C_Vallion

9.20.2021 - C_Vallion - Price of Peace - Prologue RevA - (L,G) - 3372 Words

13 posts in this topic

Hello, All!

Narrowly beat my submission time from Chapter 13, but hey. It’s still Monday. At least where I live.

So.  The new prologue.  I’m doing a writing class this fall, and wanted to use one of the assignments due for that as an opportunity to start getting my ideas for the prologue nailed down better.  Sorry to jump way out of order! 

I’m hoping this creates a far better setup for everything in Part 1 by dealing with some of the “real magic” up front so that what is and isn’t legal is more easily distinguished in the early chapters.  I was hoping to find a way to include a little more about the conflict between Al’s parents and the royal family, but I don’t think there’s a good way to do that without doing more damage to the pacing.

Content Warning: Mild gore, infant death, general peril, mild language?

Lots of questions:

1.      Is it clear what’s happening while the spell is going wrong?

2.      How is the pacing?

3.      Does this seem like a helpful setup for understanding from the start that

  • Most magic is illegal.
  • Magic can go horribly wrong.
  • Al’s family history is …complicated.

4.      Are there additional questions/expectations set up here that you feel haven’t been addressed yet or should have been addressed already?

5.      Any confusing/boring things?

6.      Thoughts on characters/emotional connection up front?

7.      Points of interest/engagement?

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Hi! As I read:

p2 - It might make things clearer if you used separate words for magical and non-magical healers. For example, you could call the healer here a midwife (or a doctor or a nurse or something), to make super clear that she isn't a mage healer.

p8 - I'm not clear on who the person saying 'I still have his Oathband' is, but it seems like it might be important?

p10 - I'm not sure whether B is trying to send everyone away because more dangerous magic is about to be released, or because the physical building is about to come down and he doesn't want them to be crushed.

p11 - Okay, just the building coming down then! If you mention that B's magic reserves are gone when he wakes up, I think the threat would be clearer for that last section.

 

Generally, I think the prologue is good. Most of the important things are clear and easy to follow, and the action is exciting enough that it doesn't feel like an exposition dump.

1. Yes, the action around the spell going wrong is clear. I also really like the description of how and why the spell is going wrong.

2. I like the pacing. The tension held up well and there weren't any slow points.

3. All those things are clear from this prologue, and I think it will be helpful context for understanding Part 1. The only thing I think you might need to nail down more is that spellstones are safe and not prone to the same dangers as cast magic. (Though that could wait for chapter one.)

4.You probably want to get some fresh eyes on this since I already know a lot of how things work in this setting, but to me, the only thing that stood out as not being explained was the Oathbands (and also the Vowbands). It sticks out because they are mentioned quite a few times but it never actually explains what they are.

This might also be a good opportunity to show the tension between people from different countries, since it's important to Al's plot and his political situation isn't always super clear from his POV. Maybe if the interfering midwife has an issue specifically with B's nationality (as well as his magic), and said something prejudiced, it would clue the reader in?

5. I think I mentioned everything already.

6. I felt sorry for B, though the prologue didn't really get into characterisation with everything else going on. I think that's okay, though, since you can't focus on everything at the very start of the story.

7. It's difficult to guess what I would be thinking if I didn't know that Al is going to be a protag, but I'm pretty sure Al's situation would stick in my head, as well as the conflict surrounding the use of magic (it's very useful, but can go horribly wrong). Which is a good thing, considering where the story's going from here :)

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Starts with a bang! :-)

I think the magic parts were very clear mostly, but agree that a little more on the Oathbands would have helped. Especially the point where the MC's band for his wife is gone, I think the beat wasn't as strong as it could have been with a little more info. 

The statement that haveing twins without magic is a death sentence seems a little exadurated, but maybe an anxious father's nerves justify that. 

The antagonist midwife felt a little thrown in. I think her name might be missing from the draft with "_" in it's place. I think having her character makes a lot of sense and movies things well but maybe a little more on her, or her impact on the situation would be nice. She seems to just apear out of nowhere in the story after a brief mention but her motivations and actions have a huge effect. 

