Is this a good beginning to a story?

                                        *Ozomi's Perception. The Sadness. Part 1*

What does the definition of Life mean for me? Is it the unexpected and beautiful little gift from the Gods or grueling burden on my back, which is constantly being bent, in order to serve the society which I don’t belong to? Since the very age of four, I had been taken away from my family and hometown back in Aiko and was living here, in Toranaga castle. “How did that happen?” You may ask. Well, it is not the most pleasant story to tell and I would really appreciate it if You could ask this question next time. What is more, today I would love You to hear the story of how I met Him.

You could understand, I have spent the past ten years in Toranaga castle against my own will. However, since I have left my hometown, my new mission and purpose of life became serving Master IIda. Being the youngest Master IIdas servant is a huge honor and responsibility for me. I know that there are many other girls in the castle that would love to take my place. I have even heard a lot of rumors from the older servants that Master IIda might take me as his concubine when I will be old enough. However, I have never felt light, around him. Even though I have never directly looked him in the face and always kneel with my head down to the ground, the minute I see him in my sight. I do understand that Master Iida might be the most powerful man in the whole of the Three Countries, however, his acts of violence have also become legendary. I know, that any person inside the castle would get sentenced to death or endless torture for making the slightest mistake within the premises of the castle or sight of his guards. I also heard that last week the whole family of servants was boiled alive, for breaking a glass, while breakfast to the Dining Room and Master had witnessed it. I really do hope that those poor people will resurrect into the more peaceful land. However, Master IIda is being very generous and good towards us, the Beautiful Servants of The Palace. Generally, we keep tidy the main Palace, which is mainly accessible for noble politicians. Samurais and Master Iida’s family. What is more, sometimes we do accompany lower-class politicians and Samurais and keep their company as well. However, I am still considered to be too young for that and still studying the art of conversation with teacher Aoshi. Once, after the lecture teacher told me “You are like Lotus. Lightly floating and flattering everyone, that witnesses You, with beauty”. I really do appreciate this comment of such honorable man, that I don’t even deserve to spend my time with, however, I don’t find myself as stunning as everyone else in the castle does.

I find it unbelievable that my best friend Yuki, who is another Beautiful Servant of The Palace and two years older girl (that I myself find extremely attractive) always praises my long brown hair, blue big eyes, and curvy hips. Last night, before we want to sleep (we share the same room in the servant house close to the castle) she told me that one of the Master IIdas guards could not take his eyes off my hips when I was delivering tea for visiting Ottawa clan member in the guest room. Even though I really do appreciate the compliments of Yuki and other servants, men’s attention was quite scary in the castle. I really do love spending time and talking with other girls who serve the castle or playing with the kids in my free time, but the minute I am approached by men, I just feel that powerfull and bad energy floating in the air. I really don’t understand why that is happening, but it makes me suffer a lot. As a result, I usually can’t fall asleep easily (normally Yuki is already dreaming her third or fourth dream and I’m still awake) and fighting dark thoughts that make my skin crawl and Life seem sad. I can’t answer to myself why I feel so weird when Yuki looks me straight in the eye. I really hope that she never notices the way I look at her before she goes to sleep. And God, please, I hope that my cheeks don’t turn as pink as Sakura’s leaves the minute, she compliments me… That would be so humiliating and so scary.

And why I feel such uneasy feeling about men in the castle? Maybe because the majority of them are at least a decade older than me? Or is it the Curse of Gods that makes my whole existence so challenging? However, I still find it comforting to understand that every day little things make me grateful to be alive. Even the smallest conversation with another servant girl or sunny day could make me feel happy and drunk in joy. I don’t think that I do need even mention eating cherry-flavored ice-cream in the castle gardens and enjoying Yuki’s amazing company on my free off-duty time… And that’s how everyone in the castle used to see me. The happy beautiful servant. Inside I used to agree with the only word out of this combination - servant. However, I did not know that this perception is going to change very quickly as soon as he will enter my life…

                                                   *Yuto's Perception. Thoughts. Part 1*

The second I saw her delicate body, wrapped in colorful kimono, soaking in the bath of blood, I could not feel anything. Her big blue eyes looking straight into my soul with a look that no one could ever describe. Those eyes…Those beautiful big blue eyes…They…They…They are looking…dead. And I could not feel anything. The floor, soaking wet of blood, Nozomi’s hand holding a sharp knife, the huge wound in her chest. I just can’t believe that this just happens. I refuse to believe it. No. No. No. No. No. I’m so sorry Nozomi…I…Just…Have…Killed you.

