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DjamFantasy
February 3rd, 2014, 04:50 PM
Hey guys. This is the prologue of the novel I'm currently working on. I'm writing it in my native language (Dutch), but I thought I'd post a translation here to see if I can get some advice/critiques on the content.







The night was dark and starless as the three horsemen urged their mounts to move even faster. All three men were completely dressed in black. The animals' hooves thundered over the muddy ground as they rode on in silence. The moon was blocked from view every now and then by a hilltop. They followed the river that would eventually lead them to the forest and thus to the border of the kingdom. Never before had the horseman in the middle crossed that border. He had spent his whole life safely inside the castle walls, as he was the son of the king's former counsellor. His father had passed away several years ago, and now the heavy task was on his shoulders. It was not an easy job. The king was capricious; one moment he treated him as a friend, and the next he would not even look him in the eyes.


The breath of the horsemen came faster. They had left the capital when the sun had disappeared behind the horizon, three nights ago. Discretion was of the utmost importance. The counsellor felt a shiver down his spine that had nothing to do with the cold. If the king ever found out about this, there would be nowhere to run. He would be tracked down through all Eight Kingdoms, until exhaustion or the sword of justice would put an end to his get-away. It would be useless to try to explain his action. Not that the king would give him the opportunity to explain anything. By telling the truth, the counsellor would betray his queen, and the king would never believe him anyway. He would never trust the word of a counsellor above that of his own wife.


The valuable bundle that they carried was protected as well as possible against the wind and the rain by the basket it was in. The counsellor had even put his coat over the basket to make sure that the content would suffer no more than necessary from the weather. He couldn't help but think that it was unnecessary trouble to try and protect the content of the basket. That was also what he told the queen, even though she told him about the prophecy. She had looked at him with such anger in her eyes as grey as a storm that he had had a hard time trying not to tremble. He had a high function in the castle, but that didn't mean he could defy her or question her commands. He also had proposed that another man should fulfill this task. Another man, who knew the Eight Kingdoms better than he did and who was more experienced in making long journeys. All the knowledge he possessed came from books. The queen had not responded to his suggestion, but she did propose that he would travel by horse, since her husband would immediately notice if one of his ships suddenly disappeared. Fifteen minutes after she had given him his command, he had been ready for departure. The queen herself had appointed two other men to accompany him. She hadn't told them precisely where to go. "Far away," the queen had said, "you must pass at least three borders." He would definetely go no further than those three borders. He convinced himself that the king would never look that far.


As the horsemen rode on, the hills became lower and wider. Still, not a word was said. They reached the first border when the sun came up. Like this, they rode on, resting for a few hours from time to time, but determined to follow the queen's orders.


As the sun clambered over the horizon on the fifteenth day of their journey, they spotted the third border in the distance. The horsemen signed simultaneously. The hilly landscape had made place for a plain that stretched out in all directions. Their destination was almost reached. That was a good thing, since their provision was close to running out. All that was left was half of a bread. Travelling makes hungry, and they had only passed three inns so far. It had been quite difficult to smuggle the bundle into the inns without looking suspicious. The counsellor had taken care of it himself. Against all odds, the journey was going quite well. Still he could not resist to look over his shoulder from time to time, to see if the king's men were not chasing them. The horses left a trail of splashing water behind as they galloped over the marshy surface, towards the third border.


After what seemed like half a day, they reached the border. With renewed energy, the horsemen encouraged their horses until they entered a forest once again. All three of them were soaking wet, and it was a relief to ride under the trees. Raindrops were still falling through the foliage above them, but the ride became more pleasant. The forest looked magnificent with a thousand shades of green. The branches hung low, and the horsemen had to bend over the necks of their horses to prevent themselves from hitting their heads. When something that appeared to be huge rock of about twenty metres high loomed before them, the counsellor commanded his horse to stop and then dismounted. The other two followed his lead, as usual. Now that they had stopped, an entrance was clearly visible. "I want to investigate this cave" he said. "This looks like a suitable place." The other two nodded and followed the counsellor into the cave. The entrance was wide enough for the three men to enter while walking next to each other. The cave was moist on the inside, and full of moss. The counsellor had taken the bundle with him, and stood still. He hesitated. He knew this moment would eventually come, but now that it was here, he couldn't get himself to leave the bundle behind. He had to do it. There was no other option.


