Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First Page Re-write

After all of the terrific feedback and conversation last week, I rewrote the first page yet again.  Let me know if you think this is better.

The shadows on the snow were blue, not black, in the moonlight.  The top layer had melted in the sun and then frozen again, forming a brittle crust.  An approaching black lion would be seen or heard before it could strike. 

Faldur would have preferred to wait inside the barn, but it was too risky.  The door, which bore deep scratches from the lion's last attempt, was securely bolted to protect the sheep on whom the farmer relied for his living.  Instead, the captain had taken a position in the shadow of the south wall.  The lion would come from the north, from the treeline on the ridge.  Faldur glanced at the large pine about fifty yards to his left, behind which his friend, Lieutenant Harth, waited with his bow.  Another Ranger was positioned near the corner of the stone farmhouse, whose chimney puffed smoke cosily into the frigid air. 

Brilward, the recruit hunched beside him, couldn’t stop fidgeting.  “D’you think it’s a nightstalker?” he whispered.

There was a crunching sound of something approaching in the snow.  Something with a long, quick stride. 

(added Wednesday, Jan. 6th)

Interestingly enough, I was editing some more today, using the version that went to FTQ. If I take out some of the background in the second paragraph, more information gets moved up from the next page, which seems to address some of the issues that were raised on the site. Here's how it looks:

No new snow had fallen since morning, so the lion’s tracks were clearly visible in the lantern light as the farmer showed them to the four Rangers. It had paced back and forth in front of the barn door, searching for a way in. Deep scratches showed on the wood.

“These were made by a male. A large one,” said Faldur, the captain, stooping to examine the prints. He was as lean and cautious as the cats he pursued, with grey eyes deeply set beneath dark brows, and smoothly-weathered features that concealed his true age.

“It came out of the woods around suppertime,” said the farmer. “The dogs barked fit to wake the dead, and the dories were screaming and kicking the stalls. It gave up, but ‘twill be back. Good thing the sheep were in.” Faldur knew that the loss of even a single ewe would be a heavy blow to him, for the fine, soft wool of Glenhym sheep was worth its weight in silver.

“Show me the rest of the tracks,” said Faldur.

The farmer moved forward with the light, while the Rangers followed in silent procession. The lion had emerged from the woods on the opposite side of the barn, circled it, then come within a dozen feet of the farmhouse before disappearing into the woods again. Faldur glanced at the window, where three small faces peered out at them. He didn’t like the fact that it had come so close to the dwelling.


  1. great first line. it really grabs my attention. i only have two things to mention -- "sheep on whom the farmer relied" -- whom refers to humans. maybe it should be "sheep on which the farmer relied."

    the other thing is that it sounds so formal with the perfect grammar -- "on whom", "behind which" etc. maybe that's the tone you're going for.

  2. plus, i wanted to say that i love your description of yourself. i think "dysfunctional" would describe my relationship with my novel as well.

  3. I love the new beginning! It's paints a nice picture of the scene while at the same time building the tension. Gripping. I'd certainly read on. One question: Faldur referred to Lieutenant Harth as a "friend". Are they at the farm in an official capacity as Rangers, or are they just a few buddies out on a hunt? If they are official, I would suggest changing "friend" to something else (for example, "fellow ranger", "partner"), or you could just say "...behind which Lieutenant Harth waited with his bow."

  4. Hi Christine :)

    Yes, this is even better then before. Your first paragraph felt right on, mentioning the black lion quickly to give us some tension, and giving me an idea of the scene/setting.

    However....your second paragraph lost me just a little. It bogged down somewhat the tension that you were creating. After that, it came back up again with him mentioning a nightstalker (as my mind immediately said, what's that, gotta read to find out)

    And lastly, that final paragraph is good. But I think you can make it shine even more. Rather than saying "something" (and twice at that) I'd suggest being more specific. I'd expect a "Ranger" (which sounds like a specialized warrior much as LOtR Rangers) would be able to know the difference in stride from nighstalker to deer to human. So why not go ahead and have him say it directly, leaving you room for a line of sensory details, or blood-chilling roar or something to induce a page turn.


  5. "An approaching black lion would be seen or heard before it could strike."

