Friday, November 29, 2013

(17) Science Fiction : PRIME

TITLE: Prime
GENRE: Science Fiction

When Ravin is drafted for full-body recycling she must partner with the man responsible for her capture if she hopes to escape before her body is sold at auction.

Before the sun came up, my brother, Sam, traded two fingers on his left hand for food. Food they said I stole.

“Why would I steal anything Sam bought with his own flesh?” I asked through clenched teeth.

“I don’t know, Ravin.” Ashley said. He tugged on his beard as he paced between me and the rest of the clan who gathered outside for my impromptu trial. “I don’t claim to understand your criminal ways.”

I shook my head. None of this made sense. Sure, I’d broken a few rules in the past. And yes, everyone blamed me for my mother’s death, but stealing food? That’s ridiculous.
I looked to my father. As the leader of the Dayton clan he could end this.

“The punishment for stealing food is exile.” My father said, a deep crease between his eyebrows.

 “But I would never.” Didn’t they know that?  I smoothed my hands over my hair until it was gathered behind my ears.

Sam’s sacrifice was huge but it wasn’t rare. After the Biological Trading Act passed in 2255, people with missing limbs, or different color limbs, were normal. Fashionable, even. 

Members of the Dayton clan were encouraged to Trade fingers on their non-dominant hand for the good of the group. But I haven’t. I’m all-original which placed me deep in the heart of freak territory.

Freak, yes. Thief, no. I balled my ten fingers into two fists. “What proof do you have?"


  1. I liked how you open with immediate conflict. The writing is clean and you provide some nice worldbuilding details without being infodumpy.

    My questions stem primarily from Ravin and the way everyone reacts to her. I assume that information is coming, but I guess I'm having trouble interpreting some of the reactions here, the way the clan operates etc.

    "I don't understand your criminal ways" feels a bit off--Ravin should have a stronger reaction to being accused, or the clan should have a stronger reason for wanting her out of the group, instead of such a flimsy excuse... It's hard to say with just this opening to work with.

    But you have a nice balance of worldbuilding, description, and interiority. Best of luck!

  2. I'm really intrigued by this, but also really confused. I think I can fill in some of the gaps, but also think it'd be better if I didn't have to.

    First, who's Ashley? I'd like him to have a label, since we know who everyone else is here. Is Ashley a judge? The leader of the clan?

    Do they think she stole the food from Sam? And why are they trading fingers for food? Seeing as one only has five fingers on their non-dominant hand, that doesn't seem like a good way to feed yourself even if you're part of a big group (who'd need more food), especially if today's food cost two fingers. And then the character acknowledges that they think she's responsible for her mother's death but is shocked that they'd think she stole food which is a much smaller deal (though, maybe, not in this world?)

    I think the problem I'm having with all of this is that food is something you need every day, so I'm confused about the way any of this works in relation to that (because they only have so many fingers), and because she says Sam's sacrifice was huge. It's an intriguing idea, I'm just having a heck of a time making sense of it and would like to feel more grounded by the end of the 250.

    I do love "Freak, yes. Thief, no. I balled my ten fingers into two fists."--that's such a great place to end this.

  3. I've said similar things in previous entries, and I'm not afraid to repeat myself a little: I like the mix of what I do, and don't, understand yet in this first page.

    I try to read all these entries with the knowledge that there's a whole book lurking beyond these postings and that a lot of context and explanation (especially for anything speculative, sf, or fantasy in nature) has to be worked in over time. The fact that Ravin is more appalled that her clan-mates would accuse her of stealing food than she is bearing the stigma of having "killed her mother" (the rest of the book would have to address is this was true) is a wonderful clue that the priorities of this world are not the priorities of the world as we know it.

    In an sf/f story in particular, being able to establish that fast is very important and, I think, well-done here!

    Good luck!

  4. I'm with Tracy--I'm fine with not knowing everything yet (and I assume I'd also get a bit more background in the space of the back cover blurb).

    Leading with my nits--dialogue statements (vs. questions or exclamations) should end with a comma if the whole sentence finishes with a dialogue tag. Thus it should be: "'I don't know, Ravin,' Ashley said." Also: "'The punishment for stealing food is exile,' my father said" (and note the lowercasing of "my").

    But I LOVE your opening line--it sets up the immediate story question of what world we're in, that someone could trade fingers for food. And I also love the "Freak, yes. Thief, no" lines. Fabulous use of fragments. Ravin also has a bit of snark to her that I'd like to see more of in SF. I'd read on.

    Good luck!

  5. Wow. Yes, I'm with Tracy and Amanda - I'm intrigued and horrified by the clues you drop here. A world where you trade body parts (permanent and possible irreplaceable, since you don't mention replacements?) for an everyday need that has to be replenished? A world where stealing food is worse than killing your mother? I'm not upset by these; I' trusting you're showing me a new world, and I'm definitely being drawn into it right away.

    I would like to know about the setting right away, though - where are we? Outside what? I need a little sense of the place. Not a massive description, but a couple of words to give me a sense before you do describe it. Jungle, desert, city, underground, etc.