The MC is naturally sympathetic, as a reader I want the poor guy to save his family.

The part after the blast was a bit confusing to picture. I remember from the previous draft about the ice sphere, but from this version I don't get that. The situation with the roof collapsing is also hard to put together. I don't know if this is a situation where more on the setting before the crisis would help or if it's just a symptom of me missing the shorthand for what a castle is like since I'm not a fantasy reader. Maybe neither :-) I should leave this point to those more versed in fantasy I expect.

Well done, thanks for sharing!

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as i go:

pg 1

-i think its hard for me to be impartial since i've sort of been here since the beginning with this, but so far i like it. You’ve set the priorities straight and laid down everything where I can see it. Introducing mage healers being against the laws right away? Awesome. I know what to expect going in. there’s going to be a conflict with magic laws. That's way better than before, I think!

-this first big paragraph already tells us so much without being overwhelming (though im not sure what it looks like to fresh eyes) and i love it, huge improvement. 

 pg 3

“And funneled it into the form it was most familiar with” interesting. I like how you’re approaching the intro to magic

-also way more tension than the previous version

“If it wouldn't leave Al to fend” awww lil Al. this might not land as well for new readers (compared to how it landed for me). I feel like it's a little call back and I enjoy that! But being a prologue, it wouldn't hit me the same if I hadn't already read parts of this story.

pg 5

“A task that would only become more difficult as more blood” hmm is this sentence providing anything? Seems like common knowledge. Orrrr not common, but like you’re describing someone walking in mud, it’ll only become harder the longer they walk in the mud. We can assume that sort of information.

-i think the pacing falls a bit slow here, i notice a lot of mention of him focusing on her pulse. In fact, its mentioned like 7 times, 4 of them being on this page. You can probably cut some of that in order to keep the tension strong.

pg 10

“Father.” At first, I thought Br was saying this to Dw. 

pg 11

“choked out one last sleep spell” i wonder if this is the best way to phrase this. Seems like you wouldn't “choke out” a spell. also, and this is a mostly personal thing, around here some of the language feels.... over the top? I do think it fits the situation, but because ive only just met these characters i dont feel the same feelings that they are. idk if im describing this correctly. it just has that melodramatic feel which i think can be pretty dangerous territory.

i'll give you some examples of lines that felt melodramatic to me:

-any time "desperate sob/cry" is used (in fact, "desperate" is used 10 times. idk if thats too much but im laying it out there for you decide.)

-"barely holding back a sob"

-"Al sobbed into—" you know what, im gonna stop here and say any time "sob" is used. I think its the word sob that feels melodramatic to me. (its used 8 times if you were wondering ;))
 

On 9/20/2021 at 5:34 PM, C_Vallion said:

1.      Is it clear what’s happening while the spell is going wrong?

2.      How is the pacing?

3.      Does this seem like a helpful setup for understanding from the start that

  • Most magic is illegal.
  • Magic can go horribly wrong.
  • Al’s family history is …complicated.

4.      Are there additional questions/expectations set up here that you feel haven’t been addressed yet or should have been addressed already?

5.      Any confusing/boring things?

6.      Thoughts on characters/emotional connection up front?

7.      Points of interest/engagement?

1. it was clear to me!

2. I didn't notice any problems with pacing besides what i said in my lbls.

3. All those things seem to be addressed! you can always build on these things later as well.

4. I dont expect everything about the magic to be laid out in the first chapter. you could probably include a line or two more about the oathbands— actually, i think it sort of makes me more curious if you don't describe everything right away. its hard to truly tell what else should be included or expanded upon when im not a new reader :(

5. just the nameless midwife was confusing. it felt a bit jarring to have her pop up like that. she definitely annoyed me! which is good and means i was concerned for the other characters.

