Chapter 1 - Princess Grace of Verceti

Discussion in 'Critiques' started by Andrew Lambert, Nov 14, 2016.

  1. Andrew Lambert

    Andrew Lambert Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2016
    Messages:
    91
    Using most of my 1500 words. Don't know why I'm putting myself through this torture again. Red pens sharpened and to the ready.

    Princess Tauriar was attending her very first Decennial Ceremony, but, unlike the event of ten years ago, where she was the centre of the nation's attention, this was the turn of the Ventar designation.

    Within the majestic grounds of the Bala Verceti Palace of Ancestors, the ceremony was underway to replace the out-going High Council Elder and introduce a new baby boy as Prince. There on the rosewood stage, surrounded by the gently fluttering flags of the 16 provinces, the young princess proudly sat next to three older Royal Trainees.

    Tauriar wore her new white robe, made especially for this occasion, with the Vercetian Life Vine delicately embroidered onto it, a green serpent weaving its way around her, with explosions of red and yellow flowers.

    On the stage next to her sat Prince Camciette. At ten years her elder, the prince was now a young adult. He turned to her and smiled, and then pulled a face, eyes crossed and lips puffed out. Tauriar tried to keep her composure – this was, after all, the most important event she had ever attended – but the young prince was relentless in his quest to make her laugh. She soon succumbed, lifting her hands to her face to hide her giggling; powder blue cheeks turning instantly dark sapphire.

    They both looked up to see a hover-cam close by, zooming in on the prince's antics. The shock on Tauriar's face at being caught on camera in such a manner, and on such an occasion, was evident. The prince, however, just sat back, crossed his legs and gave the enthralled watching millions a broad smile and a cheeky wave. The two older Royal Trainees to his left looked on with resigned looks of exasperation, but their faces couldn’t hide the fondness they felt for this roguish young man.

    The little princess regained her composure and looked past the three elder Royals to Bakta, who looked anxious to get the ceremony started. He sat on his ornately jewelled throne, positioned centrally on the stage, his hands caressing the golden shape of the High Council Coat of Arms on his Overseer Amulet. On his left-hand side, the semi-circle was completed by the four High Councillors - the rulers of Bala Verceti. One day thought Tauriar nervously, she would be seated there.

    On each side of the stage were semi-circular viewing stands seating 2000 visiting dignitaries from across the nation, all formally attired and resplendent in provincial costume. In front of the stage sat the political and military representatives in their traditional ceremonial dress. To the rear, technicians were recording and transmitting the proceedings to the four corners of the realm. Most of the 85 million Vercetians would be watching a life-size holographic display of the stage and auditorium in each provincial town and city.

    Finally, all was quiet. Bakta the Overseer stood up and stepped forward to welcome everyone.


    "A decade so long.

    In a moment it is gone.

    Four decennial flow by.

    Now Lord Ventar shows why.

    Four councillors must there be.

    Four trainees for all to see.

    Eight travellers forever.

    An eighty-year endeavour.

    The Elder steps down.

    The Prince takes his crown.

    A new Prince is chosen.

    The cycle unbroken."


    Princess Tauriar silently recited the traditional opening to the Decennial Ceremony and watched in awe as the retiring Elder Bana-Ventar was relieved of his white robe by Bakta. She felt she was nearly inside the 3D hologram of a life-size bronze statue of him being unveiled in the Great Hall of the Elders, elsewhere in the palace. And, finally, using his real name for the first time in nearly 80 years, Benco Ariston left the stage to rapturous applause.

    The next part of the ceremony was the investiture of Bana-Domeriette as the new Elder, discarding her light grey robe for the white one.

    Tauriar looked on in awe as the two remaining Councillors, Bana-Camciette and Bana-Tauriar moved up one place, signifying their advancement towards Elder status.

    The little princess knew that Prince Ventar would now move onto the High Council, becoming the new Bana-Ventar, and the older Princess Domeriette and Prince Camciette would move seats signifying their decennial advancement.

    Then it would be her turn.

