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Xan
October 31st, 2014, 06:03 PM
Second draft of a prologue to my 46k word WIP. Two major questions: 1) Do you want to read more? 2) Is there enough description? (third question, whether to include the prologue or not, cannot be asked without including chapter one. Another day.) I also welcome any other thoughts, particularly on the ending.

EDIT: The first scene of Chapter 1 is here. (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/151911-The-Dream-Fantasy-First-Scene-1379-words?p=1792014#post1792014)

***

"Atten-TION!"

Colonel Harper, a Yellow shaper, called out orders to the Five Allied Armies in her thick Glestenian accent. Her throat was yellow from the magic she used to amplify her voice.

Thousands of soldiers stiffened to attention, their battered uniforms sporting the colors of almost every major nation. Regal Grays, wild Greens, stoic Browns, colorful Yellows, and calm Blues all stood in formation, surrounding the rough wooden platform that had been hastily erected in the center of the muddy field.

The assembled army should have been impressive, but bandages were visible everywhere Sergeant Charlie Vicks looked. Each nation, divided by the color of their magic, had hundreds of soldiers in their back ranks that could not come to attention. Green and Yellow healers weaved through the injured, doing what they could despite running out of burn treatments long ago. Tens of thousands of their comrades lay in mass graves on the other side of a small hill to the east.

Sergeant Vicks ignored his fatigue to stand as straight and proud as he could. His green and brown camouflage uniform was stained with blood and mud, and his entire left arm was covered in bandages that hid third-degree burns.

"Soldiers, SA-LUTE!"

Vicks and his squad all snapped their right arms up, balled fists tight against their right temples. Each of the nations had their own salute, from Glesten's yellow palm-light to Brown Hanover's rock-solid foot stance.

Vicks saw Colonel Harper march to the platform's edge and stand in salute herself, her magical yellow light shining from the palm of her raised left hand.

In the center of the platform stood the Allied Country's leaders: two of the Green High Lords, the Blue King, the Grey Supreme Chancellor, the Brown Queen, and the Yellow Prime Minister. Each leader looked battered, though they all had acquired clothing without rips, stains, or scorch marks. Opposite to the Allied leaders stood High General Markov Durich, the Red Sentothi general who had nearly conquered the continent.

General Garth Grant, nicknamed G by his soldiers, stepped in front of the assembled leaders. The Brown general wore the same field uniform as other Brown soldiers, but every soldier in the Allied Armies knew their Allied Commander by sight. He began to speak, and because brown magic didn't lend itself well to voice amplification, he paused after each phrase for Colonel Harper to repeat his words.

"Soldiers! Men and women of courage undaunted. We have gathered today to witness this historic event."

The brown general paused, allowing Markov, nicknamed the Red Fox, to reach center stage.

General G continued, with Harper broadcasting. "This morning, High General Markov Durich signed the peace agreement on behalf of his nation! The Terrible War is over! Today we begin a new era of peace, a peace won by your heroic actions!"

"Tonight, we celebrate our victory! AT EASE and FALL OUT!"

With a cry, the armies were released from their positions. Yells and laughter rang out as men and women talked among their friends and comrades. A corridor of soldiers at attention formed, leading from the platform through the milling soldiers and up a rise, where two Sentothi soldiers stood waiting with horses. The Red Fox began marching down the human corridor. He marched alone.

Vicks had never seen the man up close. Waving off his subordinate, Corporal Ling, Vicks pushed through to stand behind the line of men and women tasked with guarding the most hated man alive.

Soldiers gathered to watch him past. Many yelled insults, but none attacked him. As he drew close to Vicks' position, a chill went down the Sergeant's spine.

The Red Fox neither smiled nor frowned as he marched past with a measured pace. His narrow eyes seethed with palpable wrath.

Amidst the laughter and joy around him, old Sergeant Vicks bowed his head and turned away. That night as his friends celebrated, he prayed for his grandchildren.

Jared77
November 1st, 2014, 03:04 AM
I think this section is well-written. It's tight and to the point. It's hard to tell though whether this prologue is necessary without knowing the rest of the story or what comes next in Chapter 1,2, etc. Often it is said that the opening chapters of books can and should be cut. But again, it's hard to tell here without knowing more.