6. I guess i answered part of this above. but I agree that the midwife felt a bit forced in. not exactly out of place but definitely like you needed the push to get things where they need to be. she probably just needs to be introduced differently. 

7. I think i was most engaged in the beginning. it felt like a strong start to me. and the magic in general.

Edited by karamel
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As I go:

-Before I even start I have a comment lol. 3k words for a prologue is going to be a tough sell for me in any circumstances and I can only think of a few prologues as long as regular chapters that I feel like were justified being that long (Way of Kings being one of them), so that might influence how I react to it.

pg 1. Good first line! I don't remember what the original draft's was but I'm guessing this is better. :) 

-Is B saying this about pregnancies and childbirths as a whole, or this one in particular? 

pg 2-3. Really liking this so far

pg 4. Vow? Capital V makes me think it's a fantasy thing, and since all he's been talking about is magic I'm guessing this is some sort of magical marriage bond. I think we need a little bit more either way to get our footing, just one or two more words to add specificity to what's already there if possible 

pg 5 (top half). This might be my ADHD meds having worn off but I'm losing focus a bit here. The setup is really good and it hasn't really been developed much yet. Tbh this is where I would expect the prologue to begin wrapping up if I didn't know the page count. 

pg 6. I think we need a bit more on the midwife before this. Also is the underscore a placeholder or are we not supposed to know her name? I didn't comment before because I assumed it was the former but if it's the latter then the underscore thing is kinda off-putting to me. The rest of the story doesn't indicate that it's about getting cutesy with language/diction, so this feels out of place if it's not a placeholder. 

-Yeah the more I think about it this moment really is not working for me and I'm not quite sure why since it seems fine when I play out the events in my head. I think it's the fact that this new threat kinda comes out of nowhere and I wasn't looking out for the physical separation of mage and recipient as much as general magic going awry. Maybe more focus on the flow of energy could help? If it's a big point how it's flowing from his body into hers (which was mentioned but wasn't at the forefront of my mind), we'll know what it means when he's separated from her and it has nowhere to flow but out. 

pg 7. So is the magic going loose making a physical storm? I'm having a bit of trouble tracking the events here.

pg 8. The fact that a the opening conflict has already been resolved makes it harder for me to pick this up. Could this be worked into the previous scene? We get a brief glimpse of A, maybe, and B is able to do something by at least protecting him? 

pg 9-11. To be blunt I don't feel a lot of motion in the scene. Again, the momentum that the first four pages build up is over by page 7, and on top of that it really feels like B is reiterating the same points. Makes sense since he's struggling to stay alive, but it's not helping me much from a story perspective. 

On 9/20/2021 at 8:34 PM, C_Vallion said:

1.      Is it clear what’s happening while the spell is going wrong?

2.      How is the pacing?

3.      Does this seem like a helpful setup for understanding from the start that

  • Most magic is illegal.
  • Magic can go horribly wrong.
  • Al’s family history is …complicated.

4.      Are there additional questions/expectations set up here that you feel haven’t been addressed yet or should have been addressed already?

5.      Any confusing/boring things?

6.      Thoughts on characters/emotional connection up front?

7.      Points of interest/engagement?

1. Unfortunately, not really. This is prescriptive but what I'd like to see is some combo of a specific tangible detail of the spell going wrong and a general summary from B.

2. Great for the first four pages! Then it seems to slow down, even as the action itself is ramping up. Though that could have been me being confused. And I think it's really less of a pacing thing for me and more of a narrative focus thing. The question raised at the beginning is "will the spell go wrong?" When it does, I'm less concerned about the how since the question that hooked me is answered. I can guess that it's going to be bad, and it will be difficult to catch me up to speed enough to really understand what's happening. Right when the spell goes wrong is when I want the prologue to be wrapping up. 

3. First two points, yes! Third point, I didn't get as strong of an impression of. Which to me isn't a bad thing. Seems like a fairly standard mixed-race/foreign parent dynamic from this alone, which again isn't bad.

