Wednesday, July 23, 2008

What I Learned from the contest

The opening (EotF):

"You did it again! Quit rambling about your tinker and concentrate. That's the second time you got soap in my eyes."

 

"I'm sorry. I'm just so excited." Terra's hands resumed lathering Marian's hair.

 

"He'll be here soon enough. At least stop waving your hands around." Thankfully, she did, and finished much quicker for it.

 

Marian perched on the edge of the bed. Terra, brown hair already washed and braided, knelt behind and ran a brush through her sister's tangled blonde curls. Marian looked out the small window, soothed by the familiar tugging on her scalp. The faint light of dawn beckoned her to the forest beyond.

 

A door crashed, shaking the whole house. Marian cringed as the brush yanked her head back. She barely heard the door slam shut again, overshadowed as it was by the accompanying rough voice. "Where's my hot breakfast, you useless women?"

 

Terra moaned. "Why couldn't business delays keep Hayden away until after Courtship?"

 

Marian's eyes widened in shock and she turned to face her sister. "Don't let Father hear you use his given name. You don't want another one of his talks."

 

"He's not my father. Besides, it won't be long before Kerr rescues me from this brothel."

 

"Then wait until you're gone to disrespect Father. You don't want your tinker showing up while you're nursing a black eye."

 

Terra scurried off the bed to pull a long tunic over her head before replying. "You're right. I'm sorry. I'm just so..."

 

Glaring Errors: Thankfully caught by my husband before actually submitting ('quite' instead of 'quit').


Comments: 24 not counting 3 posts


Hooked?: 6 straight yes; 8 straight no; 10 are either wavering, would read more despite not fully hooked, or were "close, but not quite"


Problems Cited by Readers:

- the brothel issue. (surprised by how much spawned from that one word.)
- unclear POV
- still too many characters/too much going on
- too melodramatic/overwrought
- lack of physical description.
- too much hair

- too much telling in dialogue


What I can fix from the problems:
- I can edit for clarity and have removed the word brothel altogether. poor word choice. after contemplating, I realized Terra (who uses the comparison) probably doesn't even know what a brothel is. Small village and all.
- I can add some internal stuff from Marian, especially in the first paragraph, to denote her as the POV character
- read more to learn how to recognize melodramatic/overwrought writing
- remove Kerr's name altogether from the first scene.

- take out DL about "not my father", show sister's reactions more outside of DL, and add a bit with Marian's thoughts on why her sister is not fearing Hayden as usual.

- scrutinize and edit the dialogue in general

- shorten the brushing paragraph?

 

What Won't Change:
- the hair. I can't come up with a better opening that has them doing something other than getting ready in the morning before being interrupted. and I don't want to start with the door slam (tried it, didn't work). though an alternate could be moving it to later in the day, interrupting chores. but then I wouldn't have an excuse to show any physical description until later in the book when the reader will have a set picture in their head. (plus, would take away Hayden's excuse for a one-on-one with Marian)
- amount of physical description. I can't change this on every comment. There will always be unhappy people - too much description, not enough description. "I don't care what eye, hair color they have" vs "I want to be able to visualize every physical aspect".
- the tinker. I'm going to take out the reference to his name, but he is the reason for Terra's attitude. I am also not going to explain it on the first page. Most fantasy readers will have an idea what a tinker is, and those that don't can keep reading and find out. Really, if it was 'Chandrian' or some other capitalized fantasy term then the question wouldn't come up. Readers would accept and read on to learn more.


Most Helpful Comments:

Lori's point-by-point breakdown:

As it is right now, no.
1) The POV, to me, wasn't clearly discernable until several lines into the section, so I had no idea which character's head I was supposed to get in to.
2) Lots of dialogue, with no interjections of gestures or vocal intonations, make an interchange like this rather dry and lifeless.
3) Too many characters mentioned or introduced in oly 250 words.
4) There's a distinct lack of physical descriptions that would help ground your reader in this world and help them visualize the characters than inhabit it.
BUT, there's definite potential and conflict to be had. Just needs some tightening up, IMHO.

 

The secret agent (later revealed to be Holly Root) said this about it:

Hmm, this is a close but not quite. It took me two reads--a minus--but there's something interesting here. I'd watch the telling in dialogue.

 

I appreciate those who read the previous opening, letting me know that this one is much improved despite needing tweaking.

1 musings:

Just_Me said...

Good break down. It's always hard to guess where you should start your opening. With DoJ I started with Ice coming in after a drug bust, Ice waking up, the ladlady yelling, Tem buying drugs, Miroslav looking for Ice and finally decided what I needed to do was open from the anatgonists POV.

Sometimes it is the odd things that work.

Keep writing :o) The opening can only improve, right?