Friday, November 6, 2015

On the Block #13: PRIME VECTOR 11:00 AM

TITLE: Prime Vector
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

Born into military service, eighteen-year-old Catita wants to join the Queen’s special operations force of highly trained immortals. When her grandmother's secret project files are taken, Catita lands in the middle of a century-old feud to control a virus that gives its host immortality. Now Catita must race to recover the stolen files before the thief deciphers the encrypted information, and the Queen's enemies use Catita to make a new and improved immortal army.

 City of Phoenicis, Mars
Mars Year 103, Month 7, Sols 410
06:00 hrs LST 

I barged into the dim-lit, high-rise apartment. My grandmother, Wela, sat at the breakfast table, facing the floor-to-ceiling windows.

“Where did you go at this hour?” she asked, holding her favorite mug between her hands.

“The Queen’s Garden.” I said, peeling off my sweaty pullover, before I bent down to kiss the top of Wela’s head. “Curfew drones leave me alone when I run that close to the wall.”

“What? I thought I’d fixed that for you. I’ll take another look.” Wela hated it when her network didn’t behave. “Coffee? Just made it. It’s so strong, it almost tastes like the real thing.”

I nodded. “I only have a few minutes though,” I mumbled the words fast, then dashed upstairs. Wait for it.

“You’re heading out again? It’s six in the morning, Catita.”

And there it was. I spun, leaned on the banister. “QEC Trials are in only nine sols. There’s no morning or night until I get in the program.”

I put my hands up in the air and shrugged to conclude my argument. This really was out of my control. After a quick steam shower, I fumbled with my hair trying to pin it in place. Clothes flew out of the way as I kicked them off the floor and onto the bed, looking for my dark uniform jacket.

“You’ve been like this for months.” Wela said from my bedroom door.


  1. I think I yearn for a bit more description of the setting/world. I get a decent sense of who Catita is from her take-charge actions and her need to succeed in these few lines. I also like that she breaks the rules a bit. It makes her seem spunky. But other than knowing she is in a high-rise apartment I know nothing of the setting.

    Often times setting could help set the mood. Is it a stark apartment? Cold and grey? Is it warm and homey? Is it high tech, low tech, etc? I think a bit of setting the scene wouldn't hurt in this opening page. Not too much that you lose the characterizations that you've put forth, but enough that I know where Catita is. Without it, the action feels piecemeal in a way, like she's just listing out all the things she's doing, sprinkled with a bit of dialogue.

    I don't know if we're supposed to critique the summary but it was a bit confusing. The whole part about the queen's enemies stealing Catita to make a new army threw me off because there was already a conflict introduced and then all of a sudden there's a second one at the very end. Also, is the queen good? Are we rooting for her?

    Nice entry. I like that it's a futuristic military setting and I like Catita so far as a character.

  2. I'd keep reading with a few changes. There's good momentum and we know your MC's goal. We're shown several things about her: she's driven, she treats her gram well, she's not dainty. What we don't know is the setting. If you did a bit of scene description showing her outside the apt., it would help us imagine the place and ground us in her world. I like her Wela and hope you keep her in the story.

    What didn't work as well: Agree totally with KatCho that the logline needs revamping. After reading it, then this scene, it's like two different stories. Stick with one major problem and hammer that home. Most of us readers are lazy.

    Have her Wela name her at the first. "Where did you go, CATITA?"

    Can you add just a hint of the robbery to come? It would help this scene with the overall conflict.

  3. I think the dialogue feels quite natural in this scene, but I agree that you need to slow it down and give us a better sense of the setting -- this seems a bit rushed.

    The first sentence didn't work well for me; it's not a very interesting sentence, and 'dim-lit, high-rise' sounds a little stilted. Even though there are floor to ceiling windows, when you walk through the door of an individual apartment in a building that you're very accustomed to, the fact that it's in a high-rise is probably not what you'd be focused on.

    I would suggest describing the scene at hand, giving some more details about what that dimly lit space is like. And when you do mention the windows, you need to show us something of the view outside. Is it a cityscape? And since we're on Mars, do we see a rocky brown landscape beyond, or, since it's been colonized for a hundred years, perhaps the glass roofs of vast greenhouses?

    I'm afraid I'm not wild about the logline either. I found the concept of immortality rather off-putting, perhaps because it's been done so much in fantasy, and in a science fiction context -- even if it's definitely not intended to be hard science fiction -- I'd be a bit skeptical about it. Granted, the concept is surely far more developed in the book than one can tell from the logline alone, but what I would find much more interesting and believable than actual 'immortality' would be something that significantly lengthens one's lifespan but at the cost of some unpleasant side effects.