4. I don't think so! Though the conversation about this sort of thing that Is has with Is--n in chapter 13 could be useful earlier on. 

5. All mentioned above, basically. I think this prologue is trying to accomplish too many things and take up too much space, tbh.

6. Al is the person who matters and it seems like the story is on the right track by trying to make a big deal out of his connection to B, but... like I said, after the spell goes wrong I'm less engaged in what follows. The stuff in the first few pages about how B doesn't want to leave leadership to Al honestly hits me a lot harder than the end does. I think the story can streamline and simplify what happens at the end. All we really need is one moment, and if we only get one moment we'll know exactly what to linger on. And as I mentioned before, I think this is more powerful before or while the spell is going wrong rather than after. If the midwife can get through, there's no reason Al can't wander in after her. I bet he's concerned about his mom, after all.

...I know I'm not supposed to give prescriptive advice and that was a lot of it. Maybe you've caught onto this but when I give advice like this it's less "you should do this" and more "here's what I would do, which might let you figure out what my real problems with the scene are better than I can articulate."

7. A small thing is that I really liked how B is trying to do something so far out of his expertise even though he's a mage doing magic. It adds a lot of implied depth to the magic to know that mage specializations are so distinct. And as I mentioned before, I really like the setup/hook. 

 

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Well, it at least seems like this version works far better than the old one, even if it still needs some adjustment.

On 9/22/2021 at 2:59 PM, RedBlue said:

p10 - I'm not sure whether B is trying to send everyone away because more dangerous magic is about to be released, or because the physical building is about to come down and he doesn't want them to be crushed.

p11 - Okay, just the building coming down then! If you mention that B's magic reserves are gone when he wakes up, I think the threat would be clearer for that last section.

On 9/24/2021 at 6:23 AM, Sarah B said:

The part after the blast was a bit confusing to picture. I remember from the previous draft about the ice sphere, but from this version I don't get that. The situation with the roof collapsing is also hard to put together. I don't know if this is a situation where more on the setting before the crisis would help or if it's just a symptom of me missing the shorthand for what a castle is like since I'm not a fantasy reader. Maybe neither :-) I should leave this point to those more versed in fantasy I expect.

On 9/24/2021 at 8:19 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 8. The fact that a the opening conflict has already been resolved makes it harder for me to pick this up. Could this be worked into the previous scene? We get a brief glimpse of A, maybe, and B is able to do something by at least protecting him? 

pg 9-11. To be blunt I don't feel a lot of motion in the scene. Again, the momentum that the first four pages build up is over by page 7, and on top of that it really feels like B is reiterating the same points. Makes sense since he's struggling to stay alive, but it's not helping me much from a story perspective. 

So. The question that all of these comments raise... does it seem like I can just cut it when he loses control of the spell? Or do we need to see any of the aftermath to get the scale of the damage across?

I don't like cutting the Vowband going missing or the interactions with Al, but can see that it's going to be hard to include those in a way that doesn't feel tacked on. At this point, I can't see any good way of having Al waltz into the room earlier, since there would probably be other servants and staff keeping him out of the way of the whole process.  It seems more feasible for people to assume the midwife is supposed to be there and let her back in (though I clearly need to rework some of the details around her being there.)

If Al is likely to be on any sort of back-of-book blurb, and we see him in Chapter 1 when Isr- is mentioning him being in the capital for the first time since the horrible magic accident that killed his parents, is that enough to connect him to the prologue? Or do you think there's likely to be confusion there? Going to be running this past a couple people who haven't read chapters, so that should provide some fresher eyes on where things stand without knowledge of what's happening later.

I figure the main points that need to be gotten across are that

1. magic is mostly illegal

2. some support for why that is (it going wrong in horrible ways)

3. contrast from the more acceptable spellstones when we get to them (I figure without any picture of "real" magic until the middle of part 2, the scope of the world's magic is really skewed early on without something along these lines)

4. That Al's dad was both foreign and a mage, though I think most of the significance of most of that can come later. 

On 9/24/2021 at 6:23 AM, Sarah B said:

The antagonist midwife felt a little thrown in. I think her name might be missing from the draft with "_" in it's place. I think having her character makes a lot of sense and movies things well but maybe a little more on her, or her impact on the situation would be nice. She seems to just apear out of nowhere in the story after a brief mention but her motivations and actions have a huge effect. 

