C_Vallion

1.18.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 1- 3560 Words

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*Note for anyone who checks this before reading: Isra is 19, not 13.  Please ignore the sentence that implies otherwise.*

Hello, All!

This is chapter 1 of my epic fantasy, Price of Peace (filler title, but functional for now). No content tags for this chapter.

All input is good input at this point, since I’ve only had a handful of people provide thoughts on it so far, and most of them have been too nice to point out broken things. For anyone who likes to focus on specific things, I could use feedback on the following:

1. Thoughts on having two rather significant conflict points introduced in the second half of the chapter?  Does it feel like an overwhelming amount of information to introduce in one chapter? And is it painfully info-dumpy?

2. What sense do you get for the scope/tone of the full story from this? 

3. What information does it seem like we’re missing for an opening chapter?

4. General thoughts on ways to improve this as a first chapter?  I know openings are not my best thing, and it doesn’t help that I have been making both major and minor adjustments to the first few chapters for a long time.  At this point, I have very little sense of how it comes across on a first read, and need some direction on what it does or doesn’t do that a first chapter shouldn’t or should.

Thanks so much for reading!

Edited by C_Vallion
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Comments. I haven't read the specifics as I prefer not to be influenced by hints and underlying reveals about the format or content :) 

(page 1)

- "that it brushed over the complexities" - What is 'it'? Unclear.

- "He still stood by the idea, though" - What idea? There has been not clear statement of any idea. The opening line is not a definitive question, it's open, unresolved.

- "a good enough truth" - Vague: good enough for what? Good enough how? And still not clear what this truth is.

- "He was quite clear about that" - This threw me, I thought it referred to the MC, but I guess it means her father?

(page 2)

- "She was tempted to reach out to touch the bird" - I'm waiting for this bird of prey to take a chunk out of her.

- "when it would take off" - passive: get rid of 'would'. 'when it flew away' or something, is more direct.

- "the gust that its wings blew over her" - Really? I think this thing would need to be five feet tall for that to be much of a thing. I do not know this, though. Never been that close to a bird.

- Who shouted at her? Sort of surprised that didn't become more of a thing.

- "When she was content that she seemed calm" - really passive and almost not in her POV at all. Vagueness is not compelling.

- Eh? Where did the maid come from. Oh, was she in the room? Is that who spoke? Why did the princess react to the call by being afraid to look down, suddenly, if the maid was in the room?

(page 3)

- "I won’t risk your sister’s blessings" - Confused, how would the maid do anything to risk the blessings?

- "something she only remembered to do when she was flustered" - Nice character note.

- "a final check of the evening’s gown" - I would say in my years on RE, I've read about a dozen stories that start like this, in preparation for a ball or some other ceremony, focusing on one of the participants. It's not the most gripping or involving of openings. I'm not saying every story needs to start with a car chase or--gods forbid--a fight :rolleyes:, and your's does start with an exciting/action-packed scene in the form of the prologue, so this plays a bit as a sequel to that. What I'm saying is that I feel like my story brain is puttering in neutral waiting to be engaged.

- "For once, Is didn’t resent her maid’s enthusiasm. Ceremonial responsibilities would excuse her from aimless chitchat before the dancing began" - I'm noticing a pattern emerging in the narrative, I think, which is paragraphs starting with reference to one person, only to switch to another, but my brain is still tracking the first. Like here, I don't really follow the comment about the maid, but I'm thinking about the maid when I read 'her from aimless chitchat, so I assume the maid is being excused. The same thing caught me out on page 1, when I thought the gender had switched.

- No, I'm really struggling with this now. In this one paragraph: (1) the maid's enthusiasm; (2) ceremonial responsibilities; (3) a traditional gown--these things are not clearly connected to each other, or following from each other, IMO. It's a stream of consciousness that lapse into a discussion about fashion trends. I would put the book down at this point.

There are no stakes presented, there's is basically no character motivation; no real conflict; there's nothing to make me feel involved in the story. The bird was passingly interesting, if it had gone somewhere (the thread, obviously the bird went somewhere).

(page 4)

- "the girl" - Numerous instances of the maid being referred to as 'the girl'. This is really throwing me off because, in this scenario, the princess is the girl. She's 13. The maid, presumably, is older and therefore much less of a girl than the princess.

- "they weren’t flirting with Princess Is" - Huh? Wait, I'm confused. But Isr is the underage daughter, surely?

- "Now that Al would be seventeen" - contradiction, surely. It was stated that Al was two years older.

- "mug of tea" - Mug strikes me as a modern concept. Did Henry VIII have mugs of tea?

(page 5)

- "determined to resign yourself to some political marriage" - This maid does not speak like a maid, in terms of her vocabulary for one, but also having the nerve to give a princess advice about who she should marry? I would imagine the king would throw her out if he heard such talk. Highly presumptuous.

- "to stave off anticipatory restlessness" - grammar. The adjective is unnecessary, verging on tautology. In staving off restlessness, it's presumed that you have already anticipated it. Therefore, the adjective is redundant.

- "to call her down this morning" - Weird. Does she not normally come down in the morning?

- "The library was nearly empty" - Vague. It would be more interesting and involving to say 'there were only two people in the library', or something like that. Vagueness, and lack of certainty turn the reader off, IMO.

- "painfully aware of the sound of her slippers on the rug" - I can't imagine that would make any noise at all. Soft on soft.

(page 6)

- "when she’d gotten tired of constantly sending servants back and forth between the library and the royal suites" - Does she not still have to do that? Not sure about the thrust of this comment.

(page 7)

- "He had gotten the advantage of almost-average height" - This is not a pretty word; sounds ugly in the flow of narrative. This is a setting of culture and a young lady who has been trained in social skills, educated above the level of a person-on-the-street, I presume. I'd expect her to use a word like 'received'. Also, how is average height an advantage? Average is like the very definition of someone with no advantage at all.

- "said impatiently" - Why is she impatient?

(page 8)

- Info dump; too many names, bring shutting down.

- "a peaceful transfer of power" - How was that then, if they've 'taken' it? What happened? Where the Cag invited in to take control? The queen doesn't seem very worked up about it.

(page 10)

- "We just don’t have enough information to make a reasonable argument" - I have no idea what's going on. For me, there is just too much information too quickly. All those names of places and people, they are no all needed here, in Chapter 1. I would suggest cutting as much as possible to retain some sense of the issue at hand, the expansionism of Cag, presumably. 

Having said that, the more immediate issue seems to be the drive for revision of the laws, but why? What laws? What are the issues? Without knowing such things, I'm pretty much unable to be involved in the discussion. 

- Where are the mages? Geographically? Are they still a nation? Who represents them? I just don't understand the set up.

- "I don’t like being on this side of it" - What side is that?

- "I doubt an argument would hold much weight if it came from outside sources" - Argument about what?

(page 11)

- "something to help us in the meantime" - Help how? I don't understand the stakes, the character motivations.

- "Duke of Tra" - So, this is the boy from the prologue, who's father died under the rubble and mother died in the bubble, isn't it? I remembered something!

