Blog 64: A New Dawn

By Tristen Kozinski No comments

Blog 64

Hello everybody, today we have a piece from Zachary Wright on titled A New Dawn.



My brother and I are twins, I believe my name should have been his. As infants we were found by a deity named Halogi or The High Flame. Growing up we found out we had abilities. My brother Darious can manipulate lightning and I am a rare kind of witch. Like I said about believing my name should be my brother’s, Raijin is or was the Japanese deity of thunder and lightning. I am not totally sure if Raijin is even alive or any other deity in that matter. I’ve only seen four of them and they live here in Zora, the land of the deities.



As opening paragraphs go there’s a fair amount being conveyed here and the author does a decent job of throwing details at the reader that might intrigue them with magical twins adopted by gods in a land of immortals, yet at the same time it reads exactly like what it is: an information dump. We’re given all this information but there’s no story included with it, nothing to invest us in what the author’s saying besides the face value of magic and deities. These things aren’t interesting in of themselves, unless they’re new and unique to the reader and immediately present them with possibilities to engage their minds. The magic/deities introduced here are not new concepts and so don’t entice the readers onward.

A second, albeit obvious, detail is that this entire paragraph is telling. The author is introducing us to the setting and the characters by providing general knowledge, but is that necessary? If you’re going to tell the readers something via exposition (even in dialogue to an extent) there are several things to be considered first: is it immediately necessary for comprehension of something? Is it interesting? Is there a better way to convey this information?

If something is not immediately necessary, then there’s likely a more interesting way to introduce the readers to that ‘something’. Darious’s lightning powers is a good example of this; the author tells us he has lightning powers, but that could easily be shown through the course of the story by him actively using them, which means you can build a scene or moment around that concept, find a way to either dynamically or organically share his abilities with the readers. Maybe it’s an action scene, maybe it involves personal or emotional conflict for Darious/Raijin in some way, maybe it’s just Darious playing with lightning while something else happens in the foreground, thus teasing the readers with potential while making the character and scene more interesting. The same largely goes for the rest of the information in this opening paragraph mentions, it’s not immediately necessary for the readers to understand what’s transpiring because it’s the beginning of the story. Thus ‘telling’ the readers the information now deprives them of a potentially more interesting scene or event later on.

Now for the second question, is it interesting? This really is a question that should be applied to every sentence, paragraph and chapter, (although ‘engaging’ is probably a better umbrella term since something doesn’t have to be interesting to be engaging.) But from the context of ‘telling’ you have to look at what you want to convey and ask if it’s actually interesting. Something can be both vital to understanding the plot or scene and be boring. We shall use Darious’s lightning powers again. Yes, he has lightning powers, but why is that interesting? There’s no context given to his possession of these abilities and he is just said to have them, so they become the equivalent of someone having a really cool cup. Him having lightning powers means nothing in the paragraph’s current iteration, and so they’re not interesting. The same question can be applied to them being raised by deities: why is that interesting/important? If something’s not interesting the question becomes how do you make it interesting? The easiest answer tends to be conflict (in all its multitudinous forms), I.E Darious has lightning magic but magic is forbidden (a very generic narrative so it is unlikely to provide the desired interest by itself). This is a conflict of peril, but there is also the conflict of knowledge where you tease the readers with tidbits of information but deny them the full answer in such a way that they want to know that answer (very common in mystery stories.) What this means is that you have to understand what’s interesting about the information you’re trying to convey. It needs to matter and whenever possible it should alter the reader’s perception of what’s going on, either by expanding it with new possibilities or by restricting it with new conflicts. (Peril is a way to constrict possibilities, and its interest comes less from endangering your protagonist and more from how it forces your protagonist and story to behave a certain way. It forces the story to change and is at its best when the protagonist hates the change being forced upon them.) If new information does not change your story in a tangible way, then it’s probably not inherently interesting.

The third question we’ve already mostly covered and so will be ignored.

