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First Page: Unnamed Futuristic

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***

-The sentient planet Earth, weary of global warming, concrete, asphalt, poisons in Her water and atmosphere, and the destruction of Her lovely forests, made a change. Using Her vast, unknowable powers, She called forth a lover from the glorious universe who brought seeds to fertilize a new and different world. Soon new forests erupted through Her soil everywhere, breaking away the artificial blight on Her Earth. Lovely flowers with life changing pollen touched living things, and many life forms changed.

  

It caused cataclysmic upheaval for humans-

***

  

  

Wichita, Kansas, 02 years PC (Post Cataclysm)

  

  

Jess flew to the top of the newly completed section of wall and inspected the work. It was well done, built of salvaged brick and steel, mortared and welded together. Finding the fuel for welding had been the hardest part, in this changed world. But this wall was strong and would provide a measure of protection to Night City. They didn’t want to end up like Fargo.

"Hey, boss." A worker flew up to him. "There’s a lady and a bunch of kids at the gate."

"Does she want refuge?"

"Nah. She’s looking for some little kid. A flyer kid."

Jess flew to the gate and peered down. He saw a woman and a gaggle of small children. Several of the kids were not human. Two had a green tinted hair.

He looked at the woman again. She looked familiar. Light brown wavy hair, a round curvy figure.  Amber?  Jess leaped off the wall and floated down directly in front of her. She leaped backwards with a squeal.

"Amber? Amber O’Shea?"

Her eyes, sky blue, widened. "Jess?"

Her voice sent a shiver down his spine. One of those high whispery voices that sounded like pure sex.

Yeah, same old reaction.

"I’ve changed a lot." He’d changed from an asthmatic computer nerd into the head of Night City, but she wouldn’t know that. She would only see the wings and fangs.

Amber made a little strangled sound in her throat.

"So, you’re looking for a little flyer?" While he spoke he inspected her and the children. She was still pretty, but she looked tired and thin, despite her round breasts. Her clothes were worn but reasonably clean. The children looked cared for, the small girls had greenish hair in braids.

"Yes. His name is Trevor. He’s only three. He has rusty red hair and green eyes. His wings are cream and rust striped, like a tabby cat’s."

"Does he fly yet?"

"He was getting a few feet into the air, for just short hops, though."

Jess nodded. "He may have suddenly been able to fly and got lost. It could happen quickly." He waved his assistant down and gave orders to start a search.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

15 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 06:01:27

    There’s a lot of SF elements in this, which is good, but in this short excerpt, they didn’t gel for me. I’m not a big fan of prologues, and the mystical description of the planet turned me right off. The transition to quite pedestrian narrative after that felt really jarring.

    There’s a lot of repeated words in short spaces – ‘flew’, ‘looked’ etc. There’s a lot of ‘looking’ going on. Some of those could be cut. You’re also telling not showing – the kids aren’t human. How does he know that? “One of those high whispery voices that sounded like pure sex.” You show the reaction, you don’t need the ‘like pure sex’.

    How can Amber be curvy, yet thin? She looked tired – how? What are the symptoms? “The children looked cared for, the small girls had greenish hair in braids.” That comma should be a period, and the description of the children expanded and moved to when he first sees them so you don’t have to keep repeating the ‘green hair’ thing.

    It needs to be more cleanly edited, but it also needs to be less static, and the dialogue more realistic. This:
    “Yes. His name is Trevor. He's only three. He has rusty red hair and green eyes. His wings are cream and rust striped, like a tabby cat's.”

    Is not how people speak. It would be more like:

    “Yes, Trevor. He’s only three.”
    “What does he look like?”
    “Rusty red hair, green eyes, cream and rusty striped wings.”
    “Tabby striping?”
    She nodded.

    If you break up dialogue, it sound more natural, and makes it more active. Don’t give description in a lump either. Bring it more naturally into the dialogue and internal narration.

    It sounds like an intriguing germ of an idea, but you’ll need to do more work if you want to catch an agent/editor’s eye with this first page.

    ReplyReply

  2. Lori
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 06:21:40

    Her voice sent a shiver down his spine. One of those high whispery voices that sounded like pure sex.

    Yeah, same old reaction.

    “I've changed a lot.” He'd changed from an asthmatic computer nerd into the head of Night City, but she wouldn't know that. She would only see the wings and fangs.

