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Here we go again. I decided to tear apart my 13 rewritten chapters and start over again because who doesn't want to read the same shit over and over a million times? Anyway, this is the prologue. As always, concrit is appreciated. Rip me to shreds -- I don't mind.

Ready Or Not

"Are you positive you know what you're doing?" I brush the sweat from my brow. Summer's nearly gone, but it's still as hot as ever. Except the weather's not the reason I'm lathered like my pa's prize mare after a hard ride.

What in the sweltering suns have I gotten myself into?

"Wiring? It's so simple my brother Brendan could do it." Kalen grins up at me, his hands still hard at work. "Building it was another story, but Devin helped me." Kalen's eyes are clear and untroubled as the cloudless sky above, and they shine with admiration. "If Devin says it's going to work, it will. He gave me detailed instructions for this part, just to be safe -- a little too detailed. I must have repeated them a hundred times before he finally let me leave."

Kalen drops his eyes to the neatly bundled wires before him, his forehead scrunched in concentration. I wipe my clammy palms on my skirt and stare upward. He's told me the legends of the "gods", benevolent beings who live high in the heavens and watch over the people below them -- at least the ones who believe.

If only I believed, but there aren't any gods on my side of the fence. We've only got the government to look out for us. Its eyes are everywhere, or so we're told. It's supposed to be a comfort, but the government's not going to help us now.

"It's ready. Are you?" Kalen chews at his lip as he looks up at me -- it's the first sign of uncertainty I've seen. Then he grins mischievously, picking up the bullhorn and handing it over. "Last chance to back out."

And do what, exactly? Marry a man I despise, or refuse him at the risk of being locked away for life? My mind's made up. I reach for the bullhorn and raise it to my lips, willing my voice not to tremble. "Attention, all citizens. Please gather at the border by the gate." I repeat my words, and they echo across the empty plain.

The rusted gate's been locked as long as anyone can remember. No one ever bothers to go near it anymore. Before I can blink, faces begin to appear on either side of the fence. They've been taught all their lives to obey, and they do. Even the questions that rise up from the crowd are little more than a whisper.

"Why have you called us here, child?" one of the braver ones finally asks aloud.

"Don't call me a child. I'm of age, and so's my friend." I reach for Kalen's hand, and he squeezes it gently. The whispers give way to a dull roar. "We're old enough to question. To demand this foolish War end now."

Bodies press closer to the gate, their voices growing louder. Angrier. My stomach churns with fear, and my throat's as parched as the desert sands beneath my feet as I open my mouth to speak again.

Except I don't get the chance. The crowd parts, and even its relentless buzzing's not enough to cover the sound of boots marching absolutely in sync. A group of armed soldiers emerges, pointing their weapons at us as one. They've all got hair as blonde as Kalen's, and their blue eyes are icier than the coldest winter wind. One of them steps forward.

"You're under arrest in accordance with code 666781-2222 of martial law -- tampering with the border."

"Stand down, soldier." Kalen lets go of my hand, grabbing the bullhorn from me as he holds the detonator high. He speaks again, his voice high and squeaky. "We've got a bomb, and we're not afraid to use it."

The crowd buzzes like a swarm of enraged trooper bees.

"Everyone remain calm." The leader drops his weapon, and his men follow suit in perfect unison. "I repeat, remain calm. Let the boy say his piece." The people fall silent fast enough to make me shiver.

"Do you even know what you're fighting for?" Kalen's words ring out across the sea of faces, frozen in fear.

No one's got a chance to answer. There's an ear-splitting crash and the fence goes up in flames.

(Next chapter is here)

Date: 2013-03-28 01:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
This definitely works way better as an opening. If this were a physical book in my hands, I'd have turned the page so fast, you don't even know.

Calla's voice is also very clear in this. This immediately grabs the reader, you give us enough information at just the right pace to keep them reeled in. Starting with Kalen putting the finishing touches on the bomb? Perfect. Because the reader has no clue what he's working on and keep reading to figure out what the fuck Calla's so damn tense about.

I can't tear your shit apart no matter how much I may want to, but this is a much stronger opening to the book than what you had before. :)

Date: 2013-03-28 03:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Oh, yay. I can't tell you how scary it was for me to try to write a short and punchy prologue like this. So if it's even remotely appealing, that's a good start. :D

Sweet... I was hoping not explaining what he was working on until later would work.

Date: 2013-03-28 02:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tai823.livejournal.com
I agree with Un4, this definitely a much stronger start than before!

Calla! CALLA! Look at how much you say about her, just in little comments! Her father's horse, her lack of faith... her language (and body language!) is so crisp and clean! Oh man this made me so happy - this is a Calla I can get behind, and one I care about, and she doesn't feel bratty or impossible or anything but, at the same time, still sounds a lot like she did in the last version I read.

