Friday, November 29, 2013

(36) YA Light Science Fiction: STREAMWALKERS

GENRE: YA Light Science Fiction

In an overly extroverted, gene-selected future where each person's Worth™ as a human being is measured, ranked, and bodily displayed, introverted teenager Wren is a Worthless recluse. When forced to choose between protecting her father and having her guarded personality forcibly exposed, Wren pursues another option: winning a team adventure race through the hostile wilderness.

If Wren’s ability to dream had not been blotted out by Surf, the black market drug some introverts used to seem more friendly and likeable, she was sure she would have dreamed of some place quiet: where water was clean and plentiful, where the breeze rolled gently through fields of soft flowers and bare toes, where there was no high school, and where all the people were dead. Not the rotting, putrefying, reclaimed-by-microorganisms dead, but the kind where they just disappeared—poof!—without a trace, leaving her free to think and investigate her story device in solitude. Okay, Wren didn’t wish her dad dead. But in her dream he would be self-sufficient . . . in his own hut a few miles away. And he could visit . . . occasionally. She wallowed in the idea, blowing off the social convention against spending too much time inside one’s own head.

Wren checked the digital readout on her chest to see if her Worth™ had changed overnight. It was stuck at 10. She tapped it just to be sure, but it remained steady. Typical, she thought.

Put simply, Worth™ was a scientific measurement of a person’s value as a human being, displayed on a scale of 0 to 100. It was all about using your outgoing personality to “put yourself out there.” Worth™ was generated by the positive buzz surrounding your KamaStream presence; by how many zealots you had, and especially by how much influence you had on their shopping habits. Buying stuff because of you created economic ripples and increased your social authority. It might even earn you corporate sponsorship.


  1. Love your concept. The idea of one's "Worth" being calculated and displayed for all to see is really fascinating.

    I think at the end of the first paragraph, I would choose a different word than "wallowed" in the idea. Wallowed has a negative connotation, and I was under the impression she wanted to be alone and enjoyed it. Maybe something like "basked" in the idea. Or "reveled" in it.

    Really good job!

  2. I like the concept presented in the logline. Lots of interesting possibilities and also very timely.

    I did however, have a bit of trouble getting through the opening paragraph. I think in part it was due to the fact that the first sentence crams in so much, including an aside describing the drug. It took me a couple of reads t make sure I had it all. Of course, it could just be an instance where this particular writing style didn't quite spark with me personally.

    My other point would be that there seems to be a discrepancy between how is Worth is measured in the logline (to me it strongly implies that rank is based on genetics) and the entry itself (which seems to base it more on social influence).

    Having said that, I do find the idea of a person's life being officially "ranked" intriguing. It's a fitting extrapolation from the present day, and so to me the concept holds a lot of promise. And the adventure race in hostile territory is definitely an attention grabber as well, especially with a character who is the clear underdog, as here. So I'm intrigued enough to keep reading for at least a few more pages to see what transpires.

    Best of luck with it!

  3. I really like the ideas here, as others have said, but in your opening, I feel like your ideas (and their explanation) overwhelm the actual story. So I'd personally like a little less of an info-dumpy intro. Your idea of Worth reminds me of the "bad sammies" in MJ Locke's Up Against It, which might be something you'd want to look at. I am curious about Wren's relationship with her dad because of the clues you present here. Best of luck with this!

  4. What a fantastic logline. It must have taken tons of work to get the world so tightly described like that, and I applaud you!

    But oh gosh my dear your first sentence is just so long! And it's not that longness is intrinsically bad. It's that you're introducing at least four new concepts in one sentence without really giving us a breath. Wren herself, the drug Surf, the problem with introverts, the dream itself--oh my goodness slow down here! Also, I don't really get a sense of her voice the way I do later in your segment. Also, why are you passive voicing already in the first paragraph? "had not been blotted..."

    To tell you the truth, if you can try to eliminate the verb "to be" from this whole segment, you'll powerhouse the entire opening. You'll eliminate the passivity, you'll cut words so you can fit more information without melting my brain, and you'll replace wordage with strong verbs that yank us into what's happening. "If Surf hadn't blotted out Wren's dreams..." "Worth calculated your value as a human being based on..." "You could generate Worth..." Whatever you decide to do, do give "to be" elimination a try. While it's not a 100 percent fool-proof technique, it's really, really helpful, and pretty much everything that confused or meh'd me about this passage will disappear with a little "to be" genocide.

    o_O Bet no one ever said it like that before.

    I really love your concept. It's just that a few sentences really feel a little clinical and pedantic (especially the last sentence of the first paragraph), and maybe it would help to read it aloud to yourself to hear where you're smushing Wren's voice under a muffling wordage pillow. We really need this kind of story published, so I really, really hope you succeed--please do that, whether or not my little tips help. Get this story out there! We need it!

  5. LOVE this idea. A new way to broach a dystopian society, and I think the TM after Worth is really fun. I really hope this book gets chosen so I can read about this world!

    I do agree with the others that the sentences could use a little tightening up, or maybe shortening them into more sentences, rather than so many long ones. It would make for easier reading, I think.

    Great, fun idea. Best of luck!

  6. This is an awesome premise! I also love the idea of Worth being measured, and I think you've got a fantastic world here I'd love to explore.

    I think your strongest bit of this opening, though, is buried in the middle. The paragraph with, "Wren checked the digital readout on her chest to see if her Worth had changed..." I'd almost suggest starting there, as the first and third paragraph are a lot of telling.

    I totally understand - I began with too much telling (and have since changed this completely!) because contests often make me feel the need to explain everything immediately. But I think your idea is SO strong, you don't need to do that here.