- "fussy old adviser" - And this will be either the secondary character, or the one who got the previous duke out of the rubble, presumably.

Overall 

There is a lot of detail in this chapter on politics and geography that seems to come in a big rush of a couple of pages that was just way too much to digest. Consider novels like The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Eye of the World. They do not rush into spilling out loads of detail about Gondor, or Tear (for example), but spool details out only when needed, or maybe in passing if there is nothing else detailed going on and a bit of foreshadowing is needed (e.g. Bilbo's mithril shirt, and some mention of the last homely house).

That sort of thing is doubly frustrating when the first several pages are really quite slow.

The biggest issue though is that I have no idea of character motivations, personal or overarching arc stakes. There is talk of conflicts, yes, but only in the last three or four pages, and overloaded with all those names to the point that I can's sensibly extract what's going on. Most importantly though, there are hints at what the characters think about these things, but it's really not clear, IMO. I don't know what laws the other parties want to change, why it's important or how the main characters feel about that.

I think this needs to be simplified, and the clarity needs to be dialled up based on fewer facts, and character goals/stakes that I can understand and embrace.

Under all that the narrative flows pretty well, and there is not much in the way of LBL comments, but that tends to be hidden behind what I think is a lack of clarity in the message, and what is being conveyed.

Footnote: I presume that the princess will fall in love with the difficult, brooding young duke but, in the first instance they will fall out, argue, get each other's back up before being thrown together by circumstances and end up together. 

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29 minutes ago, Robinski said:

- I would say in my years on RE, I've read about a dozen stories that start like this, in preparation for a ball or some other ceremony, focusing on one of the participants. It's not the most gripping or involving of openings. I'm not saying every story needs to start with a car chase or--gods forbid--a fight :rolleyes:, and your's does start with an exciting/action-packed scene in the form of the prologue, so this plays a bit as a sequel to that. What I'm saying is that I feel like my story brain is puttering in neutral waiting to be engaged.

I almost included "How painful is it to read a 'getting ready for the ball' scene on page 1'?" as one of the questions in my intro, so thanks for calling that out.  I probably should have figured that if it was something I was concerned about, it would be even less interesting to someone who doesn't know the characters.  The prologue was intended to add extra action before then (if I can get it to cooperate),  but I do think I need a better starting point for the main body of the story.  I just haven't been able to figure out what it should be.

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

- "the girl" - Numerous instances of the maid being referred to as 'the girl'. This is really throwing me off because, in this scenario, the princess is the girl. She's 13. The maid, presumably, is older and therefore much less of a girl than the princess.

I knew I should have cut the line about not looking thirteen... I hadn't expected it to be taken as a statement of her age (somehow), but it doesn't really mean anything if we don't already know the contrast of her being nineteen and being self-conscious about looking like a child. Gah. *facepalm*
 

37 minutes ago, Robinski said:

There is a lot of detail in this chapter on politics and geography that seems to come in a big rush of a couple of pages that was just way too much to digest. Consider novels like The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Eye of the World. They do not rush into spilling out loads of detail about Gondor, or Tear (for example), but spool details out only when needed, or maybe in passing if there is nothing else detailed going on and a bit of foreshadowing is needed (e.g. Bilbo's mithril shirt, and some mention of the last homely house).

I think the main problem I have with this (obviously also relevant to the prologue, and likely will be later, considering how bad I am at recognizing it) is trying to figure out what information is needed when.  And also getting too excited about my random notes on the world's history when it's not important to the reader.  At least not at this point. 

Do you have any thoughts on how to go about finding those things when it's hard to separate what is already in your head (the whole story and world) from what is in the reader's head (at this point, not enough grounded knowledge of the world for names and geography to actually sink in).  The obvious way seems to be to have it read by people who have an entirely fresh read on it, but it would be nice to have a solution other than making all of you guys struggle through a super confusing first read of everything when I should be catching more of this earlier.  I did a few passes of this last week, and ran it past a couple of my early readers (who, of course, have read most of the full draft, and have the context to place names in), who said they thought it was good (though, compared to painful early drafts they read, it was definitely better). 

I'm just not sure if there are better ways to separate the author-brain from the reader-brain while doing these revisions, or if it is just a matter of catching everything I can before having someone else look at it (preferably before sending it to a whole bunch of people who will all be confused by the same things). 
 

Any thoughts or recommendations?  

 

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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

it would be even less interesting to someone who doesn't know the characters

And you're absolutely 'allowed' to have slow scenes, yes. A scene of Is getting ready for the ball could be cute and engaging when we know her, and are invested her as a character, but that's a lot of reader goodwill to stock up in a couple of pages of knowing her before the dress chat starts.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

but it doesn't really mean anything if we don't already know the contrast of her being nineteen

Err, so she's the older sister? Heh, well that explains some of the other comments. How on earth could someone who's 19 look 13?! <exploding head emoji>

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

Do you have any thoughts on how to go about finding those things when it's hard to separate what is already in your head (the whole story and world) from what is in the reader's head...?

It's sounds glib to say, but that's why we are writers (don't) get paid the big bucks, to work that stuff out :lol:   Seriously though--and again, it sounds glib--go into the scene with a list of things you want the reader to know, but not a long list, maybe three facts about the situation in the world? I mean let me try and figure out how many strands there are, and how I feel about them:

1) - someone wants to change the laws; - It's a good conflict, and feeds into the king being in conflict with neighbours, and internally, and provides the queen with something to be active with in helping him. Feeds into 5).

2) - some big power has annexed a small nation; - Interesting in itself, but seems to me it doesn't feed into this scene. They talk about it in great detail with loads of names, but it doesn't affect their actions in any way. I think this could be moved to a later scene, perhaps the party/ceremony itself, to provide a shot of conflict? And when it does come in, I bet it can be streamlined to reduce the numbers of names flying at the reader.

3) - the cousin is a disruptive influence; - The strand about cousin is good because it fleshes out the family, provides a conflict and a mini-antagonist, gives us a physical description of Is that happens in an organic way. You can only have characters look in a mirror so many times...

4) - the reclusive duke is coming to town; - I think this is a vert important link to the Prologue and, if anything, might even mention a name or two from the Prologue to help connect the reader to it.

5) - mother is sourcing illegal(?) texts; - I like that this links back to Ron, and it does tell us things about world. It does not though seems essential to anything that happens here, but neither is it especially distracting. I reckon it's a harmless addition, and helps fill in the family ties.

6) - order of succession is discussed; - This doesn't seem relevant here. I know it's an aside, but it's something else for the reader to think about. Second (third) opinion needed, I think, but seems to me it might be deferred to the party, when some of the people will be present, and therefore makes sense it would be more in mind?

7) - magic is illegal (from Prologue, fine), IMO;

8) - rule of the mages was cut short (from the Prologue, fine), IMO.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

making all of you guys struggle through a super confusing first read of everything when I should be catching more of this earlier

Hey, that's what we're here for. No problems here.

