Tuesday, February 7, 2017

On The Block Concession Crit #5

TITLE: Designs of Euphoria
GENRE: YA Science Fiction

When seventeen-year-old Lottie discovers her first love is a genetically modified warrior loyal to an emerging AI, the only thing worse is the reason why.

I looked behind, barely able to see Dad buried between the sacks, hoping against hope that he’d stay there. Grains of sand whipped around us, scattering as we neared West Gate. A slow ache rippled through my shoulder blades as I turned back around. Everything hurt, everything always hurt, by the time we got to the gate. Even my hair hurt. I tugged at its knot, letting the tangled mess fall to my shoulders.

A ding on the transport’s front display called, igniting a faint orange glow. They’d identified us. Cursing myself for not moving sooner, I slammed the text closed and jumped from the makeshift perch. A hollow slip ran between the transport’s interior wall and flat deck. Two quick bangs and the rusty casing opened enough for me to hide the book inside. A good kick and it closed.

Upon sight, the warrior’s darkened silhouettes shifted, drawing electrified braided spears outward. Black synthetic leathers ran smoothly over their bodies, layered on top of the concealed source of their inhuman strength: exogear. More warriors watched from the top of the warded wall, hidden from view and lost in the depths of the sky.

Either the automatic alert or my frantic scurry woke Dad. He wrestled a bit as he made his way to the front of the transport, reeking from whatever he'd hidden under his dusty layers. “Charlotte, I’ve got this.” Barely more than a whisper, his voice sounded thick and raspy from drink and unsettled sleep.


  1. So, I feel really ungrounded in this. There's too much world building, too soon, and so I don't know what's going on or where the characters are. The first sentence says she looks behind, and my first thought is "looks behind what?" which means I'm pulled out of the narrative before we even get to the end of the sentence. And then there's mention of sacks, and I guess they're traveling but I don't know if that means walking or driving or riding or what. So I just come away confused and lost.

    As for the logline I came away from that asking "why what?" and it took me another read through to understand why was referring to why he was loyal to the AI.

    But, that said, the idea sounds intriguing to me and from what I can pick up of the setting, I like. I just think if you slow down and really ground the reader in the world, it would really help.

  2. Because I'm not a regular reader of sci-fi, I thought that was the cause of my confusion. But you'll want to attract all kinds of readers, so I'll go ahead and offer a few comments!

    This has the potential to be an intriguing story. AI is something many are interested in, and a love story between a human and machine could be an interesting angle.

    But I agree with Sarah that you do a lot of world-building very quickly. I couldn't figure out what they were traveling in, if the father was actually buried (as in dead),whether she was driving, what a transport was, what it looked like inside (where was the perch?), etc. You continue with so many other details: the book, the spears, the exogear, the father's drinking.

    I concur that you just need to slow down. Maybe make a list of things you want to reveal 1.) about the world, 2.) about the characters and 3.) about the plot. Then dole them out sparingly. Draw your readers into the story with a few of the most intriguing details.

    Good luck on your rewrite!

    DurangoWriter (author Mandy Mikulencak)

  3. Really strong, fluid writing throughout the excerpt. I also had problems getting grounded. I didn't know why Dad was buried between sacks (sacks of what?), if that meant he was dead, why Charlotte wanted him to stay there, etc. I didn't know where they were coming from or where they were going. A few more details to ground us in the story and the setting (maybe identify what the sacks are, and when Charlotte looks behind her, maybe she's looking back at wherever they came from?) could really help. The logline also confused me a bit, though the concept sounds really intriguing. If you can explain that the 'why' relates to the warrior's loyalty to the emerging AI, that should fix the confusion.

  4. I like where this is going, but I had a few problems keeping up.
    The first sentence makes me struggle too much. (And I hates to struggle.) Looked behind what? Sacks of what?

    I also don't know what this means "I slammed the text" do you mean the book? When I read it, I didn't think textbook I thought text as in texting.

    Upon sight … of what or is that comma not supposed to be there?

    It's possible this is moving too fast--not pacing wise--but information wise. I also wonder if paragraph 1 and 2 would help ground us quicker if they were reversed.

  5. This is confusing - I think mainly because of some wording choices.

    "Dad buried between the sacks" doesn't give us a clear mental image. Buried sounds like dead. Between the sacks means nothing to us. If he's buried UNDER sacks, maybe. And sacks of WHAT?

    But you're nearing West Gate, so I think you're walking somehow. Through the desert, maybe, because there's sand.

    But no, a transport. Okay ...

    Then she slams a text closed - I have no idea what that means. A textbook? An electronic text (but how would you slam it?)

    What's a hollow slip?

    Now a warrior! Braided spears! Leathers! (I'm lost. Intrigued, but lost as heck. I feel as if I'm reading paragraphs at random, maybe from different books.)

    Last paragraph, I get.

    Please fix this. Because I really want to read it.

  6. I love sci-fi, but I'm lost until the last paragraph. I cannot understand the world (because it has no context yet) and I can't define the threat. I need Charlotte's immediate conflict. Are she and her father in hiding? Stow-aways? Rather than focusing on the ship/tent thing, focus on the danger. What will happen if they are discovered?

  7. It feels like a father and daughter going through a checkpoint in a dystopian setting. I would make it clear we're inside a transport of some kind first. Indicate motion or vibration. What's controlling the "truck."

    Before describing anything outside the "truck" just focus on her. What is she feeling? What is she wearing? Hint to where they're going and coming from. When did she last eat? Name the stakes. If they're caught, then what?

    Then focus on Dad. Basic description then her feelings about him. Will he be able to do the necessary? Hint to their relationship. Suspense is a given, so really we want to connect with a girl and her Dad before we go full action mode with dark warriors.

    The title is very elegant but offers nothing concrete, and we need a little something. Is this romance? Action?

    In the logline, I want to know what that mystery is. Her first love also is in love with the AI too? What is it?

    I'm intrigued here so keep at it. Cheers!

  8. Okay, I'm going to read this and I'll let you know what I'm thinking as I go. I'm usually more negative about things. Sorry.

    The hook is basically pretty good. I like the concept. Digging deeper, 'to an emerging AI' is vague. and then, ' only thing worse is the reason why.' I'm not getting stakes or consequences. They break up, she eats chocolate, she moves on. Or ?

    So, dad is buried between the sacks and they are moving toward West Gate. What, is dad in a wagon of sacks or something? I don't see this. I do see the wind though. The hurt thing is good.

    Lots of story questions brought up in the second paragraph. that's good except for Transport? What's that? That I should know.

    Starting to get a sense of my surroundings in the third paragraph.

    Good last paragraph moves the story forward.
    All in all, good job. Please mention the transport in the first paragraph so I don't have to waste valuable brain cells on figuring that part out. Otherwise, carry on!