Prologues & First Chapters

For people looking to introduce their brand new story, or those with a hot sequel in the making. Leave a description of your current work and request a review of the prologue or first chapter. If you'd like to review, look through posts for a story that interests you, then leave a comment or send a message.

Comments

  • Description: Kings and Lords rule over the great continent, Earth. Its church inspects candidates to determine whether or not they have the blood of ancient royals, then either raises them to nobility, or grants them unimaginable strength. Cawth Carumn, a Lord of the Magniq House of Prayer, will find himself caught in the middle of a war-torn conspiracy, and all four kingdoms will be changed forever more. Being hired by the royal families usually occupies every Magniq Lord, and eventually makes them rich. But things are never so simple among aristocrats. All the while, an anti-religious movement secretly plots against this world's most respected institution, the church. Enter, and explore with wonder, the four mighty lands of Earth: Laria, Galli, Moretna, and Athrum.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Librarian
    Not to be overly technical, the passage above is more of a "blurb" than a prologue per se, in my opinion.

    From a purely objective standpoint, laying aside my own positions on such matters for the purpose of art, your passage is well crafted, and quickly establishes the principal character, his lineage, and the primary conflict. As such -- noting also the excellent and skillful usage of language -- the passage is excellent overall and draws attention to the story. I would (with reservations to be noted below) find the story interesting.

    As a purely speculative matter, one wonders if the story will bear a certain semblance to French History in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. "L'Etat, c'est moi!" (take that, Richlieu!).

    Subjectively speaking:

    "All the while, an anti-religious movement secretly plots against this world's most respected institution, the church."

    Argh. When I see a book in which the principal conflict is between religion and anti-religion, I immediately wish to know which side the author takes. That, in turn, reminds me of an elderly aunt who used to read first chapters, last chapters, and then the remainder of the book, because she never wanted to be rooting for someone who turned out to be a villain.

    I say that to say this: If the book is a thin veiled apologetic, then the veil is extremely thin, thinner than Bunyan's A Pilgrim's Progress, which could be either good or bad (depending on how it's developed). If the book is an anti-religious polemic, then, well, haven't we had enough of Dan Brown? Blaming all of society's evils on the church, which is arguably the primary force working against society's evils, is a bit shopworn as a primary theme. Where's Father Brown when we need him?

    A glance at my titles, below, will show my clear bias on the matter. Again, from the standpoint of quality of writing and the skill shown in crafting the passage, I would be inclined to read the book, even though it tries to turn me into my elderly aunt.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    For people looking to introduce their brand new story, or those with a hot sequel in the making. Leave a description of your current work and request a review of the prologue or first chapter. If you'd like to review, look through posts for a story that interests you, then leave a comment or send a message.

    That's very confusing. Is it an invite to some reviewing place that you forgot the link to?

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Kings and Lords rule over the great continent, Earth.

    Earth is not a continent. It's a planet that consists of seven continents. There was once one super continent called Pangaea, but that was around 335 million years ago, and was possibly seven tectonic plates in one 'lump' which drifted apart.

    Its church inspects candidates to determine whether or not they have the blood of ancient royals,

    Which church? Does it have a name, and should it not be Church, with a capital C if it is the main controlling religious body?

     then either raises them to nobility,

    Is this a new thing they do? Because if not then surely they already have a list of those with royal blood? Such as the existing royalty and their children and closest relatives.

     or grants them unimaginable strength.

    So the nobility does not have unimaginable strength, then? So what do they have? And do you mean literal strength or power? 

     Cawth Carumn,

    Are they Welsh? Or maybe some other Celtic race?

     a Lord of the Magniq House of Prayer,

    Is that the name of the Church? Or some faction of it?

     will find himself caught in the middle of a war-torn conspiracy, and all four kingdoms will be changed forever more.

    What four kingdoms?

     Being hired by the royal families usually occupies every Magniq Lord, and eventually makes them rich.

    Hired to do what?

     But things are never so simple among aristocrats. All the while, an anti-religious movement secretly plots against this world's most respected institution, the church. Enter, and explore with wonder, the four mighty lands of Earth: Laria, Galli, Moretna, and Athrum.

    Are they the continents then?

    This is actually a common theme within Fantasy. It sounds a bit like  the concept behind Dune, as just one example.

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Aemore1314Aemore1314 Reader
    edited May 13
    This was the description, not the prologue. The description is meant to describe the type of story that my prologue would introduce.

