First 500 words of MG science fiction

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writersink
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First 500 words of MG science fiction

Post by writersink » January 12th, 2012, 12:41 pm

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Last edited by writersink on June 22nd, 2012, 8:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

madmcgee
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Re: First 500 words of MG science fiction

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 6:37 am

First thoughts: This looks like a fun premise. I am already asking questions. I want to know if Loretta's family is as messed up as they sound. What happens to them? Who is this white-washed giantess? What does she want with Loretta? Does Loretta grow out of being a mouse? Is she being called on an epic hero journey? The concept is quite good and I would read more.

You seem to be starting at the right point in the action. I like that you start out right in the action without rushing into it. For the most part, your pacing is good, but there are places where you rush through important concepts and blend too much into one sentence. Work on creating one sentence per thought and I have a feeling your pacing is impeccable!

That said, your narrator and MC blend together. Since it is told in third person, that probably isn't a good thing. I have a hard time figuring out which parts we are watching outside of Loretta and which parts are from inside Loretta's head. It's blurry.

Also, if you clarified Loretta's thoughts, you could probably make Loretta ten times more likeable (or at least give her some personality). There are a few faint clues about her personality (I mean, she tries to be polite even as the strange, non-human white-washed giant lady appears in front of her; she's either a complete mouse or mentally very tough); still, these clues could easily be worked into the narrative to be much more conclusive and convincing.

Regardless, with what you wrote so far, I think I like Loretta!
writersink wrote:Hi guys. I've been working on this for a while now, but it never quite seems polished enough. Any help would be appreciated

Loretta Narsonas had never thought properly about death until it came to visit her. Why would she think about death if she is young? This either needs to be augmented to fit the flow of the rest, or else cut.

It was a cloudless night, there were no stars, the clock was striking eleven and the sky was a pale dark blue. pale dark? not sure what you mean here. Later, it seems to be saying the dark sky is too light, but you should clarify that here, right away before the reader becomes confused. Loretta was sitting sat in the drawing room, her sewing on the floor. Her mother’s words from a few hours back were still ringing in her ears: why couldn’t see be more like her sister, Elizabeth? This would be a good place to augment with thoughts directly from Loretta set in italics. Explain/expand this just a little more

They still weren’t back. Her mother and father and Elizabeth said they would be home an hour ago from the village ball- that of course she was too young to attend- but they weren’t. Cut this up into 2 or 3 sentences. First, deal with the ball. Then deal with why Loretta isn't at the ball with her family. Then deal with Loretta's reaction, in her thoughts, about that ball. It would be more effective if we can hear Loretta give a bitter or disappointed or even relieved thought about missing the ball. Does she find this unfair? You can make your reader assume so, but telling us through the character would really give us insight into who she is as a character. And although the clock read eleven, it seemed more like eight. Something was wrong, she decided. Maybe they had lost track of time, or Lord Chatolwry had insisted they stay. No. That was not it and she knew it and why did the fact that the sky was too light bother her? Again, this feels really remote. Lead us through each thought as it flashes through Loretta's head. This all blurs together; you are trying too hard to provide exposition through narration masquerading as Loretta's thoughts.

“Ahem.”

A polite cough came from the doorway and automatically she rose to her feet. Her visitor was wearing a white travelling coat with the hood raised to cover the face. Is she maybe trying to cover her confusion? Is she filled with complete apathy? You're making this too easy for Loretta. She must have some reaction to a stranger suddenly appearing in her drawing room. Loretta curtseyed at the stranger. If the servants had shown the person in they must be some friend of her parents. Or an acquaintance, which was more likely: her parents didn’t make friends, and they forbade her to do so. According to them, friends made you weak. Right now this is exposition telling us about Loretta's parents. If it were treated as a direct thought, maybe Loretta's confused mind flitting around trying to make sense of an awkward situation, it would read more realistically.

“Please, take a seat.” Please, add a tag line so the reader knows who is talking.

The woman said nothing.

