Hello Again!

kaufmannp

Writing the good fight!
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Hello Everyone!

It has been a while since I last posted anything here. I am still hard at work on my WiP, and I thought that perhaps I would share my revised prologue here and capture any thoughts any of you might be gracious enough to share. I chopped it from 5000+ words down to 777, so its a great deal less unwieldy.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this, and best of luck on all of your endeavors, be they SF/F or strictly mundane in nature!


Overture

“It’s dawn.”

“It’s never dawn here.”

“Well, it’s a sort of dawn. I’ll admit; this is a dark place.”

“Dark place, for dark things.” John Sagis let the words trail off into the cool air, and gazed upon the murky landscape of Terris Noir. The larger fires had finally begun to die out, the structures that had borne them all but consumed. Several lesser blazes dotted the landscape, fading embers in the coming dawn. They cast a subtle hue of oranges and reds that reflected against the overcast sky, lending a surreal quality to the ambiance.

“Is it done then? Is he dead?”

“I don’t know Will. I think so.”

“That’s a…I was hoping for something more.” Will Beckett replied as he watched the ash fall, small flakes of it drifting with the breeze in their gentle tumble to the ground. Smoke ascended in pillars high enough to converge with the gathering clouds above. A gloomy haze of heated moisture hung oppressively in the air to form an almost tangible fog that blanketed the ground and prevented a more thorough examination.

“You’re alive. We survived; that’s something right there.”

“Yeah. So, now what?”

“Now you go and build your Republic. Make good on all of those promises made. And I go and find a quiet place to disappear to where they’ll both be safe.”

“Safe. From who? Piter Yanig is going into the deepest hole I can find for him. Tyranik’s down there in that cavern looking like some kind of stone monstrosity. They were the end of it, the last mercenary holdouts.”

“Something I’ve learned Will; there’s never an end to it. It may be that you have won your freedom, it may be that the Corporate Authority is truly finished, but there will always be someone, something out there in the dark.”

“Come back with me John. Help me build something that will keep out the dark.”

“Sorry, I’ve got another job to tend to. Promises that I made.”

“John Sagis, nursemaid?”

“Got another volunteer for that part. Miriam’s coming with me.”

“Miriam? Ha! You’re looking for slit throats, you take her.”

“She’s bound to them, just like me. And she’s motivated by more than just hate. She’ll keep them safe, we both will.”

“Where will you go?”

“Far. Some place far from here, from Earth, the Kingdom, all of it.”

“Eventually someone will want to come looking for you. You know that. There are those who won’t be contented with the notion of you out in the Black, and not locked away somewhere.”

For a time, Sagis watched the clouds that had begun to muster on a barely visible horizon, bearing signs of a brewing storm. “Plenty of them, I’m sure.”The peal of thunder rumbling in the distance underscored his reply, the occasional growls echoing softly amidst the dying cacophony of battle. He watched as one or two short-lived sparks of lightening became all but lost within the bank of clouds; they appeared almost tranquil with their slight flickering. “What about you, Will? Do you think I should be locked up somewhere?”

“Me? I’m just glad you’re on our side. You will need to watch out for the Kingdom as well. With the Corporate Authority gone, King Taurun will be looking to rally his clans. Nothing gathers people close like a boogieman, and your head on a spike would make plenty of clansmen feel better with the treaty.”

“Danger on both sides then. Well, that’s nothing new to me. Still, can’t have half a galaxy out looking for me. Best hide in plain sight.”

“Keep yourself armed, John, even with- especially with- that hellcat Miriam tagging along with you.”

“I have a few thoughts on that. Some ideas to keep me busy.”

“Not going to pick up hunting Authority chairmen again, are you? Leave that sort of thing to us, and we can do all sorts of neat things with them like trials and life-long terms of labor.”

“No more hunting, Will, my word on it. I promised him, promised her too really, that I would take care of them. I mean to keep to that.”

“Just remember John, it’s not a penance. You are not responsible for the whole damned galaxy. You have nothing to-“

“Yes I do. Quite a lot, actually.”

“Storm’s approaching.” Will Beckett said as he came to his feet, his battered armor heralding the motion with a sharp rattle. He slowly limped over to the risen crest where John Sagis surveyed the quieting battlefield, and stood with his friend. For a time neither spoke.

“It’ll be some time before it comes.”

It was dawn, of a sort.
 

