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Perculiar Chronicles of Withering Hall - Prologue 2 (1 Viewer)

Paulbee

Senior Member
(warning, you will need to read prologue 1 to make any sense of this)

Prologue 2 – Withering Hall reality

Cross-reality date 1700; Location: North Riding of Yorkshire, near Church Fenton.

In the woods that abutted Church Fenton, a solitary, ramshackle cottage stood. Two figures approached the building, one of them knocked on the door. After a short wait, the door creaked open and a woman’s wizened face peered out at them,
“Yes?”
The man spoke,
“We’re in need of food and a place to rest for a while. I have gold to recompense you.”
She held out a skeletal hand and he dropped a coin into it. She examined the coin, then introduced herself as Granny Totter and invited them in.
“What’s yer names then?”she asked,
“Hector Frankel and this is my um, niece, Emma Frankel.”
“Where do ye hail from, Master Frankel?”
“A far-away place, Mistress Totter.”
“I see.”

She studied them. Their garments had the look of expensive tailoring that had been worn nearly threadbare. Both were armed, the woman with a bolas and a sword of a strange design, the man carried a sword. She invited them in,
“Don’t often get visitors out here. A lot of the village folk thinks I’m a witch, but I only dabbles in herbal treatments. Still, having a reputation for carrying on all sorts of wicked doings keeps ‘em away, unless they wants something for their ailments.”
She offered them tea and they sat in silence enjoying the steaming brew. Granny Totter eventually broke the quiet,
“Where do ye really hail from?”
Frankel gave her a sharp look,
“I don’t like to lie, Mistress Totter but I suspect my answer would be incomprehensible to you.”
“Ah, the Hallowed Lands then. Which part?”

She chuckled at their shocked expressions,
“Oh deary me, your faces.”
‘But how did you come to know of our Lands?’ Frankel demanded.
Granny Totter said,
“I sometimes visits Withering Hall’s ruins, all sorts of plants and herbs grows there. Last spring I found the entrance to your Hallowed Lands where the Hall’s library used to be.”
Frankel mused,
“We stumbled upon the entrance in the hills outside a village in Greyun territory. Makes sense then, that the entrance is two-way. It’s a wonder that more people haven’t found it, unless they have, of course.”
Emma raised a hand to stop him and asked the elderly woman,
“How did the destruction of the Hall come about?”
“Razed to the ground for harbouring Catholic priests. The entire Withering clan was executed. It’s rumoured hereabouts that the screams of the dead family can still be heard when the moon is full.”
The doctor snorted contemptuously,
‘More superstitious claptrap.’

Emma reflected that her dear Hector could be very undiplomatic at times as well as unable to spot an opportunity. She said,
“Mistress Totter, is there any way we could identify ourselves as Witherings and claim the land and its properties? As long as it’s safe to do so, now.”
Granny Totter smiled,
“My dears. The locals will be happy for you to stay there even if you couldn’t prove rights to possession. I can provide you with papers of baptism from St Mary's church in York, nobody will question them. Quite frankly, nobody will care.”
Frankel was curious,
“How will you obtain those documents?”
She tapped the side of her nose, then said,
“I knows a man who can forge such papers. He owes me money for ointments to cure his boils. I’ll visit him tomorrow to suggest a barter.”
Hector Frankel smiled,
‘Mistress Totter, we are indeed fortunate to have met you.’
 

coraelise

Senior Member
I'm intrigued by Mistress Totter - she seems like a witty old lady with a lot of secrets on her tongue. I like those kinds of characters - ones you can expect something out of the ordinary from.

The main suggestion I have lies in your dialogue structure. In the beginning, you did well in spacing out descriptors liked "said", "asked", etc. However, as the piece goes on, I find myself taking unnecessary pauses to read between every dialogue bit, "She said", "Frankel was curious", and "-blank- smiled".

I'd suggest changing it up in this style:
Phillip spoke to his wife with a grin, "I saw Randy out with his new lady..."
Emily whipped her head to glare at him, "Why are you sticking your nose into his business?"
"Because it's fun!"
"Is it, though, Phillip? Making fun of a poor, lonely man?" His wife shook her head as she spoke.

It's not needed to put in a speech descriptor for every bit of dialogue and it's also more easy for the reader to understand who's speaking by only starting a new line for a new character's speech. See my first two lines for reference.