    Slowly, the ceremony moved on until it was Prince Camciette’s turn. He stood up and bowed to the audience but instead of stepping three paces to the vacant chair on his left he strolled all the way to the centre to Bakta’s throne before grandly sitting down and giving the crowd his trademark smile and wave. The auditorium erupted in laughter yet again at the prince's antics, but Bakta quickly shuffled him back to his right seat.

    At last, it was Princess Tauriar’s turn.

    This simple act of standing up, bowing, walking three steps and sitting down again had been practised in her mind a thousand times.

    Bakta the Overseer called to her;

    “Princess of the great house of Tauriar, stand before your nation and celebrate your onward journey.”

    Tauriar froze. Her brain and legs felt in complete disharmony. A million eyes held her glued to her seat. She could feel her world falling apart.

    Then in front of her appeared Prince Camciette. He reached for her tiny hand and with his thumb and forefinger gently raised it, drawing her into a standing position. He then bowed to her, so deeply his forehead was on the rosewood floor, and remained there still as the night.

    Princess Tauriar looked forward, bowed deeply to the assembly, stood back up, took three steps and gracefully sat down in the next chair. The crowd clapped and cheered the youngest princess.

    Bakta approached the princess and stood behind her, his hands resting lightly on her shoulders. He waited for quiet.

    ‘And now the part of the ceremony that, I know, many of you have been waiting for – the selection of the new Prince to occupy the vacant seat. It only seems like yesterday we selected this lovely young lady.’ Again, Tauriar’s pale complexion darkened. ‘And here we are today celebrating her first step towards our ruling council.’ He moved away into the centre of the stage.

    Tauriar concentrated hard as Bakta explain the full selection criteria. It all sounded very complicated and had her wondering how she had ever passed all these tests.

    A final five shortlisted ghostly images appeared around her on the stage, proud parents with beautiful baby boys from around the provinces. The holographs expanded to the point where only the baby's head was in sight. She reached out to touch the baby closest to her, who was showing his frustration at being awakened at what must have been nighttime in his province.

    Bakta walked to the front of the stage to make the final decision known.

    ‘And, the new Prince Ventar will be… Kalter of family Camerra!’

    The holograph of the happy parents glided to the front of the stage with the same frustrated baby who now, as though working to a script, ceased crying and started smiling.

    Everyone was on their feet now, cheering for the new prince, as was Tauriar, though this time she had managed to stand up on her own.

    With the ceremony over the Princess sat back in her seat and watched as everyone started mingling – a mixture of small talk, laughing and hugging. The day had gone well. The High Council now ready for another ten-year tenure and a new baby Prince Ventar selected. All seemed well.

    But all wasn’t well. All was far from well!

    Bala Verceti was at war with Trun.

    The two nations of Preenasette had been for hundreds of years – Princess Tauriar knew this. Her Life Team had taught her the history of it. The shameful period in Bala Verceti’s history. The creation of the High Council, all those years ago by the very first Elder – Lord Camciette – so that those mistakes could never happen again.

    But why could she feel such fear now in people's voices about a war that had been going on for so long?

    Tauriar had a knack of appearing invisible to adults. She would overhear whispered conversations even though she was in plain sight, and what she heard worried her. The war wasn’t going well. The balance was swinging towards the Trun, and some people were afraid that Bala Verceti might now actually lose. She overheard Bakta say to one man that the fabric of their society was slowly cracking. She didn’t fully understand the meaning but knew it sounded bad.

    But today wasn’t the day to worry about such things. She decided to go and find Prince Camciette – she wanted to both tell him off and thank him.

    And, what could she, a ten-year-old girl, do about the war?

    Surely, that was the job of the adults.
     
  2. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    19,019
    Location:
    Highlands
    There are some nice descriptions and good character moments in this - her giggling with the prince, then her nerves at standing and walking forward.

    However, much of the time there's a lack of immediacy, or of anything much happening - the princess spends most of her time just seated and looking around. It feels somewhat like this opening exists to explain background details and context, and that the character and context are of secondary importance.

    The result is that I found it difficult to find much to focus on to remain engaged, and I was left wondering if perhaps you would be better introducing a POV character in a more personal setting where they are doing something and exposing their inner conflict - rather than a situation that threatens to overwhelm the character and reader with potentially extraneous detail.

