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Author Topic: I Suppose I'll Jump Right In
WakefieldMahon
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I'm still brand new but I suppose I'll jump right to it. Here is the first 13 of a story that I've had trouble moving for the past year. I'd appreciate input on the opening, how it can be improved and whether it piques the readers interest and of course and I am open to constructive criticism from anyone who would like to take the time to read the 2600 word story.

***
Graduation by Wakefield Mahon
Evan Garret passed through the initial security checkpoint at JFK Interplanetary Spaceport.
"Sir, please place your hand in the device in front of you."
Evan heard about the new polygraph device on the Internet news programs. But, even after the guard read the standard briefing about the safety and necessity of the device for security purposes, it was hard not to feel nervous about placing his hand inside the metal monstrosity.
"Are you Evan Alan Garret?"
"Yes."
"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of any organization which opposes the settlement of the Martian colonies?"
Evan laughed.
***

Thank you in advance. Please let me know if you have anything that you would like me to look at in return.

Edit:
Sorry my revisions took so long. I've been busy for two weeks spending time with the children who inspired this story. I would appreciate any comments on the revisions, even moreso if anyone were willing to to read the whole story. Thanks folks you've already helped a great deal!

Revised first 13:

Evan sighed when he reached the fifth security checkpoint at JFK Interplanetary Spaceport. He never thought he would refer to the hour-long wait at the airport would be the good old days? It didnít matter though. The only thing that did was seeing his son for the first time in too many years.
"Sir, please place your hand in the device in front of you."
The new polygraph device was the scariest machine heíd ever seen. Maybe it was necessary to provide security but that didnít make him feel any better about placing his hand inside the maw of that metal monstrosity.
"Are you Evan Alan Garret?"
"Yes."
"Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of any organization which opposes the settlement of the Martian colonies?"

[This message has been edited by WakefieldMahon (edited July 19, 2011).]


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Osiris
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Hello,

Welcome and thanks for jumping in.

I think the scene will work for you with some tweaks in the technique. Everyone can relate to the tension of going through transit security, so that works in the scene's favor.


quote:
Evan Garret passed through the initial security checkpoint at JFK Interplanetary Spaceport.

Just two nits here. The first is Evan Garret passed through the initial security, suggesting he already went through it, but the subsequent passages suggest that he is actually still going through security, so he has not actually passed through security.

The second is the name of the spaceport. There is already a real JFK airport, so why not come up with a more original name. Who, important to the concept of space travel, particularly space travel for the masses? It could be a real person, or imaginary.

quote:

"Sir, please place your hand in the device in front of you."
Evan heard about the new polygraph device on the Internet news programs.

Which internet news program? This could be an opportunity to slip in a detail that flesh out your world.

quote:

But, even after the guard read the standard briefing about the safety and necessity of the device for security purposes, it was hard not to feel nervous about placing his hand inside the metal monstrosity.

I think you could get more mileage out of this by showing the guard reading the standard briefing and juxtaposing it with Evan's internal anxiety.

The one question that comes up in my mind, and would like to know, is if Evan has something to hide from the spaceport security. If he does, it'd be good for the reader to know that, it would definitely elevate the tension if he did.

Thanks for sharing, hope I've been of some help.


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WakefieldMahon
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@Osiris
Thank you for you for your helpful reply.

I love your suggestions and will make adjustments where they make sense.
I do have one response though, I can't think of anybody more relevant to space travel, than JFK who prompted the race to the moon.
The fourteenth line if included would have told you he has nothing to hide, this is not an action thriller but a story about a man going to see his ex-wife and estranged children, it is a very personal story.

Perhaps I need to rewrite the first 13 entirely to reflect that fact.

Thank you so much for your input!


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LDWriter2
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Hmmm, not too bad. It ends at a good point--the reader will wonder why he is laughing. The But sentence is a bit long, I think it would read better if you could somehow condense it. I didn't mind the name of the spaceport. It makes it more real and at the same time I can see a large airport being turned into a spaceport.

I reread the first sentence because the first time through I had the impression that he had already past through the initial checkpoint and was at a more intensive security checkpoint. But my second reading showed I may have been mistaken.

Not much else I can say except to say that I'm not sure how an editor will like the part about him hearing about the new devices. Some people think extra stuff like that is not good but I think it depends on the editor. Oh and I think you may be able to shorten that section a bit by rephrasing the sentences on his thoughts.


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Osiris
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quote:

I do have one response though, I can't think of anybody more relevant to space travel, than JFK who prompted the race to the moon.

That thought did occur to me, as well. I just threw my suggestion out there because I'm sure other people will think of JFK, the airport, when they read it.


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tchernabyelo
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"Evan heard about the new..."

