Friday, November 30, 2012

(20) Science Fiction Thriller: Circling

TITLE: Circling
GENRE: SF Thriller

When a gifted mathematician discovers that the British military found her inside a crop circle as an infant, her subsequent search for answers puts her in the sights of a rogue lieutenant colonel on an alien hunt. Now she must solve the clues hidden in the circles’ patterns and unravel their secrets before she’s brought in for testing — or autopsy.

“Mum? Dad? Where are you?”

After getting the call from her dad, Keigh raced home from Oxford. She’d packed in a rush and brought only clothes. She left her research behind. She couldn’t concentrate anyway.

The living room and kitchen were empty. He must be upstairs with her.

“Hello?” She rapped a single knuckle on her parent’s bedroom door and cracked it open. “It’s me. I let myself in.”

She pushed the door open wider and peeked around. Her dad was sitting on the side of the bed with a tray of food in his lap. A faded floral bed sheet shrouded her mum’s frail figure from neck to toe.

“Hello, hon.” Her dad’s smile didn’t echo in his watery eyes.

Her mum stretched out a gaunt arm and curled her fingers. “Come here, you.” Her voice was a croak.

Keigh crossed the room and folded her mum’s hand into her own, pressing a kiss to her paper-thin skin. The now-familiar tang of mentholated ointment wafted past.

She smoothed a white wisp of hair from her mum’s forehead. “How is the pain?”

Her mum’s answering sigh transitioned to a troubling spasm of coughing. Her dad held a napkin to her cracked lips, deftly tucking away the bloody spots inside the cloth’s folds. “She’s had better days, but having you here will do us both a world of good.”

Keigh sank to her knees by the bed. “I’m right here, mum. I’ll stay as long as you want.”


  1. The tension here is marvelous, though I found myself being a little hung up by some of the adjectives. I found them slightly excessive, and they acted as speed bumps to my reading. I don't need to know that the wisp of hair is white or the spasm is troubling, for example.

    I was also a little tripped up by having the first line of dialogue, and the second being an explanation of the situation. I'd think you'd want to reverse these two, but that's just me.

  2. I kind of love that the first page seems to be nothing more than a daughter dealing with her mother's serious illness,while I know that she's about to find out something much more mind-bending. ;) That said, I hope that the sci-fi elements show up relatively soon after this.

    I agree that starting off with the line of dialog, then jumping back to how she raced home, is kind of jarring. I also found myself getting a little lost in all the pronouns at the start, unsure of which "she" and "her" referred to which woman. With a little polishing, though, the writing should be strong. Good luck!

  3. Good writing here, good observations like the blood being tucked inside the cloth. Minor edit: parents' bedroom door rather than parent's.

  4. Like the log line, it definitely entices.

    I like the opening. There's a sense of urgency, yet at the same time it doesn't throw the reader right into a frenzied action scene. It also makes the reader sympathize immediately with the protagonist, Keigh, as a caring, loving daughter.

    I'd read on.

    Minor edit suggestion: "She left her research materials behind." It's trivial, but research is intangible and, for scientists, it somehow stays in their mind somehow, even when away from the lab. Also: "She couldn't concentrate on her work anyway." may be clearer.

    I think there are only a few of us doing Adult SF here. If you have time, it would be great if you could drop by my entry #19 Everett Quartet.

    Good luck!

  5. This line is beautiful: Her dad’s smile didn’t echo in his watery eyes.

    I love the voice, the tension, the stress of coming home to find an ill parent. It's heartbreaking.

    And crop circles? I'm so in!

    Minor critique - the first line sounded for some reason like a phone I was confused at first. You might be able to make that more clear.

  6. The writing here is very emotional and drew me in. I think the descriptions were very vivid, although "mentholated" slowed me down for just a second.

    My biggest suggestion would be to tweak a few lines of the dialogue as it didn't seem to flow smoothly all the time. For example, "How is the pain?" could probably be "How's the pain?" That's pretty minor, but it would help match some of the other dialogue that reads really well.

    I'd keep reading, even though I suspect the story's about to get even sadder!

  7. Interesting logline (great last word!). I like the picture you set up on the first page. I feel immediately sympathetic towards Keigh and her family.

    However, I do think you can polish and tighten this up a bit. 'Keigh raced home' should be 'Keigh had raced home' and I find the three 'She's afterwards too repetitive, perhaps 'She’d packed in a rush, bringing only clothes and leaving her research behind. She wouldn't be able to concentrate anyway.'

    I tripped over 'Her mum’s answering sigh transitioned to a troubling spasm of coughing.', it's too wordy. Maybe something like 'Her mum answered with a sigh that quickly turned into a coughing fit.'

    Good luck!

  8. My interest is piqued by the logline, and I hope that the story gets to that very soon. I think I can see where this scene is going, and it seems necessary, but make sure you don’t put off the impetus for the story too long. I did find the writing smooth, and there was a sense of panic in Keigh’s entrance to the house that moved things along. Try not to let that come to a halt now that she’s with her parents. Let her find out the truth quickly and then get into the action.

  9. I looooved your logline. Best one I've read on here so far, and I couldn't wait to start reading!

    I was a little jolted by your opening dialogue (and frankly, I didn't quite imagine her having grown up with a normal family, from your logline). I agree with some of the suggestions on polishing the opening, and I would hope we get to the inciting event soon! Best of luck, I would definitely read on!

  10. Yup, that awesome logline stopped me in my tracks.... so I hate to admit I was disappointed to find a relatively mundane opening.

    I don't think it's bad to open with this kind of scene, but I don't find it as strong as it could be either. It just feels... well, too generic, to be honest. I guess I'm in the minority, but it left me cold and in fact feels like a forced way to get us immediately sympathizing with the protagonist -- if there's one thing I hate as a reader, it's feeling emotionally manipulated when I don't have any reason to care yet. I almost wish you'd started with the call itself (if it's really that important to establish the relationship with her parents), which would give more time to highlight the specific nuances of their relationship.... or just skipped directly to the inciting incident.

    I guess I just feel like if you're writing an SF thriller, you've either got to show the thriller part or the SF part as soon as possible. Preferably both.

    But then again, it could just be me.

  11. I must confess that I have no idea what a crop circle is, but I'll accept personal responsibility and look it up, and I'm not much of a Sci Fiction person. I enjoyed reading this, though I would flip flop the opening two sentences to read more chronologically. This opening created suspense, but then broke my heart when I saw the condition of her parents. If this was not science fiction, I would scream at Keigh to take a leave from Oxford and stay with her parents, but I get the impressions that would not be a good suggestion. Nice work, I'd keep reading. Good Luck -sm