“Please, miss, may I be so bold as to einquire after your name?” Loretta said, again pointing at the chair. She didn’t know what else to do with the visitor: her mother or Elizabeth normally handled any guests. This is another perfect place to add some thoughts which would show Loretta's character, make her reactions more believable, and still provide that back story about her family you want to include here. For example: "Who is this person? Why won't she just sit down already? I wish mother/mom/mommy or Elizabeth/Lizzy were here. They always know how to act in front of people." Or maybe "What on earth do you want, lady? I hate talking to people. Please, just sit down or go away. I wish Mom or Lizzy were here so they could entertain our 'guest' and I could get the heck out of here." Right now, Loretta's reactions feel really generic, but with a bit of tweaking, she has the bones to be make a really lovely MC.

“How did you guess I was a woman?” the voice came softy and echoed around her, high pitched and sweet.

“I…” Loretta trailed off. The woman was wearing a coat normally worn by a woman but people from the north often wore strange clothes. Blushing, Loretta wondered what would have happened if the woman had been a man.

“I have my ways,” she said as breezily as possible. “Your name?” she added, to change the subject. Silence. “May I offer you some tea,” she tried again, more desperately this time. What would her mother say when she found out Loretta could not handle a single guest? Nice! These thoughts are finally starting to show some of Loretta's personality and you elegantly included some backstory. I'm thinking Mommy isn't so nice?

For a moment the woman was silent, before letting out a high pitched squeal Loretta could only assume was a laugh. Instead of telling us, show us. Describe this squeal. Why does Loretta assume it's a laugh? Add some description here.

“Oh you humans and your odd little ways,” the woman pushed back her hood, still chuckling and only hours of lessons on how to behave around visitors drilled into her by her mother’s maid stopped Loretta from gasping. These are two completely separate ideas; they shouldn't be in the same paragraph, let alone the same sentence. Differentiate between this stranger's action and Loretta's reaction. Really emphasize this. It's really the first "action" of the piece.

The woman was radiant and everything about her was white. Her skin was a creamy white; her hair velvety white; her teeth a pearly white and where in her eyes there should have been black pupils, there was nothing but white light, that seemed to pulse and move, as if it were alive. Love your description. I like that she is bleached out, rather than your typical "black=scary" formula. Loretta guessed the woman was at least seven feet tall Wait a minute, did she all the sudden grow? How could a 7-foot tall stranger come through the door and we only now know this? and she seemed to have had all of the colour sucked out of her. You interrupted the description of her color with one about her size. Put this before the weird giant thing. This giant thing is bugging me on so many levels. If the stranger being super tall is just a bit of descriptive fluff, cut it. If it is vital to the plot, you better work it into the plot way more clearly, along with a clear reaction by Loretta.

writersink
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Re: First 500 words of MG science fiction

Post by writersink » January 18th, 2012, 12:52 pm

Thanks for the great feedback! I took on board (and agree with) nearly all your comments! I've revised my excerpt and now it reads:

