31 August 2009

First Page Game #8

The Stars Below

‘..........happy birthday to you. Go on, Lucianne, blow the candles out.’
The room had been a sea of children’s faces, flickeringly lit by reflected light from the ten candles sputtering on the pink candy cake, when the phone had rung, drawing him away from the celebrations.

‘Cameron? We need you out on the New Kingston Exploration platform. There’s a helicopter waiting in Aberdeen and a car will be with you in fifteen minutes’

That had been it.

A manic drive through dark roads and dimly lit watery suburbs to the airport where a sleek, private helicopter was already warmed up. Someone thrust a package of paperwork onto him as he suited up – ‘This’ll help explain the rush’ – and then it was in and away into the black night.

New Kingston was operating way beyond established platforms in the North Sea. Initial deep seismic investigation had looked promising but the reports and printouts for the current test bore were crazy – huge pressure differentials within the bore column, magnetic anomalies, distorted and fractured heads, power outages, equipment failures – what was going on?

Suddenly his stomach fell away. The turbine roar was replaced by silence, by a cacophony of alarms, by, a matter of fact - ‘Brace –we’re going in’ – and then it was like hitting a wall.

The writing is good and carries me along nicely, but I'm afraid I have little idea what's going on. And if I don't know what's going on, it makes it tough for me to care. Obscurity starts with the line "That had been it." Yes, the elusive, secretive "it" has reared its (no pun intended) ugly head again. I think we've been pretty clear that we're not crazy about this device. I'd rather see a story problem right there in that line, something to explain what "it" is. "They'd discovered the aliens." "The sea floor had gulped down several hundred oil-rig workers like they were minnows." See how even those bad examples are more interesting than "it"? Mechanical and technical malfunctions are only mildly interesting without some major impact on people or situation. IMO, not knowing the situation hurts this opening.

And yeah, I realize your POV character might not know yet either, but you've pretty well ruined that with "That had been it."

But that's only one strike in the midst of what appears to be some competent writing. I'd read on to see if the story problem manifests itself quickly, within a page or two.


lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for playing, Author! We appreciate it. I agree with Editor Betsy that the writing is good here and carries one along nicely. And I agree that I don't know what's going on. Bummer. :(

The birthday party scene is too brief to be understandable. If the author needs it to flesh out the protagonist's home life, maybe it would work better as a flashback?
Additionally, the phone call at the beginning is a cliche. I've blogged about phone calls before: do not start your story with a phone call.

That being said, beginning the story with "A manic drive through the dark roads and dimly lit watery suburbs..." could work great. That would be a story I'd really like to read!
Good luck, Author!

writtenwyrdd said...

I've got to agree, we need the problem stated. You don't have to tell us everything, but you need to tell us something to create the hook that makes us want to read more. There are several uses of 'it', so I think this might be an unconscious habit of yours, author.

This example is good writing, but not hooking me. I would have read on a bit, but any more uses of 'it' and I might not feel the same way. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Most of what I thought has been said. I'm not fond of the 'had' usage. I'm not grounded in where he is now and getting all the 'this is what happened to get me to this unspecified here' isn't drawing me into the story.

That had been it. is where I would stop reading and put it down. I'm afraid my patience level, or maybe it's my lack of free time, keeps me from giving what I read much of a chance to pull me in.

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