Feedback needed on prologue and book title

This is not exactly the catchiest title for a post I’ve ever come up with but at least it’s serviceable. Sadly I don’t really have a title for my book yet, not even a ‘serviceable’ one so I would appreciate some thoughts from YOU out there.

The story is set on a planet called Vokhtah. Vokhtah circles an earth-like sun which is part of a binary system – i.e. two suns. The second sun is a red dwarf. I toyed with the idea of calling the series ‘The Suns of Vokhtah’ but then I thought readers would ‘hear’ the word as sons instead of suns and that would be bad because the intelligent inhabitants of the planet are all hermaphrodites so there are no sons per se. Besides, the story isn’t really about the suns, it’s about the beings who live on the planet – the Vokh and the iVokh. [And yes, the Vokh are arrogant enough to name the planet after themselves].

As you can see I’m getting nowhere fast on the whole title problem.

Another issue I’d like some feedback on is the prologue. All of my beta readers [may you be blessed for your patience and diplomacy!] commented that they were overwhelmed with the flood of new terminology and concepts I’d hit them with. They understood that I was using the ‘dump them in at the deep end and hope they swim’ technique, however they pointed out that said technique leads to a lot of drownings when everything is new and the reader has no human angle with which to orient themselves. Basically what all that means is that all of my characters are aliens and there are no humans who can ‘explain’ what’s going on.

When I first started writing the story I did have a human in there but when The Daughter read the first draft she said that the human angle annoyed her. She wanted to know about the aliens, not people.

I struggled with that for quite a while. And then one day I realised my daughter was right, the Vokh and iVokh were what I was interested in as well. I also realised that telling a story from an alien perspective has only been done a couple of times so why not do something different? I now know why it isn’t done more often but I’m not going to go there.

Back to the prologue. When I finally publish this beast of a book I will be including relevant bits of the Bestiary as well as a glossary of world facts, and perhaps a dictionary, however I thought a prologue might help as well. It’s very short and I’m hoping that it will act like the shallow end of the pool, allowing readers to ease into all the weirdness. Please read it and tell me what you think. Did you get to the end without feeling as if you had been hit by a tsunami? Did the prologue ease you into anything or did it just frustrate the hell out of you? I’m braced for the worst so please don’t hold back!

Prologue

The time of endings began during the shimmering heat of late Tohoh. The temperature had been rising steadily since first-dawn however once Takh joined Takhti in the skies the heat quickly became oppressive and now even the rocks of the deepest ravines were hot to the touch.

Out on the great plains the sea of scorched grass trembled in the heat haze and the heavy seed heads hung limp on brittle stalks. Nothing moved, not even the herds of akaht that normally roamed the grasslands in search of food. They, like the other beasts of Vokhtah were wise enough to shelter from the heat.

Only on the very fringes of the grassland where rock met soil was there any movement. There, the sweating black shapes of foragers trudged slowly through the waist high grass, their long, leathery wings tucked into their sides as they harvested the seeds the akaht had missed.

As the day wore on and the shadows grew long once more, the heads of the foragers from the Settlement began to swivel from seed to shadow and back again. They longed for the day to end but feared the moment when dark finally banished light from the skies and woke the to’pak from their sleep. In this season of burning heat and raging hunger no iVokh wanted to be caught outside when the great predators began to hunt.

Deep inside the rock fastness of the Settlement itself the common iVokh had only the Master Healers to fear but on this auspicious day even the Masters were absent, all of them off on some mysterious errand of their own so the crafters and the drudges moved at a far more leisurely pace. The ordinary healers too were enjoying the lack of supervision and many were gossiping quietly as they waited for the gongs to signal true-dark and the end of the working day.

The relaxed atmosphere of the outer caverns would have infuriated the Masters had they not been so pre-occupied with their own fears. Gathered deep in the heart of the Settlement, in a cool, airy cavern reserved for the highest ranking healers, they and all the Raised Seniors were waiting to learn what the High Council would do about the Six of Needlepoint.

