Ghando43

2016-07-11 Amethyst Tower prologue (2130 words)

18 posts in this topic

Hey guys, so this is my first submission. It's the prologue of my book Amethyst Tower. Bare with me, I'm not sure as to what I'm really doing, but I hope you enjoy it. There isn't much actual violence in this part, but there is some aftermath of it, so I just wanted to be safe with the tag. 

 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 

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Well, in my honest opinion, it was written well and easy to read - but there was more than a little bit of cliché in it.
Not that I exactly dislike like clichés, they're part of what keeps fantasy up, but what you wrote seems to fall a bit in the line of "old war hero, whose beloved family was murdered", which seems to be more or less standard heroic fantasy. The Barebloods seem to be like typical Orks (big, brutal, ride strange beasts, can't keep treaties), which also seems to go in the direction of typical sword-fantasy clichés.

I don't say it is impossible to make something original with it; but if I would stand in the library and read this prologue, I would likely think that it's something I read about a hundred times, which would be a pity if the whole book would be really good. Even the cliffhanger in the end does not feel like a real pageturner-cliffhanger (I also don't really like clifhangers as a whole, so please ignore this sentence).

What I liked was the short, precise description of the warring campaign; I oftend dislike extensive battle descriptions if they neither bring the plot forward nor have any other important impact on the story.

My personal advice would be to include something in this prologue, which makes the reader say "Hey, that sounds unorthodox/intriguing/interesting. There must be something about it, and probably this men/Bareblood war is less useless (optionally: even more useless) than it seems//this guy must be something special//etc. etc... I want to read this book"

I'm sorry if my critical review sounds harsher than it is intended.

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I had a similar reaction to Alfa.  This was pretty well written, but there wasn't anything that really pulled me in.  As Alfa says, it's made of mainly clichés that have been done before.  What's new and exciting about your story?  What's the Strange mixed with the Familiar?  Give us that and we'll be hooked.


Notes as I read:

pg 2-3: The description of the Barebloods now doesn't really help, as we aren't meeting them at the moment.  Enough to say they're enemies and then describe them
when they appear.

pg 4: "knowing that it killed him seeing it fade behind him."
--we're already in his POV, so show his regret in leaving, don't tell

there's lots of "extra" description that is not necessarily needed and bogs down the story: what clothes people are wearing, the horse's name, description of the
soldier and Kendaryk's voice, etc.  Not that they aren't good things to have, but at the moment I'm still getting into the story and they are distracting.

pg 4: "They used weapons similar to the human's, though they had distinct differences. Where the soldiers used swords, spears, and bows made from steel and
wood, the Barebloods used swords and spears made from steel and bone. Kendaryk had never seen them use wood where they could use bone."
--An example of the extra description: all this section could be distilled down to "where the soldiers used steel and wood, the Barebloods used steel and bone.
Kendaryk had never seen them use wood where they could use bone."

pg 6: Generally all caps are frowned upon, unless you're Robert Jordan writing in
the creator's words, or Terry Pratchett's Death.

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Thanks for the honesty guys. I'm taking what you guys said to heart and working on making the story more, original/creative, etc. I'll post when I have something worth reading. 

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Firstly, thanks for submitting, I always have a keen sense of anticipation to read a new author on the forum. Welcome!

I’ve put some detailed comments below the line, but in overview, I found the opening rather generic and it did not do much to move me. However, I thought that attack on the village was effective, and that you disguised the enemy outflanking his army quite well. I felt that the prologue came alive when they returned to the village and discovered the attack, I really felt the emotion of his discovering his family dead.

In terms of the style, I found myself disconnecting in various places due to certain word choices and punctuation, certain phrasing too. I'm not going to go to line-by-line level, unless you particularly want that. A good edit certainly would tidy up much of this issue.

Also on style, there are a lot of beats here that are very familiar, the single tear on his wife’s cheek; coming back in one piece; telling his daughter a well-loved story; ready as I’ll ever be; the sooner we leave the sooner we return. I fear that these sorts of things verge on cliché, but some judicious editing and rephrasing could punch the narrative and the dialogue up to be more interesting. (Reading the comments now, I see I am not alone in this thought!)

I believe that prologue is best used for conveying information that cannot reasonably be done in the story proper. Not knowing where your story starts, it’s hard to say how effective this prologue is. The background that was conveyed seemed to come in a chunk of exposition, told straight out.

