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First passages of a prologue and first chapter (1 Viewer)

RubyEclipse

Senior Member
These are the first drafts of the first parts of the prologue and first chapter of the novel I am currently working on. Neither of these passages are the entirety of either section but they give an idea of the tone. What I'd like to know is if you can see any issues that need adjusting with my writing and whether or not you would want to continue reading?
Thanks, RE.

Prologue:

An orange glow began to filter over the empty park. Given an hour, the area would be heaving with foot traffic as commuters took advantage of the scenic route to work but until that point the peaceful quiet would continue blanket the centre of the city. Only the flowing water of the river could be heard until a young scream tore through the park.
A small girl, no more than five or six years old, appeared, cowering, in the open. Her eyes were wide with fear but her apparent desire to be invisible was opposed by the bright red of her hair which stood out in the sunrise. After looking around, she skirted to the bushes to duck underneath them. The emptiness of the park did nothing to calm her nerves, her head shot from side to side, trying to see her entire surroundings.
The terrified child didn’t move even as workers began their daily walks. She shrank further into her hiding place as a man passed feet from her, then another. Commuter after commuter passed her without notice, her unnatural silence left nothing to give her away, not to a human anyway.
A woman entered the park, her young spaniel pulling keenly in front of her. The route was the same one she had taken every morning since she’d first taken the dog out a year before. Her daily routine led her to only have time to go for a walk between breakfast with her husband and going to work but it suited her well as it meant she avoided coming across other dogs. Without warning the dog let out a yip and pulled desperately towards the edge of the path, scrambling to get closer to the bush.
“Lady!” The woman yelped in surprise, trying to pull Lady back but she was further shocked to hear a cry from within the bush. She managed to pull Lady under control before crouching down to investigate. “Hi sweetie… where’s your mummy?”
The red-haired child tried to push further back still without luck.
“Honey, what’s your name?” The woman frowned, taking in the girl’s appearance. Her unusual clothes were torn, she was bruised and scratched and her striking green eyes were flooded with distrust and terror.
Hesitating only a moment, the woman pulled out her phone, dialling her husband. While the phone dialled, her eyes never left the child whilst she simultaneously tried to hold Lady back.
“Val? I’ve just got to the station, I can’t re-“
“Good, it’s best you’re there.” Val cut off her husband urgently
“What’s going on?” Worry laced his voice at the lack of his wife’s usually carefree tone.
“I found a little girl. Her parents don’t seem to be around here anywhere and she doesn’t look in good shape…”
A moment of silence settled as her husband seemed to take in what she was saying. “Ok. Bring her to the station, I’ll let them know we have a Janie Doe on the way in.”


Chapter 1:

The approach of Valerie’s car caused my sense of foreboding to peak. I ducked into the vehicle, keeping my eyes down to avoid my mother’s gaze. We remained in silence as the car began to move but I knew it wouldn’t last long. As a means of distraction, I flicked through various screens on my phone, trying to work out what to tell my friends about where I’d gone.
“So… what happened this time?” Val’s sigh broke through the silence but I still couldn’t bring myself to look up.
“A bang… I don’t know what it was…” I fidgeted, wondering how long it would be before she truly lost her temper with me. Her patience seemed endless but I knew the fact I kept disappearing could hardly be easy for her.
“Did anyone see?” Her voice was tight with its usual worry, I simply shook my head. “One of these days you’re not going to be so lucky. What are you going to do when that happens?”
“I don’t know…” Mumbling my response, I moved my gaze to out of the window, trying to look anywhere except the driver’s seat to my right. The conversation was one we had every few weeks and I wasn’t in the mood for its repetition.
“You can’t go your whole life doing this. How are you going to sustain a job if you just disappear in the middle of the day?”
“I can’t help it, it’s not in my control!” My frustrations broke free as I finally turned my head to face her, “Do you think I like this?” I instantly regretted my outburst as I saw the look of hurt that passed over her face at my shouting.
“You think you’re the only one this is tough for? I get a call from you and suddenly have to drop everything I’m doing to sometimes drive as far as a couple of hours away to come and pick you up! This is not what I signed up for in having a child!”
I felt tears threatening to spill over, forcing me to look away again. Her words hung in the air, causing silence to fall over us once more. I sometimes hated myself for how badly I had disrupted her life. She was right, she hadn’t asked for this, she took me on and looked after me with hardly any complaints. In return, all I had done was cause problems in her job and her marriage. My mind continued to reel with guilt, trying to hide the fact I was crying from Valerie.
“You had to give me a lift to the doctors, it was last minute so I will send in a note tomorrow,” Valerie broke the silence as we drew closer to my school, coming up with yet another excuse as to why I was absent.
We pulled up but, as I moved to step out, she held my arm. “You have to learn to control this at some point, it can’t keep happening.” I could hear the desperation in her tone, showing how close to breaking point she really was. “You need to practice… maybe it’ll stop this… if you know how to do it on purpose?” She turned me to face her, revealing the tears in her own eyes, “Promise me you’ll try?”
Reluctantly I nodded, trying to ignore the fear that twisted my stomach at the idea. Before she could say any more, I pushed out of the car. I walked towards the school’s entrance, turning back in time to see the car as it pulled away.
 

