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  1. #1
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    Chapter 1 of my first novel

    Hey everyone, I am a new author looking to gain an audience/readership for my novel series, "Hidden Elements". I've made the first chapter available on my blog for those who are interested. I'd like to get some feedback to see if this series is worth developing. Thanks to all for your feedback! hiddenelementsblog.wordpress.com



  2. #2
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    I took a look at your chapter. It appears to run 4 or 5 manuscript pages of world building and other back-story. That's about 4 or 5 pages too many.

    Suggest you dump this and cut to the chase. Get us inside a character's head, someone we can begin to identify with.

    Flogging the Quill is a good site for tips and examples of what should/should not be on your first page. Good luck.

  3. #3
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    Thank you for your feedback Jayce. Should I cut the entire chapter or just parts of it? I feel like some of it is necessary as it builds context for the next chapter, which introduces Ontego and his angels, and builds on a plot point which kinda lays the foundation for the book. Would be interested in your thoughts in regards to scrapping the chapter versus condensing it!

  4. #4
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    I have to admit that I did not read your entire chapter, having been pretty much worn down by those opening pages of back-story. As to advice on your structure, I can't advise you there; only you can figure that out.

    I will say this: Open in a current scene. Build your world as your tale progress, spoon-feeding the reader in bits and pieces.

    For example, check out the world-building in these opening lines:

    From HUNGER GAMES:
    "When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."

    From HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE:
    "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."

    And the granddaddy of all fantasy stories (guess the title):
    "When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton."

    Nary a piece of world-building, anywhere (unless you count street addresses). But in each case, what we get is a character.

    My best advice to you is read, read, read.

    Good luck.

  5. #5
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    I totally agree with Jayce. Resist the temptation to info-dump right at the beginning - or indeed anywhere.

    Write out all that long explanation by all means if in your mind you are convinced you need it. Maybe it is just YOU who needs it to steady yourself and make sure you know where you are heading. But keep the file open on your desktop as you write and refer to it often, dropping bits of info in only if and when they are needed.

    As you write, as your story unfolds and your characters come to life, you will find that they are telling the reader everything they need to know as it progresses and you won't need all that information in one go.

    Good luck

  6. #6
    Senior Member John Oberon's Avatar
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    What they said.

  7. #7
    Rogue Mutt
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Oberon View Post
    What they said.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. #8
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    I feel like some of it is necessary as it builds context for the next chapter,
    I looked at the story. The section that it was suggested be eliminated is a symptom of your approach, which is to focus on STORY, with deliberate capitals. You're focused on events, and illustrating them with your scenes. That's plot. But story, with that lower case S, lives within the characters. It's emotion, not plot based. At the moment you're telling a fact based story, in the form, "This happened...then that happened...and after that..." And that's a report, not a story.

    You open with unknown people in a generic office building having a mundane conversation while watching TV. I've been in a lot of office buildings and I've not seen one in which there's a TV set that the workers watch instead of doing their job. Maybe there are, but most people, I'm afraid won't see that as realistic. But that aside, Their names aren't given because they don't matter to the story. So they're not people, they're plot devices, existing only so you can tell the reader things that matter to the plot. And they're in the opening scene of the video you would make of the story, to introduce the concept of the face in the water.

    Were we watching that film it might work, because at the same time as we see the action we learn so much more by watching facial expression, listening to tone, and a million other things because film is a parallel medium. But print is a serial medium, so no expressions are obvoius unless you mention them. No background, either, unless you talk about it. And what it takes thirty seconds to show in film takes several minutes to read, so the scene drags and none of the conversation the TV watchers have means anything to the story.

    While the reader is plowing through their conversation they're wondering who these characters are, and why what they say matters—and it doesn't. And thart huge info-dump that precedes that scene? Do you really want to study history for ten minutes before reading a story? I sure don't. And if all that information matters, why aren't you starting the story where the story starts? Start with story, not history.

    You worked hard on this over a long time. So I hate to break the news, but you're trying to present a printed version of a cinematic narrative, and that cannot work. Every writing discipline has its own set of craft, only peripherally related because the strengths and necesssities of the mediums differ.

    And in the end that's my point. We didn't learn the techniques of writing fiction for the page as part of our schooling, any more than we graduated ready to write for a newspaper or create a screenplay. And reading exposed us to the product, and the finished and polished product, at that. To create the product yourself you need the process. You didn't learn how to handle and care for a chefs knife by seeing and eating what comes out of the kitchen. You don't learn to fly by flying first class. That same thought applies to pretty much any profession, even ours. In the words of a few pros:
    “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.”
    ~Ernest Hemingway

    “There are far too many would-be works of fiction in which plot and character are not revealed, but explained.”
    ~ Peter Miller

    “A character, to be acceptable as more than a chess piece, has to be ignorant of the future, unsure about the past, and not at all sure of what he is supposed to be doing.”
    -Anthony Burgess

    “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”
    ~ E. L. Doctorow
    Not good news, after all that work, I know. But in the end, can we call ourself a serious writer if we spend no time or money on our professional education? After all, if everyone could do it, and we come out of school knowing all we need to know about how to write, all our rising star writers would be new high school grads, right?

    So take the time to visit your local library system, and devour a half dozen books on writing technique, because education is a damn fine working substitute for genius. And as my favorite Mark Twain saying goes, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

  9. #9
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    Thanks everyone for your critique. Currently re-working chapter one. I agree with Jay about differing formats, written versus visual. I often get bogged down in detailing exactly what characters think/look like, etc. and emphasizing environments. I don't want to "cheat" readers out of getting into the experience of the characters and worlds, but there's something to be said for leaving some mystery for the imagination. Good food for thought.

  10. #10
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    Personally, I get irritated when characters are described in too much detail. A reader will fill in certain details for themselves subconsciously. Your job is to move them through the story with as little clutter as possible.

    It doesn't matter if someone's coat is black or white unless they're in a room full of black coated satanists and their white coat is going to get them slaughtered! Lol. Pretty lame example but you get my point... Only write things that are relevant and interesting and that are essential to your story. 😊

    DV

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