Thanks for submitting, I'm looking forward to reading the start of the story proper. It’s difficult to get a real sense of a piece from one submission, especially a prologue, so I'm definitely keen to read more.

<R>

------------------------------------------------------------------

“Do you have to go, papa?” – comma required, imho.

“Her hands clutched his back, telling him that she didn’t want him to go either.” – I don’t think you need to tell us this, it’s evident from her physical reaction, I suggest letting the reader may the inference from that action. Showing rather than telling is usually more satisfying. Similar thing when you explain how his words make Everette feel important.

The man on the horse appears out of nowhere, but I’ve got no sense of the environment. There could be a column of soldiers marching past. I don’t have any description of sights, sounds, smells, etc.

“raspier” - I was surprised to learn this is a word, I didn’t think it sat well here.

“they were sending less fewer warriors against his army” – grammar

“The fighting was victorious for his men.” – Grammar – His men were victorious, not the fighting.

I don’t get why he is just walking around in searching for Everette and doesn’t sound more panicked. If it’s because he is carrying a dread of finding her killed then I think you could bring that out more.

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Like the others have said, good on you for submitting. Feedback is the best way to find flaws or things that could be done better; I know I've found tons of stuff thanks to the guys here!

I had a similar reaction to many of the others who have posted. I like the chapter as a prologue, and am intrigued as to how events unfold, particularly after the village was burned down.

My biggest note was the classic "show-don't-tell" paradigm, and it came into full force here. You're throwing a lot of information at us, and it's very easy just to flick it to the side because it's all fairly didactic. There are ways around this; putting information in dialogue, having the characters do stuff that gets the information across. For example, rather than just telling us what the Bloodless were like, actually show us, or have the soldiers discussing the differences (perhaps give such a discussion overtones of disdain if you want to make the story more morally grey). The other option, of course, is to only give information that is relevant to the events here. Perhaps have the backstory to the war revealed later. Often spreading out the delivery of information makes it easier to swallow. 

I do have to agree with others' notes about some of the cliché'd moments here. While cliché's, like tropes, are good as tools, sometimes its good to make things more unique. Rather than making the Bloodless ride generic large cats (which I immediately equated to the waargs from Lord of the Rings), make them more alien. Shopping around deviantart or google for inspiration is often a good way to make things more original.

In addition, I had serious flashbacks to Star Wars with the ending. I was almost expecting Kendaryk to start shouting "Uncle Owen! Aunt Beru!" Again, not a bad thing; the loss of a character's family can (and should) be a heart-wrenching moment. But the overall scenario (burning village, callous enemy, dead family) just made me instantly think of Star Wars. 

One final note, and I only mention this from personal experience. I don't know how Kendaryk is going to react to his family's deaths, but I'd use caution if you're going to turn him into a dark and brooding character who drinks to forget. Having written one such character myself, I know that it is very hard to pull off, and the character can come across as whiny or wangsty very easily. I suggest trying to put a different spin on it; for me, I made it so my character was a sad clown-type who joked to cover his pain. The easiest way to make something refreshing is to approach it and deconstruct it in a different way.  

Despite all this, I'm interested to see where you go with the story, and will definitely be following along with great interest!

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I agree with a lot that has been said above, which I hope means that you should have a clear direction as to how to take this story up a notch or two. For example, with regard to cliches, I know that when I'm writing a scene (such as the parting scene between Kendaryk and his family), usually the first few ideas that come to my mind are the cliches--like a character fondly noticing a flower in a girl's hair, or the "come back in one piece" line. But I think that if we throw out some of these first ideas that come to us, and if we keep digging, we can find new and clever ideas that will bring more interest to readers.

I like the atmosphere/tone of the story and the writing and pacing. Like another reviewer above, I was emotionally invested when Kendaryk got back to his town and looked for his family, even though the outcome was guessable. I lost interest a little in the middle section describing the battles and the enemy.

I got distracted by your syntax in a few places. For example:  “I won't be gone long, I promise.” He said softly to Elerain. There should be a comma after promise, and "He" should be lower-cased. I saw this frequently in the text: “Just don't tell your mother.” He whispered back. And: “Sir, I don't mean to intrude, but the troops are ready to move out.” The man said in a high voice.

This is the sort of book I like to read, so I will look forward to reading more from you!

 

Edited by Coop
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Welcome to the group!

Overall

The flow was decent, and despite my inherent dislike of soldier stories this didn't bore me. On the other hand, as others have pointed out, it is very tropey and I don't see how it advances your narrative as a prologue (also note, prologues are pretty out these days. Agents hate them).