Based on the writing quality alone, I would read more. But as far as the story, I'm not sure there's a strong enough hook to keep me interested. I'm not sure what is exactly happening (or maybe I'm not reading it close enough). A historical event is cited, but I'm not sure if that is essential to the plot or just a reference to the past.

John Galt
November 1st, 2014, 09:55 AM
I wouldn't say prologues exist to compel the reader to continue the novel, at least not in my experience. I find people, many of my friends and myself included, dislike prologues all together. But they can be very useful, so don't let that compel you to cut it.
I prefer to pepper information in the first few chapters rather than have a prologue, but this one is pretty short, so that's a big plus (for readers). Characters (most often) compel readers to keep reading, since no characters are introduced in the prologue, I wouldn't be compelled to continue without reading chapter one.
The idea seems somewhat familiar, but I can't tell just based on this. Overall, it's nicely written and flows well. One minor thing, and this is just my writer's-ocd talking, I don't know how I feel about calling it "The Terrible War" as it might come to be known as such in the future, but it would probably simply be referred to as "The War" by most; I'm not saying you should cut it without thought, nor go on my thoughts alone. If "Terrible War" feels right, go with it.

Good luck and happy writing.

Xan
November 1st, 2014, 05:39 PM
Thank you, Jared and John, for your nice comments! This is the first time anyone besides family and close friends have seen my writing, so I was a little apprehensive about sharing.

The historical event cited is critical to the plot's underpinnings, but I'm not convinced it needs to be shown like this or in a prologue at all. Vicks' grandson does appear in the novel as a supporting character, but that connection isn't particularly important. Still on the fence about including the prologue.

I too don't really like the "Terrible War." It was originally the Great War, but that wasn't ideal either and sounded too much like WWI to boot. I already have some similarities to WWI and didn't need that. "The War" is very simple, but in context it probably fits better than anything I've come up with so far. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

InnerFlame00
November 1st, 2014, 06:15 PM
It was generally well written and polished! There were only a couple things I noticed:


Her throat was yellow from the magic she used to amplify her voice. This sentence feels a bit awkward flow-wise to me. Would there be a way to describe her throat as seen by someone else rather than just stating it for the reader?


her magical yellow light shining from the palm of her raised left hand. The word magical here is a bit redundant, as the yellow salute already been explained. You could remove it, or perhaps replace it with a different adjective.

As for the premise, it didn't catch me right away because I shy away from stories that feature soldiers and war (even magical), but if I were reading it as if it were the opening of a story whose summary cued me into the fact that the military aspect was not the main point it would have gotten my attention. I was especially interested when The Red Fox showed up and your descriptions of him - those lines are what would convince me to continue reading the book regardless of the fact that it may have a military aspect as it piqued my curiosity. If he comes up later in your story, not right away, but later, it would prompt the reader to continue so they can learn more about this mysterious man and the evil that he wrought. If that is the case, I would definitely include the prologue.

The amount of description is good, just enough to paint a picture and not so much that it makes it drag. However, I might add in a little physical description of the Red Fox when you introduce him.

As you said, "terrible war" is no good. It could have a name specific to that universe, or you could keep it simple.

thepancreas11
November 3rd, 2014, 06:12 AM
First, I just want to throw out a loose definition of a prologue, at least from my limited perspective. A good prologue does not necessarily entice the reader, as John explained, but instead, sets the scene. Enough of the setting should become evident by reading it so that the reader understands either the world they will soon inhabit or the era or the culture therein. I strongly believe that a delineation exists between prologue and story: you need a separation either in significant distance or time or character relationship, otherwise, you really just have a first chapter. I think you've got that here, so stay with the prologue. It works.

Now, it looks as though you've crossed fantasy and science fiction, a truly monumental task, one which requires a fair amount of world-building. Kudos to you for the complexity of the society that you've raised up in these 645 words, though your energy might be better spent focusing this down a bit. I want to know more about this Red Gentleman and why we hate him and what he meant to the war. In fact, if you spent most of the prologue just detailing the interaction of this man with the crowd/characters/armies, I think you'd actually be off to an incredible start. Rather than trying to pound down to many stakes to get us grounded, create a more personal and in depth account of this character.

You could stand to use some more figurative language, too. It felt altogether very regimented. I don't often advocate this, but this read more like an outline of events, a narration from a historical perspective, than a narrative.

