We're distant from Serra. There's a lack of conflict. I mean, she's alone, so we're rather limited to either internal conflict or her fighting the environment. No interpersonal conflict is available. She's sad about her father, but that's the most conflict we have so far.

Slow beginnings are fine, but we're really just hitting the same notes here. Serra's dad died; she's sad. The Aberrant Lands prevent new babies from being born, so there is little animal life left. And I can't really identify any more conflicts at the present moment. - The Official Brandon Sanderson Fansite.

Oh SNAP, I'm an Allomancer.


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Re: 8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏
« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2011, 04:47:02 PM »
Chaos really hit most of my points right on the money, so I won’t rehash them all. I don’t want to sound harsh, but I didn’t really enjoy most of what I read. Most of the chapters is you telling the reader about Serra and the setting. The start was good, with the first sentence of her burying her father. It’s a strong introduction to her character, immediately creating a good ground for conflict now that her old life is gone. Unfortunately you don’t do much with it, I don’t feel much connected with Serra. Yes, she’s sad, yes, she’s alone, big deal.

Part of the way she tries to cope is by not thinking about her father, so she focuses on her surroundings instead. This to me feels like an excuse for you as the writer to info dump about the setting. And throughout the chapter you give out a lot of information, but nothing else actually happens at all.

I don’t like her way of talking to herself much, it feels stilted, with sentences like “Hello Serra. Hello, myself. My, those trees look...uh, putrid.”

I don’t see enough justification for her to go into the Aberrant lands and I don’t know enough about those lands yet either to buy that she’s panicking the first time you mention she’s panicking.  You’re telling us how she feels instead of showing the reason. She handled her father’s death a lot better than some rotting plants. Later you tell us it’s because the Aberrant Lands cause panic, but again, it’s you telling us and not showing.

When within the Aberrant lands if she feels like she’s being watched she wouldn’t start talking more, she’d go quiet, looking for a place to hide. Isn’t she supposed to be a young child? Her father told her a lot of things that don’t fit with what you’d tell a young child, she also knows things that you present to us through her viewpoint but which don’t make sense for her to know, such as the prayer comment.

Writing wise, aside from the massive info-dumps, Serra’s stilted speech, and being repetitive in what’s going on, the big problem is that you create distance between the reader and Serra by using a lot of passive words. I counted a hundred instances of ‘had’, which is just far too many for only 17 pages. A lot of them can be scratched right away without changing the rest of the sentence in order to make it feel more immediate.

You also use the word ‘then’ a lot, especially in the prologue. And then she did this, and then she did that, and then she went on to do something else, and then etc. In chapter one you do the same only with ‘still’, she still did this and she still did that, she was still sad and so on.

On the whole the prologue and the first chapter are bigger than they need to be. Given the first chapter the prologue is mostly unnecessary, there’s nothing in the prologue that the first chapter doesn’t cover and vice-versa. By the end of chapter one I caught myself skimming instead of reading; this morning, that night, this morning, the previous day, that night, bla, bla, bla, she’s still walking, bla, bla, and so forth. Nothing happens but her walking and being overloaded with setting information. I’ll grant you the setting can be interesting, but not in the way you present it. Serra comes across as an excuse for you to expound on the Aberrant Lands you thought up, she doesn’t have conflicts, she doesn’t have a problem since she’s getting through the Aberrant Lands just fine. Even before the prologue was finished I stopped caring about Serra, wishing her to get eaten or something so at least something happened.


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Re: 8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2011, 05:02:29 AM »
2 great critiques above me; not much to add, really.

I had a lot of trouble trudging through this, and it's for most of the reasons they mentioned. the 'dialogue' is a bit off, I felt, and having the only real character as Serra for the entire first chapter is going to be a huge turn-off for a lot of readers. The title makes me think a good portion of the book will be spent with just serra, so I don't want to just tell you to put another character in this chapter, but I really think it will hook people in if you give Serra a companion.

Your world is pretty intriguing, though as they said you could probably show it off a little more strongly. The aberrant lands is a good enough name for a location – it's unique, and bit strange in a good way. I just feel like real people in your world would have a slang for it that they use more frequently than 'the Aberrant Lands.' perhaps just the Aberrant. Just a thought.

Anyways, I do still want to read, if only to find more out about your world, but without more interesting dialogue I might get tired of it quickly.


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Re: 8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2011, 05:37:09 AM »
I hope I'm not just repeating what everyone else is saying.

As has been mentioned, your world is intriguing, and there is some good description of it, but nothing of interest really happens. The telling and Serra's dialogue didn't bother me too much, but it was hard to get through both a prologue and a chapter of nothing happening. I would assume that you wouldn't want to add another character in here (which, as Hubay mentioned, would probably help), but there are definitely ways you can make things happen even with Serra being the only character.

Especially with so much emphasis being put on the strange land she is in, you could easily have something unexpected happen that she has to deal with-alone. In that case you would be able to still show how she copes with being alone, while dealing with whatever comes her way, perhaps remembering things she has been taught, etc.
I will get around to giving feedback to my fellow Reading Excuses members. As soon as I can.


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Re: 8/15/2011 - Mad_Scientist - Solitude - Prologue/Chapter1‏
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2011, 07:26:35 PM »
Thanks for the comments everyone:  a lot to think about. It gave me some ideas on how to change these early parts of the book, though I'm going to wait until I finish the whole story before going back to revise these early parts.

For those curious and perhaps concerned about the title and whether it means that Serra will be the only character, worry not. The title was something I came up with when the concept for the story was in an earlier and drastically different form, and I decided to keep the title for now, but it's not indicitive of the rest of the story. The next chapter, you will be introduced to the other major viewpoint character (and he won't spend the whole chapter alone), and the chapter after that he'll end up meeting Serra.

I initially wondered if perhaps I was cutting the portions with Serra wandering by herself too short, since they were such a big part of my initial ideas for the story. Well, after these critiques, that worry is something I don't have any longer.  ;D