18 September 2009

first page critique game # 10

Sorry so long! It's been a big week catching up on sleep and various other projects after conference. A word: we're running a bit low on first pages, so feel free to tell your friends to submit. If they dare. Bwahahahaha! Okay, kidding. I aim for constructive, but I do admit I'm less forgiving on these than I am on my critiques for writing buddies. This is me, trying to show you how I think as an editor. And really, I don't know what you're aiming for besides what you show me here. Anyway, here goes...

Suicide Extinct
Sardonyx Nash struggled as her fellow vampire looped handcuffs around her wrists and attached them to the liquid fuel line. “Handcuffs?”

“Not just any handcuffs.” Vin Driscol, transfixed his black eyes on hers. “A mage on Venus created them. Silver with a Jade core. No creature – Not vampires, werewolf, or wraiths from Jupiter -- can break through them. The key is on that ledge. Get the crew to release you once I’m gone.”

“Release a vampire stowaway?”

“I told you not to follow me onto this spaceship, Nyx.”

Sardonyx yanked on the shackles, metal clanking. “Don’t do this.”

“Careful. This pipe here?” Vin tapped his long white finger on the pipe labeled liquid fuel. “The fuel line. If you rupture it, the SS Pantara Eve will burst into a supernova.”

Sardonyx slumped against the wall. “Vin Driscol, if you jump you’ll be hanging in space for immortal eternity.”

Vin looked over at the cargo doors. “That’s the plan, Nyx.”

“Deep space will be your eternal floating prison.”

“And being vampires, living forever, that is not a prison?” Vin pushed his arms into his leather, then tapped a code into the wall console. The inner doors jerked into slow separation.

I don't have a lot to say about this other than it's a bit sloppy with the punctuation. I marked issues with bold red font. The vast majority of our subs are clean grammatically and with punctuation. It's not a deal-breaker, but it is a strike. Cleaning up a piece with a lot of grammatical and punctuation errors is kind of like picking up my kid's room. He's more than capable of doing it himself; he just doesn't want to. It smacks of laziness. Grammar and punctuation are the most basic of your tools. Don't let ignorance or laziness hold you back .

One highlighted bit requires explanation: the name of the ship. Don't format for your editors. If you want something bold or italic, note it with underscoring And not _xx_ either. That's annoying because we have to go in and remove those extra spaces by hand.

Story-wise, I think this is a fine start except for two points.
1. I'm wondering why Nyx cares. What's it to her that the other vampire is imprisoning himself in space? 2. I'm also wondering who's head I'm in. I write with very little internal narrative myself, but give us a physical reaction, the cuffs are cold or too tight or a flutter of horror, something to let us know who's side we're on in this.

Really easy fixes, though, and the premise is different enough to catch my eye. I'd keep reading.


David E. Hughes said...

I would keep reading, but with a skeptical eye. The concern that jumps out at me is that it is hard to place what kind of story it is. Vampires in space? Points for originality, but the author may have a challenge with worldbuilding and convincing me that the cross-genre elements are essential to the story. Remember, we love original stories, but the key to original settings and characters is that they fit the plot perfectly--they can't decoration that tries to make a story stand out.

Michelle Gregory said...

i'm not sure about vampires in space, but then i'm still not sure about vampires in general.

David said...

Where should newcomers submit to?

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Submit to our regular submissions address:

submissions at electricspec . com

And put re: First Page Game so it doesn't get sorted with our regular slush.

Anonymous said...

Betsy - As the author, let me just thank you for this game and your time. I take your comments seriously.
I guess grammar should be my first exercise. I don’t want to be turned away for ignorance or laziness. For sure.
The other pointers will be applied as well. As you said, easy fixes.

David – thank you for the comment about the cross-genre elements. I try to do that with a lot of my pieces. Your advice will guide me in many of my stories.

Thanks guys for the FIRST PAGE GAME. I am spreading the word :)

lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for playing, Author. We appreciate it!
Unlike editor Dave, I really enjoyed the idea of vampires in space. Kudos! I would totally keep reading.

To make this piece even better, consider fleshing it out a bit more. For example, the author tells us "Sardonyx Nash struggled..." but I don't get any sense of a struggle. Can you show us some struggle? Similarly, "Handcuffs?” seems too mild and brief; it does not seem to be the dialog of a creature struggling, possibly in danger for her life.

I must admit, too, some of this was a bit confusing, e.g. "...if you jump you’ll be hanging in space for immortal eternity.” What kind of jump? How does an immortal eternity differ from regular eternity? Furthermore, it's unclear if what Vin does will kill him. He implies it will when he says, “And being vampires, living forever, that is not a prison?” Unanswered questions are fine on page 1. Presumably, these questions would all be answered after page 1; if they are not answered eventually that would be a problem.

Good luck, Author!