Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mysteries For Danielle Svetcov #8

TITLE: Lex Talionis
GENRE: Science Fiction Mystery

In a dystopian future, a young girl tries to remember her past while searching for the identity of the men who raped and murdered her. The only one that can help her is the mute alien that raised her from the dead.

Death came for Michael while he slept.

He woke, gasping and trembling, from a dream of being pushed out the airlock. His hands were on his neck, his throat sore beneath his fingers. He released stiff fingers and with the heel of his hand, wiped sweaty strands of hair off his forehead. Shifting his feet out from under him, he cursed as pain lanced up his leg.

S***. You fell asleep. You can't sleep. There's no time for sleep. How long was I out?

He started crawling toward the grill that covered the entrance to the vent, stopping once for just a second to catch his breath. Despite having dozed, he was exhausted and cold. The air in the vent left a metallic taste in his dry mouth and he couldn't seem to stop trembling. The wound in his leg, which he'd bandaged with cloth ripped from his pants, made a white-hot line down his shin.

Don't have much time. It hurts too much. If I don’t find some meds soon…

He had to figure a way out before he was incapable of going on, or lost consciousness again--maybe for good. Michael pulled himself onto his knees, inching his way toward the harsh light that fell in squares into the vent.

Then he heard it.

Faint, a mere whisper: the brief sound of air being expelled from lungs. And it came from outside, from the corridor below the vent. A freezing sweat broke out all over his body and his mouth suddenly tasted of copper.


  1. Logline: I don't understand how this future is dystopian or why you need to say this. Aside from that, is her goal really to learn their identies or does she plan to do something after she finds out that their names are Bob and Jo? If so, give us the end goal. Also, we need to know why she needs this goal (the stakes). Is she curious? Will something happen to her if she doesn't find out their identities?

    Good luck!

  2. Logline: what Holly said.

    There's some stuff going on in the excerpt that I'm not sure what to make of...

    Was he choking himself in his sleep?

    What's up with the italics? Is he talking to himself in second and in first person or is someone else talking to him telepathically?

    What's he trying to figure a way out of... the vent? Or the situation he's in?

    "air being expelled from lungs,".... so someone exhaled? Or is that only what it sounded like?

    Why does his mouth taste like copper? Did he bit his tongue?

    Personal thing I'm probably not allowed to talk about anymore since I found a place where I did it a few months ago... But I still dislike "Then he heard/saw/smelled/felt it" type of lines. I'd rather just hear/see/smell/feel whatever it is without the dramatic lead-in.

    Interesting start, though--right into some action and a pretty serious problem.

  3. Re your logline, I'm just wondering, if she can't remember her past, how does she know she was raped and murdered? And how can the alien help her? With her memories, more practical aid? I'd like to see this fleshed out a little more.

    I did like this, you got straight into the action. A few things made me stumble: Waking with his hands on his neck, wouldn't immediately make me think he was strangling himself. 'On' seems rather tame.

    Also, your last paragraph: "Faint, a mere whisper: the brief sound of air being expelled from lungs." This seems like 3 ways of saying the same thing.

    And his mouth tasting of copper is very similar to it tasting of metal in the paragraph above.

    Overall, though, I did like this.

  4. Log Line:
    The "remember her past" confused me, and "the only one that can help her" seemed a bit vague. If you want to go short and sweet, you could try something like:

    In a dystopian future, a young girl tries to discover the identity of the men who raped and murdered her--with the help of a mute alien who raises her from the dead.

    I liked the excerpt-and could totally sense Michael's tension and anxiety building.

    There are opportunities for tightening here, especially where one idea is expressed in two or three different ways -- sometimes it's best to just choose one, strong image. For example, in the final sentence, I'd either pick "a freezing sweat broke out across his body" or "his mouth suddenly tasted of copper." When you include both, they lose some impact.

    Also, you might tighten the first paragraph -- the word "his" is used eight times. Maybe delete one of those sentences?

    In the thought sequence that starts with "S***", Michael switches from second person (you) to first person (I). In the later one, he uses I. Either choice can work -- but good to be consistent.

    You have a strong dramatic opening, and even though I don't usually read science fiction, I was intrigued. Nice job with the tension!

  5. I think you're creating an intriguing visual here. The first paragraph is a great hook. I'd suggest to remove the word "stiff" from the 2nd paragraph for better flow and also replace "lanced" with "shot up." Also, in the 3rd paragraph, I'd change the third "sleep" to that because there's just too many in a row.
    But I'd definitely read on. Good luck!

  6. I'd definitely like to read more but there are easy ways to tighten up the language as others have stated.

    Started to crawl could be changed to crawled.

    His mouth suddenly tasted of copper could be he tasted copper.

    I'd also watch use of 'he'. Change up a bit for better cadence.

    Wondering also why book starts with Michael if protag is female?

  7. I'm confused from the get-go. Even the log-line is a bit tangled, which doesn't bode well for the sample. I've used the word a lot in these critiques, but again, the language is overwrought. We don't need to be told a character is trembling. We need to feel the tremblig through the scene and narrative.

  8. Thank you all for you comments! I really appreciate it :-) I know my logline is not the best--I heard about the competition a half-hour before deadline and created it while trying to post because I couldn't find the one I'd already come up with. I was at the office, you see.

    In any case, this one has a request for a revision on the full from a publisher so I'm excited. Your comments will help with that. Thanks again!

  9. Yay! Good luck with the revision!

  10. Thank you, Heather! I'm keeping my fingers crossed--when they're not on the keyboard that is lol.