I hope I did not come off as harsh, I just want you to have the right kind of flow for fantasy!
I do like your content!
 

Paulbee

Senior Member
Only harsh when criticism is unfair. Yours is perfectly fair. As always I'll take it on board and decide whether to make adjustments in the work. I certainly see your point but at times a reader can get lost if three people are speaking. Thanks for reading at any rate.
 

Folcro

Creative Area Specialist (Fiction)
WF Veterans
One thing the talented (in any medium) seem to share in common is their tendency to "overdo it". You have a knack for words, but you need to take care of your vocabulary and your sentence structure. If you're going to do something different than everybody else, ask yourself why. If the answer is "because this will bring my audience closer to understanding the meaning and atmosphere of my piece" then by all means proceed. But if you want to be different for the sake of being different, the audience will pick up on that, and possibly label you ostentatious.

In the woods that abutted Church Fenton, a solitary, ramshackle cottage stood: The first example of what I mean jumped right out at me at the onset. Why did you word it like this? Were you afraid that "A ramshackle cottage stood alone in the woods that abutted Church Fenton" would have been too simple, bland and a turn off to readers? I assure you that is not so.

Fancier wording and structure usually works better (when it works at all) in description. When in action or establishment, you need to be sure your reader is on track. As a general rule, you only need to remind your reader how good of a writer you are every ten to twelve pages. Everything else should be focused on the storytelling (not the same things as the prose itself).

The man spoke: What man? What is awkward about this, once again, is your establishment. You begin with "two figures" and then suddenly it's "the man." Is it a man and a woman, then? Even if you explain later, it just looks broken here. To say "two men" approached the building or "a man and a woman" would be an easy fix.

Going back to your first line, I see that you use a pair of adjectives. Adjectives are like Game of Thrones characters: they can be quite useful and pretty, but you don't want too many of them around. Now, both adjectives you use are also important. The cottage is ramshackle and it is solitary (perhaps "lonely" would give more emotion to it): these are things we really should know. But spread them out.

Now, this is just me--- I don't expect you to copy and paste my own input unto your style, but here is a cut of how I would have written the opening:

An (old) man and a young woman approached a lonely cottage in the woods outside Church Fenten. He knocked gently; the ramshackle door rattled against the lock.

Starting with the couple keeps the focus where it should. Instead of panning on the cottage then the couple, we follow the couple as they walk into this cottage. In applying an adjective to the door, the audience will assume that the cottage is not in the best shape either, instead of just tacking our descriptors onto the cottage itself. The audience's eyes will go where we tell them to, instead of bringing the image to them directly.

This is a very talkative lady for a hermit, aint she?

'But how did you come to know of our lands' Frankel demanded: Demands are usually more... demanding: they don't generally start with "but".

It seems to me like you are trying to pack a lot of both plot and concept into this tiny parcel of story. Only bad things have resulted from this: mainly, it to your characters into drones, who only seem to exist to give me information through contrived dialogue. And even as these are interesting ideas and the potency in plot is there, you end up losing me in all of it. And when I have no real characters to take me by the hand, that is what makes me walk away.

What I feel you should do is focus on these people remove all plot and concept. Simply consider who these two people are, Frankel and his niece, how they might react to the strangeness of this hermit. Do not go into the hermit's perspective at all, and don't let her give any back story on herself. She is not important, the other two are. She is just a plot device. Let there be some build up. Let her be a little scary. Then, when she's done being scary, perhaps a little funny. When you are finished, go back and feed a tiny bit of information, a tiny bit of concept, and a tiny bit of insight into what this Frankel is up to.
 

Paulbee

Senior Member
Thanks for your input, Folcro. I disagree with a lot of what you've said and agree with some of it. Always useful to get other people's opinions though. Thanks for reading.
 

Nippon Devil

Senior Member
The flow of this one felt a lot better than part 1. I agree with everyone else in that how you deal with dialog needs to be cleaned up. I wished we knew a bit more about Frankel and Emma though. Withholding certain details can be "distracting". You don't have to give me the whole kitchen, but a snack would be nice.
 

Gofa

Friends of WF
(warning, you will need to read prologue 1 to make any sense of this)

same ipad same problems not sure why fonts go funny. The font faeries are a law unto themselves

Prologue 2 – Withering Hall reality

Cross-reality date 1700; Location: North Riding of Yorkshire, near Church Fenton.