As the only independent eyrie on Vokhtah the iVokh of the Settlement rarely had to worry about the doings of their Vokh masters but the Six of Needlepoint was no ordinary Vokh. If the message sent by the senior healer of Needlepoint was correct then this Vokh was the first adult abomination since the time of the Rogue. And the Guild of Healers had sworn never to let such a Vokh ever threaten their world again.

None of the gathered healers knew anything specific about the Vokh who ruled at Needlepoint yet they feared it nonetheless. All had served as healers to the Vokh during their youth and knew at first hand just how vicious and destructive even the youngest and least powerful Vokh could be. Some had seen fellow healers torn apart – by Vokh as young as a One – while others had lived through Vokh matings that had left half the iVokh of their eyries dead or maimed. And all of them knew that any Vokh capable of surviving long enough to become a Six would not be easy to kill.

And therein lay the problem. Most Vokh young born with obvious signs of abnormality were killed quietly by their healers before they could become a danger. And before their deaths could arouse any suspicion. Killing an adult abomination though, especially one as powerful as a Six, that would be immeasurably harder and making its death look natural would be harder still.

Yet if the High Council did decide that the Six was an abomination then what choice would they have but to order its death?

All of the senior healers were in agreement that dangerous abominations could not be allowed to live but most were divided as to how the deed should be done and those differences were reflected in the seven powerful healers who made up the High Council.

The three Councillors belonging to the Yellow faction would be adamant that the Six must die come what may while the three aligned with the Blues would argue for caution. The deciding vote would therefore have to come from the Moderator and none of the gathered healers knew how it would vote. If it voted with the Blues then the Six might not die soon but it would die. Eventually. However if the Moderator voted with the Yellows then the three healers of Needlepoint would be ordered to kill their Vokh by any means available. They would likely die in the attempt but if they also failed in that attempt then the Six might well decide to destroy the whole Guild in retribution.

That was why even the most fervent, abomination-hating of the waiting healers secretly prayed that the High Council would decide that the Six was normal after all.

****

[And yes Ilil, I did tinker with the prologue just a bit more!]

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

62 responses to “Feedback needed on prologue and book title

  • metan

    Hmmm… going to be thinking about this all day now. Have you thought of a title that plays on the Vokh’s love of control/command?

    Like

    • acflory

      Hmmm…that’s an idea but I still can’t think of anything. Well nothing useful at any rate. The first thing that popped into my head was ‘Psychopaths of Vokhtah’. Maybe not 😦

      Like

      • metan

        Vokhtah. Obey or die. No? I’ll keep thinking 😉

        Like

      • metan

        Masters of Vokhtah? I haven’t read your prologue properly yet, I am in a history frame of mind right now, I won’t make any sense to anyone! I’ll get back to you 🙂

        Like

        • acflory

          lol – get that bushwa happening girl. I’ll wait. Btw Ilil has suggested just plain ‘Vokhtah’. Like Dune. I love the idea of it but I’m no Frank Herbert. He had a massive following and a long list of pubished work behind him before he wrote Dune. Mmmm.

          Like

        • metan

          Maybe you should mentally try on ‘Vokhtah’ for a few days just to see if it fits the book in your brain? It is a good suggestion.

          Alternatively, maybe a title that introduces the new reader to the story trajectory, The rise of, The fall of, The freaky eating habits of… 😉

          Like

        • acflory

          -giggles- The Freaky Eating Habits of…Vokhtan psychopaths? Flying Hermaphrodites?

          I will roll the title around in my head for a while. Ilil is right, the story is about the planet as well as its people.

          Like

  • Ilil Arbel

    Hi there. I will read it tomorrow because right now my eyes are glazed and my brain is mush. But as for the title, you know how I love one word titles, right? I mean, think: “Genesis” “Rain” and most important: “Dune.” Strong, powerful, mysterious. There is a lot of drama with such titles.