That’s a lot of narration. Some might call it a mass of info dump. One of the most compelling opening lines I’ve read are from the novel, Memoirs of a Geisha.

A story like mine should never be told. For my world is as forbidden as it is fragile.

What you’re doing here is telling not showing. Trying to dump all this information straight onto the reader until their eyes glaze over. I know. I’ve done it myself in my own work. And then you’ve lost the reader.

I’m not against narration, but you can only really get away with this much further on in the book. What you need to do on that vital first page is hook the reader, not bombard them with so much info they can’t possibly remember it by the time they reach chapter 5.

This level of narration is why I mostly loathe first person POV.

Your main character is a concubine. That term alone tells the reader all they need to know about the character and her situation. There’s no need to go all around the houses before you reveal this. It’s a term with very strong emotional connotations. So use it in a powerful but succinct way.

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This is a much better opening para. It describes the main character, has drama and has more of a hook for the reader. It gets straight into the action.

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Thanks so much for the great feedback! I highly apreciate it. So, would you say, that providing less information about the character and moving into more action-oriented tranistion would work better in this case?

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Thanks a lot!

It’s well written, but I agree that it feels like way too much narration and info dumping for a beginning. People want to jump right into the story and with this beginning I feel like I’m still waiting for it to start.

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In other words, you would like to see a bit more of action happening in the first few paragraphs? Also, may I ask if you find the characters and the whole World of the story interesting/intriguing?

Honestly, that much narration always causes me to skim the writing rather than actually reading it pretty quickly. I can see the writing isn’t bad, but my mind doesn’t absorb more than a few short paragraphs of narration and your paragraphs were incredibly long, which also becomes a bit daunting.

The only thing I really collected from this was that the MC is an attractive servant.

Info I’m given I would rather have sprinkled in or through dialog. The way it’s delivered here, I absorbed very little. My mind almost immediately skimmed in order to look for the action of the scene, which didn’t happen until the very end and without any dialog.

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Thanks a lot for a constructive criticism! I will definitely make it a bit more flowing with the next edits.

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No problem. A lot of people will start to skip or skim through large portions of narration, which isn’t something you want to happen at the very start of your book. But again, the writing is good and I think you’ll come up with something much better suited.

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Reading a book is a journey of discovery. To have all the info at the beginning takes that away. Learning new things about your characters as you go on is part of the magic, IMO. So, start with a dramatic or intriguing hook, then weave the rest into it. That’s the art and skill of being a good writer. You can describe your characters in brief, but not long passages to detail every aspect of their physical or what they’re wearing, etc. It’s also important to remember that your readers are intelligent and will work things out for themselves if you don’t feed them the obvious. Enabling your readers to think for themselves is what elevates a good story. That’s how a reader immerses themselves. I want to read a book and come to conclusions myself sometimes…not have it placed on a plate in every chapter. But…this has to be done skilfully otherwise you can be in danger of being too obscure.

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Thanks so much for great feedback! I will definitely improve this aspect of story. It’s quite exciting, not going to lie. Were you interested in characters or the World, that is currently being built in the story?

Yes, definitely that era and type of story. Though, I suspect your story is more fantasy than historical? I love historical fiction and read Shogun a zillion times. So, your story has potential. All you need to do is find your style and voice here. My advice would be to find and read published books similar to yours and study their construction, how the writer develops the characters and plot etc. Too many writers on WP think putting what’s in their head into a book is enough. It’s not. Writing is just as much about the readers, as the person writing it. If not more so. They want to be entertained. It has to be plausible for them, and suspend their disbelief. Don’t ramble when you write. Be descriptive but concise. Don’t use ten words where one will do. You’ll get there. But it takes time.

Any other advices guys?