1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

I'm just not sure if there are better ways to separate the author-brain from the reader-brain while doing these revisions, or if it is just a matter of catching everything I can before having someone else look at it

Not that I know of!! I've been through the same, so don't even think about it. All you can do is give it your best shot and sub your chapter. If you decide you want to edit the next one in advance of subbing for the previous week's comments, that's up to you, but don't feel obliged to. Sometimes it's easier to store up comments and do a full edit.

Up above, I'm not saying completely delete certain threads for the chapter. If Is is talking to Queen Mom about the state of the world, revealing that X has annexed Y makes total sense, if it's common knowledge, but the queen can easily brush it off, requiring Is to get the details from someone else later.

There are always thoughts (and not much in the way of filters...), but I'll be interested to hear what the others think.

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Interested to read more of this!

You have a very solid writing style, which is a good base, but I didn't really find anything to latch on to in this chapter. The prologue was more exciting, but this was pretty high-concept and there were lots of (so far) unimportant names introduced. I'd like a solid character arc to show something about Is. and tether the reader to her.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

*Note for anyone who checks this before reading: Isra is 19, not 13.  Please ignore the sentence that implies otherwise.*

Glad I read this. I was very confused before. I also thought A was the older sister, not the younger one.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

1. Thoughts on having two rather significant conflict points introduced in the second half of the chapter?  Does it feel like an overwhelming amount of information to introduce in one chapter? And is it painfully info-dumpy?

The problem is, neither conflict point is particularly pertinent to the MC. We get the "dressing for the ball" scene, (which, like @Robinski, I'm rather tired of) and then a huge list of political players we know nothing about with the queen elbow-deep in machinations and politics. At this point, I don't really know what's going on or how it relates to the teenage protagonist.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

2. What sense do you get for the scope/tone of the full story from this? 

Lots of dark meetings with many political players moving against each other? I'm honestly hoping there's some more magic and action coming.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

3. What information does it seem like we’re missing for an opening chapter?

An emotional connection with the protagonist.

7 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

4. General thoughts on ways to improve this as a first chapter?

I think most of the stuff here can be put off for 4-5 chapters. First chapter is generally intro to characters. The bird omen and dressing for the ball work, but I'd like to see something else "fun" come of it, rather than "oh yes, I want to be married off for political gain!" (said no teenager ever). Maybe she chases the bird and gets her dress dirty, or finds a secret chamber with books of magic her mother collected, or something (just spitballing). The next couple chapters traditionally are the character interacting with the world to teach the reader about it and then you can start to get into the scheming of "Duke X hates country Y and is inviting Earl Z to poison him," or whatever.

 

Notes while reading:

pg 1: "that it brushed over" "He still stood by the idea,"
--what brushed over, and what idea? Need more specificity.

pg 2: "her mother wouldn’t be pleased if she lost a finger"
--I mean, I feel like Is. wouldn't be very happy either...

pg 2: "Knowledge of the long drop made her uncomfortable enough."
--Yet she voluntarily stuck her head out the window?

pg 3: "I won’t risk your sister’s blessings"
--risk blessings? That seems contradictory.

pg 4: "underage daughter"
--13 is underage, but 15 isn't?
--oh, then she says A is 17...so what was that about looking older than 13?

pg 5: "to want to be of more practical use "
--oh, I thought she didn't a suitor, with the "sweaty tournament gear" line .


pg 6: "the tragedy of the mage rebellion"
--good worldbuilding.

pg 8/9: Whew, there are a lot of place and people names in these pages...making me gloss over because I don't know what any of them are.


pg 10: "We just don’t have enough information to make a reasonable argument.”
--this is...a pretty high-concept arc to start out a book on.

pg 11: "The fire spell and the sleep spell are still legal."
--these are the two that went wrong in the first chapter, right? I haven't seen any other connection with the prologue yet. Is there a reason just these two are metioned? Is there a very limited number of known spells?

pg 12: okay, I'm guessing Tram. is the place where the prologue happened.

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Overall

Very solid writing. No issues there. The two sticking points for me are 1) the genericness of the chapter. This seems like hundreds of other European high fantasy books, so I've no hook to keep me going. Why do I care about our MC? Why/how is she different / how is her world different / why do I care about it? I see @Mandamonand @Robinski had similar comments so I'll not belabor this one.

My second is: arc. There is no arc to this chapter. We have a start, and an inciting incident (the falcon), and some set up for politics and seeing her mother which seems like a middle...but there is no end. What did our lead accomplish in this chapter? How did the story move forward? I can't answer any of these questions. 

A small issue is world building. Without deeper worldbuilding you are letting your readers assume generic European fantasy. So when you throw in modern age norms, it doesn't make sense. If you want to have modern sensibilities about underage courtship and marrying ages, you'll need to educate the reader quickly that this is not a trope-based kingdom.

Hoping for some trope subversion in the next chapter!

 

Your questions

Two plot points: Honestly, I don't see any plot points right now. I'm too hung up on the lack of arc. Right now I know that there is a princess who likely will have to marry a guy she doesn't care for and that her dad does magic and magic may not be kosher

 scope/tone: generic European medieval fantasy. Likely low fantasy

information missing: world building if this is NOT generic European medieval fantasy, story arc, story progression, buy-in for MC

improvements: see LBLs below

As I go

- pg 1: that it brushed <-- what is the 'it' referring to here?

- the second paragraph does not make sense to me. What are we talking about?

- I think this would start stronger if you started on the omen line, and cut it to: Omens did not make sense. or Omens made no sense. Then go into the falcon and such

- pg 3: unless this is going to quickly move into her maid being her secret lover or something, this scene is forming a bit cliche

- pg 4: this is standard European fantasy, yes? Isn't 13 marrying age? So why not want to look 13?

- pg 4: the king’s underage daughter <-- that would be like, five or six years old? I'm not sure there was a concept of 'underage' in this particular region. Of course if this isn't trope-based European fantasy, then I think we need that set up more strongly. Right now this is very run-of-the-mill, which means it is relying on tropes to carry it rather than world building.

