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DUST - a thriller

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#1 Erik18

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Posted 10 October 2017 - 11:42 AM

Here's the opening of my novel.  Would love whatever comments you might have:

 

Prague – March 1587

 

It began as a distant murmur. 

 

For a time, it sounded like wind-driven rain and then, like a swarm of bees.  As it drew closer, it became more distinct and soon there could be no mistaking it.  Voices.  Human voices.  Angry human voices.  Their words were unintelligible, but their intention was not.

 

The mob finally came into view when it crested the hill and began its descent down the narrow lane toward the market square. 

 

Father Thaddeus led the unruly horde.  They rumbled past ramshackle houses, waving pikes and clubs and, as they squeezed past shops and homes, they smashed doors and pitched torches through windows.

 

In the market, panicked vendors abandoned their carts.  They grabbed what they could and scattered into side alleys. 

 

A woman fled a blazing house, clutching a baby.  A boy, clasping his skullcap to prevent it from falling, ran in her wake.  As he leapt over a puddle, he slipped and fell.  When his mother stopped to help him up, they were pummelled with rocks and dung.

 

Just then, Rabbi Loevy stepped into the street.  He halted, then turned to face the murderous throng.

 

The mob faltered, taken aback by the audacity of this old man and, in that brief hiatus, the mother and her children scurried for shelter.

 

“Leave us in peace,” the Rabbi said.  “We do you no harm.”

 

Thaddeus laughed.  “Liar!  Blasphemer!  Son of Satan!”  To his followers, he added, “They are all children of Satan!  Deceivers every one!  Murderers of Christ!”

 

The mob roared.  They threw rocks and other debris as they advanced once again.

 

A stone clipped the Rabbi’s brow, opening a gash.  An egg splattered on his chest.  But he did not retreat.  He whispered a single word.  “Joseph.”  



#2 JoQwerty

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Posted 12 October 2017 - 05:03 AM

I like the voice in the first six paragraphs. You build up a tense scene.

 

When you drop down to the level of the individual, Rabbi Loevy, the scene begins to fall apart. If this is the novel's opening, we don't know enough about Loevy to care what happens to him. And the Rabbi's response: "We do you no harm," seems a bit weak for what looks like a life and death situation.

 

We also don't know enough about the mob to understand its actions. Mobs are not set in motion for abstract, philosophical reasons; in general, riots are preceded by a long festering dispute that is ignited by a specific trigger. The underlying tension appears to be antisemitism, but what was the trigger?

 

I also found it hard to understand why the mob is bothering with eggs and dung when they have pikes and clubs and torches.

 

I know it is hard to answer all these questions in 250 words, but the goal of those first 250 words is to draw the reader into the story and get them to turn the page. Starting a story in medias res is a good technique, but the reader still needs to understand the reasons for murder and mayhem in order to care enough to read on.



#3 Constantine Singer

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Posted 25 October 2017 - 12:20 PM

Hi Erik18,

 

First of all, this reads very nicely -- you have a good flow.

 

The scene you paint is vivid without being overdrawn -- a hard balance!

 

But...

 

This reads like a prologue -- the Rabbi, if he's a central character, is too removed from the center of the action for the reader to connect and it feels like we're going to start a new chapter any moment where a guy in modern Prague slaps at his alarm clock, ready to face a day wherein he will be confronted with the Golem created by his ancestors which has returned to murder the mob of disinterested twenty-something trustfund kids who are currently destroying the city.

 

If that's what this is, then that's fine -- people have strong feelings about prologues, but I'm not one of them -- but the prologue does not count as your first page and should NEVER be submitted as part of a query.

 

If this isn't a prologue and the Rabbi is your main, then shift the beginning to be from his PoV.  If he's hearing the mob come, if he's bracing for it, then when they get there, we're rooting for him.

 

Best of luck!

Here's the opening of my novel.  Would love whatever comments you might have:

 

Prague – March 1587

 

It began as a distant murmur. 

 

For a time, it sounded like wind-driven rain and then, like a swarm of bees.  As it drew closer, it became more distinct and soon there could be no mistaking it.  Voices.  Human voices.  Angry human voices.  Their words were unintelligible, but their intention was not.

 

The mob finally came into view when it crested the hill and began its descent down the narrow lane toward the market square. 

