Greetings, readers, writers, and population at large. Today we have a first page critique of a futuristic story about a young woman with the colorful name of Diamond Blue. Please read the submission, and my comments, then let our dear writer in on your thoughts.
Working Title: Blue Menace
Diamond Blue scrambled around her small bedroom, grabbing clothes and accessories at random, shoving them in her backpack.
She looked at her wrist. Crap! Ten minutes to get to the ship, and maybe another twenty before the cops figured out what she had done.
In the bathroom, she held the backpack up to her side of the shelf and swiped everything in. She rested the bag on the vanity and pushed at the jumble inside to close the zip. As she finished, she glanced at the mirror – red face, sweaty, and wild-eyed. Oh sure, they’d let her on board looking like a panicked junkie after a marathon, no problem.
She splashed water on her flushed face and ran her damp hands over her long sapphire-blue braids.
The memory flashed of her best friend, Rina, surrounded by a swarm of armed cops. She shook her head to clear it. If she didn’t get moving, it would all be for nothing.
She turned out of the bathroom, swinging the backpack onto her shoulder, and crossed the living room. She and Rina weren’t messy flatmates, but the remains of yesterday’s hasty planning session was strewn across the coffee table – pizza, wine, chocolate. Diamond grabbed the last few squares of chocolate and popped them into her mouth. Breakfast of champions.
At the front door, she waved her hand over the sensor. It slid across the opening and disappeared into the opposite wall.
Diamond pulled the hood of her sweater over her hair, leaned out and checked the corridor.
Her neighbors in this quadrant of Residential Floor Three liked to start work a little later than most. There was no one around.
Neither was her ride. Of all the times for the damn Sliders to malfunction!
The Sliders, a simple hover-platform with a t-bar to steer, was supposed to come from the public bays near the core to her location based on the quantum chip in her hand.
The chip! Ahh, she was a class-A idiot!
She slapped at the cuff around her lower left arm to wake it up, and re-ordered the Slider in the name she’d stolen in the early hours of the morning – Rina Cavanaugh.
Somewhere on the Justice floor was a Slider hovering around the booking desk, maybe even outside Rina’s cell if it got that far.
She had less time than she thought.
This, dear readers, is an example of a quite accomplished opening to a story. We have immediate action occurring in the midst of some troubling event—that desirable in medias res we so often encourage around here. A well-defined setting: sometime in the technological future. Clear, identifiable characters: Diamond Blue and her flatmate, Rina Cavanaugh, the cops. Interesting nomenclature in the story’s world. And a nearly complete scene that doesn’t lose its focus. Check, check and check.
So let’s look at some details, dear writer.
I like the title, Blue Menace. Evocative, and connected to the main character. While I’m not certain, the title and voice make it sound like it’s a YA story.
“Diamond Blue scrambled around her small bedroom, grabbing clothes and accessories at random, shoving them in her backpack.”
This is a perfectly good opening line for a chapter. I’m less convinced that it is telling enough for a novel. If this is, indeed, a novel, I’d like to see the opening chapter—even just a paragraph– be an event in the obviously chaotic world outside the building (or whatever where Diamond lives is called). It can be in the past, such as the scene where Rina is surrounded, or some apocalyptic event that we will eventually learn about. Make the stakes of the story bigger right off.
“She splashed water on her flushed face and ran her damp hands over her long sapphire-blue braids.”
A couple of commas will make the sentence clearer:
She splashed water on her flushed face, and ran her damp hands over her long, sapphire-blue braids.
You could even lose “-blue.” I don’t think anyone would imagine her hair is made of actual sapphires. Though there are a few sapphire stones of other colors (rubies are technically sapphires), they are typically blue. Then again, it occurs to me that her name is Diamond. Is the sapphire reference intentional?
I admire the way you do the reflection description of Diamond, dear writer. Mirrors can be cliché, but it works.
Quoting a character’s thoughts—
“Oh sure, they’d let her on board looking like a panicked junkie after a marathon, no problem.”
Using italics to hear a third-person character’s thoughts is fine. But if you’re going to use quotes or italics, you need to treat thoughts like internal dialogue, and use me instead of her, and I instead of she. It should read:
“Oh sure, they’d let me on board looking like a panicked junkie after a marathon, no problem.”
When you quote this way, you can make the thoughts sound a little more natural, as in,
“Sure. Like they’ll let me on board looking like a crackhead after a five mile run, no problem.”
Later, “Damn Sliders. Of course they choose now to screw up!” and “Holy crap, I’m an idiot!”
A matter of agreement—
“The Sliders, a simple hover-platform with a t-bar to steer, was supposed to come from the public bays near the core to her location based on the quantum chip in her hand.”
I had to think about this one a moment. I’m assuming individual Sliders are referred to as “a Slider.” If so, the sentence should read:
(Simpler, preferred version. Don’t get caught up in exact locations.) A Slider, a simple hover-platform with a t-bar to steer, was supposed to come from a public bay closest to the requester’s location based on the quantum chip in their hand.
Or, The Sliders, simple hover-platforms with t-bars to steer, were supposed to come from the public bays near the core to requesters’ locations based on the quantum chip in their hands.
(I know I use “their” as singular in the first one. According to some, that usage is still under debate. I’ve made the change in my work.)
“She slapped at the cuff around her lower left arm to wake it up, and re-ordered the Slider in the name she’d stolen in the early hours of the morning – Rina Cavanaugh.
Somewhere on the Justice floor was a Slider hovering around the booking desk, maybe even outside Rina’s cell if it got that far.”
Okay, you’ve got me here, dear writer. I’m lost. Am I supposed to understand that she ordered in her own name originally? If the Slider is supposed to come to her based on the fact that it responds to the chip in her hand, shouldn’t it have located her where she is? What does the cuff have to do with it? I finally understand that Rina is locked up on the Justice floor—good news that she’s not dead—but I don’t get the explanation for the Slider mixup.
Perhaps simply drop the whole mistaken Slider thing, unless it will have an effect on the plot later. If that’s the case, just make it as simple as possible, and put the revelation of Rina’s location somewhere else.
What a great start, dear writer. I would definitely read on.
Have at it, TKZers! What are your thoughts and suggestions?