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Author Topic: Outcaster IV
arriki
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March 27th --
One last try on the opening down a ways. I'm going to be sending the story off soon so I'd appreciate any insights into improving it you can muster.

Thanks.

Anyone willing to take a look at the whole story?

New attempt at opening down below.

I'm trying to write one new short story a week. This is the latest one's opening.


“It’s a beacon of some sort, captain.”
“One of ours?”
“We’re the first ship out this far, sir.” The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer. “Definitely nothing of ours.”
The Outcaster IV was a quasi-military ship commissioned ten years earlier on Mars Orbital 3 for the Sol System Exploration Company. SSEC had the discovery of five Earth type planets to its credit. Outcaster hoped to find a sixth while searching for less desirable worlds suitable for colonization and exploitation.
“Any idea what it’s saying?”
“I’m running the message through the computer now. Give BETTY

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited February 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited February 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited February 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited February 26, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited February 27, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited March 23, 2008).]

[This message has been edited by arriki (edited March 24, 2008).]


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akeenedesign
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The overall feel I get from this opening is:

Good dialogue, followed by an impossible-to-read info dump, followed by an awkwardly-timed introduction of conflict.

Outcaster IV, quasi-military, Mars Orbital 3, Sol System Exploration Company... these are all the things that forced me to stop and think in just one sentence. They are all things that don't make me care about the characters or the conflict, so it's all unnecessary.

Are the people scared? Have they been waiting their entire lives for this? Is someone angry because he just wants this mission to be over, and this discovery will prolong it indefinitely? Who's the main character?

Give a little time between BETTY crunching numbers and the results, and fill it with characterization so that I am emotionally invested in the results.

Discovering that there is an alien life form in a sci-fi short story isn't nearly exciting enough on its own to make me want to read on.


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Bent Tree
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I was left with the same impression. It seem as though you have a good amount of thought put into this story. I think the intro could be structured without the info-dump. Perhaps you could develop the characters and discovery more. I was also left with the question of why would it be a "Quasi military ship" if there had never been contact with alien species. It may be that there is conflict with other human factions, but if not you may rethink that aspect. It seems interesting I'll take a gander if you like. I am on lockdown in the Hospital with only my laptop to entertain me.
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annepin
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Hm... I love the word navigatrix. Did you make it up? It's very sexy.

My main complaint with this is that I have a potentially sexy navigatrix and a disembodied voice. I have no character to really pin anything to. Whose POV is this in? Even if it's omniscient, I think I need to have a glimpse at the characters involved. Right now, it's pretty devoid of voice and attitude, two qualities that I look for in a good read.

quote:

“It’s a beacon of some sort, captain.”
“One of ours?”
“We’re the first ship out this far, sir.” The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer. “Definitely nothing of ours.”
The Outcaster IV was a quasi-military ship commissioned ten years earlier on Mars Orbital 3 for the Sol System Exploration Company. SSEC had the discovery of five Earth type planets to its credit. Outcaster hoped to find a sixth while searching for less desirable worlds suitable for colonization and exploitation.This paragraph pulled me completely out of the story. It's an info dump. Sure, it gives us the context, but I'm not sure how much of the detail is really relevant. I'd much rather this information come through in a character's thoughts.
“Any idea what it’s saying?”
“I’m running the message through the computer now. Give BETTY some time to crunch it with her programs. It’s alien, sir! We’re looking at the first real communication from aliens.” This last bit felt really rushed. The Navigatrix tells us the captain needs to be patient, and then voila! It seems as if it's been translated. And then we're told it's the first real communication from aliens--and that feels like an "as you know, Bob." Surely the captain would be aware this is the first communication with aliens and wouldn't need to be told that by a lowly navigatrix!


I do appreciate that you've written 13 lines without revealing the gender of either party!

[This message has been edited by annepin (edited February 26, 2008).]


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arriki
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I wrote down "navigator" and then was struck with the idea of making the term feminine. So, navigatrix. Says a lot about the culture when there are male/female terms for the same thing. I discovered a little later that she has a crush on the Captain. That may get cut, but it just popped out from my subconscious.

After two rather humorous stories, this is one deadly serious.


Note from Kathleen: Sorry. I noticed after I sent the delete order through that I'd deleted the wrong duplicate post (so I fixed the spelling you fixed in the post I deleted). Hope that makes sense.

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited February 26, 2008).]


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Bent Tree
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I think it is great-- like the spanish language with feminine and masculine. That may be the start of something that you can continue in your dialogue. It may be hard to pull off. Skim through some Burgess before you try.
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arriki
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Thanks, Kathleen. I have too itchy a trigger finger for the "send" button.

I'm considering what all y'all have said. I'm thinking on it, thinking on it.
I seem to have the same problem come up lately -- too much establishing detail. I'm trying to get a handle on the problem, so keep pointing it out. Maybe someday I'll get better. Will post the new opening as soon as I've got it worked out.


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arriki
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I tried to encapsulate the setting info in one line. Any better?

SSEC ship Outcaster IV Two days out from star system 7-3428.

Excitement bubbled on the bridge.
“It’s a beacon of some sort, captain.”
“One of ours?”
“We’re the first ship out this far, sir.” The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer. “Definitely nothing of ours.”
“Any idea what the beacon’s saying?”
“I’m running the message through the computer now. Give BETTY some time to crunch it with her programs. But it’s alien, sir!
First contact! Captain Aran Zhang-Jones did not join in his crew’s jubilation. He knew how troublesome and dangerous such a discovery could be. “Just a recorded message,” he reminded


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Bent Tree
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I like this better. It works for me.
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shimiqua
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much better.
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LCastle
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Definitely better.
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akeenedesign
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Definitely better! That simple sentence at the beginning helped me imagine the tone of the people saying those lines, and the atmosphere.