    2c.
     
  3. Tanja Bisgaard

    Tanja Bisgaard Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2016
    Messages:
    120
    Location:
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Building on from Brian's comments - I think you write very well, with a good flow to the language. There are good descriptions of characters and surroundings.

    But I feel the descriptive part is very long - I would say it needs some more "action". Maybe some dialogue in between?

    And I don't know where in the story this is - but if it is at the beginning, I would like to know a little more about where we are and what is happening, before hearing so much about the princess - or weave some more of that in between the first few paragraphs.

    Also I think you could focus a bit more on the "conflict" - why are we reading this? All though you touch on this towards the end - it might be possible to make clear a bit earlier on?
     
  4. Andrew Lambert

    Andrew Lambert Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2016
    Messages:
    91
    Thank you, Brian and Tanja for your comments.
    You both seem to have the same criticism about a lack of immediacy, and on rereading, I tend to agree.
    I'm pleased you both have something nice to say as well - a good confidence builder.
    I have rewritten the chapter but changed the POV to Prince Camciette. This gives me the opportunity to get more focus on the conflict much earlier in the passage. Also, about 200 words shorter.
    Not totally happy with it yet, but will post a redraft when I am.
    Thanks again.
    Andy.
     
    Tanja Bisgaard likes this.
  5. Andrew Lambert

    Andrew Lambert Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2016
    Messages:
    91
    Redraft of Chapter 1 with hopefully more immediacy and a change in the POV character that will now be able to expose more of the conflict.

    Prince Camciette took his seat on the stage.


    It was his second Decennial Ceremony, and at twenty years old it was his first as an adult. He had entered from the right wing of the outdoor theatre, with the three other Royals, after a brief introduction from Bakta the Overseer. He was holding hands with the youngest princess, Tauriar. His aquamarine robe wasn’t as ornate as those worn by the others, but it immediately caught the gaze of those watching.


    He stared out at the assembled audience. The statesmen, military leaders, and guests from the nine provinces, all brightly dressed in formal costume, was a sight to behold. A low pixel image extending far out into the distance.


    He could feel the warmth of the sun now, and a gentle breeze nuzzled his cheeks. The fluttering of flags above and to the sides of him added grandeur to this spectacle staged in the majestic grounds of the Bala Verceti Palace of Ancestors.


    To his right Princess Tauriar couldn’t hide her excitement and wonder at attending her very first ceremony. The prince could still vividly remember his first, ten years ago, feeling just as the little princess did today. This time, though, the sheen seemed to be missing, and he was all too aware of the reasons for this.


    The warm applause for the Royals died down.


    In the quiet that followed he imagined 450 million Vercetians watching life-size holographic images of the stage and auditorium in each of the provincial towns and cities, and they would want some entertainment from him - it was expected.


    The little princess was proudly wearing her new white robe, made especially for this occasion, with the Vercetian Life Vine delicately embroidered onto it - a green serpent weaving its way around her, with explosions of red and yellow flowers. He turned to her and smiled, and then pulled a face, eyes crossed and lips puffed out. Tauriar tried to keep her composure – this was, after all, the most important event she had ever attended – but the young prince was relentless in his quest to make her laugh. She soon succumbed, lifting her hands to her face to hide her giggling; powder blue cheeks turning instantly dark sapphire.


    They both looked up to see a hover-cam close by, zooming in on the prince's antics. The shock on Tauriar's face at being caught on camera in such a manner, and on such an occasion, was evident. The prince, however, just sat back, crossed his legs and gave the enthralled watching millions a broad smile and a cheeky wave. The two elder Royal trainees to his left looked on with resigned looks of exasperation. Camciette turned to them, smiled and winked. He was happy to add some merriment to this occasion, being so painfully aware of the undercurrent of fear that was silently eating away at the Bala Verceti ruling dynasty. Today was the one day they needed to put a show on for the provinces: forgetting about the villainous silhouette that was relentlessly consuming them.