I have a final general point for this opening paragraph, and it concerns the conflict that the author introduces. The very few sentences of this paragraph are actually quite strong because it says something quite clear and powerful: this is the way things are and it is wrong. That statement is loaded with implied conflict, and then further amplified by the fact it concerns twins and that it is an emotional wrongness. Raijin feels that she has the wrong name. We don’t how or why at the start, and that doesn’t really matter, what matters is that something is broken and that is emotionally important. This is a great start. Then we reach the explanation and all that energy is diffused, all that conflict and emotion is because she was named after a lightning god while her brother has the lightning powers; the conflict is superficial and purely aesthetic. The ‘wrongness’ has no real effect on her or the story, it’s just a thin gloss, but doesn’t really cover or saying anything, and so the conflict loses all meaning because there’s nothing at stake. Now compare that to a situation where the name/misnaming actually matters. (What follows is not a reflection of the author’s narrative, just something I came up with to elucidate my point.) Consider for a moment that he had a name that meant ‘monster’ or ‘demon’ (or anything of some malignant origin) and because of this was hated and feared. Now add his sister to the mix only she (and he may or may not know this depending on the story you want to write) is very much the monster, either physically but in disguise, or plagued by horrific tendencies. (Or both of course.) In this narrative the brother being misnamed actually affects his story by changing how he’s perceived, and hers as well because she has to watch her brother suffer. Even beyond the initial conflict, their relationship with each other and the world is a story rich environment a reader can immediately tap into, which is momentum that pushes them forward and builds interest.

Telling is still not the best way to build interest in the story, but if you’re going to use it, put the effort in to make it interesting. Now, with all that aside, we’ll begin the technical elements.

For the first sentence (My brother and I are twins, I believe my name should have been his) what I want to mention is how the ‘I believe’ subtly weakens the sentence. The ‘I believe’ softens Raijin’s statement by making it a personal belief instead of a certainty, but also because this is her voice and she’s not speaking assertively or confidently. The ‘I Believe’ is inherently a way of saying ‘I could be wrong’. Generally, the stronger you want something to be, the stronger it has to be said, and to achieve that you would want to cut out waffling and uncertain words/phrases. Here, if the conflict of this sentence is something the author wants to emphasize, I would cut the ‘I believe’ so Raijin’s speaking more emphatically, thus highlighting her conviction on this point. “My brother and I are twins, and my name should have been his.”

(On a side note, I usually like to convey/keep all the information on subject together instead of interrupting it with other topics. The author does a little of that here with introducing them as having the wrong name and then taking a sojourn to discuss their discovery as infants before returning to the name. Their discovery has nothing to do with their abilities or names and its inclusion interrupts the flow of that narrative. I think I understand why the author wrote it this way—to say how/when they developed these powers—but I don’t think that’s a necessary concession, or even beneficial because the author doesn’t explore that information. They simply say that the twins discover their powers while growing up, but they’re being raised by gods in a land of immortals and there’s nothing important about the discovery of these abilities, or the age at which they were discovered. So, the origin of the abilities has no relation to the abilities themselves and thus provides no particular value in being mentioned here—while actively detracting from the smooth progression of thoughts—and so I would consider deleting it.)