On 9/24/2021 at 6:01 PM, karamel said:

5. just the nameless midwife was confusing. it felt a bit jarring to have her pop up like that. she definitely annoyed me! which is good and means i was concerned for the other characters.

On 9/24/2021 at 8:19 PM, Ace of Hearts said:

pg 6. I think we need a bit more on the midwife before this. Also is the underscore a placeholder or are we not supposed to know her name? I didn't comment before because I assumed it was the former but if it's the latter then the underscore thing is kinda off-putting to me. The rest of the story doesn't indicate that it's about getting cutesy with language/diction, so this feels out of place if it's not a placeholder. 

-Yeah the more I think about it this moment really is not working for me and I'm not quite sure why since it seems fine when I play out the events in my head. I think it's the fact that this new threat kinda comes out of nowhere and I wasn't looking out for the physical separation of mage and recipient as much as general magic going awry. Maybe more focus on the flow of energy could help? If it's a big point how it's flowing from his body into hers (which was mentioned but wasn't at the forefront of my mind), we'll know what it means when he's separated from her and it has nowhere to flow but out. 

Will definitely have to figure this out.  She does at least have a name now, so that's something.  I blame that oversight on rushing through edits and submitting while simultaneously planning a lineup for a soccer game.

I did make some adjustments, and will have to see how those read for the next group I run it past. 

 

Thanks so much for the feedback!

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Personally, I think you should keep the interactions with Al, and find some way to make the logistics clearer. Seeing a character’s trauma is different from just hearing about it after the event, and given that this is fairly important to what makes Al the way he is, I think it’s important for him to actually make an appearance in this prologue.

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Not peeking at the comments, just a quick note to say I've started reading this, finally :rolleyes: 

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On 10/4/2021 at 1:20 PM, C_Vallion said:

So. The question that all of these comments raise... does it seem like I can just cut it when he loses control of the spell? Or do we need to see any of the aftermath to get the scale of the damage across?

I think you can cut it there, yeah. Since B knows his stuff, we can infer the amount of damage it will cause based on how worried he is about the magic going out of control. And if there is lingering doubt I don't think it's even a bad thing. For me at least it would make me pay closer attention to Al's comments about his past to infer specifics of what else happened at that time. 

On 10/4/2021 at 1:20 PM, C_Vallion said:

I don't like cutting the Vowband going missing or the interactions with Al, but can see that it's going to be hard to include those in a way that doesn't feel tacked on. At this point, I can't see any good way of having Al waltz into the room earlier, since there would probably be other servants and staff keeping him out of the way of the whole process.  It seems more feasible for people to assume the midwife is supposed to be there and let her back in (though I clearly need to rework some of the details around her being there.)

I think there are ways to have Al waltz into the room and have it work if that's a path you're interested in. After all, it's not like little kids are known for sitting still and being easy to keep track of. Though I'm sure it's also not the only solution. Another option is to cut it here and have Al engage with it in a memory in part 1. Yeah reliving memories is a bit tricky but I think it can be done well and is better than having the prologue feel slow imo. 

On 10/4/2021 at 1:20 PM, C_Vallion said:

If Al is likely to be on any sort of back-of-book blurb, and we see him in Chapter 1 when Isr- is mentioning him being in the capital for the first time since the horrible magic accident that killed his parents, is that enough to connect him to the prologue? Or do you think there's likely to be confusion there? Going to be running this past a couple people who haven't read chapters, so that should provide some fresher eyes on where things stand without knowledge of what's happening later.

I think it's fine, yeah. Even if someone doesn't get it immediately too it's not a huge deal imo. Some prologues barely connect to the main book at all so I think you have some wiggle room here. 