    I think the TM is a great idea, but I kind of wonder if it might get old to see that after every time it's mentioned? Maybe just the first time? Or maybe it's just me. :) Either way, I love this premise and wish you the best of luck!!

  7. Wow, this is a really interesting premise and world you've dreamed up. The last para is fascinating. The writing is fine too. My problem is that your first page is a big old infodump. I do think we need to understand what Worth is and how your world works, but you need to do it in a more active or subtle manner, rather than just summarising it all clunkily for us. Perhaps, for example, you could tell us the info in the last para (woven more into an active scene) but the stuff about Surf and dreams could come later? We don't need to know *everything* all at once - it's an awful lot to take in.

    If you could do that, I'd definitely want to read on.

    Good luck!

  8. That last paragraph really stopped the flow. That is the author stepping in to explain the premise and it is so out of place!

    Also did not care for the "through fields of soft flowers and bare toes" sorry that leaves a gruesome image in my head.

    However, as an introvert, where can I purchase some Surf?

  9. I love the premise behind your story, particularly given the current value placed on extroversion.

    I had a bit of trouble getting into this. I'd love to see you start with something punchy to draw the reader into Wren's world. Perhaps start with what she would have dreamed, if she hadn't taken Surf. But don't tell us what Surf is--not yet. That's the kind of thing that could be explained more organically when Wren needs to get more of it. Or when she's busted for having it. Or ... however your story plays out.

    In general, there's a lot going on in this first 250, and I think perhaps you're trying a bit too hard to make sure the reader understands the world you've created (which sounds fabulous, btw, don't get me wrong). Rather than explaining about Surf and Worth and the readout right at the get-go, reveal these things gradually over the course of the early chapters. Mention them with just enough context to draw attention to these unusual components of this world, and you'll pique the reader's interest, drawing him or her deeper into the story.

    I have to say the TM confused me. I wasn't sure if this was an actual registered trademark, or simply something that's trademarked in your story. I would think that Worth (capitalized) would be sufficient, without the TM.

    But as I said, terrific premise. Sounds like a story I'd love to read.

  10. Hey, there!

    I'm here to echo a lot of what has already been said. This is a fantastic and intriguing premise for a story--measuring one's worth based on how extroverted or introverted someone is. I'd be interested to know why the higher value has been applied to extroverts specifically, and does that mean that no introvert will ever have a chance of getting close to 100? If so, why?

    I also had trouble figuring out what exactly counts toward someone's worth. Is it genetics like it's implied in your logline, or is it society and politics too? All of the above?

    Above, Petre Pan made an excellent point about losing the passive voice and cutting out the "to be" verbs. I agree. I also had trouble getting into this because the first sentence is just so long. Plus, the dream scenario just comes off as cliche. I'm not a huge fan of dream openings in general, but a hypothetical dream is even more distancing to me.

    This idea has me super interested though because I keep thinking of new questions to ask about this future world. What happens to people who have low worth scores? Do they just become recluses like Wren? I imagine there'd be quite a few people who were in the same boat, so wouldn't they form their own communities? Or does something else happen to them? Would there be a revolt?

    All of that is to say, super interesting premise. If you keep tightening and polishing the writing, you could have a fascinating story here. Great work! Keep writing, and good luck!

  11. I have to agree with everyone else. I'm really intrigued by the premise, but the writing, for me, didn't quite live up to it.

    I wish the opening wasn't so much of an info dump. I obviously want, and need that information, to understand their society. I just think it needs to be delivered more delicately and throughout a few pages or chapters, as opposed to all in the first page.

    Good luck!

  12. The TM after "Worth" made me laugh out loud. I love your concept, and I can see this being a dystopian satire, somewhat like MT Anderson's FEED. (The thing about satire is that it looks light on the surface while actually delving into some pretty deep issues.)

    And like pretty much everyone elese, I loved your logline, but regarding your 250, there's too much explanation in the first and third paragraphs. The description of Surf is very tell-y, especially for a first line, but it was the last paragraph that really threw me out of the story. Wren has no reason to be thinking so extensively about what Worth is at this point. I think you can trust your reader to pick things up as he/she reads along, and instead focus your 250 on getting some conflict established.

    Good luck!

  13. First things first, I thought the log line was a bit long. It's great! But it seems more like details from a query letter than an 'elevator pitch'. Could it be reduced to a punchier log line?

    I absolutely love this idea. The concept is very cool and I'd read more.

    Here's my main crit: The MC isn't really doing anything in the first 250 words. There's no showing, just telling. It's beautiful and conceptual but there is little action. Could the MC be doing something/observing something that spawns these thoughts? Just an idea.

    Again, love the concept. Good luck!!

  14. I'm going to agree with most of the commenters that you need to drastically shorten your sentences, tightening up word choice as you go. But I'm going to add a couple of other things:

    First off, Is her Worth score imprinted on her clothing? Otherwise, you say that the Worth score is (and I quote) "bodily displayed." I took that to mean that EVERYONE can see everyone else's Worth score. I was thinking it was going to show up on a cheek or forearm or something. But you've placed it on her chest. If you think 'hey, my eyes are up here' is bad now, you've seemingly created a dystopia where everyone walks around topless. Now, admittedly, that's me assuming a couple of things and, as everyone knows, I could easily be wrong and be mis-reading this. But it really threw me out of the story.

    There are, indeed, info-dumps and there are've put far too much serious information into a very short amount of space and it's overwhelming. And, to be honest, this is such an interesting concept with such a strong new world to explore, that I'd like to take more time exploring it, learning about it. Don't take that away from the reader by trying to cover everything so quickly.

    Great idea for a seriously wonderful story, keep at it!