Monday, July 6, 2015

Writing Styles: Caring about the main character.

I sometimes question with how much to show and when to tell. It seems as if I stick to mainly showing something is lost in characterization. I want readers to care about the main character as soon as possible. Here are two different versions of the start to the prequel to Rebel Shifter, which will probably be titled Native Shifter.

Which one of these do you like better? Which one makes you care about the main character more? 

First version:
Rayen hid up in a tree with her bow and fired down at the enemy. The whites fought with fire sticks that held a dark and deadly magic. Their weapons crackled and banged, drowning out the shouts of pain and fear as metal balls pierced the flesh.
She looked for her father, but couldn’t see him anywhere among the trees and brush. Overwhelmed, her heart raced as their warriors went down into the mud on the overcast, drizzling day. Rayen ignored the drizzle on the hot and steamy day, aiming at the enemy. She pulled the bow string over and over, her fingers numb, plunging arrows into anyone who came within range. Her teeth dug into her bottom lip as men clutched the arrows and fell into the mud.
Braves fell to their deaths while the whites crept out of the woods, staying low and working their way closer to their abandoned camp. She looked around for her father again, hoping to stop him. 
A neighing sound caught her attention. Across the clearing, more soldiers emerged riding tall, brawny animals called horses. Their muscles rippled as they moved through the brush.
Rayen glanced down and spotted a group of young braves heading toward the battle. Desperate to stop them, she worked her way down among the branches, jumped down and hurried over to them.

Second version:

Rayen walked along the trail heading toward the battle. Dark clouds hung in the sky and drizzle filled the air, making it steamy and hot. She carried her bow and moved carefully through the forest, checking in all directions, not wanting to be seen by anyone – not even her own people. They would tell her she’s a woman and demand she go back to camp. Was it so wrong to want to help? Her father was out here and she feared he would not be coming back.
The whites had powerful weapons. Some had called them fire sticks that must be powered by dark magic. Rayen had spied on the white people enough to know this wasn’t true. Their enemy made their own muskets.
The others either laughed or scolded her for her interest in the tools and the gadgets of white people. She was used to it. They already ridiculed her for avoiding women’s work. Her father was the only one whoever accepted her different ways. She had tried to be like other women, but it was impossible. Rayen loved to hunt for prey, rather than cook it.
The gadgets of the white people fascinated her so much she traded with a white boy for a spy glass and a book. Horrified, elders made her burn the book and throw the spy glass into the lake. Her father protested.
We need to learn everything we can about these people if we are to live in peace with them.
The elders disagreed.
No! These things will contaminant our people.
            Her father continued to argue, but he was drowned out by the other elders. It was hard to imagine a world without the only one who accepted her, but even he told her to stay back.
            As she neared the battle, the sound of the muskets firing grew louder. Her heart raced as she found a tall tree and climbed up as far as possible. From here, she could see men fighting in the clearing. Smoke rose up from the muskets and arrows flew back and forth. Shouts of pain and fear echoed through the woods as metal balls pierced the flesh.
  Overwhelmed, her heart raced as their warriors fell to their deaths while the whites crept out of the woods, staying low and working their way in her direction. She feared they would go beyond their abandoned camp and find the women and children. Her father was nowhere to be seen. Several of their men were hiding in the brush with their bows and it was impossible to recognize them at this distance.

All thoughts appreciated. I will post my preference about this next Monday, 7/13/15. 

Update: Click here to read results. 


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like the second version best. It's more engaging. The first one is like an account of what happened. The second one lets us see it through her eyes.

Pat Dilloway said...

I also like the second version better.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I like the second version better. As Alex said above, it is more engaging.

Cindy said...

Thanks for your thoughts guys.

Eric Shultis said...

Definitely the second version. It was more relaxed, natural, gave time to adjust and enter the story with her as she was walking and reflecting. The first kind of expected you know a lot right away and was more intimidating than inviting. I realize I'm way late in finding this and responding but I'll wait until tomorrow anyway to read your follow-up to the more on-time comments in order to keep my personal suspense simmering.

P.S. Talking about characters I am really enjoying Vallar and experiencing Ian's situations and relationships. Got a bit bogged down though cause I also started a book on middle-children (which I am) that someone recommended. Anyway, I've enjoyed your (book and blog) story-telling a lot so far so please excuse my too late entry to this post.

Cindy said...

It's good to hear from you again. I know how hard it can be to fit reading time in.