Friday, November 29, 2013

(5) Science Fiction: STARBREAK

TITLE: Starbreak
GENRE: Science Fiction

Stuck with a husband married to his career and a dead-end job, scientist and mother Chrissy King joins the interstellar peacekeepers after she witnesses the murder of an alien. When the killer she's chasing starts destroying stars, Chrissy must stop the murderer before he adds the sun to his collection of celestial corpses.

As a card carrying scientist, I knew things: gravity sucked, sound couldn’t travel in a vacuum, and chocolate always made me feel better. I slipped into the lab through a side door and dropped my brownie on my desk like I’d been there for the last ten minutes.

My boss, Dr. Owen, stormed through the opposite doors on a wave of floral aftershave. “Where the hell have you been, Dr. King?”

“I was getting you some—”

“Coffee?” He shot me the I-have-you-now smirk. He knew I didn’t drink coffee.

“Walnut covered brownies.” I finished the sentence without any hesitation. Sure I’d be out breakfast, but post docs didn’t really have job security. Time for bribes. I pulled the brownie out of the bag like a model on the home shopping network. He narrowed his eyes at me. I saw his resolve slipping.

His aftershave filled the space between us, and the stink face came back. “We need to talk. Outside.” He pointed to the door I’d come through. The other lab techs had the wide-eyed look of gazelles watching a lion eat one of their own. Oh Galileo, it’s The Talk.

I opened the door, and the brisk Albuquerque air pulled at it like a grasping monster. March in the desert was like living in a sandblaster set up in the freezer. I pretended not to mind the cold. Or the sand.

“What’s going on Dr. King? You’ve been jumpier than a fox at an NRA convention.” He pushed the door shut.


  1. I actually laughed out loud in the first sentence and i was hooked right then and there. I love the MCs humor and i definitely want to know what her boss wants to talk to her about. I'd definitely keep reading.


  2. I love the brownie for breakfast part. :) The tension and setting and characters are all set up so well!

    My only quibble is it seems too mundane compared to the premise. Is there a way to throw in more foreshadowing/hints that this is scifi (I don't think her being a scientist is enough).

    Good luck!! :)

  3. I like this story set-up. I also love the humor in the opening. The voice is strong, and I feel like I'm in for an interesting time.

    The only suggestion I have is to consider switching the order of the sentences in paragraph one. I'd rather have the character in action first. Then state her philosophy. It would help explain the brownie a little better.

  4. I love the sense of humor in the narrative voice here, and in the dialogue. This is a story I can envision enjoying reading simply for its voice. Eventually, the stakes will have to be raised, as has been said above, but this early, I just want to know I'm in the hands of someone interesting. Trouble tends to follow such people about!

    Good luck!

  5. Great premise, and I love the voice! I'm not of the opinion that the inciting incident needs to happen on the first page, so I enjoy when we're slowly introduced to the character and their current situation. Otherwise it feels forced, so I think your pacing is fine.

    My only nitpick might be, how does one drop a brownie on their desk like they've been there for ten minutes? I had to re-read this to get you were implying she was late and was trying to hide it, but it tripped me up for a second.

    The dialogue feels natural and is nicely woven with the MC's internal voice and description. Really great start! Good luck!

  6. The chocolate line made me laugh, and any story that can do that in the first line has my attention.

    And then the "gazelles" line got me too. Even if for no other reason, I'm in on the basis of the narrator alone. Nice job.

    Also, the overall premise sounds like a good story.

    One nit: I'd consider dropping the "floral aftershave" reference near the beginning and save it for the "His aftershave filled the space between us" (or vice versa I suppose). Having both mentions in such a short space felt repetitious.

    Best of luck with it!

  7. I love the personality of this MC! Who can't relate to a girl and her chocolate? It's really got a great voice.

    And although this opens with a scene of regular day life, I can tell from the pitch that the stakes will be high.

    One tiny thing: It might be missing a comma before Dr. King on the last paragraph.

  8. I also did not quite get "dropped my brownie on my desk like I'd been there for the last ten minutes." That puzzled me lol.

    Also, the exchange about coffee didn't make sense to me. She says he was going to get him something, he guesses coffee, and then smirks because she doesn't drink coffee. But it doesn't matter if she doesn't drink coffee if the excuse is she was getting coffee for HIM. It only matters if HE drinks coffee. I know maybe that shouldn't bug me but it did.
    This entry was much more light and humourous than one would guess from the log line! Seems like it could be a fun story.


