Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May Secret Agent #23

TITLE: GHOST IN THE MACHINE
GENRE: Steampunk meets Cyberpunk Fantasy


Minnow chose the table for its view. She watched everyone, trying to find him. The color was fading from the late autumn streets yet the working drones and mindless shoppers still rushed back and forth. Dashing and blurring by, their movements could be broken down into a simple series of form, color, and data. Minnow rested her head against the window and stretched out her arms across the yellow speckled Formica table. The table's surface warped and curved underneath her pale skin; its edges cracked and peeled under her fingers. Running her hands across the warped bumps of the table, she inadvertently knocked over the salt. Its silver cap, dented and clogged, held back any spill. She felt like the salt, knocked on her side and broken.

"What's up today, chickadee? What can I get ya?" asked Dot, her usual waitress. Dot's eyes, bloodshot and a muddy blue, looked out of the window as she spoke to Minnow. "Wake up little girl. Ya can't sleep here. But I'll grab ya some coffee. Set you right up." She winked and rubbed her nose with her stylus.

"Any cherry pie today?" Minnow asked. "I'll check." Dot tapped her stylus on her menu pad. "You're in luck. Two slices left." She slung a brightly bleached coffee mug on the table towards Minnow, startling her. Minnow steadied its spin. The outside of the mug shined a gleaming white while the inside was stained with minuscule blackened cracks that snaked along its sides.

13 comments:

Donea Lee said...

I think you've got a lot of lovely description here: stained with miniscule blackened cracks, bloodshot and muddy blue, the part abou the salt.

However, I think you may have too much scene-building up front. You went on for a while about the yellow formica table, and while deftly described, why do I care about some innocuous table?

I would have preferred to see a bit more of your MCs voice and maybe a hint of something interesting to come, which I think you can do if trim some of the detail and add it in. Not sure I'd read on as is, but thanks for sharing!

YA writer said...

I loved the opening, but too much description of the table. I wanted to say, "Let's get on with the action."

Don't think dented = broken, so choose another analogy.

Ya appears three times when the waitress speaks, and each time I find it jarring. Maybe stick to plain English?

You have a great talent for description, though and with a little tweaking, this could be grand.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I think this is great. I love the description and I'd keep reading. The only comment I'd make as far as possible edits go: the second sentence tells us too much without showing. I think it's the "working drones and mindless shoppers." Since I don't know anything about this world, I'm taking those words very literally and, since it's not specific, I can't see it. The next sentence helps a bit, but I don't like "Dashing and blurring by" -- I felt that phrase was too distracting. Besides that, I loved this. Great job!

Best of luck!
Amy

RLG said...

I like the description, except I'd condense the first paragraph some, remove some of the details about things that just sit, so you can move on to the action and the character. You want enough description to put the reader there, but you don't want it to stop the story. Your details are good ones, specific and vivid; it's just a matter of weeding a bit so that your story can shine through.

Barbara said...

You start with Minnow selecting the table for its view, so she can find him. So right away, we have a mystery. WHo is he and why does she need to find him? It pulled me in.

Then she sees the shoppers and drones and trees, so she's obvviously looking for him, and we get a bit of scene setting, too. Nice.

Then she leans against the window, so she is no longer looking out it, and stretche her arms across the table, and the table suddenly becomes important. We get a long description of it, and her interest in the missing *he* is gone. She's no longer looking for him.

This was where you lost me. I still want to know who 'he' is, and he's totaly gone from the story. Instead, I'm learning about the table and the salt shaker and the waitress' stylus and cherry pie.

Perhaps add some thoughts of 'him' throughtout those sections so we don't lose sight of what she came there to do. This missing 'he' has to be more relevant to the plot that the stains in the coffee cup.

Sara J. Henry said...

I think there's a good story here, but it's buried in adjectives and hampered by the lack of paragraph breaks toward the end when the speaker changes.

Adam Heine said...

I like the description, but I think it's too much. Even repetitive at times. I agree with Barbara that the piece starts with this great mystery then drops it.

Also, the knocking over of the salt shaker felt forced to me, like she just knocked it down so she could make the comparison to her life. It might be better if the salt shaker is already fallen over and she just notices it as part of the description.

Laura said...

I can tell by your prose that you're very talented. I'm afraid the story didn't move quicky enough for me. Having a character feeling sorry for herself and over-describing the setting just don't create the atmosphere or tension needed to pull in a reader. Perhaps you aren't starting the novel in the right place--at the moment when Minnow realizes her whole life has changed.

Escape Artist said...

It's beautiful. Okay sure, I need a bit more, but it's beautiful just the same.
Lose the 'ya' - too many and if you want to put one in, what about
'whatchya want'....that's probably all you need.
And cherry pie! You're killing me. It's all meat and more meat over here, and boy do I ever miss a good cherry pie or any kind of fruit pie. Sorry lovely Australians, but you're missing out on so much by just tossing in mince!
Well done and good luck!

Sarah Erber said...

Beautiful descriptions and flow of writting. I love the title as well, it really caught my eye.

There was a single mistake I found, which was probably formating error. "Any cherry pie today?" Minnow asked. (Start a new paragraph with, "I'll check").

Terrific job!

spiral said...

Slightly intrigued. I agree with the others in that the description of the table is too much - and again with the coffee mug. Use your words, which you have good command over, carefully and simply - it'll have more impact. (i.e. Dashing and blurring by, their movements could be broken down into a simple series of form, color, and data. (GET RID OF THIS ENTIRELY - YOU'VE ALREADY SHOWN US THE PEOPLE OUTSIDE) andtry something like: "Minnow rested her head against the window and stretched out her arms across table. Running her pale fingers across the warped bumps of it, she knocked over the salt. Its silver cap, dented and clogged, held back any spill. She felt like the salt - knocked over and broken.") Now you can work a bit more of Minnow's voice/emotion/personality into the opening. Best of luck!

sandycarl said...

You pulled me right in with the mystery of wondering who "he" is. Keep your relationships strong and the reader interested -- Minnow's relationship to "him" (with a bit more Dot's mind-set about this, like is he to be loved or feared?), Minnow's relationship with Dot (I couldn't tell if she were human or not, and since she has a name, I'm assuming she is a major character), and her relationship with the salt shaker. (lol. Nice metaphore.)

Secret Agent said...

What I liked: Nice descriptions, interesting world building that shines through without feeling overbearing.

What needed work: The title. I instantly thought of The Police, and looked the phrase up to see it’s also the name of a film.

I worried about Dot’s manner of speaking, which I found intrusive and distracting. It’s okay to give unique characters unique ways of speaking, but it felt like overkill here. Also, work on properly separating dialogue tags.

Would I read on based on this sample? Sure.