    The phrase "would be seen" and "before it could strike" is in conflict with the premise of the scene. If this hasn't happened, why mention it. It doesn't (to me) show the sentinels in a good light; it means, if they failed to see something that isn't there, they are derelict in their duty. Why take away from the expertise of the Rangers before you show examples of their singulair value.

    Describe the extradorinary eyesight of the Rangers, and why they would "see" the dark lion aproaching in the shadows. Or, use a smaller predatory animal to emphasize the skill of the warders.

    "Instead, the captain had taken a position in the shadow of the south wall."

    Because Faldur is the first "person" mentioned, I'm thinking he is the Captain that waits inside the barn. If not, clarify this paragraph and let your readers know who is in attendence at this seemingly important hunt.

    (Brilward, the recruit hunched beside him, couldn’t stop fidgeting. “D’you think it’s a nightstalker?” he whispered.)

    POV: This is only a short exerpt; but I can't help wondering what POV your novel is written from. This submission sounds like it should be from Faldur's POV. But the action of this particular scene(hunched beside him, couldn't stop fidgeting) is Bilward's character; while the transition is from Faldur's perspective. Tighten this paragraph so we have a clear voice (POV).

    From the exerpt I've read here, you have a clear and distinctive voice and POV (Faldur's), and when you deviate, it is not likely intentional. Be clear in your voice and POV in this all important first chapter. What your reader garnishes from this first page sets a president for the entire novel.

    Who's voice do your want the reader to hear throughout the novel? Faldur's, or the omniscient narrator?

    Uhm; my apologies if your novel is written from multiple POV's. If it is first person or third person limited, descriptions of setting in omnipotent are acdeptable. If it is omniscient (and I didn't get that in this reading) be careful not to focus on one persons perspective.

    Sorry; I probably wasn't much help. I'm interested, and drawn in enough to want to read more. From this exerpt, it sounds like a fantasy novel, and I adore fantasy. Some paranormal and sci-fi comes close enough to intrigue me also.

    Going now! Thanks for the post.

  6. Naw; after rereading, Bilward's OK.


  7. I like this: it's got a clear setting, a hint of the danger, and begins to establish the characters.

    Nitpicks: 'his' x 3 in one sentence. 'There was a' is best avoided. I'd remove 'securely' from 'bolted' - it's unnecessary.

  8. Thanks for the hints. This was a total re-write from a blank page. I'm starting completely fresh.

    My intention with the first paragraph is that a black lion would blend with black shadows, but if the shadows on the snow are blue, then it would be seen sooner than if there hadn't been any snow. But I didn't mean to make the Rangers sound incompetent. I hadn't thought of this just being a hunting party. They are doing a job. So I need to make that clearer.

    The novel is written from multiple POV.

    Some of the lions are "nightstalkers" trained to kill this race of people, some aren't. So they won't know until they observe it whether it is one or not.

    Yeah, I need to fix the last paragraph.

  9. Michelle,
    Yes, I'm trying to be formal. One of the criticisms of a previous draft is that it wasn't formal enough for a Tolkein-like fantasy.

  10. Oh, and the Hanorja think of their animals as practically people. So that's why I chose "whom" instead of "which."

    But they don't of them as "human." Obviously. *wink*

  11. I love the January 5th page much more than the one you added on the 6th. My favorite of your starts by huge leaps and bounds.

  12. I like the rewrite a lot. I would turn the page.

    A couple of questions, following a statement

    I've read that the beginning of the novel sets up a contract between the writer and the reader. You peek my interest with questions and then promise to answer then if I keep reading.

    The things the peeked my interest, the things I want to know the answer to are:

    1) Why would it be risky to wait in the barn.

    2) One of the other rangers is a friend, what is Faldur's relationship with he other one? Will this become a problem?

    3) What is a nightstalker?

    From your comments I can tell you're going to answer the last question. Does your story answer the other two?

  13. Thanks, Kristal! I really appreciate your opinion. If only I could get off this hamster wheel of rewriting the first chapter.

    Great insights as usual, Doug. In my tweaking last night, I removed #1. But to answer your question, it's riskier because it's a confined space. Regarding #2, I should probably remove that appellation of "friend" and just show that Harth has a close bond with Faldur.


I apologize for the word verification. I hate it, but the spammers made me do it.