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YA - adventure/mystery Chapter one (a little shorter)

Posted: August 28th, 2010, 5:54 am
by ninafromnorway
After posting my prologue, I was given advice to drop it and just go right to the first chapter. As my chapters are a little long, I'll give you the first chapter. As I am Norwegian I know there are quite a few grammar mistakes there. But mostly I'm interested on how you'd score this as for storytelling and writing scale. (10/10 method, as Nathan talks about here ... ading.html) I'm also interested in hearing how the first point of view works for me.

Chapter 1
When does a life start? Is it at the conception? At birth? Or could it be from your first memory?
My life… I don’t remember much of my life. My life is like a blackout, so I have no possibility but to say that it starts with my first memory, and that’s not much to brag about:
8 months ago I woke up dazed, bruised and battered. I Only had a few rags on, and it looked like it had been ages since I’d had a good shower. I was in a ditch next to quite a deserted road, and my head was resting on something soft. My eyes felt lumpy, refusing to open for some reason, so painfully I took a moment to unconceal them. I tried to get up, but even when I got up slowly, I still had to recollect myself from the other pains around my body: My upper arms felt heavy, and when I tried to move a step forward I was stopped by a pain on my inner thigh. I couldn’t see anything, but I could feel the sticky blood flowing down to the ground. I knew there was nothing I could do about it, so I tried to put it at the back of my mind and figure out where I was instead.
I looked around, and although my vision was slightly blurred, I could just see the outlining of the silver mountains, and snow reflecting off of the bright moonlit sky. Frost was soaring out of my mouth as I breathed, and I longed for something to keep me warm. When I got used to the pain around my eyes, I looked around me and everything just felt... empty. I could see things, and I understood what they were, I just couldn’t put names on what I saw. Wondering why my feet were cold, I looked down and saw I had no shoes on and a puddle of blood had gathered beneath my feet. Dark patches I assumed to be bruises were scattered all over me, and the taste of blood was caught on my tongue. I managed to suck it away from my torn lip as I tried to swallow the lump of fear that had started to build up inside. My name, what was my name? Where was I? How did I get here? And most importantly – who am I?

I understood I must have needed help to be left for dead in the ditch, and for fear of meeting whoever left me there, I wanted to leave the road I was lying by and planned to walk away from it, until I was caught by a light calling at me from the ground: The moon was being echoed off of a silver blade attached to a wooden shaft. Next to it I discovered what my head had been resting on: A neatly folded blanket! Puzzled I picked up the knife and held it in my hand. The blade was sharp, as if it never had been used. There was no blood or marks on it, and I could just see my own face mirrored back at me, but it was too dark to be able to see the details. Around me it was dead quiet, not even an owl was there to keep me company.
I understood as much that it had to be autumn, as the leaves had fallen fresh off the trees and were crunching beneath my bare feet as I stumbled my way through an invisible path. All though I couldn’t stop, I started to hyperventilate as it dawned on me that I had nowhere to go. I tried digging in to my mind, asking myself questions which I should’ve known the answers to. Like my age, my favorite colour, and which animals did I like? But every answer came up a blank. I don’t know how far I had run, but I made sure that for each step I took, it would be harder to find me. I got close to blacking out a few times, but gave myself permission to slow down my pace and catch my breath. Pushing through the pain in my legs, I tried to make familiar of the things I saw. Although it was dark, I could see parts of rocks, big roots, and even caves that to a normal person should say: “Hey, you’ve been here before”, but nothing could help me along the way.

As the night evolved in to dawn, I felt accompanied by the wildlife waking up for a new day. After what seemed like hours, I finally couldn’t walk any farther. I was stopped by a cliff and sat down on a piece of trunk that had fallen over. I gazed out and didn’t see anything but the ocean. Just in front of me there was a 25 metre drop straight down in to the rough sea, breaking the waves in to angry drops of water. Looking further to my right, the cliffs faded in to the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. I was determined to get down to this beach, but it was surrounded by cliffs, as if made private by God himself. At the end of a beach I spotted a cave, and hoped that there was more than one entrance to it. Hope led me in to making myself familiar with the area. There was no sign of any human existence, not even on the water. I felt safe here, and started to gather in twigs, branches, and anything else that could resemble anything of shelter and warmth. Within a few hours I had made myself a small hut, just enough to keep me sheltered from a few drops of rain. It wasn’t much, but I guessed it would keep for now, at least until I found the cave. I knew it was a little bit too much to ask for, but without any hope at that moment I was destined to be doomed. I hadn’t sat down for a minute until my stomach growled. I found myself a long stick I could use as a spear, after sharpening it with my knife, and went hunting for food.

Re: YA - adventure/mystery Chapter one

Posted: August 28th, 2010, 5:58 am
by ninafromnorway
Gosh, that looks so much longer than the A5 pages I have on my Word...

