As an opening…

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  • #1110
    Squidge
    Participant

    …how does this grab you?

    It wasn’t until her twenty-seventh attempt that Tilda finally managed to produce her first illuminorb.
    And a good job, too, because by the twenty-sixth attempt, Silviu’s patience was wearing very thin. “Concentrate, Tilda,” the Ambakian powermage snapped.
    “I am concentrating.” Tilda rubbed her palm against her trouser leg. It felt hot; surely she must’ve been close to pulling the Power down that time?
    “Again.” Silviu grabbed Tilda’s hand and pulled her arm straight out in front of her before releasing it.
    Tilda gritted her teeth. This was so frustrating! She could feel the Power inside, fizzing through her veins as it had done ever since her initiation, but she couldn’t seem to pull it outside of herself to form one of the illuminated spheres that Silviu had demonstrated to her so easily.
    Once more, that’s all. Then she was giving up – for today, anyway.
    She closed her eyes and focussed on the fizzing sensation. It had been strange to feel that extra something inside her body over the last few days, and its constant presence had fooled her into thinking it would be easy to use the Power. But to consciously tune into that sensation and draw on it to produce an orb of light was much harder than it looked. Silviu had explained how it all worked; imagine a channel in your arm and direct the Power along it, towards your hand, where you can shape the Power into something more tangible – like an orb. It sounded simple, but Tilda was beginning to despair of ever being able to do it herself. Surely she was using up all her available power, just practising this one thing…
    And if she failed to manage to produce an orb, what then? This was only the first step in her training as a powermage, and Silviu had made it very clear that she would not be allowed to progress further towards becoming a functioning mage until she succeeded. If she couldn’t produce an orb, would he send her packing and look for a new mage for Merjan?
    Don’t think about failing, a little voice said in her head. You can see and sense the Power – heck, you’ve even spoken to it. You can’t give up, not after everything you’ve gone through to get here. Concentrate…and try again.
    Tilda took a deep breath and quieted her thoughts. In her head, she imagined a line, running from her chest to her shoulder, then along her arm and thickening where it reached her palm. Concentrating hard, she visualised the fizzing as blue light, and gently, drew it along the line, colouring her whole arm blue. When her palm was also filled with the light, she imagined shaping and moulding it into a ball the size of an orange, muttered “illuminarka spherus”, and opened one eye to see what, if anything, had happened.
    Floating just above her palm was a pea-sized ball of brilliant white light.
    “I’ve done it!” For a split second, Tilda experienced a rush of elation. Then the miniature orb exploded with a bang, showering her shirt sleeve in blue sparks. “Oh!”
    “Extellerinq,” Silviu snapped, and the sparks flashed and disappeared. “That,” he said, frowning, “is why you need to concentrate. As soon as you stop focussing, the Power is able to escape your will and lose form, shattering into sparks which will mark whatever they come into contact with. Like your shirt.”
    Tilda’s cheeks burned as she inspected the damage; a dozen or more tiny holes smouldered on her sleeve. “I did it though, didn’t I?”
    “You did. You managed to create a very small illuminorb. Now you need to be able to maintain the shape of it and increase its size.” Silviu grabbed his jacket from the back of the chair and pulled it on. Then he picked up a large book from his desk. “Just remember, Concentration, focus–”
    “–and feeling,” Tilda finished for him, scowling at the scorchmarks. Aunt Tresa wouldn’t be pleased when she saw them. “Are we done for today?”

    #1111
    Squidge
    Participant

    Apologies for the formatting! That’ll teach me to cut and paste…

    #1114
    Kate
    Participant

    I really liked this Squidge. Very immediate, straight into the action. Lovely voice. Thumbs up all around.

    #1121
    Mad Iguana
    Participant

    It’s great, Squidge! My personal taste would have been to start with:
    “By Tilda’s twenty-sixth attempt to produce an illuminorb, Silviu’s patience…”
    But I can’t say that would be better (in fact, it’s grammatically very awkward… so probably worse); it’s just how I would have done it. Otherwise, a cracking piece with a ton of world-building and backstory in there already.

