Loki on Chapter 1

I, myself, have never greatly valued the beginning or end of a story – not over all the middle, at least. When I finish a book, I am seldom left at the same place the characters are. I am simply an observer in their lives, and when all is said and done, when I’m done watching and listening, I am left thinking about the memorable moments, rather than the recent ones. As readers, we experience the character’s lives rather differently than they do. We can fast forward, rewind – sometimes we’re even forced to do so. But the stars of the story experience every second. Not all seconds are exciting, though – we are scarcely dropped into the tale at hand from the very start of someone’s life, and typically finish before their death.

Anyway, before this paragraph gets out of hand, my point is that when I open a book, I usually have very low expectations for the first few pages. I anticipate normalcy; slow introductions to these people and the world they’re dragging us into.

And here, this is exactly what we get, up to a point. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. The thing about young adult fiction is that a rather large amount of it is very generic. The way this plot is initially portrayed seemed to me exactly like the last YA fantasy I’d read, and the one before
that, and the one before that…

So, quite frankly, this didn’t reel me in, but it didn’t repel me, either. You have to give some books a chance – a lot of them start out slow.

Eventually, however, this started to wear on me a little bit. I was actually – I kid you not – EXCITED to be confused when Rainald began discussing Full Council and High Council. I mean, it was like, “HEY, SOMETHING COMPLETELY NEW TO BE DISCOVERED LATER IN A COOL WAY! YAYYY!” Some amount of mental stimulation, you know? It makes your brain work a little harder.

The next paragraph read, “High Council was [the definition of High Council].”

…-headdesk-

However, seeing as this is a lo(oooooo)ng first chapter, I suppose I’ll have to stop rambling about the start of the story and talk about the lovely little people running around in it.

Considering the fact that Rainald’s arrival in the story was something the writer was not anticipating, he seems to have a very clear personality from what we’ve seen so far. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d guess that he was a character that was thoroughly studied before this story was written. His personality is fairly clear – quiet, thoughtful, perhaps modest in some respects and not so much so in others. His eye for detail is his most obvious trait – this seems to be a token characteristic of a lot of main characters. (And why not? If your character is observing the scenery, you can inform the reader through their eyes. It makes the narration go much smoother.) But no matter how firm his personality is, it doesn’t change the fact that he seems, to me, rather *typical.* One thing I don’t tolerate in a book is feeling like I’ve read the same thing before (I know, I said I was a chance-giver, but only up to a point). You know, *those* books. With the same set of characters (the misunderstood underdog with a heart of gold usually the hero), same vague plot aspects (war, heir to the throne, deep and ancient magic, forbidden love, yadda yadda yadda)… you know. I mean, that’s what a lot of teenage writing is. You learn from what you see around you – the ability to learn from your own brain is something I’ve *heard* (read: sources not necessarily credible) tends to come with age. I’ll even admit I’m guilty of this – that’s why I write fanfiction, so I can play with someone else’s concepts rather than making up my own. Rainald may be the hero next door – but honestly, what are the chances he won’t be? How many different personality types can you put in the spotlight? Besides, you can at least appreciate that this story has a quite a few twists on its side.

But anyhow, more about Rainald later. There’s always time to talk about Rainald. I’ve been sitting here for about 8 minutes trying to think of a way to phrase this that makes it sound like I have a soul (or at least some skill and transitioning between topics), so I’m just going to come out and say it: Rainald’s father died, and I honestly didn’t care.

The thing about killing a character right off the bat is that the reader sometimes doesn’t know how to feel about it. I mean, of course, Rainald is sad. It’s sad. He just lost his father. But at this point, we don’t know much about the relationship Rainald had with him. We know little about his father; the range of adjectives used to describe him both confuse me and tell me very little. Also, we know nothing about families in this culture. We don’t know if Clan families always live together, or if there comes a point in their lives they scarcely interact. It’s hard to judge exactly how big of a deal an event is until you see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots. Plus, Rainald’s mourning period is short, as is Alleth’s. All we get from them are wet eyes, some depressed thoughts and “I shall miss him.” I feel a bit of their pain for a while, but it seems like when Rainald wakes up the next morning he’s more nervous about the inconvenience of his father’s death than upset about the fact that his father is actually dead. This doesn’t build my sympathy towards his situation any. I mean, I realize the death of Rainald’s father = Rainald becoming the Lord of Avigor, which basically makes it a plot device. But why not make use of the situation? Give us a glimpse deeper into Rainald. Readers don’t always get the chance to connect emotionally with the characters we’re reading about.

There are more areas in which I’m craving additional emotional depth; one is in the writing style. Sometimes it’s hard to write a great story and write it in a great way – or to please everyone’s idea of “great.” In Alma’s more recent work, there’s something a lot more… poetic about the writing. You know, something that makes you feel connected to the book – not necessarily through the characters, but through the narration. This is quite a straight-forward, if descriptive writing style we’re working with right now. When I’m reading a book, I like to feel a bit more included. There’s a way to go deeper than description, as odd as that sounds. I don’t know how to get there, but it seems that Alma definitely has an idea nowadays.

Small observations/ramblings that deserve bullet points rather than paragraphs:

[+] There are two things in particular that I like about this first chapter: Argones and Asturias, the two moons. I didn’t really spend a lot of time thinking about the fact that this story was set on a different planet at first, but in retrospect, I like that, even though it has no direct involvement with
the current plot. It’s almost like… foreshadowing. I can’t explain much more without spoiling anything… some fantasy novels are vague about their location – no or little geographical or astrological references, so it’s like “where in the world/the solar system/the galaxy/the universe are they?” (Also, one of their moons is green. I mean, come on. That’s just plain cool.)

[-] This is coming from the person who typed this monster up, so I would know: TOO MUCH LIBERAL USE OF THE WORD “ONE.” I mean, really. Look at the first paragraph. LOOK AT ITTTT. Seven “one”s. *Seven.*

[+] I’m not a huge fan of Rainald, and I’m not a huge fan of Alleth, but I love their relationship. The little conversation at the end of the chapter. Awww.[-] Saw a few typos. Those were my fault, sorry. xP

[+] I love the Clan names. They’re so pretty.

[-] Sometimes I feel like the slang, if you will, bounces back and forth between old time-y and more modern. I mean, it’s not a huge difference, but it’s there… right? I think so.

[+] I agree with Courtney in that the council scene was fun and tension-filled. It really gives you a nice viewpoint on the stances of the different Clans and their leaders.

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3 Comments to “Loki on Chapter 1”

  1. I don’t know the best place to mention this, but I read all your comments thinking SOMEONE would bring it up, but is there any way we can more variation in the first letters of names? All the Cs had me thoroughly mixed up by the end, and I just couldn’t keep them properly sorted. This is a rare problem for me as I track very, very well.

  2. Right now… I’ve been living with these people, these places, for DECADES. That’s what the names ARE, in my head. While I”m working with the stuff of the story, that’s what they stay because I can’t THINK of them in any other terms. Once the first round of edits is complete, maybe we can talk about changing names, when all that is required is a global find-and-replace – but right now, when I’m still working with them, the names are so etched into my subconscious that I would find it almost impossible to retain a grasp on a character or a place if I suddenly called it something different. So – sorry – fair point, but one that will at best have to wait to be addressed…

  3. Fair enough. I usually couldn’t changed a character’s name if my life depended on it. 🙂

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