An Excerpt From My First Chapter

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Lafayette

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I'm not going to say anything about this excerpt for I do not wish to give any preconceived ideas. I want to hear what you say good, bad, or indifferent. If you have any questions after reviewing this please ask. Thank you for taking your time.

Chapter 1

What Is Elvenwood


In the Ducdom of Airizay lived the greatest guitar maker of the Kingdom of Gaulance, Penoit Seysounné: Luthier Extraordinaire.

The flowers outside Penoit’s home were blossoming in bright and cheerful rainbow of colors. The air was fresh and breezy while it picked up the scent of the sparkling Sehtohn River as it meandered around a gentle bend. Also riding the lazy breezes were the morning melodies of birds as they fed, fluttered, and soared in small and large circles.

Answering the cheerful melodies with harmony came the warm sound of a twelve string guitar. The octaves of the strings were well pronounced. The low register sound of the twelve string was deep and mellowing. As the notes climbed up the register they became brighter, clearer, chiming, and strong.

The guitar was a perfect reflection of the guitarist, Vair Rohnonay: sad but happy, serious but carefree, aged but energetic, strong but gentle and earthly and heavenly.

The twelve-string resonated almost half a mile away from the river outside the window of Penoit’s home.

The cottage style home of Penoit was surrounded by lush emerald green grass with hundreds of sprouting flowers, outside the home stood nine large but not huge Mehtair trees. The Mehtairs dappled the landscape with long, deep green, velvety shadows.

Due to the fear of fire most of the homes of the region were of stone. Most of the wooden structures of Airizay had disappeared due to fires and good taste. The remaining dwelling and edifices were an embarrassment to the refine discernment of the Airizayans and were destined for firewood.

Penoit’s home was a creation of various woods. His home gleamed with modest beauty, its wood were smoothed, sanded, and blended into gentle shapes and then were varnished to amplify the warm, orange glow of the natural grain of the Mehtair wood. The home was an artistic achievement of long patience, practicality, nuance, and finesse.

The cottage was over 432 years old.

In the kitchen of the old cottage all the wood was varnished with a yellow-white glow and paintings adorned the walls. Sitting in the kitchen on well-padded red cushioned chairs were two men.

The magnificent music of this majestic guitar came not from the hands and heart of Penoit, but from his dear friend, Vair Rohnonay (an ancient and gifted troubadour).

Rohnonay sat next to an opened window with the guitar. The afternoon sunlight made his blond-white hair gleam causing a sparkling effect on his satin greens. Vair Rohnonay had one of those physiques that was tall and slender without being bony, starved, or awkward in movement which was rather remarkable considering how old Vair Rohnonay was (how old he was none could say nor would he). His generous locks dangled over his blue-green eyes and danced around his equally generous nose. Around his eyes and his long mouth were hair thin lines. Unlike most men of his day he was clean shaven. Vair Rohnonay had the look of one that had seen much of the world and its woes, but still found joy in its beauty and variety.

The guitar resonated into silence.

The other man reclining was the opposite of Rohnonay. Penoit had thick curly black hair and a thin mustache and was short and round (too round many had professed). He opened his blue-ebony eyes, “As usual that was beautiful, Vair. I especially enjoyed the interlude of the third movement. Most guitarists play it more robustly, but your delicate pianissimos are much better.”

“Merci, Penoit. Those ears of yours don’t miss much. I wish that you would become one of my students. You would become a great guitarist.”

“No, no, mon ami,” smiled Penoit, “I am forty-seven years old, too old to learn anything new. I have not the temperament for it. And besides that,” he added waving his arms, “in order to gain patrons I would have to do a lot of traveling and I don’t enjoy a lot of traveling. I like it here in Airizay, my home, my luthiery, the birds, my church, the occasional visitor of culture such as you and my wine. I have need of nothing else. I am content.”

“I have heard all that before, mon ami. You are not too old. The real truth is that you’re too lazy to apply yourself. You are too comfortable and too content. Your complacency is denying you your true glory.”
 

Brian G Turner

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In the Ducdom of Airizay lived the greatest guitar maker of the Kingdom of Gaulance, Penoit Seysounné: Luthier Extraordinaire. That's an awful lot of pronouns in the opening sentence. Are they really all that important - especially when this is all telling and not showing? Which should be focus on?

Also, you're missing a hook at the opening to keep us interested.


The flowers outside Penoit’s home were blossoming in bright and cheerful rainbow of colors. "were blossoming" seems an odd tense use here. The air was fresh and breezy while it picked up the scent of the sparkling Sehtohn River as it meandered around a gentle bend. Also riding the lazy breezes were the morning melodies of birds as they fed, fluttered, and soared in small and large circles.

Answering the cheerful melodies with harmony came the warm sound of a twelve string guitar. The octaves of the strings were well pronounced. The low register sound of the twelve string was deep and mellowing. As the notes climbed up the register they became brighter, clearer, chiming, and strong.