    #1123
    Squidge
    Participant

    Thanks Kate, Mad.

    Actually, I reckon your way would work too, Mad. I suppose it depends what it is you’re trying to emphasise in the opener – for me, it was the fact that Tilda’s been trying to get this bloomin’ illuminorb right for so long, whereas depending on how you worded the next bit, your suggestion might focus attention on Silviu and his lack of patience?

    I do find it interesting how we’d all approach things slightly differently. But then, it’d be a boring world of books if we didn’t!

    #1125
    Mad Iguana
    Participant

    That’s very true, Squidge. TBH, I’d say I’d re-write it about fifty times before I got anywhere and then probably end up with the first version in the end.
    I think, given your focus, your approach is accurate. What I was trying to do was remove the certainty of her having succeeded on the 27th go.

    #1126
    Squidge
    Participant

    Oh I see! Sort of a ‘how much longer is she going to keep trying this?’ vibe?

    #1127
    Mad Iguana
    Participant

    Yep, that was the thinking. The rest of it is quite close 3rd person, so it’s sort of cheating to know that she’s going to succeed this time. But, that presupposes something (on my part) about the rest of the book and the audience, I think.

    #1128
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    Is this the opening to number two? It works really well whether you’ve read the first or not. Straight into the action and letting us know about Tilda and her situation without us feeling we are being told. I am inclined to agree with Mad about not giving away that she will succeed in creating an illuminorb in the opening sentence.

    #1130
    Squidge
    Participant

    Jane – yes, this is the start of number 2…

    Will have a think about the success bit… If two peeps think it, you might well have a point. 😉

    #1134
    JaneShuff
    Participant

    Starting with a sentence that gives away what is going to happen is something I do a lot myself. There is a stage in my editing process where I go through the MS and look for them and mainly remove or change them. I think they are sort of notes to myself that need to come out.

    #1135
    Jonathan
    Participant

    I love the fact that we get to have input to your books! It’s quite the privilege, actually. Just had to say that hehe.

    Anyway, enough with the gushing :o) Love the opening. Illuminorbs sound amazing. One thing I would think about though is the exclamation mark after “This was so frustrating!” Maybe make Tilda do something to vent that feeling – pound her leg with her hand, make an angry noise, whatever is appropriate. Make the, er, make the action the punctuation … or something …

    I did feel that the passage after that also was a little long. I wanted it to pause around this point:

    “Surely she was using up all her available power, just practising this one thing. And if she failed to manage to produce an orb, what then?”

    Then when you say “Silviu had made it quite clear”, maybe S. can make it clear then. Have the disappointment happen then, perhaps. It just skirted a little close to clock-stopping exposition for me. If Silviu (cool name btw) expresses his* disappointment then, it can make some challenges for the MC plus flesh out Silviu.

    Just some thoughts anyway. Hope the help you out :o)

    * Incidentally, this sentence: “and Silviu had made it very clear that she would not be allowed to progress further towards becoming a functioning mage until she succeeded.” made me think S was female. Had to do a double take when I realised that wasn’t the case.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Jonathan.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Jonathan.
    #1152
    Raine
    Participant

    THis is great Squidge, love the immediate dive into her PoV, her frustrations and doubts. My only two thoughts are …
    – some of the descriptive paragraph (Tilda gritted her teeth…) might be worth trimming. It’s a chunk of … background I guess, that perhaps needs only a hint here, with more details as you go on?
    – and, I think someone else suggested this, but could some of the telling of Silviu’s atittude/threats etc, be spoken dialogue? Would set them up as a character more strongly, as well as breaking up Tilda’s introspection?

    Other than that, it’s full of hints and character and definitely works as a start to something exciting! ‘Would read on’ as they say!

    #1208
    Squidge
    Participant

    Thanks Jonathan, Raine – more food for thought!

    Glad you’d read on, though… 😉

    #1221
    Squidge
    Participant

    Is this the kind of thing peeps meant? Still needs a tweak or two, yet, but…

    By Tilda’s twenty-sixth attempt to produce an illuminorb, Silviu’s patience was wearing thin.

