First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

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klbritt
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First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by klbritt » August 1st, 2012, 4:43 pm

This is the prologue to my novel, I know that prologues are sometimes frowned upon, but personally, I think it's relevant to the rest of the story. Any thoughts/critiques/comments welcome, thanks!!

Mid morning on Saturday in Manhattan

This will be the sixth time it happens. The first time, it was his twelfth birthday and not only did it burn down his house; it took his parents in the fire too. Since that first year, he’s been afraid of what he is. What he does.

He spent his last night as himself doing crazy things that he knows aren’t right, telling himself that it’s okay because he’s different. He’s just now boarded a subway train in lower Manhattan heading away from Sally-Sleeps-A lot’s swanky uptown apartment thinking about how his own sublet is dull and dank compared to a place like hers. The train’s vibrations outweigh the ones reverberating through his body. It won’t be long now. He hopes he can gather what he needs before it’s too late.

He can feel it now, the gentle humming in his bones. The vibration begins soft as a whisper then grows to a gradual orchestral crescendo. The pain is bearable until his fingers glow red, like when you shine a flashlight through your hand illuminating the bones within. He convinces himself that it’s not so bad, except he always loses himself after it happens.

He makes it to his apartment without causing a scene, because that is never good. What would people think? He throws open a cupboard in the kitchen and removes the back of the cabinet to reveal a secret compartment that he created when he first found the place. He grabs the small, black fireproof case, strapping it to his leg beneath his dark jeans and makes a run for it. The pain is increasing as he takes the stairs, two at a time, which finally takes him on the first floor emergency exit. He pushes the steel door open sounding the alarm and stumbles into the back alley of the complex.

The alley is narrow and dark, sandwiched between two four-story brick buildings. The only other inhabitants of the alley at this moment are the three large green dumpsters for the tenants and a mangy, gray alley cat with bright green eyes. The cat hisses at him just as the fire starts; first at his appendages, then his upper body. He can’t hold back the scream; the pain is unbearable.

Now he’s free.

Floating. No, flying.

* * *

Everything about how he got here is fuzzy and he’s not even sure how long he’s been here. He woke to the sun beating down on his bare chest, his body bruised and casually strewn about in a field full of wild daisies’ their white heads flopping over as if they hold the weight of the world on their dainty petals.

He wiggles his fingers. His toes. So far so good. He massages the soft area over his temples trying to relieve the typical headache he gets afterward. What he wouldn’t give for some Tylenol.

The tall grasses of the daisy field whip in the morning air stinging his face. The meadow is narrow and long, winding its way between two densely treed forests. The woodsy scent of pine trees and the morning dew on the grass helps to ease his pounding head. Far off in the distance, hazy, purple mountain peaks graze the sky sending the clouds scattering through the horizon.

His body is healing rapidly, as it always does. The bruising fades and his muscles lose their tenderness. There is little left of his shirt, just scattered pieces of cotton at his feet. His jeans, for whatever reason, are intact except for a few rips that look as though he’s worn the pants for years. He raises the leg of his pants and relief floods his body when he sees the case strapped to his ankle and it hasn’t been destroyed. His plan worked. This time.

-------------

Thanks for reading!!
~Kristie
~Kristie

-: Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read - Groucho Marx :-

http://www.BKRivers.blogspot.com

AllieS
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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by AllieS » August 7th, 2012, 9:28 pm

Hey, Kristie. So I think the main issue with your prologue is that it's all action and description, but you don't ground us. We are given "he," not a sense of who "he" is, what his situation is, where is lives, or where he goes during these 637 words. Without at least glimpses of those facts, a reader isn't going to care what's happening to him, especially since we don't know who "he" is. You have all mystery and no substance, but that can easily be balanced out by showing us how this situation starts.
This will be the sixth time it happens.
That could be a really good beginning, except you don't go into more detail afterward. At the end of this excerpt, I still have no idea what "it" is. If you started with something a little more concrete, but still held some of that mystery, it'd be a good beginning.

IE: (Insert name here) knows from the bone-shuddering vibrations that he is about to fly again.

Of course you'd have to do that in your voice, but this would be a good format to use for revamping the rest of this excerpt. Give us a person, what's going on, and then blow us away with a taste of the mystery. You'll leave readers thinking, "What, he's about to fly?! How?" and it'll keep their attention.

These are just my opinions, but I hope they help!

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Philabuster
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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by Philabuster » August 7th, 2012, 10:34 pm

I'm definitely drawn into the story but I'm a little confused over the details...

This will be the sixth time it happens. The first time, it was his twelfth birthday and not only did it burn down his house; it took his parents in the fire too. Since that first year, he’s been afraid of what he is. What he does. How old is he now?