Nosretap23

Senior Member
I would like to start off by saying that I think premise to this story is very good. It's almost like, and forgive me for making this comparison, a stray X-Man (woman) rescued by a kind hearted couple. It seems like it has been well outlined and I think has a lot of potential for a very good story.

The dialogue in the chapter was well written. It was a little hard to follow and I think some of that might be due to copy and past from word to the forum.

I was a little lost in the prologue. I think this is an issue that runs through the excerpt you have given us and that is too much narrator description, the classic showing versus telling. In my experience, too much description lends to a very heavy, thick (for lack of better terms) narrative which can lose a reader. There is definite emotion going on in this first chapter, but I didn't feel that emotion. Expand the dialogue a little more. Rather than telling us the mother (Valerie) was crying, maybe show us what the narrator is feeling or sensing as she sees tears. Maybe even describe the tears as opposed to telling us she's crying.

Anyways, I think you have a good start. Thank you for sharing.
 

RubyEclipse

Senior Member
Ah I have never seen X-Men so unfortunately that comparison is lost on me but I'm gathering its not a bad thing?

Was it hard to follow due to formatting or the words themselves?

I do agree on your point of the prologue, it is something I have been struggling to write but am determined that it will eventually give the effect I'm desiring from it. It's very different for me as I tend to write almost exclusively in first person so my skill and technique in third person are somewhat lacking. Unfortunately, the purpose I have for this prologue does not allow me to give the correct effect in first person.
I see what you mean about the first chapter, that tends to be the kind of thing I alter when it comes to my second draft (although I do try and get it in the first if I can). My first drafts tend to be detailed skeletons of the events, enough to stand on their own and still portray the story in some detail but missing the flesh that fully portrays the emotion and more intricate details. When it comes to emotions though I do find that I can't pick up on those that are felt in my own writing since I know what I'm intending and struggle to notice if I'm lacking the correct effect so it is always very helpful to hear them from other people as I hadn't noticed that myself.
 

Ari

Senior Member
Heya :)
I guess this is fantasy, or maybe sci-fi?
You've got some cool and interesting ideas but after this beginning, I come off feeling kind of confused...

I found the point-of-view switch in 'chapter one' very muddling. It is possible to make this kind of switch work,
but for me I need some kind of grounding to tell me who the "I" is in the first couple of sentences. Otherwise, I don't know how to imagine it. I wondered at first if the "I" was the husband... when I realized it was probably the girl and there had been a time-jump, I had to go back and read the first bits again.
Even then, my imagination is a struggling because I don't get much clue to where she is when Valerie picks her up. Could be anywhere... I guessed school, because people pick kids up from school, but that was where she got dropped off so no good! My mind had to whirl around and think of something else.

And also... t
his girl vanishes with a bang, could end up anywhere (but luckily only within their city?), has been doing it her whole life, and she and her not-mother row about it like it's some kind of bad teenager behavior?
For me, that doesn't really hang true... if this is a normal world, there's something seriously weird going on. And I'd think it would reflect in their attitudes, and they would have tried to find out about it before now.
If it's not a normal world, I feel like I need to know that earlier, because what with her card and phones and stuff, it seems ordinary.