- pg 5: the writing is solid, but I am very unengaged by the plot. How is this any different than hundreds of other fantasy set ups? It's also cruising YA, just FYI there

- The uncle's name and the MC's name are too similar to be easily parsed. Suggest changing one or the other

- pg 9: I'm going to need more character buy-in before I care about political stuff

 

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As I go:

pg 1

-I can tell this person is politically important, but I think I need to be told (or reminded) who exactly she is.

pg 2

-Okay she's a princess got it

-I do like the opening with the bird, especially how she is pointedly not seeing it as an omen

pg 3

-I like the dynamic of O scolding someone presumably far above her station but I think we need a bit more on why she's allowed to do that. Seems especially odd if O is young and replaceable 

-I like the detail of her only remembering to curtsy when flustered

-fabric cloud is good image 

pg 4

-I saw some other people commenting on this while scrolling down but the ages are confusing to me here

-honestly I'm always wary of the whole "I gotta be sporty to drive away men" thing because it can fall into heavy-handed tropes pretty easily. It's not too bad here on it's own but now I'm keeping an eye on it. 

pg 5

-so she wants to drive away suitors in order to wait for a political marriage? I'm not sure I follow. Seems like she could benefit from doing some networking on her own and leveraging any interest directed towards her if this is her goal. 

pg 6

-Is it necessary for us to learn about the rebellion now? Seems like we're shifting focus pretty quickly here

pg 8

-I'm also not sure what the whole thing with R is doing to push the story forward

-If the news doesn't have anything to do with them then do we need to get it in scene? Also, what exactly are they focusing on right now? The most we've gotten from I is that she wants to be useful through a political marriage but she seems uninvolved. 

pg 10

-So she's getting involved in magical law? Is this where her expertise is? If so, I'd like to see that mentioned earlier. Because if she's not the scholar type then I'm not sure why she's being given this task 

pg 11

-What's I's and the queen's connection to magic despite being open-minded about it? I feel like that has to come from somewhere. 

pg 12

-How far into the future are we from the prologue? That changes how I read this. 

Overall

There's a lot of good stuff in here and I'm excited to read more of it. Lots of details are great, and I've made a note of some of them above. Overall I am invested in Is and I do like her voice. 

As for your questions:

1. It's a lot, yeah, but my issue is less with the quantity of information but how it's framed. Right now I don't know why any of this really matters to the characters. 

2. Scope/tone? Hmm... Seems like lots of larger-scale politics, but not too dark/cutthroat like political fantasy can sometimes get. Which I'm all for, honestly. People don't need to be jerks to each other for politics to be interesting. 

3. Time since the prologue is something I mentioned in LBLs. On a larger note, I think we need more on Is as our protag, which I know other people have commented on. 

4. Don't want to beat a dead horse too much, but the main thing I noted was that I don't really know a lot about who Is is and what her goals are. I think I'd be able to infer a lot more if I knew what her main skills are and what she wants to accomplish. If she really wants to get involved with family politics via marriage, it doesn't seem like she's really pursuing that at all and doesn't seem interested in or skilled at the political skills required to navigate those situations. 

19 minutes ago, kais said:

So when you throw in modern age norms, it doesn't make sense. If you want to have modern sensibilities about underage courtship and marrying ages, you'll need to educate the reader quickly that this is not a trope-based kingdom.

This was something I was wondering about as well. If marriage is primarily political, why do the people in charge of those politics have these modern sensibilities? I mean it's great that they do but I think we need a bit more. 

I didn't mind the ball prep scene as much as other people but I've also opened stories that way so maybe that's just a reflection on me. :x 

Good luck revising! 

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The references to the ball didn't bother me. I don't read fantasy though, so everything seems new to me as I'm not familiar with the norms. 

It did catch my eye that it's a tea mug instead of a tea cup. It seems discordant with big parties, fancy dresses and princesses. 

The politics: I think it could be pared down, but I didn't have any trouble following it. From reading through it seems like there are four important points. 1 threat from overseas, 2. An uncle with a healthy problem and ties to magic 3 a vocal and ambitious cousin set to inherit the throne. 4 the prequel characters are set to arrive. 

The conflict about the party and the MC warrior princess doesn't seem like a main arc or problem. From that, I assume she is about to fall for the wrong person if this story has a romantic overtone. Or she is about to go Mulan, Zeena, or 'Brave' and become the warrior princess if the main line of politics holds. 

I only mention this in case its helpful, I have a hard time with promises and foreshadowing so I always want to know what I am promising in a story. 

I enjoyed the tone you set and your descriptions of setting. I also like the queen being an active part of the kingdom's affairs as an academic. 

Thank for sharing

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Thoughts as I go:

Pg 1, " messages from the gods in strange coincidences." No flights of crows marking the births of kings then, eh?

Pg 2, "her mother wouldn’t be pleased if she lost a finger." I'm struggling to grasp how old Is is so far. This could describe someone who is ten or a youthful eighteen.

Pg 2, " shielding her from the gust that its wings blew over her." Hopefully it didn't smell like bird armpit.

Pg 2, " tried to hide her shakiness," Shoulda thought about the drop before sticking your torso out, chickie. Is the shakiness from the potential drop or being caught?

Pg 4, "older than thirteen" Oh, this is the character that is nineteen. 

Pg 4, " sweaty tournament gear" Confusion. Does she mean that the men will be more attracted to sports than her, or that the men will find her unattractive in the tournament gear?

Pg 6, " her cousin’s banner," Confusion. Isn't A her sister? Is the king not her father? Who is this cousin?

Pg 7, "It had been his voice that she’d heard." Hold up, does this mean A will not be Queen with a capital Q? But R will be king one day? Or will A and R get married, as cousins used to in the past?

Pg 8, "their own continent." We got a lot of characters, the hint of a mage war, birthday concerns, political marriage concerns, cousin concerns, and now geography. I worry I'm not going to be able to absorb all of this before you toss more at me. 

Pg 8, "The news arrived this morning." See, this was my concern above. Pg 11, "The fire spell and the sleep spell"

Overall:

The great news is, your writing is on par. You've got grammar, you've got flow...I wouldn't say there's a strong voice right now but that is largely because I can't get a grasp of Is. But I think that is going to be something you'll develop quickly. 

1. Thoughts on having two rather significant conflict points introduced in the second half of the chapter?  Does it feel like an overwhelming amount of information to introduce in one chapter? And is it painfully info-dumpy?

So far in this singular chapter, we have:

  • Learned about a birthday
  • Learned about a religion
  • Learned about political marriage concerns
  • Been introduced to the MC, her maid, her sister, her cousin, her mother, her father, her uncle, two dukes, and a duchess. Plus the goddess. That's ten people in twelve pages! 
  • Learned about three monarchies and a castle
  • Learned about the politics of kings, uncles, cousins, and a duke
  • Learned that mages are no-no, but not super no-no
  • Learned about mom's research
  • Learned a bit about fashion with dresses

I feel like I need to keep notes to keep up with this story, which is not something the average reader is going to do. What's going to be the most important straight off the bat? I can't even tell. The political marriage? The politics? The mages? The angsty cousin?

2. What sense do you get for the scope/tone of the full story from this? 

Political intrigue with magic. However, I'm unsure if this is going to be:

1) A YA fantasy, where Is falls in love with Duke of T who isn't like everyone says, all while she fights for her kingdom and finds out the mages aren't so bad.

2) An adult fantasy, where Is is going to save her kingdom with misunderstood mages against her evil cousin. I think.

*shrugs* I suppose at this time I have unclear reader promises of exactly what this book is going to be about. I'm curious to see how off I am. Either way, I don't think it will be GRRM-grimdark fantasy, which I am all down for. I don't need the blues. 

3. What information does it seem like we’re missing for an opening chapter?

Umm...I wouldn't say what is missing, I'm thinking narrowing down what is important.

Although right now I'm picturing the typical English fantasy, but the under the breasts ribbon makes me think Regency-style dresses. 

