3rd December 2018 at 9:41 pm #71079
Firstly I wanted to thank anyone who posted on my previous post. It was quite a while ago and several posts and replies were deleted when the site was worked on.
I’ve had a fiddle with the opening, so any thoughts welcome. Also, I’m considering two different styles so I’ve put a same of the other style at the bottom so apologies if the post is a bit long!
If you were to look at Bradan Hok, with his shaggy curls and wonky smile, you wouldn’t think there was anything particularly special about him. He wasn’t especially tall for his age, and although he ate more than most, he remained quite slight. His best friend, Brune Eveready, was far stronger, which Bradan put down to the fact he was big boned as his mother put it. He often wished he could have some of Brune’s extra load, to beef himself up whilst lightening his friend. That way he would at least stand a chance. As it was, he had to rely on speed and skill to dodge Brune’s crushing grip and escape, ready to pounce again whenever they play-fought. But usually, in the end, Brune would manage to sit on him and he’d lose.
Bradan was relatively intelligent, although it wasn’t thought he’d make it onto the Council when he was older. He didn’t even think his talent was anything to send a messenger pigeon home about. No, Bradan Hok was just an ordinary boy, with just an ordinary future ahead of him. Well, other than the fact he would one day be village Chief. And that’s just the way he liked it. Nothing would make him happier than for everything to stay just as it was, for him to continue being ordinary. Unfortunately for Bradan Hok, people don’t always get what they want.
Actually, if you ask him, he would tell you he doesn’t consider himself a boy at all, for in his own mind, Bradan had already crossed the threshold into manhood. He just had to get through The Ages and it will be official. That is why, if you were to look down right now on the woods bordering the village of Twelvetrees, high up amongst the birds and thin branches, you will see Bradan and Brune, hovering, keeping watch. They aren’t scanning the fields and deep red skies so they can warn others if they see something amiss. No, it is purely for their own protection. Purely to keep a secret safe. To keep their secret safe.
If you’re free now, you can watch them and find out what their secret is. Watch a little longer and you might see why Bradan Hok is about to become anything but an ordinary boy.
Beneath astonishing curls, a pure, controlled mist emerged from his mouth as Bradan’s slightly slanted eyes scanned the woods and sky. Seeing nothing but clouds and the early appearance of the silent moon Bradan tried to relax, but he couldn’t. He could feel the air twitching nervously, and he didn’t like it one bit. Usually he loved wind-riding. Usually the air sang to him. Not this evening though. This evening was different. This evening was without permission. This evening was unsupervised, and this evening was certainly higher than they are allowed. But they had important work to do, and no risk of village wrath or extreme punishment would change their minds.
“Why is everyone so desperate to find the cloud-scriber?” Brune whispered, clinging to a branch as he struggled to keep steady. He wasn’t as good on his board as Bradan, but then no one was.
The fields, bustling during the day, were dark and empty. The river and dull horizon were both empty too. Beneath the moon, nothing stirred. There were no signs of an adult anywhere. Perfect.
“They’re stuck in the past,” Bradan answered, slipping a hand into his cloth boot. “They used them during the Dark War to send messages across the country. It was the quickest way to alert villages when Vespasians were coming, where they were, numbers, everything,” he said, pulling out a tiny key.
“How did you hear about them?” Brune asked. His board jolted and he had to grip the branch tighter as he tried to regain control of his wobbly legs.
“Father,” Bradan said, carefully checking the skies once more, once more coming up empty. Squatting on his board, a skill Brune still hadn’t mastered, he tried to unlock a concealed box Brune made last spring. He was very proud of it, and rightly so in Bradan’s opinion. It was so well camouflaged nobody would ever find it. But Bradan expected nothing less from someone whose talent was to be able to build practically anything he wanted. Far more useful than his own talent, or so Bradan thought anyway.
After a bit of careful jiggling, a metallic click made both boys smile. Bradan lifted the lid and looked inside. The lock they’d rescued from the smelting pot, without permission, was battered and broken. Brune did a great job with fixing it, but after a lot of use, it was struggling again and took skill to unlock.
Concentrating hard, Brune carefully lowered his heels, making his wind board slowly sink, until he was able to see inside the box. He peered at the strange contraption Bradan appeared with a few days earlier, like a cub seeing its own reflection for the first time, until Bradan bent closer and blocked his view. Brune reached past him and, feeling around, pulled out a small, leather book and began leafing through the pages. “How do you know what all the symbols mean?” he asked. “There are hundreds of them!”
