Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

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Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by maybegenius » February 13th, 2010, 1:06 pm

*Edit*: So I pretty much scrapped this entire opening and started fresh, heh. Thank you to everyone for your input; it was incredibly helpful and greatly appreciated!

I've been giving out a lot of advice without offering my work up for the slaughter yet, so... *deep breath* here goes.

This is the opening page/prologue for my WIP. It mainly fits into the Young Adult Steampunk realm, as it takes place in 1901 and features advanced technology, and though it has elements of "paranormal," they're based in science.

I've been struggling with this opening quite a bit - it used to be completely different. So, obviously open to more change! :D It's written in a different style than the rest of the work. This is in first-person POV, but the rest is in third-person.

Okay, I've rambled enough. Here it is:
Sometimes the world is so cold my voice freezes in the air and shatters. Those are the times it is difficult to remember why I am here.

But I always remember.

There are whispers about the world you have always half-believed in, even if you did not understand. You have held many names for them, though over time the names have faded. Where they used to fill your mouths and heads with fear, they have now become myth and legend. Ghoul, zombie, vampire, baobhan sith, the Undead – creatures that live without living.

You are right to half-believe. They walk among you, stealing what they need to survive. If you are useful, they will make you as they are.

It is not what you think. No, it is worse, for they are not content to merely survive.

They hope to take your survival for themselves.

But they have grown complacent in their power, and they do not see the coming rebellion. Too long have they underestimated the strength of those whose lives they stole away. We were like you, once, and we have not forgotten.

This story traces back centuries, but did not truly begin until recent years. Come and listen close, for your future depends on it.

I’ll tell you now about a man without a heart who waits at the edge of a lake.

He touches his chest where the organ used to beat and wonders if he will ever know true warmth again. An autumn wind blows brutal over the water. The night is thick, and it swallows sound as if it were black cotton.

Movement among the trees catches his eye. A figure stumbles from the brush and speeds toward him, sand bursting behind its heels like ash. Panic follows in its wake.

“Go,” the figure says. “They are coming!”

“What’s happened?” asks the man, grabbing the other and holding him firm by the shoulders.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had no choice. You know what they’ll do. Please, you must run!”

The heartless man closes his eyes as though in pain. “It is too late.”

With scarcely a whisper, the pair is surrounded. Pale bodies with deadened eyes watch their movements, ready to prevent any attempt at escape. The man’s companion whirls, searching wildly for hope, but the man keeps his eyes on the three figures directly before him. They are different from the others, clothed in hooded cloaks that hide their eyes.

One of the cloaked newcomers steps forward. He holds a blade that glints in the moonlight.

“You had such potential,” says the hooded one. “Come back with us. Help us achieve our goal.”

“I won’t,” responds the heartless man, standing tall and firm.

“We have told you what we will do if you refuse to aid us. Do you doubt it?”

“No.”

“Then your daughter is ours. You would sacrifice her for your lost cause?”

The man’s hands begin to shake, but his voice is calm. “There are some sacrifices that must be made for the greater good.”

“So be it.” A command is issued, and the circle closes.

“No!” The man can hear the informant shouting, but the voice is cut short, cast aside out of the fray. The man goes down, where he is promptly kicked onto his back. The hooded man stands above him bearing the knife. The blade shines silver, like the waves of the lake.

“I will take back what is ours, and we will find the others. Your daughter will fill your vacancy. Be still, and I will be quick.”

The man looks to the moon. “Clara,” he whispers. “Forgive me.”

He feels the knife against his chest, and he is no more.


And that’s where we begin our story.
Last edited by maybegenius on May 25th, 2011, 3:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by Holly » February 13th, 2010, 1:28 pm

Hi, maybegenius. You're brave to post your opening here.

This reminds of a stage play where the host opens the curtain, clomps out hat in hand, sizes up the audience, and says, "Now, I'm going to tell you a story." You write well, but I prefer stories that start in the middle of some action -- not explanations. Just my two cents. Good luck!
Last edited by Holly on February 13th, 2010, 1:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by Bohemienne » February 13th, 2010, 1:29 pm

Really powerful voice you have there! I don't have any line-by-line critiques for you, just some general thoughts.

[*]The complete lack of contractions in the opening exposition felt a little awkward. I understand that it's very Victoriana, but just a few would make it less stiff.

