C_Vallion

2.21.2022 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace - Prologue and Chapter 1 - RevB - (L,G)- 4895 Words

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Hi all! 

I had great intentions of getting this submitted first thing this morning, but catching a stomach bug from the five-year-old means that didn't exactly work out as planned. 
 
So. Here's the prologue and Chapter 1. A few people read earlier versions back in November or December, but I wanted to see how they come across together with some of the things that had been slow or confusing before trimmed back.
 
I'll try to update the forum post with more specific questions once my brain is less fuzzy, but for now, I think the main things I'm looking for feedback on (especially from people who aren't as up-to-date on the later chapters)
1. Is the information conveyed clearly without bogging down the pacing too much?
2. Given that this is a heavily intrigue-focused novel, how does the pacing of Chapter 1 feel.  The inciting incident is right in the middle of Chapter 2, which had initially been Chapter 1, but was leaving out too many loose strings that couldn't be tied in later. 
3. What would you expect this prologue/chapter 1 combination to be setting up for the main conflicts of the book?  And for those who've been reading through, does that idea carry through?
 
Thanks! And now, I'm off to get some sleep...
 
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Overall

The prologue is much improved! Still some dragging. I think it can be about half the length and then be good to go. Chapter one doesn't appear to serve a purpose other than backstory. It doesn't move the plot forward and gives us too many names and palace intrigue for a first chapter. We need more MC voice and plot movement to be invested before we get a ballroom dialogue scene.

Your writing continues to improve, and these are both miles better than the last version. Nice work

 

As I go

- sharp opening line and paragraph!

- I still think you need to chase that stillborn line. It's an incomplete thought. Something like: The first twin was stillborn. The second...was reluctant' or something. You have an open, dangling clause it feels like right now

- pg 2: Too much power  <-- losing tension. Suggest cutting this paragraph. Get to the birth

- pg 3: cut from there to here: A mage pushing . It just drags the tension down. We want the birth!

- then cut from It would kill them all.  to the 'You weren't moving.' Too much introspection between the dialogue. We need to get moving along with the plot

- then cut again until he talks about the count of twenty. Again, the plot is being held back by interiority. this is a prologue. They are meant to be snappy and entirely plot relevant. Backstory need not apply

- pg 4: then...we don't really get the birth, or drama around it. All this build up and I feel let down. I want there to be danger with the birth! Drama! Plot progression!

prologue round up: It's a lot tighter this time! I think it could stand to lose about 3 pages, and then it would be very tight and have the right momentum to lead into chapter 1. Nice editing work. About halfway there now. Keep at it!

- pg 8: two pages into this chapter, and I'm starting to wander. I could hold it for the two pages, but I need more buy in from our MC to do much more than two pages. The little snippets of voice are great, but I need some idea why she is there and why she cares. What is her motivation and her arc?

- pg 10: because there's been too much before it, it is easy to skim over the R part, which I know is critical for later chapters. I think the chit chat in this chapter still needs to be paired down and tightened. Give us one, maybe two world building elements then move on

- pg 12: I'm skimming again. It's too many names and places and history that I don't care about because I don't care about our MC or the world yet

- pg 14: they're still just talking...

- pg 16: can they be doing something other than dancing while they talk about all these things? Or spend more time on the dance steps and have our MC also be thinking about, oh, her favorite dance partner or how her father always danced with her, etc.? Anything to give us buy-in

- chapter 1 round up: nothing happens. It's a whole chapter of talking without plot progression. 

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Similar thoughts to @kais on this. The prologue is coming along, but the first chapter dumps us into a lot of people I don't care about with politics I don't understand. I don't have much connection to I, and so I don't care about what she's doing.

In fact, having read the chapter much further on, I would expect it to only be 3-4 chapters after this point. You could even start with I fleeing to another country and telling this part of the story in brief flashbacks, and cut out all the slow politics in this section.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: Definitely a better start! Good first sentence, and the second paragraph sets up some of the conflict.

pg 1: "dragged before the magistrates and the gods"
--are the gods physical in this world? Because this makes it sound like they are.

pg 1: there's still a jarring disconnect for me between expecting the children and having one stillborn. You might replace the paragraph about Ket. with a sentence about the days leading up to the delivery?

Pg 2/3: the thing that's missing here is how hard it is to cast spells. We know the consequences of it, but is it like where any lapse in concentration is immediately fatal? Or does the spell have to be interfered with a lot? I don't know how worrying the midwife's meddling is and how hard this will be for B. How close is he to actually messing up the spell? Does he feel it slipping?

pg 5: "The woman was joyful. Relieved. Foolish. She had no idea."
--is this the same person he just yelled at? Because it seemed like she got it the last time, so I don't know why she would immediately do it again. I still don't have a feeling of how hard this is as the spell gets away from him, which is where I'm losing the tension.