 

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So, sorry for the delay. I hope there is something useful in the following comments.

- Nice first line: I've got smuggling, and mages, and an injured mage (presumably). Decent amount of tension to keep me reading.

- “little time to grieve one lost child” - But surely you just do it afterwards, as you would if anyone dies in childbirth?

- "prune back one generation" - So, if there twins, everybody dies? Seems unlikely, but that's how I read this line.

- “If he let too much power funnel through, it would stop her heart entirely…balance of the spell.” - This passage has tension, and good personal stakes, but it's too far from the start of the story. For me, the first page is quite dry, factual with background that does not engage as much at the start as a passage like this one.

Double space between sentences is archaic, IMO, a remnant of typewriters, I believe. Publishers / editors will excise all of these. Best to do it yourself, even if at the end, before submitting it anywhere.

- "leave Al to fend for himself." - This is very low key, IMO. Like a kid havng to get their own lunch because their mom is late home. Not like both his parents dying.

- The two/three pages before the POV break are urgent and exciting. I think this is much better than the first version in read. The opening few pages are still slow for me though, a lot of background much of which isn't relevant to the prologue. It doesn't sweep me away into the novel, which is what the opening should do. It's better, without a doubt, but I think this first few pages are still an issue due to their being quite 'dry'.

- "Then darkness." - This is the second fade to black in the prologue. I think that's two too many (as it's a cliché), but at best, I'd go with one, as two is...repetitive. I think you could cut this last line, or even the last two. Personally, I like a line interupted, like "A moment later came noise, and--"

Overall

I think this is a good improvement on the previous version. I think it still could be streamlined more, especially the first few pages, but as a whole it is pacier, more direct, and the change of POV to Br is very effective. Classic application of WE's advice of putting the POV in the head of the character with the most at stake. Good job :) 

There is quite a lot of language stuff, for me; little details and wording (in some places) that is vague, noncommittal, hesitant, when it would be much more engaging to (have the character) commit to a particular thought or idea. That's all editing detail and craft fine tuning, which can come in later edits, of course.

I still think there is scope to cut more background from tis prologue, only bring in details when they are absolutely needed for story or character reasons, which much of the background in the opening pages is not, IMO. I'm not sure I agree entirely with the following quote from M. John Harrison, but it's interesting food for thought, no mistake.

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Lots of questions:

1.      Is it clear what’s happening while the spell is going wrong? - I thought so.

2.      How is the pacing? - Generally good, l although issues with the first few pages, IMO.

3.      Does this seem like a helpful setup for understanding from the start that

  • Most magic is illegal. - Clear enough, I thought. Although a smidge confusing the some is but some isn't.
  • Magic can go horribly wrong. - Yup.
  • Al’s family history is …complicated. - To a point. Not sure it's quite clear how it is complicated, and everyone's family tends to have some complication (or is that just me? I doubt it!!).

4.      Are there additional questions/expectations set up here that you feel haven’t been addressed yet or should have been addressed already? - A prologue should be posing questions and making promises to the reader, but should not IMO be answering anything.

5.      Any confusing/boring things? - See critique comments, to summarise: too much background in front, still, IMO.

6.      Thoughts on characters/emotional connection up front? - Difficult because (as I understand it) with Br dying and not being in the book, we're not in the POV of any of the story's main characters. So, no real lasting connection. I guess the retainer will still be in, but we don't get much sense of him, other than being told he's capable, and seeing some evidence of that. I suppose I can form some bond to him as 'dependable retainer', but that's not an emotional connection.

7.      Points of interest/engagement? - Honestly, not much. Al is orphaned: sad but not rare or especially engaging. Magic is illegal, but actually it's not, some magic is permitted, by some people, at certain times? Bit confusing and therefore not so much engaging. I think that strand could be clearer, and simpler would be clearer. Definitive statement at the start, something like 'All magic is illegal unless you are a court appointed mage.'