    To me, the protagonist of your book is not a person, it’s a place… a dangerous, frightening place. I thought about titles as I was reading the book. So now I submit my suggestion for title:

    VOKHTAH

    Like

    • acflory

      Just on its own? For book 1 or for the series? Assuming I get around to finishing 2 and starting 3!

      I have to admit that any comparison with Dune gives me happy chills. I do like this Ilil. Just not sure if I dare.

      Like

      • Ilil Arbel

        Of course you should dare. What is to stop you? Before Frank Herbert was Frank Herbert, he was just Frank Herbert! The word VOKHTAH on its own is so powerful, you need no embelishments whatsoever. I would put it on book one. Then, when Book Two comes, you can add a word, the way the Master did (Dune Messiah) but still keep the word Vokhtah in.

        Like

        • acflory

          lol – you are a very gutsy woman you know that?

          Okay…how about Vokhtah, book 1, The Blue [or perhaps The Messenger]? Then I could continue the series with book 2, The Acolyte and end it with book 3, The Other. Yes? No? Maybe?

          Like

        • Ilil Arbel

          Oh yes, when it comes to books, I have no fear. I go with my gut feeling. In my opinion, yes, you could do it like that. I would use “messenger” not “blue” becase the word “messenger” carries its own power while “blue” is not clear until you meet this wonderful person.

          Personally, I would remove the “The” but you may not like it, so either way it’s okay. Here is how it could look, then, but imagine it centered (I am not sure I can center here but I will try).

          VOKTAH
          Book 1: The Messenger

          or:

          VOKTAH
          Book One: Messenger

          Like

        • acflory

          Yes! I like this – without the ‘The’. Then it would go b1 ‘Messenger’, b2 Acolyte and b3 Other. I like this a LOT!

          Thank you Ilil and thank you to everyone else who’s worked through this process with me as well!!!!!!

          Like

        • Ilil Arbel

          I am so glad you like it. This book deserves a very, very strong title.

          Like

        • acflory

          It’s funny how things just ‘click’ into place all of a sudden. I must have had the other 2 books in th back of my mind while we were brainstorming for the first one but it wasn’t until I did what you suggested and dropped the ‘The’ that it all fell into place. 🙂

          Like

        • Ilil Arbel

          I call such things “Idea Plops.” They usually happen to me as I walk in the street. Plop! The idea has been dumped into my mind… I love it when it happens.

          Like

        • acflory

          lmao – ok you just made me laugh! Plops, cowpats and poops huh? I was going to be all lyrical and waffle on about shifts in perspective and doors opening but… now it will be plops forever more!

          Like

  • Candy

    I kind of like the suggestion already made: VOKHTAH. I also like: The Two Moons of Vokhtah.

    The two moons just sounds intriguing, but one word titles — VOKHTAH — look really good on book covers.

    As for the prologue, it is very detailed. Do you want to front load the details or feed the readers slowly? That’s a question only you can answer and it is connected to the pacing of the story and how much the reader needs to know to about the created universe in order to follow the action at the beginning of the story.

    So far, I’m with you for the ride and want to know where you’ll take the planet and its inhabitants.

    Like

    • acflory

      Thanks Candy. I really like the idea of ‘Vokhtah’ as well. Re the prologue : it’s the tiny tip of the iceberg and basically just sets the scene for so much more to come. I didn’t realise exactly how much there was because I was so used to being there. So definitely front loading. I’m hoping it will clarify just enough to make the rest intelligible.

      I know you’re up to your eyeballs with the release of the Sublet so I won’t jump in and and send the whole thing to you but… if you’re ever bored…. :p

      Like

  • johnlmalone

    as you probably know I’m not into fantasy but the writing group I’m in has a few members who are so I’m not unfamiliar with the genre; You are obviously easing us into this strange world but I am feeling a little overwhelmed but then again I may not be the ideal reader; listen to those who are fans of the genre

    Like

    • acflory

      -laughs- I need all the feedback I can get John so thanks! I know you prefer the short story form. I’ve been toying with another short but it hasn’t quite gelled yet. More science fiction but people based like the other two 2080 ones. Much to my surprise I’m find the short stories a very pleasant break from Vokhtah. Cheers. Meeks

      Like

  • pinkagendist

    How about some play on words with the word orbit- as that also represents a trajectory, coming full circle, a beginning, middle and end of a story. The Orbit of Vokhtah?