    Amber made a little strangled sound in her throat.

    This has no cohesion to it. I didn’t understand anything going on really and the sudden jumps were confusing as heck.

    Her voice is sexy and he reacts. Then he says something completely inane to her (“I’ve changed a lot”) which follows with an asthmatic, computer nerd developing wings and fangs to her sudden speech impediment.

    Then it jumps to a description of her litter of children and now a missing child. And all the while it’s just a big wtf to me.

    I don’t mean to be brutal but this piece looks like an interesting idea but you need to slow down and tell it. Dump the prologue, start where you started but take the time to build and show. Watch for the cliches like pure-sex voice.

    Good luck. It’s an original idea and sounds like it could be a fun read.

    ReplyReply

  3. joanne
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 06:58:06

    I really like your voice and your stories’ ingredients are very interesting yet the writing doesn’t flow for me.

    Again, the repeated words and the static dialogue give an amateurish feel to the piece. First draft or tenth not all words or punctuation marks are gold, some can just be tossed for better or less. I bow to the writers here to tell you why and where the problems are but as a reader I just kept getting pulled to a stop rather then encouraged to read on.

    Still I think it’s a very good base and I wish you much good luck with it!

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  4. Wendy
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 07:25:34

    I like the idea of the story but I really didn’t like that excerpt. Show me, don’t tell me. Don’t jump from one thing to another another and PLEASE give me some backstory first or it won’t make a lick of sense.

    If it had been -

    Her voice sent a shiver down his spine.

    Yeah, same old reaction.

    That would have been way better. It shows me how he feels and it’s a bit of self-deprecating humor.

    “I've changed a lot.” He'd changed from an asthmatic computer nerd into the head of Night City, but she wouldn't know that. She would only see the wings and fangs.

    I would delete that bit, not needed. Plus you could show me how he looks, instead of telling me.

    But it is a very unique idea, good luck! :)

    ReplyReply

  5. Jill Myles
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 09:02:31

    I personally thought this was great. I was hooked as soon as Jess was up on the wall, welding it back together with bits of scrap metal. I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic anything, so yay!

    I have to admit that I kept getting hung up on the ’2 years PC’ and him being a grown man with wings – I’m sure there’s an explanation for it later on, but it hung me up on the first page.

    Other than that, I didn’t really notice the errors. I’d keep reading on for a few more chapters to see where this went. :)

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  6. Gennita Low
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 09:07:09

    I think you can just leave the prologue out and bring in the details of what happened to earth in your story. In fact, the date/setting (Post Cataclysmic) already gave me an idea, as well as the beginning where he said finding fuel was the hardest part “in this changed world.”

    Suggestions:

    1) You can add one line on Fargo’s fate as a hint about what happened to humans. For example (don’t know your story, so I’m just making this up)–They didn’t want to end up like Fargo. The changed ones who had become flesh-eaters that hunt at night were especially dangerous to those who had remained human. (Bold addition mine)

    2) Impart a little more of Jess’ character through his thoughts. For example,

    She would only see the wings and fangs. He grinned at her and stepped back, giving her time to take in his new look. “A lot more handsome, right?” (Bold addition mine)

    The following line, “she made a strangled sound in her throat” gives it a bit of humor.

    3) The words “despite her round breasts” are really jarring. Took me right out of the story for some reason. It’s as if he’s thinking, “Gosh, she’s thin and tired, but hey, check out those round breastessesss!” LOL. I know you didn’t mean it that way but you mentioned computer nerd and of course, I stereotyped that in my head with every computer nerd portrayed on TV.

    4) More info can be imparted while he inspected Amber and the kids (besides the way she looked). Maybe at the end of the paragraph add: “He hadn’t seen her for two years. He wondered whether the Cataclysm had given her any special powers.” Something like that to foreshadow.

    Anyway, just suggestions. I enjoyed reading your first page. Thanks for sharing and giving me a chance to play with your work. Good luck and Happy Holidays!

    ReplyReply

  7. shenan
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 09:07:25

    —Jess flew

    How did he fly? In a ship? With wings? Like Superman? Is he human? A bird? A man-bird? An angel? An alien? Telling me he flew but not telling me how he manages it stops me in my tracks while I try to figure out a visual.

    —- to the top of the newly completed section of wall

    What wall? A wall around a city? Part of a building going up?

    —-and inspected the work.

