You were so helpful with the first story, I thought I might try a few more. Here is a story I've only submitted to one market: 5600 Words All remarks and comments welcome.
Edit: I just realized that the first 500 words was exposition so I'm jumping intot the action
Revised First 13 ***** Major Lee pursed her lips hesitating in the doorway. "Excuse me, Sir?" "Look at this Tina. These lateral markings indicate land or some sort of field. The symbols here and here share the same horizontal characteristics, but this wavy line right here most likely indicates movement or water. Of course, it could also mean..." "I'm sorry to interrupt you Colonel, that sounds interesting, but this is urgent." Harry looked at the clock on his computer. "Wow, it's almost 2100. What are you still doing here?" "We have standing orders to notify you immediately of any activity of the sleeping giant, Iím sorry mean the anomaly." *****
There is a lot of battle action in this story but it doesn't start until page 7. Thanks in advance!
[This message has been edited by WakefieldMahon (edited July 21, 2011).]
I see you haven't gotten any responses, so I'd like to jump in and see if I can help.
quote:Colonel Harry Graham rearranged the documents for the twentieth time that day: logs, sketches and photographs lying scattered across his desk.
A person sitting at a desk shuffling papers on a desk doesn't quite give me the impression I'm in for a wild ride. It sets up a passive scene, and I'm a bit discouraged.
quote:He stared at them intently, hoping to glean something from a new perspective.
Consider deleting the word intently, I feel it is redundant as stares tend to be intent all by themselves.
quote:If he was stuck with this job, at least he could try to accomplish what none of his predecessors had ever managed to do: decipher the language of the alien colossus.
This is all quite telly. We are being told he is not very enthusiastic about this job, trying to decipher the language of an alien colossus, which if I were a linguist, would be very excited about. So his attitude doesn't feel very believable to me.
So I'm not hooked by this opening, but if this story is about Colonel Graham trying to decipher the alien language, why not start with him in the act of doing so? Not by telling us he is looking at some papers with an alien language on them, but actually showing him trying to translate.
I'm not sure how you could do this if he is looking at their written text, but if he were say, listening to a recording of the alien speech, you could open with the alien speech directly, and Colonel Graham replaying it and trying to decipher.
At this point, with your revised opening, I have absolutely no idea what's going on, I'm afraid. Lines could be land or a field, and wavy lines for water. So he's looking at a map, right? Well, according to the comments so far, apparently not . . . and Major Lee is hesitating in the doorway--entering or exiting? My first thought was that the other speaker--Colonel? . . . Harry? Took a bit to figure out his name--just said something that she missed, and she turned back to say "Excuse me, Sir?"
Basically the whole thing is dialog with basically nothing for me to latch onto, including dialog tags. Very much White Room Syndrome.
Also, I'd ditch the "I'm sorry, I mean the anomaly." I'd figure that, as with all things military, any and every thing gets a code name, and Sleeping Giant is presumably this one's. So no need to spell it out further . . . at least, not in Maid and Butler fashion.
Reading the bits of your old draft saved in Osiris's comments, I'd have to say I latched on better to that older version, if only because you painted a scene for me to be in, even if it's a boring one. So . . . don't go back to the old version, but flesh out your existing scene a lot . . . and jump even closer to the action, I think. Start with the Sleeping Giant news, let everyone get all panicky or whatever over it to hook your readers, and then let Mr. Egghead dither on about his exciting discovery a page or so later, once we're engaged and can really appreciate it.
A tip to help establish the setting. Use office doorway, hatch, quarters, stone arch... ect. This simple add on can help give us a sense on scene. Are they in a building, a boat, a starship, a tent? You can give us a some scenery by adding a word here and there. It doesn't just have to be a detailed description.
Next: The colonel is looking at a map. Unless his study of the map has some immediate impact on the stories opening (just beyond the first 13) it really doesn't create a strong opening. If the maps are important farther along in the story, I think a simple "the colonel looked up from his maps." Is all you need here (if that) and worry about them later in the story.
I agree you can cut off the "I'm sorry I mean the anomaly."
I know code names are common, and so are unofficial names, but I think this spells out what the sleeping giant is to literally. I am sure right after this the Major must explain what the "activity" is. I am sure that should give the reader the info they need to realize the giant is an anomaly and what type of anomaly it is.