Thursday, January 22, 2009

First Pages: If You Don't Give Me a Title, I'm Going to Start Making Them Up

He stood, wearing only a simple wrap around his loins, empty hands dangling at his sides.
Loins, in the first sentence? Really?
I'm betting his hands aren't the only thing dangling.

So you might reconsider having that word so close to the other word. Ahem.
He cocked his head,
Another word choice you might reconsider.
listening to the silence, savoring the quality of it, the absolute stillness as if the world held its breath in anticipation. The hall, unlit, was pitch black, though Rak did not have any problem seeing. The depth of the darkness was another thing to enjoy, and Rak did so fully.
"As if the world held its breath in anticipation" is a bit of a cliche.
Think about starting with a more active first paragraph. At the end of this one, we still don't know where we are or anything about the character--we're still without clue about the story we're reading. Save this drawing-out-of-a-moment for later in the story.
Once he had been a Royal Dancer, before Scorth had rescued him from bondage. He remained a Dancer, it was just that he no longer Danced for kings. Hearing something that only his mind perceived, Rak began the Dance, his hands and feet sweeping through the still air, singing a song of rhythm and motion. As he tread the opening measures of a Dance that would have stunned the Zothian Dance Masters, he could feel the power already whispering down his limbs, dark sparks of night flame gathering in his wake, shooting out with every light step and whirl of the Dance that was older than time.
You lost me. Several times. Scorth? Zothian? Night flame? Is he singing, or is it his hands and feet (and if so, um, what?)? Why is the man in a lioncloth standing in the pitch black and dancing? Why would the dance have stunned... anyone? Especially if it's that old?
Zotien, Lord of Night, came down to earth, and lightning crackled along the walls as the God joined the Dance, or perhaps He had already been Dancing, and His arrival allowed the priest to perceive it. Rak flowed through the measures, opposite the God, in perfect symmetry, and the power built around them. The room, or the perception of the room, faded, until the two Dancers, one mortal, one not, Danced down a cloud of glowing dust, the stars surrounding them. The tempo quickened, the stars spinning as they journeyed on, colorful orbs spinning about them in glorious display. On and on went the Dance, the stars together in their majesty swirling about a bright center, a center so full of stars and light it hurt to look upon it. The Dance of the stars and the orbs was the same as the Dance of the God and His priest.
And the confusion continues. Zotien? What did his arrival allow the priest to perceive? And then what sounds like a (pretty decent) acid trip?

I join all your readers in the Eternal Question:
Huh?


High fantasy is challenging to write for the very reasons you're running into here-- you've created a very (very) different world than the one we're in, and it's going to be uphill work introducing your readers to all the differences and doing it so that they can understand.

But listen, we can't get to page 20 before we feel like we know what's going on. It's got to happen on page 1, or we've moved on to some other book.

I would suggest starting with a scene that combines action, clear character development, and a situation with only mild differences from our world, so that we can ease our way into this soup of unfamiliar names, magical dance steps, and nonstandard clothing choices.

11 comments:

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oh, you are too evil. LOL

I'll have to go back and read more than the beginning once I stop laughing. Lovely comments, so far.

Merry Monteleone said...

I have to admit, I loved the commentary... then I remembered that mine is in that ever-growing inbox... gulp

I think fantasy can be a bit difficult - it takes a steady hand to world build while still creating characters that resonate with the reader. Best of luck to the author.

jeanne said...

Re: EA's dangling comment...hahaha (although it was kind of low hanging fruit, so to speak).

There's definitely promise here in terms of premise and character, but I agree it's being covered up by some very heavy description on the first page.

Anonymous said...

Now that I'm done laughing my butt off, I'll, uhm, fix it. And shuffle to later in the book. Thanks for pointing out the bloody obvious dangle that I had managed to miss in three revisions.

Chris Eldin said...

I was interested (even more so with so many phallic references to begin us!), but the details of the dance lost me.

I was more interested in this:
Once he had been a Royal Dancer, before Scorth had rescued him from bondage.

than this:
He remained a Dancer

I thought you were going to give us a hint about his bondage.

I don't understand high fantasy though....

Good luck!

reader said...

Even in high fantasy you've got to give us something relatable, though, right?

A solid character with a solid circumstance or problem that will allow us to enter the stroy?

Quite a lot of the last paragraphs were confusing to the point that I had zero clue what was going on.


Also, this is one long-ass sentence:

"...As he tread the opening measures of a Dance that would have stunned the Zothian Dance Masters, he could feel the power already whispering down his limbs, dark sparks of night flame gathering in his wake, shooting out with every light step and whirl of the Dance that was older than time..."

Can't you just say: He danced as he would've for the Zothian Dance Masters: quick, and with power? When you say "whispering," "dark sparks of night flame," "gathering," and "shooting out" I have no clue what to focus on or what that would look like. And that's only ONE sentence.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I liked it - a lot - but I also read a lot of fantasy and have no trouble plowing forward without knowing the place or the people. The language, the ritual of the dance in secret when it was supposed to be done before kings, the God joining in the dance. Beautiful. Yeah, it needs some work, but this is really good stuff here (IMO).

Deirdre Mundy said...

I like high fantasy, but I agree this needs more to grab me.

I don't sympathise with the character at all--

At first I thought-- a break in? Intriguin--- but then with the dancing and divinities and what not I got bored. Escaped slave, cool religon, not enough to convince me that THIS fantasy novel is any different from any others....

So start with your character. Make him live for us, so we feel like we know him and his drive to dance, so that when he dances with his deity we're HAPPY for him and with him.

(Maybe start out as he's getting ready to sneak to whatever this place is? Or start with his escape from bondage?)

Because fantasy really is CHARACTER driven... and if I don't like your character, I don't care about how he relates to your neato keen world.......

But, he SEEMS like he could be really cool! I just need an introduction first, please. =)

(Word Verification: Prickedur... Apparently even GOOGLE is catching the phallic imagery here! =) )

Kimberly Lynn said...

The words “as if” and “like” do not seem necessary if a sentence is phrased properly.

Or is this just another obsessive peeve of mine? Grin.

Marian said...

This is high fantasy? I was kind of hoping it was erotica (or erotic fantasy), then I could have kicked back and just enjoyed the guy in the loincloth.

But for fantasy, I like some kind of conflict at the start.

Colorado Writer said...

Dangling, Rak and cocked. OH, I so went to the dark and twisty place.