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Gial
June 15th, 2006, 04:48 PM
This is a fantasy "novel", if you will, that I'm attempting to start. I have a plot ready and a plan for the first part of the novel but the rest is a blank slate, so hopefully some of you can help me along. Here is Part 1 of the prologue; I want to get a feel for the response before I post anything else:

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The stars gave barely enough light for the old man to make out what was ahead of him as he stumbled through the undergrowth of the woodlands. His legs burned like fire and his chest was beginning to ache from the effort of running up and down the hills of the Salira Plains. The pain in his bad knee had finally subsided to a dull throbbing. He never would have imagined that he was capable of such vigorous physical stress, but adrenaline and desperation coursed through his veins. Allowing the grief to take hold now would be a grave mistake. Already he was wondering if he had chosen the wrong path.

At the pace he was going, he knew he could not be very far from the city. He was unsure which direction he was going, but southwest was his best estimate. Never before in his life had he traveled outside the walls of Shanur, and he prayed that somewhere ahead of him there was safety. That prayer, he worried, would most likely turn out to be futile. The Fenori were renowned for their determination and success. Surely they could be outwitted.

As he tore his way through bushes and branches, realization of his position finally struck. If he managed to escape the Fenori’s hunt, he would have to leave his life behind and begin a new one. But how much of his life did he even have left? The name Alanor Essea would disappear, fade into the history books as the traitor to the Vellidai bloodline, to Logoss itself. Would he ever be safe? Would he ever be able to rest his eyes for a moment without worrying that the Fenori were behind him? They had never lost their prey before.

Still, he had his own methods of survival. He had not become Bansil Vellidai’s advisor merely because of his wisdom. Neither of them had ever said it aloud, but he had doubled as Bansil’s personal guard. His power in magic was unmatched in Shanur as far as he knew, and the Fenori relied solely on their muscles and their claws. Against two or three he might have a chance, but how many would Bansil send to hunt him down? His betrayal was not one that Bansil would easily forget, if it were possible for him to forget it at all.

His thoughts were brought back to reality in one abrupt moment as his foot caught on a root jutting up from the ground. His momentum flung him onto the ground with a sickening thump. For a second, he lay in the dirt, trying to catch his breath. The root has twisted his ankle, and because he was no longer focusing on the path ahead of him, each bruise and cut and injury came flaring back in one painful instant. He shakily pushed himself up to a sitting position and leaned back against the trunk of the same tree that had brought him down. Stretching his leg out, agony flashed through his bad knee in waves, numbing the pain of his other wounds for a short time.

It seemed an eternity before he managed to push the pain of everything into the back of his mind; the pain of his injuries as well as the pain of knowing he had thrown away everything he had worked to accomplish. Anguish finally overwhelmed him, and he broke down into a fit of sobs. It had been years since he cried, and the rush of emotions was foreign to him. Had he made a mistake? A few hours before he would have told himself that what he was doing was for the good of the nation, for the good of the people.

And what if he had not acted? Well, he did not want to consider that. He was doing the right thing. There was no other option. He had to take what he had stolen and hide it somewhere Bansil would never look, perhaps bury it. He could toss it into the Sushar Waters or hide in the mines of the Corenthir Mountains, if he managed to survive that long.

Gritting his teeth again, he grasped a branch of the tree behind him and pulled himself up. Pain ignited in his knee all over again, but he bore through it and shoved it into the depths of his mind. There were more important matters at hand than pain. He began to make his way in the same direction he had been traveling, limping over stones and plants. He had made the right choice.

BrianC
June 16th, 2006, 07:17 AM
Gial, I'll take a crack at this, but as you are brand-new to these boards, and I do not know how much exposure you have had to criticism in the past, let me say first that I'm going to be honest. Very honest.

Okay. There is not a lot that is technically 'wrong' with this passage. Spelling, subject-verb agreement, complete sentences: you seem to have a good grasp of the mechanics of writing. But, honestly, I found the excerpt a little dull and doubt that I would buy a book with this prologue.

You use a lot of words to say some very simple things and many of these words are quite passive. Moreover, your sentence construction is repetitive to the point of trance-inducing. Not to mention a few problems with consistency and concept. Look at the first paragraph:

The stars gave barely enough light for the old man to make out what was ahead of him as he stumbled through the undergrowth of the woodlands. His legs burned like fire and his chest was beginning to ache from the effort of running up and down the hills of the Salira Plains. The pain in his bad knee had finally subsided to a dull throbbing. He never would have imagined that he was capable of such vigorous physical stress, but adrenaline and desperation coursed through his veins. Allowing the grief to take hold now would be a grave mistake. Already he was wondering if he had chosen the wrong path.

Wordiness: The first sentence is 27 words, many of which are redundant or simply unnecessary. Compare with this:
The stars gave barely enough light for the old man to see as he stumbled through the undergrowth.That's 9 words cut without trying much, and I'm sure that the opening segment ("The stars ... for the") can be tightened.

Passivity: Too much use of the passive voice and helper verbs.

Repetition: Of the six sentences in the paragraph, three are between 11 and 13 words and three are between 22 to 27 words. Because the construction is similar in most of the sentences, and in combination with the wordiness and passivity, the overall effect is a slow, stilted pace. Is this the pace that you want for a passage where a character is fleeing for his life?

Consistency: Is he stumbling or running? Woodlands or plains? Hills or plains?