[*]The long string of extremely short paragraphs all in succession gets a little tiring after a while. I'd try to combine a few of them.

[*]The next to last sentence had me absolutely breathless. The last sentence RUINED it for me and seemed completely unnecessary. I was already sold before it!

Just my opinion!

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by maybegenius » February 13th, 2010, 1:41 pm

Bohemienne wrote:[*]The next to last sentence had me absolutely breathless. The last sentence RUINED it for me and seemed completely unnecessary. I was already sold before it!

Just my opinion!
Thanks for that! This is actually one of the parts I'm concerned about. I wanted to lead in to the rest of the story, but I didn't know if it sounded totally forced or not.
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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by Lunetta22 » February 13th, 2010, 4:46 pm

I love the descriptions here. I am with Bohemienne. The next to last line is beautiful.

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by aspiring_x » February 13th, 2010, 11:34 pm

hey there maybe,
I've been waiting to catch a glimpse of your writing. Anyway, I hope you don't mind the comments. I LOVED THIS! I definately think that with very few minor tweaks this opening should stay. It drew me in faster than you can say steampunk... Well, please excuse typos, I'm a little slow tonight. Thanks for posting this, made my night... by the way, can I read more please! :)
-vic
maybegenius wrote:
Sometimes the world is so cold my voice freezes in the air and shatters. Those are the times it is difficult to remember why I am here. But I always remember.I moved this up, because the thoughts are so connected, I thought they ought to be closer together. Your writing is beautiful. It's almost like a poem, and because of that you should be very conscious of how your paragraphs are formed. i thought these two sentences should be embraces each other, almost whispered in the same breath. But not quite. That's why the two sentences work.
There are whispers about the world you have always half-believed in, even if you did not understand. You have held many names for them, though over time the names have faded. Where they used to fill your mouths and heads with fear, they have now become myth and legend. Ghoul, zombie, vampire, baobhan siththis is not as mainstream as the others... I've never heard of it and I believe in chupacabras... I think it detracts from the otherwise wonderful paragraph., the Undead – creatures that live without living.

You are right to half-believe. They walk among you, stealing what they need to survive. If you are useful, they will make you as they are.I love this so much as a stand alone!

It is not what you think. No, it is worse, for they are not content to merely survive.

They hope to take your survival for themselves
.Is this really important? It just isn't as powerful as the rest to me.

But They have grown complacent in their power, and. Too long have they underestimated the strength of those whose lives they stole away. They do not see the coming rebellion.I moved this. We were like you, once, and we have not forgotten.

This story traces back centuries, but did not truly begin until recent years. Come and listen close, for your future depends on it.This is one of those sentences that was jarring to me. There's only two or so. You don't have to tell me that you're a narrator voice, I can already hear it. \color]

I'd put an extra space between the above and this...I’ll tell you now about a man without a heart who waits at the edge of a lake.I love this part so much!

He touches his chest where the organ used to beat and wonders if he will ever know true warmth again. An autumn wind blows brutal over the water. The night is thick, and it swallows sound as if it were black cotton.Poetry, I tell you poetry! Movement among the trees catches his eye. A figure stumbles from the brush and speeds toward him, sand bursting behind its heels like ash. Panic follows in its wake.One paragraph instead of the two.

“Go,” the figure sayscome on wordsmith give us a stronger word!. “They are coming!”

“What’s happened?” asks the man, grabbing the other and holding him firm by the shoulders.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had no choice. You know what they’ll do. Please, you must run!”

The heartless man closes his eyes as though in pain. “It is too late.” This line made my lip tremble. No lie.

With scarcely a whisper, the pair is surrounded. Pale bodies with deadened eyes watch their movements, ready to prevent any attempt at escape. The man’s companion whirls, searching wildly for hope, but the man without a heart keeps his eyes on the three figures directly before him. They are different from the others, clothed in hooded cloaks that hide their eyes. Just sat up in my seat!One of the cloaked newcomers steps forward. He holds a blade that glints in the moonlight.moved 'er up to join her sisters.

“You had such potential,” says the hooded one. “Come back with us. Help us achieve our goal.”could you put something about the sound of his voice. I'm already terrified by the sight of him, but what about the sound of him?

“I won’t,” responds the heartless man, standing tall and firm.I think the sentence stand tall and firm without the last bit.

“We have told you what we will do if you refuse to aid us. Do you doubt it?”

