“It must be strange for you, standing here after all this time.”
Mark breathed in the thin, dry, dusty air. “Lost would be a better description.” He walked a few steps further away from the shuttle and stopped. Crouching down, he pushed his hands into the sand and watched the two handfuls he pulled up fall through his fingers.
“Do you want to be left alone?”
“I want to be sent back home.”
“Do you want to be left alone?”
Mark sighed. “Just leave me in peace for a while.”
“It can only be for a minute, then we have to return to the homeship.”
The slow, crunching sound of Hanry's methodical walk back to the shuttle was only a mild relief to Mark. After the extended grind of metal on sand as Hanry turned round on the sand by the shuttle's ramp, there was relative silence.
Mark listened to the faint sound of the wind in the thin atmosphere. He stood up and glanced over his shoulder at the lump of human shaped metal and plastic that was Hanry. He stood there, unmoved, waiting for the moment when his internal chronometer would start the program to collect Mark and take him back to the shuttle. “Typical bloody robot.”
Cool, intriguing title.
I greatly prefer a story problem to present itself as close to the start of the story as possible. I subscribe to the "start the story on the first page and end it on the last" school of thought. This is not a "rule," though I'm hardly the only one with that bent. This is my strong preference. But preference is what you run up against with editors.
So, from reading this, all I've got is that Mark wants to go home. No idea why. No imminent threat or dilemma. I don't see much holding him back from this goal, if that is his goal. (In fact, he's about to get on the "home"ship.) This is not to say I need a shoot-'em-up right off the bat. But I need some hint of a problem, a sizable one that compels me to wonder how Mark is going to solve it.
See my thinking here? A page in and I'm still looking for something to grab me: a cool setting, a problem, and a compelling character to solve it. I'm not thinking what will Mark do next?
As for the writing, I see a couple of issues that alerted me that this story might not be for me. For instance, I'm not a fan of stacked modifiers because it makes for sufficient writing rather than great writing. "Thin, dry, dusty air" is sufficient, but that's really all it is.
Put yourself in my shoes for a minute.
- I'm on a new planet. I'd like to know what the air tastes like, what Mark smells, what it tells him. Has a bomb gone off, ruining the atmosphere? Is he breathing bones and ash? Alien poop? What's the sand feel like? Hot? Cold? Remind him of that time on Orion5 when he hung out with that chick? Played with his kid? Killed that guy? Which leads me to:
- I've just met Mark. I feel the writer missed the opportunity to directly link Mark's experience of breathing, the simplest of acts, right into Mark's personality, past, problem, and to this world he's standing on. As an aside, I live at altitude in a semi-arid climate. I breathe thin, dry, dusty air pretty often. How does Mark's experience differ from mine? Or does it? Either way is okay, but it's the writer's job to control the reader's experience to some degree. That's what editors mean when they say they're in the hands of a great storyteller.
Ditto with "was." For the record, I don't hate was. I think it's a handy little verb. But I like to call to-be construction "kinda passive" construction, more as a joke than anything. Some people call all to-be construction passive construction, but that's not technical enough for this editor. Passive construction is when action is being done to the subject in the sentence rather than the subject being the actor. In either case, I always ask myself: is there a better way to rephrase?
Now, I realize that by using was it might've been the writer's intent to add to the aura of malaise. But when I see a bunch of to-be construction combined with something like stacked adjectives, I start wondering if the writing will be just sufficient throughout. The vast majority of our rejections have sufficient writing.
I'd give this a few more graphs, but it'd have to make a turn-around pretty quickly to get me to read on.
Thanks so much for playing! Hopefully this is of some help! Readers, feel free to kindly comment and ask questions in the thread.