Move ak beginning to PA beginning? UPDATED
UPDATE April 22:
As of now the charcoals have it narrowly (4-3 including 3 who have read ak, and so whose votes carry a certain weight) but there's a paucity of comments explaining why.
Please, nay-voters, make your arguments! If it's just plain ol' conservatism, "I like it the way it is," that doesn't cut it. I'd never improve anything if I thought that way. But maybe you've got a point that I don't know or haven't thought of. I want to hear it!
Warning: below there be spoilers. I'll mark the section which you should not read if you don't want to find out the premise of ak yet.
I keep talking about revisions to the first chapters of PA and not doing them... partly because I have not been sure how. But at an hour at which I am usually asleep, I hit on the idea of taking the first part of asa kraiya and making it the first part of Philosopher in Arms, which essentially makes all of PA up to the beginning of ak a very lengthy flashback.
If you have read asa kraiya, I would like to ask you to vote on this. It would take some work, and would make a big change in the whole shape of the story, so please, please vote. In fact even if you haven't read ak, I'm interested in your vote, based on the considerations below. I've structured the poll to separate people who've read ak from people who haven't. I also welcome any and all comments. This is a big decision for me, very important, so I would really appreciate max input.
Why am I thinking of doing it?
I've been told by more than one person that the first chapters of PA have, to use the words of one reader, "barriers to entry," i.e. the capacity to drive readers away who might otherwise enjoy the rest of the work. (I got a version of this from a number of dead-tree readers also.)
Looking at the first chapters as objectively as I can manage, what I see is that they pile one grimness on top of another -- the death of Chevenga's father, his stream-test, the Kiss of the Lake, etc. -- possibly giving the false impression that the whole book will be nothing but grim. (I wrote the beginning that way, I realize now, because it more or less echoes the grimness of my own childhood -- not that I had the same traumas as my character, but I had equally nasty ones -- which works fine as catharsis for the writer, but isn't quite what a lot of readers want to immerse themselves in.)
Now what changing the beginning this way would do is, first, put something up front for which I've received huge praise, and which I know hooks in readers. Second, alter the tone of the beginning from grimness and fatalism to a very strong tension between hope and grimness/fatalism -- strong tension being, of course, the most reader-grabbing way to start a story. Third, it would make the story more layered still, which is something I always like.
This involves absolutely no changes to the story itself -- just the order in which it is told.
The downsides --
...are, first, that I worry that knowing that early death is not certain for Chevenga at the beginning might take away some of the impact of his certainty about it. The attraction of fatalism is, of course, heroism in the face of it, and I don't want to lessen that.
Second, there is some spoilerage in the ak intro. I'd revise to remove as much of it as possible, but I can't see how I'd get all of it.
So please vote, and comment.
Note: I am going to make copious use of quotes from reviews and comments in my nascent ad campaign, since I have so many that make great sales pitches. For example:
Tell me this isn't brilliant.