Chapter One – Again

Okay, I’ve pleaded for help from tons of Beta Readers and it just dawned on me, at least some of my followers haven’t seen the opening pages of this book and might be willing to humor me with their opinions on this rewrite. I need to know, are you confused by this?

MOURN THEIR COURAGE

By

VICTORIA DIXON

Xing Dynasty: In the Tenth Year of Rebuilt Tranquility

Chapter One

Liu Jie reached the garden beyond the orchard, breathing the rotting peaches’ cloying sweetness as he slid to his knees. The moon’s bony face illuminated the leafless trees, but shadows and fears haunted his thoughts.

We traveled to meet the emperor and stop a civil war. Not fight in one. I cannot kill my countrymen – my brothers. But I must. The Imperial summons he’d just read commanded “the aid of all men as sons might come to their father.” He trembled with revulsion.

After his family and guards had stopped at the Peach Orchard Inn this afternoon, his son had discovered a starving child here in the garden. Jie had taken the Orchard Boy inside and his wife cared for him now. Could the act of saving a life atone for taking thousands? He looked at his hands. Though they’d touched the rich soil, they appeared unblemished in the moon’s cold light.

How bloody would they be before the coming civil war ended?

Chapter Two

The next morning, the wood panels of Jie’s small room groaned. Jie shut the door behind the man who had agreed to feed and help train his army. Jie shook his head, smiling. It was as if Tong Zhang’s mere presence pushed against the walls.

“Zhang, this is my wife, Mei.” They bowed to one another, but Mei held a bowl of warm water in her hands, and turned to the bed and her patient. She pulled aside the bed’s curtain and the Orchard Boy woke, squinting through half-shut lids.

Jie heaved a sigh of relief. We did it. We saved one person.

Zhang towered over the boy.

“Are you the Demon King?” The boy’s voice rattled and wheezed as he shrank away under his blanket.

Zhang laughed, and the Orchard Boy tried to sit.

Mei placed a steaming cloth on the boy’s forehead and eased him down. “Careful, young one.”

“I’m so cold.” The boy’s eyes opened wide and he sat up, looking around the room. “Chen? Where’s Chen?”

The floor creaked underneath Zhang. “He’s delirious, Jie. Fetch a priest!”

“No priests,” the boy muttered. “He might do anythin. . .” He collapsed, but turned as if to listen when Jie knelt beside the bed.

“What is your name, child?” Jie said. “Can you hear me?”

“I don’t think he can, husband.”

“The fever took his mind, Jie.”

“I’m Hong Aiyu. Thirteen. Not child,” the boy protested, though his voice slurred from exhaustion. “You want ‘prentice? I bring luck.”

Zhang’s laughter vibrated the rafters. “Luck? Sure! Bad luck!”

“He’ll live, Zhang,” Jie said. “And if his name is any indication, the gods have given us their blessing.” Jie never took his eyes off Aiyu. “We will talk later, War Dragon, but yes. I will take you into my family’s service. Eat and rest, for now.”

They poured tangy chicken broth into Aiyu and bathed him in warm water until he slept again.

14 Responses to “Chapter One – Again”

  1. Donna Hole says:

    Yes, chapter one is confusing. It's a recap of events that have already happened, to characters that haven't been properly introduced.

    I read the original excerpt, and this is LESS confusing than the first one, but still reads like info dump.

    I like the voice, the tone of semi formality. The verbiage (language) is descriptive of the setting, the time zone.

    I really like chapter 2; its well paced and emotionally engaging. The character personalities are well developed. Chapter one feels too quick, and sparse on story line.

    This looks like an interesting story. I like the idea of the Orchard Boy being lucky. Good setup.

    ……..dhole

  2. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Donna! I do see what you're saying. I'm just not sure how to fix it, and an agent's asked to see it…

    ARGH!

  3. L.G.Smith says:

    I can tell this is a unique story, but I have to agree with Donna. I do think you need to slow down and introduce the main character more. Suddenly stuff is happening, but I'm not even sure who I'm dealing with yet.

    The emotion of the second scene is good, but again it feels like you're rushing through the scene without taking time to establish a motive for why a couple would so readily take in a strange boy. Everything just feels rushed.

    Hope my comments help. I think if you draw it out a little more, take your time, you'll have a great opening.

  4. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, L.G.! I'm off to the library in a few minutes to pick up the book this agent reps that's most like mine. I'm hoping that will give me some clues as to what he'll want. *fingers crossed!*

  5. Chelle says:

    No, not confusing but does sound like info dump & way too short. I have all sorts of questions but I'll ask one, what happened before Jie got to this point? Maybe make chap 2 your first chapter and spread out the missing info from chp 1.

  6. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Chelle! It's obvious that shorter is not (all) better. I've returned to the earlier version, added tension, cut back on the most boring stuff that wasn't needed in the first chapter anyway. We'll see. Right now, I hate this thing so much it was actually easy to rip out whole chunks.

  7. Elliot Grace says:

    …Hi Victoria, and thanks for stopping by my blog. I was able to catch up with the action and figure out what is happening, but yes, perhaps slowing the pace at the beginning will prepare the reader for when the walls begin to crumble.

    Setting the tone of the drama is key. Prepare the mood and lure the reader in. And when they least expect it, slap them with something that'll keep 'em reading, their tongues wagging like a hound baking in the sun 😉

    Hope this helps!

    EL

  8. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks SO MUCH, Elliott. You helped me decide to return to my award nominated beginning of last year. It had all the things you mentioned – it was a little long, but I've since figured out how to cut, as you've noticed! LOL This puts the opening chapter at eight or nine pages, but I'm ok with that. If it worked for the Sandy Writers judges, it should work in general, ne c'est pas?

  9. Janet Johnson says:

    I'm glad you decided to go back to your previous beginning. It really is beautiful and better. Yes, I said it. It is better. Crossing my fingers for you! Very excited about this request. 😀

  10. Victoria Dixon says:

    LOL It's okay to say, Janet. In many ways, I liked it better. It just caused problems farther down the road. I'm hoping I've eliminated those problematic bits now. I'm waiting about another week before I re-read the whole darn book and try to "see" if I'm missing anything or have created any redundancies. It's so easy with this much cut and pasting!

  11. Rachna Chhabria says:

    Victoria…I feel you need to slow down a little. Chapter one is confusing and leaves the reader flummoxed. I like chapter two a lot. It has the right pace.

  12. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Rachna! I've returned to an earlier opening and am just trying to determine if I've got redundancies, or extra bits I don't need. Ah, writing….

  13. Barbara Ann Wright says:

    My two cents seems to be the same as everyone else's. Just a little slower pace will clear it all up.

  14. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks, Barbara Ann! I've got the new version out with my sister and brother-in-law now. Biting my lip hoping the waiting agent hasn't given up on me. I want this thing as close to perfect as I can get!

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