With a soft hum the ship gliding through space started to come to its artificial life. The lights on the computer consoles began showing their first signs of activity. The ship is still 26 years away from its destination, a planet designated P1275h located somewhere in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy. The ships tasked with the business of creating a habitable environment for life had completed their objective only months ago. A wild untamed world awaiting new life. There is no life on the ship though. Only the hum of the machines as they set about their work. As the computers run their programs a containment chamber begins to see the first motion in decades. Like a vending machine dispensing soda pop little vials were ejected from the walls and slid through tubes to other parts of the ship.
Am I allowed to post stuff that isn't in the story along with my post? I'll try and hope I don't get cut.
So what do you think so far? Are you hooked? Want to know what happens next? Why is a dead ship headed for a habitable planet? Any guesses?
1 - Add a main character - (this could be the ship's computer). 2 - Choose a Point of view (1st or 3rd). 3 - Use one verb tense (preferably past). 4 - Work on punctuation and sentence structure. 5 - Look at other first 13's in this forum and read the critiques.
This reminds me a little of the opening sequence for the original Alien movie, without the people waking up. Alien is a great movie, but that sequence was put there in order to show the opening credits. It does serve to create some suspense, but in a written story suspense is primarily developed through the characters and their responses.
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited November 07, 2010).]
I have read and viewed many stories that start with the traditional "ship waking itself up" opening. (Like philocinemas, I also thought of the movie Alien.) In my opinion, it's overused.
Personally, I find it hard to get interested in openings that have no forward motion. By forward motion I mean that the story has started happening. The paragraph you've written comes across as static description, almost like backstory. That's not necessarily bad, I just wouldn't use it as the opening. Like other reviewers, I recommend starting with a character.
Since you're new, take a look at some of the other postings in this forum and read the comments others have made. I always learn a tremendous amount by reviewing, and reading reviews. Good luck!
I also like the premise, but not the style. The tense shifts (sometimes past tense, sometimes present) are a deal-breaker for me; they confuse me. That's the number-one thing I'd suggest you get a handle on in your next version.
I also agree on the suggestion to inject a main character (MC) - something like "After ten years in cryo-sleep on his way to colonize planet P1275h, Agler Miffon was rudely awakened by the ship when it detected the unexpected presence of the Borg."
That sentence is way too long and hardly marvelous and of course you won't be facing the Borg, but that's the kind of information you want the first couple of sentences to convey - something to hook the reader.
P1)There are no people alive on the ship. So I can't start with them. The shifting POV could be troublesome and I'll work on that...
P2)There is a main character, just not in the first 14 lines. It's not past tense, this is happening in our future, so present tense will be used to the best of my ability. I will be making revisions. If you could highlight some punctuation and sentence structure that caused discomfort it would be greatly appreciated.
P3)The first 14 are kind of a present tense backstory for the actual story itself... I will work on it though, promise!
P4)Yes, once again, I promise to work on the shift from past to present. It has to be present because nobody is around to remember it actually happening. If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around to hear it? The ship itself is a kind of main character... Or the computers are.
Just so you all know, most of the story is still in my head... It's difficult to get great ideas that you can explain with words onto paper where they are in a story. I'm sure you understand. I have the idea in my head, and I can even explain it fairly well. Anyways, out of time on the library. Thanks!
[This message has been edited by RazezaR (edited November 08, 2010).]
Your comment that the main character is not in the first 13 makes me wonder if you are starting in the wrong place. It feels like nothing but backstory, not the actual one. This could all be explained during the action and be more involving.
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quote:P1)There are no people alive on the ship. So I can't start with them. The shifting POV could be troublesome and I'll work on that... P2)There is a main character, just not in the first 14 lines.
I agree with NoTimeToThink. You're probably starting in the wrong place. I suggest starting at the exact moment when the main character first becomes involved in the story.
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Let me first state that many of suggestions I am about give have been given to me in the past. Please do not take any of this as a critique of your ability as a writer, but only of what you have written.
You have started your story with exposition - giving details about the setting and the ship. Isn't that what you are supposed to do? Yes and no. Although the setting is important to establish early in the story, your main character (MC) carries greater weight. Readers, including editors, do not become emotionally involved in a story until they know the MC. That is why it is important to introduce your MC early. If you go into too much explanation, then the writing becomes static (also known as an "infodump") and the reader becomes disconnected and disinterested. It is better to show the setting by having a character interact in and with it, even if that character is a computer.
When you have a character, then you have a point of view (POV). It is generally either "I" or "he/she". This is also important in creating reader submersion. Without this, the story continues to be exposition or explanation. Most do not read explanation, such as what I am writing now, for enjoyment but, instead, to learn something.
The tense you use has nothing to do with when your story occurs in regards to our current understanding of space and time. Tense has to do with when the story occurs in respect to your narrator. If your narrator lived fifty years ago, but he/she is writing as the story is happening, then it is present tense. Here is an example from Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union: "Nine Months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered." This is written entirely in present tense despite the word "murdered", which falls at the end of a prepositional phrase.
Here is an example of something that happens (I believe) about 10,000 years in the future in Herbert's Dune: "In the week before their departure to Arrakis, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of the boy, Paul." There is only one word in this sentence that tells us what tense the writer is using and that is the word "came". However, Herbert uses past tense throughout the entire story.
I was a creative writing major for two years in college and taught English for a couple of years, but I also have made some of these same mistakes in writing. This is not chastizing, but only an attempt to help you in right direction.
Here are some more specific suggestions:
quote:With a soft hum [,] the ship gliding through space started to come to its artificial life. [I am assuming it is humming on the inside - but how do we know, because there is nobody around to hear it?] The lights on the computer consoles began [PAST TENSE] showing their first signs of activity. The ship is [PRESENT TENSE?] still 26 years away from its destination, a planet designated [PAST] P1275h located somewhere in the Perseus Arm [arm] of the Milky Way Galaxy [galaxy]. The ships [plural ships?] tasked [PAST] with the business of creating a habitable environment for life had completed [PAST] their objective only months ago. A wild untamed world awaiting new life. [This is an incomplete sentence, which is okay occasionally, but doesn't seem applicable here.] There is [PRESENT] no life on the ship though. Only the hum of the machines as they set about their work. [This is another incomplete sentence and repeats what you stated in the first sentence.] As the computers run [PRESENT] their programs [,] a containment chamber begins to see [PRESENT] the first motion in decades. Like a vending machine dispensing soda pop [,] little vials were ejected from the walls and slid through tubes to other parts of the ship.
[This message has been edited by philocinemas (edited November 08, 2010).]
Yeah. After I sat down and started to think about the previous statements that were posted I was already thinking that I might have to scratch the beginning that I had so far. It's all a work in progress. I like the ideas of my story, it's just been really difficult for me to figure out how to place them in a good story form. Plus I'm used to working on a computer but right now, because of my situation, I have to do everything by hand. I don't write as fast as I type and I can't edit as well without everything looking jumbled and illegible. So all this leads to me being slightly frustrated and not thinking straight. Anyways, thanks for all the advice from everybody! And sorry if I came across as rude or anything...
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No problem - you didn't come across as rude. Here's a thought: a possible solution to your dilemma with the humanless ship is to have a computer and a mobile robot on board with personalities in anticipation of an eventual human crew.
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