4. General thoughts on ways to improve this as a first chapter?  I know openings are not my best thing, and it doesn’t help that I have been making both major and minor adjustments to the first few chapters for a long time.  At this point, I have very little sense of how it comes across on a first read, and need some direction on what it does or doesn’t do that a first chapter shouldn’t or should.

Oi, if you've been rewriting these chapters forever, kick them to the curb and finish the rest of the book first. I can't remember if you have mentioned if you have or not. But you don't want to be one of those writers who spends three years revising five chapters. No bueno. 

First chapters are your introduction, right? So pick the absolutely most important pieces and make them shine. Make it very clear to a reader that this is going to be about a young girl finding love through an unexpected political marriage, or about a princess challenging norms by helping bring back mages and magic, or about a princess trying to keep her family afloat during politics and war, or a princess who takes over her mother's research despite political drama. Because right now, any of those are possibilities, because I'm not sure what story you are telling me. Give me some sign posts. Wave some flags. Say, "Hey, if you stick around, I promise there's going to be XYZ!" 

I personally think one of the reasons why Is doesn't leap off the page yet is, besides the falcon, she's just interacting rather than influencing (a situation I myself am prone to writing, cough cough). There is such an info dump that poor Is is drowned out by me trying to catch all these ping pong balls flying at my head. New character! New geography! New political situation! Like whooooooooa. I can't get to know her, like many have said. 

14 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

"How painful is it to read a 'getting ready for the ball' scene on page 1'?" as one of the questions in my intro

For me, a "getting ready for the ball" scene immediately tells me I'm in a YA novel primarily aimed for those of the female persuasion. Which is great is that is what you are going for, and not ideal if you are aiming for something different. 

14 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Do you have any thoughts on how to go about finding those things when it's hard to separate what is already in your head (the whole story and world) from what is in the reader's head (at this point, not enough grounded knowledge of the world for names and geography to actually sink in). 

Ideas that have worked for me, but not in any particular order:

1) Set your book aside for 4-6 weeks and then return back to it.

2) Make a checklist (kind of like what I did above) to see what you have introduced. Is it relevant to your goal(s) for the chapter?

3) Make yourself a website or WikidPad or something to put all the worldbuilding stuff on so it is still out there but not bogging down your story (me, so me). I'm at 156 pages on my website over four years, so don't go overboard like me. It's pretty much all I did from 2016-2018. I get bad worldbuilders disease. But there's a free version of WordPress, which is a handy skill for when you decide to make yourself an official Author Website one day. 

4) Make a graph/outline/a stack of index cards to track where each character/plot point comes in. Have too many on one chapter? You got an issue. 

5) Yammer at someone until their head spins and you realize exactly where you lost them. Alternatively, look for frustration points in critiques. Example: confusion on cannibalism and talking animals :/  

6) Revise in a different font. Alternatively, read your work out loud. Or sentence-by-sentence backwards.

7) Take a favorite book and track how quickly information is introduced. Example: Harry Potter. When do we find out about how wands work? About how spells work? Magical creatures? What happened to Harry's parents? Voldemort? Animagi? The Ministry of Magic? What books shove on too much too fast (The Way of Kings, because if I hadn't had faith in Sanderson, I never would have made it through the first 400 pages. Another example is A Song of Ice and Fire, because I can never keep track of all the characters and their motivations)? 

Hope that helps! 

Keep on truckin'! You've got this! 

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General notice for age confusion now that more people have read through it:  The line about being mistaken for thirteen should be ignored.  She's nineteen, self-conscious about being treated like a child, and given to overstatement.  Where it is now, the line is obviously just super confusing and basically just provides wrong information.  I don't know how I missed it. 

22 hours ago, Robinski said:

I'm noticing a pattern emerging in the narrative, I think, which is paragraphs starting with reference to one person, only to switch to another, but my brain is still tracking the first. Like here, I don't really follow the comment about the maid, but I'm thinking about the maid when I read 'her from aimless chitchat, so I assume the maid is being excused. The same thing caught me out on page 1, when I thought the gender had switched.

The even more concerning thing is that this is far better than earlier versions. At some point, I apparently got it in my head that using a name too many times in a paragraph was a horrible thing.  Some of the really early drafts were incredibly painful after looking back at them a while later.  It is still something I need to work on, because author-brain just skips over them sometimes, but I'm at least aware of it, and am actively looking for it. 

14 hours ago, kais said:

pg 3: unless this is going to quickly move into her maid being her secret lover or something, this scene is forming a bit cliche

14 hours ago, Ace of Hearts said:

honestly I'm always wary of the whole "I gotta be sporty to drive away men" thing because it can fall into heavy-handed tropes pretty easily. It's not too bad here on it's own but now I'm keeping an eye on it. 

18 hours ago, Mandamon said:

pg 5: "to want to be of more practical use "
--oh, I thought she didn't a suitor, with the "sweaty tournament gear" line

6 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

For me, a "getting ready for the ball" scene immediately tells me I'm in a YA novel primarily aimed for those of the female persuasion. Which is great is that is what you are going for, and not ideal if you are aiming for something different. 

So most of these things  (basically things that fall into the "Not like other girls" trope) are holdovers from draft 1 (Calling it that isn't quite accurate, because it was basically an entirely different project.  The only good thing about it were the vague shapes of some of the characters and the fact that it was a project that I finished), which was very solidly MG or YA aimed at teen girls.  There are probably like 5 scenes in this version that came from that one because I like fancy dresses and clinging to sentimental nostalgia. Or something. 
I hesitantly kept the ball scene, but I think @Snakenaps point is probably the best point to argue for cutting it and some of the other things that would fall into the same box. I have no problem with YA aimed at teen girls. I still enjoy reading it when there's something more interesting going on than which of the two hot guys the protagonist is going to make out with at the end.  But I think having all of these things (ballgowns. boys. warrior princesses) as our opening introduction is definitely approaching both the story and Is's character from the wrong angle.  
So...we'll see if the new and improved version works better when it's ready.

7 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

Oi, if you've been rewriting these chapters forever, kick them to the curb and finish the rest of the book first. I can't remember if you have mentioned if you have or not. But you don't want to be one of those writers who spends three years revising five chapters. No bueno. 

First chapters are your introduction, right? So pick the absolutely most important pieces and make them shine. Make it very clear to a reader that this is going to be about a young girl finding love through an unexpected political marriage, or about a princess challenging norms by helping bring back mages and magic, or about a princess trying to keep her family afloat during politics and war, or a princess who takes over her mother's research despite political drama. Because right now, any of those are possibilities, because I'm not sure what story you are telling me. Give me some sign posts. Wave some flags. Say, "Hey, if you stick around, I promise there's going to be XYZ!" 

I personally think one of the reasons why Is doesn't leap off the page yet is, besides the falcon, she's just interacting rather than influencing (a situation I myself am prone to writing, cough cough). There is such an info dump that poor Is is drowned out by me trying to catch all these ping pong balls flying at my head. New character! New geography! New political situation! Like whooooooooa. I can't get to know her, like many have said.

