C_Vallion

1.25.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace: Chapter 1 Rev1- 3648 Words

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Hello, All!

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

All input is still good input, but these are the specific things that I could use feedback on before moving on to chapter 2.

1.      I’ve trimmed down the amount of new information in the chapter, and clarified what is there.  Is it enough? Or is it still an overwhelming amount of information?  How many points in general are too many to be introducing in one chapter? (See notes below on things I’ve been trying to work out as well).

2.      Does the layout of the chapter at least introduce the information we come across in a less confusing way than last time, even if there’s still too much of it?

3.      Is there a better sense of who Is- is and what her goals are? Or does it still feel rather directionless?

This doesn’t fit as well as a question in the list above, but is also something I’ve been trying to figure out and could use thoughts on:

One of the challenges I’ve had with finding the right starting point is that Is’s motivation is very much to maintain the status quo (keeping the fragile peace among the nobles from falling apart).  But that’s a hard goal to show someone actively pursuing until something goes wrong. 

I know I still have a number of different things introduced here, but I guess my biggest concern is neglecting things that would then blindside the reader three chapters in (Wait? There’s maybe a war? Wait? She has a cousin who is inheriting? Oh, we’re at some ceremony now?). 

I’m sure that in my brain, every detail is vitally important, when it is actually not going to be a big deal to wait a couple chapters to introduce some things.  However, I’m having trouble figuring out which things are in which of those categories, and how to introduce things in passing (Cag-, Ro-, the ball) so that it’s more expected when they’re brought up later, without bogging down the reader at the start.

Unfortunately, the easiest thing to move forward is the magic stuff, since we switch to Ala- in chapter 2 and go into more depth on that there, but it seems important to make a reader aware that there’s magic in the world in chapter 1 just to show the sort of world we are in.

Thanks for reading! 

Edited by C_Vallion
Title referred to wrong document
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Overall

You've streamlined this, but I think that has further shown that this chapter is really about one strong beat, which could be made by bringing the salient points from the chapter together, and then moving the ball into this chapter (see comment about reader promises, below). I think this could be a great cold open if we went from our princess hanging out the window and thinking about hawk omens, to the maid berating her and making a comment about this duke having come. The princess is startled at the hawk does something Plot Relevant, there's a brief world building convo with the maid, then the princess dresses and heads to the ball where the inciting incident of the hawk is made relevant. Right now this chapter still reads a lot like an author sandboxing, which is of course fine in a draft, but would need to be cut way down and or sprinkled into later chapters for a final work. 

It's a good start. keep at it!

 

Your questions

1.      I’ve trimmed down the amount of new information in the chapter, and clarified what is there.  Is it enough? Or is it still an overwhelming amount of information?  How many points in general are too many to be introducing in one chapter? (See notes below on things I’ve been trying to work out as well).

Per above, it's not the amount of information so much anymore, just how it is presented. I don't think we need much of it yet. Right now we need a hook and plot establishment. You can world build later, and much more organically, especially since this seems to be stock European fantasy. We, as Western readers, know this land. You can lean on those tropes some in these early chapters.

I'd argue an intro chapter needs these items, and really only these items:

- main POV establishment

- inciting incident

- plot establishment and substantial progression and/or establishment of MC's goal

Anything else you can fit in is fine, but fluff it too much and you risk readers not sticking around for chapter 2.

 

2.      Does the layout of the chapter at least introduce the information we come across in a less confusing way than last time, even if there’s still too much of it?

Not particularly. It doesn't stick with me because I do not care about the world yet. I care about the hawk, and the princess, and a bit about the duke who might throw a wrench in things, but as a reader I was promised an omen impacting a ball, and that is now what I want to see. I expect world building at the ball, not in a study before the ball.

3.      Is there a better sense of who Is- is and what her goals are? Or does it still feel rather directionless?

As far as I can tell, our MC has no goals other than to greet a falcon and go to a ball. I assume she will get a goal at the ball, hence my desire to get there

But that’s a hard goal to show someone actively pursuing until something goes wrong.

So why wait? First chapters usually start with something going wrong. Throw us in the deep end! Hook us!

Blindsiding

I think you need to lean on tropes more. I won't be blindsided by magic--this is stock European white fantasy unless you tell me otherwise. There's nobles and a ball and a bird omen. We know these tropes. Don't waste time reinventing them or explaining them. Use them to save space and focus on the unique aspects of your world and the plot. It'll help a lot.

 

As I go

- I think the first sentence does a lot more, and is a lot more powerful, if the second paragraph is deleted. I don't think that second paragraph gives any additional useful information and sort of drags the intro. Same with the third paragraph. They're pretty info-dumpy and I like the mystery of the first sentence. Leading from that into 'Omens' would be more powerful.

- pg 2: the sentence level paragraph breaks are a mark of YA, so just FYI there.

