Wednesday, February 10, 2010

26 Secret Agent

TITLE: Ghosts of Innocence
GENRE: Science fiction

Starhopper Chantry Bay sped through the security cordon of warships and battle stations surrounding Magentis. The ship failed to slow and dock at the orbiting reception base, and hurtled on planetwards.

At first, only a few puzzled gazes followed the sunlit jewel of the base as it flashed past the viewports of the ship's main passenger lounge. A coterie of scribes and administrators looked up from their scrolls and notepads, styli wavering in their hands, as they found themselves suddenly cut off from the endless stream of data from the exnet.

Then sick comprehension caught hold, hitting hard as the overhead lights flickered and failed. Through the forward viewpoint of the lounge the daylight side of Magentis swelled, flooding the cabin with an aquamarine glow.

For a few seconds an eerie silence reigned, the background hum of machinery suddenly deafening by its absence.

Reclining on a bench, with her back to the wall of the lounge, Shayla Carver watched through half-lidded eyes, unmoving. Her posture of repose maintained the illusion of relaxation only by iron self-control. A tray sat on a low table in front of her. A cup of tea and a bowl of rice and fish lay almost untouched. Faded hangings softened the hard green of the walls.

At a rough count, Shayla could see at least sixty passengers scattered in small groups amongst the long benches and circles of stools and armchairs cluttering the coarse, grey carpet. People of all ages and races.


  1. Okay, not sure what to think at this point. Yes, I know the ships about to crash into the planet. I don't understand Shayla's 'illusion of relaxation' or why she would be counting the number of passengers. Is she so removed from events that her own life isn't passing before her eyes? Is it possible to remain such a calm illusion when hurtling toward certain death?

    Do I care?


    Okay, so I hit you with the bad first. There's definitely tension, a sense of doom, and a sense of people slowly realizing they are hurtling toward their death. But . . . I'm not attached to any of the 60 people at this point. For me, I need something more exciting in the first 250 to hold my attention, and Shayla's apparent dispassion toward her own doom is not enough.

    Could you start with the aftermath? Shayla as the lone survivor? The miraculous landing? : )


  2. There were some nice visuals here: “Through the forward viewpoint of the lounge the daylight side of Magentis swelled, flooding the cabin with an aquamarine glow.” And I like your description of the sequence of events.
    I have to wonder at Shayla’s repose. It’s as if her passivity (forced or not) indicates that she knew ahead of time that all this would happen—perhaps she does.
    I found some of it a little difficult to follow, (found myself rereading “Faded hangings softened the hard green of the walls” a few times, trying to see how it fit in). If it comes together better in the next few sentences, I might be inclined to read on.

  3. I'm not really hooked by this. Part of it is personal preference. You use a lot of adjectives, which some people enjoy reading, but for me it slows down the pacing or your story.

    Also, I have no idea what the story is, other than the ship is about to crash. It's not until the last paragraph that you show us Shayla, and she doesn't seem to care. If she doesn't, why should the reader?

    There's potential here, but it lacks the human element to bring it alive and make me want to care for the people on that doomed ship.

  4. I was hooked by the beginning but when you switched to talking about Shayla, your pacing, for me, screeched to a halt. Is it really necessary to show her relaxing and take time to describe food? Suggest you keep up with the action and show her reaction to what's going on above.

  5. Nice description here, but I don't get a feel for the story, and I'm not connected to the one character that is introduced. This starts off tense but then the pace slows as we learn about the room decor and lots of other details which seem out of place in what should be a tense situation.

  6. I like the zooming in from outer space over the crashing spacecraft to the single woman but the description of the food and the other passengers distracted from the action. During a crash there is (I believe) no time to notice anything but the essentials. So you should give us readers a very good reason to care for Shayla, soon.

  7. I felt distanced from the action and characters instead of drawn into the story. I don't think I would have felt this way if everything except the first paragraph was in Shayla's point of view.

    Good use of sound and light.

  8. I think the problem here is that there are few vivid images. It's all told to us. Some examples --

    For a few seconds, an eerie silence reigned. Up until this point, no one has made a sound. We don't see people screaming and shouting, we don't hear any noise from the spacecraft, so we don't hear the sudden silence either.

    The sick comprehension caught hold - but it's not shown. We don't see people panicking.

    When the spaceship speeds through the security cordon of warships we don't see them come after it.

    Basically, we don't see anything but the things we don't need to see - food, furniture, the wall.

    Showing, instead of telling, really does make what you write come alive. Showing creates images people can see and relate to, and remember. telling is just a bunch of words a reader may or may not remember.

  9. I didn't like waiting for several paragraphs to get a character to latch onto. I skimmed through the first several paragraphs as set-up, waiting to meet someone. Make it more personal right from the start! :)

  10. This was a paradox for me. You have a very good action scene set up with the ship about to crash, but I don't feel any of the action. Everything is described quite calmly when there should be some kind of reaction.

    As much as I loved your descriptions (the lights dying, the deafening silence of the absent hum of the machines, the planet's glow) they didn't do anything to enhance the tension or show the desperation of the situation we're in, especially Shayla's nonchalance.

    I think you should start showing people reacting in the third paragraph and sprinkle in the other descriptions as the crew/passengers go into action.

    I'd read a few more paragraphs to find out what happens (or if anything is going to happen soon), and because I like your writing.

  11. I would prefer to have the descriptions of people and Shayla going about their business first, then have them realise the ship is crashing. You could pull back to give the outside view of the ship as this is being done, then go back inside to see people's reactions. As it stands now, the ship is crashing before I know or care about anyone, so it all feels a bit detached. The writing is very good though, and I like the imagery.

  12. Note from the author...

    Thanks everyone for your comments. This deep focus on just the first page is bringing some fascinating insight. Believe me, I'm already hard at work revising on the basis of this great feedback.


  13. There are parts of this I liked a lot and parts that I found a bit

    When the description was precise it worked well, such as "At first, only a few puzzled gazes followed the sunlit jewel of the base as it flashed past the viewports of the ship's main passenger lounge"

    But there were other parts that just didn't quite make sense to me:

    "Through the forward viewpoint of the lounge the daylight side of Magentis swelled, flooding the cabin with an aquamarine glow."


    "Her posture of repose maintained the illusion of relaxation only by iron self-control"

    As a result of the confusing parts I wasn't really sure what exactly was happening. I would try to be clearer with the descriptions rather than striving evocative.

  14. "confusing" missing from the first line.