With trembling hands, he carefully laid down the basket in the moss and took his coat back. The two babies were sleeping very close to one another, the boy and the girl. They had not cried for the whole journey. It appeared as if the fact that they were together was enough for them to overcome everything. The queen had left them both a gift. In the basket there were two necklaces, one with a little ruby, the other with a sapphire of the same size. The counsellors heart broke at the thought of abandoning these defenseless little creatures. He had fed and protected them, and now the time to say goodbye had come. The words of the queen had been clear. "Hide hem. As far from here as possible. Trust no one and return as soon as you can, before my husband will consider your absence as suspicious. This decision is the hardest one I have ever made, but this is the only way. You know about the prophecy. They are not safe here. Go now." So now he had to go. With a quivering voice, he spoke to the children. "You are strong, stronger than I ever imagined you would be. You will survive. It has been predicted. And when the time comes, you will find the answers to your questions." He looked at the children one last time, and then made his way towards the exit of the cave. Drops of water were once again rolling down his cheeks, but this time the rain had nothing to do with it.

Gavrushka
February 4th, 2014, 11:19 AM
Great to see you've posted the prologue! :)

After I've finished edits on my own work, I'll come back and give this a read and a comment. - I hope that will be later today, but I've also the book of another WF member I am reading too.

Looking at the physical structure, however, it does look like there may have been a formatting glitch when you posted. (It seems there is a line break after most sentences!)

As an aside, bear in mind it can take take a while to receive critiques, so be patient.

Thanks for posting this! :)

DjamFantasy
February 4th, 2014, 12:07 PM
Great to see you've posted the prologue! :)

After I've finished edits on my own work, I'll come back and give this a read and a comment. - I hope that will be later today, but I've also the book of another WF member I am reading too.

Looking at the physical structure, however, it does look like there may have been a formatting glitch when you posted. (It seems there is a line break after most sentences!)

As an aside, bear in mind it can take take a while to receive critiques, so be patient.

Thanks for posting this! :)

Oops, you're right about the physical structure. Don't know how it happened, but I fixed it. Thank you for your comment!

Gavrushka
February 4th, 2014, 05:26 PM
It's an intriguing introduction to a story and, overall, well written. It has fulfilled the basic need of any excerpt of prose, and that is to leave me with the desire to read on. So a huge well done!:encouragement:

You write far better than most who use English as a primary language, and far far better than I did when I first attempted to tell a story! Of course, there are a few areas where improvement can be made, but cherish those days where you make mistakes as it is the best way to learn :)

One general observation would be to avoid the repeated use of the same word, especially in the same sentence. - Sometimes you can consider using he, she or it rather than naming a noun where there is no ambiguity.


The night was dark, and not a single star could be spotted in the sky as the three horsemen urged their horses to move even faster

I'd consider changing horses to mounts, and perhaps not a single star could be spotted in the sky to starless. As a first sentence, perhaps you could consider a more imaginative description of the night, but keep it punchy.


The hilly landscape blocked the moon from view every now and then, when it disappeared behind a hilltop.

Consider rewording, as there is a partial redundancy in the moon disappearing behind the hilltop. (It's implied that this is what you meant by the hilly landscape, and you have hill twice.) - Perhaps you could make better use of the sentence by starting with 'The moon' rather than the hilly landscape.


as he was the son of the previous counsellor of the king

Perhaps 'as he was the son of the king's former counsellor.'


The king was a very capricious man. One moment he treated him as a friend, and the next the king would not even look him in the eyes.

I'm not a huge fan of semi colons, but perhaps you could have started 'The king was capricious;' - THIS is just a suggestion, and a style issue. There's nothing wrong with your version and I am just suggesting an alternative.


The breath of the horsemen went faster.

I think came rather than went would make more sense. OR you could reverse the words to 'The horsemen's breath came faster' too.


Discretion was of utmost importance.

'was of the utmost' would read better.


By telling the truth, the counsellor would betray his own queen,

I am not sure own is needed here.


He also had proposed that another man would fulfill this task.

I think 'should' is the correct word.


The hills became lower and wider as the horsemen rode on.

Perhaps a reword, as this sounds a little awkward. - I'd change the subject to the horsemen, 'As they rode on,...'


On the fifteenth day of the journey, during a raining sunrise,

I think this suggests the sunrise is raining, which would be a little difficult! :P 'As the sun clambered over the horizon on the fifteenth day of their journey, they spotted the third border in the distance.' You can put their sighs and the rain into the following sentence - Again, just a thought, but you'd have to change raining sunrise, regardless.


the counsellor commanded his horse to stop and dismounted.

