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First Page: Unnamed Fantasy

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Mists of time, morning mists; both dim that long ago memory of a dawn when I was both boy and man. I recall my keen desire to serve my family, a desire that drove me to scout while my brothers rested in their bedrolls. I would be vigilant; I would protect. But against what? What would I find in the fog? Adventure? Romance? Something had to come from a moment so fraught with possibility. And something did come, dream made true. It was the boy in me that could believe it so and the man that was aborning who could make it so. A step to either side of that knife’s edge in my life and none of what came to pass would have happened.

It was all the more improbable because while it is true that the bards sing of it happening long ago; none expect it now. Humans and Ever-folk do not fall in love, not since the Cataclysm, not since we wrecked our empire and ruined the Ever-folk forests. That could not keep me from loving her when first we met. Of course, I mistook lust for love but that is a common failing among young men, especially princes who are not required to be delicate with the hearts of their conquests. And she did not mind as it made me pliable. That it did become love was no one’s expectation that day except my own and I had no reason to believe it could be so aside from youthful arrogance. Sometimes that is enough. This, then, is the account of how I, Aedric son of Lugaidh, met Ophia and of what followed.

My duty that morning was to watch our frontier for any sign of the Ever-folk. But the mist-draped hulks of the fallen trees called to mind a flight of dragons in the clouds and my thoughts were in the land of bards’ tales. What little notice I gave to my surroundings I spent seeking colorful rocks, easy to find here in the sandy ground. It was a boyish pursuit I had not forsaken despite being grown to manhood and trained for war. Dreams of dragons faded as the sun thinned the mist and restored my dragons to crumbling trunks. Struggling bushes and sparse tufts of grass grew among the toppled giants. Copses of tangled, stunted trees stood in the few places where the soil allowed. It was a barren land seeming all the more bleak set against the silver-gray line of the lush Trionesse Forest in the distance.

Then a woman stepped from the closest stand of trees and my heart leapt, not with concern as it should have given the recent raid, but with a shiver of desire. Was a she a spirit? Or a princess in disguise? Like the first words of a new song, anything was possible in that moment. She was slender and tall, too tall to be a human although her face was rounder than the few Ever-folk I had met as visitors to my father’s hall. Her green eyes flashed, piercing the last of the mist. Copper glinted in her auburn hair. She was garbed in faun-skin like an Ever-folk scout and her belt carried a short sword in a plain scabbard. The stock of a crossbow peeked over her shoulder. I had only met one spirit before, the river spirit of my home and he never carried weapons. But perhaps the spirits of ancient Trionesse were different.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

15 Comments

  1. SAO
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 05:09:08

    This reads like an old fable, all telling and intrusion of the narrator, which strips away any sense of immediacy. Maybe this is your intent and maybe some people would like the voice, but it’s not working for me.

    I’m a single reader, if everyone else likes this, ignore my opinion, otherwise rethink of your narrative style. This is what my problems were:

    You may have an interesting book, you probably do, but frankly, you turned me off with your first sentence, which is quite awkward. I studied it for the grammatical flaws, but decided it had none, just read like it did.

    The first paragraph is wasted on uninformative junk. Take this sentence, “A step to either side of that knife’s edge in my life and none of what came to pass would have happened.” I don’t really care because I don’t know who the narrator is, except an old man. I can picture him in his rocking chair, boring the hell out of his grandchildren, but I’m not really picturing him stepping out into that misty dawn, which might actually be an interesting scene.

    The next paragraph is a summary of the book’s plot, successfully killing any suspense or tension. Makes me wonder if the whole book will be full of such spoilers. Further, the summary is all telling.

    Para three is where you actually start your story. It’s okay, but mist and draped hulks of fallen trees (draped with what?) suggest jungle. Sandy barren soil don’t. So, I’m not really picturing the scene, because I can’t integrate the details you’ve shown me.

    With any decent font choice and line spacing, page one ends with Para 3, so you haven’t shown me anything but an old man reminiscing about daydreaming in the forest.

    Para 4, (page 2) is the actual meeting, I presume, of hero and heroine. They don’t talk. We don’t even get a sense of what she thinks of him. He just sees her and tell (not shows) us of his leap of desire.

    Further, the forest is in the distance, but the girl steps from the nearest clump of trees, and you don’t imply she is far away. Straggling bushes and a few stunted trees don’t sound like they could hide someone. Again, I’m jarred, as I haven’t pictured a place that could hide a human-sized creature, which is what I have to assume the creature is.

    Anyway, this is what wasn’t working for me, one reader’s opinion, take it for what it’s worth. Good luck.

  2. Courtney Milan
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 05:40:56

    I agree with the previous comment, especially as regards the language. This is really hard to read.

    Here’s what’s wrong with your first sentence.

    “Mists of time, morning mists; both dim that long ago memory of a dawn when I was both boy and man.”

    When I hit the word dim, I read it first as an adjective. As in, both mists of time and morning mists are dim. Then I hit the next word, “that,” and unconsciously filled in the word enough before, so now the sentence is “Mists of time, morning mists; both dim enough that long ago…”

    When I hit the end of the sentence, confusion resulted. I went back and reread, and that time, I got that dim is a verb, not an adjective. But the first natural reading of the “dim” in that sentence is as adjective, not verb. That means the sentence as written is not parsing naturally.