For sentence two (As infants we were found by a deity named Halogi or The High Flame.) the immediate issue I have is that it’s passive and easily made active just by rearranging (A deity named…) but that’s a bit of a secondary complaint. The main problem is that the sentence is self-contained (meaning it doesn’t push the narrative forward even besides it being passive) but is also uninteresting. Me calling it ‘uninteresting’ might not make sense because the sentence deals with infants being adopted by a god, but think of it a little differently: we have no context for why this matters, and young pupils being adopted by powerful and wise mentors is a trope, so all this sentence does is present the readers with something they’ve probably interacted with many times before. The issue arises because that trope is all this sentence offers. So while it’s important to the story, it gives the readers nothing. So, as the author, you need to supply more in this sentence for it to capture the reader’s interest. There are two/three ‘easy’ ways to do this, add an element to the discovering deity/infants that perceptibly alters the formula, or add information to the discovery itself the promises the readers a story. Maybe the god is exiled (which is a powerful word in of itself, but also includes elements of story for the god, but also for the twins because an author could really play with why he was exiled) or maybe he’s a god of chaos/ the god of something typically viewed as evil. For the discovery aspect, you would want the way they were found to be interesting or unusual, to tease the readers with mystery or to attach them to the twins with misery and tragedy. Maybe they were found in the dead of winter, cradled beneath the boughs of a flowers peach tree? (That’s very loud and prophetic imagery and so more likely to induce an internal eyeroll instead of interest, but you understand the gist. The hook in this sentence/their discovery would be something fitting for their narrative, something that foreshadowed it and teased the readers with what’s important about these twins.) I have no idea where this story is going, so I’m just going to make up something I find interesting and throw it in there without regard for anyone else.

As infants we were found by the exiled deity Halogi, the High Flame, as he traveled to Jormungand to steal one of the great serpent’s scales.—

(I left the sentence as passive since rearranging it to active would have resulted in something like “…found us as infants as he traveled…” and I disliked the two ‘as’ being so closer.)

You mostly already know the logic behind my additions here; the ‘exiled’ I’ve already explained, and the addition of Jormungand mostly just gives Halogi something interesting to be doing, but also puts him in the middle of a story instead of just appearing nebulously and existing solely to fulfill his role to the twins. The addition of him interacting with Jormungand also helps to introduce and further build the ‘gods are real and physical’ setting.

All of that said, you will probably notice that this second sentence is still an interrupter in the topic of their names. The answer to this is rearranging the sentence so that everything that shares a topic is together, or changing this sentence so it relates to their names more immediately. A third option, is to adjust the first sentence to prepare for the second, so while it mentions the misnaming, the other addition would allow for a smooth transition into their finding. Something like…

My brother and I are twins, born of an unknown mother and abandoned upon the crags of a mountain, misnamed, for my name should have been his.—

The mention of the wrong name is a bit clunky, but by describing where they were left we prepare for an organic transition to how they were found. The ‘unknown mother’ bit adds a bit more information and rhythm while also teasing the readers with potential plot points. These additions also allowed me to add several strong words in ‘abandoned, crags, unknown and misnamed’ cultivating both imagery and adding further dynamism to the sentence. A side benefit is that this structure might remove the need to specify they were infants when they were found since ‘born’ and ‘abandoned’ in conjunction imply that they were born and immediately abandoned.

—My brother and I are twins, born of an unknown mother and abandoned upon the crags of a mountain, misnamed, for my name should have been his. The exiled deity Halogi, the High Flame, found us there as he traveled westward to steal a scale from the great serpent Jormungand.— (Changes to my previous additions were mostly just for rhythm and to adapt to removing the ‘found as infants’. Also remember that this ‘Jormungand’ addition is mostly empty fluff I added; I know neither the story nor the world the author is creating and you would want something here that enrichens, compliments and expands both of those while also subtly introducing the readers to them.)

This brings us to the next problem; how do we transition from their discovery to the explanation of their powers. The author uses their discovery to transition into them growing up (which worked better there because there wasn’t an entire other phrase inserted between them) but there’s still a jump in narrative there that doesn’t flow smoothly. We could insert a transition sentence to bridge the gap between them being discovered, something like “He adopted and brought us to be raised in Zora, land of the deities.” This smoothes out the flow of narrative by adding the actual next step between finding and raising children. I moved the ‘Zora, land of deities’ here from above both because I didn’t want to just write ‘He adopted us’ and immediately transition into ‘while we were growing up’ (because the ‘He adopted us’ would sound truncated and awkward by itself) and because it complimented the information being conveyed (since where they were raised is relevant to them being raised.) (Also, I now realize that the ‘exiled’ addition really doesn’t work because he’s still living in the land of Deities, but we’ll ignore that and cite extenuating circumstances the author doesn’t even know about.) One issue with this sentence is that it reads a bit short; it would have functioned well as the conclusion to the paragraph, sort of as an ending emphatic statement, but it’s a transition piece so we want it to flow and maintain rhythm/momentum. Mostly, we just want to lengthen it a bit so we can just add a few words here or there. We can return the first ‘us’ (which I initially excised as unnecessary and as a potential echo) and insert a ‘back’ after the second ‘us’. Resulting in