    Like

    • acflory

      Hmm… you’ve triggered a thought there. In Vokhtan the time when the orbits of the two suns are closest to each other is called Pah H’akh. Literal translation ‘starving years’ or Bad Times. But. I don’t think that word will trip off the tongue too well. 😦

      lol – I’ll give the orbits thing some more thought though. 🙂

      Like

  • littlemissobsessivesanatomy

    Dear Meeka give me a day and i will get back to you…im sort of a mess right now..will come back and read it and give my opinion… promise 🙂

    Like

  • Courtenay Bluebird

    I like the simplicity of “Vokhtah” very much, but I’m curious if you’ve scanned your Ursula LeGuin titles lately— she’s great at titles. I think, with your fine-honed capacity for evocative wordplay, that something will emerge. Meanwhile, have you played around with making a list of titles? I’ve found that to be really useful. And nothing is set in hard stone right now, yeah?

    Like

  • Ilil Arbel

    This is an answer for the “idea plop” comment, since the site can’t go any thinner and won’t let me answer at the right spot. Ancient Law says: “That which is related to cows and their plops is better than poetic shifts in consciousness.” Of cousre in your case you may read “alpacas” instead of “cows” if you prefer.

    Like

  • metan

    I was going to add to your leaky brain thread but when I looked it had reduced to only three letters wide. I added a part, purely for my own amusement and then will say perhaps it is ‘the memory impaired leading the…ummmm… what was the question?’ 😀

    Like

  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    Since this is exposition, you might want to use this as an opportunity to explain the relationship between healers, Vokh, and iVokh. I know the information is there–and maybe it’s because I’m tired–but I couldn’t really place the relationships with any confidence.

    Regarding the title, the question becomes what ONE thing is the book about and is there a cryptically revealing way to refer to that in the title?

    Like

    • acflory

      Ugh 😦 I was hoping to provide a bit of ‘this equals that equals XX’ but I guess it’s still too complex. 😦

      In a sense that ‘one thing’ really is the whole planet. It’s a major ‘character’ along side the individuals who tell its story as well as their own. So Vokhtah does encapsulate that.

      Like

      • Stephanie Allen Crist

        The “This equals that” that I came away with is that the iVokh are the slaves of the healers and that the healers are the slaves of the Vokh.

        Vokhtah and what, though? There are already other book ideas (maybe other books), right? Is it only this book that the world acts as a character of its own? Because that seems unlikely. Referenceing the world name for the title of a stand-alone is one thing, but when it’s a series the world name is more appropriate for the series name.

        So, from what I remember of the first few pages I read, it seems something is about to happen, something that acts as change, a change that effects the whole planet or at least the portion of the planet in which the story takes place.

        Does that have a name or a brief description that you can use to supplement Vokhtah? For example, say your planet undergoes a very long day/night cycle (like the poles of Earth) and you’re entering the night cycle that’s going to last for 3 months. That could be “Vokhtah: Darkness Rising”.

        Like

        • acflory

          That’s actually pretty close – all iVokh are like ‘serfs’ to the Vokh and Healers are one of the two most powerful groups within the iVokh. In terms of the beginning I’m happy with readers getting that initial impression. 🙂

          The title issue though… Hmmm… So should I do what M.Edward McNally did with his series? i.e. Sable City, book 1 of the Norothian cycle?

          My original working title for book 1 was Prelude to the Storm. The storm being both the approaching solar cycle that would lead to a few years of Pah H’akh [Bad Times] but more specifically to a period of change amongst the Vokh and iVokh themselves.The link between the two is that instability in the social structure will make the Pah H’akh years even worse.

          So ‘Prelude to the Storm’, book 1 of the Vokhtan cycle?

