Friday, November 30, 2012

(36) YA SF: Ultraviolet Catastrophe

TITLE: Ultraviolet Catastrophe

When 16-year-old science prodigy Lexie uncovers a mistake in the equation to create a Wormhole, she thinks the resulting ultraviolet catastrophe is an accident - until the lead scientist turns up as a Popsicle in the cryo chamber. If she can't discover who planted the error and stop them, she and her classmates could be next.

My whole life changed with one news story.

Mom and I were having our typical Thursday night dinner. Lasagna sat steaming on the table. I chopped the last tomato for the salad, while Mom poured two glasses of milk. The soft murmur of voices on the TV on in the background filled the house.

The six o’clock news anchor started the story with, “Bad news from government facility Los Alamos today. Hackers broke into a classified server and downloaded a terabyte of top secret military plans. An explosion rocked the facility…”


One of the glasses shattered on the floor, but Mom stared at the television, her face as white as the spilled milk.

“Mom?” I set the knife down on the cutting board with a frown. “What’s wrong?”

She shook her head and held up a finger. My skin prickled at her strange behavior and I watched with her as smoke billowed from a squat, non-descript building in the middle of the desert.

“Until the culprits are found and the records retrieved, the government is treating this as a matter of national security.” The news anchor turned the next story over to his co-host and Mom stepped around the milk and turned the TV off.

Her hand trembled.

“What’s going on?” I asked again, grabbing a handful of paper towels to clean up the mess.

“Will you take care of that, Lexie? I need to call your father.” She was already moving toward the kitchen door.

My jaw dropped open.


  1. I like this, but for some reason the news story felt too short to be realistic. Now, I'm not saying you should lengthen it, but I would have been more convinced if the story had continued going on with more detail but the mother walked away to call the father anyway.

  2. I love the premise, and way to bring the tension right away in those first 250.

    The shortness of the news story didn't bother me (I'm a journalist and sometimes they're short!), and your descriptions are really lovely.

    Good luck!

  3. This is a great opening! I want to know what happens next and what the MC's parents are up to.

    I wonder if you couldn't punch up the first line a bit?

    And science prodigy? Love this!! Best of luck. :)

  4. Intriguing plot, and I like the the line, "...but Mom stared at the television, her face as white as the spilled milk." Maybe have Lexie a little more concerned about her mom's behavior, though, since her mom did drop a glass of milk. I would do more than frown.

  5. I love your first line. Love it. Actually, I love the whole first 250. Left me wanting to find out what happens next. Good luck! Wish I could read more!!

  6. You've got high stakes here, and the writing is strong. My only critique is that I can't quite see how Lexie is going to become involved yet. I'd like at least a hint that she's a science prodigy here. How does that affect how she hears this story? We really don't get any sense of her, other than she typically eats lasagna on Thursday. I need a little more to become invested in the character and her story at this point.

  7. I like how you mirror the explosion of the facility with the crash of Mom dropping the glass. Still, something I lacking in Lexie’s reaction. Her mom is clearly far from okay, yet all she does is frown?

    I also feel that I have no sense of Lexie in these opening lines. Certainly not that she’s a science prodigy, although you have plenty of time for that. But if she’s paying attention to the news, as her mom is, I’d think given your description of her in the logline, that your main character would have more of a reaction. Is there a connection in this report that’s significant to Lexie’s mom and dad, but that she knows nothing of? I’d understand, then, how much more emotive her mother might be than Lexie is, and obviously there’s room for that to grow beyond these paragraphs. I don’t know why Lexie’s jaw suddenly drops at the end of this sample, and perhaps that, too, is explained further on. But it doesn’t quite sit right with me.

    If I was editing this manuscript, I’d slash that opening line. It’s your tool to immediately create tension, yes, but I feel like it’s a bit of a parlor trick. I’d rather your narrative do the work.

    The premise of your novel sounds intriguing, but I feel it’s entirely disconnected from this sample, and I don’t feel captured quite yet.

  8. I like the tension in this opening. I agree with the others on Lexie's reaction--it seems like she'd rush over with the paper towels.

    I'd keep reading. Good luck!

  9. Love the contrast here--the ordinariness of the lasagna on the table and chopping tomatoes versus the news story that will be the catalyst (I'm assuming) for the novel.

    I'm wondering if Lexie has any inkling at all what her mom's reaction is about. If so, I'd definitely give a hint about it.

    Nice job!!

  10. I would drop "frown" and start moving her toward the paper towels. She can rush over after the "what's going on" line.

    I write time travel, so I'm down for anything with this premise. Love the idea that it's sci fi. Are her classmates also prodigies?

    The jaw dropping line confused me, too. I'm assuming it's because her mom doesn't usually talk to her dad?

    More, please!

  11. Wormhole is a definite hook for a SF geek like me. But the logline sounds more MG to me, for some reason. Might just be me.

    Agree with others that we're not getting much of a sense of Lexie here. I do like the first line, but I think following that up a scene that gives a stronger sense of who Lexie is prior to her mom freaking out would make this stronger. Even just a few lines of dialogue between her and her mom before the news story comes on, on something Lexie has a strong opinion about.

  12. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    50 pages.

  13. Lauren MacLeod (Strothman Agency)December 4, 2012 at 12:42 PM

    95 pages.