I'm having trouble keeping up with time as I read. He starts to feel it in the subway, but then moves to his apartment, and then flies out the back alley. How long does it take for him to change?

His jeans, for whatever reason, are intact Is this important? Why would his jeans be fine if his shirt is burnt up?

It sounds like it's going to be a very cool story. I wish I knew more about the details of who "He" was and why he's "special." Besides that, I am one against prologues. Any reason you didn't want this as your first chapter?

I look forward to reading more!

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klbritt
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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by klbritt » August 7th, 2012, 11:24 pm

In my head, the prologue was meant to give a very brief glimpse into the lives of one of the main characters without giving too much away about him. The story is actually told from the perspective of another person altogether, but she meets the boy in the second chapter. Perhaps I need to find a way to weave some of the prologue into the meat of the story and toss the prologue...hrmmm...

~Kristie
~Kristie

-: Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read - Groucho Marx :-

http://www.BKRivers.blogspot.com

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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by garnell wallace » August 10th, 2012, 11:59 pm

Hi Kristie,
I happen to like prologues! Writers often use them to give insight into a different character from the main POV. In revising yours I think you have to think about how this person and this information will play out in the rest of the book. Are there things about him that will affect the main character or the main thrust of the story, or do they have a connection that can be hinted at here? The prologue has to set up the story without giving everything away. Thinking about his role in the book will tell you if he warrants his own POV or if his experiences can be told through the voice of someone else. If you have a prologue you have to make it necessary. If the book can do without it then it needs to be revised or tossed.

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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by LurkingVirologist » August 11th, 2012, 9:36 pm

Red is a suggested cut, while blue is linked to [a comment]

"Mid morning on Saturday in Manhattan [not sure if you need this information here]

This will be the sixth time it happens. The first time, it was his twelfth birthday and not only did it burn down his house; it took his parents in the fire too. Since that first year, he’s been afraid of what he is. What he does. [if he burned his house down and accidentally killed his parents, it seems redundant to say he's afraid of what he is]

He spent his last night as himself doing crazy things that he knows aren’t right, telling himself that it’s okay because he’s different. He’s just now boarded a subway train in lower Manhattan heading away from Sally-Sleeps-A lot’s swanky uptown apartment thinking about how his own sublet is dull and dank compared to a place like hers. The train’s vibrations outweigh [choose a different word - outweigh implies mass/heaviness, not energy or vibrations] the ones reverberating through his body. It won’t be long now. He hopes he can gather what he needs before it’s too late.

He can feel it now, the gentle humming in his bones. The vibration begins soft as a whisper then grows to a gradual orchestral crescendo. The pain is bearable until his fingers glow red [this makes it sound like once his fingers glow, it stops hurting - it's confusing], like when you shine [shining] a flashlight through your hand [to]illuminating the bones within. He convinces himself that it’s not so bad, except he always loses himself after it happens. [I think I get what you are saying, but the sentence is clunky with all the "he" and "himself"s]

He makes it to his apartment without causing a scene, because that is never good. What would people think? He throws open a cupboard in the kitchen and removes the back of the cabinet to reveal a secret compartment that he created when he first found the place. He grabs the small, black fireproof case, strapping it to his leg beneath his dark jeans and makes a run for it. The pain is increasing as he takes the stairs, two at a time, [clunky wording, maybe try "the pain is getting worse. He takes the stairs two at a time..."] which finally takes him on the first floor emergency exit. He pushes the steel door open sounding the alarm and stumbles into the back alley of the complex.

The alley is narrow and dark, sandwiched between two four-story brick buildings. The only other inhabitants of the alley at this moment are the three large green dumpsters for the tenants and a mangy, gray alley cat with bright green eyes. The cat hisses at him just as the fire starts; first at his appendages, then his upper body. He can’t hold back the scream; the pain is unbearable.

Now he’s free.

Floating. No, flying.

* * *

Everything about how he got here is fuzzy and he’s not even sure how long he’s been here [it's been]. He woke to the sun beating down on his bare chest, his body bruised and casually strewn about [this makes it sound like he's in pieces] in a field full of wild daisies’ their white heads flopping over as if they hold the weight of the world on their dainty petals.

He wiggles his fingers. His toes. So far so good. He massages the soft area over his temples trying to relieve the typical headache he gets afterward. What he wouldn’t give for some Tylenol.

The tall grasses of the daisy field whip in the morning air stinging his face. The meadow is narrow and long, winding its way between two densely treed forests. The woodsy scent of pine trees and the morning dew on the grass helps to ease his pounding head. Far off in the distance, hazy, purple mountain peaks graze the sky sending the clouds scattering through the horizon.

