Friday, November 30, 2012

(27) YA SF: Veritas

TITLE: Veritas
GENRE: YA Sci-fi

When a virus turns Tori's crewmates violent, she’ll do anything to save her family and her crush, Declan. Leaving Earth was supposed to give them a future—not a death sentence. Or so they were told.

I race past door after door until they blend into the white walls. Only ten minutes late, but already the corridors are empty. Unlike me, everyone else is already at their assignments like good little crewmembers. I turn left down another hall, identical to the last save for the numbers on the doors, and pick up my pace. If Supervisor Dresden catches me running in late again, she won’t hesitate to discipline me.

Unfortunately, this corridor isn’t empty like the others. My momentum slams me straight into a patroller. Hard muscles act like a steel wall against my much smaller form, and I fall to the ground. When I look up the only thing that greets me is a scowl. The patroller’s eyes narrow and his jaw clenches.

I brush long hair out of my face where sweat makes the black strands cling. My hands tremble as the patroller stares down at me.

“Sorry, sir.” The words leave my mouth in a stutter and I look away, hoping he’ll let me go without punishment. Being late to my assignment is one thing, but pissing off a patroller is a whole other universe of trouble that I don’t want to be in.

He doesn’t say anything, just stares—which seems worse than if he’d yelled—as I scramble to stand back up. I shift from foot to foot, itching to run again. Until he growls. Literally growls at me. Even though my heart jumps at the sound, I freeze.


  1. I wish I knew more about this spaceship (or something) that Tori is on, but I suppose my curiosity is a good thing! If there's any way to squeeze in a detail about that into your pitch, it'd be great.

    I think the first paragraph is too slow, but that can be fixed by cutting and rephrasing a few sentences. You tell us the corridors are empty, so we can assume everyone else is at their assignments. At this point, using a sentence to tell us she's running down another hallway eats up valuable time to grab a reader's attention. This is a suggestion, of course, but here's one way to keep the pace going well:

    "I race past door after door until they blend into the white walls. The other good little crew mates are no doubt already at their assignments, leaving these corridors empty for me.

    I turn down another hall, and my momentum slams me into a patroller."

    Then, in the next few pages, you can bring up Supervisor Dresden when the time comes for Tori to get punished (I'm just assuming she does.)

    It's hard to get me to like sci-fi, but this one sounds interesting. Good luck!

  2. I agree with Ambiguous_A's suggestion of how to tighten the first paragraph. And yes, I wanna know where the heck they are, but I'm sure that's revealed in the next few pages, right?

    What I really enjoyed was how you built up the tension as she recovers from slamming into the patroller. I'm tempted to turn the sentence after "Sorry, sir." into two, just to avoid having two long sentences close together.

    You've hooked me!

  3. Even before reading the other two comments, I thought that the first paragraph could be tightened so that perhaps running smack dab into the patroller is the first action point.

    Because this is only 250 words, I'm going to assume that we learn this is a spaceship fairly quickly? Otherwise it would be easy to fit that into part of the description of the hallways.

    The first sentence in the last paragraph is awkward. Maybe start with As I scramble to get up, he doesn't say anything -- just stares -- which feels worse than if he'd yelled.

    I've seen this before in Secret Agent or maybe another contest? I like it and would keep reading.

  4. I love the pitch! I also think you've created good tension for your opener.

    My only suggestion would be to remove one "already" in the first paragraph. You've used two of them in consecutive sentences, and it stands out.

    But great job!

  5. The sense of movement in your opening is great, and I agree with some of the other critiques that it will be even stronger if you tighten this up.

    You don’t need the first line of your second paragraph. The fact that this hallway isn’t empty is made obvious in the next sentence as your main character slams into the patroller. I also think you can cut “against my much smaller form,” as it’s not contributing anything of significance.

    Why is Tori so afraid of the patroller? Her supervisor seems to rank less in Tori’s mind, but as readers we don’t yet have context for where we are or relationships. I’m sure much of this will come in the next paragraphs and pages. Still, remember that though starting in the middle of an action is an effective tool for drawing in a reader, at some point you need to start filling in the gaps, or you’ll lose the reader just as quickly.

    I like the flavor of your story from your logline. I get no sense of where the narrative will take me from your opening paragraphs. And I know that’s tough in 250 words, but I’m not quite caught yet.

  6. I agree with the other critiques, the sense of movement and breathlessness is great, and I'm curious to know where she is and why she's so scared of being late. But I think slowing down a tiny bit and painting us a bit more of the big picture would really help ground us in the setting and Tori's world. I think it could also ramp up the tension, sometimes its the tiny details that create the most suspense.

    Your writing is very good, and I'm really intrigued by the concept, so great job!

  7. Hey,
    I like the logline, even if the storyline seems a little too familiar.

    I think the writing in the first paragraph needs a little nitpicking. For example, the word "already" is used in back to back sentences, and while it's not bad per se, it's a little jarring. Also, maybe a comma after the word "last" and before the word "save" would help readability (is that a word?). Also - what does the discipline of Supervisor Dresden entail? Be specific, so we can get a sense of the desperation (or lack thereof) in the protagonist's mind.

    Good luck with it!

  8. I really like this. The one spot that tripped me up was: "I brush long hair out of my face where sweat makes the black strands cling." It slowed me down and felt like a "this is where I tell you the haircolor" line. I think your story is better than this throwaway line. It may be helpful to distinguish in this opening they are on a spacecraft, like naming it (if it's obvious like SS Galaxy or something). I love the logline, it says a lot without getting bogged down in extraneous details. Best of luck to you, I see so much interest on twitter & agent blogs about YA sci-fi.

  9. I like the premise, but there are a few things that feel forced - more showing than telling:

    I get from "good little crewmembers" that she's rebellious. I get the same from "running in late again."

    I get her appearance from "black strands cling" and "much smaller form."

    Pick the strongest details and keep one. There's voice in there, but you're covering it up with details we don't need on a first page. Make us feel her fear of Dresden, and show us why a patroller is a universe of trouble.

    You're close. Keep going!!

  10. HHhmmmn. This is one of those cases where I can sense something is missing, but I'm not quite sure what. The logline is good, but it could be better. Same with the first page. I think what's missing from this is just a little extra something to make it pop (why is she late?) Might just be me. Also, tightening this up like others have suggested will certainly help.