Friday, November 30, 2012

(26) YA SF: Something Rich and Strange

TITLE: Something Rich and Strange

Seventeen-year-old Hannah “Sasquatch” Bloom thinks her height is her only unusual feature until a gorgeous boy arrives at her school to awaken her to the truth: she’s an alien, like him. Now she must choose – help him and the rest of her race colonize the planet or protect the humans she loves.

When I sleep, I remember, but the memories aren’t my own.

Eons suspended inside a coffinlike tank, the fluid tasting of metal and misery. Glimpses of galaxies beyond the hull of the ship. A white and blue orb swelling out of the darkness, beaconing our journey’s end.

Hope. A million-voiced chorus of hope. Then disbelief. And fury.

The sense of claustrophobia still lingers an hour later. Trudging to my locker before first period, I shake my head, trying to dislodge the strange images that nudge at my brain. The dream only surfaces when I’m stressed. I guess I’m more anxious about senior year than I want to admit. At least no one calls me Sasquatch anymore – not to my face, anyway.

“Hannah!” a breathless voice chirps. “Thank God I caught you before class! Can you believe we’re back here already? It’s like some sick karmic joke. I was hoping that ninth grader who likes to play with matches would have burned the place down over the summer, but no such luck.”

I turn to see Grace Park scurrying toward me, her long, dark hair pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck. Dressed in a pencil skirt, silk blouse, and knit blazer, she looks like she belongs in a skyscraper, not the linoleum-lined halls of Santa Elena High. I, on the other hand, would fit right in at a hoedown in my faded jeans and green plaid shirt.

“Grace!” I exclaim. “I missed you! When did you get back?” I stoop to give her a quick hug.


  1. Nice! Love the imagery in the description of the dream, "fluid tasting of metal and misery." Definitely makes me curious about what makes her dream this.
    I like how the MC's physical characteristics come across so naturally.
    I felt like there maybe needed to be a little more of a transition into the "Sasquatch" line. It felt abrupt, but maybe that's just me.
    I also felt that the MC would have turned to see Grace before Grace said all her dialogue. I don't think Grace would say all that to her back. But those are little details. I like your MC and her voice and am intrigued!

  2. I like the voice here, but I got a little thrown at the end. Hannah's exclamation sounds so very upbeat and joyous compared to every other word on this page. When you have nothing but worry and stress, and then a perky line of dialogue from that same narrator, it's a little jarring.

  3. Loved the imagery in the opening and want to hang out with Hannah from the get go. Well done!

    I agree with Chro on Hannah's dialogue. She didn't sound the way I expected her to -- more salt, less sweet. I'd keep reading for the chance to hear that million-voice chorus for myself.

    Good luck!

  4. The other critiques are spot on. I think Hannah's voice emerges (and is strong) but the perky exclamation doesn't seem to fit.

    And I think Grace's dialogue is way too long. Maybe:
    "Hannah!” a breathless voice chirps. “Can you believe we’re back already? Why couldn't this place have burned down over the summer?”

    I LOVE LOVE the opening graphs. "The fluid tasting of metal and misery" is just brilliant.

  5. Love the imagery at the start! I connected with Hannah's voice right away, though, as mentioned, her dialogue didn't seem to match with what I was expecting.  I'd keep reading :) 

  6. Let me start with the logline before I move to the critique itself. I think you’ve given too much away. I know it’s a tough balance, but I feel you’ve left little room for me as a reader to be intrigued, and want to read to learn more. It’s always better to keep ‘em wanting more.

    Starting with a dream generally elicits groans from editors because there’s a sense of beginning a narrative, and then beginning again. That’s generally frowned upon. That being said, I think you handle your dream fairly well. I particularly like how you use sensory imagery with your line “the fluid tasting of metal and misery.”

    But I find the fluidity of the dream sharply contrasting the style of Hannah’s narration which, in turn, seems tonally different from your dialogue. If I had these pieces cut up and put before me, I wouldn’t know that they’re all part of the same story. Hannah’s voice doesn’t sound natural. Very introspective (which is good), but it feels over-thought, overwritten. For me it comes down word choice: “sense of claustrophobia,” “trudging,” “dislodge,” “surfaces.” When I’m reading, these don’t feel quite right, and they jar me, even as I’m just trying to get used to this narrator. I find reading aloud helps a lot to see where these sorts of issues arise, and locating the problems is always the first step in revising.

    I agree with a previous critiquer that the “sasquatch” line doesn’t feel connected to what precedes it. Remember, we know nothing about your story. This has resonance to you, but not to the reader – not until you give the context for it.

