I posted this earlier when I didn't have a title. It's been worked and reworked so much that I thought that it warranted a new post. Apologies to the forum goddess if such was not the case.
Mick DeVries took a deep breath and then jumped out into the merciless vacuum of space. A current of fear coursed through him-it always did-as his momentum carried him away from the ship. Not for the first time, Mick cursed the luck that set him to mining a rock filled with volatile gasses. Of course, by virtue of that same luck, the resulting explosion only blew out his mining laser and not his entire ship. Working with remote tools, Mick thought, was better than not being around to work at all. Barely fifty meters away, the great red bulk of an asteroid drifted through space. It was small-considering the behemoths that floated nearby-barely a hundred meters in diameter; too small to attract attention, just the way Mick liked them. As he drifted closer to the asteroid, the motor in the back of his safety harness stuttered and whined.
Okay. This part of your story would be fine in another section of your book, but I don't think it works as your 'hook'. As your reader, I don't find myself too concerned about your MC's predicament mainly because there are too many things going on that seem vague or distant to me. Is he an asteroid miner? It seems to imply that this occupation is illegal for some reason. Why is he even in an asteroid field? What was so important about an explosion? Is he so inexperienced that he is a danger to himself? What's driving him to do what he's doing?
I was a little confused that he would curse the luck that saved him.
Starting with some discussion on the role of luck, as you have done, is fine to my eyes. It suggests that luck will probably play a conflicting role throughout the remainder of the story. I would probably emphasize it more by having it in the first sentence, but then show more clearly that it can cut both ways, good and bad. If it isn't a significant element in the story, I would cut it out and just state what had happened without coloration through the eyes of fortune.
A few sentences could be written in more direct language to make the story more immediate. For example, "Of course, by virtue of that same luck, the resulting..." feels a little convoluted, slowing it down. Sometimes directness can be improved just by switching phrases in a sentence, e.g "The great red bulk of an asteroid drifted through space barely fifty meters away." This way, the reader is guided to focus on the asteroid first up, rather than the lesser detail of distance.
Overall, though, not a bad beginning. It feels like a potentially interesting mini-world is being opened to the reader, indicating a strong milieu emphasis on the MICE quotient. That will hook some and not others.
I wonder if the explosion of the volatile gasses that take out the mining laser would be a better place to start this piece. I think your current first line is interesting, and made me finish the paragraph, but the problem arose when the narration switches to reflecting about the explosion of the volatile gases. Its a problem because I'd rather experience it as the reader than be told about it. Maybe you could structure it like this:
- Show precipitation leading to explosion and the explosion itself. Something like "Mick Devries failed to notice the heavy cloud of volatile gas drifting into the mining laser's beam" yada yada..
- Mick assesses damage, finds laser out but ship is serviceable. Can reflect on luck here.
quote:Mick DeVries took a deep breath and then jumped out into the merciless vacuum of space.[Right here, I'm picturing a guy committing suicide. Does he have a spacesuit on? Maybe holding his breath to keep from fogging his visor, or something, would help.] A current of fear coursed through him[-it always did-<--IMHO, cut. if you want to add this, you could begin the sentence with: The usual current of fear...]as his momentum carried him away from the ship. [Not for the first time,<--Redundant, in the light of the last sentence and its comment.] Mick cursed the luck that set him to mining a rock filled with volatile gasses. [Of course, by virtue of that same luck, the resulting explosion only blew out his mining laser and not his entire ship.<--Huh? What explosion? I didn't read about an explosion. That would be a good, high-tension beginning, too.] Working with remote tools, Mick thought, was better than not being around to work at all.[So, why did he jump out into space? And why does it do it regularly?]
Barely fifty meters away, [the great red bulk of an<--Cut. Simplify: a red] asteroid drifted [through space<--Where else would an asteroid drift?]. [It was small-considering the behemoths that floated nearby<--didn't you make a point of describing the asteroid as "great"?. Seems contradictory to start the very next sentence saying it isn't.]-barely a hundred meters in diameter; too small to attract attention, just the way Mick liked them.<--[These two sentences could be cleaned up and condensed into one concise sentence.] As he drifted closer to the asteroid, the motor in the back of his safety harness stuttered and whined.
Okay, I can see a hook in the explosion--if I saw the explosion. I can see a hook in a faulty motor/harness/winch/line. I think you could condense and clarify a lot.
What I'm confused about:
Didn't he choose to accept the job? If not, why isn't he thinking about how he was forced into indenture?
What explosion. It's mentioned once in passing. I think, in space, it would be at the front of my mind.
If he works with remote tools, why is he leaping out onto an asteroid? Regularly?
Why is he mining volatile gasses with a laser? Wouldn't a "cooled" drill be more effective and less dangerous? (The cooling system could malfunction, and the drill friction could cause heating.)
How is the asteroid moving slow enough for him to jump on?
Thanks for the response and I think I might need to clarify. Mick is, indeed, an asteroid miner. He's also dirt poor and making do with what he has and jerry rigging the rest. Sometimes it works and sometimes he ends up cutting into a gas pocket that he didn't know was there. It was meant to show that Mick was having some hard times.
Some folks were stuck by the possibility of Mick being out in space without a suit...most of the folks I ran this by simply assumed since he was stepping distance from "Nothing" he'd be in a suit.
Later on, he utilizes a portable mining device. It's all he has, so he has to set foot on the asteroid. How? Not being really strong in physics, I did some research and I figured that if the ship was orbiting the asteroid at the same rotational speed, Mick could propel himself towards a spot on the asteroid without much risk since he's traveling at the same speed in a vacuum.
And for PB&Jenny, he's not doing anything illegal...It's a harsh world Mick lives in and he's trying to avoid drawing attention to himself.
Thanks again for all your insight everyone.
[This message has been edited by Ken S (edited August 19, 2010).]
Since you brought up physics, which is a specialty of mine, I'll make a couple more comments.
quote: Some folks were stuck by the possibility of Mick being out in space without a suit...most of the folks I ran this by simply assumed since he was stepping distance from "Nothing" he'd be in a suit.
I think the fact that you contrasted taking a breath with jumping into vacuum could have brought this about. It was too similar to taking a breath and jumping into the ocean - the two phrases seem directly related. Also being the first line of a story, for all we know, he could have been physically modified for space-faring or an alien who's natural environment was space.
quote:I did some research and I figured that if the ship was orbiting the asteroid at the same rotational speed, Mick could propel himself towards a spot on the asteroid without much risk since he's traveling at the same speed in a vacuum.
If you had him jumping toward the axis of rotation (i.e. north or south pole), there will be no problems with him reaching it safely. As it stands, the ship is probably too close to be in geosynchronous orbit (which I think you are trying to imply above), unless the asteroid is rotating very slowly. However, the asteroid is so small that it would be very easy to maintain a close distance from it with only very minor thrusts. It would even be possible (and interesting for the story) that his jump pushed the ship to escape velocity (if the safety harness gets cut).
I remember your original post. I was one of the people who read it as though there was no suit. Unfortunately, I still read it the same way. Need to mention the poor state of his suit, or something to indicate it's there.
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Another physics point - unlike movie depictions, asteroids aren't especially close to each other at all. The average distance between asteroids is over 1,000,000 km. You're unfortunately not going to see many other ones floating nearby....
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