    He watched the little princess regained her composure, then turned and looked past the two elder Royals to Bakta the Overseer, who looked anxious to get the ceremony started. He was sitting on his ornately jewelled throne, positioned centrally on the stage, his hands nervously caressing the golden shape of the High Council Coat of Arms on his Overseer Amulet.


    He studied Bakta. His face, more than anyone, seemed to reflect the anxiety of a war that for the last year had begun spiralling wildly out of control, and not in their favour. He’d recently told Camciette that he felt there was something evil at work - he’d felt it - something beyond anything their aggressive neighbours were capable. Camciette worried about the old man’s health, and the toll his job as the conduit to the Ruling Council was having on him.


    On Bakta’s left-hand side, the semi-circle became complete as the four High Councillors - the rulers of Bala Verceti - were introduced, entering the stage from the left to a standing applause. They took their seats to Bakta’s left, with the Council Elder sitting down last. One day, Camciette knew, he would be sitting there. He just hoped there would still be a country to preside over.


    Finally, all was quiet. Bakta the Overseer stood up, forced a smile and stepped forward to welcome everyone and begin the Decennial Ceremony - the Ventar Designation.


    "A decade so long.

    In a moment it is gone.

    Four decennial flow by.

    Now Lord Ventar shows why.

    Four councillors must there be.

    Four trainees for all to see.

    Eight travellers forever.

    An eighty-year endeavour.

    The Elder steps down.

    The Prince takes his crown.

    A new Prince is chosen.

    The cycle unbroken."



    Camciette watched Princess Tauriar silently recited the traditional opening to the Decennial Ceremony, readying herself to commence the first step of her journey towards the Ruling Council.


    The ceremony preceded slowly with much pomp and ritual. Bana Ventar retired as Council Elder and was replaced by Bana Domeriette. Prince Ventar, as eldest Royal, now became the youngest member of Ruling Council. Princess Domeriette and Prince Camciette himself, moved onwards, becoming the two eldest Royals. Then it was Princess Tauriar’s turn.


    The simple act of standing up, bowing, walking three steps and sitting down again had been practised in her mind a thousand times.


    Bakta the Overseer called to her;


    “Princess of the Great House of Tauriar, stand before your nation and celebrate your onward journey.”


    The little princess didn’t move.


    Camciette could see from the look of horror on her face that she had frozen. Her mind was unable to exert any control over her body. He could see the look of horror slowly changing to one of despair.


    He stepped up from his seat and reached for her tiny hand, and with his thumb and forefinger gently raised it, drawing her into a standing position. He then bowed to her, so deeply his forehead was on the rosewood floor, and he remained there as still as he could.


    Princess Tauriar looked forward, bowed deeply to the assembly, stood back up, took three steps and gracefully sat down in the next chair. The crowd clapped and cheered the youngest princess, as the prince tried to move surreptitiously back to his seat.


    Bakta approached the princess and stood behind her, his hands resting lightly on her shoulders. He waited for quiet. He was looking more like his old self, thought Camciette.


    ‘And now the part of the ceremony that I know many of you have been waiting for – the selection of the new Prince Ventar to become the youngest Royal. It only seems like yesterday we selected this lovely girl.’ Again, Tauriar’s pale complexion darkened. ‘And here we are today celebrating her first step towards our ruling council.’ He moved away into the centre of the stage.


    As Bakta explained the full selection criteria, five shortlisted ghostly images appeared on the stage - proud parents with beautiful baby boys from around the provinces. The holographs expanded to the point where only the baby's head was in sight. Camciette could see the little princess reached out to touch the baby closest to her, who was showing his frustration at being awakened at what must have been nighttime in his province.


    Bakta walked to the front of the stage to make the final decision known.


    ‘And, the new Prince Ventar will be… Kalter of family Camerra!’


    The holograph of the happy parents glided to the front of the stage with the same frustrated baby who now, as though working to a script, stopped crying and started smiling.


    Everyone was on their feet now, cheering for the new prince, as was Tauriar, though this time she had managed to stand up on her own.


    With the ceremony over Prince Camciette sat back in his seat and watched as everyone started mingling – a mixture of small talk, laughing and hugging. The day had gone well. The High Council now ready for another ten-year tenure and a new baby Prince Ventar selected.


