Wednesday, September 22, 2010

September Secret Agent #7

TITLE: Day 10K
GENRE: Science Fiction

Shushan ignored the voices of the two grown women behind her as she grabbed the rungs.
"Hey girl, that steel ladder doesn't look safe."

She turned to give a reply. "No one said it was against policy to climb the emergency backup generator." The motion shifted her backpack to the left, forcing the hard rungs against her palms. But she wasn't some little girl who would fall off -- she was fourteen in Earth years, not the stiflingly normal years of this world she had grown up in. "It's my last day working here before all the banks collapse, so let me do something mischievous!"

The two women laughed. High-pitched, nervous laughter. Shushan wasn't afraid. She looked up, beyond the eight foot tall housing for the generator, scanning the skies for the ship that had come to their world. It was somewhere in orbit beyond the clouds, here to help prevent the collapse.

No fear. Shushan knew her world was turning -- turning into something with endless horizons and scintillating challenges that beckoned her to climb higher and higher. She was ready to burst out of everything that was known and comfortable, just as her own body had practically burst out of her old clothing in the past year and demanded things like a larger denim jacket and rougher roads to ride on.


  1. I'm totally confused. No idea at all what's going on here.
    And I don't think that people say, "Steel ladder" or "emergency backup generator" when they're talking. The exchange just doesn't feel real. If grown women are going to try to stop a 14-year-old from doing something, they're going to either try a lot harder ("Hey! Get down off that rusty thing!") or not at all (Hmm - kid looks pretty big. Where's her mom? Oh well, not my problem...)
    Great last line, though.

  2. Not hooked. As Momwoman pointed out, the dialogue doesn't sound real, and with something as scary and apocalyptic as a collapsing world about to happen, I don't get much sense of impending doom.

  3. I too am confused instead of intrigued. We're told Shushan ignores the two women, but she responds to them immediately. The dialogue seems a little forced. It also seems too casual for a world on the brink of collapse. My suggestion would be for Shushan to ignore the women, focus on her goal, and get us involved by taking the first step toward that goal.

  4. I have to agree with the above comments. This opening does not hook me at all. Why do we need to know, right now, her age (either in Earth years or otherwise). What does that contribute? If they'd commented something about her being little, maybe then I could see the need for "she wasn't some little girl..."

    It might be nice if we got a quick explanation about why she had to climb the generator, but it probably gets worked in shortly. But as this stands, I wouldn't read forward.

  5. I think you need a stronger opening. The dialogue does sound a little stilted. I liked the last sentence although you could cut everything after "and demanded" and still have the sentence mean the same thing.

  6. i don't know if it's just that SF isn't my genre, but i was a little confused. i think it's because there is a lot of stuff going on here, or it seems that way. and some of her actions come off as contradictory to the impending doom theme we're to believe.

    the dialogue didn't seem very natural to me. a little forced or too formal, and some of it as you know bob...

  7. I agree with the comments about dialogue. I think maybe you should start the scene with her already on the generator and watching for the ship. If the dialogue represents your world, then save it for after your readers are more adjusted to that world in the first place, and not so used to ours.

    When it comes to world-building, I think you want to do it slow and steady. Too much overwhelms your reader.

    I also think you could be more specific about "the collapse." It wouldn't be so bad to say "the collapse of THE ECOSYSTEM" or "the collapse of THE GOVERNMENT." Something so that your readers have a stronger idea of what the stakes are.

    Also, what is "stiflingly normal"? I don't get it, I don't understand how it relates to years, and someone who's fourteen is still damn young.

    However, I do like some of your turns-of-phrase, especially "just as her own body had practically burst out..." that line. However, denim jackets make me think of old 80s clothes. Just saying.

  8. Try opening the passage with the dialogue, then following with the description of Shushan ignoring it. Or opening with something else...

    The problem is that the dialogue contradicts the character's actions, because she responds to the line in the very next sentence.

    Shushan’s speech about this being the last day before all the banks collapse is confusing, and reads more like you're trying to sneak in exposition than the character conversing.

    Also, I am not certain what you mean by Shushan not being a little girl, and being fourteen in “Earth years” but a different age in the world she has grown up in. If they are not on Earth, it would help to show how this world is different, instead of just saying it is.

    I would stop reading here.

  9. "Grown women" in the first paragraph looks odd - if they are women, they are obviously grown up, unless this is related to the hint that things aren't quite as they seem with the reference to Shushan's age.

    I don't normally read S/F but this interested me. I do think the working needs a little more work though.

  10. I would open with the "Hey girl..." line. It's a much more interesting hook than a character ignoring someone.

    What do you mean by "stiflingly normal years"? Are they longer than Earth years, or shorter? Why are they stifling?

    And why is she climbing a ladder on an emergency generator when the banks are about to collapse? Emergency generator suggests power loss after a major calamity, and then we learn it's the collapse of banks, and they haven't actually collapsed yet. Apparently, that's tomorrow, and for some reason, they know it's going to be tomorrow. This confused me. Even more confusing, the ship in orbit is going to stop the collapse that hasn't happened yet but is going to.

    I'm presented with a great deal of information, and no clear understanding of Shushan's motivation in climbing the ladder or where she is, for that matter.

    The last paragraph strikes me as something that belongs in the query letter, not the novel itself. The vocabulary strikes me as too polished for a 14 year old, and it's telling us about her motivations rather than showing us. If she has an urge to climb higher, to ride rougher roads, open with her in a boring, dead end job. Show us the dull place she's starting from, show us her need for excitement and adventure.

  11. The tone of this doesn't match what you say is going on. The MC is very irreverent if life as she knows it is about to be destroyed. The dialogue doesn't ring as true to me. I didn't understand the line about "stiflingly normal years".

    I would begin the novel in a different place, maybe give us a better sense of the world where she lives and how it is similar to or different from our own.

  12. I didn't have any strong feelings about this, one way of the other. Whether I read on would depend on what kind of mood I was in and what else I had to do.

    While I had some interest in this world she's on (mostly, how do they know the bank will collapse tomorrow--unless it will actually collapse, as in, cave in.) But on the other hand, there's nothing personal here. How does all this pertain to Shushan? How will it affect her? Slipping that in somehow could make a big difference, I think. Then we have a reason to follow Shushan, to care and worry about her and want to know how her life will turn out.