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23 hours ago, Robinski said:

- "prune back one generation" - So, if there twins, everybody dies? Seems unlikely, but that's how I read this line.

This is meant to come across as an exaggerated/myth-ified cultural perception, of the gods cutting off family lines as punishment, but it seems to be coming across too literally, and I don't know if there's a good way to add the necessary context there to make it work (contrasting the two cultural beliefs while hanging a lantern on the detail of "maybe if you hadn't banned your healing magic, you wouldn't have to blame the gods for this") without delaying the more immediate tension even more...ugh.

On 10/19/2021 at 8:54 AM, Robinski said:

Double space between sentences is archaic, IMO, a remnant of typewriters, I believe. Publishers / editors will excise all of these. Best to do it yourself, even if at the end, before submitting it anywhere.

Ugh. I really need to get better at doing a find/replace on this when I'm done with edits. Apparently, over the years, I've just developed the muscle memory to space twice after periods without realizing it.  @Snakenaps already yells at me for this regularly.

On 10/19/2021 at 8:54 AM, Robinski said:

- The two/three pages before the POV break are urgent and exciting. I think this is much better than the first version in read. The opening few pages are still slow for me though, a lot of background much of which isn't relevant to the prologue. It doesn't sweep me away into the novel, which is what the opening should do. It's better, without a doubt, but I think this first few pages are still an issue due to their being quite 'dry'.

- "Then darkness." - This is the second fade to black in the prologue. I think that's two too many (as it's a cliché), but at best, I'd go with one, as two is...repetitive. I think you could cut this last line, or even the last two. Personally, I like a line interupted, like "A moment later came noise, and--"

Thanks! Good to know.  Both that it's looking better than it was and that I still have more background to cut. I have a feeling I will always have more background to cut.

On 10/19/2021 at 8:54 AM, Robinski said:

it's interesting food for thought, no mistake.

I have some choice words for M. John Harrison...

But also some thoughts I'd like your opinion on in that direction.

I do know I get too excited about a lot of my background details and include too many of them, but I also think there's a certain amount of background knowledge necessary for a reader to intuit subtleties of cultural and social interactions.

It may be "the great clomping foot of nerdism" and "literalizing the urge to invent," but I almost feel like that's one of the reasons I love interesting worldbuilding as a reader.  It hits the same part of my brain that lit up when my dad explained to me how refrigerators work when I was a kid and sent me straight off on an engineering and R&D path.

This is probably why one of my favorite random details about the Stormlight Archives is Roshar's size/mass reducing its gravitational pull and enabling the development of creatures that would collapse under their own weight in our world (one of my husband's biomechanics classes covered the rough concept of how far an animal can fall and survive based on its size/mass/bone structure.  Elephants and giraffes don't do well in those theoretical discussions). I know very few readers are concerned about that side of things, but in general I do think the comparable cultural/social circumstances would spark questions and interest.

They might not see a chasmfiend and go "Hey. That seems really weird. Why does that work?" and wonder about what other implications are there. Unless they have a biomechanics/engineering background.

But (if presented in the right way) they might see "twins are the gods' way of pruning back a generation" and say "Hey. That seems really weird. Why do they believe that?" and wonder what other implications there are and what it means for the characters they will hopefully care about and how those characters understand their world. 

In this case, the conflict of "We decided to ban our magic, and now we're blaming the gods for the natural consequences of that. Maybe we need our magic back." Vs. "This guy just got himself and various others killed with his magic usage. Maybe we should double-down on our anti-magic sentiments" is central to the book, so in my head, that worldbuilding detail seems really central to the plot, and is something that only Br, as an outsider, is likely to recognize for what it is.  I'm just not sure how to get it to imply the related questions instead of the blunt "that doesn't make sense" that is currently coming across.