I did like the pun in "a grave mistake." Very clever. My advice is to keep writing the story--do not try to rewrite the prologue over and over--but try to develop a more active, engaging style as you go. Do not lose heart with early efforts. You can always go back and revise. I just finished a three year project, writing my first novel, and now that I am looking back at the beginning, I cringe. Much of my early stuff was really pretentious. Fortunately, I can now make it much better.

Monty Mike
June 16th, 2006, 07:30 AM
I, who am naive youth, did enjoy your prologue, Gial. Unfortunately I doubt I am capable of pointing out any serious errors, though Brian has done you a great service! ;)


I just finished a three year project, writing my first novel, and now that I am looking back at the beginning, I cringe. Much of my early stuff was really pretentious. Fortunately, I can now make it much better.
3 YEARS?!!! Wow, I salute your dedication! May I enquire how long it is?

BrianC
June 16th, 2006, 08:56 AM
Gial, as I think about it some more, I think that I neglected to say that this excerpt of your prologue is a good beginning. Keep going. See where your story develops. See how your writing style soldifies and becomes more sophisticated. Don't worry too much about the early stuff. You'll most likely rewrite the great bulk of it anyway. Just keep going.
3 YEARS?!!! Wow, I salute your dedication! May I enquire how long it is?Monty, 3 years is not unusual. It may even a bit short, what with work, marriage, toddler, etc. I'm glad it took that long because my writing improved enormously in that time. It's 160,000+ words, about 610-615 manuscript pages depending on the margins, but I expect 10-15,000 words will be cut in rewrites.

Monty Mike
June 16th, 2006, 10:28 AM
Monty, 3 years is not unusual. It may even a bit short, what with work, marriage, toddler, etc. I'm glad it took that long because my writing improved enormously in that time. It's 160,000+ words, about 610-615 manuscript pages depending on the margins, but I expect 10-15,000 words will be cut in rewrites.
I'm sure it is quite a normal time to spend on a serious novel, though it shows a dedication I can't relate to. Raising a family as well, it's great to see authors early in their writing career; I hope you get somewhere, Bri! :D

Gial
June 16th, 2006, 01:21 PM
Well thank you for your comments Brian. That was only part one of the prologue, so here is part two for your enjoyment. It was already written before your critique, so forgive me if it carries the same flaws as the first half.

The old man, for the record, was in a small section of woodlands in a much larger plain (I would show you the map if I had a copy online). That is the only one of your comments I felt I needed to respond to. Anyway, here is the rest.

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“What do you mean he’s made it out of Shanur?” Bansil’s desk shook as he struck it with his fist. The single oil lamp that lit the study was dangerously close to tipping over the edge. “First you tell me that he has no chance of making it out of this manor, then you promise me you can stop him before he’s even halfway to the gate.” This was beginning to be a serious problem. It shouldn’t be so hard to track and stop one old man with a bad knee.

On the opposite side of the desk, two Fenori scouts avoided looking at him directly. They were not used to failure, and shame was an unfamiliar emotion. Their feelings were limited; Bansil and his team made sure of that. The claws on their feet scratched noisily on the tiled floor as they shifted their weight, and their tails lay motionless between their legs.

Aside from his frustration, Bansil was somewhat surprised, if not a little impressed as well. Alanor managed to exit the city even with a full team of Fenori on his trail and a notice to the guards at each gate leading outside the city to detain him upon sight. His ex-advisor was more cunning than he thought. The old man had powers that others could only dream of, but those powers did have boundaries depending on the circumstances. If—no, when—the Fenori caught up to him, they would no doubt have a challenge in capturing. “Dead or alive, preferably the former,” Bansil had told them when he set his pack out on the hunt. Even if Alanor had served him well for over twenty years, there would be no mercy for his betrayal.

“When someone gives me their word that they will accomplish a task, I expect that task to be accomplished.” The Fenori were fidgeting even more now. They had no doubt heard of that line, as well as what typically followed. They were no cowards, and would accept whatever punishment came their way. Still, they might yet luck out; Bansil needed every available Fenori for this mission. He could not afford failure. “And when that someone fails to follow through with their promise, I become somewhat… irritated, to say the least. You can understand my concern at this point.” Still, they were only two in a small army. They had been responsible for stopping Alanor before he reached the gates. “You may have heard fairy tales about my wrath. Well, I give you my word, I am sometimes a man of forgiveness.” The Fenori seemed to relax a little. Just what he was waiting for.

The two creatures across from him could not have predicted what happened next, and they did not have time to react. Bansil cleared the table in one bound, unsheathing the sword at his side in midair. He whispered a word under his breath and the blade went from cold steel to glowing red hot in one instant. One swing, angling from the lower left to his upper right, was all it took to dispatch the failures before him. Four halves of Fenori collapsed to the ground with not a drop of blood spilled. With another whispered word the blade cooled instantly, and Bansil sheathed it. Smoke drifted up from the corpses, the cauterized wounds filling the room with a rotten stench.

The double doors to the study swung open and two more Fenori entered on all fours. When Bansil nodded his head to them, they proceeded to gather the remains of their brothers on the carpet and carry them out. Undoubtedly they would be taken to the Fenori kitchens where they would become the next day’s meal. They were disgusting creatures, but they were effective in their work. Usually.

Gial
June 30th, 2006, 12:24 PM
Any other comments?