But keep up writing, and all ^_^ I think there's a story here I could really like, if only I were a little less muddled.

 
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RubyEclipse

Senior Member
Thanks for your input. I do get where you're coming from, I'm hoping it may seem muddling because half of the prologue is missing but I get that that may not be the case. Her name is brought up a couple of sentences after I stopped the first chapter extract, I wanted to bring it up sooner but I couldn't make it feel natural in the conversation she has with Val.
The prologue is included to provide the background of how she came to be with her family, however how she came to be in the park is supposed to remain unknown so I couldn't write it from Jane's point of view as she would obviously know at that time (although her age would leave her unable to remember), and I didn't want to write it from Val's point of view as I figured switching the 'I' would be even more muddling.
I see where you're coming from. I think I need to make why it happens clearer as clearly that was misunderstood. The bang was not a result of the jump, it was the cause. As she cannot control it, it is a fear response. If someone catches you off guard it can make you jump... she just goes a little further. The point of them not acting weird is because it's happened for a decade, it has become the norm for them (if that kind of makes sense?), obviously if I had been writing when she had just joint the family there would have been a far more severe reaction. This abnormality is shown as it is revealed later that Val's husband actually left because he couldn't deal with it like she could. As for why it hasn't been sorted before... have you ever had anything you're just too terrified to even attempt? I do build on this fear a little later on but maybe I have to bring it in sooner in order to make this clearer. To her, the risk isn't maybe a bit of fear, it's not knowing where on earth she's going to end up and maybe being unable to get home. I do try and display that this is not the first time Val's tried to get her to try and control it but perhaps again I need to put more emphasis in order to alleviate the reader being left with these confusions. The problem I have it trying to get all these points in without feeling clunky. I will work on it though because I would love to properly be able to share this story with others.
 

ShadowEyes

WF Veterans
Maybe I can comment on your response, seeing as how my reaction was pretty similar to those posted above?

Plot/Conflict:
You say you want to show the background of how she came to meet her family. The, uh, unique power that this young girl has proves to be a major source of conflict between the characters. However, when you shift to the first-person perspective, there's not much to really draw me in to sympathize with her because the conflict diminishes. They're taking it as a normal problem, as opposed to say, a magical problem, and there's little reason for me to doubt that it's as bad as they are saying. I mean... They managed it for years, right? (I think adding in fear is a good idea; however, you might need to make the whole story first-person.) If she wasn't really able to deal with this issue, then it would draw me in. And I think it makes the most sense that way. For instance, why hasn't anyone else noticed or why wouldn't the mother take her daughter to seek professional help? Has she ever teleported into an object? Now I would think that these are tough questions to answer, but if you could answer them, your story becomes much more believable. They would limit your character and allow you to develop a plot. If the daughter can avoid these problems, that's interesting. If she can't, more problems, which is also interesting. Right now, the plot revolves around the daughter and mother fighting about how this power hurts their family... not about how it's an issue in itself.

Character:
You know how you can't really scare yourself or tickle yourself? Maybe that's why she can't practice this ability. In regards to character, how would being able to freak people out affect her social life? Does she have friends or does she avoid everyone? Is she naturally pretty and does she attract attention? Is this happening with more people and will there be an encounter?

Setting/Viewpoint:
Another thing is that the viewpoint in the Prologue is third-person omniscient, which really requires you to focus and know what you're doing. You need to be able to pinpoint which details evoke the most emotion because you have the most freedom (in this perspective). For instance, I'm not really thrilled with the setting, nor the details about the dog; nor do I understand why the husband reacted how he did. I would really like to know the exact moment she vanishes, did she expect it, what were the outcomes of being ... adopted (?). Trading those details in for a short paragraph of mystery hurts the prologue.

Given all of this, however, it's still very early and I'm absolutely sure anything can change right now. This seems like a world- and character-building practice. And while it may help you to just write and write, with stories that develop very strict magical abilities, you might want to make sure that they are strictly limited, too. It's a balance between making her flawed (which you mentioned; it's a fear response) and making her consistent (which you skip in the time skip). So I look forward to your future plotting efforts and a future continuation. Because despite everything, I think it can be a really cool story.
 