The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer. “Definitely nothing of ours.”

The description of the sexy navigatrix bending closer seems to contradict her next line of "Definitely nothing of ours." It seems like she discovered something new by bending closer. What if you said it like this:

-- “We’re the first ship out this far, sir. Definitely nothing of ours.” The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer. --

I'm running the message through the computer now. Give BETTY some time to crunch it with her programs. But it's alien, sir!"

If BETTY is the computer, and people refer to her by name, I think it's better to introduce her by name first. And "crunching it through her programs" is arbitrary... just come right out and say that she's translating it.

-- "I'm already running the message through BETTY. Her processor needs time to translate it. But it's alien, sir!" --

Great improvement, though! Just those little things were bothersome...

Wait...

Is SSEC ship Outcaster IV Two days out from star system 7-3428 the first line? It's completely unnecessary, for me... I thought it was fine when I started with the "Excitement bubbled" line. Take that out and you can add a tiny bit more in about the captain's feelings at the end of the 13 lines.

You can have the captain call the command center with "This is SSEC ship Outcaster IV, Two days out from star system 7-3428, reporting an alien beacon" after you've already hooked your readers.

That's it!


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annepin
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I'm not a big fan of the first line--it doesn't draw me in. It feels out of place--a description of an emotion without anyone specific to peg it to. It's also a bit cliche, and feels out of character--I think of teeniebops bubbling with excitement, not the crew of a spaceship. I think the dialogue is much stronger.

“I’m running the message through the computer now. Give BETTY some time to crunch it with her programs. But it’s alien, sir!There's still a weird time lapse here. She asks the cap to give BETTY some time, but then BETTY doesn't need any time. Also, the "But" doesn't seem to fit--is she contradicting or refuting something?
First contact! Captain Aran Zhang-Jones I like the use of the character's name here. Gives me someone to latch on to. did not join in his crew’s jubilation. He knew how troublesome and dangerous such a discovery could be This line struck me as odd--if this is the first time they've encountered aliens, how does he know how troublesome and dangerous the discovery can be? From watching old Star Trek reruns?. “Just a recorded message,” he reminded


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rickfisher
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I'd say the first line--or something like it-- is absolutely essential. You can't just cut it. However, I think you could profitably replace it with a peep into the captain's head, which would also ID the POV right up front.
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arriki
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Anyone willing to take a look at the whole story?
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arriki
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Latest and last version of the opening?


SSEC ship Outcaster two days out from star system 7-3428.
Excitement bubbled on the bridge.
“It’s a beacon of some sort, captain.”
“One of ours?”
“We’re the first ship out this far.” The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer. “Nothing like ours. I’m loading the message into BETTY’s files now. It’s definitely alien, sir!”
First contact. Captain Aran Zhang-Jones did not join in his crew’s jubilation “Just a recorded message. Although that should be worth something to the company.” Not as large a bonus as finding an Earth type world. “Log the find, Pita. Ginene, how long till we reach the outermost planet of this system?”

[This message has been edited by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury (edited March 24, 2008).]


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DebbieKW
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The latest version has me hooked. If it's not terribly long, send it to me and I'll critique the whole thing.
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Tiergan
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Much better.
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Bent Tree
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I will go over it. It will take me 48 hrs to turn it though I am swamped.
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Wildstar
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Sorry for the late post and I too like your restructuring but the one thing that no one mentioned that stands out to me is that your captian knows less than his crew.

“It’s a beacon of some sort, captain.”
“One of ours?”
“We’re the first ship out this far.”

The captain would know that they were the first ship out that far and therefore would know it wasn't one of theirs.

It might be an opportunity to introduce another character to ask this question. It would help set the stories point of view if the Captian was just observing his crew.

This would really support your lines:

Captain Aran Zhang-Jones did not join in his crew’s jubilation “Just a recorded message. Although that should be worth something to the company.” Not as large a bonus as finding an Earth type world. “Log the find, Pita. Ginene, how long till we reach the outermost planet of this system?”

It would be cool if he only spoke when he had to.

I like this and would read the rest if you are interested. I wouldn't be able to until this weekend though.

[This message has been edited by Wildstar (edited March 28, 2008).]


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annepin
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I'm still adverse to the word "bubbled." But that's just me. If you don't mind a slower turn-a-round (early next week?) I could do it.
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arriki
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I'll out more copies to those of you who have asked.

The bit about the captain having to ask if the beacon is "one of ours?" has bothered me.
And yet, wouldn't that be the first question to ask before assuming it's alien?

Maybe I need to rephrase the reply. In stead of saying -- you dummy, we're the first ship out this far -- to say something along the lines of -- we're the first ship registered to be out this far -- ???? Imply that rogue ships of some kinds might have made it here.


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Wildstar
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What if:

SSEC ship Outcaster two days out from star system 7-3428.
Excitement bubbled on the bridge.
“It’s a beacon of some sort, captain.”
“Can't be one of ours, We’re the first ship out this far.”
The navigatrix bent closer to the screen as if that would make the data clearer.
“ I’m loading the message into BETTY’s files now. It’s definitely alien, sir!”
First contact. Captain Aran Zhang-Jones did not join in his crew’s jubilation “Just a recorded message. Although that should be worth something to the company.” Not as large a bonus as finding an Earth type world. “Log the find, Pita. Ginene, how long till we reach the outermost planet of this system?”


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