He adopted us and brought us back to be raised in Zora, land of the deities.—

Now, after all that work, we can finally transition to the introduction of their abilities. We’ll want to do that by persisting with the narrative of their lives and giving pertinent information instead of just saying ‘we discovered we had weird powers’ (which would read a bit out of nowhere despite the presence of gods, Jormungand and a world of deities.) So maybe something like “We spent fifteen years there and in time manifested abilities that neither we nor Kalogi could explain: he, to command lightning and thunder, and I a rare witch.” (I chose fifteen years because the setting of this story feels like it geared toward young adults, which means teenagers.)

So this is obviously completely different from what the author wrote, but the major changes are the inclusion of their age (pertinent/relevant information to them growing up and the shape of the story going forward) and the mention that no one can explain these abilities. I added the ‘inability to explain’ section because it gives this sentence/the characters story so the sentence isn’t just providing the minimum for comprehension but adding to the narrative. It’s not just saying ‘they grew up and discovered powers’ in a fancy way, it’s telling the readers that there’s a mystery behind those power, that’s there’s a story here they don’t understand just yet, but one they might like to explore. It’s the equivalent of saying ‘I have something for you, but I’m not going to tell you what it is’, which is a good way to tease interest and investment.

I like what those things say so we’ll be running with them, but there’s something else to mention. Darious’s ability to manipulate lightning is clearly described but Raijin’s abilities are left entirely ambiguous, which is exacerbated by them being called ‘rare’. The ‘rare’ says they’re cool and special, but we’re not told what about them is cool and special; so it ends up feeling lackluster in comparison to Darious’s abilities. (Leaving it ambiguous doesn’t have the same teasing effect as ‘nobody could explain’ because it’s not treated as a secret; Darious’s abilities are stated straight out and hers are just not explained.) You wouldn’t need much, just something to give them shape and present an appealing aesthetic to the readers like ‘a rare soul witch’ or ‘a rare fate witch’.

After that, we have to bring in the mention of her name. (Like I said about believing my name should be my brother’s, Raijin is or was the Japanese deity of thunder and lightning.) There is a couple specific things to mention about this sentence, the first being how ‘Like I said about believing’ is a bit of a weak progression. ‘Like I said’ has no verb and so no inherent oomph or energy, which dilutes the momentum going into this sentence/revelation and diminishes the impact of it. (I should also say that not every sentence needs to have impact, and the only reason I’m stressing the impact for this name plot line is because it’s the start of the story. There’s also an element that the narrative of them being misnamed is emphasized by the author putting it in the first sentence as a hook, but the second part of that hook, where the name is revealed, doesn’t pay off the set up. It blandly conveys the information without personality, tone or narrative, and if you’re going to set something off, even if its minor, you want to pay it off.) The other thing to mention is that the ‘or was’ in ‘is or was the Japanese…’ is unnecessary since the next sentence conveys that information. With those thoughts in mind, as well as the need to actually name her brother as Darious, I might try something like…

And that is why my name should have been his, for I am called Raijin, after the old Japanese deity of thunder and lighting, and he Darious.—