    For the briefest time, the war between their neighbours the Trun and themselves forgotten. But, as he looked at everyone on the stage he could feel the tension. People's body language, guarded looks, a myriad of tiny clues - all there, if you were skilled enough to spot them. But what could he, Tauriar or the new Prince do? It would be at least another twenty years before they would wield any influence. No, this latest and strangest twist to the centuries-long war was for others to address.


    They would have no part to play, of that he was sure.


    He looked to his right to see the beaming smile of Princess Tauriar. He pulled a face again, but this time she just pulled one back.
     
  6. tinkerdan

    tinkerdan candycane shrimp

    Joined:
    Dec 10, 2012
    Messages:
    2,859
    Location:
    Either I'm dense or this interface doesn't like me
    I'm intrigued; and you've written this well enough. I would have to agree though, there is no sense of immediacy here. I'm uncertain what you might be trying to achieve.

    I like the notion of a kingdom run on musical chairs and it might be we need more insight into how it works; but before that I think that we need to know what's at stake and what conflicts might be there and what these characters might be able to bring to the table in that respect.

    I think that this could be done easily since Prince Camciette seems to be the POV (though there are moments when it might drift off a bit) and I think from his age and standing that he might know a few things and certainly the notion
    ::
    the sheen seemed to be missing, and he was all too aware of the reasons for this
    ::
    is trying to tell us something.
    Perhaps you mean to bring this all in later; but I think you would do well to draw it up front to help keep the reader interested.
    From Prince Camciette's point of view of the ongoing war and what part they might play and even that mention of how it might be years before they have a say.

    You put all the boring ceremony up at the top and save the best for last as an afterthought.

    While all through the ceremony Prince Camciette's thoughts could tell us about the conflict and why this ceremony is important enough to lay aside thoughts about war; what role they would play now and later, and all this could be filtered into the time it takes to preform the ceremony.

    As an aside, I'm not sure about the verse. There seems to be something amiss to my ear with the metre; but I should leave that to those more versed in that area.
     
  7. The Storyteller

    The Storyteller Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2014
    Messages:
    219
    I think both openings are well-written and have several strengths, though my personal preference is actually the one from the princess's POV! Either could work, but I connected more with her pov and also preferred looking at Camciette through her eyes rather than the other way around. I think there was something charming about seeing it through the eyes of a 10 year old.

    Either way, I feel the strengths and weaknesses are about the same:
    Strengths:
    -I like the characters, and the character moments that are included. As soon as focus is put on the prince or princess, I'm intrigued! Although there isn't much to go on yet, these are characters I want to get to know more--always a good sign!
    -Good writing. The descriptions are good, and there is an excellent flow to the narrative! Smooth and polished writing through mostly the entire thing. Well done!
    -Interesting set-up. Though I have some complaints about the amount of information given, I am interested in what kind of world we're in, how this government system works, and what the roles are of the prince and princess. I get the sense there is a very well thought out system behind this opening, and as a reader I would want to learn more about it.

    Weaknesses:
    -a little too strong on the information and exposition at this point. While the ceremony seems interesting, it is not interesting enough on its own (without a stronger connection to the characters, sense of immediacy, conflict, etc.), and the amount of names and titles without context felt a bit overwhelming. I found myself not holding on to the pieces of information because I was being offered too many at once. I agree with a prior comment that the opening felt a bit as though it exists to explain background, etc.
    -not enough character time. Really just an extension of the prior point; the characters were interesting, so I wanted to spend time getting to know them. The best moments were definitely the ones that showed their reactions, exchanges, and thoughts. Too much of the description felt sterile and disconnected to the characters, information that could have been told by anyone in the room. It wasn't bad, (in fact, it was written very smoothly!) it just left me feeling less interested and invested than I would have with more moments like the face-making prince or the timid princess unable to stand when required, and the prince who came to her aid.
    -I felt the poetry bit was perhaps a touch weak? Some lines were good, but I agree there was a slight 'off-feeling' to it. It was the only part of the writing that felt off to me--the rest was solid!