In the woods that abutted Church Fenton, a solitary, ramshackle cottage stood. Two figures approached the building, one of them knocked on the door. After a short wait, the door creaked open and a woman’s wizened face peered out at them,
“Yes?”
The man spoke,
“We’re in need of food and a place to rest for a while. I have gold to recompense you.”
She held out a skeletal hand and he dropped a coin into it. She examined the coin, then introduced herself as Granny Totter and invited them in.
“What’s yer names then?”she asked,
“Hector Frankel and this is my um, niece, Emma Frankel.”
“Where do ye hail from, Master Frankel?”
“A far-away place, Mistress Totter.”
“I see.”

She studied them. Their garments had the look of expensive tailoring that had been worn to nearly threadbare. Both were armed, the woman with a bolas and a sword of a strange design, the man carried a sword. She invited them in,
“Don’t often get visitors out here. A lot of the village folk thinks I’m a witch, but I only dabbles in herbal treatments. Still, having a reputation for carrying on all sorts of wicked doings keeps ‘em away, unless they wants something for their ailments.”
She offered them tea and they sat in silence enjoying the steaming brew. Granny Totter eventually broke the quiet,
“Where do ye really hail from?”
Frankel gave her a sharp look,
“I don’t like to lie, Mistress Totter but I suspect my answer would be incomprehensible to you.”
“Ah, the Hallowed Lands then. Which part?”

She chuckled at their shocked expressions,
“Oh deary me, your faces.”
‘But how did you come to know of our Lands?’ Frankel demanded.
Granny Totter said,
“I sometimes visits Withering Hall’s ruins, all sorts of plants and herbs grows there. Last spring I found the entrance to your Hallowed Lands where the Hall’s library used to be.”
Frankel mused,
“We stumbled upon the entrance in the hills outside a village in Greyun territory. Makes sense then, that the entrance is two-way. It’s a wonder that more people haven’t found it, unless they have, of course.”
Emma raised a hand to stop him and asked the elderly woman,
“How did the destruction of the Hall come about?”
“Razed to the ground for harbouring Catholic priests. The entire Withering clan was executed. It’s rumoured hereabouts that the screams of the dead family can still be heard when the moon is full.”
The doctor snorted contemptuously,
‘More superstitious claptrap.’

Emma reflected that her dear Hector could be very undiplomatic at times as well as unable to spot an opportunity. She said,
“Mistress Totter, is there any way we could identify ourselves as Witherings and claim the land and its properties? As long as it’s safe to do so, now.”
Granny Totter smiled,
“My dears. The locals will be happy for you to stay there even if you couldn’t prove rights to possession. I can provide you with papers of baptism from St Mary's church in York, nobody will question them. Quite frankly, nobody will care.”
Frankel was curious,
“How will you obtain those documents?”
She tapped the side of her nose, then said,
“I knows a man who can forge such papers. He owes me money for ointments to cure his boils. I shall visit him tomorrow to suggest a barter.”
Hector Frankel smiled,
‘Mistress Totter, we are indeed fortunate to have met you.’

Again well written. Just 2 or 3 little suggestions the "shall" above is more witchy than I'll and shows on going commitment,
you've tied the two threads together with structure that is solid. Sorry for pun. My only bump is Hector being condescending on the ghosts. I would go with "Still this could be of use later" as a scientist he would make use of what is rather than dismiss what is not.

again go you good thing I look forward to more
 

Paulbee

Senior Member
Thanks all for your input. Main problem is that this is meant merely as an introduction to the main story which takes place in the 21st century not the 18th. Granny Totter is important as she is the one who helps them to put down roots at Withering Hall and her descendants will be passing down a certain recipe for a potion that will save Emma's life and Emma's descendants will also need the potion. Since I can't pack all this into a couple of thousand words. The journey through two realities over 300 years is going to be difficult enough as it is. Obviously Doc Frankel and Emma, being the first of the new Withering clan need to be introduced as does the mystery behind her as yet unknown ailment and certain abilities but I can't say more without spoiling things.
 

