kais

03/16/20 - kais - Rosewood (L)(V) - 3950 words

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This is a draft chapter from a new fluff fantasy romance I’m writing. I think it will be chapter one, but I’m not sure. I did it as more of a character map than anything else. 

Interested in character buy in, general investment, and if this would work as a first chapter. I think it’s pretty clearly set up as a sword and sorcery romance fantasy but if you get different vibes please let me know. 

L for some cursing, V for fantasy violence. 

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I think this could work as a chapter one. It sets up some good questions and relationships, and promises some good adventure.

Character buy in: Yes on J, Yes, on M, yes on N. Looking to learn more of all of them!

Definitely is sword and sorcery, but I did get some hints of what could be renaissance or even steampunk tech: brick roads, lacquered blowgun, science advanced enough to deal with allergies. Might be cool to have a culture that progressed in some other ways than ours did. Maybe they're all super hygienic or know calculus or something?

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "She could hear his hitched snores"
--was there a consequence of him forgetting about brambles? He seems to be sleeping peacefully.
--Edit: oh, he was forgetting about not sleeping. Weird transition between brambles and sleeping here, which took me a couple reads.

pg 1: "One of these nights a fox would bite his nose clean off"
--lol

pg 2: "Parents had been a luxury growing up but the tea was a necessity"
--as in they sold their parents for tea? Something doesn't quite follow here.

pg 3: "He swatted at his neck, likely where J’s barbs had struck,"
--I thought M was the one who shot?

pg 5: "I’m still trying to find all the peanuts.”
--ha

pg 7: "straight chestnut that tangled into long knots"
--straight hair ties into knots?

pg 8: "In a normal situation she liked to start near the ear."
--This sound like she's going to start cutting near the ear, but then starts talking about jewelry.


pg 9: "it’d only been a month"
--The arc about the highway guild is sort of confusing right now. I didn't expect there to actually be a guild at first, but then M is talking like it's been around for a while, and now we learn it's only a month.

pg 10: very interested with how the princess knows her, however.

pg 10: "she sure didn’t get naked to do it"
--interesting detail, but what is it related to?

pg 11: "then reminded herself to gasp as though the wind had been knocked from her"
--why?

pg 11: "clacking down the bricks"
--did not expect a road in the middle of a forest to be made out of bricks. I was envisioning dirt.

pg 12: "but it should have"
--is she invulnerable or something?

pg 12: "and known" -> "and knew"

pg 12: "He misjudged the distance and landed too hard"
--because of the dark, or he can't punch?

pg 13: "great teambuilding exercise for the guild.”
--a bit anachronistic, but I laughed.

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So this reminded me a lot of the opening from Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller. MC robs the LI's carriage in the opening of that book, though with a slightly different motive. I got a fantasy vibe, sort of. It seemed like it could be a sword and sorcery setting, but nothing seemed to really indicate magic existing in the world, except for maybe the tea, but I assumed that was science.

Regarding character buy-in: Yes. J is the one I saw the least of, but I already like him. I am very curious about the alleged princess. M is an mc I can root for.

For the most part, I think this works fine as a first chapter. It's tropey. It clearly sets up who is who in the romance arc. The characters' motives are clear. It leaves me wanting to read on. 

There are a few things that could use a little clarifying. I mention them in the notes I made while reading. 

As I read:

P. 1

"Blackberries had a way of finding ..." I loved this line, and loved how the blackberry imagery and metaphor carried through the whole chapter. 

"Her brother J... had forgotten that..." Maybe I'm being too literal, but I expected him to be getting cut by the raspberry bushes, not sleeping. 

"The fewer people they had to impale..." Okay, but this would also make a great opening line.

P. 3

"“Attack!” screeched the driver." This indicated the driver knew they were being robbed. 

“I lost my peanuts,” berated the woman" If M can hear her, how come she couldn't hear the driver?

P. 4

"J couldn’t breathe ... worried about peanuts. " This made me think in that moment, J couldn't breathe, but nothing else made it seem like he was having trouble breathing right then. I'm guessing you meant in general, he struggled to breathe, but stopping to figure that out pulled me out of the story a little. 

“Mosquitos,” the driver called ... vicious this time of year.” I feel like I missed something. Did  tell the driver to say this?

