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My beginning is bugging me.


I've come to a bit of impasse. The more I analyze it the more I doubt the beginning I've created. It's only the first chapter or two I'm concerned with; the rest I'm happy with on the conceptual level. I'm going to explain my beginning last, first explaining the most important main character for this novel.

His name is Talinos Greyfell. The history behind the importance of his surname is complex and 1300 years old, so I won't go deeply into it; instead I'll simply say that they were once lords of the kings of the house Aressi. about 300 years ago that kingdom and those surrounding it were wiped out to form the modern kingdom of Felesia. Instead of submit to the young conqueror Marik, many of the people of the kingdom of Dwimoran -from commoners to high lords and the king's family - fled into the forest north of their kingdom and integrated into the nomadic tribes native there.

Eventually Talinos' grandfather decided to leave the forest and his clan. He had a bastard son with the wife of a high lord and then later had anther son with a woman he fell in love with, this son being Talinos' father Taliesin. Taliesin became a wanderer and often a mercenary. Eventually the law of the kingdom found out about his parents and hanged them while he was away. Taliesin moved to the forest and started a family that wandered apart from any clan. He had a daughter, and then five years later his son Talinos.

Talinos does become an orphan, though I'm trying to deconstruct how convenient that is in so many works (see any Final Fantasy game for a good example). When Talinos is seven Lord Ewan Watchell of Denlock is informed of the family and leads a raiding party to find them. I purposely make the orphaning more brutal than the usual to add to my deconstruction. Taliesin notices the raiders coming and orders his family to hide, blowing an alert on his horn and pulling out his sword. As soon as the raiders come in he is quickly overwhelmed and cut down. Talinos' mother and twelve year old sister didn't hide fast or well enough and are easily found, dragged out, raped, and murdered as Talinos watches frozen in fear (he's seven, after all). [[Just a note: I have a hard time writing about a twelve year old getting raped, but taking it out is not an option for the story I want to tell or the character I want Talinos to be.]]

Unbeknownst to the raiders the family was camped a short way from a nomad clan. Taliesin's horn call brings them in and they wipe out the small raiding party with no losses, though a couple of raiders escape. In that commotion Talinos' anger drives him to rush up to the distracted Lord Ewan and stab him to death with a hunting knife, orphaning another main character and his siblings in the process.This whole event understandably leaves him with PTSD.

The clan is the one which the heirs of the house Aressi, the old kings of Dwimoran, belong. Talinos is taken in as the smith's apprentice. The main Aressi line has come down to a girl and a boy and their mother, who married into the family. The girl, Ferryn, befriend's Talinos. Talinos becomes friend with a boy named Casos. Through the two of them he befriends the boy Aressi, Feliedron, as well. The majority of the clan takes a disliking to him until he begins to learn to hide or control the symptoms of his PTSD to some degree. They eventually don't care much about him either way. The only one that really still hates him by the time of my novel's start is the Aressi kids' mother.

If you read through that thanks, the rest should go by quicker.

Basically what I need to happen is get Talinos out of the forest so that the story can commence (his tie to Feliedron is what will allow a civil war to occur). He needs to stay out of the forest until autumn and the story begins in spring.

The way it currently stands I have Talinos (now 17), Feliedron, and Casos out hunting when they come across the body of a thief who was on the run after stealing from Breyolin Clouse, a friend and servant of the king. It's very cold (think Scandinavia or northern Canada) and Casos and Feliedron would rather leave it alone, but Talinos wants to investigate. Long story short he runs into Breyolin, his men, and their local scout. Breyolin attacks because he hates the 'barbarians' and Talinos manages to evade them for a while and kill a few of the men but before he can get away is captured. Breyolin's about to kill him and notices the Greyfell coat-of-arms on a necklace so spares him and takes him captive. Talinos eventually escapes, killing Breyolin in the process, and then stumbles through a blizzard into the village of Denlock. This ends the part I'm unsure of, as from there on the rest is plot important. Circumstances force Talinos to go to a city southward, and instead of come back he stays there.

Here are my problems with the above: to me it seems too contrived, too impersonal, and all around falls flat in logic at some points. I can justify that the men chased the thief into the poor weather by saying it started just a tiny bit ago, but I it still seems very contrived. Another thing is that while Talinos deciding to stay in the city may make sense in that he doesn't view anything as home and doesn't feel welcome in the clan it does seem off to me.

One alternative I've come up with is Talinos deciding to simply leave, instead of being forced. In order to make this more personal I'd have Ferryn catch him in the act and have a conversation with some characterization occur. It would provide better insight to Talinos' character, Ferryn's character, and Talinos' relationship with the clan. A conversation would also better facilitate exposition.