“Mother was a scriber,” Bradan said with a touch of pride. “She didn’t want me to find out, but father let slip after one of Auntie-Nel’s readings. I think deliberately. I think he wanted me to know what she’d done during the war.”
“But the fuss they’re making, I don’t get it, we’ve been at peace forever?” Brune said with a dismissive chuckle.
“Like I said,” Bradan explained, trying to make Brune understand the importance of their secret remaining just that. “They’re stuck in the past. They still believe we could be attacked any day.”
“Well, why are we risking it then?” Brune frowned. “If they’re that angry…what if we’re caught? We’d be summoned to a Minor Meet!” Brune said, as if the thought had just occurred to him.
“I know,” Bradan growled, teeth clenched. It was bad enough they were wind-riding above the trees unsupervised, but to be using the cloud-scriber too? That was a level up in punishment terms. “But we’ve got to find out who sent that message, what they know. If they tell anyone…” Bradan felt the crook of his neck and took a long, deep breath. “We can’t fail…we just can’t.” Perching on a thin tree-top branch, he pushed his hair out of his face, which achieved nothing other than fall straight back into his eyes, and began ferreting through the box.
“Ah ha!” he exclaimed, pulling out a small leather pouch filled with cloud-scribing powder and handing it to Brune.
“They might double our chores,” Brune mused nervously, taking the heavy pouch as he stared off into his inventive imagination.
“Maybe.” Bradan wasn’t really listening, his eyes firmly on their stockpile as he rummaged around for the other bits they needed.
“…cut our food rations…”
“Maybe.” Bradan held out a bunch of scribing nibs. Brune started to take them, but a thought struck him and he nearly dropped them. He fumbled for them as he clutched Bradan’s arm.
“What if we’re banned from The Ages?!”
Bradan stopped dead. But then relaxed, shaking his head. “They’d never do that. Not for something like this. Anyway, they’ll never find it.” In truth he wasn’t so sure, but didn’t want to let on. Ever since he took the only cloud-scriber the village had, fully intent on returning it the moment The Ages was over, everyone had been searching for it. Everyone. Every yurt, barn, hut and store, even Twelvetrees itself, had been searched from top to bottom. People were angry. Not long now, Bradan thought. Then we can find it, in a ditch or a hedge. We’ll be heroes! That’s what he hoped would happen anyway. He turned his attention back to the box, pulling out the final clamp. “That’s everything.”
Brune laid a board onto a small fold-out table, hidden in the lid of the box, and they set about putting the cloud-scriber together, Brune handing Bradan the clamps, miniature solar-tubes and nozzles, and Bradan carefully putting everything in place. With a few final adjustments to angles and a damp Cyclone sponge ready, Bradan instructed Brune to gently pour the cloud-scribing powder onto the board.
“Spread it evenly,” Bradan said quietly, as if his very words might blow something out of position. Putting a hand on Brune’s shoulder, he added “And don’t touch anything.”
Brune knew what to do already, Bradan had made sure of that, but the importance of getting everything just right couldn’t be underestimated. They couldn’t afford to send the wrong message. Brune did as instructed, drifting backwards on his board to allow Bradan to get to work. Hunching forwards, using nibs of different shapes and thicknesses, Bradan set about drawing a message in the grainy powder. Cloud-scribing is quite the skill when done from the ground, but up high, in a tall tree, on a wind board, with the threat of goodness knows what punishments awaiting them if they’re caught, well it is certainly something Bradan wished he could brag about to the others, his father, or Auntie-Nel even! But that would lead to all sorts of trouble. Such a pity.
When it was ready, he squeezed the Cyclone sponge. A fine, heavy mist settled onto the powder. Bradan carefully opened the miniature solar-tubes. With his work done, he glided over to Brune to proudly watch their message evaporate. Moments later it began to appear, high in the sky, vast and brilliantly white.
“That should do it,” Bradan said, admiring his handiwork. He translated the coded message, confirming to himself and Brune it was correct.
“Demands agreed. Tomorrow night. High Moon.”
He glanced at Brune. “That should make them come. Then we can find out who’s really behind everything.”
“I hope they see it,” said Brune, rubbing his arm awkwardly. “I don’t want to have to come back.”
“If we need to send another message, we will send another message,” Bradan said firmly. The worry at having to risk it again tomorrow punched his words out. But once Bradan had started something, he couldn’t not finish. One of his quirks, his mother used to kindly call them. “You know how important this is, for all of us.” His thumb rubbed repeatedly over his middle fingertip, as it always did when he was nervous, but Brune didn’t notice. He was too busy dismantling the cloud-scriber, anxious to get back to the ground.