- I think these first two pages could be distilled into two, powerful paragraphs. There's too much just...repeating and wandering right now to make this a strong open

- same with pages 2-4. There's about four sentences of good dialogue that move the plot forward and the rest seems to just stall out the narrative. Compression recommended

- pg 5: so, for me personally, this is just too much political info when I know nothing about the world and don't yet care about the characters. You have this great opportunity with the princess and the falcon to give us windows into her in a very organic fashion based upon her thoughts around the falcon, freedom, omens, etc. I'd rather learn about her from her interactions than just get a dump via thoughts

- pg 9: reader expectations and inciting incident discussion. So. Our inciting incident for this book is the omen of the falcon, which works reasonably well for a cold trope fantasy open. We learn about it being an omen for a sister's coronation, which leads to the reader expectation that we are then headed to that coronation. Instead, we chat with a maid and then go to the mother's study all to learn about kingdom politics for a world we do not yet care about.

I'd argue these beats belong in chapters two or three, well after you have hooked the reader with whatever major event takes place at the ball (I assume one, because bird omen). Because of the promise you set up with your inciting incident, as a reader I feel let down that I have not gotten to the payoff (the ball) and instead am being force fed politics I'm not read to digest.

- pg 9: The queen’s eyes shot to her in surprise <-- this reads like they shot out of her head

- pg 11: Okay so the duke's arrival is important for the ball it feels like. Could the maid deliver this information as she scolds our MC? "Highness what are you doing! You'll break your neck! And after the Duke of XX came all this way!" That gets the same information out there without all the stuff inbetween and sets up the world more succinctly.

 

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Completely agree with @kais's assessment on this. Still not enough actually interesting happening here to pull a reader in.

32 minutes ago, kais said:

I'd argue an intro chapter needs these items, and really only these items:

- main POV establishment

- inciting incident

- plot establishment and substantial progression and/or establishment of MC's goal

Exactly. Currently this has one weak inciting incident (the duke arriving) but the other two are not established. I though the hawk was going somewhere the first time around, but now I'm not sure if it's adding anything.

 

6 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

1.      I’ve trimmed down the amount of new information in the chapter, and clarified what is there.  Is it enough?

 

6 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

my biggest concern is neglecting things that would then blindside the reader three chapters in

I'd argue there's still way too much unnecessary information. We don't need any politics except what pertains directly to the duke arriving. Generally, adding information when it becomes relevant is fine. I don't really care if there's a war on, or you could have R. buckle on a sword and say he's going to check the troops or something and that's all we need. Leave the information until it becomes relevant, then introduce only what you need, right before. In the next draft, you can go back and add a few tidbits to set up Chekhov's gun in the first scenes where needed.

6 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

2.      Does the layout of the chapter at least introduce the information we come across in a less confusing way than last time, even if there’s still too much of it?

Nope, still confused. I don't know how any of it pertains to the world, so I'm not going to remember it when it comes up again.

6 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

3.      Is there a better sense of who Is- is and what her goals are? Or does it still feel rather directionless?

 

6 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

Is’s motivation is very much to maintain the status quo

Still directionless for me.Try turning this on its head: What is interrupting the status quo that the MC needs to prevent from happening? Now you have an active (or at least reactive) protagonist, rather than one who is quoting political facts at another character. 

I'd say, at the risk of being glib, throw out all the background information and facts you've put in the first chapter and see what's left (the MC sees a hawk, goes to her mother, learns the duke is coming.) Now why is any of this important? Give us only the immediate reasons. The duke coming means X status quo will be disrupted and the MC HATES it. Boom. Now you have a "thesis" for your first chapter and a reason for the protagonist to move through the story. She's against the duke, or she's fighting for her home, or something.

 

Notes while reading:

Pg 1: beginning a book with a discussion on the philosophy of gods is not particularly catchy.

pg 1: "Omens? Those were nonsense. Her father was quite clear about that."
--Something like this would be a much better starting sentence.

pg 4: "having ships didn’t mean they had a proper navy..."
--why is all this stuff in there? Is there any reason the reader needs to know about the naval strength of a country we know nothing about? It's a bit of character building, but seems very extraneous at this point.

pg 5: her age is a lot clearer this time around.

pg 6: Why this obsession about Cag? There's just a lot of political rambling here, and it's not catching my interest because I know nothing about this world or the MC yet.

pg 1: “For your father to offer the nobles who want to revise the laws.” 
--this is the first thing that has even remotely started to catch my interest, and only because I read enough to know that there's a problem with how magic is perceived. There's no hook here yet. It's just two people talking about political problems in a country we know nothing about.

pg 11: “The Duke of T arrived last night.” 
--here's another slightly more interesting sentence. There is a change coming. Why is it important? How is it disrupting the status quo?

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24 minutes ago, Mandamon said:

Why this obsession about Cag? There's just a lot of political rambling here, and it's not catching my interest because I know nothing about this world or the MC yet.

1 hour ago, kais said:

so, for me personally, this is just too much political info when I know nothing about the world and don't yet care about the characters.

This is one of the (many) things I'm having difficulty portraying.  Though both of your comments made it easier to put words to it, which I appreciate. Far too many words that wander a bit, but it's a start, I guess.
Ultimately, Cag is only important to Is- at this point because the news is going to tear apart the fragile peace within the court.  She and her family are far more concerned about troubles within their own kingdom, while all of the nobles who are supposed to be seeing to those things are far too distracted by a war that doesn't affect them.  And Is-, specifically, is concerned about the conflicts among the court because they pose the risk of tearing apart the kingdom, which she sees as a direct threat to her family. 