    Why is he inspecting it? Is he the construction foreman? Is he building the wall himself?

    —-It was well done, built of salvaged brick and steel, mortared and welded together. Finding the fuel for welding had been the hardest part, in this changed world.

    You don’t need the comma there.

    —-But this wall was strong and would provide a measure of protection to Night City. They didn’t want to end up like Fargo.

    I’m not getting the segue between the scarcity of fuel and the strength of the wall.

    —-Jess flew to the gate and peered down.

    Did he land on top of the gate? I assume so, since he’s looking down.

    —- He saw a woman and a gaggle of small children. Several of the kids were not human. Two had a green tinted hair.

    There’s no flow to the writing. As in the above, we get short listings of actions and descriptions rather than a flowing narrative. (He flew. He saw. She squealed. He lusted.) Same with the dialogue. There’s no sense of place or character. Instead, what we get is a detailed outline of a story. Too much happens too fast, with no explanations, no getting inside the head of the POV character except for a quick note that he’s lusting after the woman. We don’t see the setting. Don’t get any world building except for the bit about wings and fangs — and that is just tossed in there. No characterization. The descriptions are short and read like a list. It’s choppy. Disconnected. Hard to follow. Hard to visualize.

    I need to be drawn into the story instead of simply having it tossed at me. And to do that, you need more words. You need to connect thoughts and actions. You need to let the reader inside the POV character’s head. You need to show us his world. Something more than a wall, a gate, and a comparison to Fargo that means nothing. Slow it down, take time with it. Help the reader see what you see in your head.

    ReplyReply

  8. Courtney Milan
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 09:19:43

    I like the idea–but I feel like in something like this, where you’re trying to build a world and introduce a story all at once, you need to make sure you’re using detail to your advantage. I felt like there were a lot of gaps left in the world that I had to struggle to fill in as a reader.

    To start: “Jess flew to the top of the newly completed wall….”

    You’re trying to world-build with your verb, namely, by telling us he “flew”–which is good, but it’s not doing enough work, because as a reader with no context, I don’t know if you mean “flew” figuratively, as in, Jess raced to the top of the building as fast as his feet could carry him, or if he flapped his wings, or if he ignited his personal jetpack. All three of those things–completely different–build a totally different world.

    And that raises a whole set of questions. We know from your first paragraph that many life-forms have changed. What kind of life-form is Jess? Is he humanoid? Bipedal? Is he a newly sentient bird? Something else entirely? I’m not trying to be flip here; I really don’t know. Your first paragraph tells us to expect anything, so that means you have to be very, very precise in describing what it is that we have in front of us.

    Since he appears to be actually flying, tell us how he does it. Let us experience flying with him. We find out much later it’s wings–but we still don’t know if they’re like flying squirrel wings or bird wings or pteradactyl wings. If we knew what it was like to fly–if we could feel the air resistance against the leather of his wings–that would help us. Let us experience *landing* with him–because precisely how he does it, whether his claws grip the salvaged steel, or his big worker boots thump on top of the wall, will tell us information that is totally lacking from this page–namely, is Jess bipedal? Humanoid? A giant blob of goo that can extrude wings?

    Just reading that first paragraph felt to me like the world you had in your head was stronger than the one on the page. Thus, “salvaged brick and steel” is good, but note how much more you say of the world if you use “brick and steel salvaged from the bombed and irradiated shells of yesterday’s skyscrapers,” or, “brick, now leached of the deadly toxins that had killed so many, and reinforced with salvaged steel.” I mean, these are a little clunky as examples since I’m coming up with them on the fly, but my point is, you can tell us so much more.

    You need to build your world with minute and concrete specifics. Take all those general terms out and replace them with detail that show the reader precisely where we are, and how things have changed.

    As it is, I thought you had some great and different ideas, but it really hurt my head to read this because I kept filling in some of the blanks you left, and then getting mental whiplash when I discovered that the image in my head was wrong. Slow down and use those tiny, tiny details to build your world and your characters.

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  9. Shiloh Walker
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 09:45:27

    I like the idea-and I rather liked the prologue bit.

    However, I got to admit the writing itself was a bit clunky. I didn’t occur to me that he had wings until several paragraphs down. Something like that would probably be better to work it somehow as he flies up to check out the wall.

    Also, this is just the SF/urban fantasy junkie in me, but if 02 PC means it’s only been two years since the cataclysm, I’m wondering if civilization would be settled enough for walls to be built, some sort of order restored to life after just two years.

