The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

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Tycoon
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The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by Tycoon » May 26th, 2010, 6:30 am

Any comments would be appreciated. Thank you.


Prologue

Downy snowflakes the size of cotton balls fluttered from the heavens on that unforgettable December evening with the help of a light wind blowing in from the northwest. The air and snow swirled around like a soft exhale of an angel’s breath, coating our entire neighborhood in a delicate, glistening fluff. My quaint house, nestled on the odd side of the street, seemed draped in a pristine cloak of white. And the charcoal-gray smoke billowing from my chimney dissipated as it rose heavenward toward the cloudy, starless night.

Inside, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” streamed from the radio, falling delightfully on my ears. I breathed in through my nose and smiled. My olfactory sense sprang to life, aroused by old familiar smells reminding me of my late grandparents’ home during the holiday season. I closed my eyes and breathed in again, this time much deeper than before, awakening long-forgotten memories of when I was a little boy. The special blends of pleasant odors filled every nook and cranny of my home. A heavy tang of pine lingered in the family room and the scent of candy cane candles filled the living room. From the kitchen, the delectable aroma of ham dinner, with just a hint of pineapple, wafted in the air. On the counter, a fresh pot of coffee was in the works. But the coffee wasn’t the only thing brewing on this Christmas Eve. Tension loomed thick in the air, simmering, close to boiling over. I could sense it, I could almost taste it. Trouble was coming; this I knew was inevitable.

My wife and children were on a collision course, akin to two trains hurtling toward one another, and I was stuck in the middle, tied to the tracks, so to speak. I took in a deep breath and braced myself, biding my time, awaiting their foreseeable impact. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait long.

My wife Nicole and I had just finished our dinner with our trio of daughters. A delightful meal it was indeed. The girls–Ashley, age fifteen; Emma, age twelve; and Chloe, a precocious age three–thought otherwise and let their mother know. By now, I was livid with my brood. They’d been testing my patience all day with their attitudes toward their mother, and this was the final straw. My wife had slaved the entire day, preparing and cooking our meal, and now she was crying, almost inconsolable. My three daughters’ cutting words and their unpleasant dispositions upset me, and I banished the lot of them to their rooms while I pondered an appropriate punishment.
Last edited by Tycoon on May 26th, 2010, 2:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prolugue first 4 paragraphs

Post by Quill » May 26th, 2010, 10:21 am

I like it. The atmosphere is definitely there and the story is interesting. It leaves me wanting to know more. I like the juxtapose of family/holiday/warmth with tension. I do wonder if the tension could be brought in a bit smoother, it seems like almost an afterthought loaded on top of the warmth and comfort, almost a surprise to me, the reader, whereas for you the experiencer I'm sure it's there WITH the warmth. Could you find a way to hint at it sooner?

Technically speaking there's also perhaps too many modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) and in the first para and a half it seems there's a simile or a metaphor in just about every sentence. Some of that could be toned down, I think.

But again, good job setting a vivid and intriguing table, so to speak!

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prolugue first 4 paragraphs

Post by Tycoon » May 26th, 2010, 2:52 pm

Quill wrote:I like it. The atmosphere is definitely there and the story is interesting. It leaves me wanting to know more. I like the juxtapose of family/holiday/warmth with tension. I do wonder if the tension could be brought in a bit smoother, it seems like almost an afterthought loaded on top of the warmth and comfort, almost a surprise to me, the reader, whereas for you the experiencer I'm sure it's there WITH the warmth. Could you find a way to hint at it sooner?

Technically speaking there's also perhaps too many modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) and in the first para and a half it seems there's a simile or a metaphor in just about every sentence. Some of that could be toned down, I think.

But again, good job setting a vivid and intriguing table, so to speak!
Thanks Quill for the feed back.... the prologue is actually longer than this... but most people will usually make their judgment in the first 2 to 4 paragraphs.

And to include in on Nathan's discussion about prologue... I have both a prologue and epilogue because I have a frame story. <---- thats for all the prologue haters out there.