“No.”

“Then your daughter is ours. You would sacrifice her for your lost cause?”

The man’s hands begin to shake, but his voice is calm. “There are some sacrifices that must be made for the greater good.”

“So be it.” A command is issued, and the circle closes.Your dialogue is so strong!

“No!” The man can hear the informant I did stumble for a bit over who the informant was... I am really tired though, and probably just slow, you know. shouting, but the voice is cut short, cast aside out of the fray. The man goes down, where he is promptly kicked onto his back. The hooded man stands above him bearing the knife. The blade shines silver, like the waves of the lake. I love the last phrase. I can almost see the heartless man looking out into the lake for hope, you know. Anyway, beautiful.

“I will take back what is ours, and we will find the others. Your daughter will fill your vacancy. Be still, and I will be quick.”

The man looks to the moon. “Clara,” he whispers. “Forgive me.” I STOPPED BREATHING!

He feels the knife against his chest, and he is no more. SO GORGEOUS!


And that’s where we begin our story. I am on my knees now, begging you to cut this last sentence!

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by TiffanyNeal » February 14th, 2010, 12:08 am

Something's throwing me here. I absolutely love the voice and description and think that you write beautifully. It might be that it starts of with first person POV and then turns into 3rd...I don't know. Maybe it's the "you" that is getting to me, because the person narrating is talking to me...I'm not sure. Sorry I can't be more consice. And thanks for helping with my query!! :)
Sometimes the world is so cold my voice freezes in the air and shatters. I've read this line, like, 14 times and it still gets to me. I absolutely love it.Those are the times it is difficult to remember why I am here. I agree that this should be all 1 paragraph.But I always remember.

There are whispers about the world you have always half-believed in, even if you did not understand. You have held many names for them, though over time the names have faded. Where they used to fill your mouths and heads with fear, they have now become myth and legend. Ghoul, zombie, vampire, baobhan sith I had to read that last one several times and it made me lose the flow of the writing. , the Undead – creatures that live without living.

You are right to half-believe. They walk among you, stealing what they need to survive. If you are useful, they will make you as they are. They hope to take your survival for themselves. But they have grown complacent in their power, and they do not see the coming rebellion. Too long have they underestimated the strength of those whose lives they stole away. We were like you, once, and we have not forgotten.
Moved this up.
It is not what you think. No, it is worse, for they are not content to merely survive.I could do without this part.

This story traces back centuries, but did not truly begin until recent years. Come and listen close, for your future depends on it.Not sure if I like the narrator talking to me like that...

I’ll tell you now about a man without a heart who waits at the edge of a lake.

He touches his chest where the organ used to beat and wonders if he will ever know true warmth again. An autumn wind blows brutal over the water. The night is thick, and it swallows sound as if it were black cotton. Love it.

The rest is beautifully written. I am dying to know more. Except...
Movement among the trees catches his eye. A figure stumbles from the brush and speeds toward him, sand bursting behind its heels like ash. Panic follows in its wake.

“Go,” the figure says. “They are coming!”

“What’s happened?” asks the man, grabbing the other and holding him firm by the shoulders.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had no choice. You know what they’ll do. Please, you must run!”

The heartless man closes his eyes as though in pain. “It is too late.”

With scarcely a whisper, the pair is surrounded. Pale bodies with deadened eyes watch their movements, ready to prevent any attempt at escape. The man’s companion whirls, searching wildly for hope, but the man keeps his eyes on the three figures directly before him. They are different from the others, clothed in hooded cloaks that hide their eyes.

One of the cloaked newcomers steps forward. He holds a blade that glints in the moonlight.

“You had such potential,” says the hooded one. “Come back with us. Help us achieve our goal.”

“I won’t,” responds the heartless man, standing tall and firm.

“We have told you what we will do if you refuse to aid us. Do you doubt it?”

“No.”

“Then your daughter is ours. You would sacrifice her for your lost cause?”

The man’s hands begin to shake, but his voice is calm. “There are some sacrifices that must be made for the greater good.”

“So be it.” A command is issued, and the circle closes.

“No!” The man can hear the informant shouting, but the voice is cut short, cast aside out of the fray. The man goes down, where he is promptly kicked onto his back. The hooded man stands above him bearing the knife. The blade shines silver, like the waves of the lake.

