You can’t even trust the scenery in
The sun was directly overhead and the stream of people coming from the spacedocks had dried up. It was time to go. Alex is quietest at noon when the brutal heat and light drive everyone indoors. The crenellations of the gatehouse roof hid her from eyesight but not from the weather.
She stretched her legs out, circling her feet at the ankles, getting ready to scramble down the wall, trying not to make too much noise. Then she took one last look at the gate and saw them. Two men were dressed as local merchants in long layers of white and yellow silk. Yet their bearing did not say merchant. They were too alert, too strong looking, too something. Too bearded. The fashion for men on Liberty Colony is to shave.
There are good details that put me in place: we're in a SF story (spacedocks) in a town called Alexandria. We've got a character trying to jump the gate and a couple of goons in disguise, so we're getting hints of a conflict.
This will sound contradictory, but here goes. There aren't enough details and specifics.
First, character motivation. We've touched on the ineffectiveness of keeping secrets from readers during this game. Right now I'm wondering: Why is she trying to get out? Why are people after her? What are the stakes? Why are there spies? This seems to be a merchant town, so what's its underbelly look like and why does it matter to your character? Good, writers think. I have you wondering. Yeah, but unfortunately, I'm also wondering why I should care.
I think this sometimes happens accidentally. A lot of writers are pantzers and they don't know why something is happening when they put the words on the page. But it's important to go back and fill in those blanks. Sometimes it's intentional, though. So take a look at your character's motivation. Will revealing it up the tension in your scene? If it won't, then the reveal will only be that much more disappointing when we finally get it. Details and stakes help readers invest in the story and my distinct preference is to see all that as close to the first page as possible. Right now I don't feel a ton of tension in this scene. I'm guessing knowing what the stakes are would help that.
My second issue is choreography and scene setting. Despite the description, I don't have a good sense of characters moving within this scene, how far up she is, what the ground below looks like, what the true nature of the danger is. Also, the men appear out of nowhere when she's been studying the scene intently. Again, I think some specifics would help here. I don't mean a list, but instead of Any kind of crate or bin, any space created by walls or fences, could hide a spy, someone watching the gate just as she was try having her look at a specific crate with a brief description. Is there movement behind it? Is it a common hiding place? Or even hark back to the time SHE hid behind a crate and how it had given her a perfect view of the gate. And what kind of crate is it? Does it transport plants, drugs, bombs, illegal slaves? That drops a clue to the underbelly of the town. Invoke the senses. All we have are visual clues. Can she smell the illegal spice on secret trade? The reek of the alien slaves? What does the heat feel like as it pounds her back? Is sweat rolling down her sides? Can she hear ships taking off and are they near or far? Do her joints ache as she prepares to jump? A few vivid, key details go further than a broad picture to aiding a reader to paint their own picture of the scene (as readers are supposed to--again, it's part of their investment in the story).
And a final, minor point, this tense switch really threw me: Alex is quietest at noon when the brutal heat and light drive everyone indoors.
In general though, the scene would lead me to read on while watching for these issues to pop back up in the writing. Thanks for playing! I really appreciate showing these to our readers because they help everyone become more effective writers, which makes Electric Spec more fun for our readers!