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by Emily J » May 27th, 2010, 3:32 pm

Tycoon wrote:Any comments would be appreciated. Thank you.


Prologue

Downy snowflakes the size of cotton balls fluttered from the heavens on that unforgettable December evening with the help of a light wind blowing in from the northwest. sentence feels a bit awkward. To me it could have ended with "evening" and been better for it The air and snow swirled around like a i would use the article the here, rather than use 2 indefinite articles soft exhale of an angel’s breath, coating our entire neighborhood in a i would drop a here, to me fluff is a mass noundelicate, glistening fluff. My quaint eh quaint is not a particularly evocative adj house, nestled on the odd side of the street, seemed draped in a pristine cloak of white. And the charcoal-gray smoke billowing from my chimney dissipated as it rose heavenward toward the cloudy, starless night. heavenward and toward the... seems redundant

Inside, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” streamed from the radio, falling delightfully on my ears. I breathed in through my nose and smiled. My olfactory sense sprang to life, aroused by old familiar smells reminding me of my late grandparents’ home during the holiday season. which smells exactly? I closed my eyes and breathed in again, this time much deeper than before, awakening long-forgotten memories of when I was a little boy. The special blends does this need to be plural? of pleasant odors filled every nook and cranny of my home. A heavy tang of pine lingered in the family room and the scent of candy cane hyphen here maybe? candles filled the living room. From the kitchen, the delectable aroma of ham dinner, with just a hint of pineapple, wafted in the air. On the counter, a fresh pot of coffee was in the works. But the coffee wasn’t the only thing brewing on this Christmas Eve. Tension loomed thick in the air, simmering, close to boiling over. I could sense it, I could almost taste it. Trouble was coming; this I knew was inevitable.

My wife and children were on a collision course, akin to two trains hurtling toward one another, repetitive and I was stuck in the middle, tied to the tracks, so to speak. I took in a deep breath and braced myself, biding my time, awaiting their foreseeable impact. leave out foreseeable maybe? seems implied Not surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait long.

My wife Nicole and I had just finished our dinner with our trio of daughters. A delightful meal it was indeed. what is the purpose of this sentence? and how is it delightful indeed with trains-colliding tension in the air? seems contradictory The girls–Ashley, age fifteen; Emma, age twelve; and Chloe, a precocious age three–thought otherwise and let their mother know. By now, I was livid with my brood. They’d been testing my patience all day with their attitudes toward their mother, and this was the final straw. My wife had slaved the entire day, cliched slaved away in a hot kitchen preparing and cooking our meal, and now she was crying, almost inconsolable. My three daughters’ cutting words and their unpleasant dispositions unpleasant dispositions is too vague to be helpful here upset me, and I banished the lot of them to their rooms while I pondered an appropriate punishment.
With the exception of a few issues I had with articles, you have a knack for descriptive language. That much is clear. However, there seems to be a huge disconnect between the beginning scenes and the tension. And the conflict, such as it is, is all vague and understated so that the analogy of trains colliding seems odd. What do the girls do? Why is the mother so emotionally fragile? I don't have a good grasp of the character's in either action or thought. The language used to describe the argument is very cliched and distant, it doesn't sound like a real family calling it a "brood" or that the girls had "unpleasant dispositions." The word choice is odd, even more so with a first person perspective here. Unless the MC is a clinical psychologist emotionally distant from his family it doesn't work for me.

I guess basically I don't have a good sense of what you are trying to accomplish with this scene. Is this a family drama? I think you could focus more on the character's and what they are saying/doing to cause all this tension and less on the snow/candles/coffee. Just a suggestion tho, take it with a grain of salt.

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by JustineDell » May 27th, 2010, 7:19 pm

I REALLY like this, Tycoon! You've really created a scene within the first few sentences. Then it keeps getting better and better!

NICE

~JD

http://www.justine-dell.blogspot.com/

"Three things in life that, once gone, never return; Time, Words, & Opportunity"

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by J. T. SHEA » May 28th, 2010, 7:56 pm

Interesting piece and comments. The first paragraph is wonderfully evocative of Christmas. But there's a slight point of view challenge. Your narrator describes the scene outside his house, including the smoke rising from his chimney, something he could not see from inside. You could have him say he is imagining that part, or remembered seeing it while outside earlier.