“I will take back what is ours, and we will find the others. Your daughter will fill your vacancy. Be still, and I will be quick.”

The man looks to the moon. “Clara,” he whispers. “Forgive me.”

He feels the knife against his chest, and he is no more.


DEFINITELY take this out.And that’s where we begin our story.
[/quote][/quote]

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by maybegenius » February 14th, 2010, 12:25 am

Thanks very much for your suggestions, all! They're very helpful. And I'm so glad you are enjoying my writing; it gives me warm fuzzies!
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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by Serzen » February 14th, 2010, 12:34 am

I hope you don't mind if I play too? I think I'm going to have to use a mix of inline and bottom posting to say what I want. I'll try to make it coherent. Thank BOB for the preview button.
maybegenius wrote: Sometimes the world is so cold my voice freezes in the air and shatters. Those are the times it is difficult to remember why I am here.

But I always remember. Note 1

There are whispers about the world you have always half-believed in, even if you did not understand. You have held many names for them/,/ though over time the names have faded. Where they used to fill your mouths and heads with fear, they have now become myth and legend. Ghoul, zombie, vampire, baobhan sith, the Undead–-creatures that live without living.

You are right to half-believe. They walk among you, stealing what they need to survive. If you are useful/,/ they will make you as they are. It is not what you think. No, it is worse, for they are not content to merely survive. Note 2

They hope to take your survival for themselves.

But they have grown complacent in their power/,/ and they do not see the coming rebellion. Too long have they underestimated the strength of those whose lives they stole away. We were like you, once, and we have not forgotten.

This story traces back centuries, but did not truly begin until recent years. Come and listen close/,/ for your future depends on it.

I’ll tell you now about a man without a heart who waits at the edge of a lake.

He touches his chest where the organ used to beat and wonders if he will ever know true warmth again. An autumn wind blows, brutal, over the water. The night is thick/,/ and it swallows sound as if it were black cotton.

Movement among the trees catches his eye. A figure stumbles from the brush and speeds toward him, sand bursting behind its heels like ash. Panic follows in its wake. “Go,” the figure says. “They are coming!” Note 3

“What’s happened?” asks the man, grabbing the other and holding him firm by the shoulders.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I had no choice. You know what they’ll do. Please, you must run!”

The heartless man closes his eyes as though in pain. “It is too late.” Note 4

With scarcely a whisper/,/ the pair is surrounded. Pale bodies with deadened eyes watch their movements, ready to prevent any attempt at escape. The man’s companion whirls, searching wildly for hope, but the man keeps his eyes on the three figures directly before him. They are different from the others, clothed in hooded cloaks that hide their eyes.

One of the cloaked newcomers steps forward. He holds a blade that glints in the moonlight.

“You had such potential,” says the hooded one says. “Come back with us. Help us achieve our goal.”

“I won’t,” responds replies the heartless man, standing tall and firm.

“We have told you what we will do if you refuse to aid us. Do you doubt it?”

“No.”

“Then your daughter is ours. You would sacrifice her for your lost cause?”

The man’s hands begin to shake, but his voice is calm. “There are some sacrifices that must be made for the greater good.” Note 5

“So be it.” A command is issued/,/ and the circle closes.

“No!” The man can hear the informant shouting/,/ but the voice is cut short, cast aside out of the fray. The man goes down, where he is promptly kicked onto his back. The hooded man stands above him bearing the knife. The blade shines silver, like the waves of the lake.

“I will take back what is ours/,/ and we will find the others. Your daughter will fill your vacancy. Be still, and I will be quick.” Note 6

The man looks to the moon. “Clara,” he whispers. “Forgive me.”

He feels the knife against his chest/,/ and he is no more.


And that’s where we begin our story. Note 7
1 This separation is good. I like it.
2 Brought these two paragraphs together because they are quite closely connected in nature. The next one is fine as a one-liner.
3 Merged these two again because of their connection. Also, might condense 'they are' to 'they're'.
4 I would explore something other than "as though in pain." Maybe "The heartless man closes his eyes, his face a visage/mask of pain" or "...closes his eyes, pain written on his face/features." Also, might again consider the contraction. If no contraction, perhaps "It is far/past (but not both) too late."
5 It feels a little phony to me. My first thought, what I would have anticipated seeing considering what I've read so far is "There are some things that must be done to ensure the greater good." It feels more fatalistic to me at this particular moment in time.
6 The last sentence is awkward with the comma; rather than just scratch it I thought I'd offer other ways to go. "Be still, I might be quick about it." or "Be still and I may yet be quick." have rings to them that I favor.
7 The stark change of tone is what's unsettling people here. You can probably use a transition line if you choose it well. To make it match more with the rest of the narrative my first thought is "From that end we pursue our beginning." but it's only an eye-deer.