P. 5

"An absolute toadstool..." This must be the love interest! Love it. :lol:

 

There was some good tension in the interaction between M and the princess. At that point, I was engaged enough to stop making notes about the little things. I'm really curious to find out how they know each other and why M doesn't remember or recognize her.

P. 10

"Her insides felt like she’d swallowed blackberry stems." I love this line and how the blackberry thread is still going.

P. 13

"She had more than clothes ... I’m sure of it." I didn't quite get this from the interaction. Maybe I was too focused on other aspects of it.

The last line sounds exciting, but I feel like I'm missing something, like I don't really have enough info to grasp how whatever might be in the trunk will let M "crush a queendom."

 

Overall, I think it's a good first chapter. Good character buy-in and tension. But it needs a few things cleared up.

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi Kais.

Glad to be reading something new of yours. Let's get to it.

(page 1)

- "shredding it like birch bark" - on first read, the phrasing is unclear if it's the birch bark that's doing the shredding or being shred. Now, I thought about it for a handful of second, and I got it, but I think the first line has to be more instinctively understood.

- "the thorns didn’t puncture until" - could be taken to mean the thorns did no become punctured. So, what do they puncture? Also, how does that work? They must have punctured the skin already if they tear when you pull away, surely?

- "hear his hitched snores" - What is a 'hitched' snore?

- "It was night" - Hmm, I had already defaulted to daylight.

- "by horse hooves" - what other kind of hooves would they be?

- "the less they had to wash their swords after" - Not at all sure you would 'wash' a sword.

- Do mosquitos say out at night? I was under the impression, perhaps completely misguided, that they were daylight/dusk sort of creatures.

- Why would she sit on a fungus? That's asking for a damp a-s-s, surely?

- "only just picking up the hoofbeats" - the reader has been presented with the hoofbeats, so it seems odd that the character would only just pick them up.

- "She set her breathing to the rhythm" - Why? And also, how, given that her breathing would have adopted a natural rhythm that it preferred based on current environmental stimuli?

(after page 1) - there is plenty of nice imagery, but (notwithstanding various issues noted above), I'm to grabbed by the character or the situation. The character is rather bland. The situation is well set out, but I'd like to know much more on the first page. Why does she/they need to steal? Who are they stealing from?

(page 2)

- I don't see why she's trying to convey all this information in this high pressure situation. I think it's way more than J needs to know at this point. All he needs to know is that the carriage is coming. All he need to do is wake up, the rest is academic.

- "chocking on the air" - typo: choking.

- "Click, click, clack" - repeated words, IMO, should have a comma. And while at it, probably repeated sounds.

- "the sound rustling with the wind through the blackberry leaves" - rustling IS a sound. I don't understand what is being referred to here.

- "snapping off a short blackberry branch" - What about the thorns?

- "loaded them into the reed" - Nah, sorry. I don't buy this. These thorns are not even slightly aerodynamic in shape...

4867246388_b907ac4283_b.thumb.jpg.9ff114edce9413b259fbd109efbbf4cb.jpg

...they're more like a shark's fin. I think they will just tumble in the air. Not very big either. Painful enough if you drag them across your skin, I'm sure, but one thorn blown from a tube and probably not even hitting point on? I struggle with the plausibility of this.

- "smelled like the expensive tea they could barely afford—the tea that kept air moving through his lungs" - I... what? I have no idea.

- "but it paid for tea" - ...............................................No, I... Tea? It's just so prosaic. It could have been serum, or narcotic, or antidote, but tea? At least I have a reason for the robbery. Is it all about getting enough money to buy her brother tea? For 23/30 years?

(after page 2) - I feel there is way more tension on this page, as the carriage approaches, than on page 1. Also, thinking to visual adaptions that involve carriages, I feel that the carriageway wheels on cobbles / roughly paved roads are louder than the hooves. I'm interested to read on. There is good layering of aspects of the story, but I would not say I'm gripped.

(page 3)

- "their legs caked in dirt" - it's a brick road, right? So, how?

- "their eyes reflecting the two overhead lanterns that swung above" - struggle with this. Surely the lanterns will be mounted on the carriage. The horses are in front of the carriageway, so there's no way they would reflect the lanterns.

- "worth more than Js’ life" - THIS, this is the character voice that I want on the first page.

- How does a curtain stutter? Does this mean there is not glass? That seems weird.