I was hoping that came across more clearly without digging into the history of things basically being left on the verge of civil war when her grandfather passed away and her father took the throne (grandpa's extreme prejudice against magic usage + the duke's mom defying him by marrying a mage instead of getting pushed into  = some rather significant conflict among the nobles as they were forced to take sides). But that's even more political background, which I know there's already too much of.

While her father is trying to hold the court together to maintain that peace within the kingdom, her biggest concerns are ultimately fears that the conflict within the court will ultimately destroy her family.  So she does what she can to help her father's efforts to hold the kingdom together in what limited ways she can as a socially-anxious nineteen year old who most of the court overlooks, but the thing she sees as most helpful otherwise is basically to be a good, helpful, obedient daughter who isn't causing additional trouble for a family that already has far too much trouble to deal with. So news of Cag is troubling because it's going to have people within the court taking sides, and the news about the duke arriving basically turns that up to eleven, considering that it's what sparked so much trouble during her grandfather's reign.  

I thought I conveyed some of that better this time around, but apparently not. Brushing off the maid's concern with the mental explanation of why there's no risk to them.  Expressing concern about the trouble it's going to cause for her father within the court.  Her and her mother wanting to avoid bringing the court's conflict into the small safe haven of what little time the family has together. The need to do something about the magic laws immediately when we know that the duke is coming to town, to prevent people from taking sides around him. Is-'s ominous feeling about "new beginnings" not necessarily being a good thing, and the thoughts of the falcon overcoming her tendency toward discarding talk of omens out of hand.  

If none of that is clicking into place as being tied together, I obviously still need to fix how I'm approaching things, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to introduce a main character whose main motivation isn't the political details themselves, but what they mean for her family.  How do you mention the effects of the political events (the actual important thing) without getting people stuck in explanations of what the actual events are?  Especially when (until something goes wrong), her way of pursuing those motivations is rather passive.

As an additional complication, in many ways, the ball itself isn't that important (one of the reasons I cut almost all of the talk about it here) except that it's the thing that brought all of the nobles to the capital at once, and offered an event that even the duke should probably be at despite his ability to avoid major kingdom events until then.  It serves to provide family and political dynamics, and some of the conflicts between characters, but it really could be any big event that has everyone in the capital. So if chapter 1 is setting things up where you're expecting that to be where things go wrong, that's a problem. 

Additional thoughts:  I'd known that the inciting incident was further into the story than was ideal, but I hadn't realized how problematic that was going to seem.  I guess, would you guys generally say that it needs to be in the first chapter or two? I know getting a faster paced start than I have here would make it less of a problem, and the prologue was supposed to help with that (but it obviously has lots of its own problems).  I don't see any good way to open with the inciting incident, because I think it requires us to have some working knowledge of the two MCs, but I obviously haven't found a better starting point yet either...

On that note, I'm going to stop my rambling thoughts for a bit and go work on reverse-outlining Part 1 to see if I can figure out a better angle of approach for all of this. 

Thanks so much for your thoughts!
 

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Points for smoothing things over, giving a little polish! Wax on, wax off!

Considering there was so much information dumped on me in the first edit, I felt almost like this was a cold reader because I had to relearn all the everything. I fear, however, that there is still too much for me to hold onto. It's like you keep handing me shiny objects, and I want to take each one going, "Ooooh promising!" but my hands are already full and I'm going to drop something. 

Or, alternatively, I'm this dog and you just offered me another ball:

Spoiler

Juggling too many balls? | Make a Meme

I'm still stuck on what story you're trying to tell here. Right now, this chapter feels like multiple things:

1) a young girl sees a potential omen from the gods

2) Politics over breakfast

3) Compromise talks with the queen/the duke

And I'm not sure how they all go together right now. 

(which, btw, is the hint of a lack of arch, something I am terribly, terribly guilty of, eh @kais?)

I know that all of these are important at some point in the story, but I'm not sure what part I, the reader, am supposed focus on that is going to be vitally important in the next few chapters. Like, if the next chapter is the Inciting Incident, the Invitation...I'm not sure where that will come from. Which is both good and bad: good, because I don't know what will happen next, but bad because I also don't know the stakes. She fears losing...her sister? Her family? Her country? I'm not sure at the scope I should be focusing on here.

For instance, if the country C attacks G, then I need a bunch of this political information immediately but probably nothing about the Duke, right? But if the next chapter's incident is all about harm coming to the sister, then I might need to know that C hates G but not all the full details, because the focus needs to be on Is and A's relationship to make me hurt. The scope zooms in, right? And if the inciting incident is Is getting engaged to the Duke, do I need to know about C at all?

Instead, I'm back to being the poor juggler you keep tossing rapid fire balls at before letting me get into the groove. 

It might be worth taking a look at what information Is and the reader (me!!!) need to survive the next five chapters, and then slowly sprinkle everything in rather than all at once. 