Still, if you posted the first chapter here, I'd love to read it. Just let me know.

Firemajic
November 3rd, 2014, 12:14 PM
I enjoyed reading this, and would most likely read on. I was intrigued by all the characters reaction to the Red fox, and would have read on for that alone, But your last line really hooked me, and I wondered why he was praying for his grandchildren. I am not a critic, but I love to read, books have been my lifeline, so I can only offer my thoughts from a reader's perspective. I hope this helps you. Good luck, and thanks for the read. Peace...Jul

Xan
November 4th, 2014, 03:23 AM
Thanks again for everyone's kind words and time spent reviewing this! It means a lot to me. :-D


It was generally well written and polished! There were only a couple things I noticed:
This sentence feels a bit awkward flow-wise to me. Would there be a way to describe her throat as seen by someone else rather than just stating it for the reader?
The word magical here is a bit redundant, as the yellow salute already been explained. You could remove it, or perhaps replace it with a different adjective.

As for the premise, it didn't catch me right away because I shy away from stories that feature soldiers and war (even magical)...
If he comes up later in your story, not right away, but later, it would prompt the reader to continue so they can learn more about this mysterious man and the evil that he wrought. If that is the case, I would definitely include the prologue.
You homed in on two sentences which I, too, was not satisfied with. I've tweaked them both on my copy.

The story does have a military aspect to it, though ironically, it is heaviest in the prologue. I may need to change that so as not to give the readers the impression that the entire story is that way. As for Markov, see below.


Now, it looks as though you've crossed fantasy and science fiction, a truly monumental task, one which requires a fair amount of world-building...
I want to know more about this Red Gentleman and why we hate him and what he meant to the war.

You could stand to use some more figurative language, too. It felt altogether very regimented. I don't often advocate this, but this read more like an outline of events, a narration from a historical perspective, than a narrative.
I'm particularly curious about what lines/words/etc led you to believe the story has sci-fi elements; it doesn't, though I do read a lot of sci fi and may be putting some things in unintentionally. I'd like to evaluate what gave you that impression to possibly rework or remove it.

Your comment about it feeling regimented is actually the second time I've been told that. I think this comes from the way I naturally write, and I'm still thinking on how to rework things. Suggestions welcome!

You also like the Red Fox, eh? More on him below...


I enjoyed reading this, and would most likely read on. I was intrigued by all the characters reaction to the Red fox, and would have read on for that alone, But your last line really hooked me, and I wondered why he was praying for his grandchildren. I am not a critic, but I love to read, books have been my lifeline, so I can only offer my thoughts from a reader's perspective. I hope this helps you. Good luck, and thanks for the read. Peace...Jul
Good critics are in sync with what readers want, so if it works for readers, it works for me! I'm glad the last line hooked you a little. PS, one of Vicks' grandsons is in the main story... ;)

Alright, Red Fox time. Chapter 1 begins years later and Markov is dead from old age. However, the story is as much about his legacy as it is about the protagonist. Like Stalin, Washington, or Caesar, Markov is at the helm during a defining moment for his nation. His actions set the stage for the plot and the novel's overall themes. Because he is so important, but no longer alive, I wanted the reader to at least get a glimpse of the man. There are allusions to him and his actions later in the novel, but everyone would have grown up hearing about him; my attempts to explain Markov's legacy have so far always ended in "telling" the reader things the characters already know.

I've tinkered with having a second scene in the prologue that focuses more on Markov. I've wondered about having short flashbacks, probably printed in italics, dribbled in to the main novel, kind of like what Ender's Game does. You guys have suggested re-tooling the existing prologue scene to focus more on him. Which of these three options, or what other ideas, would you folks like to see?

For those wondering about chapter 1, it is in revision. I'll post it up and link this thread when I'm finished changing it.

Higurro
November 4th, 2014, 05:55 PM
Hi! Just feel there are a couple of things to point out about the first (second?) paragraph particularly:


Colonel Harper, a Yellow shaper, called out orders to the Five Allied Armies in her thick Glestenian accent. Her throat was yellow from the magic she used to amplify her voice.

I don't think there's anything wrong with what's actually happening in the scene, who's there, what they're doing etc. but I feel it could be put across better. Ignoring any discussion of the merits of prologues (and I think they do have a place) the beginning of any story needs to avoid presenting any impediments to the reader.