Prologue is much better! Just need more connection with how the spell feels to B, and the actual birth, and I think it will be set.


Pg 6-8: and we're thrust into politics that I don't know or care about. It's a big drop in tension from the first chapter and I struggle to keep my attention on it. I'm ready for I to do something instead of insinuations about what she would or should do.

pg 8: "So much for goading him into revealing something she could hold over him if political dynamics required it."
--This sort of line really sums up the first few pages. It's a mental strategy for political control, which I actually like reading, but I've got to have the connection to the characters and situation first, which I don't here.

pg 9: "It wasn’t an outright accusation of treason, but it was close."
--This catches my attention, but also means I have to go slog back through the last few pages because I haven't been paying attention.

pg 10-12: Pretty much skimming at this point, because I'm trying to find something that's important in here and I can't identify what it is.

Pg 14: I think they've stood in the same place the whole chapter so far until she starts dancing?

pg 17: Yep, I can't find anything to latch on to in this chapter. The prologue gives the promise of something going on with the birth and forbidden magic and then the first chapter is just talking about countries potentially invading? Maybe?

pg 17: "She refused to be the weak point that they used as leverage to topple him."
The last line is not very strong. The thesis of this chapter is that she is NOT doing something, which is a lot weaker than if she IS doing something.

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As I read:

P1 “…making it impossible for B to breathe without fearing full confirmation…” Confused; not sure what this means.

P2 “Healing was precise work” and “too much/too little” good info, but I stumbled a bit on this after assuming – since it’s one of only two legal spells – that it would be fairly simple. Or is this more difficult because he’s mis-applying or modifying the spell?

“her trembling assistant waited…” Interesting detail. Is she afraid of B?

Bottom of p2 “too much or two little power” repetition from an above observation. And all of this is good tension, but stretching a little long. Consider finding some spots to trim to move onto the actual action that B is presumably about to take a little more quickly.

And going to echo that comment after getting to p4 and finding them still hovering on the edge of doing the thing. Any individual segment in here is very good tension, but taken together is too much agonizing and not enough doing. One partial solution, maybe – why not take “a count of twenty” and move it up? Then you can have a countdown with his thoughts and whatever smaller actions he is taking to prepare. Might be a way to reinforce the feeling of motion here.

“When he counted forty-three…” thought he was only counting to twenty? Confused.

P4 if the spell is THAT dangerous, he really should have briefed them before casting the spell so he had an established cue to let him go and they knew not to interrupt him for anything else. Maybe worth hanging a lantern on if the oversight is deliberate characterization.

P5 “that hadn’t yet shaped itself into wind” so is there actual wind happening already? I thought he was containing the magic.

Solid ending to the prologue

Ch1

The first few paragraphs of Ch1 worked well enough as an introduction to Is and some of the politics that happens around her, but I expected the conversation to end on p7 with “just one more hour” where it seemed to be coming to a close and… it didn’t. They seem to be rehashing the same steps – M tries to get something out of her, she retaliates, the exchange doesn’t seem to change anything or provide more information on why the overseas conflict is important.

P8 “...time was short. M was already watching the dance floor impatiently.” I don’t know why Is’s sense of urgency suddenly seems to increase here.

“It wasn’t an outright accusation of treason…” Okay, this seems important, but I don’t understand the import – who is he almost accusing of treason, Is or the other dukes? Why would this be regarded as treasonous? More generally, how does this discovery of near-treason connect to whatever Is’s goals are for the scene?

“Would he know what his father was hiding?” This is the first real indication we’ve had of what Is’s goal is for the scene – not just that she’s generally engaging in political dealings which is presumably a normal state of affairs for her, but that there is something specific she thinks she can get out of this person in particular. If that is indeed the main goal for the scene, I think it needs to be moved up, and we need to get more information about why it’s important as the scene moves forward. A clearer sense of success or failure might also help create a sense of progression. Right now it seems like they start the conversation equally frustrated with one another and end the same way.

P11 “...how much his guessing first irked her.” Did he actually guess anything? He seems to be saying stuff just to annoy Is.

“As if he was entirely unconcerned about one of the nobles accusing another…” To be fair, M seems to do this pretty often!

P12 “...the verge of civil war for the first four years” I’m not sure how long Is’s father has been in charge. Is this a distant threat, or a recent one? Is it a worst-case scenario, or a serious possibility? If the threat is recent, if it’s real, I’m inclined to think the info should be moved way up, and Is’s goals should be connected to that – though she will need a goal more immediate and concrete than just “stop civil war.”

This also assumes, of course, that civil war or the avoidance thereof is going to be a major plot point in the book. There’s no real focus so far.

Also, are Is and R related, or not? I had assumed they were siblings because R is the heir, but their conversation suggests they have different fathers.