I agree with Emily J regarding the sudden change of tone and the narrator's distance, UNLESS they reflect his personality in some special way. They do certainly suggest his alienation from his family and a retreat into his memories. More direct narration of action and dialogue may be useful too, if the prologue goes on much longer.

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by JayceeEA » June 9th, 2010, 11:10 am

I really enjoyed te descriptions of the setting. I could see a house nestled in the corner and cloaked in snow.

My suggestion: is it possible to include some showing (as opposed to telling, maybe before the 3rd and 4th paragraph)? Instead of you saying the kids were testing their mother's patience for instance, show us HOW they were doing it. Show us a conversation. I think a dialogue or some sort of action early on in your prologue will bring more life to it.

Great writing. I enjoyed reading it.

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by Claudie » June 10th, 2010, 12:54 am

Okay, I really enjoyed how this started. You have a good descriptive language, and by the time you come to the train collision, I felt all warm and cozy. Then you give your reader the sense that something bad will happen.

Only, we never get to see what happens. The action is vague and the narrator too distant (you say he's 'livid with his brood', but I feel no anger from his descriptions of the events). If you tell someone there's a trainwreck, he'll want to see the debris. Just think of all the passerby who slow down for a traffic accident. It's the same.

There's many questions you could answer to bring us closer, even without a direct narration. How did the girls test his patience earlier? What did they say of the meal if they didn't like it? Does the three-year old cry? Does the eldest throw her plate around? And why isn't he trying to console his wife? Any detail, even if told after the events happened, will help ground the story and bring us closer to this dispute.

EDIT: I forgot to say this, but I really like "The Butterfly Key" as a title.
"I do not think there is any thrill [...] like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything." -- Nikola Tesla

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by khanes » June 18th, 2010, 11:55 pm

Hi Tycoon,

First of all, let me say that the first paragraph was beautifully written. I would end the first sentence with "evening", though. This sounds like a picture perfect holiday evening, full of warmth and happiness.

I started to get bogged down with the second paragraph of descriptions and found myself skimming. After the first paragraph, I want to know the drama. I think that would be a perfect place to insert your line: "Tension loomed thick in the air, simmering, close to boiling over. I could sense it, I could almost taste it. Trouble was coming; this I knew was inevitable." And maybe you could lead into it by saying something like," But so unlike the scene outside, tension loomed thick inside our house." or something.

The collision course sentence I didn't get, and had to read it a few times. At first I thought he and his wife were having conflict. And what can a few rambunctious kids do that would honestly destroy a Christmas Eve? Kids always misbehave. What made this so terrible? As other commentors suggested, maybe this is where you could give us an example.

The last line is also a bit uninspiring. Maybe change this to refect his current mood of anger? Through this language, its hard to even tell he is angry.

Anyway, good luck! You have some wonderful descriptions, but maybe you could get to the meat of the conflict a little faster. Dialogue always has readers clinging to every word.


Prologue

Downy snowflakes the size of cotton balls fluttered from the heavens on that unforgettable December evening with the help of a light wind blowing in from the northwest. The air and snow swirled around like a soft exhale of an angel’s breath, coating our entire neighborhood in a delicate, glistening fluff. My quaint house, nestled on the odd side of the street, seemed draped in a pristine cloak of white. And the charcoal-gray smoke billowing from my chimney dissipated as it rose heavenward toward the cloudy, starless night.

Inside, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” streamed from the radio, falling delightfully on my ears. I breathed in through my nose and smiled. My olfactory sense sprang to life, aroused by old familiar smells reminding me of my late grandparents’ home during the holiday season. I closed my eyes and breathed in again, this time much deeper than before, awakening long-forgotten memories of when I was a little boy. The special blends of pleasant odors filled every nook and cranny of my home. A heavy tang of pine lingered in the family room and the scent of candy cane candles filled the living room. From the kitchen, the delectable aroma of ham dinner, with just a hint of pineapple, wafted in the air. On the counter, a fresh pot of coffee was in the works. But the coffee wasn’t the only thing brewing on this Christmas Eve. Tension loomed thick in the air, simmering, close to boiling over. I could sense it, I could almost taste it. Trouble was coming; this I knew was inevitable.