    In the end, if this was a book I picked up off the shelf, I would keep reading since there seems to be the hints of an excellent story in this opening, but if it didn't shift more to the characters or add something that piqued my interest in future chapters, I would possibly lose interest.

    Best of luck with your writing!
     
  8. Andrew Lambert

    Andrew Lambert Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2016
    Messages:
    91
    Thankyou Tinkerdan and Storyteller.

    Lot's of nice stuff said which gives me some confidence to keep at it.

    Again, as per Brian and Tanya's comments on the first attempt, it's immediacy and too much descriptive coverage of the ceremony that's letting me down (but nowhere near as bad as my early attempts :)

    There is a real threat to the planet of Preenasette (Verceti and Trun) but it remains mysterious (though with plenty of clues) until the last third of the book. To give an idea of something dodgy going on, I have the following prologue (I know many don't like prologues):

    "The Japanese Giant Hornet.

    It just takes one scout to find a colony of European honeybees, mark it with a pheromone, and invite 30 of his buddies over.

    These killing machines are capable of destroying a colony of 30,000 bees in the space of a few hours.

    Then, they take the spoils. They gorge themselves on the honey and carry off the lava to feed their young."


    My hope is that this adds some immediacy, giving the idea that there are some yet unknown 'Hornets' lurking close by.

    Storyteller - I'm glad you prefer the first attempt with Princess Tauriar, because she is the main character in book 1, and on reflection, I want it to start with her POV. Camciette comes into his own in book 3. Both of these books are based on Earth, whereas Ventar - Book 2 - gets Preenacette.....all planned out - I better get a move on!

    What I'm trying to say is that I feel the first chapter needs to have a 'gentle' hook, and this is the balance I need to work on. I've got to somehow convince the reader to stay for the long haul. I've spent a good section of the book looking at how a group aliens would settle on Earth. Would they need help? Can the young princess interact with two children of her own age, and what would happen if they found out she was an alien? How does she handle growing into a young lady - university - her Royal training for her eventual return to Verceti? What if there was a mole in her Life Team? Later a spy and a Hornet may turn up. With MI6, CIA involvement and a Nazi connection, and ultimately an adopted planet to protect, can she cope? If I can get the reader into the book, I'm hoping to keep them.

    Regarding the ceremony, it is a crucial part of Verceti's 'perfect' system of government, developed hundreds of years earlier after a dreadful event that the Trun appear never to be able to forgive them for.

    I'll try and ease back on its description in chapter 1 and drip feed later.

    Thanks for all of your help. Chemo now officially over and my brain is working - just about. Just got to get running again and get back to kicking the story telling copper's backside!
    Onwards and upwards!!
     
    The Storyteller likes this.
  9. ralphkern

    ralphkern Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2013
    Messages:
    1,032
    Glad you're back with the world, Andy. :)

    Is that a direct quote you're starting with? Remember to reference it if so. I don't have a problem with them, and have used them a couple of times myself.

    Gentle Hooks -

    Are fine, but also remember that often people flick through the first few pages to get through an idea of what they're getting into. I'm more and more coming to the conclusion it's best to encapsulate the genres you are covering in those first few pages rather than starting down one line - say contemporary family drama - then bang, turns into Star Wars. That might be the time when an actual prologue would be approriate. (Take Erebus. Someone flicking through the first few pages of the main text might be under the impression its a pure thriller, hence why I added the SF framing narrative in the form of a prologue, intermissions and epilogue).

    Remember, the cover has one purpose, to make people turn over and read the blurb.
    From the blurb, yes, some may buy straight away, but an equal amount will flick through the first few pages prior to buying. So view those first pages as your effort to 'seal the deal'.

    In terms of whether readers like prologues or not and it switches them off etc? Shrug, including them has done me no harm.

    Eggs and sucking a lot of this.

    Beer soon! The Plough is a callin'!
     
  10. Andrew Lambert

    Andrew Lambert Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2016
    Messages:
    91
    Thanks for that Ralph, Good stuff.
    Yes, I can hear it!!
     
Loading...

Share This Page

Loading...