Not 100% sure, but I think you should write 'and then he dismounted'.

==
I imagined the huge rock as a boulder in the midst of the forest, and it was hard to imagine a cave within a boulder.
==


The cave was dry on the inside, and full of moss.

I'd thought moss only grew in moist conditions.

===

I hope the above is of some benefit to you. - Like every writer, the journey to perfection is a long one, but it's exciting and rewarding too. Practice every day, be tenacious and you will continue to get better. - Who knows where it could lead? Just remember the ageing English bloke who offered a little help and encouragement when you're signing copies of your book for your adoring fans! :D

DjamFantasy
February 4th, 2014, 06:31 PM
It's an intriguing introduction to a story and, overall, well written. It has fulfilled the basic need of any excerpt of prose, and that is to leave me with the desire to read on. So a huge well done!:encouragement:

You write far better than most who use English as a primary language, and far far better than I did when I first attempted to tell a story! Of course, there are a few areas where improvement can be made, but cherish those days where you make mistakes as it is the best way to learn :)

One general observation would be to avoid the repeated use of the same word, especially in the same sentence. - Sometimes you can consider using he, she or it rather than naming a noun where there is no ambiguity.



I'd consider changing horses to mounts, and perhaps not a single star could be spotted in the sky to starless. As a first sentence, perhaps you could consider a more imaginative description of the night, but keep it punchy.



Consider rewording, as there is a partial redundancy in the moon disappearing behind the hilltop. (It's implied that this is what you meant by the hilly landscape, and you have hill twice.) - Perhaps you could make better use of the sentence by starting with 'The moon' rather than the hilly landscape.



Perhaps 'as he was the son of the king's former counsellor.'



I'm not a huge fan of semi colons, but perhaps you could have started 'The king was capricious;' - THIS is just a suggestion, and a style issue. There's nothing wrong with your version and I am just suggesting an alternative.



I think came rather than went would make more sense. OR you could reverse the words to 'The horsemen's breath came faster' too.



'was of the utmost' would read better.



I am not sure own is needed here.



I think 'should' is the correct word.



Perhaps a reword, as this sounds a little awkward. - I'd change the subject to the horsemen, 'As they rode on,...'



I think this suggests the sunrise is raining, which would be a little difficult! :P 'As the sun clambered over the horizon on the fifteenth day of their journey, they spotted the third border in the distance.' You can put their sighs and the rain into the following sentence - Again, just a thought, but you'd have to change raining sunrise, regardless.



Not 100% sure, but I think you should write 'and then he dismounted'.

==
I imagined the huge rock as a boulder in the midst of the forest, and it was hard to imagine a cave within a boulder.
==



I'd thought moss only grew in moist conditions.

===

I hope the above is of some benefit to you. - Like every writer, the journey to perfection is a long one, but it's exciting and rewarding too. Practice every day, be tenacious and you will continue to get better. - Who knows where it could lead? Just remember the ageing English bloke who offered a little help and encouragement when you're signing copies of your book for your adoring fans! :D

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this excerpt and for your suggestions and compliments! I really appreciate it! I'll be sure to remember you if I ever achieve succes. :)

thepancreas11
February 5th, 2014, 09:42 PM
Generally, I'm not a big fan of prologues, but this is exactly what a prologue is for. This is like the spiel they give at the beginning of Disney movies or the writing that they scroll through in Star Wars. It's a setting thing. You want the reader to have a basic knowledge of the world they are about to occupy. I assume those two children will be the MCs in your story, and now we know where they are, how they got there, and a little bit of why they're out on their own. That should be enough to sustain us until the big reveal where you explain it all.

A little bit less mystery actually might go a long way here. By leaving these people nameless, they really don't have much character to them. Tell us a little about them. If you don't want to tell us their names, then maybe their nicknames or something? Saying "the horseman in the center" every time you talk about that character really puts a drag on the process. Likewise, you don't want to drop things on us like bombs. Bombs cause chaos. Chaos is not a good way to start a story (action is a good way to start a story, just to be clear). "That was what she told the queen, even though she told him about the prophecy." What prophecy? How does that fit in here? If it came out of left field, it probably doesn't belong in the game (sorry, I'll stop with the cliches!). This is the whole reason they're about to break the rules, right? Hint at it sooner, and don't leave it hanging out here like it's nothing. Prophecies are important, and they're mysterious, so play that up!