So there are a few scenes held over from like 2010.  A new and improved round of drafts that got about 80% of the way through the story from 2015 or so before realizing that the conflict didn't make sense.  About 40% of that one is in the new version and reworked, and the full draft has been finished as of this past year. But the fact that it's big and that I mostly worked on it in sections means that some chapters have been reworked far more times than others because I've had more opinions on the parts that have been around longer and am still waiting for friends to read through the final full draft (it's a lot harder to find friends able to read through a thing you wrote when everyone has kids and jobs and things than it was in college).   
This chapter has been revised about a million times because it's been around so long and because the story has changed so much since it was originally here.  But it definitely sticks out like a sore thumb now because I do think it's not quite the right starting point, but I don't know what is.  
I think my initial approach had been "Let's tell the readers some things about Is." Which, it turns out, is not really a helpful approach, and also doesn't focus on the aspects of her character that are actually important.  Basically your middle paragraph there.  The things that the chapter currently focuses on are not the ones that will be most relevant to the main plot of the story, even if they are technically relevant to her.  
I did talk through all of it with a friend yesterday (he's not big on fantasy, but does better with structure problems. So he hadn't zoned in on the teen girl YA fantasy trope implications when he read before), and I think the angle I came up with from that works better, but we will see how it actually goes once I've gotten it on paper. 

Thanks, All, for your thoughts!! 
 

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On 1/18/2021 at 6:07 AM, C_Vallion said:

1. Thoughts on having two rather significant conflict points introduced in the second half of the chapter?  Does it feel like an overwhelming amount of information to introduce in one chapter? And is it painfully info-dumpy?

 

I think there was too much all at once. I found myself loosing interest and focus in the scene in the office with the  mother because there was a lot of information being introduced, and like you said, there were two different points of conflict. Can you just stick to one for this chapter and save the other for later? As a reader, I don't need to know every thing up front. 

On 1/18/2021 at 6:07 AM, C_Vallion said:

2. What sense do you get for the scope/tone of the full story from this? 

 

I get the sense that this will be a traditional epic fantasy with magic and complex politics, centered around a young royal who isn't an heir. Specifically one who  is a little rebellious and adventurous but also rather grounded and studious. I am also assuming it will be more politics and intrigue in the castle than the mc going off on an adventure.

On 1/18/2021 at 6:07 AM, C_Vallion said:

3. What information does it seem like we’re missing for an opening chapter?

 

I'm not sure what the mc's personal wants / needs are. I don't know what the central conflict for her is going to be. You introduced some conflicts in the world, but not anything specific for your mc or how they really affect her. I also don't know what the stakes are. And these are things I want to know if I am going to keep reading. I don't need to know all the big political conflicts right away, but if I am going to buy into the story, the characters wants and goals need to be clear along with the stakes and a conflct that is clearly connected  to her.

On 1/18/2021 at 6:07 AM, C_Vallion said:

4. General thoughts on ways to improve this as a first chapter?  I know openings are not my best thing, and it doesn’t help that I have been making both major and minor adjustments to the first few chapters for a long time.  At this point, I have very little sense of how it comes across on a first read, and need some direction on what it does or doesn’t do that a first chapter shouldn’t or should.

 

A lot of this goes back to my answer to your third question. There was too much information about the kingdom and not a clear enough introduction to your characters wants/goals/needs and what's at stake for her. There wasn't enough about how the political conflicts were going to get in the way of her wants or goals. 

As I read:

Showing I leaning out the window to see the hawk was a nice character moment, but it took a while to get there. Could the part about the God's blessing be trimmed? 

"You're at the wrong window" I didn't understand this until the maid made a comment about omens and A. 

The interaction with the maid did show more character, but it was also a little trope-y / cliche. Sometimes cliche's are okay though. 

You keep mentioning a ball, but I don't really know what it is for. IT has something to do with the sister. But why is she having a ball? Later you do mention it's a birthday, however, I think the first time you mention the ball, you could be a little more specific about what it's for. 

"...child who'd been shoved into a fabric cloud" I love this line! The character's voice and personality shines here! 

"Now that Al would be 17..." The way you explained the ages was very confusing, but I skimmed down the comments and saw you are already aware, so I won't go into detail about what confused me.

"...sweaty tournament gear will enough to loose them?" LOL another place where her personality shines. 

But in the conversation around the above line, I did get confused. She seemed to want a political marriage and to discourage suitors at the ball, but wouldn't the ball be a place to network with potential allies? I assume balls are places where there will be suitors from various duchies and kingdoms and whatnot, and they were as political as they were social. I get she wants to be selective and make a careful marriage, but the comment about trying to loose them, while fun, also made me think she didn't want to marry at all.

Later, when I got to the scene where I was talking to her mother, I had a hard time following along for two reasons: 

1. Too much information dumped all at once. 

2. I and her mother sound very similar when they talk and I was having a hard time keeping track of who was saying what. 

"darker accusations involving his fathers magic" Is this referring to the prologue? 

Overall, I like this character, and am interested in reading more, but if I had picked this up in the store, I'd be on the fence about whether to keep reading or not. 

On 1/18/2021 at 9:15 AM, Robinski said:

There is a lot of detail in this chapter on politics and geography that seems to come in a big rush of a couple of pages that was just way too much to digest. Consider novels like The Fellowship of the Ring, and The Eye of the World. They do not rush into spilling out loads of detail about Gondor, or Tear (for example), but spool details out only when needed, or maybe in passing if there is nothing else detailed going on and a bit of foreshadowing is needed (e.g. Bilbo's mithril shirt, and some mention of the last homely house).

 

Great advice!

On 1/18/2021 at 9:15 AM, Robinski said:

The biggest issue though is that I have no idea of character motivations, personal or overarching arc stakes. There is talk of conflicts, yes, but only in the last three or four pages, and overloaded with all those names to the point that I can's sensibly extract what's going on. Most importantly though, there are hints at what the characters think about these things, but it's really not clear, IMO. I don't know what laws the other parties want to change, why it's important or how the main characters feel about that.

 

100% Agree. 

On 1/18/2021 at 2:08 PM, Mandamon said:

I think most of the stuff here can be put off for 4-5 chapters. First chapter is generally intro to characters. The bird omen and dressing for the ball work, but I'd like to see something else "fun" come of it, rather than "oh yes, I want to be married off for political gain!" (said no teenager ever). Maybe she chases the bird and gets her dress dirty, or finds a secret chamber with books of magic her mother collected, or something (just spitballing). The next couple chapters traditionally are the character interacting with the world to teach the reader about it and then you can start to get into the scheming of "Duke X hates country Y and is inviting Earl Z to poison him," or whatever.

 

I feel the same way. 

On 1/18/2021 at 10:34 AM, C_Vallion said:

I'm just not sure if there are better ways to separate the author-brain from the reader-brain while doing these revisions, or if it is just a matter of catching everything I can before having someone else look at it (preferably before sending it to a whole bunch of people who will all be confused by the same things). 
 