For me (and I'm being super-critical here), I don't know what a Yellow shaper is, who the Five Allied Armies are, or where they are, or anything about them, what a Glestenian access sounds like, or in what manner her throat is yellow from magic (stained, discoloured, luminous?). This is fine unless I've got no reason to care about the answers to any of these things, and as this is the first line of the story I'm not yet invested in any of it, so I don't. There's only one bit about this sentence that I this really works, and that's the fact that if she's using magic to amplify her voice it means she's addressing a large group of people directly, so is probably standing in front of them and probably outside. That's as far as the storytelling goes for me from this line (and again, I must apologise for seeming so pernickety here; it's just that certain things are real red flags).

As it stands, you've got what seems to be a pretty complex situation, involving thousands of people, to convey to the reader, so you need to pick an entry point. You've gone with Colonel Harper, but I can see from the rest of the excerpt that the actual narrator is Vicks. In order to adhere to the much-repeated maxim "show, don't tell" in my writing, I try to imagine how I would tell the story if it were being filmed, where the camera would be etc. If the camera's with Vicks then it would seem logical that the first line would be something to do with him synthesising how he feels and what he's seeing. What would be most important for him? If you can convey what Vicks is feeling then you have the reader's empathy.

For example, if Vicks is battle-weary then he'd be very tired, and I guess weariness might his overriding feeling in that situation. So maybe he'd be desperate to close his eyes and let his head slump forward, and the story starts with his refusal to let his eyes shut but instead to keep them trained on the distant figure at the front of the crowd, silhouetted as she climbs the steps of a hastily-constructed wooden dais. He can see it's Colonel Harper from her appearance/body language etc etc... This prepares the reader for her to speak and conveys the idea of weariness, defiance, space, gathering and so on without just directly saying it.

Also, in addition to sorting out what the reader sees, it's often quite a nice touch to give them information about the character's other senses. In a crowd like this I can tell you now, the smell would be pretty noticeable. If Vicks is standing there, staring at his muddy, scarred boots, thinking about the smell of a group of battle-weary soldiers, listening to their breathing, and then hears the sound of Harper ascending the dais steps before jolting his attention back to the front, then it's more like we're standing there in the group with him, feeling what he's feeling.

Xan
November 4th, 2014, 06:08 PM
Good points, Higurro. That is the kind of thing I meant when I asked if there was enough description. Your comments about starting with Vicks are also interesting, as I hadn't considered the effect of starting with Harper. I'll have to consider all this.

Higurro
November 4th, 2014, 06:28 PM
I realised after I'd written all that, that I hadn't actually answered your first question! Although the first line is a bit clunky, overall I certainly do want to read more. I thought the tone improved dramatically throughout the piece and it was much more like what I was thinking of by the time the end came, much more visceral.

Sorry if that was all a bit negative! I genuinely did like it (even if I found all the names a bit hard to follow)

Xan
November 4th, 2014, 06:46 PM
Psh. Positive comments are always nice, but constructive criticism isn't always positive.

I've wondered about the names. Mayhaps I shall remove some, leaving just their titles behind.

Xan
November 5th, 2014, 10:17 PM
Sorry about the double. Just posted the first scene (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/151911-The-Dream-Fantasy-First-Scene-1379-words?p=1792014#post1792014), for those interested.

Mike_550
December 4th, 2014, 10:09 PM
I like it. I'm a fan of lots of description but think you have the right balance here.

Brian A Seals
April 5th, 2015, 04:35 AM
Well, I'm intrigued by what you have here, so on to your questions. !) Absolutely. The main thing I'm curious about, is just how much magic is used in this world. What I mean is, are these people throwing fireballs, or is it more of a subtle, charmed based magic? 2) No, not for me. I felt like it ended too abruptly. I was left wondering why this "Red Fox" was angry. I also feel like the mention of Sgt. Vicks's grandchildren came out of nowhere. I would have liked to see more after that line, if you don't want to set that up more. I feel like the last words of a Prologue should pull your readers in, and compel them to continue. Grandchildren are nice, and I wouldn't want to see any hurt, but I have no connection to them yet, to make me wonder about them, or to make me want to turn the page.