    My prologue is available for review, and I am seeking people to review it, but this is simply the general description.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    No matter what it is, to start off with a line that makes little sense does not entice people to want to read a book. The rest is also a puzzle. But you have not answered my points and yet you are asking for something else to be reviewed. The odd thing is, you do not say where it is to be reviewed.


    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • I should have let on that this is a fantasy novel, thus making my Earth a continent. I suppose I should also have added just one more clarifying statement that this in fact not the actual prologue, but a description intended to make you want to request seeing the prologue.

    Attached is the actual prologue, which should hopefully answer your questions, if you so decide to look over it. I simply ask for help by way of a small review, nothing more.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Librarian
    edited May 14
    a prologue to the discussion of the prologue:

    First, we tend not to be unanimous in opinions, so keep in mind that not all comments are created equal. Some are more equal than others (Orwell, Animal Farm). Speaking for myself, the comments below are offered as constructive criticism in order to highlight things you may wish to address. Please ignore any parts that you find unhelpful.

    Second, in terms of style overall: I recommend that you use full justification, and there should be a comma at the end of a quotation, i.e. "Look," he said as opposed to "Look" he said. Also, your sentence structure can be a bit convoluted. Examples will follow.

    Now to the prologue proper:

    Page 1, Line 1, "Eager to take his time" is an oxymoron. It works in context, but some readers may find it jarring.

    Paragraphs 1 and 2: It is unclear whether the doors are open or closed, and whether the character opens them himself.

    Paragraph 4, line 1: "Made way" should probably be "made his way." To make way is to yield, as "Make way before the king" whereas to make one's way is to proceed, perhaps cautiously.

    Para. 5, l. 1, "every span of curtain" might perhaps work better as "each span..."

    Para. 5, "Had thrown" --> Don't slip into the past participle. Either change this to "threw" or restructure the sentence, e.g., Cawth's blade flew past the assailant, narrowly missing his shoulder (or something similar).

    Para. 6. l. 1 seems to introduce a new character, but it quickly becomes clear that it's the assailant from para. 5. Perhaps change the initial "A" to "The?" -- also, for "leaped" I might substitute "dashed."

    Paragraph 8 seems to go into a summary mode and the passive voice.

    Paragraph 9 -- it is unclear what is happening. slow this down and provide the action with more descriptors.

    Paragraph 10 -- such a thrust is likely to be immediately fatal, with no time for screaming, &c. Perhaps simplifying the second sentence to something like, "Before his opponent could scream, cold steel..."

    Page 2, Para. 2, "deliberately alone" is an unclear usage. Was it his intention for him to be alone, or the assassin's, or someone else's?

    segue to outdoors: After the fight screen, this is a sudden stop, like a dragster running off the track into a pool of molasses. A segue with a change of pace needs to change slowly. Consider substituting a scene break, i.e., "Outside again, he surveyed the hot dry land before him, ... " which keeps us in the active voice and makes the transition less jarring.

    Paragraph 4 needs a rewrite; it's a bit passive.

    *** So, interrupting the critique here for a moment: You seem to be working very hard to have a unique style and usage. That's not necessarily bad, but it leads to a bit of confusion. Language works on the basis of common ground, and those who have historically reshaped our usage have done so by providing a lot of common ground despite their unusual usage, so that we still got their meaning immediately.

    Consider making a few of these sentences more traditional and less unique. Your own individual voice as a writer will develop over time, and it won't be based on affectations such as "deliberately alone" (as one example). Instead, it will come from the inherent strength of the content.

    Frankly, you're a pretty good writer. But unusual usages will tend to hold you back, instead of moving you forward. It's like running uphill with a five-gallon bucket of water -- If you can pull it off, it's impresssive -- because it's dang near impossible. Jumping to the end, here's an example of a sentence structure that would tend to hold your writing back:

    Page 5, "wounded him, brought pain to him," &c. -- you're taking a simple sentence, and instead of deciding which way to write the sentence, you're listing them all, like a catalog. I get it -- but it's that extra weight, that bucket of water, holding you back.

    Let me give you a challenge exercise in three steps:

    1. Write a paragraph on how to make lemonade.
    2. Rewrite it so that it's interesting, but has no sentence with more than eight words.
    3. Rewrite it as a one-page fiction scene about two people making lemonade.

    I think that this exercise will help you to see how to be descriptive (the steps of making lemonade), simple but interesting (no more than 8 words), and imaginative (fictionalizing the steps). You don't need to put it on here; just doing the exercise will help you see how to write action paragraphs.