    The dialogue’s fine in this piece. I think there’s a lot energy here, especially with Grace’s lines. I would recommend that you look a little closer at how you define Hannah’s relationship with Grace. From the way Hannah describes Grace, they don’t seem all that close, but from dialogue, I’d think they were very close friends. I find that confusing.

    I’m a sucker for an alien story, so I’d probably read on a little, but the tension of her choice needs to be more complex to keep me hooked.

  7. Hey,

    Enjoyed the premise here - I assume only the first part is the logline, whereas the novel starts with "When I sleep." I like that first line, it captivates.

    The fifth paragraph (the one with the dialogue) runs a little long to my taste. In my humble opinion, the dialogue can be cut a phrase or two or three short. And the description of the girls' attire in the paragraph afterwards - seems like it's a little forced. Not sure how someone can "belong in a skyscraper" - do you mean she's dressed like she's at work? If so, maybe use an office instead of a skyscraper, more direct that way.

    Good luck with it!

  8. I agree with Alison that the log line gives too much away.

    I love the dream imagery especially the line: "Hope. A million-voiced chorus of hope."

    The "dread & fury" lines also nicely parallel the dread Hannah is feeling about Senior year.

    I would like to see a more natural transition between the dream imagery and Hannah's real life, but I loved both sections separately.

    I am immediately drawn to Hannah as a MC and like that we learn about her very quickly through the contrast with Grace.

    I would keep reading- especially to find out more about the alien piece. It just feels immediately like the stakes are high.

  9. Love the concept, it reminds me of the TV series Roswell. The logline is tight--nice work. I don't think you need the first lines in italics, but that is a matter of preference. Enough has been said on these blogs about starting with prologues and dreams, and you do a great job of moving on to the story quickly. I like how you relate her stress to senior year anxiety, which seems realistic. Oh, and I LOVE that she's called Sasquatch. I mean, it's awful, but it invokes sympathy for your MC right away if she has a nickname like that. I also like the observation her friend looks like she belongs in a skyscraper.

    Good luck with this!

  10. Nice job. I, too, found the imagery in the dream section compelling. The word choices were what really grabbed me, e,g the idea of the Earth “beaconing” them, the line about “fluid tasting of metal and misery,” and the thought of “a million-voiced chorus of hope.” That dream sequence made me want to read more.

    I also liked Hannah’s voice. She seemed smart, yet humble. I wanted to spend the time to get to know her and understand her challenges.

    I think there could be more of a set up for the sasquatch line to make it smoother. Also, although I understand that Grace is supposed to a very put-together high schooler, Grace’s silk blouse and blazer seemed an odd choice. Something about it was a bit off-putting.

    Overall, I was engaged and wanted to keep reading.

  11. That opening sentence is boss, and the first five paragraphs are magical.

    The thing with the dialogue is that it changes the tone of the story. You've pulled me into the mystery of the first five paragraphs and then BOOM. Real life. You can do that, and it works for lots of reasons, but either pull me through more mystery or weave it into the dialogue.

    As far as the logline giving too much away, I got in trouble with my agent for not giving enough away in my query. Agents want to know what they're reading.

    Great job.

  12. I didn't see the first 2 paragraphs as a dream, but a prologue. Since it is only a few sentences, I didn't mind one bit. It serves its purpose nicely, I think.

    I like your next (real ch. 1) paragraph, but the dialogue is not working. Perhaps because you need to have more sentences establishing time, place, character before tying the reader down with unnecessary language. For example, "It's like some sick karmic joke." as well as the next sentence isn't really needed, IMHO...unless the school really does get burned down and you are alluding to that? In that case, ignore me! :-)

    Nitpicky, you've got a whole para. delivered by Grace, but the MC next turns to see her scurrying toward her still. One might yell a word or two from far away (scurrying distance) but not a whole paragraph. Timing and delivery is important.

    You did a great job with premise and details of setting. Keeping form as you mention your MC stooping to give a hug, playing back to her being a Sasquatch.

    So, I think you have a winner on your hands, but you might take a second look on whether your dialogue is serving you as well as it could.

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  14. Love me a good alien SF premise and the Sasquatch nickname totally hooked me.

    But not sure about that first line. Starting with a dream, isn't that HUGE no-no???

    I love the contrast between Hannah and Grace and the playing with matches comment made me smile. I'd keep reading, even though her first line of dialogue is blah (it's almost a shame that her friend Grace gets the spotlight and good dialogue). But I like that I know this about Hannah so far: that she has a strange dream when she's stressed; she's more anxious about senior year than she wants to admit; she has an unfortunate nickname; and she's dressed for a hoedown - grin.

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