My only concern for that is these: Most importantly is why Talinos would head to Denlock. He has PTSD regarding his orphaning, and I would imagine Denlock would trigger some symptoms. Being forced there is one thing, deciding to go is another. Secondly, and less importantly, was that killing Breyolin made a conection between Talinos and the character of Lord Dinnan Clouse that will be impossible to replicate otherwise. I'm sure I can figure out another way to work him in, but the circumstances were a big part of the reason Dinnan was able to accept Talinos killing his brother.

I'm just hoping to get some input, or some suggestions. In the meantime I'll be working on something that will satisfy me. Thanks in advance, and sorry for the army of words you just read.


This will sound like ironic/hypocritical advice as I too am struggling with my beginning. But from what I've read it sounds like you're thinking too deeply into it. Analyzing each detail.

Is it important for all of this to be clear in the first two chapters? Or can some/most of it be revealed in bits through the story when necessary and appropriate?

My advice is focus on the rest of the story, forget the beginning for now. When you're done with that, look at the third chapter (or whichever number you don't have trouble with) and really think about using that chapter as the beginning. Could chapter 3 be the new chapter 1? Or is there something in the first two chapters that's a need to know?


The thing is the exact way Talinos leaves the forest is going to have a large bearing on future interactions. When the king of Felesia is murdered and the murderers go after his heirs and calls a moot (meeting of the nobility) Talinos will be heading into the forest to find Feliedron. When he does the characters of the clan, especially Feliedron, will react very differently depending on the situation.

If Talinos was forced to leave the forest and then decided to stay in the city Feliedron would be sympathetic. If Talinos just decides to leave Feliedron will be a little angry with him. Being as I plan to introduce a bit of conflict between them after a certain event anyway, that might be the better avenue.

Gato Cat

Maybe you could turn the poor weather into a plot point? I'm not sure about the distance between the village and the forest, is there a chance heavy snow or rain may make travel difficult enough to stay for the season? Perhaps conflict can come from the clan jumping to conclusions when your character returns, or the mother stirring up trouble (assuming she has enough influence with other members.)

I have the exact same trouble while writing, and am constantly questioning whether something feels artificial and if I'm simply throwing in plot points because I don't know what to do with the story. Writing plot progression down as a flow diagram or even as a step-by-step list simplifies matters considerably for me and helps with story direction; perhaps something similar may help in your case? But I digress, I say follow Addison's advice, write your preferred direction and don't worry about it too much for now. :)


I try to avoid these types of threads because we can never really give the proper kind of feedback even with the glut of information you provided. It's much easier over the phone or through detailed emails to cover all the bases required for a proper assessment and fixes to be done. As is, we can only really take educated shots in the dark which is rather hit and miss. Regardless, I saw a couple things and thought I would chime in anyway.

Usually I would agree that finishing the novel is the way to go and often, that's the best way to handle things. However you seem to have some major plotting issues present right from the get-go so it might be risky. On my first drafts, I'm mostly concerned with getting the plot, characters and tone set for the book as everything else can be easily fixed in revisions. If your plot doesn't work at the start then you better fix it now or else you'll have to nuke the whole thing from orbit come the end. I trashed 120K from my novel because the plot and order of events just didn't work at the start so I know from some experience.

This leads to something else you wrote:

but taking it out is not an option for the story I want to tell or the character I want Talinos to be.]]

Meaning no offence but this is a very bad frame of mind to get into. EVERYTHING can change in your story, especially if it isn't working. Don't fall into the trap that I see other writer's getting into where the first idea they have for a plot is set in stone, never to be changed. If you can't figure out a good way to do it then drop it and think of something else. Otherwise, at best, you'll think of a quick patch now but end up right back here again in a few chapters.

In drafts, everything can change and a lot will change. Don't write thinking that everything you put down on the page just became unbreakable cannon. You know these characters better than anyone so if you can't make it work with what you set forth now then you'll need to switch some things around. Yes, this will change some ideas you may have for future events but you can come up with new ones or fit them in some other way. Besides, if your early plot stinks the reader won't ever bother reading to the interesting payoffs later on.

I apologize if you were looking for more specific ideas but, as I said, that's almost impossible to do in this format (my opinion, anyway). That's where good critique/brain-storming partners come in handy.


Thanks for the feedback guys. I'm still on the fence, but I've got some better ideas circulating in my head. I'm thinking of a bit of a hybrid of the two. I can find a way for him to come across Breyolin while having left of his own accord. This will mean the plot points I've set up still stand, and the circumstances needed are still met.

As far as what MadMadys said, it's not his history I'm unsure of. That's what makes him the character he is. I've wrought his history into what I want it to be, it's just the start of the novel I'm having issues with. If I was to change that one small thing the largest branch of my cause-and-effect would crumble.
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