The guitar was a perfect reflection of the guitarist, Vair Rohnonay: sad but happy, serious but carefree, aged but energetic, strong but gentle and earthly and heavenly.

The twelve-string resonated almost half a mile away from the river outside the window of Penoit’s home.

This is all "telling", and it's all omniscient narrator rather than character POV use, which suggests to me that you would benefit from reading up on POV use, as omniscient is only rarely used these days due to it being a generally weaker narrative.

The cottage style home of Penoit was surrounded by lush emerald green grass with hundreds of sprouting flowers, outside the home stood nine large but not huge Mehtair trees. The Mehtairs dappled the landscape with long, deep green, velvety shadows.

Due to the fear of fire most of the homes of the region were of stone. Most of the wooden structures of Airizay had disappeared due to fires and good taste. The remaining dwelling and edifices were an embarrassment to the refine discernment of the Airizayans and were destined for firewood.

Penoit’s home was a creation of various woods. His home gleamed with modest beauty, its wood were smoothed, sanded, and blended into gentle shapes and then were varnished to amplify the warm, orange glow of the natural grain of the Mehtair wood. The home was an artistic achievement of long patience, practicality, nuance, and finesse.

The cottage was over 432 years old.

^ This is all infodump - basically, it's information from a text book to explain things, rather than tell a story.

Additionally, there's no real sense of anything actually happening - you've spent nearly 400 words telling us that someone was playing the guitar.

Historical point - didn't the guitar come much later, and that a Troubadour be expected to play a lute?


In the kitchen of the old cottage all the wood was varnished with a yellow-white glow and paintings adorned the walls. Sitting in the kitchen on well-padded red cushioned chairs were two men.

The magnificent music of this majestic guitar came not from the hands and heart of Penoit, but from his dear friend, Vair Rohnonay (an ancient and gifted troubadour).

Everything so far is telling, not showing. Also, you made Penoit the subject in the opening sentence, but now he's relegated to being a bystander.

Rohnonay sat next to an opened window with the guitar. The afternoon sunlight made his blond-white hair gleam causing a sparkling effect on his satin greens. Vair Rohnonay had one of those physiques that was tall and slender without being bony, starved, or awkward in movement which was rather remarkable considering how old Vair Rohnonay was (how old he was none could say nor would he). His generous locks dangled over his blue-green eyes and danced around his equally generous nose. Around his eyes and his long mouth were hair thin lines. Unlike most men of his day he was clean shaven. Vair Rohnonay had the look of one that had seen much of the world and its woes, but still found joy in its beauty and variety.

The guitar resonated into silence.

The other man reclining was the opposite of Rohnonay. Penoit had thick curly black hair and a thin mustache and was short and round (too round many had professed). He opened his blue-ebony eyes, “As usual that was beautiful, Vair. I especially enjoyed the interlude of the third movement. Most guitarists play it more robustly, but your delicate pianissimos are much better.”

“Merci, Penoit. Those ears of yours don’t miss much. I wish that you would become one of my students. You would become a great guitarist.”

“No, no, mon ami,” smiled Penoit, “I am forty-seven years old, too old to learn anything new. I have not the temperament for it. And besides that,” he added waving his arms, “in order to gain patrons I would have to do a lot of traveling and I don’t enjoy a lot of traveling. I like it here in Airizay, my home, my luthiery, the birds, my church, the occasional visitor of culture such as you and my wine. I have need of nothing else. I am content.”

“I have heard all that before, mon ami. You are not too old. The real truth is that you’re too lazy to apply yourself. You are too comfortable and too content. Your complacency is denying you your true glory.”

There's a degree of suspension of disbelief required to accept that fantasy characters are speaking English - now you have pseudo-French people speaking a mix of English and French. It comes across as a very blunt tactic, and somewhat unrealistic. Translate it all into English and keep the dialogue style, then with the various pseudo-French pronouns we'll get the gist that these are pseudo-French people without it being hammered into us. Unless you're aiming to later explore the Languedoc language the Troubadours used.


Overall, you've got a clear sense of your story, but this piece is totally lacking in structural considerations that would be expected from a modern novel, suggesting that you're not aware of them and really should be. Have a read of Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, as that deals with all the basic to advanced technicalities in a concise and entertaining manner.

I also get a sense that this is inspired from reading Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song for Arbonne, so be careful of being seen to be derivative.
 

Martin Gill

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I'd echo Brian's comments on POV and lack of urgency/pace. I like the concept of the first line. Normally we get tales of the most awesome swordsman, pirate, magician, etc. The greatest guitar maker is a great idea. But yes, it's a very wordy sentence.

Overall, I'm intrigued, but I don't get any sense of what's going on or any tension. I'm a guitar player myself and I'd happily read a book about a troubadour and the greatest guitar maker, but this one isn't grabbing me yet.