A_Jones

Senior Member
I would suggest you go back through and look for run-ons. You could condense them into separate sentences but I feel like a lot of what you said could be taken out completely. There were also sever adjectives that I feel gave your work a cluttered feeling rather than a smooth one. I was unable to fall into your writing like I like to do with fantasy.

But you have some excellent ideas for imagery. If you clean up the wordy sentences you could be painting us a beautiful picture!
 

RubyEclipse

Senior Member
Plot/Conflict:
You say you want to show the background of how she came to meet her family. The, uh, unique power that this young girl has proves to be a major source of conflict between the characters. However, when you shift to the first-person perspective, there's not much to really draw me in to sympathize with her because the conflict diminishes. They're taking it as a normal problem, as opposed to say, a magical problem, and there's little reason for me to doubt that it's as bad as they are saying. I mean... They managed it for years, right? (I think adding in fear is a good idea; however, you might need to make the whole story first-person.) If she wasn't really able to deal with this issue, then it would draw me in. And I think it makes the most sense that way. For instance, why hasn't anyone else noticed or why wouldn't the mother take her daughter to seek professional help? Has she ever teleported into an object? Now I would think that these are tough questions to answer, but if you could answer them, your story becomes much more believable. They would limit your character and allow you to develop a plot. If the daughter can avoid these problems, that's interesting. If she can't, more problems, which is also interesting. Right now, the plot revolves around the daughter and mother fighting about how this power hurts their family... not about how it's an issue in itself.

Given comments I'm beginning to think where I cut it off was not in the right place to post on here as points mentioned are sometimes covered in the following passage (still within the first chapter). I would try and bring points forward but I feel it fits neater once she is actually within the school or in a point of self-reflection that follows than whilst she's in the car and just trying to avoid thinking about the whole thing. I tried to keep that particular exchange relatively short as to not make it seem like the focus of a plot point, it is needed to show why later events occur so it cannot be removed. The severity of the problem is something I'm really struggling to bring across because I'm torn in Val's reaction by the fact that she wants to accept Jane the way she is and knows it is not purposeful but at the same time its extremely disrupting and worries her a great deal. As for not going for professional help, it was not something that could happen on command so more likely than not she would be going to these professionals about how her daughter just disappears and reappears in random places and would not be able to prove it... she would personally come across and insane.

Character:
You know how you can't really scare yourself or tickle yourself? Maybe that's why she can't practice this ability. In regards to character, how would being able to freak people out affect her social life? Does she have friends or does she avoid everyone? Is she naturally pretty and does she attract attention? Is this happening with more people and will there be an encounter?

Again this may be down to where I cut off the passage. This is approached as she enters the school. She has a very small and limited friendship group and at the beginning her strong insecurities are shown (bit of a downward spiral of her life as the more insecure she is, the more she jumps and therefore the more insecure she gets). I cut off just before I fully introduce the character. Perhaps it would be better to try and introduce her sooner to avoid this? If so I would probably have to right this very differently.

Setting/Viewpoint:
Another thing is that the viewpoint in the Prologue is third-person omniscient, which really requires you to focus and know what you're doing. You need to be able to pinpoint which details evoke the most emotion because you have the most freedom (in this perspective). For instance, I'm not really thrilled with the setting, nor the details about the dog; nor do I understand why the husband reacted how he did. I would really like to know the exact moment she vanishes, did she expect it, what were the outcomes of being ... adopted (?). Trading those details in for a short paragraph of mystery hurts the prologue.

As I have said, my third person writing needs some real work. However, at this stage, revealing the background to that particular time she vanishes would render a lot of the plot pretty redundant since she herself spends the plot discovering this. Again, the outcomes of her life in the following years is further explored later on within the first chapter. This is only a 500 word section so to be able to have all these questions answered so quickly would probably make it too cramped.


And thanks A_Jones, that problem stems from the way I speak naturally (a little long winded) so when I'm just trying to get it down before any editing, that can be an issue. Are there any points in particular you found to be long-winded?
 