- "aimed right at that dusty, plush obscenity, and fired" - Nope. How does a tiny wee blackberry thorn go through a velvet curtain? No chance: I don't believe it.

- "Attack!" - To me, this makes it absolutely clear that he understands they are being attacked, although, my first thought was that he was calling on a hidden troop of bodyguards to attack the bandits.

- "One of the horses reared and the carriage jerked forward" - But, in rearing, the horse STOPS moving forwards. Why would this action cause the carriageway to jerk forwards? Confused.

- "future bank account" - Eh? (1) there's such a thing as bank accounts. That jarred my out of the setting I was operating in; (2) She's been robbing for what, 25/30 years? If she doesn't have a bank balance (stash) of any size by now, why will this raid change that?; (3) I have no sympathy for this character at this point. He brother is sick... okay. 

(page 4)

- "Backing off wouldn’t get them anything of value" - A kind of obvious and lame observation.

(page 5)

- "banged about the inside of the carriage"

- "An absolute..." - Great voice here. I want more of it from the start.

- "Their crappy horses and worn leather harnesses" - Not sure I buy this. If you've got the resources to have a carriage you must still be wealthy, surely, to pay for a driver, for example? I'm not sure that someone poor enough to resort to robbery would just let even a shabby carriage go past unmolested. This said, I could believe that these two had learned something about shabby carriages from bitter experience. But I mean there are four horses! 'Poor' carriage owners surely could only afford two, or even one horse.

(page 6)

- "dimpled in triumph" - wonderful phrase.

- "Back to the task" - missing word?

- "She had nothing on... very apparent" - Oh, yes. This is the trashy stuff alright. Bring it on :D 

- "because creativity wasn’t something you could steal" - I don't get it.

- "Allergies maybe" - LOL.

- Half a page about M's hair is really derailing the tension of this moment. Too much, IMO.

(page 9)

- "you haven’t bathed in like a week" - Eh? This makes no sense, unless she's not a princess. I appreciate she might not be, but M still thinks she is. So, surely this bathing element would cause M to pause, re-examine her perspective.

- "a Queendom" - Surely M would know this. And the princess would know that M knew this.

(page 11)

- "then reminded herself to gasp as though the wind had been knocked from her" - Eh? I have no idea what's going on. This feels like a massive sidestep in mood/tension.

(page 12)

- "which really burned" - Better to show how she feels rather than telling the reader. Let us experience it firsthand.

- "got a reason to be afraid of things" - This is too vague for me. I'm not even sure what he's getting at. "You don’t" - Eh? Of course she does! 100 soldiers in a queendom? Of course she would be afraid of that. And why would the guild not tolerate it? They're not stupid, surely.

(page 13)

- "teambuilding" - Nah, totally modern phrase, threw me to of the story and into the next county.

- "The guild is going to go after them" - YAY!!!!!! It's a heist story :D 

- The ending doesn't flow well, IMO, although I really like the idea. I've emailed some LBLs, including a suggested tweak to make the ending more dramatic, more defining of the story (as I see it). I think there's a big opportunity for a major hook, but I need to believe it.

Overall 

I really enjoyed this once it got going, but the first page or so felt slow, and didn't grab might like I would have wanted. I like being left with a mystery princess to ponder over, one who might not even be a proper princess (despite her own protestation). I've got a better sense of M by the end, not so much in the beginning. J is a bit blank. Okay, I guess he's kind of dozy / lax, but competent. 

There was not quite as much trash as I expected, but just enough to keep me interested. I am very much interested to read more. Decent start for a first draft :) 

Edited by Robinski
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On 16/03/2020 at 2:51 PM, kais said:

I think it’s pretty clearly set up as a sword and sorcery romance fantasy but if you get different vibes please let me know.

I got absolutely not sense of any sorcery whatsoever. Did I miss something? There's no mention of magic at all, no signs, nothing that I could see.

I'm perfectly happy with that, but if there is to be magic in this story, the indicators need to be there on the first page, IMO.

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I loved  the general idea of the story, and i love the promise of the guild going after an entire Queendom.

But the interaction between M and the princess feels weird, it seems like she couldn't make up her mind on who she was as the princess acted differently in each paragraph.

The build up was well done and gave me a good sense of character for M and J, so I liked that a lot, The actual robbery felt weird. Thorns used as blowdarts? that doesn't seem at all functional, but even if it did, that wouldn't feel like a mosquito sting. 