Oh man, I love me some similes and metaphors. Let's have another: imagine for a moment a book is a meal, okay? In this chapter, you keep giving me all these super tasty dishes all at once without giving me time to admire, take an Instagram photo of, taste, and relish each one. Instead, you keep piling on the dishes instead of doing a course here, a course there. So not only do I not know which one is the main dish, some of those super tasty extravaganzas are growing cold and forgotten in the corner. 

Spoiler

Create meme "festive table, Christmas table joke, my Christmas table" -  Pictures - Meme-arsenal.com

The thing is, your prose is strong and your story is promising. I want to eat your dishes, you fine chef! I just don't know which one I'm supposed to be eating as my appetizer, which is my soup dish, and which one is my entrée. Feed me! In the proper order, please ;) 

I made myself hungry <_<

Does that make sense?

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Hi! Very interested to see how the revisions look after the debate on the first sub. I won't be doing LBLs as I've got too much to catch up on in life, but a coupe might sneak in :rolleyes: 

- You won't actually have "12 years after prologue" in the manuscript, right? You really can't mention parts of the book, IMO. It takes the reader right out of the story. It'll be "12 years later" or something like that, right?

- Decent first line, I'm interested to keep reading.

- Okay, we're disappearing into religious dogma here. I'm bored. I need character. Story is all about character. Someone in Writing Excuses (I think, although I can't find my note) recently quoted a famous writer who said that the reader needs a foothold int he story, somewhere to stand and contemplate what's happening. I don't get that here. I need to know who I'm with, having something to engage me with them before rolling out this background. I know we talked about establishing the simple fact of there being two gods, but not the very first thing in the book.

- "an indicator of the Goddess’s blessing" - This is better. The falcon was a promising start before, IMO, but it didn't really read to any strong character establishment, which is what I'm hoping for.

- "her attention darting back to the falcon often enough that she’d only turned one page in that time" - This is good character detail. This needs to be much, much higher up the page, IMO.

- "She nudged the window open" - Here the character has a little agency, shows her inquisitiveness about the world. This stuff is a decent enough opening keep me engaged if it's in the first half of the first page.

- "three story drop" - decent tension, I quite like this. For all I know, she might fall out of the window. This is the opening page, not all the religion stuff that I don't care about at this point.

- "wiping her hands onto her nightgown to clean off the grime" - another decent character note: she's no slave to propriety, that's good.

- "the girl swallowed and turned to take the tray" - Is the maid a girl? If the maid is not younger than the princess, narrative referring to her as a girl is really confusing, IMO. Ah, okay, this is angered later. I think my comment is coloured by how confident the maid is, like an older person, and I think the maid was older in the first version? Anyway, fair enough.

- How does Cag relate to Yer? Are they the same? Don't follow.

- "How was she ever going to be of any use in her father’s efforts" - Okay, we're getting little character motivation here, and some stakes in terms of the political landscape. This is better than the first version, although I think this political stuff comes a bit too soon. I'm still waiting to become engaged with the main character. I feel like you have a lot of stuff about the m/c in your head, reasons why you love her and writing her story excites you. You have to get that on the first page to engage the reader in the same way that you are.

- "picked up her mug of tea" - This is still an issue for me. Can't bring myself to believe they have mugs in a pseudo-historical setting. Readers will have expectations about your world that you can't control, not without far too much exposition about why mugs exist (to take this as an example).

Ah, now, this is interesting, and I think an excellent test. I made that comment as soon as I read mug, not continuing to read the rest of the sentence. Now that I have, I see that you did go on to provide some background to justify the use go 'mug'. And, you tied it back into the world-building about Cag, albeit loosely. Do you know, I actually think that kinda works. Not bad. As a reader/writer, this gives me some reassurance that the author is thinking about how everything works, and how it needs to be internally consistent.

- "sidetracked by groundless speculation" - Doesn't sound like it's groundless. I get that father could talk the Nobel around the first time Cag took another nation, maybe the second, maybe even the third, but there comes a point at which expansionism is an established pattern and cannot be refuted. It sounds a bit too me that father is deluding himself about the intention of Cag.

- "flared to life" - Good to see the use of magic, to know what kind of story I'm in, although I suppose I know that from the prologue. I wondered about this happening higher up, to bring that reminder of magic in sooner, but maybe it's not necessary.

- "when there were smaller lands farther inland that would be easier to maintain" - This strikes me as politically and tactically naive. Controlling a costal area for an expansionist power, having a foothold on foreign territory on which to land your troops and resources is vital. You only have to look at the historical examples: the English occupation of parts of northern France; Russia retaining Kaliningrad on the Baltic even now, after the break up of the USSR (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaliningrad_Oblast), because it is strategically important. If the aggressor attempted to take territory inland without establishing a hold on coastal land, they could be surrounded by defending forces and defeated, driven out. 

- "help her father" - Okay, it's good to have some kind of motivation and agency from the m/c after her introduction, although I'm not sure that I'm convinced how important a role she could perform as an 18-year old. I'm convinced that she cares about her nation, helping her family, just not that she's likely to be significant in these events (unless through strategic marriage, of course).

