CSFF Blog Tour-Storm Siren, Day 2

cover_StormSirenOne good thing about a blog tour is that you get to compare what different readers think about the same book. This includes views about the writing, the story, the issues engendered, the genre, the characters, the pacing—whatever the bloggers wish to discuss.

A good tour also isn’t a rah-rah club. The participants will give genuine, honest reactions, so there will be positives and negatives. The current CSFF tour for Storm Siren by Mary Weber is no different. Here are some of the observations I’ve made half way through the tour.

First, I’d say there’s a consensus that this book is well written. There seems to be a split decision about the ending, however, and an equal mix concerning the level of darkness in the story. A fourth issue many participants in the tour mentioned was a dynamic opening scene followed by a slow section.

This pacing problem is one I’d like to address because I think it’s all too common and something I think is fairly easy to fix. Here’s how one CSFF blogger described the problem:

After an intense opening sequence, Storm Siren settled into a long, relatively quiet interval that built up the characters and their world, with all its dangers. The shift surprised me, but it didn’t dismay me. I’m not as hyped for action as some readers are; I like the building and the exploring. I like introspection, I love characters, and more to the point, I liked Mary Weber’s characters.

And yet I reached a point, reading this novel, where I was just waiting for something to change. (Shannon McDermott)

Others mentioned putting the book aside for a time or reaching a point where the pace picked up. The point is, there does seem to be bit of a lull. Some seemed to think this was a necessary aspect of the book—all the world-building and character-introduction pieces needed to be put in place.

I used to think that a natural lull was part of telling a story. After all, readers need to know who is who and where the characters are, what the places are like, and what’s at stake. While we’re learning all these things, it’s hard to keep the story moving forward.

But here’s the crux of the issue and why I believe the fix isn’t all that hard. All the world-building and character introduction can take as long as they need to with one proviso: the main character needs to have a goal to acquire what she needs or to fix the problem at issue. As long as she’s working toward something, readers will be patient as things unfold because they want to know if her plans succeed or not.

In Storm Siren, the story opens with the protagonist, a teenage girl named Nym, on the slave auction block. One thing that pops out is how feisty this girl is, how easily she reads what others are thinking, and even how much she wants to shield those weaker than she.

She’s interesting—a cross between a vulnerable young girl (she is a slave after all, and one who has been sold fourteen times in eleven years) and a strong, even cocky, resilient, nonchalant character who can handle anything, epitomized in this bit of internal monologue:

Eleven years of repeatedly being sold, and it’s sad, really, how familiar I’ve become with this conversation. Today, if Brea has her way, I will meet my fifteenth, which I suppose should actually bother me. But it doesn’t.

So there’s the issue: what is it that bothers Nym? Readers learn there are a few things, most notably her own anger which triggers uncontrollable destruction. But here’s the problem: Nym doesn’t have a plan to change or better her circumstances or to overcome the unfairness or escape. She’s not trying to enlist allies or work to improve her lot. Rather, she pretty much lets things happen. When things are bad, she toughs them out as best she can and when things are good, she proceeds with caution. But she doesn’t make any plan to overcome.

It’s this “go along” attitude, this lack of initiative, that reduces tension and thus slows the pace. As a reader I was not dragged forward by my desire to know if her plan would succeed because she didn’t have a plan and wasn’t working toward anything. Rather, things were, or were not, happening to her, or around her, or to her friends.

I found these things interesting, but I wasn’t emotionally invested until Nym had a goal and seized on something she believed she needed to do. At that point, the pace of the story picked up.

And now, I encourage you to read some of the excellent posts by CSFF Tour participants who are writing about Storm Siren. Steve Trower, who participates in the tour though he can seldom get books across the pond, wrote an especially funny post based on what he found out about the book on the Internet.

Chawna Schroeder, who is often a tough reviewer, wrote part 1 of her analysis and praised the craft by saying, “Storm Siren provides a phenomenal story with a strong driving plot and unpredictable characters.”

Joan Nienhuis looked at the various elements of the story and observed that there is more going on than winning a war between two countries: “The war is somewhat twofold. One aspect of it is for Nymia’s soul. Will she ever be healed of the pain and horror of what she did as a child?”

Good, thought-provoking reactions to Storm Siren. Be sure to see what others had to say in their posts. The list is at the bottom of the Day 1 post.

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6 Comments

  1. Reblogged this on rennydiokno.com.

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  2. I think you’re right on with your feedback (and certainly it’s brilliant advice for all writers!).

    Hopefully in Book 2, Nym will have a goal straight away–from the descriptions of the book, it sounds like she just might, so that book may not have any “lull” at all.

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    • Thanks, Julie. I’ve seen a pattern of slow starts and have battled that in my own writing, so I sure would like to see that change in CSFF books. I agree that book two may well not suffer from the same issue. The driving conflict is already set up. I guess we’ll find out in June. 😉

      Becky

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  3. I agree regarding the lack of specific goals in places, though in my case lulls tend to make me skim rather than put down. Not good by the way: you can miss some important information that way.

    I mentioned on someone else’s blog that I think it would have helped if they’d had an intro battle to fight prior to the final one (like fighting the mini Kupa before getting to Bowser in the final level). Maybe there were some advance scout ships or something ahead of the main fleet, and we could have seen the two struggle to come together in something with more at stake than “whoops we caused an avalanche by accident.”

    On that note: did anyone else wonder how no one knew they were there? I mean, between rain falling every day in one place and the earth constantly shaking, I’d think anyone with brains would have to guess something was up at Adora’s. I feel like it would have made way more sense for them to be holed up in some remote retreat (far from the city) to train, which would have explained away why we went pages on end without any news of the war, or learned anything about the kingdom or the politicial situation.

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  4. The introduction of Nym grabbed my attention. Instead being at the origin of a character, we’re dropped in a some point in her life. Maybe it did seem a bit like a “book 2” than a “book 1,” but I could see that Nym was on a journey. A very central character driven story that appears to be an extended prologue to something bigger.

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  5. […] troubles her. From that point, however, the story slows down for reasons I addressed in my Day 2 […]

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