I assume the driver was feignig his unconsciousnous? otherwise it would be weird for him to just overpower J like that and toss him to the side after just being knocked out.

if the princess is pretty much covered in rags, why is M suprised she's not wearing jewellery?

It doesn't really feel like a romance at this point, it feels more like a payback heist. Sure there is tension between M and the princess, but not a romantical t ension. As far as the sorcery is concerned, i've seen NO indication to that whatsoever.

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On 3/16/2020 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

Character buy in: Yes on J, Yes, on M, yes on N. Looking to learn more of all of them!

Well hoorah!

On 3/16/2020 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

Might be cool to have a culture that progressed in some other ways than ours did. Maybe they're all super hygienic or know calculus or something?

Yeah, I've moved the timeline somewhat. I need a bit more advancement for what I want to do with the story, and I'm more comfortable in late 1800s-ish due to Foxfire. I think I'm going to stick to right at the cusp of Industrial Revolution-type tech and see where that takes me. Still castles and swords and princesses, but also water closets and some mechanization

On 3/16/2020 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

straight hair ties into knots?

Yes and it is DEEPLY UNFAIR

On 3/16/2020 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

The arc about the highway guild is sort of confusing right now. I didn't expect there to actually be a guild at first, but then M is talking like it's been around for a while, and now we learn it's only a month.

Yeah, it may get cut entirely if I turn this more into a heist scenario. At this stage I've moved the line to six months as I debate.

On 3/16/2020 at 1:01 PM, Mandamon said:

is she invulnerable or something?

Yes! So I'm glad the hints are enough here in the first chapter but maybe not too glaring. The big plan was to have J allergic to life, and M functionally invulnerable to puncture and breakage. Because everyone likes their romantic lead to be .... puncture proof?

Thank you for the comments! Many edits now.

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On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

So this reminded me a lot of the opening from Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Ahh yes, I loved that duology! I didn't remember the carriage scene in the start of that book at all. In terms of fantasy romance it seems to be a pretty common trope so I thought hey, why not?

On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

but nothing seemed to really indicate magic existing in the world, except for maybe the tea, but I assumed that was science.

The tea is science, but the magic was very gently placed. I might need to drop a few random dragon references in this chapter, because of course there are dragons. I'm about 25K in and getting a feel for the B plot and the world, so I think this chapter will get more meat on it soon

On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

Maybe I'm being too literal, but I expected him to be getting cut by the raspberry bushes, not sleeping. 

Yeah, this just didn't land as a line. Fixing!

On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

If M can hear her, how come she couldn't hear the driver?

She heard the driver yell 'attack'. Was there a different line you were referring to?

On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

I'm guessing you meant in general, he struggled to breathe,

Yes, that's what I meant. Will clarify!

On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

At that point, I was engaged enough to stop making notes about the little things.

My hope is that the romantic tension carries it,  since I'm not spending a ton of time on world or plot. Aiming for fluff, not deep worldbuilding. It is fun writing dialogue scenes between them though!

On 3/20/2020 at 8:47 PM, shatteredsmooth said:

She had more than clothes

I think I'm going to turn this into seeing some stolen object of her parents in N's possession, or part of it, and think that N has the rest and therefore they have to infiltrate the castle to get it back. Might do away with the guild. I don't know. Much thinking

Thank you @shatteredsmooth! Very helpful comments

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On 3/21/2020 at 2:01 AM, Robinski said:

Did I miss something? There's no mention of magic at all, no signs, nothing that I could see.

I'm perfectly happy with that, but if there is to be magic in this story, the indicators need to be there on the first page, IMO.

It was subtle, in terms of M's invulnerability. I'm going to drag it out more in the next rewrite, or at the very least establish there are dragons and magical beings. 

On 3/22/2020 at 3:23 AM, killersquid said:

as the princess acted differently in each paragraph

That was partly by intention, as she was shocked and out of sorts. But I will revisit the interactions for sure

On 3/22/2020 at 3:23 AM, killersquid said:

Thorns used as blowdarts? that doesn't seem at all functional,

@Robinski called this out too so I'll need to think of some edit as I like having the blackberries in there a lot

On 3/22/2020 at 3:23 AM, killersquid said:

otherwise it would be weird for him to just overpower J like that and toss him to the side after just being knocked out.

ah, that's a good point!