    “Concentrate, Tilda,” the Ambakian powermage snapped.

    “I am concentrating.” Tilda rubbed her palm against her trouser leg. It felt hot; surely she must’ve been close to pulling the Power down that time?

    “Again.” Silviu grabbed Tilda’s hand and pulled her arm straight out in front of her before releasing it.

    Tilda gritted her teeth. She’d never be able to do this; she could feel the Power inside, fizzing through her veins as it had done ever since her initiation, but she couldn’t seem to pull it outside of herself to form one of the illuminated spheres that Silviu had demonstrated to her so easily.

    Silviu sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Remember what I told you. Imagine a channel in your arm and direct the Power along it, towards your hand, where you can shape the Power into something more tangible – like an orb.”

    “And if I can’t?”

    Silviu’s blue eyes shone like chips of ice when he replied. “You must. You cannot progress any further with your training as a powermage until you succeed.”

    “Oh.” No pressure, then. If Tilda couldn’t produce an orb, would Silviu send her packing and look for a new mage for Merjan?

    Once more, that’s all. Then she was giving up – for today, anyway.

    She closed her eyes and focussed on the fizzing sensation. It had been strange to feel that extra something inside her body over the last few days, and its constant presence had fooled her into thinking it would be easy to use the Power. But to consciously tune into that sensation and draw on it to produce an orb of light was much harder than it looked – what if she never managed it?

    Don’t think about failing, a little voice said in her head. You can see and sense the Power – heck, you’ve even spoken to it. You can’t give up, not after everything you’ve gone through to get here. Concentrate…and try again.

    Tilda took a deep breath and quieted her thoughts. In her head, she imagined a line, running from her chest to her shoulder, then along her arm and thickening where it reached her palm. Concentrating hard, she visualised the fizzing as blue light, and gently, drew it along the line, colouring her whole arm blue. When her palm was also filled with the light, she imagined shaping and moulding it into a ball the size of an orange, muttered “illuminarka spherus”, and opened one eye to see what, if anything, had happened.

    Floating just above her palm was a pea-sized ball of brilliant white light.

    #1235
    Seagreen
    Participant

    Yes. I much prefer the start of this.

    #1290
    Squidge
    Participant

    Hooray!!

    #1296
    Philippa East
    Participant

    Hi Squidge!

    How lovely to read about Tilda, and dive into the world you have created. I really like the idea of Tilda being so aware of the Power inside her – literally feeling it – but now grappling to translate this into the creation of the orb. It’s quite symbolic in a way!

    Overall, this second version seems tighter than the first, so well done with that.

    A couple of thoughts…

    1. Be mindful of how you handle the stakes of the challenge. I think you actually nailed this better in the first version (even if you maybe needed to tighten the exposition).

    In this version, you tell us (or rather Silviu does) that if Tilda cannot make the orb, she will not progress in her training. To me, what is at stake here seems pretty major! However, Tilda’s reaction to learning this is “Oh.” A few moments later, she decides she’s pretty much going to give up on the test. (“Once more, that’s all. Then she was giving up”)

    It was also strange to me that she had been at it 26 times before she thought to ask what would happen if she couldn’t do it. Wouldn’t she know the consequences before she went into the test? (You actually have it this way in version one). Or if not, when she learns the potential consequences, I’d expect this to massively up the anti for her and make her motivation shoot up.

    2. Related to this, the point at which Tilda learns what the stakes are changes the inciting incident of your story. If she learns during the test, this is a revelatory moment which means your inciting incident = “Tilda learns she might be dropped from the training if she doesn’t pass a certain test.” If she knows before the test, the inciting incident of your story = “Tilda passes an important test in her training.” Does that make sense?

    The pay-off of this scene was really nice! I think this is a much more impactful ending than in version one – ending with the orb appearing. I like how she peeps out of one eye – she can hardly bear to look – and it’s a really nice narrative choice that the light is pea-sized. Her orb is tiny, but that’s not the point. The point is, it’s there. Lovely!