As I go

- I'm having a hard time right from the start with the characters. The man leaving his wife and daughter, and the flowery imagery... it's meant to tug at the heart strings but instead comes off as a sickly sweet cliche

- page 2 - POV is jumpy in these first pages, from the father to the daughter

- final paragraph on page two is an author info dump 

- you'll want to watch the connection of 'ashen skin' to violent, bloodthirsty people

- page 4: it'd be better to see the weaponry and mount distinctions through the protags eyes than just be told about them from the narrator

- page 6: the village is burned to the ground - it would be more compelling if it was something different. Villages get burnt to the ground constantly. Maybe this one could be frozen in ice, or everyone could be roasted on spits in the courtyard, or there was an avalanche, or horrible sickness...anything except being burned to the ground

- I greatly dislike the injuring of female characters (or killing them) to advance a male character's story or garner empathy for him. This trope is irritating at best, and horrifically sexist regardless. See the wiki page on the 'women in refrigerators' trope for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Refrigerators

 

I'm glad you submitted, and hope we get a chance to read this again after some edits!

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9 hours ago, kaisa said:

Maybe this one could be frozen in ice, or everyone could be roasted on spits in the courtyard, or there was an avalanche, or horrible sickness

Yeesh, are you by any chance a member of another forum where admins are The Lord Ruler; Sauron; The Dark One and Emperor Palpatine?

:D

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5 hours ago, Robinski said:

Yeesh, are you by any chance a member of another forum where admins are The Lord Ruler; Sauron; The Dark One and Emperor Palpatine?

The last person who asked me this died in an avalanche that covered a burned village....

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I actually think that burning villages to the ground - while not extremely original - is something what happened often enough - far too often - in history; so I guess it isn't exactly a cliché, but more a "stage in the natural life-cycle of a village". People kill each other, villages got bunt down, tragic, but almost unavoidable.

What matters is what to do with the burned-down village, to bring sense into it. Was it raided for provision and burned down because of resistance? Was it buned for vengeance? Shocked persons often realise details like "strangely, the cattle was slain, but not taken" or something alike. Probably strange elements on this part would help more than especially cruel fashions to anihilate the poor village to gain the readers' interest.

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Honestly, I'm not sure if this prologue is all that necessary. All of the relevant information - about the world itself - would be better served it was shown instead of told, and there's not a lot of suspense otherwise. We know something bad is going to happen Kendaryk's family from the get-go, so the last image isn't that powerful. It might be better to weave this into a flashback, especially if it explains how Kendaryk reacts to the war going forward after this tragedy. 

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Ok, so now I need even more help. The biggest critique I have gotten is that there is too much cliche, not enough originality, etc. I understand that, and I want to fix that. But reading the rest of what I have written, which is a lot, I think, going from what I've heard here, there is too much cliche in the story as a whole. 

So my question is, should I try and edit it and fix the cliches if possible, or should I scrap it and work on another idea I have been playing with? I want to write something people are going to enjoy reading, and if it has to be a different story, then so be it. Later down the road I can come back and finish this one as a personal project. But I don't know what to do at this point. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. 

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Revision is what makes a good story! You started, and you asked for critique, so you're already farther than many. You'll learn a lot by working through the revisions, so I'd suggest to revise and resubmit. Moving to another project won't help you develop as much as a writer. As painful as they are, revisions, in the end, can be the most valuable learning tool in writing.

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Oh, no I have learned a lot already from this one submission. But my fear is that the story as a whole is just too cliche to fix. I am not afraid of criticism and revision, I'm just not sure if what I have can be fixed without changing the whole plot in general. 

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1 hour ago, Ghando43 said:

But my fear is that the story as a whole is just too cliche to fix

Bah. I don't think anything is unfixable. You should see my first draft of AFD. I'm glad a I kept it around. What a hot mess.

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I would completely endorse Kaisa's comments. If you're committed to Amethyst Tower and want to write and finish it, than don't be afraid of getting the slings and arrows (constructive ones!) and going back to adjust it.

If it were me (which it's not!), I would submit some more to get a fuller range of comments on the chapters proper (i.e. not just the prologue), before going back to do a big revision on half your book, and then get comments that you could have picked up in the first edit.

:) 

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I think I am going to take your guys' advice. I rewrote the prologue, and will attempt to fix the first chapter and submit it. Thanks you guys.

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