Friday, January 20, 2012

First Page Friday

So this week was a good writing week for me and as I was doing some research, I found this quote:

"It's not what you go through that defines you; you can't help that. It's what you do after you go through it, that defines who you really are." - Unknown

I think that is a great quote for both a character and a writer.

Anyway, I hope you're having a good writing week, too! Let's get on to First Page Friday.

The Entry
The Empress of Edom

By Kurt F. Kammeyer

Haganiel heard a voice speaking to him.

“Haganiel, come forth!”

He sat up and looked around. He could see nothing, but he could feel the rocks of his burial cairn pressing around him and through him. It was a peculiar sensation. He slowly lifted his arms and felt them pass through several large boulders.

How strange... he thought. I feel as solid as these rocks, yet I can pass through them like water...

He slowly rose to his feet. Still he could see nothing. He thought,

My fellow Believers must have piled these rocks higher than my head. Such an honor...

He took several steps, and in a moment he was standing outside the cairn. He looked around. He was standing in the clearing at the head of the Footstool of God, next to his own grave.

Brilliant shafts of sunlight were streaming into the clearing through the trees, illuminating the altar and the graves of his fellow Haganah who were buried all around the edges of the clearing. The colors were intensely vivid, in never-ending, beautiful shades which he had never seen in mortality. The marvelous light suffused everything including Haganiel, so that his whole body was filled with it.

As he cast his gaze around the clearing, he suddenly realized that he could now see equally in all directions without turning his head, simply by focusing his thoughts.

Standing next to the altar was his old friend and fellow Seer, Abdiel. He was dressed in a long robe of a shade of whiteness that Haganiel had never seen before, and he was glorious to behold.

The Fourth Seer stepped forward, smiled, and embraced the Fifth Seer.

“Welcome back, Haganiel!” he said. “You are one of us, now!”

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

My first suggestion for this week’s sample is to rearrange the opening a bit. It might work better here to begin with “Haganiel, come forth!” and then follow with something like, “Haganiel heard the voice speaking to him, sat up, and looked around.” The one-sentence opener as it stands feels a bit abrupt. By opening with the dialogue instead, you bring the reader more immediately into the thick of things instead of stopping them at the door with generic exposition. As I mentioned in a recent critique, I don't always recommend starting a story with dialogue, but the dialogue here is much more effective than the existing first line.

This piece does a good job of establishing setting. The reader can feel the change as Haganiel moves from the darkness of his burial cairn into the lit clearing. What I find most effective, however, is how we discover Haganiel’s new powers at the same time he does. We are right there with him when he realizes that he can pass through solid matter and when he realizes that he can expand his vision field simply by directing his thoughts.

Be careful with comparisons. In the fourth paragraph, Haganiel remarks that he can pass through rocks like water. I don’t think that this accurately conveys how easily he passes through solid matter, as water doesn’t pass easily through rocks.

In the fifth paragraph, I would recommend cutting “He thought” to introduce the italicized text in the following paragraph. The third paragraph establishes that italicized text represents Haganiel’s inner thoughts with “he thought,” so there’s no need to repeat the same tag two paragraphs later.

Lastly, one-sentence paragraphs can help build suspenseful momentum in a novel. They can also emphasize vital plot points or emotions in a way that longer paragraphs can’t. However, do use this device sparingly. I once read a fantasy series cluttered with one-sentence paragraphs, and they felt excessive after a point. They cheapened what was otherwise wonderful writing. Don't let that happen to your intriguing story. Highlight only what is most crucial in one-sentence paragraphs to intensify their impact.

Otherwise, the writing is quite clean. There are some minor punctuation issues and a few instances of choppy syntax, but nothing that a light proof wouldn’t resolve.

As always, thank you to everyone who submits and to Ms. Shreditor for taking the time to critique for us. It is greatly appreciated! See you next week!


Jess said...

Cool excerpt!! And I love the quote. It's a good fit with writing and characters :)

Jon Spell said...

That is a very fun first page! I would definitely want to read more of it.

Kurt Kammeyer said...

There should be a paragraph mark before "He slowly rose to his feet". Not sure how that got lost...

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Sorry, Kurt, when I put the italics in, it jumps up a line and I missed it before I posted. I fixed it now.

And I thought it was a good excerpt as well, but one thing that jumped out at me was how much of this is told to us. He sat, he felt, he slowly lifted, he slowly rose, etc., etc., there's no real immediate connection for the reader because it's all told to us instead of shown. Actions should be shown so your reader can be there with them, if that makes sense. But I can appreciate what is there, for sure. :)

Thanks again for submitting! :)

Kurt Kammeyer said...

Thanks, Julie. Can you give us an example of how to change this from "telling" to "showing"? I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Kurt, I think this website gives a pretty good explanation of show dono't tell

Let me see if I can explain a little more. It's letting us see the scene for ourselves instead of telling us. When you say, he slowly rose to his feet. Still he could see nothing. He thought . . . it's all telling us instead of letting us experience it with him. For example, you could say, "The darkness closed in around him as he tried to stand, putting his arms out to balance himself. "My fellow believers piled the rocks high," he whispered, as if speaking aloud would break the stillness surrounding him."

I don't know, I hope you can see what I'm trying to do. It's setting a scene instead of just telling a story. It's the layers in a picture instead of just a drawing. A telltale sign is usually when you have a lot of he said, he stood, he looked, he rose, etc. I hope that makes sense and is helpful! :)