Narhval
April 5th, 2015, 03:23 PM
I liked the story and I'm a sucker for a prologue so I would definetely keep it. I like how it ends with the Seargent praying for his grandchildren because it lets me know that this is the backdrop for the story that will take place some time in the future. I would love to read more of the story.

Xan
April 5th, 2015, 04:58 PM
Updated version. 704 words
“Atten-TION!”

Sergeant Charlie Vicks stiffened to attention with thousands of other soldiers representing each nation in the Five Allied Armies. The assembled army was divided like five spokes of a great wheel, each spoke representing a different nation. Bandages were visible everywhere, and thousands of soldiers in the back ranks could not even stand. Dornian and Glestenian healers weaved through the injured, doing whatever they could for the moaning masses of burned and injured soldiers. Tens of thousands more lay in mass graves on the other side of a small hill to the east.

Sergeant Vicks ignored his fatigue and the throbbing pain of third-degree burns along his left arm to stand as straight and proud as he could. Like his comrades, Vicks faced the rough wooden platform that had been hastily erected in the center of Baker’s Field, a backwater wheat field churned to mud in the last week-long battle.

“Soldiers, SA-LUTE!” The Glestenian colonel, a female shaper, called out from the platform, her throat a matte yellow from the magic she used to amplify her voice.

Vicks and the other Dornian soldiers snapped their right arms up, their balled fists tight against their right temple. Each of the nations had their own salute, from Yellow Glesten's magical palm-light to Brown Hanover's rock-solid foot stomp.

In the center of the platform stood the Allied Nations' leaders:two of the Green High Lords, the Blue King, the Grey Supreme Chancellor, the Brown Queen, and the Yellow Prime Minister. Each looked battered, though they all had acquired clothing without rips, stains, or scorch marks. General Grant stood with them, his simple brown field uniform at odds with his position as the Allied Nations' military Supreme Commander.

Opposite to the Allied leaders stood High General Markov Durich, the Red Sentothi general known more commonly as the Red Fox. Vicks had never seen him, but everyone knew who he was. His uniform was pristine and unsoiled, a stark contrast to those around him. A cut along one cheek had been cauterized, probably with the Fox's own magic. His stance was one of power, his eyes penetrating even from where Vicks stood.

General Grant stepped up to speak. He paused after each phrase, allowing the Glestenian colonel to repeat his words with her magically amplified voice.

“Soldiers! Men and women of courage undaunted. We are here to witness the end of an era, and the beginning of another.”

The brown general paused and glanced back at Durich, but the Red Fox didn't even acknowledge his gaze.

General Grant continued. “This morning, High General Markov Durich signed the peace agreement on behalf of his nation. The War is over! Today we begin a new era of peace, a peace won by your heroic actions!”

Shouts rang out at the announcement. Over the noise, the yellow colonel could still be clearly heard as she said, “Tonight, we celebrate our victory! Release!”

With a cry, the armies were released from their positions. Yells and laughter rang out as men and women joked and patted each other on the back. Amidst the joy, a corridor of soldiers at attention formed, leading from the platform through the milling soldiers and up a rise, where two Sentothi soldiers stood with horses. The Red Fox began marching alone down the human corridor.

Waving off pats from his friends, Vicks tried to ignore the scent of unwashed bodies as he slogged through the mud to wearily stand behind the line of men and women tasked with guarding the most hated man alive.

Soldiers yelled insults as he passed, but no one attacked The Fox. Though none would admit it, Vicks knew that beneath each soldier’s anger lay stark fear of the man who had nearly conquered the continent. A man so powerful that even in defeat his enemies feared to draw too close.

As he drew level with Vicks' position, a chill went down the Sergeant's spine. The Red Fox neither smiled nor frowned as he marched past with a measured pace. His narrow eyes seethed with palpable wrath.

Amidst the laughter and joy around him, old Sergeant Vicks bowed his head and turned away. That night as his friends celebrated, he prayed for his grandchildren.

Alecc0
April 7th, 2015, 07:55 PM
Really nice progress, feels like a world I'd like to hear more about. Keep an eye on capitalising the colour codes of the characters each time you use them. The descriptions feel well-balanced too, I'd say you can go closer with some areas you feel are important and glance more over the general stuff, but that's up to you to decide which is which. Good stuff.