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killersquid

202000309 killersquid Arcane heart (prologue and half of ch1) (V) 4966 words

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Hello all,

This is my first submission and it is the start of the book so don't worry about any backstory at all :)

Kind regards,

Squid

Edited by killersquid
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I am still learning how to critique professionally, as I am more used to grading the stories of 4th graders and not adults. Let me first preface that I do not know you (except that you like DnD), but everything I write here is said in a kind and gentle way. It is hard to show the tone of voice when writing, and I want you to know that I'm here to critique, praise, and offer some slight advice. I generally try to critique reactively and not proactively, but I'm going to put on my teacher hat for a bit today.

First of all, let me state, keep on writing, because I think you've got the beginnings of a good story and I want to see where you can take it. We have worldbuilding, where humans cannot perform magic, but that once there was a historical figure, A., who believed that humans could. We have two characters, K. and M., who are doing their best in a school that requires them to pass five tests, and a teacher who definitely hits the gym more than I do. What will happen next? Will they pass their tests? Only way for me to find out is if you keep writing ;)

Now, let me say that the largest stumbling block that I came across is actually simple to fix. Grammar in the way of formatting. This is where my teacher hat comes on. Humans need white space in order to read well. Our brains get intimidated and exhausted by massive paragraphs and need to breathe. From page 9-11, you have a nearly two page paragraph. Now, go pick up any book - even a textbook - and try to find a nearly two page paragraph. I'm willing to bet you're not going to find one. A single paragraph is not for a scene. It's for a single, quick idea. If I may recommend, read Paragraphs in Fiction. It's a little simple, but it covers pretty much everything. Comb through your writing with those tools from the article, and I think that you'll find that your prologue and chapter are suddenly going to much easier to read. When our minds aren't distracted by trying to sort sentences, then it is much easier to sit back and enjoy the author's world. 

Keep writing! I hope to see you submit again soon! 

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Welcome to Reading Excuses!
*Deep breath* So. In the kindest possible terms, this chapter is not where your story starts. This is an appendix on the background of casters in your world. The closest I got to an interesting hook to draw me in was the fight on page 11, but it doesn't really go anywhere.

My questions for you:
What inciting incident is going to shake your character out of their normal life? M is just going to class in this chapter. Why is that exciting? I was hoping the fight would turn out to be part of her test, which she would fail, putting her on some path, but that doesn't happen.

Why is this character interesting? You've told me a lot about the world, and about M's physical description. She's sort of lazy at school. Why do I want to identify with her? What makes her special?

I'd advise to start in the middle or right at the beginning of action. I don't think you need the prologue at all.
Here are some catchy starting lines for reference:
-"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed."
-“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
-"It was a pleasure to burn"
-"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

Maybe you could start with something like...
-"M. was called to fight the strongest girl in their group, though combat was her worst element, and the sun was in her eyes."

Hope his help and thanks again for submitting!


Notes while reading:
pg 1: "trashing of the waves"
--thrashing?

pg 1/2 this goes into a longish discussion of how humans do/don't have magic, and what A does as a day job. It's not terribly interesting, and doesn't capture my attention. A is basically sitting under a tree for this whole time. Why are we starting the story here? what will happen to make me care about the character?

pg 3: 'habit of visualising her movements before making them"
--this whole paragraph is kind of confusing. I think it's saying that she felt something while preparing to turn in a direction? I think it can be summarized to a sentence or so.

pg 3: "the next hour desperately searching for the cause"
--I get the feeling A doesn't have a lot to do. Searching for the cause of a phantom feeling for an hour seems extravagant.

pg 3: "due to the discovery"
--but she hasn't actually discovered anything.

pg 4: "her half of the house..."
--could just say she lived in a suite of rooms making up half the house.

pg 4: Confused. Is she searching for a phantom feeling in the memory of something she imagined she would do without actually doing it?

pg 4: 
"she stepped through entirely"
--the description here is very vague and hard to follow.

