Friday, November 29, 2013

(20) Science Fiction (Literary crossover): WHITE SKY

TITLE: White Sky
GENRE: Science Fiction (Literary crossover)

Raised as an orphan in a village on a small planetary colony, Jem has never met his own people — the invaders who banished the villagers to the isolated settlement. His skill with a bow brings him confidence and pride — and more distrust from the villagers. When he’s blamed for the murder of two elders, survival may mean leaving to seek the people he knows only from tales of their arrogance and cruelty.

As far as Omalda could see, the white tundra passing beneath the cruiser stretched out ahead. Endless, silent, empty. Occasional patches of mottled brown or grayish-green made the surface appear rippled, like water. She imagined herself in the belly of an enormous seabird that searched for fish swimming beneath strange white waves. Although the speed they traveled was slow relative to what the vehicle was capable of, the surreal landscape swept rapidly below them. And yet how great a distance it would be, Omalda thought, if one were walking across it.

“Glad I’m not down there,” Aldas said, echoing her thoughts. He was looking through his binoculars; twisting in his seat to follow something in the white world beyond the curve of the window, he bumped Omalda with his elbow. “I’m sorry, did I . . .” he began, turning back to her.

She gave his arm a playful shove. “It’s all right,” she assured him. She leaned over, pulling against her harness, to look out the window on his side, her shoulder pressing against the solid muscle of his upper arm. “See anything interesting yet?”

“No . . . but I thought I saw something moving, and then I lost it.” He spoke slowly as he concentrated on moving the sight line of the binoculars across the tundra.


  1. Right now, we have a scene that appears to be two young people, shy with each other, on an observation deck over a landscape and then we find that they're looking for something specific. It may be more effective if you move the last line to the very beginning, so that tension is greater from the beginning.

  2. I included extra commas in case somebody needed some and didn't have any...

  3. I agree, I'd like to know up front that they're looking for something.

    The other thing is, the first sentence is really confusing to me. "As far as Omalda could see" can be read two different ways, and each time I read it, I read it the wrong one. (More like, "As far as Omalda could tell" than, "Stretching out to the horizon in every direction," if that makes sense.)

    I think I'd be more upfront about where they are with just a sentence or two and launch right into the dialogue so it's clear she's not alone, and then come back to the description.

  4. I thought this was an interesting opening, but not the one I was expecting given your logline, however, since neither of these characters are mentioned in it. The description of the tundra was really good, and I liked the way the two characters interacted in this short snippet. I agree that you could probably interject a bit more tension by establishing that they are looking for something/one (presumably) but I also think you get a bit more time to establish these things in Adult novels compared to YA/MG etc... Best of luck!

  5. Opening this with someone other than the protagonist seems a little odd.

    The first sentence reads awkwardly. I had to read it twice to understand it. You don't want readers to pause to understand the very first sentence. It needs some clarity. For example, 'For as far as....' makes more sense.

    Another awkward sentence is the one about the ships speed. Consider, 'Although the speed they traveled was slow relative to the vehicle's capability,...'

    I didn't get that they were looking for someone until the end. Consider moving that info up a little. For instance, instead of looking through his binoculars, he could be scanning the landscape which hints that he's looking for something.

  6. As others have mentioned, it seems odd to not begin with your protagonist, as described in your logline. I know it's just 250 words, but if I were an agent, I think I'd want to see the main character on the page in the first 5 pages or so.

    Constantine and the others have a good point about moving up the last line, so it's clearer sooner on that the characters are looking for something, and we have a bit of a story question/immediate goal.

    Good luck!

  7. I was also confused by the first page feeling so disconnected from the logline. Who are these people and why are they important to the main character? I feel like maybe they might be the invaders mentioned in the logline, but I'm not sure why we would see things from their perspective rather than the MCs.

    Lovely descriptions in the first paragraph, though!

  8. The descriptions Omalda gives sound like someone who has never been up there before, yet she seems old-hat about her actual job which is to...I don't know scout out something?

    I think the last line of dialog is strongest, without the awkward sort of flirting that happens before.

  9. I will be in the minority here and say I have no problem with starting with another character. I felt very grounded by the descriptions, and I was starting to get a sense of Omalda, enough to feel engaged overall. Heck, I'm in just for your lovely tundra.

    However, that you seem to have two POVs (perhaps more?) does make me wonder if Omalda is important enough to mention in the logline--? I do wonder about signalling multiple POVs, either in loglines or in the query. Food for thought. Good luck on Tuesday!

  10. The biggest challenge with science fiction is creating a world, and this first paragraph does that. I can picture in my mind this vast expanse.

    The two characters here don't have much personality yet, but since neither is the MC, that could be intentional.

    The only thing I don't get is why have them bumping into each other a little while looking? It doesn't seem to saying anything about character and it's not building a sexual connection. The first page is such precious real estate, not sure it is needed.

    Nancy Bilyeau


  11. I also don’t see the connection between the opening and the logline, but I really enjoy the scene that’s been set here. I am not assuming that they are looking for anything in particular, but I do understand Aldas might have spotted something. I also don’t know whether the two characters know each other well. From the scene set here, I assume they are on a journey somewhere over the tundra in some kind of large vehicle (like one of those polar bear sight-seeing vehicles). And, from the logline, I would assume Omalda is on her way to the colony—and that the story described in the logline will happen there. Already invested in the journey, I wouldn’t want to leave Omalda behind in the main character category. I like the description of mottled surface, and the enormous seabird imagining. Because I sense a bit of foreboding, if only in the scene set, I don’t see Omalda giving Aldas a playful shove. I would rather see a bit of nervousness, and playfulness does not seem to fit the scene.
    The last line of Aldas might be edited to: “I thought I saw something moving, but then I lost it.” Somehow, the ‘No’ and the ‘and’ make it feel more stilted to me.

    I really like the writing here and the pace, and would definitely read on.

  12. I enjoy sci-fi stories that integrate high tech societies with low ones. And there are some great story elements in this logline.

    Overall though, I'd have to say it doesn't quite have me yet. I don't get a clear snese of what the story is beyond Jem being accused of murder and leaving. No sense of where the story is heading.

    Also, opening with a description of the desert had me skimming for something more to latch onto: a character or some unique detail.

    I was going to mention the "opening with a different character" thing as well. I guess my thoght there was if these characters are important enough to open with, do they maybe deserve mention in the logline itself?

    So I get the sense there's a better hook to be had, both in terms of the general logline and the opening few lines. I think once you have that, this could be a real grabber.

    Best of luck with it!

  13. I assume that the opening is part of a prologue--as we're not starting from the MC's POV. The use of a prologue should generally tell us something that we can't find out through the main character and to set up the story through this information. While the prologue gives beautiful imagery, the overall purpose isn't clear. Who are these characters? What is their motivation? My suspicion would be that they are actually the MC's parents. If so, I think you want to make this clear from the start--her pregnancy, maybe? To really maintain the promise given with the logline for the world the boy grows up in and what his challenge will be. By going deeper into their emotions--what's driving them, tensions, stakes--you can bring more out for what readers can expect to come. Overall, I found myself wanting to read more. Good luck!