    I also wanted to mention that one of the tricky things about evaluating the first 250 words alone is that people sometimes think more should 'happen' right away, but that's really not necessary when you think of how quickly we read ten or fifteen pages. In this case, if the robbery happens at the very end of the first chapter, that would be quite appropriate, and there's no need to hint at it before that. What's most important in the first chapter is establishing a sense of place and having the reader get to know the character and their current situation (or what's 'normal' for them at that point in time), so you avoid a 'car crash opening' in which drastic things happen before you're really invested in that character.

    Good luck!

  4. When I first read this I thought “What an exciting story!” In the logline alone there are immortals, armies, royalty, secrets and a race to stop a thief. Wow!

    In the first 250, you really get a feel for the main character – what she wants (to get ready for the trials in 9 sols), the futuristic/sci-fi world she lives in (a world with a curfew and drones and coffee that “almost tastes like the real thing”), her character (she is dedicated and daring), and her relationship with her grandmother (clearly, they’ve had this conversation before).

    The only thing I would suggest to improve is perhaps have less adjectives in the first line (dim-lit, high-rise, floor-to-ceiling) and instead show these things in the body of the scene. Perhaps Catita could be exhausted from running up all the stairs (which goes with the sweaty pullover), or she could see her full-length reflection in the windows or something like that.

    Overall, I am intrigued and would definitely like to read more. Good job!

  5. This opens nicely, and it was easy to read/follow the MC. The only hiccup for me was Wela's mentioning that she needed to fix the network so Catita could stay out past curfew. Why would it be so okay/important for Catita to break the rules?
    Other than that I enjoyed it. Good luck!

  6. - I confess, I'm confused by your logline. The first two sentences don't seem at all connected. And the third sentence had some holes: how are these enemies going to use Catita? Is she immortal? Are they going to abduct her or something? (If that's something she had to worry about, mention it.) It feels like perhaps you're trying to say too much here; for instance, we probably don't need to know in your logline that Catita wants to be in the Queen's special forces.

    - This first page is good: you've set up a conflict and given us some world-building ("curfew drones" says so much!).

    - Why is Catita shrugging to conclude her argument? Why is her grandmother arguing--does Wela not know Catita's dreams? Or is it that Wela doesn't approve? Sometimes it feels like they've had this argument a thousand times, and other times it feels forced and unnatural.

    - The final line is an As You Know Bob. Be wary of characters telling us things by having conversations that they wouldn't actually have because both of them know all the information. Show us instead of telling. Or maybe this is the first time Wela and Catita are having this argument, in which case, what is making Wela argue about it TODAY?

    - I may be wrong, but it feels like you may have started your story in the wrong place. Figure out where this character's journey really begins as pertains to the plot.

  7. This sounds like such a fun read! I agree with the majority of the criticisms above, excluding the bit about adding any clue to the robbery...this is the first 250 words and I didn't feel the need to know about that yet. You give the reader a great sense of the characters right off the bat, which is always a bit of a struggle for me. I was thrown off a bit when Wela tells Catita that she will fix the network to allow Catita to break the rules. I believe someone else mentioned that above, but I was actually taken out of the story.
    I would definitely keep reading though! Good luck! (D. Roosa)

  8. This sounds like such a fun read! I agree with the majority of the criticisms above, excluding the bit about adding any clue to the robbery...this is the first 250 words and I didn't feel the need to know about that yet. You give the reader a great sense of the characters right off the bat, which is always a bit of a struggle for me. I was thrown off a bit when Wela tells Catita that she will fix the network to allow Catita to break the rules. I believe someone else mentioned that above, but I was actually taken out of the story.
    I would definitely keep reading though! Good luck! (D. Roosa)

  9. A note on the logline: Is the virus that causes immortality different than whatever gives the queen's soldiers their immortality? Right now, it reads like this virus is a secret and something new, but maybe I'm misunderstanding.

    Watch out for modifiers. Already in the first two sentence, you have "dim-lit," "high-rise," "breakfast" (modifying "table"), and "floor-to-ceiling." Having so many of them hyphenated adds to the weight, slowing the sentences down.

    This is an interesting idea, and I like that Catita has a clear goal. It gives her good motivation and makes me more sympathetic.

    Overall, I'm not sure why, but this page feels exposition-heavy. Every sentence seems to be describing the world to me. There's a queen with a garden which has a wall, curfew drones, her grandmother's network, strong-but-not-real coffee, QEC trials, sols, steam showers, and uniforms. You spread it out well, but I still feel a little overwhelmed. It may be a genre thing; I don't read a lot of SF. Maybe this is normal, but I wanted to put it out there.

    (I notice that most people feel like you need more description and scene setting. Maybe it's not a question of too much exposition or world-building but of having the right kind. Some of the best advice I ever got on a first page was to slow down. I can see that Catita is in a hurry, but a paragraph describing the apartment when she first walks in might make some of the terms that overwhelmed me feel more natural.)