You have some nice descriptive riffs - like the second paragraph, for instance (except see below for passive voice - its got all the right words in it, just too many of them and kind of in the wrong order). But overall I read it wanting something to happen. And nothing did. Follow Brian's advice, cut the intro, get to the conversation quicker, give us a sense of tension or stakes. You've got 100k words to tell us all about the Methir wood and the history of why houses are stone. We don't need that now. We want to engage with some interesting characters first, not the world.

Technically...

There's a few places where your grammar wavers... "its wood were smoothed" should be "its woods were smoothed..." or "its wood was smoothed..." and there's more of these.

"The cottage style home of Penoit was surrounded by lush emerald green grass"... is a great example of where you can tighten things... passive voice and a very round about way of saying "Lush emerald green grass surrounded Penoit's cottage." Arguably you could lose the word "green" as you say "emerald" which is, well, green :) Again, you construct a lot of your sentences this way. Passive voice makes things longer and less direct.

I'd also recommend Strunk and White's "Elements of Style" if you want to hone your technical skills, or Baker and Hansen's "Elements of F*ck*ng Style" if you don't mind profanity and adult content - the latter is far more digestible and is the filthiest text book you'll ever read. But it will fix your passive voice leanings.

Keep going - edit it and give us another version - I think this has promise, but it needs pace.
 

pambaddeley

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Can only echo the foregoing. This is omniscient author POV which these days is deprecated. The modern style is close third person - get into one person's POV and describe directly what they hear/see/experience. So no meandering thoughts on the building style. You might work in a few hints but it has to be realistic for the character at that moment. It all has to come across without e.g. 'sad but happy, serious but carefree, aged but energetic, strong but gentle and earthly and heavenly' - need to get that over with his actions and dialogue. Similarly, he can only guess/assume what other people are thinking/feeling while in his POV. You can switch POVs between scenes, but need to stay in one at a time within a scene.
 

Toby Frost

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I agree with what's been said before, although I don't mind the bits of French, to be honest. Something about the way they speak struck me as very French - although it may be that the concept of troubadours feels very chivalric and French to me.

Stephen King once said that he had to "write himself into" some of his stories, and would get rid of the preamble later on. So the first draft would start with "In Maine, there was a village, and in the village lived an artist, whose wife had died two years earlier, and who often liked to walk down to the cliffs. One day..." In the later drafts, King would actually start the story at this point and discard what he had written earlier, beginning at the moment that the artist sees a man stranded on the rocks below the cliffs. I think there is an element of this here: it feels like a slow zoom through the village before we really get started.

While I think it's well-written, a few words struck me as vague. Is a generous nose just a big nose, for instance? I felt that there were a couple of bits where the description was trying to have its cake and eat it. A phrase like:

Vair Rohnonay had the look of one that had seen much of the world and its woes, but still found joy in its beauty and variety.

makes me wonder whether Vair is a weary-looking man, or a happy-looking one. Can he be both at once, or would they cancel each other out? I really don't know, but I didn't come away with a strong impression either way.

One final point about description. If someone says "fantasy cottage" I instantly have two images depending on the sort of novel: either a squalid hovel shared with a pig or Bilbo Baggins' home, depending on the style of the story. Clearly these are sophisticated, artistic people and, given the gentle feel of the story, I immediately went for the Bilbo option. In that situation I'm not sure that it's necessary to say that it is pleasant and refined in much detail, but that may just be me.

I should add that I'm interested to know what happens next. The idea of having a middle-aged musician as a hero is very appealing, especially if the book revolves around him actually being a musician. A lot of interesting things could happen to someone like that.
 

tinkerdan

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I like this, in that it seems to be attempting to create a mood of something archaic in nature that might bring the reader back to volumes of formalized narrative they had to read in some long ago past literature class. It unfortunately seems to try too hard and this results, I think, in creating the feeling that the writing is passive because the style choice creates rather strange convoluted sentences.

For instance, this one::
Due to the fear of fire most of the homes of the region were of stone.

Note the use of 'of' four times and you have the reader counting the of's while paying no attention to what the sentence says.
A lot of words used to say what amounts to:
Due to fear of fire most homes in the region were of stone.(The last of here could almost be optional.)

That and the continuing style of narrative in the following sentences confused me a bit, pulling me away from the reading.
Most of the wooden structures of Airizay had disappeared due to fires and good taste. The remaining dwelling and edifices were an embarrassment to the refine(d) discernment of the Airizayans and were destined for firewood.

I was confused a bit because the remaining dwelling and edifices could be confined to wooden structures; but does not have to be and I think that this sentence might be talking only about the wooden ones.
It would read better like this::

Most of the wooden structures in Airizay had disappeared due to fires and good taste. Those remaining were an embarrassment to the refined discernment of the Airizayans and were destined for firewood.

::But that might not preserve the intent of your style.

You might consider easing up on the style as I for one might get tired of it quickly.

Also I second the questioning of the use of guitar and most specifically the 12 string which I only know of dating back to the 19th century.
Though the double string Mandolin might take you back a little further- a double 6 in the 18th century. They we're not widely used in either of those cases in those times.
 
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