Robert glanced at his children. The boys strained to see the receding lunar landscape through the shuttle window; Katy leaned back in her seat, eyes closed. She must be tired from finals. Katy reminded him of Hannah, back when they first met ... the same wavy chestnut-brown hair, serious face, and burning ambition. I guess Katy got that from both of us.
He grinned to himself. Partner in the top law firm in Wichita! I can't wait to tell Hannah. He checked her status on the hospital website with his internet implants: out of surgery/asleep. She's okay. He turned to tell his kids the good news as the shuttle exploded around them.
Within three sentences you introduce us to a handful of named characters without a clear sign of who is telling it.
Is it Robert? Katy? Is it an unnamed narrator?
Both clauses of the second sentence have nothing to do with each other. A period is necessary.
You jump to a flash back in your third paragraph. Why so soon? Is this stuff we need to know right away in a 101k word novel? Maybe the story didn't start in the right place.
Also, the internal monologue, and in such great volume at the beginning, are indicators of a poor voice. Every time you use them, that's a time where you tell instead of show. And if your not showing, you might as well tell in the narrative.
All the inner monologue, in my opinion, is a sign that you're either don't respect the readers enough to think they can pick up on what you are trying to show, so you simply tell, or that you are not confident in your own ability to show adequately.
This is a common pit-fall with a lot of writers. They try to do the reader a favor by over explaining.
A sentence that really irked me was "He checked her status on the hospital web site with his internet implants: out of surgery/asleep" I hate that sentence. First, this is a complete tell when it could be a show, or even a scene in and of itself. Also, your use of "/" is a sign of a grammar issue.
Also, you're packing in way too much. You want to tell us about Kathy and her finals, being made a partner, something about Hannah, and then something about a shuttle, just for good measure. A hook doesn't mean lay all your cards out on the table within the first 13. You have absolutely zero suspense here. Try to show a peaceful life on the shuttle for a page or two, or even a chapter. When it blows up, that will be all the more impact.
Don't fool yourself, The Da Vinci Code was a block buster, but it was poorly written. This technique reminds me a lot of that book.
[This message has been edited by Swimming Bird (edited May 29, 2006).]
A long time ago, here on Planet Hatrack, we more or less agreed that it is incredibly bad form to critique someone else's critique, that the best thing to do is simply ignore it. I am finding that incredibly hard to do. I'll simply say this: Consider avoiding the word "hate" in your critique, and for the love of the a one-legged black lab on a pink tricycle, don't ever compare anyone's fragment to The Da Vinci Code -- it is simply uncalled for, and in some places in western civilization, people get shot for it. That's all I'm gonna say about it.
With that out of the way, for which I apologize, allow me to comment on the fragment.
Colorbird, consider developing what it's like for Robert and kids on the shuttle just a little longer before blowing it up. What kind of shuttle is it, how big, is it a commercial flight, will there be stewards and stewardesses (er... shuttle attendants, although I hope in the future we bring back gender specific words -- our present PC society with its let's-make-every-word-offensive-to-somebody stuff really drives me nuts... sorry) serving snacks and beverages...?
I get that Robert and kids are leaving the moon, and probably for Robert's new job Wichita, but where exactly is the wife, Hannah? On Earth? In a moon hospital? What for? How long were Robert and Co on the moon? Was it holiday for them or full-time living? These are all good things to possibly develop before blowing up the shuttle. I say possibly.
...If you really want to go mad, blow the shuttle up first sentence, without bothering to develop Robert and kids until after, or if you must, maybe during the shuttle explosion... This assumes that at least one of them, presumably Robert, somehow survives.
But anyway, in my opinion, there isn't enough established before the shuttle goes boom.
Better scene establishment would be nice, you also introduce character names without clearly stating the necessary relationships, thus forcing the reader to make guesses about who's whom to who. As indicated by the fact that not even I know whether that last "who" should be "whom", this is unnecessarily confusing.
Then he turns to tell his kids something (and I don't know what this good news is, either), and only then do you reveal that the shuttle has been exploding the whole time. Maybe you could mention that sooner? Or did you mean that it only expoded after he turned around? I'm just ribbing you, I'm pretty sure that's what you meant to say
The text isn't horrible, but it really is a bit too ambiguous about some things.
I am hesitant on this opening because from what I remember from past versions, the story actually starts several months later and all these characters are dead. If I am wrong, I apologize. If that is the case, using this pov should provide something that would be impossible to get from hannah's.
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For what it's worth, I had no problem discerning the following:
1. The POV character is Robert. 2. Katy and the boys are his children (and therefore the two clauses in the third sentence _are_ related). 3. Katy is an older child, though by how much I can't tell. 4. Hannah is Robert's wife. 5. Hannah is in the hospital somewhere.
Not bad information transfer, considering you haven't infodumped any of those relationships. That said, since others found it confusing, perhaps taking a little more time to get there would help.
If all of these people are going to die, I don't know that you have enough time to develop them sympathetically in the first 13. If this is the end of Robert's story, then the accident feels random rather than tragic. We'll turn the page and learn about how Hannah deals with it, but this first 13 is essentially "Bang! You're dead."
Of course, I will always feel something for a family man and his kids dying in an accident, so there's sympathy there; but I will always feel even more for the wife and mother they left behind. If it's Hannah's story, maybe the details about her family should come out from her POV.
Maybe. I'm just a wannabee, so take it with a grain of salt.
Nit: his observations of his children seem pretty deep for someone "glancing" at his children. He seems to be studying them, especially Katy.
I like the feel of this opener, colorbird, so don't give up heart. Openers are the worst.
BTW, I saw "out of surgery/asleep" as a verbatim reading of a status indicator, so I didn't think that 'your use of "/" is a sign of a grammar issue.'
I guessed right on the boys, but I guessed wrong on Katy (and Hannah) about three times, and the wrong guesses left a weird taste in my brain once I figured out who she was.
I don't know from the text who got the promotion, though I suppose it doesn't matter since they all die anyway. I also have no idea where Hannah is hospitalized, particularly in regards to the lunar landscape behind them (that doesn't make a lot of sense either, a landscape is conventionally a ground view, but without leaving the surface of the moon you can't leave the entire lunar landscape behind you) and Wichita. One of those should have something to do with Hannah's current location...but I don't know which and that makes me wonder if either really does.
Then, in the middle of all this ambiguity, I find out that the shuttle is exploding.
I confused Kathy and Hanna at first... Too many people, too much info, too little space. Can he have less kids? That might work. Is the psychological impact of having your husband and daughter killed in an accident less important than having you husband, daughter and anonymous infants killed in the same accident? Maybe you can just kill off the "boys"
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