Brian G Turner

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IT feels to me that you're lacking any real POV - you have two men, who chatter about what's going on, without you actually showing anything really of what's going on. You put in a couple of nice descriptions about clouds and weather, but there's otherwise little about setting and context here, other than what you let your characters narrate for us.

You could really improve this piece by pushing on a sense of emotion here. I think you can feel it, and it's meant to be there - but at the moment, for me, you're not communicating it very well.

2c.
 

ratsy

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Hey kauf, well you did the first part which is posting an excerpt of your story. I agree with Brian, and this seems to be one of those cases of you trying to give us backstory in a good way, by feeding it to us in dialogue, but it is more telling than showing. Is this a prologue scene? It may not even be needed. This is all information that could be alluded to in the next scene or dripped to us as you start the story. In regards to Brian's comments, you need to get into one of their heads. Here's an example of how I would do that:

“Sorry, I’ve got another job to tend to. Promises that I made.” John felt his eye twitch as he spoke. He knew he gave promises too freely and too often, but this time he had to keep his word. People were counting on him whether he wanted them to or not. In that moment he felt his shoulders slump forward, like gravity was cranked up a notch; the weight of the world and all of that business.

There are things to work with here, but less back-story dumping in the dialogue would go a long way, and just give us a POV we can focus on and get behind.

Good luck!
 

Phyrebrat

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This:

“It’s dawn.”

“It’s never dawn here.”

“Well, it’s a sort of dawn. I’ll admit; this is a dark place.”

“Dark place, for dark things.” John Sagis let the words trail off into the cool air, and gazed upon the murky landscape of Terris Noir. The larger fires had finally begun to die out, the structures that had borne them all but consumed. Several lesser blazes dotted the landscape, fading embers in the coming dawn. They cast a subtle hue of oranges and reds that reflected against the overcast sky, lending a surreal quality to the ambiance.

“Is it done then? Is he dead?”

“I don’t know Will. I think so.”

“That’s a…I was hoping for something more.” Will Beckett replied as he watched the ash fall, small flakes of it drifting with the breeze in their gentle tumble to the ground. Smoke ascended in pillars high enough to converge with the gathering clouds above. A gloomy haze of heated moisture hung oppressively in the air to form an almost tangible fog that blanketed the ground and prevented a more thorough examination.

“You’re alive. We survived; that’s something right there.”


Makes me think of a Beckett play, particularly Endgame. It reads like one of his scripts only it has extra info, and as my Beckett Fandom has no limit, I liked the opening. But that's probably not what you're going for. As Brian and ratsy have already said, it is not clear in the first instance whose story this is. And I think someone has said that it is a difficult sell to start the opening of a story with dialogue as we have no context for the character saying it. In this instance, the bleakness of their words sortakinda does give me context.

After that it drifts into tell-y territory with the dialogue. Depending on whose POV it is, what does Sagis or Beckett want? What is their objective? Can you find something they strongly disagree about and use that to drip feed the world info in? It seems they are already at odds with each other and his promise is something the other doesn't feel is a valid reason to go. I'd escalate that to a bigger disagreement and see where it takes you. As it's not long, you could experiment by writing it in both characters' voice and see which one suits.

pH
 

cyberpunkdreams

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I actually quite liked the lack of immediate POV, leaving you guessing who the main character's going to be. Or perhaps it's going to become multi-threaded. I really don't like the idea of diving into one of their heads at this point (sorry ratsy!) I don't think it gets too tell-y either, although that's always a fine line. If you continued this sequence much further that would become a risk.

More technical points:
  • It got a bit hard to follow which of them was talking at points.
  • I'm fairly sure that fog is, by definition, tangible.
  • You're missing sub-clauses for proper names within the speech.
 

kaufmannp

Writing the good fight!
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Wow, that is a lot of really good feedback, thank you! The prologue is set during the aftermath of a final battle and Chapter 1 takes place 10 years later and features neither of the characters present here. That being the case, I'm starting to lean further in the direction of just chopping the entire prologue and diving into the story proper. I have toyed with the idea of a sort of opening crawl, a 'la Star Wars, or perhaps Feist's Our Story So Far from his Rift War series, just to give the reader a glimpse of what they're getting into. I'd like to find a middle ground between info dump and info-trickle...if such an animal truly exists!
All that aside, thank you so much for your time and your guidance!
 

JoanDrake

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Have you tried just letting all the description go and doing it on the dialogue entirely? Maybe you could put it on the end, it's good and solidly evocative enough but just seemed to be getting in the way at first.