On 3/22/2020 at 3:23 AM, killersquid said:

t doesn't really feel like a romance at this point

It's fairly coded, which is likely why. I'm hoping it comes through better for you in the next few chapters.

Thank you for the comments, @killersquid! To the edits!

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8 minutes ago, kais said:

I like having the blackberries in there a lot

Why not use the berries? they won't sting, but it will feel more realistic and they'll be equally distracting? 

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On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

They must have punctured the skin already if they tear when you pull away, surely?

Clarified

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

Do mosquitos say out at night? I was under the impression, perhaps completely misguided, that they were daylight/dusk sort of creatures.

I'm not actually sure. I'm thinking of changing these to a made up blood sucker anyway, with a hint of enchantment. Stay tuned for version 2.0: MAGIC

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

I'm to grabbed by the character or the situation. The character is rather bland. The situation is well set out, but I'd like to know much more on the first page. Why does she/they need to steal? Who are they stealing from?

This is a good point. I think I need to establish magic and need right on page one.

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

I think it's way more than J needs to know at this point. All he needs to know is that the carriage is coming. All he need to do is wake up, the rest is academic.

Solid point. Deleted

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

I struggle with the plausibility of this.

Yup. Tagged. I need a new projectile. What if she... pressed them into a tiny ball of soft clay so just the tip was sticking out, then blew that?

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

At least I have a reason for the robbery. Is it all about getting enough money to buy her brother tea? For 23/30 years?

Nettle tea is a pretty old medicine for allergies. Should I hang a bigger lantern on this?

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

To me, this makes it absolutely clear that he understands they are being attacked

Agreed. I've changed it to a general curse.

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

Not sure I buy this. If you've got the resources to have a carriage you must still be wealthy, surely, to pay for a driver, for example?

Good call. I've edited for clarity

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

Oh, yes. This is the trashy stuff alright. Bring it on

shoving a little lesbian gaze in there, right at the start!

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

So, surely this bathing element would cause M to pause, re-examine her perspective.

Yup! Will edit

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

Eh? Of course she does! 100 soldiers in a queendom? Of course she would be afraid of that. And why would the guild not tolerate it? They're not stupid, s

This is part of the invulnerability point, which maybe was too subtle?

On 3/21/2020 at 1:58 AM, Robinski said:

I think there's a big opportunity for a major hook, but I need to believe it.

I may change the motivation, anyway, to recovering a stolen parental artifact. Mulling now. I think it would work better than adding a huge ensemble cast, which usually isn't done in romance.

Thank you for the very detailed feedback, and the LBLs! I'm about a quarter of the way through the first draft so I hope to start subbing chapters in a few weeks!

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22 minutes ago, killersquid said:

Why not use the berries?

That's a really good point! Doesn't have to be painful, just jarring! Thanks!

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10 hours ago, kais said:
On 21/03/2020 at 8:58 AM, Robinski said:

I struggle with the plausibility of this.

Yup. Tagged. I need a new projectile. What if she... pressed them into a tiny ball of soft clay so just the tip was sticking out, then blew that?

Meh, I'm not convinced that would work, ballistically speaking. 'Bullets' started off round, but you couldn't have them land on a particular side. I don't know enough about it. I think bullets don't tumble because they are going so fast. Not sure if that works just from blowing something.

11 hours ago, kais said:
On 21/03/2020 at 8:58 AM, Robinski said:

At least I have a reason for the robbery. Is it all about getting enough money to buy her brother tea? For 23/30 years?

Nettle tea is a pretty old medicine for allergies. Should I hang a bigger lantern on this?

But nettle tea... I've picked nettles and cooked them myself. You just need to rinse them to deal with the stingy bit then you treat them like spinach, or something. My point being, if nettle tea is all he needs there must be a bajillion nettle plants growing along the side of this forest highway. Way easier and less dangerous to just pick them yourself and make your own tea.

11 hours ago, kais said:
On 21/03/2020 at 8:58 AM, Robinski said:

Eh? Of course she does! 100 soldiers in a queendom? Of course she would be afraid of that. And why would the guild not tolerate it? They're not stupid, s

This is part of the invulnerability point, which maybe was too subtle?

Ah, I did not get that at all :unsure: 

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