Any thoughts or recommendations?

Other than getting another round of readers, I'd say you could pick a novel or two comparable to yours and re-read it. Make notes every time a piece of key world-building or political information is revealed. You could create some kind of an outline or just put notes in the margins. Then, when you have a good handle on how these other authors paced things, try to do the same thing with your own writing. 

This also might be a good point in the revision process to fill out some kind of beat sheet for the story. Even if you did one in the planning process, you could revisit it. 

Also keep in mind that in the first chapter, the most important thing is to introduce your want/goals, conflict, and stakes for your main character. The only things we really need to know in the first chapter are bare minimum to help us understand those things about your character. 

23 hours ago, kais said:

My second is: arc. There is no arc to this chapter. We have a start, and an inciting incident (the falcon), and some set up for politics and seeing her mother which seems like a middle...but there is no end. What did our lead accomplish in this chapter? How did the story move forward? I can't answer any of these questions. 

 

Another good point. 

 

16 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

I feel like I need to keep notes to keep up with this story, which is not something the average reader is going to do. What's going to be the most important straight off the bat? I can't even tell. The political marriage? The politics? The mages? The angsty cousin?

 

I feel the same way. 

 

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By any chance, would anyone be up for doing a quick read-through of the revision I'm working on for this chapter to see if it's headed in the right direction?  I shifted the angle of approach a little, which I think helps with some things, but I am trying to get an idea of whether it just shifts the bigger issues in another direction.

No need for a full critique.  It's not a weekly submission, so I don't want anyone to feel obligated to read it or spend a ton of time on it. Just trying to get an idea of whether this general direction works or if I need to figure something else out. 

Thanks so much for all of the thoughts!

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Hi, sorry I'm late. If you are offering a revision, I would love to read it. You can just PM me, and I will give you some thoughts on it, since I haven't read the original version yet. 

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21 minutes ago, ginger_reckoning said:

Hi, sorry I'm late. If you are offering a revision, I would love to read it. You can just PM me, and I will give you some thoughts on it, since I haven't read the original version yet. 

Awesome! Thanks so much! 

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9 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

By any chance, would anyone be up for doing a quick read-through of the revision I'm working on for this chapter to see if it's headed in the right direction?  I shifted the angle of approach a little, which I think helps with some things, but I am trying to get an idea of whether it just shifts the bigger issues in another direction.

No need for a full critique.  It's not a weekly submission, so I don't want anyone to feel obligated to read it or spend a ton of time on it. Just trying to get an idea of whether this general direction works or if I need to figure something else out. 

Thanks so much for all of the thoughts!

I would love to read the revised version as well! :)

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Comments on the revised version:

 

Page 1

-I actually read the first page of the previous version and you already cleared up some questions I had, so far so good!

-much more interesting start, already loving it way more

-interested in these rituals, am willing to wait for it to be explained though

-”most g- citizens would consider” this is great worldbuilding! However, in the first line you mentioned gods, as in multiple gods (then we have the Judge who at this point, i'm assuming, is either higher above the gods or a specific god that this culture worships.) so the goddess mentioned in this sentence, is she a specific goddess of something? Or is there only one female deity? So when you mention the Goddess, everyone assumes its the one and only Goddess, opposed to the rest of the gods. Idk if I'm being clear enough lol

-”when the it showed no sign” typo

 

Page 2

-”was it actually as soft as it looked?” i often wonder this about animals in the wild that i can't touch

-”mother wouldnt be pleased if she lost a finger” would she lose a finger because of the bird? Would the bird not just be frightened off? Idk what falcons are like

 

Page 5

-”activate the magic stored” oh? There's magic? (i mean i knew this from the prologue but i didn't know we would see it in this chapter)

-”and not the entirely coastline” typo? The entirety of the coastline?

 

Page 6

-”they could happily overlook the parallels” oof, this hits deep. 

 

Page 8

-”Is set the book in her hands on the desk” what was the book though 

 

Page 9

-”she often helped her mother” oh, that's what she’s doing with the book

-”the festivities surround her sister’s birthday… through the week”  would “throughout the week” work better? Also, isn’t there a ball happening in a few hours, do they have time for this? Also x2,  it's not a birthday, but a birth-week, huh? *rolls eyes* royals, am i right?

-”Duchess M’s proposal” ooooh is that the duchess from the beginning? Sneaky

 

After reading the revised version, I skimmed the original and this is way better! Surprised at how quick you revised this. It’s snappier and focuses more on the important aspects. 

 

So, we’ve got Cai- conquering coastlines, and a cousin who might either bash heads with the MC or become an unlikely ally, and nobles trying to change laws, and a duke who has been in seclusion coming out of his cave for some reason. I assume that this duke’s arrival is what will set off whatever events happen next. I am interested to know why this mysterious duke has come out of hiding— good mystery there— and what trouble he will bring. And I assume there’s a reason for the Cai place to be conquering other territories, so there’s another thing you set up that I think has the potential to be interesting.

 

This didn’t feel info-dumpy, I think you integrated the info in fairly well. Like in the beginning when Is was about to tell her maid logically why she thought she didn’t need to worry but then she cut herself off and tried to be more emotional to the situation, I thought was well done, and accurate to the way her train of thought would be. So far, I do like Is. She gave me different vibes in her interaction with the maid compared to her interaction with her mother which is normal human behavior, so no problems there.

 

I glazed over some of the times when names of places were mentioned, but I usually do that in the beginning. It takes me a while to get things straight, so this could just be a “me” problem.

I did find myself asking what this story brings to the table. I was wondering what I should expect and what the story will focus on, and what role our MC will play. Romance with the duke? Taking on political power in the case that one or more of her parents die? Stepping up in some way? I guess I’m not quite sure where the story is heading as of now and I am curious to read on to chapter two!

Edit: I went and read through some crits and I think I'm getting the same feelings: you've set up some interesting things but what does it all mean for the MC? Why are we in her POV? How will she affect the plot? I assume you've got that all figured out, but it isn't clear in the first chapter. I am personally willing to wait to see these questions answered but other readers might not.
 

Edited by karamel
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So here are my critiques on the revised version. I didn't read the original, so this is my first read-through. 

Overall, while the style was good, and it was clear to understand what was going on and we got some glimpses at some very interesting poltics and history, this chapter just didn't really suck me in. I noted more on it below, but there isn't really an inciting incident, or really an arc to the chapter. I did like seeing the connection to the prologue, but there just wasn't much to hook me. I did like the characterization of Is though. 

Ok, opening the doc now.

Pg 1 “creatures” Personally, creatures makes me think of animals, and doesn’t really imply ownership. I think creations might be a better word here.

“Or to see divine…” this is some interesting worldbuilding. Usually I’d say it isn’t the best idea to start the chapter with a semi info-dump about religion, but this doesn’t bother me for some reason.