Gofa

Friends of WF
That was very much what I had guessed and why I had the comment on structure Location and physicality plus the obvious element if time displacement made for now and then to be blurred. The loss of the halls could obviously be dealt with from the other side of the time displacement as not yet having happened
excellent to see the depth. I think the two in one element with time displacement does give a great book end opportunity to fit much in the middle.
 

Paulbee

Senior Member
Chapter One

Hallowed Lands reality. Date: Mars 10th 1712. Location; Darist Army Barracks.

Extract from the journal of Private Jakobi Stratt, 1st Darist Infantry Division.

-There’s been rumours of impending trouble circulating around Grimmscar for about six months now. Balsan troops gathering at the Greyun border, that sort of thing. Emperor Greston was poisoned by one of the Dark Magic’s assassins three years ago. His replacement, Emperor Trask, replaced Inhardeen Brothers in the Imperial High Command with Dark Magic Warlocks. His hatred of the Brotherhood is well known. For about two years, Trask’s Secret Police have been torturing and killing anybody from the Inhardeen lot. Then, according to scuttlebutt, the Balsans got to know about the persecutions and sent a stiffly worded letter to the Emperor, demanding that they stop. His response was basically, ‘fat chance’.-

The mess door opened.
Stratt glanced up from his journal. Their corporal shouted,
“Officer in the mess. Tenshun you ‘orrible lot.”
Colonel Mayhem waved a swagger stick vaguely,
“At ease, men.”
“You ‘eard the officer. Stand at ease!”
Mayhem said,
“Men, we’ve just been informed that your division will be moving out tomorrow morning, heading up a task force into Greyun territory. Once there, you’ll set up a supply base in readiness for the other regiments. That’s all, chaps, good luck.”

Journal entry by Jakobi Stratt,

-So the shit finally hit the fan. The Greyuns had declared themselves a neutral country and their position between Balsa and Grimmscar meant they could prevent skirmishes. The IB would never approve breaching the Grantun Treaty but I doubt if the Dark Magic Council got problems with it. All we have to do now is get past the Greyuns. Wonder if I’ll die tomorrow? Best not to think about that, bad mojo.-

On Mars 11th 1712 the 1st Darists were deployed and established a fortified position in Garrison, a village five miles into Greyun territory. By the end of the month, Grimmscar’s army had moved across Greyun land and faced Balsan troops across Snake River.

Journal entry by Jakobi Stratt, Mars 28th 1712

-We’ve made camp now. Sun’s setting, going to be a cold night. We had to fight every inch of the way through the 40 mile strip of land against irregular Greyun troops, basically anybody who could breathe. Greyuns are born warriors, even their women and kids can use longbows and catapults. A lot of people are dead. War ain’t glorious. It’s bloody, dirty and frightening. Grantun was a burning ruin by the time we left. One or two of the recruits were in tears. Our ever sympathetic corporal told them to shut the fuck up and get on with the job. Bastard.-

Throughout the months of Apral and Mey, the Grimmscar army fought their way across Balsan borders and onto the plains. They were beaten back then progressed forward again. Delfish troops from the Grey Forest began supporting Grimmscar and at the beginning of Janus, the Alliance reached the fortress city of Siering.


Chapter Two

Withering Hall reality. Date; 1st September 1712; Location; The kitchen.

Extract from Granny Esther Totter’s diary

-It’s been over ten years since Dr Frankel and Emma first knocked on my door. A coin in the right palm, a threat of dreadful curses in the right ear and it’s amazing how much building work can be accomplished, documentation forged and silences bought. My nephew, James is a Master Carpenter and he was the only one allowed near the library after the walls had been rebuilt. I told him about the entrance or portal as the good doctor preferred to call it. James just shrugged and suggested we build a bookcase from wall to ceiling across the portal and leave it at that. I still remember the argument we had over his idea.

“James Josiah Totter, you will not just leave it at that.”
“But, Aunt Esther.”
“But me no buts, nephew. I’ll still need to get herbs from the other side.”
His eyes lit up,
“Ah, a secret panel. Like the first Hall when they hid priests? Hmm, I’ll need to rethink the design then.”
“Good boy, I knew you wouldn’t let your auntie down.”
I heard him mutter,
“Wouldn’t bloody dare let you down, you mean.”
I just smiled and…..-

Emma Frankel interrupted her,
“Granny? Granny Totter?”
“Oh hello, my dear.”
“I’m going to need more of the potion soon.”