    Overall, like I said, you can write -- there's great potential here. I can see this coming out like Stephen King's dark tower series. But you've got to work on the style and remove some of the affectations. They're fun, but they're empty. They're style over substance, and we must never sacrifice substance for style. I've been there, and I've had to give up many really cool attachments because they made my stories clunky and weak.

    I hope that helps, sorry if it comes off as condescending or preachy.
  • Thank you for such in-depth advise, as well as for your time. I will look over my prologue with these things open and try to adjust a copy and compare them. Hopefully by the end of it I will have a better idea of how to write this novel moving on.
  • If I had one more question, it would be whether the general concepts and ideas were coming across clearly enough. It's critically important that the names I've created and the order of events don't blurr my plotline.
  • Skoob_ymSkoob_ym Librarian
    If I had one more question, it would be whether the general concepts and ideas were coming across clearly enough. It's critically important that the names I've created and the order of events don't blurr my plotline.
    I would say that the general concepts are clear enough: A man on an official mission, who finds his destination nearly deserted. After defeating an enemy, he returns to report, but is waylaid by an archer with a strange past.

    The further explanations -- that the Maniq House of Prayer listens to their dreams; that the man whom he killed on page 5 may once have been an ally, that the Gallians are savages but deadly dangerous, Cawth's back-story -- those things need to be in some sort of exposition, possibly exposition as dialog, or possibly exposition as narration. Exposition is best when it is discreet and is given a voice in the story, but it is a necessary part of the story. No house stands without a foundation.

    Also, another point I forgot to mention: I liked that your prologue began in media res or "in the middle of the thing" -- He is already at his destination when the first confrontation occurs. This is a good way to start things.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    I should have let on that this is a fantasy novel, thus making my Earth a continent.

    But that is not a fantasy, it is the name of the planet you live on, and a planet is not a continent. There can be fact in fantasy also. It makes it more believable. Why not just make up a name for the continent? which is on Earth.

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    OK, I will read the first page, only. 5 is rather a lot.

    Cawth slowly approached the massive double doors, eager to take his time. With a short sidestep and a hand on his sword, he peered through the opening. It was empty,

    So the doors were open? He did not have to open them first?

    devoid of both life and sound. Rays of sunlight crawled across the floor beneath emerald curtains,

    So they are shut? But if that is the case then the light would not crawl across the floor, it would just light up at the bottom edge of the curtains.

     but a lack of candles left an overall dull appearance.

    It would be almost totally dark if the curtains are closed.

    “I am an ambassador on behalf of King Ramm” he said at a conversational volume, “and would like to speak with a Gallian official.” There was no reply, and he opened the door even further, this time stepping forward a few inches.

    Ah, so he did have to open the closed doors first. He is also expecting someone to be in the dark room?

    “Is there anyone present?” he asked, again receiving no answer. “My duties as a Lord and as an ambassador require me to search the premises” he declared, still holding tight to the handle of his sword. He expected no response, and was prepared for someone to be hiding in the hall.

    So the doors are in to a building? not within a building? And why is someone with such an important title searching places himself? Or at least claiming to And apparently on his own.

    Right foot before his left, Cawth made way beyond the entrance and searched

    from side to side. He didn’t see anybody, and he didn’t see anything that might conceal a person either,

    He won't, because it is dark within, unless the doors are now letting light in.

     but there was an uneasy presence in the air.

    Such descriptions always puzzle me. In reality it would be an emotion within the person's mind.

    Something shuffled lightly amidst the windowsills, making every span of curtain move in waves.

    Above you stated that there's nowhere for a person to hide, but behind the closed curtains is an obvious place. But every span? Are the windows not very wide? Is whoever is behind  them running along a long window-cill? Is there only one set of curtains? (He must have been stood on a cill or he would have cast a shadow on the floor under the curtains and easy to spot.)

     At the center of those waves was an empty space,

    One would expect all along the window-cill would be an empty space all the time, not just the centre. I would leave that out.

     previously occupied by the man that now made a mad dash for Cawth.

    How did he get from behind the curtains? At an end? At a central overlap? It would be better if he was just hiding behind them at the overlap then he could simply leap out from between them. No waves, just a leap.

     The ambassador had thrown a knife into the noise and barely missed his assailant.

    There was no mention of any noise. But how far away are these curtains? to allow him time to pull a knife out and throw it? He still has one hand on his sword hilt does he not? But unless the room is huge how did he miss?

