Friday, January 18, 2013

First Page Critique - Untitled Fantasy WIP



As I mentioned in my last post, I also post on the group blog unicornbell.blogspot.com, and last week I critiqued queries and first pages and ran out of time. So, I've moved them here. Today, I have my final and most patient volunteer with the first page of his untitled fantasy WIP (at least, he didn't tell me the title ;)).

Here's how it works. I provide my feedback, then, you comment to share your feedback too.

Thanks for your help!

His consciousness returned slowly.
I think you could do better for your first sentence. I would love something more visual and concrete. When he regains consciousness, what's the first thing he sees/ feels/ smells/ hears? Also starting a book with the character waking up is considered cliche. I know this because I tried it once and got reamed. :)  The sun beat down brilliantly from a cloudless sky, it was hot. For a blessed moment he couldn’t remember what had happened. He moved his head first left, than right. The first movements caused pain so intense, He thought he’d pass out again. What he saw when he looked left pushed a wave of horror through his soul. To me "wave of horror through his soul" is a little cliche or melodramatic. What about something more tangible? For example, "What he saw when he looked left filled his mouth with bile." And what does he actually see when he looks to his left? You never say! :)

He remembered that morning.


He
had assembled his unit, 250 swords and spears, armour glistening red in dawn’s light. They were fit and ready. King Arougia had assembled his troops wisely, picking a solid defensive line at the top of a steep ridge. With breath visible in the cool light of dawn, we had watched them approach.

Torggil had never seen so many, nor so much steel. Their distant banners snapped in the wind, he counted 43 separate banners, the invaders brought all the noble houses of invading Zarin to the valley floor. Even from here, their army seemed immense.

Torggil remembered looking down his kingdom’s assembled host, and though his unit was virtually front and centre, the 15 000 assembled to fight this day by his King seemed suddenly inadequate. Yet, they were here. To defend their Kingdom from this invading army

From between the ranks of the assembled foot soldiers, and in orderly fashion, archers ran to form ranks three deep stretching across the whole of Arougia’s line. Pointing downhill, the range of our bows would not be matched by the enemy in the valley. Even knowing repeated storms of arrows from the 3000 archers would rain down upon any enemy uphill charge, it did not make him feel any easier.

A faint scent of fear seemed to blow across the ranks.
Fear doesn't smell like anything, so I can't really visualize this. What actually happens so we know they are afraid? Does it grow extra quiet? Does he hear people muttering prayer?


No, no, not fear. That’s blood. And Shit. I can visualize those smells, but this transition is confusing. Now we're back in the present when he's smelling this, so I don't see the connection.  Torggil opened his eyes, more slowly. Night. His eyes were not assaulted. Pain washed through him as he moved his head, but not near as bad. Okay you lose me in this last paragraph. Now it's night? What happened to the blinding sun? 

I encourage you to consider re-writing this first page and making it an immediate scene. Instead of him thinking back about the battle, why not start in the battle? Or start him in the aftermath but don't have him reminiscing so early in the story, just keep him in the present, waking up on the battlefield and then whatever happens from there. Even something that happened yesterday is "backstory" and in most cases you really don't want much backstory on page one, or even in the first 10 pages or more. You want to immediately immerse your reader in the world with visual and concrete details in an immediate scene.

I was interested in what was going on with him in the first paragraph, and I would have liked to stay with him when he wakes up on the battlefield and experienced what he saw and felt.

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Now it's your turn! Please provide your critique. Here is the uninterrupted version:


His consciousness returned slowly. The sun beat down brilliantly from a cloudless sky, it was hot. For a blessed moment he couldn’t remember what had happened. He moved his head first left, than right. The first movements caused pain so intense, He thought he’d pass out again. What he saw when he looked left pushed a wave of horror through his soul.

He remembered that morning.


He assembled his unit, 250 swords and spears, armour glistening red in dawn’s light. They were fit and ready. King Arougia had assembled his troops wisely, picking a solid defensive line at the top of a steep ridge. With breath visible in the cool light of dawn, we watched them approach.

Torggil had never seen so many, nor so much steel. Their distant banners snapped in the wind, he counted 43 separate banners, the invaders brought all the noble houses of invading Zarin to the valley floor. Even from here, their army seemed immense.

Torggil remembered looking down his kingdom’s assembled host, and though his unit was virtually front and centre, the 15 000 assembled to fight this day by his King seemed suddenly inadequate. Yet, they were here. To defend their Kingdom from this invading army

From between the ranks of the assembled foot soldiers, and in orderly fashion, archers ran to form ranks three deep stretching across the whole of Arougia’s line. Pointing downhill, the range of our bows would not be matched by the enemy in the valley. Even knowing repeated storms of arrows from the 3000 archers would rain down upon any enemy uphill charge, it did not make him feel any easier.

A faint scent of fear seemed to blow across the ranks.


No, no, not fear. That’s blood. And Shit. Torggil opened his eyes, more slowly. Night. His eyes were not assaulted. Pain washed through him as he moved his head, but not near as bad.

1 comment:

  1. Sharon,

    Thank you for taking the time to critique this. It is the first time I have ever submitted anything for professional feedback. The idea, probably a bit "done"- is each flashback is a period of unconsciousness. He is suffering from a severe head injury.

    I am encouraged that you were genuinely interested in the character and what has happened to him. I will have to look into rewriting it.

    Once again,I am honoured to have you read my writings.

    ReplyDelete