    I like the relationship between Catita and her grandmother. I especially like that the grandmother didn't scold when Catita said where she'd been. She just offered to help. That was a nice touch.

    Good luck in the auction!

  10. I love this premise. I like the blurb too. I'm not sure the dates, hours info at the beginning are needed. I skimmed over. What does the grandma need to fix? I did not get that. It seems like the granny is a computer genius or she works for the queen. Why could the drone do to the girl? She is immortal, right? I got a very good sense of the world personally, but I read a lot of SF and F. However, I would have liked to know about he curfew and why they need one. I guess adding some kind of stake would make this entry stronger. Good luck.

  11. I'm not typically a reader of this type of scifi but I like your characters and the straight into action start of the story. Although the first line could be stronger. Barged in from what? Or barged into the apartment...could be a second line. Just some thoughts.

  12. I thought perhaps you could slow this down and do some more world and character building. It feels like you're trying to cram in as much info about this world as possible, and while it's a lot, it's either superficial description, or unexplained. Ease us into the story by letting us get to know Catita and her world a bit more.

  13. I quite liked this. Two females, sci-fi? Winning!

    'I spun, leaned on the banister.' I think this sentence needs editing. 'I spun and leaned on the banister' or 'and then leaned on the banister'?

    Love the grandma. Love the granddaughter being so keen to train (?) to get in to some program.

    This is not at all necessary, but I craved some sort of new idiosyncratic Mars-speak! I wanted to hear some new patterns of speech (sounds/accents, intonations, rhythm, grammar). I saw you had some new words (sols), but I thought it might be fun to extend this to other aspects of speech, so I could really feel I'd been plonked somewhere new and different, somewhere I'd never been before.

    “You’ve been like this for months. [should be a comma instead]” Wela said from my bedroom door.

  14. I'm a bit perplexed by your logline. Only some can be immortal? Is Catita already immortal? I'm confused about the relationship between Catita, the stolen files, and her Gram.

    That being said, I love the characterizations in the first 250 I could actually visualize Catita and her Gram -- when I read and see it in my mind's eye, I know it's working. It's working :-)

    This is a picayune editorial thing, but it distracted me nonetheless: in the first para, you have a lot of hyphenated phrases going on. Nothing is used incorrectly, but for some reason, my brain got a little stuck with all that hyphenation going on. But that could just be me, so if that's the case, ignore that!

    I think the first 250 draws me in overall. It's maybe even a little too speedy for me to digest -- I would maybe add a little more description overall. But I still think it's a solid start!

  15. The logline feels over long, and I'm not really connecting one sentence to the next. I don't know how the problems relate to each other.

    I must be having a slow day because I had more trouble following this than it looks like others did.

    I'm having trouble connecting "when I run that close to the wall" and "I thought I'd fixed that for you." Is the network supposed to not bother her at curfew? Are the drones supposed to catch her even that close to the wall? I'm not sure what the problem and desirable outcome are...

    I like the idea and the premise, but the conversation between the MC and Wela feels choppy enough that I'm not exactly following. I'd like to see this scene slowed down a little more, with more setting.

  16. The opening 250-words already entice me into the story, which sounds great! There is lots of potential with your interesting character willing to break rules, and the overall set up.

    A few things to consider. Since you're already in first person POV you might experiment changing to present tense to deepen even further the reader's direct and immediate connection to MC.

    When you do that, you may find easily various words/phrases/verbs/actions that can be cut - I say/said, she asks/asked. Even in the opening lines, if you shift to present, you may see ways to interleave MC's direct opinions of things so that she's conveying her feelings-about-what-she-sees to the reader, giving us liner-notes of her emotional views on her grandmother for instance, rather than having so much of her narration be what she does / sees herself or others doing. You already have promising snipets of her voice in that regard eg. Wait for it. etc. That's a present-tense internal thought already, for what it's worth!

    Another minor note. I'm *not* versed in this sub-genre, so your ideal reader may already get this, but I didn't catch the relevance of 6am in the header setting/time notes, so didn't process the early hour until a few paragraphs into the story. If the MC were to have some opening feelings/views/opinions about the early hour, even before her grandmother speaks about it, that would help me understand what 'this hour' means, in advance.

  17. "I barged into the dim-lit, high-rise apartment. My grandmother, Wela, sat at the breakfast table, facing the floor-to-ceiling windows." Too many hyphenated words? Seems to affect the flow of the sentence.

    Didn't love: "Wait for it." Maybe try a different way to say she's expecting what Wela says next.

    I love peeled off her sweaty pullover, and almost tastes like the real thing--both really capture the mood.

    You have a gift for setting and imagery. Nice job!