P16 “...would leave her in ridiculous, guilty tears.” I’m really not getting the emotional stakes in this conversation; the reactions seem real enough, but overblown for the information I have. They obviously disagree on how to handle the politics, and Is is clearly operating under some (real or imagined) constraints when it comes to whatever she’s trying to do in this chapter, but I’m not sure how that gets us to holding back tears and shouting.

Overall: The prologue was well done: tense, focused, needs only minor tightening. The POV character had clear goals and an emotional touchstone, and I connected with him pretty well.

I struggled with Chapter 1, which mostly didn’t have these things. I know I mentioned it it a few times in my LBLs, but I wasn’t sure what Is’s goals were, why they were important to her, or what was standing in her way of accomplishing those goals, which made it hard to connect with the character on a personal level.

And, it’s not clear to me what the inciting incident is – partially because there are a number of threads here, but more because none of them seem to progress. Why start the story here, at this moment, rather than another one? Does Is realize M is planning treason? Does she realize he’s NOT and she’s facing a different threat than she thought? Does she blow her relationship with R beyond repair and have to win him back, or match political wits with him for the throne? What actually changes from the start of the chapter to the end?

These are all just examples, obviously, as I know you’re well into the manuscript, but the point is we need something concrete to latch onto and move towards, which will help us connect to the character and make the conversations and arguments in the chapter more meaningful.

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As I go:

pg 1. I think some of the details here weren't present in the previous draft and I like all of them

pg 3. It feels like the stakes are clearer here. I think it's the right choice to be straightforward about what's going on even if it involves telling some stuff to the reader

-That being said "It would kill them all" is redundant with the hurricane bit

pg 5. Because magic is so abstract, I think important moments like when he loses control might have to be called out with more than a simple statement 

pg 6. Good end to the prologue. Great job overall; this generally feels like what I expect from a strong prologue in a published fantasy book

pg 6-7. voice is strong here but unlike the prologue where the conflict is clear I don't really have a reason to care about L or C--and this doesn't feel like much of a conflict for Is herself.

-I do like the line at the bottom where Is jinxes C not paying attention to G

pg 8-9. I think the drifting towards treason is supposed to be a strong moment but I don't have enough context for this to feel impactful. 

pg 11. This feels more like stakes for Ala's story than it does for Is'. Could R tell Ala this instead? Him being like "yeah they kinda stood up for you but now that you're here it's all on you. Good luck you'll need it" could be a good way to drive home early conflict 

pg 13. Getting even more new names right now is probably going to be tough for incoming readers

pg 15. Every time I read R's lines I really enjoy them. Even the second time around he's just as funny

On 2/21/2022 at 7:25 PM, C_Vallion said:
1. Is the information conveyed clearly without bogging down the pacing too much?
2. Given that this is a heavily intrigue-focused novel, how does the pacing of Chapter 1 feel.  The inciting incident is right in the middle of Chapter 2, which had initially been Chapter 1, but was leaving out too many loose strings that couldn't be tied in later. 
3. What would you expect this prologue/chapter 1 combination to be setting up for the main conflicts of the book?  And for those who've been reading through, does that idea carry through?

1. In the prologue, yes. In chapter 1, I have some comments that I think take precedence. Basically, I think that what's really missing here is stakes. I know you've mentioned it's by design that Is isn't seeing the cracks in the kingdom even if she recognizes everything isn't perfect, but with the context of everything being mostly fine nothing here feels like it's dangerous enough that I need to care. There's a lot of "what if" talking but there's no solid threat to back any of it up, so it all feels hypothetical for now. Which is a problem I'm working on in Red Angel as well.

That being said I disagree with some of the comments here that the politics are the problem. For me it's that the politics aren't contextualized in a manner where I care about them because the characters aren't under any real threat currently. 

2. A little hard to tell but my guess is that it's all right if the story is changed to give these events more stakes.

3. I would expect a lot more court intrigue in the story from this than we've gotten, especially after part 1. I do like Is' story better after she gets sent away but it does make the early parts feel a little misleading to me. 

On 2/24/2022 at 2:59 PM, Mandamon said:

In fact, having read the chapter much further on, I would expect it to only be 3-4 chapters after this point. You could even start with I fleeing to another country and telling this part of the story in brief flashbacks, and cut out all the slow politics in this section.

Ha glad I'm not the only one who came up with the idea of jumping later and using flashbacks as necessary. I think the first chapter of part 2 where she's focused on recovery from being poisoned is a good entry point with a dynamic that's easier to convey than what we have here. 

Another option is to focus the first chapters more heavily on Ala since he is the main person who's vulnerable here. 

Overall, though, I think the prologue especially is really impressive. I'm excited to see what else you come up with! :) 

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