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  10. Jill Sorenson
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 10:27:38

    I don’t like the prologue, but the rest is kind of cute. And memorable, I think. I agree with most of the others about the stilted dialogue/writing, but there’s a neighborly quality to your characters that appeals to me. They seem like nice people, with optimism despite the apocalypse.

    About Jess. I thought he was a girl for the first paragraph, despite the manly wall he’s building. Maybe throw a “he” in there somewhere. I don’t like the “pure sex” thing, either. Showing their attraction without hitting us over the head with it would be better. Maybe just hold off on the sexy stuff for a few pages, cowgirl.

    About Amber. She’s searching for a lost child (hers?), so this isn’t a good time for her to get tongue-tied over a hunky guy. I don’t like that he had to prompt her to talk, either. Give her a stronger voice and let her use it.

    About the writing. If you make an obscure reference (Fargo), give us a hint about what it is. Or wait until later to introduce it. You don’t want to weigh down a first page with a lot of confusing details. As far as a description of Jess, which someone mentioned, leave it out until we’re in Amber’s POV.

    Good luck!

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  11. Jen
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 11:02:30

    I just wanted to add myself to the list of people who really liked this excerpt. I rarely comment on first page excerpts, because I’m rarely drawn in enough to finish the excerpt (horrible, I know). But I liked this premise a lot, and Jess seems like an interesting character. I agree that the writing in the prologue could use a little bit of tightening (and a stronger explanation of how, exactly, the Earth made this cataclysmic change). It also took me a while to realize that Jess was supposed to be a man. I hope you eventually find a publisher, though, because I’d like to read the rest of the story!

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  12. Heather Massey
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 14:53:56

    I liked the “salvaged brick and steel” bit. That more than anything gave me a sense of time and place. The winged mutant angels sound intriguing.

    I agree with everyone’s assessments that this needs work, but I’m glad to see yet another person writing a futuristic romance.

    Take as much time as you need to get it right, and there’s a seat waiting for you at a certain cosmic locomotive….

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  13. Lorraine
    Dec 27, 2008 @ 20:17:23

    I liked the Prologue. At first I thought, huh? sentient Earth, WTF? But I went with it and really liked the imagery of it.

    I agree with most of the comments already posted. I didn’t know if Jess was a man or woman or an alien brought by “…a lover from the glorious universe who brought seeds to fertilize a new and different world.”

    Also when “Jess flew to the top of the newly completed section of wall…” I questioned what exactly “flew” meant.

    The line, “She was still pretty, but she looked tired and thin, despite her round breasts.” made me think erotica, not sci-fi.

    Lastly, the characters seemed very light in tone, almost cheerful, considering they’ve survived an apocalypse that “…caused cataclysmic upheaval for humans…” We don’t know if they’re survivors, or the next generation, or several generations in the future. I think clarity about this would be helpful in the world building.

    Great job. Thanks for sharing!

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  14. Julia Sullivan
    Dec 28, 2008 @ 20:35:11

    We don't know if they're survivors, or the next generation, or several generations in the future.

    No, we do know: it’s Year Two after the cataclysm. It says so in the text.

    And that’s by far my biggest problem with this whole thing: how lightly everyone is taking everything here (as others have said).

    Year Two? After a world-wide cataclysm where humans become vampires or angels or something? And everyone’s just groovy with what happened and getting on with things?

    I mean, I don’t even know how people developed wings and fangs in just two years (was it a response to the cataclysm, or some kind of bioengineering?) But it seems so unlikely that even if that happened, people would be taking that for granted so quickly.

    Look at New Orleans. It’s three and a half years after Katrina, and people talk about that every day there. Every day.

    The other thing I have beef with is the prologue: it doesn’t explain anything at all. Either explain about the wings and fangs and what-not in there, or just go right to “Year X Post-Cataclysm” because that gives as much information as the current prologue.

    And I don’t think “X” should equal “two” there. “Twenty” maybe.

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  15. SandyO
    Dec 29, 2008 @ 11:16:09

    Just a thought, since Jess is doing all the “different” stuff, ie: flying, building wall, being a hunk with wings and fangs, what if you change the POV. Have Amber watching Jess, not knowing it’s him. It gives you more of an opportunity to describe the differences in the new world.

    ReplyReply

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