Jared77

Senior Member
The first sentence of chapter 1 seems a little awkward (maybe it's just me), and first sentences are important.

"The approach of Valerie’s car caused my sense of foreboding to peak." It could be tighter, less wordy.

Something like this: "My foreboding peaked at the sound of Valerie's car."

You don't normally need the word "caused." If one thing caused another, readers can usually figure out from the fact that it follows the previous action.

Hope this helps a little. Writing posts like this help me because I do the same things. I usually only notice when I'm going back and re-reading my own stuff.
 

ShadowEyes

WF Veterans
Given comments I'm beginning to think where I cut it off was not in the right place to post on here as points mentioned are sometimes covered in the following passage (still within the first chapter). I would try and bring points forward but I feel it fits neater once she is actually within the school or in a point of self-reflection that follows than whilst she's in the car and just trying to avoid thinking about the whole thing. I tried to keep that particular exchange relatively short as to not make it seem like the focus of a plot point, it is needed to show why later events occur so it cannot be removed.

I think I understand. You want to set up events for later on in the story, to show Jane's mental state. I think the sentences that do this are:

"I sometimes hated myself for how badly I had disrupted her life. She was right, she hadn’t asked for this, she took me on and looked after me with hardly any complaints. In return, all I had done was cause problems in her job and her marriage. My mind continued to reel with guilt, trying to hide the fact I was crying from Valerie."

My original worry was that the character would be too schizo in regards to making the teleporting thing a consistent, realistic conflict that can be tackled in a satisfying way. This ties in with Jane's feelings of guilt and her mother's (?) reaction because the conflict is emotional. So it may be most satisfying to detail the way Jane works around it, or just showing her life in a way different from normal people's. It's a real thought experiment...

I also wonder why she calls her mother Valerie. That aside, though, I think the other things you mentioned, like how far she has to travel sometimes or how desperate they are figure this out are pretty obvious. I could use more examples of how Jane is trying to focus on other things or how Valerie is disrupted. It's all a matter of pacing, no? That would add a lot to the story.

The severity of the problem is something I'm really struggling to bring across because I'm torn in Val's reaction by the fact that she wants to accept Jane the way she is and knows it is not purposeful but at the same time its extremely disrupting and worries her a great deal. As for not going for professional help, it was not something that could happen on command so more likely than not she would be going to these professionals about how her daughter just disappears and reappears in random places and would not be able to prove it... she would personally come across and insane.

Okay, I like that Val is torn and I like that Jane cannot see other people about it because she cannot control it. That's what I'm saying: these are consistent results of her conflict, her problem. That's what draws me in, makes me feel for the character. I hope you show more of this. :)

Again this may be down to where I cut off the passage. This is approached as she enters the school. She has a very small and limited friendship group and at the beginning her strong insecurities are shown (bit of a downward spiral of her life as the more insecure she is, the more she jumps and therefore the more insecure she gets). I cut off just before I fully introduce the character. Perhaps it would be better to try and introduce her sooner to avoid this? If so I would probably have to right this very differently.

I would say the quicker you introduce the main character, the better. If the story is first person, after all, it shouldn't skip around to third-person omniscient. Third-person omniscient is hard to pull off. I think you'd do best to stay in one frame of reference. However, what I'm lacking right now are any believable consequences of the conflict. I need to know why Val is desperate, why Jane may be spiraling, what others might have told her, and how the family life is affected. All of that adds to the realism. Because this seems like a slice-of-life story with a magical twist, just IMHO.

As I have said, my third person writing needs some real work. However, at this stage, revealing the background to that particular time she vanishes would render a lot of the plot pretty redundant since she herself spends the plot discovering this. Again, the outcomes of her life in the following years is further explored later on within the first chapter. This is only a 500 word section so to be able to have all these questions answered so quickly would probably make it too cramped.

Wonderful. I hope to read more. And maybe just make that backstory, like in a mystery novel, there's so much padding you have to uncover, so many motives and layers of psychosis. You can give the reader the benefit of the doubt that they'll pick up on most of the emotions themselves.
 

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