“We should get down,” Brune agitated, hurriedly putting everything away. “Kuuma’s keeping lookout below, and there’s nobody else in the sky, we’ll
be fine,” Bradan said confidently. His winter cloak flittered and snapped at the backs of his knees as he watched his message growing bolder in the sky until, out of the corner of his eye, he spots the circus tree, one of the twelve trees that gave his family home its name. “One…” he whispered. A tickle of something Bradan had felt more times than anyone could count licked at his brain, bringing a touch of excitement and expectation. He looked beyond the circus tree to a giant sequoia. “Two…”. The faintest hint of a smile appeared on his face. He looked to the right of the giant sequoia until he saw a large oak. “Three…”. As Bradan’s eyes moved from tree to tree, he counted them off. “Four…five…six…”, and with each one he unwittingly rose a little further into the sky.
Brune was too busy packing clamps and solar tubes to notice as Bradan continued counting, continued drifting higher and higher.
With everything packed away, Brune closed the box, clicking the lock, and turned to see Bradan high enough in the sky to be seen from the ground. “Bradan!” he yelped, as if stung by a wasp. “Get down! You’ll be seen!” he hissed, but Bradan ignored him, his compulsion had the better of him.
Then Brune heard him. “Seven…”
“No!” Brune’s heart thudded and his face dropped, but he knew it was too late. Bradan had already started the count. As Brune waited for Bradan to finish counting all twelve of the great trees, their fate now out of their own hands, a blob moving in the sky caught his attention. “Who’s that?” he asked nervously, pointing at a figure flying across the newly-forming message, apparently oblivious to the pair of them, and the message.
“Say twice?” Bradan asked, apparently not hearing, his eyes firmly on a majestic banyan tree. “Nine…”
Beneath astonishing curls, a pure, controlled mist emerges from his mouth as Bradan’s slightly slanted eyes scan the woods and sky. Seeing nothing but clouds and the early appearance of the silent moon Bradan tries to relax, but he can’t. He can feel the air twitch nervously, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Usually he loves wind-riding. Usually the air sings to him. Not this evening though. This evening is different. This evening is without permission. This evening is unsupervised, and this evening is certainly higher than they are allowed. But they’ve got important work to do, and no risk of village wrath or extreme punishment will change their minds.
“Why is everyone so desperate to find the cloud-scriber?” Brune whispers, clinging to a branch as he struggles to keep steady. He’s not as good on his board as Bradan, but then no one is.
The fields, bustling during the day, are dark and empty. The river and dull horizon are both empty too. Beneath the moon, nothing stirs. There are no signs of an adult anywhere. Perfect.
“They’re stuck in the past,” Bradan answers, slipping a hand into his cloth boot. “They used them during the Dark War to send messages across the country. It was the quickest way to alert villages when Vespasians were coming, where they were, numbers, everything,” he says, pulling out a tiny key.
“How did you hear about them?” Brune asks. His board jolts and he has to grip the branch tighter as he tries to regain control of his wobbly legs.
“Father,” Bradan says, carefully checking the skies once more, once more coming up empty. Squatting on his board, a skill Brune still hasn’t mastered, he tries to unlock a concealed box Brune made last spring. He is very proud of it, and rightly so in Bradan’s opinion. It’s so well camouflaged nobody will ever find it. But Bradan expected nothing less from someone whose talent is to be able to build practically anything he wants. Far more useful than his own talent, or so Bradan thinks anyway.
After a bit of careful jiggling, a metallic click makes both boys smile. Bradan lifts the lid and looks inside. The lock they’d rescued from the smelting pot, without permission, was battered and broken. Brune did a great job with fixing it, but after a lot of use, it’s struggling again and takes skill to unlock.
Concentrating hard, Brune carefully lowers his heels, making his wind board slowly sink, until he’s able to see inside the box. He peers at the strange contraption Bradan appeared with a few days ago, like a cub seeing its own reflection for the first time, until Bradan bends closer and blocks his view. Brune reaches past him and, feeling around, pulls out a small, leather book and begins leafing through the pages. “How do you know what all the symbols mean?” he asks. “There are hundreds of them!”
“Mother was a scriber,” Bradan says with a touch of pride. “She didn’t want me to find out, but father let slip after one of Auntie-Nel’s readings. I think deliberately. I think he wanted me to know what she’d done during the war.”
