Okay, so before you asked for an in-depth critique and I figured I'd oblige but...wow, it took me a while to figure out what to do with this.
I pretty much agree with what the others have said about it in that it isn't particularly grabbing, or even really reaching. In fact, it's just plain confusing. There's a lot
going on with this opening, and your writing in general, that's really dragging it down. In all honesty this was extremely difficult and sort of painful to read. I would suggest rewriting it. Like, the whole thing. I'll do what I can in critiquing what you've got here, though, at least so you can see where you're going wrong and more of what it should read like (IMO, that is). Though the editing is going to be less 'editing' and more cut-and-paste, outright rewriting. If someone came to me asking to beta read this I would probably turn them down because it would be so much work. I would be practically rewriting everything they gave to me.
As for what was wrong with it. Well, generally speaking what's making it almost literally unreadable is the fact that it's all over the place. You've got your info-dumping getting in the way of your descriptions which is getting in the way of your dialogue, and you end up with an incoherent mess. The actual content itself isn't so bad, but the way it's arranged seems almost arbitrary. In the future, if you can't just outright imply what's going on with dialogue or small little hints weaved in, try to give us info in an efficient, to-the-point manner, condensed into a single section between important things happening, for instance in transitions while the person is just walking somewhere, and time is implied where the person could reasonably be thinking about these things. Try to keep your description of action all together, your dialogue all together, as well. You can weave additional information in sentences here and there but more than that and you distract from what the characters are actually doing to the point where we forgot what's going on by the time we come back to it.
Other things, you need to brush up a bit on punctuation around dialogue. You're using periods where you should be using commas. You've also got some issues with tense. For the most part it seems grounded in past tense but you switch over to present tense for a phrase or two here and there inappropriately. Also, why
is all of your dialogue in italics? I assume for visual aid, but it's incorrect formatting and unneeded besides. Another thing is you didn't spell out seventy-three. I'd have to look it up but I'm pretty sure you're supposed to spell it out when the number is under one hundred unless it's part of a date or address or something. Either way it just looks more professional.
Also Sir, you abuse em-dashes like it's nobodies business. I usually love em-dashes, but you cut up the sentences so much between using them and
nonessential phrases encased in commas, that by the time we get back to the original line of thought we've forgotten the previous one already (hmm, I see a pattern). In some places I actually recommend using parenthesis instead, helps with repetition and visual aid in figuring out whats important. In others, you should rearrange the information in the paragraph to fix this problem. Try reading it out loud and if its difficult to do so and sounds awkward by the time you come back to the main sentence you probably have a problem.
Also you are cluttering up your prose with imprecise words like 'got', and a few other phrases. Instead of 'got up' use 'rose', instead of 'came forward' use 'approached'. Replacing these increases flow and decreases your word count, giving you room for better stuff. I would say try to replace 'got' or 'get' wherever you can, it's just not a very interesting word and in most cases it causes you to have to write around the word to accommodate it, and inserting superfluous cruft to make the sentence work.
Okay, so as for what I did to your opening, I rewrote it, mostly be rearranging what you had and taking a hack saw to a few of the bits that were hurting you more than helping. It's not perfect, but I think it's readable now. maybe it will help you see where I mean by all this 'sectioning off' stuff.
Kaiser Wilhelm III of Germany made his way down the halls of the Reichstag
building intent on attending the ball being held by his country in honor of Napoleon VI’s birthday.
In attendance would be none other than the Grand Duchess Tatiana of Russia and her husband Emperor Napoleon VI of the French Empire himself, the man who Wilhelm’s foreign ministers reckoned to be the most important person in Europe and, therefore, the civilized world. Whoever made friends with Napoleon, either through trade and military alliance or backroom diplomacy, could quite conceivably control mainland Europe, the cradle of human culture and advancement, and through it gain power over the entire globe.
At the current time Britain was in that position of ally, trade partner, and diplomatic friend of France. However, Wilhelm, his staff and the larger population of Germany, France, and Russia shared the sentiment that the mighty British Empire’s grip on Europe was far from secure. Britain was simply too sure of itself, too headstrong to be the regent extraordinaire of the civilized world. Though her might was immense and her Royal Navy’s reach long, the British Empire overestimated her ability to bully and demean the other great powers of Europe while still retaining her place on the forefront of the world stage.