My biggest pointer is to watch your commas. You are using them to indicate a pause--something they're supposed to do--but that's not how they should be used. You've actually put your sentences together in such a way that the tempo is indicated by the word choice and order, no mean feat, so the commas that I struck are superfluous. Remember that making punctuation work also involved making lack of punctuation work. An absence is still a presence, if you follow.

I enjoyed reading this. It piqued my interest and kept me moving along. There was no feeling of being forced.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by Yoshima » February 14th, 2010, 12:37 am

Just wanted to drop by and say how much I enjoyed reading this. I don't have much to add; the others have done a great job so I won't repeat. And the ending (not the last sentence, of course) made me go "but, but...I need to know more!! Give more now, or Hulk smash!" :) *sends oodles of warm fuzzies*

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by maybegenius » February 14th, 2010, 12:49 am

Serzen - Thanks for pointing out my commas. I'm one of those people that gets into a rut with punctuation if I'm not careful, so that's a good thing for me to watch for! It's probably obvious that I started out writing poetry... heh :)

Yoshima - Thank you! *accepts your warm fuzzies*
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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by stardog911 » February 14th, 2010, 2:41 am

Same as above. Drop the last line and just fade out the second to last. Like ...
Other than that, sounds like just my kind of book! Good work.

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by Serzen » February 15th, 2010, 1:43 am

Maybe,

I noticed the poetry thing more or less right off. I've a friend who's trying to complete his degree in FA and I constantly strike commas from his work. His argument is always the same, that he's trying to indicate pauses in the reading. Thus I see where you are coming from.

Let me attempt to give you this advice: If you are considering adding a comma to indicate a long pause between one word and the next, rather than a short pause as indicated here, ask yourself "would I be willing to put a full tab in the text instead of a comma?" If a full tab makes no sense the comma might not either.

Now, mind you, it's only an exercise, but it might help you (and who knows how many others) figure out on their own whether they are using the comma as it should be used or whether they are abusing it. If you need a longer pause than the comma allows, put a full stop in there. If you're trying to control the cadence, think about the word choices in the two clauses you're separating.

Measure twice, cut once. It works in many fields.

~Serzen
Il en est des livres comme du feu de nos foyers; on va prendre ce feu chez son voisin, on l’allume chez soi, on le communique à d’autres, et il appartient à tous. --Voltaire

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by astrogirl » February 15th, 2010, 11:34 am

Overall the writing style is staccato - short sentences.

Paragraphs so short they often contain just one sentence.

Therefore the commas, to me, fit.

If you get my drift.

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Re: Opening page of my YA Steampunk novel

Post by medussa74 » May 21st, 2011, 4:08 pm

Hello there!

I love the tone of your piece; you do an excellent job of establishing a mood. Mostly what I wanted to comment on, however, is your use of POV in your introduction here. I don't have a problem at all with this narrator speaking directly to me, and in fact I believe it fits quite well in establishing the mood. You say that you intend to switching to third person POV in the rest of your story, but I have a thought about that.

The way you've established your story, you have a defined storyteller. I have an idea that this storyteller is one of the "undead," but beyond that he or she (or it) does not have a specific place in this story beyond historian. I don't believe that you should completely leave this character behind as you progress through your tale. I'm not saying that he or she needs to continually interject themselves or their opinions--on the contrary, a good storyteller does their best to make themselves invisible in the scope of the story. But the way the storyteller does color HOW the story is told. If this is how you are going to start your story, I would want to feel like the same narrator is telling me the entire tale. Hopefully, that makes sense and I'm not babbling here.

I understand why you added that last sentence--you were trying to transition between this first-person part and the third-person rest of the story. I'm not positive that you need it, especially if its the same narrator throughout the tale. But, if you feel strongly that you do need some sort of transition, the tone definitely needs to match the rest of the piece. Maybe something like "With his end, our tale begins."

I hope you find my suggestions helpful!

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