The author certainly has to be capable of implying the correct questions for it to work, which I'm often not, because I'm not good at cutting out the details that are actually irrelevant (yeah. I lean toward Harrison's "exhaustive survey" in that regard...and know that's a problem if I'm not writing encyclopedias).  But if you can pick up your characters and plot and shove them into another world and have all of the same things proceed in exactly the same way, why bother writing sci-fi/fantasy in the first place? Why not just set it in 2021 Iowa?

So how do we sift through the details to figure out which ones are implying the right questions, or would imply the right questions if reworded, and which ones are unnecessary and only fit for encyclopedia entries? 

Thoughts?

On 10/19/2021 at 9:05 AM, Robinski said:

Most magic is illegal. - Clear enough, I thought. Although a smidge confusing the some is but some isn't.

On 10/19/2021 at 9:05 AM, Robinski said:

Magic is illegal, but actually it's not, some magic is permitted, by some people, at certain times? Bit confusing and therefore not so much engaging. I think that strand could be clearer, and simpler would be clearer. Definitive statement at the start, something like 'All magic is illegal unless you are a court appointed mage.'

Good to know that this still needs more clarification. I haven't yet found a way to provide contrast between the legal and illegal magic here without killing the pacing entirely. 

We get more of that contrast called out in Chapter 2, but some of the information is still muddled here...

Ultimately, the simple, clear components are: There are two forms of magic. Cast magic and spellstones.  Spellstones are always legal.  Cast spells are always illegal, except the fire spell and sleep spell. 

If I spell it out that concisely here without an accompanying encyclopedia article, is it going to create additional confusion of "What are spellstones?" or "Why are these spells the exception?" Or "Why are the restrictions so convoluted?" And is that going to be even more frustrating/non-engaging?

Do you have any thoughts on that? Suggestions? Observations of obvious holes in my problem that I'm too close to it to see and need to poke at more?

On 10/19/2021 at 9:05 AM, Robinski said:

To a point. Not sure it's quite clear how it is complicated, and everyone's family tends to have some complication (or is that just me? I doubt it!!).

Complicated probably isn't the right word there. Because you're right. "Complicated" is sort of normal. I guess it's more awareness that Al's parents didn't exactly sit well with the rest of the kingdom, and that there's good reason to expect him to not be welcomed with open arms among the court.

On 10/19/2021 at 9:05 AM, Robinski said:

4.      Are there additional questions/expectations set up here that you feel haven’t been addressed yet or should have been addressed already? - A prologue should be posing questions and making promises to the reader, but should not IMO be answering anything.

This was mostly in regard to things like the magic issues that you mentioned or the comment about twins being a death sentence. More "Are there details you feel you still need clarification on to have a sense of what's going on?"  But I think that got answered with other comments. 

On 10/19/2021 at 9:05 AM, Robinski said:

Thoughts on characters/emotional connection up front?

I actually think the direction I was looking for this to go was answered more in the next question, with:

On 10/19/2021 at 9:05 AM, Robinski said:

Al is orphaned: sad but not rare or especially engaging.

Is this just going to be a common issue with the protagonist-being-orphaned trope? Is there a way to make B's connection with him engaging enough that we're glad to see he's doing alright when we see Al again a decade later in a few pages?

Ultimately, the magic is the bigger deal through here, anyway, as Al's childhood trauma isn't a big focus of the book. It's present as a thing he mostly has a healthy relationship with now, and shapes where his character is at the start of the story, but his plotline is more focused on how he feels about the magic laws, knowing that the restrictions on magic and the magic itself both had a hand in his family's deaths. Which is another reason I have it as a prologue instead of a flashback.  A flashback later on feels like it would lean far more into the angsty-protagonist-backstory direction than would be relevant for Al.  I just have to figure out how to get it all to work...easy, right? :blink:

 

As always, thanks so much for your thoughts, both for poking at things that still need improvement and for giving me directions to point the problem-solving side of my brain at and let it wander.  Your feedback is always appreciated!

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On 10/20/2021 at 8:58 AM, C_Vallion said:

@Snakenaps already yells at me for this regularly.

Heh heh heh

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