  9. I thought the premise, as described in the log line, works, and for me, it seems unique. The issue, for me, was clarity.

    I get what you're trying to do with the brownie, but I think it doesn't work because it's a brownie on a desk. Unless it's grown mold or something, there's no way to tell how long it's been there just by looking at it. Maybe she could take a bite or break it in two, which would give more of a sense of being there a while?

    "Where the hell have you been, Dr.King?" makes it sound like her boss is angry, but he doesn't act angry. So either make him act angry, of change the dialogue a bit so he doesn't come off as angry.

    The brownies again - she comes in and drops 'the' brownie on her desk, implying one bare brownie on the desk. Later, there are multiple brownies in a bag. Set up whatever the correct situation is from the beginning.

    I was under the assumption that she was the only one in the lab until her boss came in, then it turns out there are co-workers there. Wouldn't at least one of them have said hello when she came in, or commented on her being late? Maybe make it obvious when she comes in that there are other people there.

    Good luck!

  10. My feelings about this were similar to REG's. While the light and sassy tone overall it's something that works well here, I think it might need something weighty happening to anchor it. Right now I don't get any sense of anything meaningful in the main's life. I know that's an awful lot to ask in the first page, but without it I don't feel the human connection with her that I need to keep going.

    That being said, the writing is fluid and purposeful which makes it fun to read.

  11. I love the first sentence of the logline, but the second sentence really doesn't excite me. I love the personal element of the first sentence being about her being affected by the murder of a single alien. I'm tired of big epic plots about saving the solar system, so I think it's important that you keep the personal relationship feel of the first sentence when going to the second part about the suns. Suns can still be destroyed perhaps, but I'd be wary of it sounding like another generic save the universe plot.

    To me it's not obvious why gravity sucks to a post-doc. Is she already worried about sagging body parts?

    I like the interaction with the brownie that is interesting and builds relationship. It wasn't obvious to me who said the last line of dialogue, a simple "he said" or "she said" would help me there, as they are probably both doctors right? I like the humorous non overly sci-fi feel of the beginning. I'd at least read to find out what the conversation is!

  12. As for the last line of dialogue, I know it says "Dr. King" in it, but I have't yet learned the names, so a simple "he said" tag I think would still be in order since it's been a while since the last bit of dialogue.

  13. The log line sounds exciting, with appeal to readers of this genre.

    I am usually in favor of humor in writing, but the funny exchange between the MC and her boss doesn't seem to fit with the conflict/high stakes/violence of the log line. And there isn't anything science fiction in the story so far. Her being a scientist isn't enough. References to a fox at a NRA convention are modern, not futuristic.

    The writing is strong but I think there should be more of a hint of science fiction in the material here.

    Nancy Bilyeau

  14. I love the line 'collection of celestial corpses'. I love it so much. Like other commenters, I liked the first line and didn't quite get the brownie line. I know exactly what you're trying to say - I've been that person trying to sidle in late with no one noticing - but the line doesn't quite get there for me. Overall, though, I think the voice here is really strong.

    Like Barbara above, I did think Dr Owen's speech sounded angry but he didn't come across that way to me. It just felt a little inconsistent and - if they don't get along - I didn't get a great sense of tension from the discussion.

    Best of luck with the auction!

  15. I know I'm late to the game so I'll try not to be too redundant.

    Loved the opening line and the humor. I agree with the others that the brownie bit is a little hard to follow. Maybe it would ring more true if it was a different food item? I like the idea of eating chocolate for breakfast what if it was a legitimate breakfast food but with lots of chocolate.

    Just have to say again: I love the humor. It's not something I'm good at so I appreciate it in others. Good luck!!

  16. I think you could tighten the logline. I’m not sure what her husband’s overall role is. How will this play into the story? Is it a major element to the story? If so, how does it factor into her actions?

    You have a great sense of voice for the character, but her motivation reads a bit vague—especially through her interaction with her boss. I think you could go deeper into her narration to raise the tension between them. To bring out the significance, through her perceptions, of what’s going on. Especially in terms of bringing out more for the world and their roles within it.

    You have a really intriguing premise—good luck!