“corbel” had to look this word up

Pg 2 The writing so far is very nice and clear. Has a very classical high fantasy feel to it.

Pg 3 “o flinched” I don’t understand this. Why did she flinch?

Also, this is more engaging to me than the prologue so far. By a wide margin.

Pg 4 “Is was tempted to explain…” I don’t know what any of these are in this paragraph, so most of this just washes over without sticking. If I need to remember this information later, I would need another explanation

Pg 5 “thinking like a normal…” I remember thinking stuff like this when I was in middle school. Nice touch

“and not the entirely coastline” entire coastline

“overlook the parallels between…” lol this reminds me of modern politics a bit. Not the overseas thing, but the not seeing historical parallels thing

Pg 7 “Is’s cousin” is this the one who will inherit the throne?

“petite” is usually synonymous to “delicate” so the issue doesn’t seem as large as the character is implying

“keep it out of family conversation” ah, the privileges of royalty.

So far not much has happened in the chapter, and while I was engaged at first, nothing is really hooking me in so far. And 8 pages in, I’m not sure I would keep reading because nothing really interesting has happened yet. This so far reads like a chapter in the middle of a book, and not the beginning.

Pg 10 “the very magic…” ah, this is the prologue, I presume?

“The duke of T” is this the kid from the prologue? If not, I don’t know why this is significant

Ok, it sounds like it is that kid. That makes me happy

Oh, and its over

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On 1/20/2021 at 8:55 PM, karamel said:

”most g- citizens would consider” this is great worldbuilding! However, in the first line you mentioned gods, as in multiple gods (then we have the Judge who at this point, i'm assuming, is either higher above the gods or a specific god that this culture worships.) so the goddess mentioned in this sentence, is she a specific goddess of something? Or is there only one female deity? So when you mention the Goddess, everyone assumes its the one and only Goddess, opposed to the rest of the gods. Idk if I'm being clear enough lol

I'm still trying to get an idea of the best way to approach some of the religious details without being too heavy-handed about it. 

To provide some meandering thoughts (partly for me to get practice working through the details for my worldbuilding notes):
Ultimately, most Gi-i believe in the Goddess and the Judge. Many would believe in other sorts of divine beings or messengers, but they're dealt with differently through different parts of the kingdom, or neglected altogether.
The big two are roughly gods of birth and death or creation and destruction or beginnings and endings any of those dualities respectively.  Different people would probably recognize different aspects of them depending on what they find meaningful.  Is's father has stricter opinions than most, and avoids assigning different "roles" to them to avoid offending any deities by neglecting aspects of them or risking dangerous speculation.  The Goddess isn't given a more role-defining name (in Gi, anyway) for fear of offending, and because they don't culturally have a clear pattern for how people are supposed to interact with her.  However, appeals to the Judge are an active part of the political system, so he gets a a sort of named title that reflects that. 
 

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14 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

The big two are roughly gods of birth and death

This background strikes me as being quite complicated and nuanced. Like any aspect (plot, promises to the reader, themes, major character motivations), I think the important thing is to get the most fundamental pieces of information in front of the reader as soon as possible Form a foundation for the reader. In one of the WE podcasts recently, I think it was Dan who quoted another author giving advice (Stephen King? Not going back to my notes at this point), which was they looked for in a story as a reader was having somewhere to stand from where to contemplate the rest of it. So, a foothold in the story.

Considering this religious aspect of world-building, I think this would be the fact to get across to the reader in the first chapter, or maybe the prologue. It seems to be the central aspect of the whole religion There are two gods, male and female, and they have these (assigned) characteristics, followed by the fact that there are other gods, but they do not need explanation at the beginning, probably just a note that there are others. It appears to me that all of religion flows from this central fact, and this is the fact that the reader should be 'told' at the start.

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3 hours ago, Robinski said:

This background strikes me as being quite complicated and nuanced. 

Oh yeah.  Most of the meandering thoughts above aren't vital for the reader to know right now.  I just get excited when going into world explanation mode (oops).  

3 hours ago, Robinski said:

Considering this religious aspect of world-building, I think this would be the fact to get across to the reader in the first chapter, or maybe the prologue. It seems to be the central aspect of the whole religion There are two gods, male and female, and they have these (assigned) characteristics, followed by the fact that there are other gods, but they do not need explanation at the beginning, probably just a note that there are others. It appears to me that all of religion flows from this central fact, and this is the fact that the reader should be 'told' at the start.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that the key points that need to be conveyed are that from Is's understanding of the world, there are two gods.  One who is somehow involved in judicial interactions, and one who is more of the hallowed/revered/"Don't look at her or we'll die" sort.   And that the gods aren't really beings that people can know. So I'll try to figure out how to solidify those points in the opening here.

Some of the other subtleties, we learn along with Is later, and some of the things mentioned in the previous post are just irrelevant things that my brain likes to fill in as background details.  It's been kicking around in this world for years for various other projects that lacked any subtlety or nuance, so there are a lot of details about the reality of the world that *I* think are important, but don't actually matter to characters in this story.  

Edited by C_Vallion
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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

At this point, I'm pretty sure that the key points that need to be conveyed are that from Is's understanding of the world, there are two gods.

Yes. I was pretty much just trying to make the point that I don't think that's completely clear from the first chapter. It may be in there, but it's kind of jumbled up, and there is so much else going on that it doesn't really stand out as being clear, and underpinning this society (pretty much?). I think there are certain things one can just come out a 'tell' the reader, and be quite unequivocal about. I'm not sure that's the case here.

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18 minutes ago, Robinski said:

It may be in there, but it's kind of jumbled up, and there is so much else going on that it doesn't really stand out as being clear, and underpinning this society (pretty much?).

This is usually the case.  Things being present but jumbled.  One of the things that I'm best at, I think. *facepalm* 

I think the adjustments I've made to it since @karamel's comments have helped a lot, but it did still need the clarification of two gods vs. some larger more complicated pantheon, so it was helpful to have that called out. 

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4 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

This is usually the case.  Things being present but jumbled.  One of the things that I'm best at, I think. *facepalm* 

I think the adjustments I've made to it since @karamel's comments have helped a lot, but it did still need the clarification of two gods vs. some larger more complicated pantheon, so it was helpful to have that called out. 

Yay, I helped :D

Yeah, I guess it was just unclear. It was as if you said "there's gods but also there's God" and i wasn't sure how THE God was differentiated from the other gods. How does the hierarchy work? Which gods came first? And then it was even more confusing when you said Goddess because then it seemed like there was only one female god and the rest were male. (I think this also comes from the fact that the Judge got a name different from god but the Goddess is just the Goddess)

Also, I don't know much about religion/myths, but in terms of creation myths, the only one I can think of the moment (that is perhaps similar to yours, regarding the god of creation and goddess of death) is Izanami and Izanagi (even tho they were both creators in the beginning). I know this isn't a new idea, but its just the first thing that came to my mind. I guess it's just something to think about if you haven't already :)

I'm just trying to throw my limited/most-likely-useless knowledge at you in case anything is helpful.

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