It was a cloudless night, there were no stars, the clock was striking eleven and the sky was a pale blue. Loretta sat in the drawing room, her sewing on the floor. Her mother’s words from a few hours back were still ringing in her ears: why couldn’t see be more like her sister, Elizabeth? Because Elizabeth is a different person, she thought, wishing she could have told her mother just that.
They still weren’t back. Her mother and father and Elizabeth said they would be home an hour ago from the village ball- that of course she was too young to attend- but they weren't. And although the clock read eleven, it seemed more like eight. Something was wrong, she decided. Maybe they had lost track of time, or Lord Chatolwry had insisted they stay. No. That was not it and she knew it and why did the fact that the sky was too light bother her?
“Ahem.”
A polite cough came from the doorway and automatically she rose to her feet, stifling a groan. Father's business partners were always coming round and they always seemed to think he would be in the drawing room. When would they realise Father would never be home to return their all too many calls? Her visitor was wearing a white travelling coat with the hood raised to cover the face. Loretta curtseyed at the stranger, doing what she had seen Elizabeth do a hundred times before.
“Please, take a seat,” Loretta waved at a chair.
The woman said nothing.
“Please, miss, may I ask your name?” Loretta said, again pointing at the chair. She didn’t know what else to do with the visitor: Elizabeth normally handled any guests.
“How did you guess I was a woman?” the voice came softy and echoed around her, high pitched and sweet.
“I…” Loretta trailed off. The woman was wearing a coat normally worn by a woman but people from the north often wore strange clothes. Blushing, Loretta wondered what would have happened if the woman had been a man.
“I have my ways,” she said as breezily as possible. “Your name?” she added, to change the subject. Silence. “May I offer you some tea,” she tried again, more desperately this time. What would her mother say when she found out Loretta could not handle a single guest?
For a moment the woman was silent, before letting out a high pitched squeal and Loretta guessed she was either laughing or choking. At mother’s last tea party, she had seen both happening. Lady François had been taken ill and Mother had laughed so hard she had started choking.
“Oh you humans and your odd little ways.” The woman pushed back her hood.
Only hours of lessons on how to behave around visitors stopped Loretta from gasping. The woman was radiant and everything about her was white. Her skin was a creamy white; her hair velvety white; her teeth a pearly white and where in her eyes there should have been black pupils, there was nothing but white light, that seemed to pulse and move, as if it were alive. And for the first time, Loretta realised how tall the woman was. Eight feet at least. Why hadn’t she noticed before? The woman's head must have scrapped the doorway when she walked into the room. How could she not have seen that the woman was towering over her?

I hope that is better than it was!

madmcgee
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Re: First 500 words of MG science fiction

Post by madmcgee » January 18th, 2012, 11:21 pm

Much better. Loretta is shining as a character; and boy, she has a little more attitude than I thought at first. Nice!
Because Elizabeth is a different person, she thought, wishing she could have told her mother just that.
MG readers will really relate to this and it fleshes Loretta out. Now I have *good* questions about Loretta, like why can't she say this and what's so great about Elizabeth anyway? It makes me want to keep reading just to find out.
It was a cloudless night, there were no stars, the clock was striking eleven and the sky was a pale blue.
You might consider either devoting a short paragraph to this--the sky at this point seems really important. Otherwise, cut it and start right out with Loretta's feelings. Right now, it is feeling really rushed.
And for the first time, Loretta realised how tall the woman was. Eight feet at least. Why hadn’t she noticed before? The woman's head must have scrapped the doorway when she walked into the room. How could she not have seen that the woman was towering over her?
And now instead of being confused, I am suspicious. Is this magic? Did this mysterious stranger grow or did she block Loretta's perception in some way? I want to know! Much more elegantly handled.

I love the information about Loretta's mother laughing until she choked when the other gets sick. It brings to mind a slight of hint of "evil stepmother" Cindarella archetype, but feels fun and fresh for MG.

In all I think the words flow much more smoothly. The pacing just feels a little rushed in that beginning paragraph. Since the opener is so important, don't worry too much about adding to your word count by augmenting that first paragraph and focusing on the really important elements. As it is now, I feel like Loretta and the sky are in competition.

bcomet
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Re: First 500 words of MG science fiction

Post by bcomet » September 7th, 2012, 12:20 pm

I just read the latest version (as the first has been removed). I really liked it. A LOT. I'd love to read more. You can PM me if you want with more. The only thing I would bring up at this point is that I'm not convinced this is just for MG or even MG. If it is, it's pretty sophisticated - thought that's also not a bad thing to be either.

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Shipple
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Re: First 500 words of MG science fiction

Post by Shipple » September 28th, 2012, 11:06 am

I really liked this excerpt. It is well written and makes me wonder what's going on and what's going to happen.

Unfortunately, the one part I had a problem with was the very first line: "It was a cloudless night, there were no stars, the clock was striking eleven and the sky was a pale blue. "
I did not understand (until you said it later) that the sky wasn't as dark as it should be at that time. I was honestly just a bit confused by what picture you were painting here.
And just because it is the first line, I feel like maybe it should be about Loretta, just because the story is obviously about Loretta and not the sky.

Other than that, you really interested me in this story and who the mysterious visitor is.
"Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much." - J.K. Rowling (an awesome opening line)
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