I love that Devin and Brendan are mentioned so early - the ease of their inclusion in Kalen's language (he doesn't sound forced to mention them or anything) makes it feel like it's only natural we're going to meet them.

Calla and Kalen's dialogue is so comfortable now! We might not know why they're friends, but just the few simple lines about their belief systems - God vs. the government - makes it clear that they shouldn't know each other. I really like that you slipped that in there so subtly that it felt completely natural.

I reach for the bullhorn and raise it to my lips, willing my voice not to tremble. "Attention, all citizens. Please gather at the border by the gate." I repeat my words, and they echo across the empty plain.

This little part snagged me a bit. If her words echo across an empty plain, where do all the people come from? Nobody goes near the old gate anymore, so why are there people there when she calls? Or does she call, and then they go to the gate? She says that faces start appearing along the fence, but how many people are there? It might help to establish a bit of setting, just to give an idea of who Calla's talking to - farmers? Townsfolk?

This would totally have me turning the page to find out what happened next - it's a tense little nail-biter of a situation, even knowing what was going to happen!

Yay! Excited to read more!

Date: 2013-03-28 03:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yay, thank you. :D

I realized as I went through the rewrite that Calla's voice wasn't as solid at the beginning as I wanted it to be. I don't think I had any idea how to do a rewrite and how much I'd need to tear things apart before I could put them back together. Also, Calla got nicer in this rewrite than she was in the original version, so the first chapters started to feel like a bad representation of her.

Oh, good. I'm glad it felt right for Devin and Brendan to be mentioned. It felt like Kalen wanted to, and I wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not.

I've had some really good concrit recently that's made me realize how much context is in my head but not necessarily making it into words. The worst is the worldbuilding, because I could yap for like a week about the social structure of Calla's side and yet most of it isn't in the actual writing (or gets there really late in the story). Also, character stuff is sometimes so present in my head I forget I need to show it to the reader, too. So I'm trying really hard to include more details where I can.

Thanks for the feedback on the part where the people show up. I envision it as a very deserted area (they planned it that way on purpose), but the people can hear her call and respond very quickly because they're so used to being told what to do. If you have any ideas how to make it clearer, I'd be interested. I think for starters, Calla might need to use something more powerful than a bullhorn? That's a thing I carried over from an earlier draft and now that you mention it, it doesn't quite make sense in this context.

Oh, and I will make a note to be more specific about the people who show up -- what type of people and if it's a big crowd or a small one, etc. Thanks!
Edited Date: 2013-03-28 03:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-03-28 04:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tai823.livejournal.com
I imagine that in a society like Calla's there would be some sort of public address system that the government uses to issue announcements and orders? If they do, I'm sure that between Kalen and his "rewire / break everything" buddies they could figure out a way to gain access to the system, and Calla could just use a mic or something to make an announcement over the PA. That would lead to two things - a really big crowd (would give the explosion and the shit that follows a lot of oomph), and a lot of military personnel streaming over to find out WTF is going on.

Kalen's side I'm not so sure of...

Date: 2013-03-29 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, in my mind it's a really big crowd. I like the PA idea, although I wonder if they'd have one since Calla's government might also use people's neurovision implants. I think Kalen's side might be more likely to have a PA system like that because their implants are unregulated (or at least that's what they're told). So maybe they can hack into the neurovision communications and rewire the PA, hmmm.

Date: 2013-03-29 03:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
I agree that this is a really strong opening. It really draws me in as a reader and I want to know more about what the heck is going on. I love the mention of Brendan and Devin because it lets us know that this isn't just about Calla and Kalen.

I didn't think too much about the crowd forming until I read tai823's comments. I think in my head, the fence isn't really that remote from the village on Calla's side. I'm not sure how or why people get there from Kalen's side though, so it's a valid consideration.

I kind of had a problem with the word "crash" in the final sentence. I think "ear-splitting" lends itself better to "boom" or some other loud noise. Crash sounds more like something ran into the fence.

Date: 2013-03-29 10:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Aw, yay. And I'm glad the mention of the other two guys worked. I tend to question stuff like that because I never know how much context is too much and how much isn't enough. I think that's the biggest issue I have from being "too close" to my characters.

In my mind, the fence isn't that far from the village in terms of distance -- it's just a place a lot of people don't usually go. That's important because (a) the people show up there anyway because they're used to doing what they're told and (b) they don't want random people wandering around nearby because they're not actually trying to hurt anyone.