You are writing in the past tense, so when you tell us he knows about the new security feature, you should use pluperfect - "Evan had heard about the new..."

It's very dry writing. There's no colour or life to anything here. It's functional but you need more than that. I'm not saying throw adverbs in all over the place, or needless description, but give us some little hints to help us visualise the world (even if the world looks a lot like ours).


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WakefieldMahon
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To all of you who have responded thank you so much for taking the time to provide input.

@LDWriter2 your first reading was correct but as an FAQ pointed out

@tchernabyelo I get your meaning and thank you for the grammar catch

I am amazed how much I have discerned with just a few responses. My writing tends to be sparse and focused. The mere fact that I keep wanting to respond that the explanataions and the good stuff are coming in the next five lines or so illustrates why I am having difficulty with sales. I never realized how critical the first 13 lines are. Thank you all again so much.


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Tryndakai
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Hiya, and welcome.

I agree with tchernabyelo about the dry writing--It's all tell and no show. The first moment I start to feel that Evan has a personality is when he laughs, and then the sample's over. Try to sprinkle bits of emotion/opinion from him here and there. Really get in his head. Is he a normally nervous kind of guy? Sarcastic? Self-confident? Is spaceport security the same tired, annoying, dragging inconvenience as current airport security? And ground us in the world with smells, sounds, textures. Sight is only the most obvious sense, not the most interesting.

If you can bring the world to life and ground us in the character, it doesn't matter nearly so much how soon the "interesting stuff" comes in. It all becomes engaging.

And yeah, you definitely don't need the "he'd heard" line. Skim over those details in a way that gets the point across and world-builds, but doesn't seem like an info-dump.

I try to just give my reactions, and not rewrite people's posts for them . . . but here are some specific examples of what I mean, if you don't mind:

quote:
"Sir, please place your hand in the device." (cut extra words)
Indicating a hole in the metal monstrosity in front of Evan, the guard rattled off something about the "safety" and "necessity" of the new, required polygraph. (get the information across without drawing too much focus to it.)
Evan wiped his palm on his jeans, though he told himself he had no reason to be nervous. . . .(show, don't tell.)

Grab your readers by the ears and drag them through your story.

Oh, and I like the JFK Spaceport bit. Like LD said, it takes something familiar and twists/expands it for us, which is a good way to go.

Luck.


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WakefieldMahon
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Hello and thank you Tryndakai!
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WakefieldMahon
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I've made some edits if anyone would like to let me know if they helped. Thank you!
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Crystal Stevens
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The question mark after "good old days" would read better with a period, I think.

<It didnít matter though. The only thing that did was seeing his son for the first time in too many years.>
This is saying the same thing twice... first as a negative and then as a positive. I would drop the first sentence and combine it into your 2nd sentence like this:
<The only thing that mattered was seeing his son...>

Why was he scared of the poly machine? Instead of saying outright that he was scared, I'd show it through his actions or thoughts as to why he felt this way. In other words in this case I would "show" not "tell".

You have the same problem I did when I first came to Hatrack, and that's using "was", "had", and other forms of this vowel instead of finding stronger verbs that would do a better job. Let's go back to your line,
<The new polygraph device was the scariest machine heíd ever seen.>
Try and re-write it without the "was" and the "had" part of your contraction "he'd" (he had) and say the same thing. You'll find the action will sound more immediate and not as distant and will make your readers feel closer to your story.

I do like how your story starts as for the story itself, and would like to find out what happens, but I'd just like to feel closer to the action... like I could climb inside your MC and experience it more through him than standing on the outside as an observer.


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Tryndakai
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I do like your new version better. Places me more in his head, exactly as I wanted. Take a closer look at that "good old days" line, though--you seem to have switched tenses or thoughts or something halfway through.

Also, now the way he reacts to the new poly machine makes me think it really just *looks* scary--like a guillotine or an actual maw with teeth. Which, I think, could be quite fun and interesting. Give me a slightly better glimpse of that.

I agree with the comment to combine "It didn't matter . . ." with the next sentence.

And apart from that, as I said, it's considerably more engaging than your first sample, so props to you! The exact same sequence and amount of events has happened, and yet it's so much more interesting already. Huzzah.


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InarticulateBabbler
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Feel free to send it to me. I only had a small issue with the first version, which had been changed in the second.

I can't promise how fast the turnaround time will be, but hopefully before the weekend. How deep of a critique would you like? Just a distant one, a line edit, or other?


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WakefieldMahon
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Thank you IB I have sent a copy and I will get back to you on yours as soon as possible. I would appreciate as deep a review as you have time for.

I know the story is there, I just need to eliminate whatever barriers keep it from being accessible to the reading public.


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WakefieldMahon
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Crystal and Tryndakai I have taken your notes and applied them to the current revision. I appreciate your input so much!
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