Re: YA - adventure/mystery Chapter one

Posted: August 30th, 2010, 6:57 pm
by sldwyer
I became intrigued with the story, but thought everything went a little to quickly. There wasn't a lot of detail in the daily happenings. I understand there is a language problem with converting to english,, so I discounted anything that looked like a conversion problem.

I would give this a 6/6 only because of what I mentioned above.

Re: YA - adventure/mystery Chapter one

Posted: August 31st, 2010, 12:19 am
by ninafromnorway
Thanks for reading.

I have also felt that the beginning sort of flies by, but I have to remind myself that she won't be living like this forever.

I'll see if I can slip in some more scenes. Last night two ideas came to mind for the first chapter, which is a bit weird as I am in the middle of chapter 11.

Re: YA - adventure/mystery Chapter one (a little shorter)

Posted: September 6th, 2010, 3:11 pm
by polymath
If I could save just one writer some of the struggles, I'd be a happy editor.

One big picture but subtle item that Chapter one presents to me is what I call White Page Syndrome. It's a kind of Dischism. Thomas Disch noticed workshop narratives often depicted aspects of a writer's writing setting ineffectively influencing the writing. Smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, waking up rituals, etc. So it was named after him.

White Page Syndrome Dischisms happen a lot in first efforts. Uncertain of a narrative's direction, prospecting for where to begin a narrative, anxious to put words on the blank page, White Page openings typically begin with a protagonist recovering consciousness or waking up, subtler still, an amnesiac recovering consciousness whose complication is rediscovering self-identity. It's a nonconsious consequence of wanting a story to start where a writer starts, with a blank slate. Who's the protagonist? What's the complication? What's the setting? What's the point, the plot, the idea, the event, etc.? Putting words on the page explores for answers but often winds up as scaffolding erected to access the central narrative, yet obscures the narrative from view.

In my workshop and writing venue experience, White Page Syndrome and other Dischisms are common, so common I conclude agents and screening readers encounter them frequently and routinely pass on them. Because of their commonness, I believe well-crafted ones are frequently passed on. I suspect there's a greater standard for them then other openings. However, every once in a while an exceptionally well-crafted one trumps all reservations and winds up published.

If amnesia is the main complication, addressing it and discovering clues to self-identity is a protagonist's driving purpose, ostensibly a writer's goal too. Here the protagonist wakes up, doesn't know who she is, (I say "she" because the first-person narrator's language is what I know as women's language and absent other context I invent my own.) She looks around a bit, and settles down to, what, wait for something to come along? A White Page Syndrome symptom for sure. For the sake of plot movement, immediately finding clues to identity is movement, movement that's a best practice to not let up upon.

It doesn't have to be much for an opening's sake, something like gender and what that means to her, a name maybe on an identity document. Naming a protagonist gives readers an anchor upon which to hold. Powerful mojo in names and troublesome to introduce names with an amnesiac who has no one to interact with. Other personal articles can provide clues, weapons, clothing, rough or soft hands, aches and pangs, physical attributes, familiarity with an activity like tree climbing, scaling cliffs, swimming, building shelter, nonconscious actions that are part of memory which might not be affected by amnesia, and so on. The important thing is to give readers hope for the pitiable situation's resolution without too easily resolving it, so the outcome remains in doubt until the bitter end.

Another common clue to White Page Syndrome is white settings, "silver," "white," etc. What I know as White Room Syndrome, where a setting is described with white adjectives as decided but vague and inconclusive, so that there's a time, place, and situation location an introspective action takes place in rather than a truly empty thought space; in other words, so it's not a disembodied mind doing the thinking.

Another white Dischism is White Statue Syndrome, where auxiliary characters don't influentially interact with a protagonist, Having no other characters to interact with avoids that syndrome, but illustrates how to avoid White Statues by having a protagonist interact with characters and vice versa. Not having other characters to interact with, though, is a White Page Syndrome symptom from writers' insular writing settings having no one to interact with.

My White Page Syndrome narrative was the same way. I guess everyone is entitled to one. It's a bitter pill to swallow the realization how much of our writing settings can blunt the impact of our writing, but a way forward once its influence is realized and accommodated to.

Re: YA - adventure/mystery Chapter one (a little shorter)

Posted: September 6th, 2010, 4:49 pm
by ninafromnorway
Oh my gosh, I didn't even realize I hadn't mentioned if the MC was a he or a she. Wow, now that's close to pathetic!

Yeah, I see your point. "I woke up and got out of bed"... boring... I already have a new beginning in my mind.

I wish I wasn't too tired to be able to understand what else you are writing, but I'll give it a go tomorrow, if the weather is bad enough!