    Also, watch out for punctuation - "“The punishment for stealing food is exile.” My father said, " should read "“The punishment for stealing food is exile,” my father said.

    Finally, good clean brief logline (impressive), and I agree with another commenter - the line "I don't know, Ravin. I don’t claim to understand your criminal ways" rings a little hollow, or false. It feels like a strange word choice when the rest of the tone is so clear.

    I'd defnitely keep reading. I love, love, LOVE "Freak, yes. Thief, no. I balled my ten fingers into two fists." Fan-freaking-tastic. Great use of language, great image, great way to bring us more into the world, and great rhythm.

  6. Interesting premise! I think it would be better to see more complexity in Ravin, she is snarky and angry, yes, but wouldn't she also be a bit afraid or something? Other than that, thought it was good.

  7. Nice first page, and I like the premise.

    I don't really have much to say except I'm a little concerned about the placement. It seems like YA. I know you haven't told us yet what age people are, but Ravin's voice strikes me as a teenager.

    You can have teenagers as the protagonists of adult books, but this one really has the YA voice.

    Still, I really like it and love the premise. Good luck!

  8. I like the logline, cool premise and I want to find out more about how body drafting works.

    Dayton seems pretty ordinary, makes me think of Dayton Ohio. If that's where we actually are, then no problem, just might want to consider whether you want readers to make this association. Maybe it's what you're after.

    I would leave it at "Biological Trading Act" and leave of the date, which seems like info dumping to me. The date can come in later.

    You could change the end to "I balled all ten of my original fingers into fists". I like that.

    I'd read on. I want to find out why when Sam traded his finger for food for the good of the group, they want to say that the MC stole that food.

  9. The concept here is really intriguing and the first line is great--it's very chilling, and definitely gets the reader's attention!

    I would agree with Rena, however, that the voice sounds YA more than adult. I also find the writing rather sparse--for example, there's almost no description--although that's partly a matter of taste. But I do think this would be stronger if we had a better sense of the setting.

    There are several grammar and punctuation issues here. As Liz pointed out, when you have a speech tag such as 'Ashley said' or 'my father said,' there needs to be a comma rather than a period at the end of the dialogue (and the 'My' in 'my father' shouldn't be capitalized).

    When you say 'rest of the clan who gathered outside', I believe you either need to drop the 'who' or it needs to be 'who were' or 'who had'. And in the sentence beginning 'I'm all-original,' there's a missing comma, and it should probably be 'which places', because 'I am' is present tense. (Or else you could say, 'I was all-original, which placed me...')

    I think Tracy makes an excellent point that we have to remember that this is just the beginning of a whole book that will explain the questions that are raised; there should be plenty that we don't understand yet, because that's why we read--to find out. And 250 words isn't that many. We can't expect to have a lot explained, and it shouldn't be explained yet--the opening should make the reader wonder about everything and consequently want to read on.

    And although the style of this excerpt isn't really my cup of tea, because the concept is so strong and memorable I would read more to find out about Ravin and this disturbing future world.

  10. Mostly I'm just commenting.

    I like the premise. I'd keep reading. Love the 'fashionable' bit.

    Curious why you start with 'Before the sun came up' It seems like an odd reference when there's no concept of time yet.

    And you do need more setting. I have no idea if we're around a fire, in a hut or in a techno-dump.

  11. I'm in favor of a premise about a world in which people sell off body parts and it makes them fashionable. That is daring and original.

    I agree with the reviewer who said the voice sounds YA.

    My only other point is I was confused by her brother selling fingers for food that she stole. Does that mean that he got the food and then she stole it from him? If so, that seems to be more horrendous than stealing food in general, and I would think that the conversation would quickly focus on that.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  12. Nice, tight logline, and the premise definitely has my attention. Great opening line too (although I might drop the actual name "Sam" to streamline things; I would argue that "my brother" gives us everything we need to know to start with).

    I really, really like the content of this entry, all the things it hints at, and the promise of an engaging story to come. My main crit would be to point out that a lot of characters and concepts are thrown at the reader here in only 250 words (e.g., Ravin, Sam, Ashley, the father, Dayton clan, BTA, etc). So my main crit would be to say I think there's room to draw things out a bit more. There are so many fantastic concepts in here, they should each be given they're due. Right now they flash at the reader so quickly it's hard to take them all in and actually appreciate them.

    But yeah, very cool story with lots of potential. I'd be very interested to see more.

    Best of luck with it!

  13. I love the logline. Engaging and concise. It definitely peaked my interest.

    I think with the first 250 I'd slow down a little, really show the scene. Also, there is a little too much back story (and telling) considering it's just the first page.

    Good luck! :)

  14. You have a very nice, succinct logline. It's a very intriguing premise.

    I like that we jump right into the action of the story. The voice comes through very strongly. However, I think more explanation regarding the stolen food/sold body parts needed to be given. More of her perception on this so we can understand the significance. Did her brother do this for her? The narrative seems to lessen the emotional impact of his actions. More, I think her relationship with her father could be given a bit more flavoring. Does she feel betrayed by him? Or would she expect him to think the worst of her?

    Overall, I was left wanting to read more! Good luck!