Prologue: The others on here will also tell you that prologues are out of favor unless they do something very specific. I feel like this prologue doesn't really achieve anything. A thinks about a lot of things and then I guess disappears. All that could be summarized in a few paragraphs, or even in the main story, in order to get to the action quicker.


pg 5: missing a lot of periods and commas between dialogue and description.

pg 5: "it was only renamed..."
--yeah, see I think with maybe one more sentence here, you could cover the whole prologue and render it unnecessary.

pgp 5: "Lorekeeper T was a reference"
--Why a reference? Is the Lorekeeper's name not T.? is it a nickname?

pg 5: "Though not all professors..."
--all this explanation isn't really necessary. We don't need the lorekeeper's character described. We want to have a connection to the main characters instead.
 
pg 5: "thus the nicknames were born"
--then I guess the lorekeeper's name isn't T.? Except we don't really know this, because we don't know their actual name, and all of this isn't really pertinent anyway.

pg 6: "he counted on his fingers..."
--those are strange subjects

pg 6: all this is explanation of how a school works. It doesn't draw me in. I want a connection with M, or with K

pg 7: more backstory explanation. I don't care about any of this unless I have a reason to. Don't give us the history of the school and subjects, make us care about the characters and why they're there. What are their goal for studying (or not)? What would they rather be doing? What exciting thing is about to happen which means this is the start of An Adventure?

pg 8: more of the same. The story opens with two people not studying, and then going to bed. I'm sure there's a more exciting place to start.

pg 9: "single sharp Tap"
--why is tap capitalized?

pg 9: Aaaannnd a mirror scene. Give us what M is doing, and you can describe her in actions, rather than static reflection.

pg 9: Do not need to know how long her hair is to the inch.

pg 11: "The third duel..."
--this might be a better place to start your story. Open with M in action, fighting for her life! Why? We don't know...Is it for real? Is it a test? Capture the reader, and then reveal she's trying to pass a test.

pg 11: Why a pretend sun? Why not put them outside with the real sun, and give them a challenge?

pg 13: and then more description of far off places we don't care about yet.

pg 15: the chapter ends with the students basically sleeping through a lecture, and your readers will be doing the same thing. What's the end of this arc? What struggle does M have in the first chapter? The closest I see is the fight, but even that just sort of ends. Basically, why would a reader be interested first in this character and second in this world? Draw us in with a hook to the brain that makes us unable to stop reading.

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Welcome to RE and congrats on your first post! As the usual disclaimer, we are critiquing the writing, not the writer. We're all here to learn and grow, so know that the comments are made with much care and understanding. We were all beginner writers once, and we know how feelings can get trampled on very easily.

Overall

This read as more of you getting used to your world and fleshing out characters more than an actual start to a book. I'd recommend scrapping these pages--saving them in a wiki you use for reference. Then ask yourself, where does the actual plot start? What is the inciting incident that starts our hero on their journey? Since I'm getting a Hogwarts type vibe, think of that. The major inciting incident is Harry turning of age and getting all those letters, his power coming in, Hagrid bringing him a cake. It wouldn't make sense to start the book say, a year earlier, because Harry wasn't ready for his journey yet. By starting the book at the inciting incident, you get reader buy in immediately, and that serves as a hook to keep reading.

I think you have the potential for a great story here. You just have to do some tweaking and edits. Keep at it!

 

As I go

- pg 1: prologues are very out of fashion these days, just FYI. There are agents who won't even read them if you submit them. It's best to ask yourself: is this really the first chapter (if so, just make it chapter 1) or is this backstory I could properly seed into the book? Either way, if you are looking to get published, the prologue has to go. If you're writing for fun, you do you!

- in that first paragraph, I'd much rather be shown that A is a believer, not told. This paragraph is very 'authorial voice' so you might consider moving it more into active narration

- pg 2: ahh okay I see. This prologue is serving as a worldbuilding info depository (we call them 'info dumps'). They don't grab reader attention well and most people skim over them. Try to integrate the worldbuilding into the main narrative so it happens organically

- pg 3: I'd much rather experience the berating than be told about it. I want to connect to these characters but I need to learn about their personalities and see them in action to do that

- pg 5 needs paragraph breaks. But also the prologue just got functionally recapped in one sentence on this page. I'd say cut the prologue entirely

- numbers should be written out, not left in numeral form

- some standard grammar things here, like tense changes, random capitalization, etc. It helps often to read your work out loud before submitting, as you catch so many errors that way!

- pg 6: The professors of each  <-- this section is infodump again

- pg 8: going to backtrack on what I previously said. I don't think chapter one is where your story starts, either. It's more worldbuilding and no really character movement, and no apparent inciting incident (what starts the character off on their journey). I think these fifteen pages maybe belong in a personal wiki that you can use to reference writing the book, but don't make them part of the book

- pg 11: I'm getting a Hogwarts vibe through here

- pg 11: generally speaking, if you're doing third limited (which was what I thought you were doing but maybe not?) you'll want to keep your POV consistent through the chapter, then switch at the chapter break. At the very least you'll want a section break

- wait, or did we switch to third omniscient here on page 12?

 

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Welcome to Reading Excuses! 

