Author Topic: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son  (Read 2547 times)

cjhuitt

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2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« on: July 05, 2011, 02:01:56 AM »
This is the first chapter in a fantasy novel.  My working title is Second Son, which is nicely generic and doesn't say much.

In this chapter, we meet our first main Character, Prince Mikhail (Miki).  He is summoned to join his family in meeting the Antuskian ambassador, who proposes an betrothal between his older brother Promhail and a princess of their land.
Caleb

Asmodemon

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Re: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2011, 10:17:40 PM »
Welcome to Reading Excuses. For starters I liked your chapter well enough, though it didn’t really hook me or jump out at me as something that I simply must read. I think that this is mostly because nothing much happens and the main character is bored for most of the chapter. When Miki’s bored it’s hard to care about what’s going on since the event is seen through his viewpoint, which is bored. The last part I liked most, when Miki talks to his sibling, and it’s where I started to like the main character a little – he’s enthusiastic and excitable, though nothing exciting actually happened as of yet.

The way the ambassador is immediately given an audience before the queen and her entire family reads counter intuitive – usually royalty lets (surprise) visitors wait or at least let minor functionaries take care of the issue first. The queen shouldn’t be at the beck and call of every visiting dignitary, it makes her appear weak. In this case the ambassador is also from an unimportant country with which Miki’s country hasn’t had any important or serious dealings in years. For a message no one knows is coming drumming out the queen herself seems excessive.

Writing wise you’ve got some passages that, while not strictly passive voice, do lend a passive tone to the chapter. Combine that with a character who is bored out of his mind and you weaken what should be one of the most important chapters of the book. I’m talking about things like “had always thought”, “had trained herself”, “had seen”, “was wearing”, “was watching”. Scratching the word ‘had’ and making it simple past tense helps relieve the sense of being one more step removed from the action.

There were also some sentences I had to read twice, such as “Miki stifled an urge to apologize to his mother for being tardy, since he had arrived in time.” Why would he apologize for being late if he was in time? The arrival of the ambassador doesn’t seem at all tied with Miki’s presence. And again, it’s seems excessive to have the whole entourage there for one minor visiting dignitary.

cjhuitt

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Re: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2011, 01:03:39 AM »
Welcome to Reading Excuses.

Thanks, and thanks for the feedback.

The way the ambassador is immediately given an audience before the queen and her entire family reads counter intuitive – usually royalty lets (surprise) visitors wait or at least let minor functionaries take care of the issue first. The queen shouldn't be at the beck and call of every visiting dignitary, it makes her appear weak. In this case the ambassador is also from an unimportant country with which Miki’s country hasn't had any important or serious dealings in years. For a message no one knows is coming drumming out the queen herself seems excessive.

This is why I love critique group readers.  It completely never occurred to me to consider this.  Fortunately I don't think it will make me significantly change later chapters (this time), but I'll have to put in some thought to either change it, or explain it better.  I like to think that someday I won't be as blindsided by some of these things, but it'll probably just change to different things anyway.

Writing wise you’ve got some passages that, while not strictly passive voice, do lend a passive tone to the chapter. [...] I’m talking about things like “had always thought”, “had trained herself”, “had seen”, “was wearing”, “was watching”.

A bad habit of mine, and one I thought I had excised from this chapter.  It's probably time to take another look at my next few, as well.

Thanks again.
Caleb

akoebel

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Re: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2011, 09:19:39 AM »
The piece was enjoyable to read, albeit a little too lighthearted for my taste.

The main character is likeable, so this is a good point. We don't see him do much yet, but I can see the potential for trouble in him.

As Asmodemon mentioned, there are a lot of "had" in there. As people already mentioned this about my writing, this is something I watch closely, so yours leaped to my face. You also seem to use a lot of adverbs at times (one short sentence held 3 of them!).

I had some trouble with the part where he described the geography. You referred to the place as "his country" a lot, and it made the whole section look cumbersome. It would have been easier to simply give the place's name (as you did later), and just compare the countries by name.

Are his teachers so mean (or stupid) as to actually schedule overlapping sessions (and in different places?) or is it just the skewed view of a teenager? I would expect tutors for a prince to actually come to the prince's room to do their lessons, instead of having the prince run around.

In a similar vein, does the queen actually ask him to scrub floors? Maybe this is a cultural thing, but having a prince actually perform servant's work could be seen as a sign of weakness. Will people follow someone in battle who spent his childhood doing a servant's work?

