Friday, November 29, 2013

(27) YA Science Fiction: RED DIRT WHITE NOISE

TITLE: Red Dirt White Noise
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

When her only friend is kidnapped by pirates, Nadira Kordell won’t let her partial deafness, her parents, or pretty boy Dax stop her from journeying across the wilds of Mars to find a way to save her friend—uncovering a secret that threatens the newly terraformed planet in the process.

Remembering how to breathe is harder than it sounds.

Without the respirator tube, too many seconds tick past by the time my brain tells my body what it needs to do. Lungs sputtering, I pull air in, let it out, and swallow around the pain.

I cough and pray my heart won’t rocket out of my chest until enough oxygen kicks in, and my body slowly comes back under my control. Took long enough. I can still feel echoes of the tube where it was wrenched out of me. Like throwing up a hard, thick straw, leaving my throat bruised but intact.

But I’m here—breathing—and too soon, I wish I wasn’t.

I try to sit, but my arms aren’t quite ready to listen. I flop back against the hospital bed. Everything grates. Every breath. Every movement.

My eyes water as I blink back the harsh light of the examination room. Antiseptic dulls my nose. The crease of my arm where my port was aches even though the skin’s now healed over. My jumpsuit—brand new when we left Earth—has that itchy, worn-too-long feeling. I need a bath. And a one-way ticket back home.

The med tech hums as she checks my vitals. Hands brisk and impersonal like those of some manufacturing line inspector. She checks off boxes with her stylus, then signs the bottom of her touch screen with a well-practiced flourish.

She looks up and smiles. “Welcome to Mars...” She glances at the screen “…Nadira Kordell.”


  1. I don't normally read much sci-if but this grabbed me. I like how you started off describing breathing and pain and the smell of antiseptic (things we can all relate to) instead of the alien planet or spaceship etc like a lot of sci-if does. It made it much more accessible, and I definitely want to read more. Great job!

  2. I liked the logline, but the opening line (and following paragraph) really pulled me in. I feel strongly in this character's POV, and I've learned a lot in a short space (she's just come out of some sort of hyper-sleep, she's on Mars, she doesn't want to be there, it's cold and inhospitable) and yet never felt bogged down by details.

    The only small item I tripped on was my brain kept adding "up" to "I try to sit" because it hasn't stated explicitly what position she's in. I assume lying down, but my brain wouldn't agree to that :-) (I think because to me "sit" without a qualifier implies "sit down"). But that's being extremely picky.

    Anyway, I found this to be a captivating opening. Best of luck with it!

  3. Although the logline would definitely make me read more, the last part about the secret felt a little vague and tacked on at the end. I get that it raises the stakes, but for a logline I don't think it's necessary (it'd work well for a query pitch, I think). Might be better to hint at what will happen to her friend in the custody of the pirates - will she be a slave? That will show more of the stakes.

    Also, I'd replace the phrase "a way to save her friend" with "save her." We know the subject is her friend and "a way to save" is just clutter, so I think that change will tighten the logline.

    Love the first 250. I'm definitely along for the ride. Good luck with this!

  4. Hi, there!

    I love the last line of this entry. "Welcome to Mars"--just a simple, cool twist. But I think you could add "space" to the first sentence and it wouldn't lose the punch of that last line. "Remembering how to breath is harder than it sounds, especially in space." Or something similar. It takes that first sentence from kinda interesting, to intriguing.

    Overall, I don't think you need to completely bury the outer-space lede. It will help your reader understand lines like "But I'm here breathing and too soon, I wish I wasn't" and "And a one-way ticket back home."

    Since this is YA, I'd also be on the lookout for when space vocab slips in. Phrases like "my heart won't rocket out of my chest" is just a little too punny.

    Great work though! Thanks for letting me read.

    Okay let me take a break to breathe--

    That is all.

    And then I'm drawn in right away by the first two sentences.

    And I'm staying drawn in. I'm really curious about this port thing in her arm, but I like that you're not uselessly expositing it for me. Thanks for believing in your writing enough to know I'll stick around and find out what it is--for not forcing your character to think and say things she wouldn't say just to explain something to your eavesdropping-on-her-thoughts reader. Thank-you for letting us read this! I'll be seeing you on the bookshelves in a year or two, I'm sure.

    *bows to sensei*

  6. (Please don't change anything, imho)

  7. I'm not usually a big fan of sci-fi but this caught my attention and I definitely want to know more! I like the voice and that we're thrust right into the action. Good luck!

  8. I think I saw an earlier version of your logline somewhere--LOVE this version! Nice job!

    My ONLY crit is that I think "Took long enough" ought to change to "Takes long enough" because we're in the present tense. But yeah, "Takes long enough" is somewhat awkward. You could probably cut entirely and be fine.

    Best of luck! I'd love to read more of this.

  9. Love your logline and this is a great opening, lots of sensory details that really "put" me there with her, and her wish for a one way ticket home: great voice "Welcome to Mars" - perfect set up!

    I think you could trim just a little, seemed just a touch wordy. But then again I tried to find something to cut, and I had a tough time picking anything because all the details were so good. Maybe you could save some for later though.

  10. Great title and logline! And excellent first page. Well-written and instantly hooky. Only thing I'd suggest is editing out the first couple of sentences of the third para, I don't think you need them and it'd read a bit smoother without them.

    Well done and good luck!

  11. I like it, just the med tech seems to come out of nowhere. What is the tech doing during this whole time the MC is struggling to breathe and struggling to sit up? Just taking vital signs? Wouldn't she be saying "sit down, take it easy" or something? They seem to completely ignore each other's existence until the welcome to Mars line, so while a great line it seems sort of false like it should come more at the beginning but is instead left to the end for dramatic effect.
    Entry was good though.

  12. I would have liked a sense of place. In my mind, I had pictured her shuffling across a hostile planet maybe after a crash landing and then I found out she's in a hospital bed, which was a bit disappointing. It would have been nice to know that from the start.

    In parg 4 she wishes she was dead, but we have no indication why, and after making the statement, she doesn't do or say anything to make me believe it's true.

    I try to sit, but my arms aren't quite ready to listen. -- Why would she need her arms to sit?

    For me, this really starts in parg 6. You give us place, problem, as well as what she wants, all in that parg.

    Good luck!

  13. The logline itself didn't really grab me, to be honest - the "trek across an unforgiving landscape to save a friend/sibling/significant other" isn't my favorite plot, and this one in particular reminds me a lot of Blood Red Road by Moira Young.

    BUT, I felt every single thing Nadira felt in this opening. The details were so evocative and alive, I would keep reading just for that, to see if the plot thickened any more. And of course, a terraformed Mars is a pretty cool setting.

    I just wish we had a bit more of a hint as to what the secret is, because right now it's so vague as to be forgettable. But you have a lot going for you here - an interesting MC, pirates on Mars (!!), and great writing.

    Best of luck!!

  14. Can I bit 5 pages please!

  15. I'll bid 25!

  16. I love your first line, and would beg you not to add anything to it. It's the second line where you might want to start reconsidering things. It's a very complicated structure in that second line, and it's wordy (and not in a good way) with words that don't necessarily flow together. When I read this again without that second line it flowed better for me:

    Remembering how to breathe is harder than it sounds.

    I pull air in, let it out, and swallow around the pain (here's where you can introduce the med tech simply by adding 'as the med tech pulls the respirator tube')

    I'd also vote to lose the 'rocket' pun but not so much as because it's a pun but because it's a cliche.

    'took long enough. really shouldn't be there at all in my opinion.

    After that, the appearance of the tech isn't as much of a shock since you've already introduced her, and then everything else works perfectly. I loved this, best of luck!