This sentence isn’t amazing by any means and does rely on more bluster than I would like (lines like ‘for I am called’) but it’s energetic and features Raijin speaking assertively with “and that is why”/ “For I am called” (despite it being largely bluster, it is active and does propel the sentence forward.) The assertiveness makes this seem like something Raijin actively believes, but also makes it feel more important to the readers because it’s being spoken forcefully. As I said above, the original structure wouldn’t necessarily have to convey the force and importance I implemented but you would still want it to feel like something you/author wanted to say, or that it said something about Raijin’s personality. A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that whenever someone/a character says something they have a reason for it, an objective they’re trying to achieve. Sometimes that objective is just to be included, sometimes it’s to retaliate some slight, or to convey knowledge but there’s always a reason. This is especially important here since this is a first person narrative, Raijin is constantly talking/communicating to the reader, so that means that everything we read has a purpose and emotion behind it, and so as the author you have to ask “why is she saying this?” Specifically in this context, why is it that her brother controls lightning but she’s named Raijin important enough for her to think it needs to be conveyed? Honestly, my rewrite doesn’t answer it either, but the emphasis helps to disguise that there’s no answer.

This brings us to the final sentence (since her location in Zora has already been mentioned.) (I am not totally sure if Raijin is even alive or any other deity in that matter. I’ve only seen four of them…)

So the most important thing about this sentence is that it contains a discrepancy in ‘or any other deity for that matter’ concerning them being alive. She knows for a fact that four are alive and living in Zora with her. So that needs to go. The other thing I would delete is the ‘totally’, which is objectively unnecessary to the sentence and repetitive on ‘not sure’. It ends up sounding wishy-washy (without reason), which is not a likeable trait and so sours the reader to the sentence but also Raijin slightly. Something else to note is that there seems to be no reason for this information to be relevant; why does god-Raijin being alive or dead matter? Witch-Raijin is mentioning him, so why? (I think the discrepancy here is that the author’s speaking to the readers rather than witch-Raijin. This is information that would entertain and benefit a reader, but witch-Raijin has no reason to be doing that. A neat thing that could resolve this is if witch-Raijin was a bit of a rambler, thus it would give the author personality to infuse in their prose and leeway to drop unnecessary information, which they could tune and adjust to prevent spoilers while also building affection for witch-Raijin without breaking immersion.)

I don’t know if the real Raijin is still, or even ever was, alive; I’ve only ever seen four deities, and they all live here in Zora.—

Mostly this sentence is just combining the left over information that needed mentioning, but I changed the reality of other deities over to her doubting if god-Raijin ever lived (to maintain the author’s structure and rhythm) but also to maintain the set up for the four deities living in Zora.(That was important so I could mention them smoothly and prevent it feeling like they came out of nowhere.) Combining these thoughts though does actually provide a bit of a reason for her mentioning Raijin (specifically the question of whether or not he existed in conjunction with the four gods she knows exist). It expresses that despite living here, she doesn’t actually know what’s happening, and which parts of the common mythology are or were real. This would open potential narrative points of mystery where the twins inhabit Zora but so much of it is purposefully concealed or obfuscated for them, and a sub-plot of the narrative becomes exploring what’s either happening or happened in the past that they’re not supposed to know about.

This brings us to our conclusion, here’s the whole edited paragraph. It’s no doubt quite rough in places, but I do think the changes achieve what I wanted. Namely, the energizing of the telling so it actively added to the story instead of just getting it started and providing information, and providing instances that might garner reader interest while still introducing them to the setting.

—My brother and I are twins, born of an unknown mother and abandoned upon the crags of a mountain, misnamed, for my name should have been his. The deity Halogi, the High Flame, found us there as he traveled westward to steal a scale from the great serpent Jormungand. He adopted us and brought us back to be raised in Zora, land of the deities. We spent fifteen years there and in time manifested abilities that neither we nor Kalogi could explain: he, to command lightning and thunder, and I a rare witch. And that is why my name should have been his, for I am called Raijin, after the old Japanese deity of thunder and lighting, and he Darious. I don’t know if the real Raijin is still, or even ever was, alive; I’ve only ever seen four deities, and they all live here in Zora.—


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