In summary, after the first section, I think this is significantly better than the first version, but I think it has some way to go still. A lot of the fluff is gone, and that tis good. Things are clearer, there are fewer names flying around. All good. What I need now is more character engagement, higher stakes/conflict. I don't get the feeing that the invasion is necessarily the major conflict of the age. I need to know what the book is about. Basically, you need to telegraph the story. Is it about politic conflict, mainly? I'm presuming it's not about the magical conflict. There's no reference to changing the laws, or much about the different factions within the country. As a result, I assume that the political conflict, the invasion, is the main plot that the story revolves around. That being the case, I think it needs to be played up more, to feel like Gil will be invade sooner or later, and that they need to find a way to resist.

- There's quite a lot of set dressing before we got to any substance. I appreciate the desire to show context, but it doesn't really add to the story (just background) when I'm still trying to get character buy-in. Put it this way, the whole of Page 7 could be cut and it would not affect anything else in the chapter. You could go straight to "She tapped lightly on the (library) door..." and nothing would be lost from the story, but the little momentum we have would be maintained. 

- Ron doesn't say anything, and doesn't do anything. Which is disappointing. Why is he in the scene? Just to introduce him? That's kind of pointless in Chapter 1. It's much more important to achieve full-on main character buy-in and I still don't have that. M/C is an almost completely blank slate at the moment. I do not know why I should be interested in her. I need to be compelled by the main character in the story, on Page 1, and it's not happening in this version. I certainly don't need a(another) character who doesn't do anything. I would cut Ron completely, leave him until he is needed to actually do something. Mother could still say 'Your cousin's here', if you must introduce him now, but only somewhere it fits as an aside, maybe when she's talking about the uncle.

- I don't really get the ending. The duke is introduced very late in the chapter, and other starting point, detail, strand in the story, but nothing to cling to. What is the story about? Why should I be interested in this main character? What does she have at stake, and what is her role in this? Why is she compelling as a character? What makes her exciting, engaging, sympathetic? I don't have these things yet, and I need them on Page 1.

Overall 

I think this is improved, that's there to see from the first version, now we can move on to other important things, as noted above: (a) main character buy-in/engagement; (b) personal stakes; (c) clarity of purpose. It may be that the style/shape of the story arc is that this kingdom is assailed on all side by numerous different challenges, the ruling falling apart from the strain of all these conflicts foreign and domestic, but I don't get that sense of overarching stakes, story or personal. That is another key component, along with the character, that needs to come out in this all-important first chapter.

Thanks for sharing again :) 

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14 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

basically being left on the verge of civil war when her grandfather passed away

14 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

While her father is trying to hold the court together

See, here's a major conflict/conflicts, but I get very little sense of these from the first chapter. All you need, in a brutally simplicity way (and backed throughout the chapter) is for the maid to say something like, 'But your majesty, surely there's going to be a war, how will my family survive?' The talk about invasion and civil strife isn't enough to the fore. You don't need to explain anything about why it's happening, that can come in plater chapters, just that it is happening and they're going to have a ball when EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART!!!

15 hours ago, C_Vallion said:

but I'm having trouble figuring out how to introduce a main character whose main motivation isn't the political details themselves, but what they mean for her family

Big, broad strokes, as per my comment above. Don't give us details, give us conflicts, tension, danger, enemies...lots of them. Don't explain the minutiae of why these things are happening (yet), the important thing is to communicate that they are. Don't she people all calm and collected. There is very little character emotion, actually, pretty much none now that I think back on it. They should be upset, at least on the inside, about what's happening all around them. Those emotions betray themselves through external signs, even if the maid id not breaking down in tears, or her mother is not throwing books around the library and her cousin is not sniping at everyone left, right and centre--although--all these things could happen in Chapter 1, as it's set up.

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1 hour ago, Robinski said:

You won't actually have "12 years after prologue"

Hah. Nope.  This was just because there were a couple of questions last week about how long after the prologue it was.  And for some reason "12 years later" seemed weird for a weekly submission format if people hadn't read the prologue.

 

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

Okay, we're disappearing into religious dogma here. I'm bored. I need character. 

There are still things I want this to do that it's not doing because I'm getting bogged down in details (shocking, I know), and I do think I want to keep something similar as the opening, because the shifting of her understanding of the gods, and her certainty about how they work is really central to her character arc.  But I need to find a way to make the point of it be that she's parroting Dad's thoughts instead of it just coming across as a theology lesson.

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

"picked up her mug of tea" - This is still an issue for me. Can't bring myself to believe they have mugs in a pseudo-historical setting

Some part of me is a little amused at how much of a sticking point this has been with a lot of people. I think the extra detail it pushed me to add is good, so there's that. But just to defend myself a little.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mug#History

1 hour ago, Robinski said:

having a foothold on foreign territory on which to land your troops and resources is vital.