There are a couple of editing mistakes, but hey, if I tried to write in Spanish, they're be plenty more than there are here, I promise you. This is great for a secondary-language work. Hell, it's pretty great regardless.

Good luck with your novel, and by all means, post more here. I'd love to read on.

DjamFantasy
February 5th, 2014, 09:55 PM
Generally, I'm not a big fan of prologues, but this is exactly what a prologue is for. This is like the spiel they give at the beginning of Disney movies or the writing that they scroll through in Star Wars. It's a setting thing. You want the reader to have a basic knowledge of the world they are about to occupy. I assume those two children will be the MCs in your story, and now we know where they are, how they got there, and a little bit of why they're out on their own. That should be enough to sustain us until the big reveal where you explain it all.

A little bit less mystery actually might go a long way here. By leaving these people nameless, they really don't have much character to them. Tell us a little about them. If you don't want to tell us their names, then maybe their nicknames or something? Saying "the horseman in the center" every time you talk about that character really puts a drag on the process. Likewise, you don't want to drop things on us like bombs. Bombs cause chaos. Chaos is not a good way to start a story (action is a good way to start a story, just to be clear). "That was what she told the queen, even though she told him about the prophecy." What prophecy? How does that fit in here? If it came out of left field, it probably doesn't belong in the game (sorry, I'll stop with the cliches!). This is the whole reason they're about to break the rules, right? Hint at it sooner, and don't leave it hanging out here like it's nothing. Prophecies are important, and they're mysterious, so play that up!

There are a couple of editing mistakes, but hey, if I tried to write in Spanish, they're be plenty more than there are here, I promise you. This is great for a secondary-language work. Hell, it's pretty great regardless.

Good luck with your novel, and by all means, post more here. I'd love to read on.

Thank you for your comment! I know, it's very vague to keep the horsemen (especially the counsellor) anonymous. You are absolutely right about that. The problem is, the reader (and the twins) are not supposed to know which kingdom they came from. It's all part of the plot. If I would name the counsellor and later mention his name again, then the whole big revelation part would be pretty difficult. But thank you for the suggestion of the nicknames, I will use that! I'm translating Chapter One right now, it'll be up tomorrow or maybe the day after.

Zeynith
February 6th, 2014, 08:44 AM
I am not a big fan of prophesy stories, or chosen ones generally speaking. That being said with the way you wrote the prologue I find myself curious as to what they are supposed to do that they had to be hidden in a cave. So well done. I have a couple suggestions that might help, but feel free to ignore me. XD

Throughout the prologue you call the twins a package, I would consider maybe changing it to bundle at least some of the time. It makes it sound less like he is a delivery man and more like it is some unknown item of importance. Also addressing the issue thepancreas11 (http://www.writingforums.com/members/54795-thepancreas11) pointed out with the rider in the middle, I think you probably don't need to mention he is in the middle at all. It isn't that important to distinguish in this case since no really conflict happens that would require the reader to know where the package is.


The valuable package that the horseman in the middle carried was protected as well as possible against the wind and the rain by the basket it was in.


The valuable package they carried was protected as well as possible against the wind and the rain by the basket it was in.

Hope that was at all helpful. Very well done. Would never have guessed English was not your first language. Keep up the good work :)

DjamFantasy
February 6th, 2014, 07:13 PM
I am not a big fan of prophesy stories, or chosen ones generally speaking. That being said with the way you wrote the prologue I find myself curious as to what they are supposed to do that they had to be hidden in a cave. So well done. I have a couple suggestions that might help, but feel free to ignore me. XD

Throughout the prologue you call the twins a package, I would consider maybe changing it to bundle at least some of the time. It makes it sound less like he is a delivery man and more like it is some unknown item of importance. Also addressing the issue thepancreas11 (http://www.writingforums.com/members/54795-thepancreas11) pointed out with the rider in the middle, I think you probably don't need to mention he is in the middle at all. It isn't that important to distinguish in this case since no really conflict happens that would require the reader to know where the package is.



The valuable package they carried was protected as well as possible against the wind and the rain by the basket it was in.

Hope that was at all helpful. Very well done. Would never have guessed English was not your first language. Keep up the good work :)

Thank you so much! You're right, package is a bit of a stupid word, bundle sounds way better.