Having a ministry called 'ministry of information' struck me as strange. Spying is usually a pretty hidden activity that is not known of or talked about. Naming a ministry for that, with an official spymaster figure surprised me.

The most enjoyable part was the three siblings conversation. I didn't connect with the elder brother (looked too stiff to me), but the sister was nice. The conversation between the three felt very sibling-like.

So, nice start. I'm waiting for the next part, including I hope some genuine mischief!

Will777r

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Re: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2011, 05:45:23 PM »
Finally got around to reading this, so I apologize for the delay.

First off, I enjoyed the diverse characters in the family. All 3 (P, N, and M) felt distinct and realistic. I'm the oldest of 7 and it reminded me of some conversations I had as a kid with my siblings :)

Second, I have to echo Asmo's feedback. My first impression was that there wasn't something that stood out in the opening chapter that would makes me say, "I need to read the rest of this book." While I found Miki to be an enjoyable character, there wasn't a lot of tension that made me care about what was happening to him. If someone were to ask me, I would say the chief tension in the chapter comes from the seriousness of the Amabassador's demeanor (shown by his very slow approach to the queen). I don't know if that's a strong enough hook. There's doesn't need to be action, but there does need to be tension, especially in this most important of chapters.

I also found the initial scene with his tutor unnecessary. My guess is that there is some foreshadowing in the opening line? But I don't know if the entire scene makes it worth it. I can't speak much on first sentence hooks cause I'm horrid at them, but I can say that if your story opens with the first line of scene 2 ("Miki ran down the empty cooridoor"), I am definitely more drawn in. That at least makes me want to find out why he's running and why he's trying to keep quiet :)

Lastly, I felt like there was a lot of description, world building, and backstory for an opening chapter. In particular, the description of people and setting was difficult to get through. Establishing the setting is necessary, but multiple paragraph's of description can be hard on the eyes - especially in an opening chapter which is supposed to hook me. If description is absoltutely necessary, then try to make sure you mix in each of the 5 senses, that way I feel more drawn into the scene rather than being a spectator from afar. Most of your description was based on sight. Add in some smells or sounds and it won't feel so much like a wall of information. A good website was recommended to me for this. The link is http://www.wherethemapends.com/writerstools/writers_tools_pages/tip_of_the_week.htm

Miki sounds like an interesting guy - Maybe get him into a bit of real trouble somewhere in the chapter to ramp up the tension :)

Will777r

cjhuitt

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Re: 2011 Jul 4 - cjhuitt - Second Son
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2011, 01:09:32 AM »
akoebel, Will777r: thanks for the feedback (late is fine, and really, a week isn't that late).

I'm glad to hear that the sibling conversation works well.  I liked it, but it was the first three-person interspersed conversation (as opposed to only two people) I recall ever writing, so it took a bit of work to figure out.

Are his teachers so mean (or stupid) as to actually schedule overlapping sessions (and in different places?) or is it just the skewed view of a teenager? I would expect tutors for a prince to actually come to the prince's room to do their lessons, instead of having the prince run around.

To answer the first, some of both, for reasons discussed later in the book.  I don't want to reveal too much just yet, but I am curious if it was too distracting, or just a question you wondered about.

In a similar vein, does the queen actually ask him to scrub floors?

This queen, yes.  I hope this is brought out later, but this one I'm less sure I've covered appropriately.  However, she's raising her children to have experienced what work others do, from the opinion that understanding it will make them better leaders.

I also found the initial scene with his tutor unnecessary. My guess is that there is some foreshadowing in the opening line? But I don't know if the entire scene makes it worth it. I can't speak much on first sentence hooks cause I'm horrid at them, but I can say that if your story opens with the first line of scene 2 ("Miki ran down the empty corridor"), I am definitely more drawn in. That at least makes me want to find out why he's running and why he's trying to keep quiet :)

The first line was supposed to be foreshadowing, but I'm not sure how much of it will end up being kept -- that may be a case of changing it later for better foreshadowing.

It's interesting that you mention the second scene as being a better starting point.  I had started there originally, and the feedback from my first readers was that that scene introduced too many characters and world elements at once, similar to your next point of feedback.  So I added this scene, took advantage of the tutor to add a rough sketch of foreshadowing, and let there be a scene focused mostly on Miki before it blossomed with others.  After this feedback, however, I'm not sure the scene I chose is the best one to do it, and there might be another that would work as well without some of the problems this one entails.

Your link looks interesting.  I'll give it a more thorough perusal as soon as I find the time.

Caleb