The lack of a solid POV might be irritating to some but I thought it intriguing, pulling me in

Is this a prologue as you say? It seems like well into the story from my view.
 

ctg

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Personally I don't like pieces, where I have to guess on every dialogue line, who is the speaker. You need apply identifiers. Well, if you would be trying to sell this piece to me.
 

AnyaKimlin

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I don't mind the lack of immediate POV and the first few lines are fine. I struggle though after you've named John - it then smacks of an author being deliberately awkward by making it hard to work out who is speaking.
 

tinkerdan

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This works fairly well for mostly dialogue.
There is that part at the beginning that seems to be trying to set the landscape and it does paint a picture of a sort.
I can't help but think it could be helped if we could understand who is responsible for all the fire and destruction. If through the eyes that tell the story we also could get close to how they feel about the destruction they wrought or their enemy brought about because of their own actions. Then the fading embers of the coming dawn could be likened to the lifting of the spirits of those left dead on the battlefields. These two are feeling something that they don't seem to be sharing with the reader just now.
 

ThomasG

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Well, I already like Miriam.
I do not have a problem with the POV here, so long as it's clear in Chapter 1. it leaves me curious to what's to come (but when do these characters come back into the story?).

lending a surreal quality to the ambiance.
I would remove this. The description starts getting forced. You could keep the word surreal in the first part of the sentence, maybe, while the word ambience, to me, would describe a small environment, like a room, rather than a world.

and prevented a more thorough examination.
Same again here. Unless we are meant to be examining something.
 

kaufmannp

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(Insert random scifi monologue referencing beginnings and their fragility etc etc)

This will be a problem that I'll continue to roll about in my head until I complete the rest of the story.

The problem that I have is that I've got a whole back-story about a rebellion to overthrow a totalitarian regime and the prologue is the aftermath of the last battle. Think the first chapters of LOTR but devoid of all the talent of Mr. Tolkien. Also no rings. The options that i am thus considering are:

1-Ditching the whole prologue (which a healthy majority advocate as a rule) and dripping out back story as I go. This is course of action numeral uno.

2- Option 1 but with other characters delivering exposition in a sort of celebratory reenactment of the final battle in Chapter 1.

3. Ignoring all sense, rationale and advisement and restoring the huge-normous 5000+ word prologue I originally wrote. This is not a serious option but I included it just to see how silly it looked printed in front of me ;)


Ideas? Also, thank you for your continued indulgence! I have no doubt that your assistance is immeasurably valuable to junior novice writers like myself.
 

AnyaKimlin

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The reader only really needs to understand the world from your POV character's perspective. There may be a lot of the worldbuilding that doesn't need to go in the books. I've always enjoyed writing ignorant characters because the world hinted at can be far more complex than the world that has to be fully explained.
 

Toby Frost

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I'd second Anya's point. Also, I've found that people can usually guess what backstory was like with less explanation than you might think is necessary (even if they get the details slightly wrong). I think you're right to be wary of prologues. I remember those prologues you used to see in fantasy novels, often written as a legend, which were full of names and details that didn't really matter because you didn't know who anyone was and so couldn't get a handle on it all.

Going back to the actual excerpt, I think that you need slightly more to flesh out what the characters are like and to make it clearer what they're discussing, or just have them discuss less. The impression I got was of two very similar gruff tough guys showing no emotion. Personally, I'd have liked there to be more, either in the description or the style of speech, to differentiate them. Also there's a tendency for the characters to say a mysterious thing alluding to back story and then stop. It might be because they do this several times that it starts to look like a technique, or because they aren't doing anything except standing and talking.

Overall, I would give them something to do: looking for someone, walking away, patching a wound or whatever seems right. You could learn a lot about them from the way that they do it. They could talk as they worked, and the scene would seem less like a primer for the reader that way. Also, I might try to convey slightly less information. It would make the task a bit easier.

But that said, I think the dialogue is good. It just needs a bit more for the reader to latch on to.
 

Steven Sorrels

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Remember that it is okay to leave descriptions of places and things a bit freeform, as the reader's imagination will fill in the gaps as long as you give a guideline. This also allows for more connection, as it will make it more personal to each reader. Watch your dialogue, as it does get a bit muddied as to who is speaking when their tone is similar. Don't be afraid to throw in a "he said" or "she flinched", etc., into the mix. It will break things up and help keep identities separate.

It looks like you have plenty of material to work with and a plan of where things are going. Good luck!
 
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