No, I get that (keep this conversation in mind 80k words from now)

It's not getting a foothold on overseas territory to land, it's taking one of the coastal lands on their own continent, because they're landlocked. They started out as the center point on most of the Yer- trade routes, and already have most overland trade going through their lands (and are slowly absorbing the lands that the trade would otherwise be going to and from).  So continuing to do what they've already started and have an obvious path to continue (pushing to have more direct control over all of the land trade in the area) makes more sense than trying to pull in sea trade routes that they're already getting some benefit from, since most of the goods are funneled into the land routes they already control.  They have trade, and they have paths of least resistance to expand that.  But they don't have a navy.  And if they are going out of their way to obtain a navy, what are they planning to do with it?
It's quite possible there are other reasons it doesn't make sense, and if you see any obvious ones, please point them out, because it might cause problems down the road depending on what that is. Fortunately, I found a better angle of approach (I think) for dealing with chapter 1 that doesn't rely on Cag- politics.  So that's nice for all involved.

2 hours ago, Robinski said:

The duke is introduced very late in the chapter, and other starting point, detail, strand in the story, but nothing to cling to.

Hopefully I will be fixing some of this for the new angle. Before I'd been stuck in the pattern of thinking that really, both the news from Cag- and the duke's arrival mean the same thing to Is- and family. Conflict within the court. But it didn't make sense for her to just rush downstairs and talk to mom, so it didn't seem like a problem to talk about Cag- first.  I have now had it bashed over my head enough times to realize that this was not a helpful approach.  A process which I don't enjoy, but is sometimes necessary.

9 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

1) a young girl sees a potential omen from the gods

2) Politics over breakfast

3) Compromise talks with the queen/the duke

I suppose this is at least fewer things than last time?  So...progress?  But yeah.  still a problem. Hopefully less so next time?

10 hours ago, Snakenaps said:

It might be worth taking a look at what information Is and the reader (me!!!) need to survive the next five chapters, and then slowly sprinkle everything in rather than all at once. 

I think one of the problems here is that my brain is still pretty firmly convinced that the implications of all of the overwhelming political details is necessary for the next five chapters.  And I get a little too caught up trying to make scenes do more than one thing (which I think is generally a good thing, but there's a difference between trying to accomplish two things and trying to accomplish twelve. Especially in chapter one.  I'm not always great at remembering that).   

Right now, I have leaned significantly toward letting important plot things be implied by overwhelming details. Because subtlety!  And obviously we aren't allowed to directly tell the reader anything, right (ugh. No, brain. There's a difference between trusting the intelligence of the reader and throwing them into the deep end of the political details swimming pool when they've never seen water)?  So readers get neither the details nor the important plot information because what is supposed to be background is too much to absorb quickly, and is too overwhelming to understand on its own, let alone be a clear indicator of the More Important Thing.   

On the bright side, this is far less of a problem once we get to the main inciting incident.  But I do think that some things (almost definitely not as many as I think, but some) need to be introduced first for it to work right. But I've needed something gets us there without losing everyone in the meantime. I'd hoped that the prologue would do a better job of helping with that, but like chapter 1, it was too bogged down in the political details to do what I wanted it to do. 
I do think that I finally found an angle of approach that works better.  And I hope I can iron that out to be able to get it (or a thorough summary) plus chapter 2 into 5k words for next week.  We shall see.

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4 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

I think one of the problems here is that my brain is still pretty firmly convinced that the implications of all of the overwhelming political details is necessary for the next five chapters.

 

4 minutes ago, C_Vallion said:

Right now, I have leaned significantly toward letting important plot things be implied by overwhelming details. Because subtlety!  And obviously we aren't allowed to directly tell the reader anything, right (ugh. No, brain. There's a difference between trusting the intelligence of the reader and throwing them into the deep end of the political details swimming pool when they've never seen water)? 

The important part is that you recognize this, can beat your brain into submission, and write a killer first chapter. And, just as importantly, you're open to discussion with us, so we can hopefully help you and make the journey a little easier. 

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1 hour ago, Snakenaps said:

 

The important part is that you recognize this, can beat your brain into submission, and write a killer first chapter. 

I do try, but it is irritatingly creative about breaking things in new ways. "Leave out that topic x entirely? Well why not add a little more about y, since we have room now. Because the people will want to know about y."

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1 hour ago, C_Vallion said:

I do try, but it is irritatingly creative about breaking things in new ways. "Leave out that topic x entirely? Well why not add a little more about y, since we have room now. Because the people will want to know about y."

Oh, I get this. I totally get this. And the trick is to keep trying until you find that perfect sweet spot. And I totally think you're going to find that. Mostly because you keep trying and aren't giving up. 

I'm going to take the next ~4 weeks off critiquing to do some heavy revision. When I return to critiquing, if you want to throw me this chapter and see how far you've come, I'm totally willing to. It'll be enough time for me to settle back into cold read territory. 

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It may still be a little info heavy, but it read so much smoother this time. On a first read, I think I would have been able to follow most of the hints and details. Granted, I would forget any that didn't come up again in a chapter or two, but it's in there :-)

Yay tea mug! You've won me over by adding the MC's reasoning to add depth. 

"Took another bite of breakfast." What is she eating? Bread? Fish? Delicate pastry? Shakshuka? Cold beef? "Took another bite of..." Brandon Sanderson talks at some length about using specifics to add meaning without adding more words (wood or birch). I think this might be an opportunity to show off culture without exposition. Per writing excuses, food is a huge window into culture. If this isn't a western European nation, you can show us here. Or if it is, guide us towards which one to deepen context. Just a thought. The phrasing struck me as very general in reading. 