    Any time you have something that can be read as two separate parts of speech, you have to make sure that the only natural reading is the one you intend, or people will stumble against it.

    Yes, people can figure it out. But you don’t want people to be thinking, “But what does this mean?” when they first read something. You want them to be thinking, “What happens next?”

    If you’re going for Ye Olde Epic Style–and you can do that, it’s a choice, and some people do like that stuff–you have to actually make sure that your sentences are not actively confusing. The first sentence is not the only one, but it’s a doozy.

  3. dick
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 09:00:53

    It does read like a fable and the language establishes that tone well, as does the first person. It has a lyricism I liked. It’s OK. Leave it alone.

  4. kim
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 09:47:42

    I don’t mind the first-person voice, but the passage read too much like a memoir. You spent so much rhetoric on the past, that I couldn’t get a feel for the story.

  5. cecilia
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 09:59:54

    I had trouble reading it. The opening few lines, between the shortness of the sentences, and the exact same confusion over “dim” that Courtney Milan had, were very stop and go, and not in an enjoyable way.

    There’s something about it that gives me a feeling of total self-absorption from the narrator – it’s never about just saying what happens, it’s the over-dwelling on what he’s thinking about what’s happening. It’s hard to take.

  6. Lori
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 10:18:44

    The first line jarred me also and I had to reread. I was skimming almost immediately, the style was not for me at all. Sorry.

  7. Megan
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 10:26:38

    I liked this a lot, but I’m a sucker for this style of storytelling. The first sentence is jarring, but other than that I would definitely buy this.

  8. Bibliotrek
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 10:52:02

    I love fantasy, but this narrator sounds pompous and self-absorbed, and not in a lovable way. The first two paragraphs are deadly. At least the third paragraph focuses on the moment that begins the story. But even that is overblown. I also dislike that the woman is so blatantly treated as a blank slate for the narrator’s desire. Yes, this is the first time he’s seen her. But any narrator that stands there projecting instead of actually TALKING to a woman doesn’t bode well for the rest of the novel. Unless there’s some serious subversion of that all-too-frequent occurrence ahead, this is the sort of thing that would make me actually avoid future work from an author.

  9. Lisa R
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 10:54:03

    The first 5 words had me thinking of Robert Jordan and Charles Dickens, so I stopped reading. I also heard my writing professor yelling “cliche” in the background.

    One of the above commenters mentioned there isn’t immediacy and I agree with that. Starting later in the story might help.

  10. Cara Ellison
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 11:45:35

    I had trouble reading it. The first two paragraphs felt very vague to me, too inkblotty. It’s also a bit purple, in my opinion. All that commenting on the action, such as:


    That could not keep me from loving her when first we met. (1)Of course, I mistook lust for love (2)but that is a common failing among young men, (3)especially princes who are not required to be delicate with the hearts of their conquests. (4)And she did not mind as (5)it made me pliable. (6)That it did become love was no one’s expectation that day (7)except my own (8)and I had no reason to believe it could be so (9)aside from youthful arrogance. (10)Sometimes that is enough. This, then, is the account of how I, Aedric son of Lugaidh, met Ophia and of what followed.

    In this small amount of texts you have ten comments about falling in love – instead of just falling in love. In my opinion, you’re overloading the reader with too much extraneous info.

    I think Courtney’s comments about the language are spot-on.

    Good luck with it!

  11. Lori S.
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 12:12:55

    I started skimming by the end of paragraph #2, and gave up soon afterward. Sorry, but I wouldn’t read on.

  12. Cara
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 14:15:26

    Too purple for me. That can be a conscious choice, but it seems like you really narrow down your audience with it.

  13. Abbie Rhoades
    Oct 15, 2011 @ 20:51:51

    To the Author of the Unnamed Fantasy,
    In my humble opinion–If this is how you want to tell your story, with a fable feel to it and some purple prose, then stick with it. There are many people who enjoy reading this kind of work and just as many who don’t. The ones who don’t, won’t be the audience you’re marketing to anyway.
    Keep writing and listen to your inner voice.

  14. SAO
    Oct 16, 2011 @ 02:03:37

    The Ye Olde Epic style does have fans and if the author wants to write that way, I’m sure there’s an audience. But there are 3 things she has to do:

    1) Kill that ghastly first sentence (and recognize it was just bad luck, not bad writing that she ended up with something we all choked on.)

    2) Mitigate the self-absorption of her narrator. His dreams of the bard’s tales and hobbies of picking up stones are more important than his family lying in their bedrolls, one presumes, not too far away. In para 4, his never having met a spirit before is more important than showing how the girl reacts to seeing him. We don’t even know if she is as surprised as he is, or if she’s come to negotiate or threaten him.

    He has a keen desire to serve and protect his family, but he doesn’t think of them once when a creature shows up, evading his dubious vigilance.

    3) Watch that she isn’t spending the whole book having the narrator tell us a story, rather than living the story with us.

  15. Marc
    Oct 24, 2011 @ 14:33:49

    Hi all,

    Thanks for the comments; they are very helpful.

    I’ve gone back and forth on the first pages. The comments both favorable and critical will definitely help.

    Also, a thank you to Dear Author for making this forum for feedback available.

    Marc

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