His body is healing rapidly, as it always does. The bruising fades and his muscles lose their tenderness. There is little left of his shirt, just scattered pieces of cotton at his feet. His jeans, for whatever reason, are intact except for a few rips that look as though he’s worn the pants[them] for years. He raises the leg of his pants and relief floods his body when he sees the case strapped to his ankle and it hasn’t been destroyed. His plan worked. This time."

Overall I like it. Most of the bits I suggested clipping were redundancies, or statements that were implicit in earlier parts of the sentence (like woodsy pine scent or dew on the grass). You've got a good descriptive sense, and it makes for a rich voice, but I'd suggest being a little merciless with your polishing if things are this vivid throughout the whole MS. Too much descriptive language can actually be counter-productive as your really great turns of phrase (i.e. "flopping over as if they hold the weight of the world on their dainty petals") can get swallowed up by less interesting ones (i.e. purple mountain peaks - which I think is straight out of "America the Beautiful," a song that was, no offense, rather insipid in the first place). A mix of strong and weak descriptive language creates the sense of having thrown everything at the wall to see what stuck. Culling the weaker phrases will lend a feeling of linguistic command.

I don't really have an opinion about the whole prologue/chapter 1 business (or exactly how that hair is split), but what you've done here would make me want to read more, which I presume is the point.

P.S. What's with the intact pants? Are they magic, or do you just not want to deal with a naked guy in your first scene?
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

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klbritt
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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by klbritt » August 11th, 2012, 10:51 pm

Thanks all for the comments/suggestions! I love them.

@LurkingVirologist - haha! Pants are not magical - I am just unsure how to have my main character meet a naked guy and not be totally thrown off by him...yet. When the story is complete, that will definitely be an area that will have to get re-worked...Suggestions?? :D

@garnell wallace - After much thought and discussion with a couple friends - the prologue will stay (yippee! ~ doing a happy dance). I feel it adds the mystery and sets the tone of the story without giving too much away. Also, it seems that the readers want to know more...

@Philabuster - I totally see the "time" issue here, I will address that! Thanks :P

~Kristie
~Kristie

-: Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read - Groucho Marx :-

http://www.BKRivers.blogspot.com

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LurkingVirologist
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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by LurkingVirologist » August 12th, 2012, 6:20 pm

klbritt wrote: @LurkingVirologist - haha! Pants are not magical - I am just unsure how to have my main character meet a naked guy and not be totally thrown off by him...yet. When the story is complete, that will definitely be an area that will have to get re-worked...Suggestions?? :D
I say go pants-less :lol: . You can always riff on the garden of eden bit and have him scuttling about trying desperately to cover himself with foliage. I mean, it may be a bit off-putting at first, but really, who wouldn't be desperately curious?
"Books break the shackles of time, proof that humans can work magic." -Carl Sagan

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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by Philabuster » August 23rd, 2012, 8:15 pm

When The Hulk grows to obscene proportions he always seems to retain a tiny portion of the pants he was wearing. Unfortunately I'm not nearly geek enough to tell you whether or not this was ever addressed in the comic, but it certainly left me with a more..."alright, this is a fun story for kids" sort of vibe rather than a "this is a fun story for adults" one.

In The Time Traveller's Wife...The MC Travels through time and when he does his clothes don't travel with him. He's always stuck with the problem of finding clothes when he reaches his destination. I found this to make the story more believable (even though it's all about time travel.) It gave the MC a real world problem that he has to face every time his "gift" acted out.

I think it ultimately depends on who your audience is. If you are trying to appeal to a younger crowd than give him pants. An older one, make him search for clothing. Maybe on his search he encounters other characters in your book and it will certainly be an interesting situation for the reader when it happens.

Just my opinion.

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klbritt
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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by klbritt » August 24th, 2012, 12:08 am

I think I'm going to run it by some of my friends and get their take on the pants/no pants issue. I'm not entirely sure what to do yet. I'm so close to finishing the story and am anxious to start editing - so that will for sure, be one of my first areas to edit!

~Kristie
~Kristie

-: Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read - Groucho Marx :-

http://www.BKRivers.blogspot.com

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Re: First 637 words of my novel, The Phoenix: A Gathering

Post by LaurenNTaylor » August 28th, 2012, 6:16 pm

Sounds cool. I like where it's heading but I think your prologue should have a bit more detail,as someone else said, to ground the story, give us a backdrop. As for the pants thing if it's YA I don't see any problem with him having no clothes, or could the fireproof box contain clothing so he is naked and then struggling to dress himself when he meets the MC?

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