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Philippa East.
    #1365
    Squidge
    Participant

    Thanks Philippa – that does all make sense! Sounds like I need to now combine the stakes of the challenge with the overall feel…

    The inciting incident isn’t actually that she can/can’t make an orb; it’s the fact that a little later, she decides to practise in secret, drains her Power and needs to refill… and at THAT point, discovers something that is the driving force of the whole adventure as she tries to repair what she discovers.
    But I can see how in this scene, the reader could be forgiven for thinking that it’s her continued training that will be at stake…

    Will keep mulling it over. x

    #1423
    Elle
    Participant

    Hi Squidge,

    I only read the second version and I really enjoyed it and found it an engaging opening. I agreed with Philippa when the stake was revealed about what would happened if she failed, Tilda’s reaction felt weak compared to the pressure she has just been put under. Also if this is a school of sorts I would imagine she would have been informed beforehand what you would the tests and what students are expected to achieve in order to pass.

    I like the way you ended that scene and that the orb is only pea size and the very natural reaction of being afraid to look.

    I hope this helps!

    #1430
    Mad Iguana
    Participant

    This is great, Squidge. Way more immediate and intense – can really feel Tilda’s relationship with the magic and her power. I’d agree with Philippa’s points, but I think it’s great and tight and engaging. I guess from here the question is around how much more exposition you want in this passage and how much should come later.

    #1474
    StellaOlivetti
    Participant

    It’s very visual, which I like. I also like your almost-informal style of writing, which should work for your target readership, which I’m assuming is younger teens/children? I vastly preferred your original opening sentence, for what it’s worth, it scanned better for me and ended with the interesting word illuminiorb, which makes you want to read on. One thing – and this isn’t pertaining to how it works as an opening, so apologies – but as a side issue, the capitalising of the Power made me think of the book by Naomi Alderman. I’m sure it doesn’t matter as your intended readership is so different. But it was the first thing I thought of, and that might be true for your editor as well.

    Stella

    #1478
    Squidge
    Participant

    Thanks all!

    Stella, I’ve not heard of Naomi Alderman at all – I’ll have to look her/her books up.

    It’s sods law that what I’ve written makes you think of someone else’s work – originally the Power was rings, and I got slated by an agent over it being too LOTR, when the story itself is nothing like.

    Ah well, they do say there are only so many story types in existence – it’s more, to quote that comedian whose name I can’t remember ‘It’s the way you tell ’em!’ 😉

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Squidge.
    #1488
    StellaOlivetti
    Participant

    Yes, well, exactly. There’s only seven plots in fiction, I seem to recall being told, and as you say, it’s all down to individual writing. So I wouldn’t worry too much.

    Stella

    It was Frank Carson I think!

    #1489
    Squidge
    Participant

    Haha! He’s the one! I could picture him…but not remember his name!

    I looked up the author – her novel sounds brill, must look it up. I like the idea of women ruling the world 😉

    #1503
    Raine
    Participant

    Naomi ALderman is great @squidge! Not always a comfortable read, but (haha) very powerful. I loved The Power, and I’ve also just read her newest – The LIars Gospel, which you might enjoy. I think. Some might not like the angle it takes, but I thought it was beautiful in its own way.

    #1521
    Jonathan
    Participant

    Hi Squidge. I think the second one is much smoother. For me, there are no points where the “forward-motion” (if you know what I mean) vanishes. The situation is clear, and the level of tension is good – I am thinking that her creating the illuminorb is the “hmm … that’s rather interesting” thing of note that happens before the “yeah, ok, now that’s a game changer” thing kicks off. In other words, starting at the point where something unusual happens, something a little out of the norm and which may be small but is definitely the moment everything else flows from. Anyway, I waffle.

    So yep – looks good. I did prefer the original opener but this works just as well; it’s a matter of taste. Couple of other tiny wibbles but I wouldn’t sweat them now. 🙂 Thanks for the read.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Jonathan.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 6 months ago by Jonathan.
    #1533
    Squidge
    Participant

    Ta, Jonathan. ‘couple of tiny wibbles’… I can live with that. 😉

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