Thursday, September 4, 2008

My First Paragraph

It takes guts to post the first paragraph(s) to a novel you've written but haven't yet published. Sending it out to agents and/or publishers pales beside posting that one solitary paragraph on a blog. Agents can reject so painlessly -- send you that little form letter that helps convince you that so & so is just not accepting anyone these days and it has nothing to do with your writing or lack thereof.

But posting on a blog? You've preened and polished and crafted the best opening you know how to write. What if people laugh? or cringe? or wonder, What is she thinking, posting something that asinine? I think paranoia and shaky self-confidence stalk the writer, no matter how many times he's been published. So kudos to Ken Kiser for braving the wilderness and posting his first paragraph. I'm duly impressed. Others (Anthony Pacheco, shariwrites, dianegallant, among others) have jumped in as well, feet first and welcoming comments, thoughts, constructive criticism, and general applause. I can do no less. Here are the opening paragraphs to Ceilyn's Calling.

Ceilyn sprinted down the darkened hallway, conjuring a light spell with his right hand. The light flared, revealing the thick-set demon hurtling towards the heavy monastery door.

“Halt!” the boy commanded, his voice ringing with power. He hurled the magical sign of restraint, willing it to stop.

The squat hell-creature swung around, nostrils flaring, chest heaving. The stench of unwashed rags assaulted Ceilyn, and he flinched. The demon’s eyes, crusted over and rimmed with red, narrowed, sensing fear. He took a step back toward Ceilyn.

Ceilyn inhaled sharply. Retreating, he fumbled in his waist pouch for the tiny glass vial. With a thundering roar, the demon threw his head back, teeth glinting in the spelled light. He shook his body, thumping his chest before lowering his head to charge. He snarled, breath fouling the air.

Ceilyn closed his eyes, mouth moving in the ancient spell of reverse conjuring. He held the vial up, swirled its contents several times, then flung it toward the charging beast. But the final word wouldn’t come. Fear billowed up in his chest, blocking his mind, his throat, his words.


stu said...

Pretty good, but I have a couple of small suggestions.

'the boy said' in the second paragraph should be changed, since instead of telling us what you want about the main character it creates momentary confusion over whether a second character is there. Consider the simple he said, followed by something along the lines of the words ringing with power despite his youth.

Lose a couple of the adjectives. Detail and description is nice, but possibly its gotten to the stage of slowing things down here. Particularly, keep either thick set or heavy in the first paragraph, but not both.

JPrather said...

I agree with stu, this was good, and I applaud you for taking that anxious step and posting your first few paragraphs. I have some suggestions as well. Right now the prose is choppy. It hurts your flow more than it helps it when you have a line break with every three sentences. They tell us in school that a paragraph is at least eight sentences long and while that rule is usually broken, it's point is made: flow demands that there's not a ton of breaks. Also, as a reader I seem abit lost. I realize that this is the first few paragraphs and more will be explained shortly, but starting off, the details of where this is all happening seem a bit sketchy. It's in a dark hallway in a monastery? The first time I read it I actually pictured a hallway outside at night because the demon is "hurtling towards the heavy monestary door" so my first thought was: "It's the main door to the outside that the demon is hurtling towards. And how could this boy see the demon unless he was also outside?" Thus I pictured what I did.

I hope this helps. Oh yeah, and it turns out I'm not done worldbuilding after all. Pop by and critique if you wish:

RG Sanders said...

Not to disagree with the boys, but I think it runs just fine. I don't feel held back or slowed down, but more clued into what is happening - briefly - before something happens.

It reminds me somewhat of Stephen King's semi-detail in sequences.

One thing I noted was the demon. Is it a he specifically? Because the 'he' boy and 'he' demon can become a little tangled. If the demon is not a particular character, perhaps it could be an 'it'.

Ultimately though, I think it's up to you - whatever makes you feel like it works. It's not the perfection of the style, but the story told.

diane said...

I like the way you begin this in the middle of action. It makes me want to know more about Ceilyn and his magic - has he conjured this demon himself? Is fear preventing him from completing the spell, or is it inexperience with magic? It performs the key function of making me want to continue reading. The prose sounds fine to my ear, not choppy or awkward - but I'm going by language instinct only (as I always do). Have you published this?

Anthony said...
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Anthony said...

I liked the flow and I liked the action!

I feel Stu has a good readability suggestion.

This opens better than half of the fantasy novels in my library.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was sucked right into the action and wanted to know what was going to happen next. I think what people are commenting on as far as the writing goes, might be more a matter of personal taste and it's your call whether to keep it or change it. I was never confused, felt like there was a good sense of place, and definitely like I was right in the middle of the action. I would definitely be interested in reading more.

Alex Moore said...

Thank you, all, for your kind comments and helpful insight. I deeply appreciate the constructive criticism (& the careful tenderness!)...and will continue to contemplate the notes you've made. This has been helpful!

Note: I guess I should have mentioned that this is Young Adult fantasy...

Anonymous said...

Like the others, I like it. I have a minor suggestion, but take it with a grain of salt (I'm not really versed in YA fantasy):

I'd change "Ceilyn sprinted down the darkened hallway, conjuring a light spell with his right hand." to "Ceilyn sprinted down the darkened hallway, conjuring light with his right hand." Also, I think this a convention that can be done throughout -- I've found when writing magic, the word "spell" is often extraneous.

Inland Empire Girl said...

I do keep coming to read, but don't often comment. I am thrilled to see you posting your own novel!