 

Father Thaddeus led the unruly horde.  They rumbled past ramshackle houses, waving pikes and clubs and, as they squeezed past shops and homes, they smashed doors and pitched torches through windows.

 

In the market, panicked vendors abandoned their carts.  They grabbed what they could and scattered into side alleys. 

 

A woman fled a blazing house, clutching a baby.  A boy, clasping his skullcap to prevent it from falling, ran in her wake.  As he leapt over a puddle, he slipped and fell.  When his mother stopped to help him up, they were pummelled with rocks and dung.

 

Just then, Rabbi Loevy stepped into the street.  He halted, then turned to face the murderous throng.

 

The mob faltered, taken aback by the audacity of this old man and, in that brief hiatus, the mother and her children scurried for shelter.

 

“Leave us in peace,” the Rabbi said.  “We do you no harm.”

 

Thaddeus laughed.  “Liar!  Blasphemer!  Son of Satan!”  To his followers, he added, “They are all children of Satan!  Deceivers every one!  Murderers of Christ!”

 

The mob roared.  They threw rocks and other debris as they advanced once again.

 

 

 

A stone clipped the Rabbi’s brow, opening a gash.  An egg splattered on his chest.  But he did not retreat.  He whispered a single word.  “Joseph.”  


Look for NeverWhen, my debut novel from Putnam/Penguin Teen in bookstores everywhere in 2018!


#4 BadgerFox

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Posted 26 October 2017 - 08:18 AM

Here's the opening of my novel.  Would love whatever comments you might have:

 

Prague – March 1587

 

It began as a distant murmur. 

 

For a time, it sounded like wind-driven rain and then, like a swarm of bees.  As it drew closer, it became more distinct and soon there could be no mistaking it.  Voices.  Human voices.  Angry human voices.  Their words were unintelligible, but their intention was not.

 

The mob finally came into view when it crested the hill and began its descent down the narrow lane toward the market square. 

 

Father Thaddeus led the unruly horde.  They rumbled past ramshackle houses, waving pikes and clubs and, as they squeezed past shops and homes, they smashed doors and pitched torches through windows.

 

In the market, panicked vendors abandoned their carts.  They grabbed what they could and scattered into side alleys. 

 

A woman fled a blazing house, clutching a baby.  A boy, clasping his skullcap to prevent it from falling, ran in her wake.  As he leapt over a puddle, he slipped and fell.  When his mother stopped to help him up, they were pummelled with rocks and dung.

 

Just then, Rabbi Loevy stepped into the street.  He halted, then turned to face the murderous throng.

 

The mob faltered, taken aback by the audacity of this old man and, in that brief hiatus, the mother and her children scurried for shelter.

 

“Leave us in peace,” the Rabbi said.  “We do you no harm.”

 

Thaddeus laughed.  “Liar!  Blasphemer!  Son of Satan!”  To his followers, he added, “They are all children of Satan!  Deceivers every one!  Murderers of Christ!”

 

The mob roared.  They threw rocks and other debris as they advanced once again.

 

 

 

A stone clipped the Rabbi’s brow, opening a gash.  An egg splattered on his chest.  But he did not retreat.  He whispered a single word.  “Joseph.”  

 

I have to say, I really like this. It's quite cinematic. And it's pretty clever to get so much plausible drama in so early, without making it overwritten or melodramatic, so hats off! I just about believe that the Rabbi might be able to halt the mob, if he surprises them, given that he only manages to do it temporarily. A mob angry enough to be burning down houses and attacking children is admittedly unlikely to stop for any length of time just because an old man says so. Could the Rabbi give any more concrete reason why the Jews should be left alone? Maybe relating to what set the mob off in the first place, like maybe the mob incorrectly believes a Jew has committed a crime recently?

 

I agree that it does sound more like a prologue than anything else, and unfortunately I don't know the conventions around dealing with those. If it's not a prologue, it's just that you're writing a third-person omniscient voice with no one central protagonist, then that sounds workable (it's tougher and rarer but you may well be up to the task!). 

 

I actually can't find much to fault about specific language here. It's punchy, it's engaging and it doesn't have any immediate howling historical errors (always a bonus...) :)

 

Link to my 250-word novel opening in my signature, if you’re willing to take a quick look – trying to get some feedback to sharpen it up! 


Spare a shiny scrap of feedback for newbie?

250 words of my AU novel: http://agentquerycon...native-history/






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