I want to start by saying that you've created a fascinating world. You have a detailed history and magic system laid out, and I am excited to see what happens. That being said, I agree with the others that the story doesn't seem to start in the right place. There were some nice moments, but for the most part, I was overwhelmed with all the new information being conveyed and the lack of things happening around it. I was not very engaged while reading because I felt like I was just being told as much as I could be told about the world without really knowing what the story was. Keep in mind, you don't have to tell the readers everything all at once. A lot of the information can be doled out as the story gets going.

My final drafts almost never start where my first drafts did. Often, I need to write things to figure out the world and characters, and then go back and figure out what the reader needs to know when, which isn't the same as what I as the writer need to know. 

Regarding the prologue, I had some feedback out it, which mostly involved trimming a lot the part where you tell the reader about A and getting to the part where things happen sooner, but if you are eventually going to try to get an agent for this, then it's probably best to cut the prologue like @kais said. Granted, one of my favorite lines was in the prologue when A was describing the fish before heading home from the river.

"trying to read every book in the Repository and then combine things that should never be combine and calling it new research." This line made me laugh a little. I like the places like this where you brought in some humor. 

However, around this point, I was also starting to loose interest because  nothing was happening, and the character development was getting buried under all the exposition and world building. 

The endurance class sounds disturbing, but also adds an interesting layer to the world. The voice sounds a cheery and young, so something this dark caught me off guard a little. 

"...at least 10 spikes, but she also knew what was unlikely" Why is that unlikely? 

"...wondering how he could get these two an approval..." Did the POV change? That really threw me. It felt like close third for most of the chapter, and all of the epilogue, so I wasn't expecting to jump into another characters head. 

@Mandamon has some great advice in his post, including an example of how to write a catchier opening! 

On 3/10/2020 at 11:34 AM, Mandamon said:

Maybe you could start with something like...
-"M. was called to fight the strongest girl in their group, though combat was her worst element, and the sun was in her eyes."

 

I also agree with a lot of what @kais wrote, particularly what they said about info dumps and wanting feel or experience things with the characters instead of just being told about them. 

On 3/10/2020 at 1:24 PM, kais said:

- pg 2: ahh okay I see. This prologue is serving as a worldbuilding info depository (we call them 'info dumps'). They don't grab reader attention well and most people skim over them. Try to integrate the worldbuilding into the main narrative so it happens organically

- pg 3: I'd much rather experience the berating than be told about it. I want to connect to these characters but I need to learn about their personalities and see them in action to do that

 

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Thank you all for the feedback,

It's my first time actually trying to write a story to make it into a book so this advice has been VERY valuable. 

I don't think i'll submit next week but spend it rewriting ch1 and resubmit after, I hope i'll be (and therefore it'll be) better then :) 

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On 3/13/2020 at 8:12 AM, killersquid said:

Thank you all for the feedback,

It's my first time actually trying to write a story to make it into a book so this advice has been VERY valuable. 

I don't think i'll submit next week but spend it rewriting ch1 and resubmit after, I hope i'll be (and therefore it'll be) better then :) 

I'm glad you found our advice and thoughts helpful! Can't wait to see what your next submission will be like!

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Hello and welcome! Since I see you're planning on subbing a rewrite though here shortly, I won't belabor the points already covered here. I, too, had issues with both the technical (grammar, spelling, tense) and the plot-related (starting point, lack of relevancy for the prologue, extraneous information obscuring action and character) aspects of this story. Finding a good starting point is very important for a story, and sometimes difficult to pinpoint for anyone. 

There are a lot of good ideas here. I enjoyed the protagonist, M, and the magic school seems interesting. Even the prologue character, A, was interesting, and I think that if that story becomes important to the plot, it should be put into the text closer to where it is needed. Otherwise, I feel like A's prologue would make a great appendix or bonus material.

It's important for the author to have thought about much more of the world than is ever put on the page for the reader, and everything that's been flagged as "info dumps" is still good information to have and refer back to as the story is written. Finding the balance between what is needed to flesh out the world and what is good-for-the-author-but-not-important-for-the reader-to-know is a skill that takes time to learn -- and that's why critique groups exist, because it's sometimes a second set of eyes gets to point faster than working alone would. :) 

I look forward to seeing this piece again! 

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Welcome! 

I'm a newcomer as well, great to have you.

You did nice work in character introductions. I came away with a strong sense of 5 characters which is commendable in one chapter!

The tone and feel of the story wobbled a bit at first but stabilized midway through. It seems like you might be a multi-drafter feeling your way through the world. No harm in that :-) 

Thanks for sharing!

 

 

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