          Or, Vokhtah : Prelude to the Storm?

          Or, Vokhtah : The Blue?

          Gah, this is so hard. 😦

          Like

        • Stephanie Allen Crist

          I’m not familiar with the reference, but it’s close to what I’m suggesting. But, first, let’s back up:
          * Does the Pah H’akh start or complete in the course of the first book?
          * Or does the whole “cycle” of books involve the Pah H’akh?

          If the latter is yes, then your series name should probably focus on that, leaving other open the possibility for other Vokhtan cycles.

          So, for example, you could have:
          Prelude to the Storm: Book 1 of the Pah H’akh Cycle
          or
          Prelude to the Storm: Book 1 of the Pah H’akh Chronicles

          Of course, the problem is the problem you’re going to run into with all of this. Pronounciation. For those of us who read with a voice in our heads (i.e. we verbalize what we read in our own minds) unpronouncable/foreign words are a big put-off. At this point, that’s pretty much unavoidable.

          All things considered, though, “Prelude to the Storm” is a big generic. Work the solar thing. “Solar Shift” or “Solar Storm Rising” has a bit more distinction while still having some double-meaning.

          Like

        • acflory

          Lots of issues here. First, no, Pah H’akh is coming but it probably won’t arrive during the first series. In fact I may never write about it directly. However it is a recurring ‘storm’ that hangs over all the aliens heads and this time it may become exacerbated by the ‘political’ storm that is brewing amongst the aliens. So… I can’t really use Pah H’akh as a title. 😦
          And as you point out pronunciation is an issue.

          I suspect Vokhtah must be part of the title somewhere, somehow. Much thought is still required. 😦

          Like

        • Stephanie Allen Crist

          If the storm (solar or otherwise) doesn’t arrive within a book or two, then you don’t want to refer to that in the title at all.

          So, what’s the theme of the book and can that help with a title? Is there a primary character or sect that is involved? Say, for example, “The Healers of Vokhtah.” Or are they going to be the prominent characters of all these books (or are they not the prominent characters of this one)? Or maybe just “Abomination” and keep it simple, suggestive, and pronounceable?

          Like

        • acflory

          I didn’t set out to tell the story of a planet but in many ways that’s exactly what I’ve done. But it’s a story told through the eyes of a number of very different characters who weave in and out of each other’s lives as their society goes through a period of upheaval – both social and eventually cataclysmic. I guess that’s why I keep thinking of the title as ‘Vokhtah Something’. It’s the ‘something’ that I can’t seem to settle on.

          Like

  • Stephanie Allen Crist

    Usually that something can be found either with the catalyst or the resolution.

    Like

    • acflory

      Hmmm… I wonder if it would make any kind of sense to call book 1 The Rogue? It’s a theme that crops up in all sorts of places.

      Like

      • Stephanie Allen Crist

        I think you might need something more than “The Rogue.” Maybe “Vokhtah: Rise of the Rogue.” It’s only my preference, but I like titles with verbs or implied action, especially for stories centered around a world of activity.

        Like

        • acflory

          I rather like that title in principle but it’s just not what the book is about, or at least not directly and certainly not in the first book 😦

          Like

        • Stephanie Allen Crist

          It seems like you’ve really got yourself stuck, huh?

          Like

        • acflory

          Just a tad 😦 I’ve often read books in which the meaning of the title doesn’t become clear until half way through the book and I do like that ‘ah hah’ moment you get when you finally work out why X is called X. But. Which one of all these really fantastic possibilities do I choose? And why?

          I’ve been thinking and thinking about the over-arching story, to see if I can come up with any major themes but the only one that presents itself is that each book will be told /mostly/ through the eyes of one main character. e.g. book 1 through the eyes of the Blue, book 2 through the eyes of the Acolyte etc.

          Alternatively book 1 seems to showcase the Traders and I know book 2 will be focusing more on the Healers but neither of those titles seems very exciting.

          Gah, I really don’t know 😦

          Like

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