“But the fuss they’re making, I don’t get it, we’ve been at peace forever?” Brune says with a dismissive chuckle.
“Like I said,” Bradan explains, trying to make Brune understand the importance of their secret remaining just that. “They’re stuck in the past. They still believe we could be attacked any day.”
4th December 2018 at 7:01 pm #71163
Hi again, I’ve just had another look at my post and it really is quite long, sorry. Perhaps just read the first handful of paragraphs or so and furnish any thoughts or comments.
5th December 2018 at 10:10 am #71217
The second style is the best approach I think. The quicker you get into the story with the least amount of description the better. When I start reading a book I want to know as quickly as possible what it’;s (roughly) going to be about. What makes the MC tick and what they look like is what I look for once I’m hooked into the storyline. Of course, the novel shouldn’t be as mechanical as that but I think it should be weighted by those proportions. The first style above I found frustrating because it wasn’t giving me what I really wanted: the beginning of a storyline.,
The other thing I found frustrating was the names of the characters, they both start with ‘BR’ Brune & Braden. If you could change the names a little to make them appear more unique to each other then that would also be a positive.
I like the idea of wind-riding, and at first I thought it was something to do with dragons until I realised they were riding some sort of board (in the style of skateboards?) This is great twist for the genre you appear to be writing for, as like I said I was expecting dragons and I think so would most readers :)
The characters seem to be developing nicely, and the jeopardy you hint at about the riding too high and flying without permission is a pretty good hook that I think you should elucidate on a little, asap.
hope this helps
5th December 2018 at 8:01 pm #71273
I know nothing about YA fantasy, however that said from a storytelling perspective I think the second style is the better one. I agree with Steve C both characters with the same initials might confuse the reader.
Hope that helps.
6th December 2018 at 8:25 am #71303
I agree Walter. The second style involves me in the story and character much better.
6th December 2018 at 6:51 pm #72667
Thank you for your thoughts. I have to admit I’m a little surprised you prefer the second option. It was just something I was toying with to get me away from the constant reworking of the opening few pages, I just can’t seem to get something that works. It’s interesting you view it as a more direct beginning to the story as the only difference is changing ‘he said’ to ‘he says’ etc. Who knew such a simple change could work like that! The only annoying thing is that I’ll need to work through 90,000 words if I’m to change it now. Lucky I enjoy it really!
I’ll take your advice on the Br & Br name issue, I’ll probably change Brune.
You’re right with the wind-riding thing, think skateboarding or actually snowboarding in the sky is probably closest. Glad you liked it.
I will also drop a sentence or two in to explain the rule breaking/flying too high etc they are doing.
Thank you so much for your thoughts, they are a big help.
6th December 2018 at 6:56 pm #72668
Thank you for your thoughts. I’m changing Brune’s name so it is very different to Bradan. As mentioned to Steve C, I’m about to commence on reworking 90,000 to get from the first style to the second as it seems to be the popular choice. Nothing like a good hard edit!
All the best,
6th December 2018 at 7:03 pm #72669
Hi Kevin C,
Thanks for taking a look, much appreciated. I’ll put (a shorter!) update on once I’ve decided on a beginning I think gets readers into the story quicker.
6th December 2018 at 8:40 pm #72675
erm… there’s an extra 4 paras in the first style, right before the ***. I just thought the narrative felt better without those intro paragraphs.
I didn’t notice that the dialogue tags were different! (sorry). :(
6th December 2018 at 8:57 pm #72676
No worries, I forgot I cut the first 4 paragraphs out second time around (they’re virtually identical in both styles so thought there was no point cluttering). I suspect that’s what Nest and Steve C were referring to as well? It makes more sense now.
Thanks for clarifying!
Can I just double check, do you have a preference on the said v says style? (you could probably tell after just a couple of paragraphs rather than reading the whole thing).
13th December 2018 at 7:28 pm #73263
Hi Walter – sorry about the delay…
I prefer the past tense of the first style. For some reason the present tense style just doesn’t seem to hang well, but I cant put my finger on ‘why’. This probably doesn’t help too much, I’m sorry. All I can say is that the present tense version doesn’t feel real – it’s happening ‘now’ but it just feels false somehow.
Sorry I cant be more specific
14th December 2018 at 7:13 pm #73367
No worries Steve C, I appreciate your thoughts. I agree with you, it was just something I was toying with and just needed someone to tell me what I already suspected, so thank you, you’ve saved me a whole lot of time I might otherwise have spent changing the entire thing!
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