Friday, November 11, 2016

On The Block #12 - SIGNAL VOID 10:50 AM EST

TITLE: Signal Void
GENRE: YA Light Science Fiction

Kate Hirst falls off Grid hours before her parents are murdered. With every citizen Bio-chipped, The EYE suspects Kate. In an attempt to prove her innocence, Kate’s thrust into a seedy world of Junkers and Tag Dealers. Ironically, her only hope lies with Defiance, the rebellious group she fears responsible.

Fifteen missed calls.

Knowing my mother she’s been glued to her bit-map since I left, only breaking to call my holophone or pee. Guilt knots in my gut. I press my foot against the accelerator and speed through the quiet intersection where the bright advertisements and holoscreens of Metro City fade behind me.

An announcement bleeds through the radio prompting citizens to get their annual Biochip scans. Brushing my fingers against the back of my neck, I push the tag beneath my skin. At any time, my parents could have tracked my location but they didn’t. An uneasy sensation swells in the pit of my stomach. Why didn’t they?

A shiny billboard catches my attention. With the upcoming 25th anniversary of The EYE my father’s face is everywhere.  His illuminated image next to his partner, Dr. Vandegard, glares back at me from beneath the caption:

America-the safest place on earth! 

Who am I kidding? I’m so busted.

If my father had shown up to drag me home tonight, the media would annihilate him.  I can see the headlines now, Co-founder of our nation’s security provider and mastermind behind Biochip technology, traces daughter Kate Hirst via his own invention to an illegal underground bar. 

I pick up my speed, relieved the Police don’t patrol this side of town at night. Wasteside seems to keep them busy enough.

Besides, nothing bad ever happens in Hampton Heights.

The holographic image of my phone-log hovers above the dash. I should call home.

Instead, I swipe Sidney’s number.


  1. I like this a lot. The writing is strong, flows well, and there's such a cool premise behind it. The tracking technology speaks to not only classic science fiction, but continuing modern-day concerns. This feels very timely.

    A few minor thoughts:

    Kate goes from knowing her mother has been tracking her . . . to wondering why her parents didn't track her . . . to knowing why they didn't track her. It's possible I misread? Or just don't understand, since I'm new to the world? But these seem like opposite things to me!

    Should the second thing be wondering why they didn't send the police after her? But that, too, seems rather easy to figure out, and not worth wondering about. Right?

    A note on clarification -- the fifteen calls are from her mom? That's my guess at the beginning, and still at the end as well, since she's looking at the phone log, but it's not totally clear.

    Otherwise, I enjoyed this one!

  2. I liked this too. It's intriguing. I want to know more about the skin tags but assume we'll get that info soon. I'd just say when you get to the headline to trim that up a bit. It goes on for a while and headlines are sharp and succinct. Maybe nix her name and just say daughter since we already know Kate is the daughter.

  3. I liked this. You gave me a lot that piqued my interest, but you also left enough unsaid to make me want to read more.

    I do think the headline could be trimmed. Mastermind behind biochip tech traces daughter to illegal bar, maybe? As is, it feels forced, not a headline, but the writèr trying to squeeze in too much info.

    Overall though, I feel like I'm getting a story. Nicely done!

  4. Thanks everyone. I will try tightening the headline. It is wordy, you're right. I'll also take a look at how the missed calls/thoughts read, maybe I need to rework. I appreciate all the feedback!

  5. I'd reverse these sentences: "Knowing my mother she’s been glued to her bit-map since I left, only breaking to call my holophone or pee. Guilt knots in my gut." Once you've set the stage by mentioning guilt, the more complex sentence with the bit-map and holophone and peeing flows more smoothly.

    Watch overwriting here - this is strong, and doesn't need extra words. The billboard doesn't need to be shiny. The advertisements don't have to be bright. "An uneasy sensation swells in the pit of my stomach" has one thing too many (uneasy, swells, pit) - if you leave out "the pit of," it's stronger. But she already has guilt knotting her gut, so try for something simpler/tighter/brisker here.

  6. The first scene has tension and clearly stems from the tagline, and I'm hooked. In the tagline, I would consider "off-grid" as your term as a scifi story could very well have a planet or spaceship called "Grid." I would also remove "ironically" from the tagline since the irony speaks for itself. Did she just get chipped? Is the wound sore? How does she feel about it? Lastly, maybe add one line about just what makes Wasteside so bad. Cheers!

  7. I like this a lot! I have no nits or picks. ;)

  8. Good tagline. I like YA sci-fi and this looks like a good one. Makes me wonder what the story is and to read more.

  9. Love this. Raises a lot of questions in a good way - as in, I want to keep reading to find out! Why won't she call home even though she feels guilty? What's the deal with these underground bars and why is she headed to one? Would totally pick this up in a book store. The one nitpick I have is in the logline - and I suspect it's because you had to cut it to keep under the word limit - but some brief context around what Junkers and Tag Dealers are would help.

  10. Oh! Sounds exciting!

    This one really is nitpicky, but "Our" in "our nation's security..." would probably not appear in a headline. Unnecessary words and all. It would sound more authentic if it was "Co-founder of nation's security..." and ditto for "his own invention." "Own invention" means the same thing with one less word.

    Other than that, I come away with the vague sense that something is missing. Perhaps if you give us more of a hint of danger, or more of a hint of why she's doing this thing that she so obviously shouldn't be doing. I don't mean an explanation, exactly, but something in her reactions or state of mind to indicate the way we should be feeling about this, beyond simple defying-high-profile-parents-in-potentially-embarassing-way.

    You can accomplish it with word tweaks that replace more general verbs with active or evocative ones. First example I see is "press my foot." If she slammed, or jammed her foot against the pedal, or hesitated, or whatever, we'd get more of a sense of her emotion there. I don't come away from this feeling like I needed more explanation, rather, feeling a bit deflated, or just unfulfilled. It comes so close to delivering on the promise but could really grab you in the feels with a little attention to mood and atmosphere-setting words.

    Best of luck on this!

    Leah Petersen

  11. After having read the others' comments I do want to amend mine to say that I don't find the headline implausible. When you're coming up with ironic or mocking headlines in your head, they're usually not phrased for actual use. That said, removing the filler words makes it sound more like a headline, which is the balance I think it was missing.

    Leah Petersen

  12. I like this! From the start, I feel immersed in your world, with sights, sounds, and descriptions that don't overwhelm.
    The story premise is great--and I'm already wondering about these "Junkers" and "Tag Dealers" your protagonist is going to encounter.

    (One thing I wondered as I read: in an advanced-technology society with tracking chips and surveillance, wouldn't there be ways to catch cars speeding through intersections?)

  13. Ton of interesting stuff here! The dad having invented this tracking technology, holographs, chips, love it all. But I wonder if maybe you should put the paragraph "If my father had shown up to drag me home..." at the beginning. It wasn't until I read this that I had a real idea of what was going on. All the other stuff helps paint the picture, but this was the crux it seems. Very cool stuff!