My wife and children were on a collision course, akin to two trains hurtling toward one another, and I was stuck in the middle, tied to the tracks, so to speak. I took in a deep breath and braced myself, biding my time, awaiting their foreseeable impact. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait long.

My wife Nicole and I had just finished our dinner with our trio of daughters. A delightful meal it was indeed. The girls–Ashley, age fifteen; Emma, age twelve; and Chloe, a precocious age three–thought otherwise and let their mother know. By now, I was livid with my brood. They’d been testing my patience all day with their attitudes toward their mother, and this was the final straw. My wife had slaved the entire day, preparing and cooking our meal, and now she was crying, almost inconsolable. My three daughters’ cutting words and their unpleasant dispositions upset me, and I banished the lot of them to their rooms while I pondered an appropriate punishment.

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Re: The Butterfly Key - Prologue first 4 paragraphs

Post by emburke207 » June 19th, 2010, 2:03 pm

I always find family troubles interesting. Nice start. I'd cut a lot of the adjectives. For me, they're a bit like cotton wads between the toes. Best, Elizabeth

Prologue

Snowflakes the size of cotton balls (cotton balls are downy--too many descriptive words?)fluttered from the heavens on that unforgettable December evening. [syntax off with following? " with the help of a light wind blowing in from the northwest.] The air and snow swirled around like a soft exhale of an angel’s breath, coating [does exhale coat? or inbue?]our entire neighborhood in a delicate, glistening fluff. My quaint [why quaint? ]house, nestled on the odd side of the street, seemed draped in a pristine cloak of white. And the charcoal-gray smoke billowing from my chimney dissipated as it rose heavenward toward the cloudy, starless night. [too many descriptive words?]

Inside, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” streamed from the radio, falling delightfully on my ears [falling delightfully? ... and it caused you to breath in and smile? ... I guess I feel overwhelmed by adjectives]. I breathed in through my nose and smiled. My olfactory sense sprang to life, aroused by old familiar smells reminding me of my late grandparents’ home during the holiday season. I closed my eyes and breathed in again, this time much deeper than before, awakening long-forgotten memories of when I was a little boy. The special blends [blend? not blends? ]of pleasant odors filled every nook and cranny of my home. A heavy tang of pine lingered in the family room and the scent of candy cane candles filled the living room. From the kitchen, the delectable [cut delectable? one hopes the ham dinner smells good... ] aroma of ham dinner, with just a hint of pineapple, wafted in the air. On the counter, a fresh pot of coffee was in the works.

[paragraph break? ]But the coffee wasn’t the only thing brewing on this Christmas Eve. Tension loomed thick in the air, simmering, close to boiling over. [cut : tension loomed thick ... I'm not sure something thick can loom? Why not just go to: I could sense it, I could almost taste it. Trouble was coming" ?] I could sense it, I could almost taste it. Trouble was coming; this I knew was inevitable.

My wife and children were on a collision course, akin to two trains hurtling toward one another, and I was stuck in the middle, tied to the tracks, so to speak. I took in a deep breath and braced myself, biding my time, awaiting their foreseeable impact. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have to wait long.

My wife Nicole and I had just finished our dinner with our trio of daughters. A delightful meal it was indeed. The girls–Ashley, age fifteen; Emma, age twelve; and Chloe, a precocious age three–thought otherwise and let their mother know. By now, I was livid with my brood. They’d been testing my patience all day with their attitudes toward their mother, and this was the final straw. My wife had slaved the entire day, preparing and cooking our meal, and now she was crying, almost inconsolable. My three daughters’ cutting words and their unpleasant dispositions upset me, and I banished the lot of them to their rooms while I pondered an appropriate punishment.

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