Sorry for digging in there, not much else for me to critique so I fixated a bit :-)

The MC doesn't seem to have much motivation to me either. She seems smart, and likable but I have no idea what her specific goal is. The mother seems to be the most driven character so far, and also the one in a position to do something about it. Right now, she steals the show for me. 

R definetly carries the 'I'm a villain' vibe and I like the tension he adds. If you do decide to remove meeting him per other suggestions, maybe the feelings of seeing him could be transfer to the banners?

Does she dread seeing the next banner go up because of whose it will be? That's what I had thought, until it was explained in the next lines. I felt a little let down that she is immediatly 'relieved' because it won't be hers. Might be just me though.

Thanks for sharing!

Edited by Sarah B
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Too lazy to read what other people have written rn so for now I'll go in blind.

As I go:

pg 1

-Is the first half of the page new or am I just misremembering? Rn it feels like it takes a while for us to get into scene and the first couple of paragraphs don't give me much to latch onto frankly

-The most interesting part of the omen here is that Is doesn't believe it. That part tells us about her character, and the bird itself doesn't matter to me much. I'm about ready to be done with this bird by the end of the page (sorry bird)

pg 3

-I think Is trying to distract O is new? I like it. How the chars deal with the omen is more interesting than the omen itself. 

pg 4

-I like how Is is concerned about O. Tells us about her character and is a show rather than tell situation 

-Is keeps calling O "the girl." Is O younger than Is? The way she's authoritative made me expect her to be older

pg 5

-Okay we get our answer about O's age. I feel like there has to be an interesting explanation for why a servant younger than the princess gets to boss her around (even if the story doesn't know what it is yet) and I want to hear it. 

-The phrase "normal young woman" sticks out to me here. I'd like to know more about what Is thinks normal young women do/are like. Might be reading too far into this but it seems to imply that Is has internalized that she is/was abnormal for a girl and I'd like to hear why. I think I'm latching onto this because it's the first real hint of character conflict we get. 

-I feel like I'm supposed to care about C as a place but I'm not there yet

pg 6

-I think I'm not as engaged here as the story wants me to be. Lot of exposition here without a lot to latch onto that helps me really picture the situation. 

pg 7

-Still exposition but more interesting to me than the previous page because it has direct consequences for our characters. Maybe that's what was missing before 

pg 9

-Gonna be honest not super excited to watch them ignore what the last few pages were talking about and work on a mundane task instead

pg 10

-okay I'm more interested now. This mage stuff catches my eyes more than the foreign conquerors

pg 11-12

-I'm starting to put together more stuff about the duke, magic, and the fragile political situation. I like what I'm getting, but I need a bit more.

Overall:

For me the biggest change (unless I just missed this on the first read lol) is more of a focus on the mage rebellion and how Is thinks that's especially relevant now. This makes the conflict here about the mages more interesting to me and I'd like to know why it's such a tense situation. Scratch that, I'd like to see why it's a tense situation with my own eyes (or Is' own eyes, in this case). We know she's anticipating another mage rebellion that could bring everything down, and all that's left is to hammer that in. 

The conflict about C is still at square 1 imo. We know the potential havoc the mage rebellion can cause from the missing banner, but we get no such indication for what C is capable of. It's important for O, sure, but O's not going to open up to Is so our protagonist here really has no personal connection to one of the main conflicts presented. Plus I'm not sure how much of a threat they actually are. Mages are inherently powerful because magic, but idk how powerful these conquerers are. 

I feel like what I'm missing the most here is character motivation and conflict for Is. We get bits here and there but it really is sparse. Last draft she said her motivation was to get married to serve the family and we don't even get that much here. What does she want, what skills/power is she going to use to get it, and how does that relate to the larger conflict presented? If the story can't answer those questions, then maybe large pieces of the story need to change. Because right now Is feels more like someone who is pushed around by others than a protagonist with a story to tell. 

The interactions with O are definitely improved but tbh I'm not sure how they connect to Is' story or the larger conflict. They help flesh out Is' personality but not her role in the story, really. Unless O is going to be a super important character my instinct is to say cut these altogether and use that space to connect Is to the main plot more in a way that still fleshes out her personality. Same comments about the bird. Love what it shows about her, but it doesn't really seem relevant to the larger story. There are definitely authors who make less plot relevant character moments work though, so I can't say that's the only good way to deal with this.

Best of luck moving forward! :) 

 

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2 hours ago, Sarah B said:

The MC doesn't seem to have much motivation to me either. She seems smart, and likable but I have no idea what her specific goal is. The mother seems to be the most driven character so far, and also the one in a position to do something about it. Right now, she steals the show for me. 

R definetly carries the 'I'm a villain' vibe and I like the tension he adds. If you do decide to remove meeting him per other suggestions, maybe the feelings of seeing him could be transfer to the banners?

Does she dread seeing the next banner go up because of whose it will be? That's what I had thought, until it was explained in the next lines. I felt a little let down that she is immediatly 'relieved' because it won't be hers. Might be just me though.