    A short and skinny warrior,

    How does he know he's a warrior?

     dressed in full black velvet,

    They do not wear black velvet do they? And how is it known to be velvet?

     leaped from the wall

    Is this the same person who just leaped from the window? Assumingly already heading for Cawth without pause?

     with blades glimmering. The sunlight that seeped through shimmered off his knives and nearly blinded Cawth,

    How is that possible if the light is coming from behind the attacker? Who would also be in silhouette. Just a shape.

     who now was ready to attack.

    He already has done. He threw a knife. No mention was made of the attacker avoiding it, either.

     In one swift move he drew the sword from its sheath and made a vertical slice.

    Upwards or downwards? The timing of what he chooses it critical.

    The small assassin was hardly able to keep his footing after dodging the swing mid-air.

    He would have to have leaped sideways to avoid an up or down stroke. A down one would have given him more time.

    With a forward roll and pivot from the hip he turned to rush at Cawth,

    Before or after jumping sideways? Because if that's how he tried to avoid the slash he would have been cut in half. And would he not have to get up to pivot from the hip, otherwise what was it's purpose?

     but the ambassador had already switched his footing and boldly blocked the knives.

    Two knives with one sword? Are they short or long knives?

    Now facing each other, the two were evenly prepared.

    All the gymnastics take time, unless the man is very very fast. If he is not then Cawth could have just stood there and hacked him up.

     Cawth marveled at how strong his opponent was,

    How does he know that? They have made no real bodily contact.

    especially with the difference in weight.

    But you have not described Cawth. He could be a big barrel of blubber.

     That creature was thin and short, but hardly looked like someone with muscular density.

    So was Bruce Lee.

    They clashed a few more times,

    Some actual further description of the fight may fit here.

     not making any outstanding strikes towards one-another, though it was steady enough that Cawth could judge his limitations.

    And here.

    “Speed” he thought, “That might be the breaking point with this particular vermin.”

    Has the attacker not proven already he's fast? And he would have to be to fight knives against a sword.

    Another vertical swing from the blade and that lesser being fell apart.

    For a moment there I thought Cawth had chopped him up, or he's a robot.

     He lost his footing, his knives went wide apart from the momentum,

    He could have dived low and stabbed Cawth while he was raising his sword. This fight needs far more detail.

     and his velvet started to tear at every seam.

    Why would it do that?

    Without a single word Cawth lunged forward and pressed his sword through the slower man’s chest.

    Into the heart?

     Before the shouting or screaming or crying for dear life could begin,

    If so then I doubt he would be screaming or shouting.

     cold steel went up through his shoulder, splitting bones in half as it exited.

    Gosh! So not speed, strength!  It takes a lot to do that, but not as much if he'd slashed down in to the shoulder and onward downwards.

    I would call this a Draft, not a Prologue.

    Be wary of not being logical when writing, and also use great attention to detail. Careful of contradictions. Also when writing about a particular subject, study it. I am sure you will find many clips of swordfights on Youtube.

    How Do. Pull up a chair. Would you like a cup of tea? Don't sit in that chair!!
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited May 15
    This was the description, not the prologue. The description is meant to describe the type of story that my prologue would introduce.

    You should have said so. Your initial post referred only to prologues, so it was a natural conclusion to assume that was what you posted later.

    My prologue is available for review, and I am seeking people to review it, but this is simply the general description.


    Well, frankly, I had a hard time getting past the first paragraph.

    Cawth slowly approached the massive double doors, are these doors already open? It would seem so from the following. But if they are open, he is not approaching the doors but instead the open doorway eager to take his time. "Eager to take his time?"  That's pretty oxymoronish. With a short sidestep is he approaching or stepping aside? and a hand on his sword, he peered through the opening. It was empty, the opening was empty? or is it the room beyond that was empty? devoid of both life and sound. Rays of sunlight crawled across the floor from beneath emerald curtains, but a lack of candles left an overall dull appearance. even a hundred candles would make no difference---but lit candles might. So it might be better to say "a lack of lit candles"

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor

    I should have let on that this is a fantasy novel, thus making my Earth a continent.

    But that is not a fantasy, it is the name of the planet you live on, and a planet is not a continent. There can be fact in fantasy also. It makes it more believable. Why not just make up a name for the continent? which is on Earth.

    I agree with Kevin. Using the name "Earth" for a different planet entirely is extremely confusing.

    And a planet cannot consist of a continent. For instance, Mars is a single landmass but that landmass is itself not a continent. "Continent" has a very specific definition.

    Simply declaring your novel a fantasy does not really give you license to do whatever you like. 
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