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Iron Council - First Pages

Iron Council - First Pages
Iron Council - China Miéville 

Try reading the first few pages of one of your favorite author's books.

I could choose The Lord of the Rings or Cloud Atlas, but today I went with Iron Council.

I started with Chapter 1, although it should be noted there is an impactful two-page prologue with incredible imagery.

The opening to Chapter 1 uses an economy of language to create a textured setting and tension without knowing much yet about the character, whose name we do not learn until the second page.

"A man runs."

An economy of language to place the reader straight into the world.

Notice the fourth word. "Pushes", which omits the "He", which is understood. "Bark-and-leaf walls" and "purposeless rooms" are attributes of this forest, Rudewood. Several senses are evoked.

At the end of paragraph one, "He is trying to follow a trail," gives the reader a glimpse of character motivation, though we do not know what trail nor why.

Miéville does not give us that yet. Instead, more setting. "Just before dark... earth was tramped down and stained with scorching and blood." Then we learn what the man is carrying, books and clothes, but no details about these just yet. Also, "something well-wrapped." A specific signficant detail that Vandemeer calls for in Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction.

The third paragraph gives us yet more setting and a few character notes, "The man was wary. He had pistol and rifle..."

The second page of Chapter 1 - Cutter's colleagues arrive

Onto the second page of Chapter 1, the first dialogue, the main character speaking aloud into the darkness: "I'll come find you."

Who is this you? We don't know. But the character's motivation is made just a touch clearer, while also developing mysetery of who he is going to find.

Only when three companions arrive do we learn the main character's name, Cutter. Because his name is used in the prior paragraph, 'Cutter said' is omitted—economy of language yet again.

Sparse descriptions, "smaller man", "spoke fast", and "looked about him" to introduce the first of the three.

Of the woman we get "her skirt filling with air" (no color), "breathing fast with anxiety", and "She bit her nails."

"Sardonic norm" gives one of the first overt personality details for Cutter that the reader could not gather otherwise from the character interactions thus far.

Third page of Chapter 1 - Indirect dialogue portrays plot and confirms their joint mission.

"But the Caucus had been dismissive of Cutter's call," shows that these three characters, Drey, Elsie, and Pomeroy, came despite others not wanting to.

It is revealed by Cutter that what they'd heard was true. And that they have much more traveling ahead of them.

I can't swear we'll come back.

The first interior thoughts from Cutter give an accent mark to what he's spoken aloud.

All in all, in about 500 words, Miéville lands readers in this world, establishes character motivations and their relationships to each other, as well as the first major plot point, a journey to find someone important. The embedded mystery is why more did not come and why these four have come all this way in search of this person.

This task can be done with any book to reveal at the line and paragraph and page level how authors invite readers into the world, introduce characters, and open the story that will unfold.