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Season Two First Chapter Category Winner Announcement!
A first chapter about a young boy who is tested beyond his limits.
Congratulations to, our Lunar Award winner for the first chapter of his serialized novel, “The Angel of War”! Winston runs Storyletter XPress Publishing, but he is also building an entire universe on his Substack From the Tales of Havek. Let’s discuss why this first chapter stood out among all of the submissions, and what it shares in common with the honorable mentions.
We had a fair number of high-quality short story submissions this season, but I wasn’t prepared for the volume of first chapters that turned out to be both entertaining and engaging. By the time I narrowed down the options to the top five, I had to re-read them all more than once. I’ve read Winston’s first chapter at least three times.
I also read a few stories in the top ten more than once, and I even asked my buddyfor his opinion alongside . It’s possible that you still wrote a great first chapter, even if you haven’t been chosen for a top spot. We’re in the company of several experienced and talented authors, creating a healthy dose of competition. Read their work, connect with them and learn what you can. Our community provides a unique opportunity for us all to grow.
I knew in order to make a final decision I would have to come to a better understanding about what makes an award-worthy first chapter. Having a desire to continue reading on to the next chapter, or being pulled into the story immediately, is only one small portion of the judging criteria. There were too many first chapters that grabbed my attention, with varying degrees of force and for different reasons.
What ultimately led me to choose “The Angel of War”, was the careful unfolding of events, and the perfectly balanced weight of tension against the backdrop of a world I immediately found inviting and interesting. Many of the first chapters I read dug too deep too fast into the worldbuilding, opening with complexity that should be held back until later chapters. Most fantasy and science fiction novels involve a large geopolitical and cultural backdrop, but it’s typically revealed at a pace the reader can appreciate.
Even Simon’s story, “Tales from the Triverse”, which introduces three vastly different universes in the first chapter, does so with careful hints of history and culture. A promise is being made about what will come, but the revelations are saved for later. The same is true of J.E.’s story “Shadowloss”, where a single protagonist is under the microscope of the reader, his life in ruins, but by the end we realize a strange occurrence is the beginning of something grander.
What I loved most about Winston’s first chapter is it exists as a complete introduction, while leaving room for us to ask questions that must be answered. What is this magic that Cliff, the protagonist, possesses? How did he and his father acquire the skill, but not his sister? Is there a heavenly realm and an underworld? Dialog with the antagonist and one of the characters indicates a deeper backstory. Is it possible this evil was once good?
Those are all questions that can be answered, unpacked, and which raise new questions, all while we watch Cliff learn to accept what’s happening in his family. By the end of the first chapter, I cared about this story, I was attached to a central character and the narrative progressed enough as a teaser to experience an evolving plot.
When it comes to longer form fiction, it’s easier to get lost in our own understanding of a larger story that’s personal, forgetting we’re asking the reader to join us on the adventure. I don’t deny there are a number of epics that open with grand battles or intricate descriptions of mythology or character relationships, but that’s the exception and difficult to execute. In time we may end up awarding an entry that accomplishes such a feat, but for now I’m happy to say Winston has given us the start of something special.
As usual, please take the time to choose a few first chapters among the participants that you can love for your own reasons. Connect with the authors and let them know you appreciate their willingness to risk putting a story out there for us all to enjoy.
In the first chapter of “Tales from the Triverse”, written by, three different universes collide when a wizard becomes too ambitious.
In the first chapter of “Shadowloss”, written by, a man who experiences an unhealthy dose of bad luck is followed by a mysterious shadow.
(In no particular order.)
"Knightfall & Sonrise" by
"Part one" by
"The Shattered Lands" by
"I Found It" by
"The Dancer, part one" by
"In the Time of Man" by
"Surrender - Part 1" by
"ARERUM: CHAPTER 01" by