The ball was planned to take advantage of this fact. Though he actually did respect Napoleon to an extent, (if nothing else the man was astonishingly
charismatic, and well-loved by his people, though his colonial policy left something to be desired), rather than celebrating the man, Wilhelm's motivation tonight was to further maneuver his country into a position where it could undermine British Imperial power, and eventually take her place as the leader of Europe and the world. If all went well this evening, he would be successful.
Continuing his way to the reception, Wilhelm ran a hand through his short, combed-back black hair and adjusted his appearance so as to appear perfect. The fuzzy collar over the slate blue fabric of his military uniform was somewhat irritating, but could not be removed (much to Wilhelm’s annoyance and dismay), however the large gold bands crisscrossing his clothes and the Imperial cross in the center of his chest, suspended on a gold rope, were perfectly in placed so he supposed that was what mattered.
As he reached the foyer before the front door, a figure rose from a bench and approached him. Wilhelm recognized the man as Chancellor Maximilian, his primary minister, representative in the Reichstag, and close friend. Maximilian wore his own uniform, which was far plainer than Wilhelm's (to Wilhelm's own unvoiced envy), consisting of a plain, gray-colored officer’s coat, a red arm band on his left arm, two rows of twelve silver buttons, a plain cap, and a dress sword attached to his belt.
Though they did not agree on every issue, he and Wilhelm had become reasonably good partners in government, Maximilian even taking on a vaguely mentor-like position after the death of Wilhelm’s father, which the man greatly appreciated him doing in spite of their political differences.
“Your Highness,” Maximilian said, tipping his head and hat in both greeting and acknowledgment as Wilhelm reached comfortable speaking distance. His demeanor, cordial and non-threatening, Wilhelm noted to himself the man was growing increasingly passive as he aged. It saddened him that Maximilian had slowed down so much.
Wilhelm extended a hand in return, which Maximilian grasped and shook once, firmly.
“Are you ready to impress a few French nobles tonight, my friend?” Wilhelm asked, smiling at his own understatement. Napoleon and his entourage were hardly
just a few French nobles
“Your Highness, you know that I am always
ready to entertain French nobles,” Maximilian deadpanned.
Wilhelm chuckled, knowing Maximilian’s dislike for the French nobility. While Napoleon and Tatiana were themselves quite personable, French nobility as a whole tended to be far too entitled and superior, thinking themselves better simply for being French. It was often quite irritating, though Wilhelm had grown somewhat accustomed to it, and they used to his lack of tolerance for the behavior.
Moving towards the doors, Wilhelm grasped the left handle with one hand, Maximilian mirroring him with the right door. They shared a single, wordless nod before throwing open the entrance to be greeted by a thunderous roar of applause.
Blinking to allow his eyesight time to adjust to the bright lamps in the Reichstag front garden, Wilhelm was eventually able to take in the large crowd. He picked out several of his generals—Hans von Seeckt, Erich von Falkenhayn, Wilhelm Heye, Erich Ludendorff, and his Chief of the German General Staff, Paul von Hindenburg—among the crowd, intermingling with their French counterparts in what was likely a number of serious discussions of military strategy. Hindenburg in particular stood out, both for his relative girth and his age. The man was seventy-three and had already retired once nearly a decade previously, but Wilhelm had asked him to return to serve as his Chief of General Staff during the current, critical period in reorganization the Germany Army. It had actually surprised Wilhelm when Hindenburg accepted, but he wasn’t going to argue when one of the most experienced generals agreed to return to active service to his country.
As Wilhelm scanned the crowd, his eye was caught by his wife, Cecilie, motioning for him to attend her. At the same time, he saw Napoleon out of the corner of his gaze, waving at him as well. He smiled at Cecilie—though it was not a truly happy expression—and put up a hand to return Napoleon’s wave and signaled that he would just be a moment.
edited 3rd Dec '11 4:43:00 PM by NoirGrimoir
SPATULA, Supporters of Page Altering To Urgently Lead to Amelioration (supports not going through TRS for tweaks and minor improvements.)