Thanks for the concrit on the last line. I am a sucker for punchy single lines at the end of things and then I can't always get them quite punchy enough. Hm, if I didn't like "boom" (I don't know why but I'm not sure I feel like it fits soundwise), does "bang" work? Or maybe "thunderous boom" (and take out the "ear splitting"? "Deafening boom"?

Haha, I'm sure you wanted to debate specific words with me, didn't you? Thank you so much for reading and commenting. And congrats on making it to the community chest part of Idol. :D

Date: 2013-03-29 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
So, the fence is similar to the Berlin Wall? Kind of?

How about "kaboom"? Bang works too.

Date: 2013-03-30 03:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Kiiiind of. In my mind it's like a cross between the Berlin Wall and the Gaza gate in Israel. This book is not in any way intended to be a political statement about the Middle East, but I've been to Israel a couple times and there are a lot of things I saw there that stick in my head and show up in my worldbuilding. Not that most of my worldbuilding has made it into my stories yet, but it's in my head and one reason I'm rewriting again is to get it into the actual words, too. :)

Kaboom made me smile. :)

Date: 2013-03-30 07:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
OMG, this is so good.

I agree with a lot of what everyone else said. This is so much stronger and vivid then the first chapter I read. I LOVE how you squeezed in so many little tidbits of info about Calla's society. And you got one of her weird little phrases in by the 2nd paragraph. That works great. Before they just popped up randomly in the middle of the chapter and seemed so out of place. But after the line about the prized mare and the use of the word "pa" it just fits and gives Calla a little more character.

I didn't think about the crowd thing either until tai's comment. In my head I always picture it like it's a clearing on either side of the fence where they do some trading or business locally but no one actually goes near the fence or gate. They sometimes glare over it at each other, though, lol. That's how I picture it anyway.

You should definitely get a line in there about where the gate is compared to the people.

As for the people showing up--when I first read it I figured it was curiosity that brought them to the fence. Someone is yelling out for them to come--that's kind of weird, let's go see what's happening. That's how I read it anyway despite what you had written about the obeying thing. Maybe some of them went because of the conditioning but some were wanting to see what was going on.

I think my only issue was the end. I think you could have done a couple more lines from Kalen as he starts to explain. Like him yelling about the government covering things up or how nobody actually knows how the war started so why are they still fighting--making him sound a little crazy. But he never gets to his actual point before he blows things up.

I was thinking for the bomb you could make things a little more dramatic with a few more words. Maybe start with a rumble in the ground that quiets the crowd, then a bone-jarring explosion (or something) then the earth starts raining down on them as the fence explodes. Even if the explosion was miles away the debris would be thrown pretty far.

Just some thoughts. Other than the very end it was pretty damn perfect. The last line just sounded to sudden since Kalen didn't get a chance to talk at all.

But I LOVED IT. I would totally turn the page to find out why they blew themselves up.

Date: 2013-03-31 12:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. :D

I'm a little scared to go from here to the stuff we talked about because I don't want to slow things down too much. But I think using your idea of shorter chapters will help with that.

For the people coming to the fence, I think I want to make it clear that there's a big crowd on both sides. I'm probably going to explain somewhere that they drew such a big crowd because the bullhorn was wired into a PA and/or neurovision, but I'm not sure I'm going to explain it here because short and punchy. Maybe in a later chapter?

I agree with you about the end. Do you ever just lose steam and perspective? I think I kind of did there. I want to expand it a little to include a couple lines of dialogue and a little detail (like the flames and smoke and screaming, maybe?) Your suggestions make total sense and I will work on making that better.

Thank you so much for reading and I'm glad this is working better for you so far! :D

Date: 2013-03-31 08:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Do you ever just lose steam and perspective? I think I kind of did there.

Ugh, I do that all the time. Especially after I write a scene that's pivotal or that I've imagined really clearly. Then I don't know how to end it and all my energy went into the good part of so the end is just crap.

There are a whole bunch of scenes like that in my novel that need to be fixed.

Date: 2013-05-01 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] everywordiwrite.livejournal.com
I like this and it feels like a good starting point. Admittedly, I'm finding Calla's voice a little clunky, but it's a good moment, good confusion, and good punch at the end of it.

I think you need to draw out the gathering of the crowd. You can give us some little hints about the two sides and about how Calla's feeling, while also making it feeling like they don't all show up suddenly and quickly at a deserted location.

The other side is that Kalen's monologue feels a bit off. You're telling me he's talking nervously - I don't see that even when I know. :-) I think, then, that you need a little more awkward babble from him.

Also, that's a really repetitive law title! :-)

Date: 2013-05-13 10:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
What? I never responded to this? Sorry about that! I know we talked about it over IM, but I just now went to note this in Scrivener and saw I didn't even comment back to say thank you or anything.


Oh, and chapter 6 should be ready soon.


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