She examined Emma’s hands. They were shaking. Granny nodded,
“Very well.”
The palsy began five years ago. Granny Totter’s knowledge had been put to the test and she worked tirelessly for a month before finding the ingredients necessary to help the young woman.

As she mixed the potion with water and gave it to Emma, she said,
“Emma, this only seems to be a temporary measure.”
“There’s nothing else you can do, surely?”
“Not with herbs and medicines, no.”
“But you think there is something else?”
Granny Totter sat her down in the chair opposite her. Tapped a fingernail on yellowing teeth,
“Emma, how long is it since you visited the Lands?”
“Must be at least eight years, why?” then she understood, “You think this has something to do with my time away from the Hallowed Lands?”
“Could be, my dear. I’ve not been there for a good six months now. I’m due a visit quite soon. Perhaps you could go with me, say tomorrow?”
A shrug of shoulders,
“Well, alright then, but I don’t see why it would make a difference. Hector hasn’t been affected at all and he’s not been back there since we came through.”
“Oh, just indulge a doddering old lady’s whims.”
“Hmph, last thing you are is doddering, Esther Totter and well you know it.”
She left the kitchen and Granny hummed as she busied herself with jars to put in a basket for the following day.
 

thepancreas11

New Writers' Mentor
WF Veterans
Meant to post this last weak:

While I agree that this suits the title of prologue better, being both a separation in time and space from what is sure to follow in the story, reading from a historical text...? I have rarely ever seen this technique used properly or successfully, and here, I'll say that this does not feel like one of those times. I would suggest if you so want to use historical extracts, split this into pieces and include a relevant line from it before each chapter of your story. That way, the reader can pick up on the history and also doesn't have to slag their way through history book. I don't know if you remember history books, but they never really interested me or most of the people I know. Even in non-fiction, the point is to tell a story with the facts.

I would consider not doing a prologue at all. In fact, I regularly recommend that writers not include a prologue until after they finish their piece. That way, you can really tell what needs to be added. I think a prologue usually manifests itself as a writer saying, "I have no idea how to start my story." That's okay. I have no idea how to start mine ever. That's why I keep writing. When I go back to revise, that's when I can tell whether I need to rewrite it.

As far as working information into the plot, you will find that the best writers do this slowly. You have puzzle pieces and you hand them to the reader one at a time, long enough that they can grasp that piece, and then move on. J.K. Rowling beats the crap out of anyone in this case. Harry Potter books have some of the sneakiest exposition. In that one, there is an entire backstory that gets explored little by little rather than all at once (She also uses flashbacks and newspaper clippings and text excerpts as well).

I really like your first chapter. I think you should start with that.
 

jerich100

Senior Member
What does “wizened” mean? Perhaps I should have read the other posts before responding. ;)

What plagues me in my writing is my paragraphs often read as if I’m looking at a grocery list. Item 1, Item 2, etc. This bugs me and I hate it. I try hard to blend the sentences into a continual flow to where the end of each sentence blends into the next. What is this issue called?

Anyway, your first paragraph is like a list: 1. Cottage; 2. Two figures approached; 3. One figure knocked; 4. Door opened, etc. Perhaps take pieces of each sentence and knit them differently so that the same information is given, but interconnected, such as: “Two figures approached a ramshackle cottage that abutted... After one of them knocked, the door creaked....”

I think what’s going on (BIG GUESS HERE) is while each sentence must be a complete sentence, you want each sentence to provide only a portion of what the reader wants—partial resolution. Then the next sentence completes the first thought and provides a portion of the next thought. This keeps the reader glued.

Music composers know about the resolution of chords, and sometimes (often?) put off chordal resolutions to hold the listener. Perhaps fiction is the same way.

The other thing I noted about your prologue is the reader wants to get inside the body of the POV character. The reader wants to know the phobias, drives, weaknesses, anxieties, desires, angers, and everything else of the poor soul they’re reading about. You don’t want your fiction to be just a report of events, but a highly biased, personal diary of the POV character.
 

Paulbee

Senior Member
Wizened? Sorry but referral to a dictionary would be more useful than reading the other posts. Anyway, for the time being, I have to say that pleasing everybody is impossible. I certainly appreciate everyone's feedback but I need time out now to work on the story. Will pop back in now and then.
 
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