Hopefully the new angle I'm working on will address some of the motivation issues.  We will see how it actually works. 

I still do want to have some intro to R in chapter 1, though it will look different because of other changes.  Chapter 3 currently opens with a conversation between him and Is-, and Chapter 2 is the duke's PoV, so I want to have at least a very basic "who is this guy?" detail before then. 

She dreads seeing the next banner go up because it implies her father's death.  Is being let down by the relief a hope that she would have bigger goals? Or something else? 

1 hour ago, Ace of Hearts said:

For me the biggest change (unless I just missed this on the first read lol) is more of a focus on the mage rebellion and how Is thinks that's especially relevant now. This makes the conflict here about the mages more interesting to me and I'd like to know why it's such a tense situation. Scratch that, I'd like to see why it's a tense situation with my own eyes (or Is' own eyes, in this case). We know she's anticipating another mage rebellion that could bring everything down, and all that's left is to hammer that in. 

Good news! We're narrowing in on the magic conflict for round 3 (hopefully I'll be able to combine it with chapter 2 in under 5k words so that people can skim or read as they feel without spending another week just on chapter 1), which should give me a far better opportunity to focus in on where things are going. 

 

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Overall: This chapter read to me more like a study than a chapter. Is doesn’t seem to have any goals, other than the very broad one of “making peace among the nobles,” which seems to be as much her parents’ goal as hers. We don’t yet have an inciting incident, and I don’t have a clear idea of the kind of story this is going to be or the kind of conflict I should expect. Similarly, I don’t yet have a good sense of Is herself besides “born into a family of politicians, seems to be nice enough.”

I didn’t read the last version (sorry! By the time my slow self got around to it you had already subbed this new version) but I wouldn’t say the information here is unclear, I’m just not certain why it matters, which is to say there’s no immediate connection to the situation at hand – except at the very end of the chapter when Is’s mother calls her in to help with paperwork. It’s certainly fine to slide some information into the chapter that will help build to later conflicts, but my sense is that there is too much of it here.

To hold together, I think the chapter needs a lot more tension: a clearer inciting incident, sooner, and a better idea of Is’s personal goals (there’s more to it than “helping dad keep the peace” surely?) and how she fits into the conflict ahead.

You asked about how to portray a character whose primary motivation is to keep the status quo, and I think that’s a fair challenge to ask about. I think the trick is going to be portray Is actively pursuing those interests and the ways they bring her into conflict with those around her. Aside from just helping her mother when asked, what is she doing on her own initiative – does she have to have meetings with people she doesn’t like, get into uncomfortable situations, go behind her family’s back, do something that goes against her beliefs or the beliefs of people around her because the end justifies the means, etc.  

Also consider Is’s personal stake in accomplishing the status quo: Is she doing this because she feels trapped by her/her family’s status and has no choice? Does she do it because she really buys into right to rule/responsibility of rule narratives? For love of her family? Etc.

As for showing magic exists in the world, I don’t think you need to worry about that too much unless it’s relevant to what’s actually happening. Readers will have picked it up knowing it’s a fantasy novel, presumably, and if they’ve read the prologue they already know that magic exists and is not particularly well-regarded. It doesn’t seem that anything more is required for this chapter.

As I read

I like the opening lines. In the second paragraph, though, I’m a bit lost. It seems like we’re now referring to something specific, but there’s no antecedent other than the idea in the first paragraph?

Why is O suspicious? Does she think Is is lying about the falcon?

P3 “…something she only remembered to do when flustered” great detail here.

I was interested when O came into the scene and seemed shaken up about something, but was disappointed when I realized it was all about politics that are – according to the POV character – very far away and irrelevant to our current situation.

Is is kind of taking her time about responding to her mother’s summons…

“The Duke of Tr arrived last night.” This is presented like a really significant piece of information, but 1. Even though I recognize the location from the prologue, I don’t understand how it changes things and 2. Especially if the place is so isolated, how on earth does the duke manage to show up – apparently – unexpected?

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Hi! Sorry this is so late. You've probably already done revisions on this, but here are my thoughts:

pg1 Lots of His and Her's going around all the capitalizations make it a little wonky to read, and almost make it seem ironically reverent, imo

I'm not sure what you changed about the falcon scene this time around, but for some reason I didn't like it as much this time around. Sorry, I know that's not desrciptive at all, not really all that helpful. 

pg 4+5 in answer to your questions, the information about Ca is more clear this time around, but as a reader I;m still not sure why it's useful. 

pg 6 "Why would C take any of the coastal..." I sure hope this isn't a question that will be important later, because I have no idea. 

pg 7 I still like the commentary about history here. I am very interested in the magic rebellion

pg 8 I also like the detail of the voices going silent. 

"willowy, feminine" This explanation makes a lot more sense this time

So, at the end of the document, in answer to the question I'm not really sure what Is's motivations are. So far, it just seems like "being involved with the royal family" but I'm not really sure what she gains personally. Other than that, I thought it was good. There were a few spots that had improved clarity, and I didn't find any spots that were less clear, so good job on a nice revision. 

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