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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Untitled Action Sci-Fi

   
Author Topic: Untitled Action Sci-Fi
rabirch
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Hi all.

I'm looking to see whether this opening serves as a decent hook. Still crafting the story, but I want to make sure I'm at least warm on the opening.

Thanks!

***

Jasen Patterson looked out the back window of the black cruiser transporting him to the Cutter Holmes intake facility. Heavy drizzle coated the glass in beads of moisture, rendering the neon lights outside in smeared blurs of brilliant color against a backdrop of dark, cinderblock gray.

"Hey, kid, you want a smoke?"

The car smelled like cigarettes and window cleaner--not government. Not surprising. Jasen wrinkled his nose. "Nah."

His handler glanced back. His cropped black hair formed a prominent triangle in the middle of his head, emphasizing his receding hairline. "After two years in juvie lock-up? Most of you kids are begging for a drag."

"Don't smoke," Jasen said. "And I ain't a kid no more."

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WB
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I'm interested, but a little confused. I'd like to know what an intake facility is as soon as it's referenced. Later on it seems backwards -- if he's been in juvie 10 years, wouldn't he be going to a release facility rather than an intake facility?

Paragraph 3, it seems the car doesn't smell like government?

I think I like Jasen.

I would read further.

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wetwilly
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This doesn't particularly hook me. Some kid getting out of Juvie? That's not enough to pull me in yet. I don't see anything yet that really interests me.

Doesn't mean it's necessarily a bad opening (can't judge that without reading the story), but you asked if it's a good hook, and to me, it's not. I, however, am of the opinion that every opening doesn't always have to be really hooky.

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Denevius
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The writing is clean and engaging. I don't think there's a "hook" perse, but the writing itself is strong enough that you can have a sudden surprise in narrative a little further along down the page. Maybe the kid is this, maybe juvie was that... Who knows, but I'd read a little further to find out. I don't think there's any need to rush one in just to have a hook in the first 13 lines.
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rabirch
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Thanks for the feedback, WB, wetwilly, and Denevius.

Sounds like I'm at least getting some engagement, whether it's super-hooky or not (which it isn't.) Things do start to get more fully explained very shortly, so I don't think I'll stress out too hard just yet.

I appreciate your time!

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extrinsic
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A "handler" takes a juvenile offender to an intake facility, presumably not another juvenile home, maybe some sort of quasi-military outfit.

The scene more or less is in in medias res, and from the inside looking out; that is, from the viewpoint persona's perspective; scene mode, in other words. That's a strength.

However, for me, the scene description, first paragraph stands apart from the action. The setting establishes the place and somewhat the time, though the situation is vague. Place, in a nondescript cruiser; time, an era of automobiles; situation, rain. Weather events' strength or function, so to speak, is for foreshadowing. How does the weather set up for the action to come? Adjustments for answering that question in the paragraph could use the mood of the dreary weather to imply the mood of Jasen Patterson at the moment; that he is resigned to a forlorn near future of, what? Captivity and hard physical training? Perhaps specialized training for whatever mission outcome to which the intake facility will apply him?

I think hints are warranted as to what he's in for and why. Either the weather could set up those hints or another opening paragraph situation could. For weather, for example, maybe Patterson could express feelings the weather forces his containment inside the cruiser.

For illustration purposes: The first sentence is static voice and serves only viewpoint character and setting introduction purposes, no dramatic movement to speak of. "Jasen Patterson looked out the back window of the black cruiser transporting him to the Cutter Holmes intake facility."

"Looked" and "transporting" are the inoperative term, as usually summary sensation verbs are; static, in this case, expressing an ongoing state of being; that is, a nonfinite time span of looking out a window and being transported. Visual or any sensations described as sequential events are stronger and are dynamic voice. For example, the event is not the narrator tell of Patterson's visualization and passenger actions, rather an event that Patterson views and is depicted as his personal reflection. The operative event on point is the cruiser is in motion.

The purpose of naming a character in first sentence position is character introductions. That in mind, adjusting the sentence places Patterson in object position instead: acted upon and influenced by events. More dynamic voice and action would depict, for example, Patterson's view of an event that takes place behind the cruiser and implied is from the past. Because the scene depicts a liminal transition from the childhood of juvenile detention and now into an adult detention, the event could be a departure from a childhood situation, say the place he's taken from viewed nostalgically.

Next sentence: "Heavy drizzle coated the glass in beads of moisture, rendering the neon lights outside in smeared blurs of brilliant color against a backdrop of dark, cinderblock gray."

This one has ample opportunity for dramatic action hint and clue and cue adjustments for plot movement purposes. Instead of "beads of moisture," for example, confinement motifs could be used. Say //jail cell bars of rain runoff//.

Likewise, the smeared colors and hues of the neon lights and cinderblock walls. Neon lights if more specific a detail could signal, say, a game arcade sign at a mall. How the gray cinderblock fits as a coordinated motif might be the bright marquee lights of youthful attractions and the dull reality of the structure as a bland and dreary box of youth's confinement: the wizard's hand on the behavior controls. That is, that arcades are collection points for misspent youth where they are somewhat contained and controllable.

In these above ways, hints, cues, clues provide implications that in turn express what the action to come is about and "hook" readers.

I would not read on, because of the above shortfalls I see and expect more of to come. The core shortfalls for me are unsettled and purposeless action and description and static voice. The core strengths are an implication of a new life adventure and initiation stage at the cusp of youth into adulthood, though I had to work harder to unravel that intent, if that is the intent and the direction the narrative goes. If that latter is the intent; that is, a maturation tableau, I'd be engaged and eager to read the whole narrative. However, the signals fall short of my expectations, more from unclear and unsettled signals and intents.

[ May 18, 2015, 12:18 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rabirch
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Thanks for the feedback, Extrinsic. I appreciate your thorough commentary and will definitely take it all under consideration.
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Scot
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I was a little thrown off by the narration giving both "rendering the neon lights outside in smeared blurs of brilliant color" and "I ain't a kid no more". My assumption is that the narration is usually colored by the POV character's personality, and I can't see a character who says those words also 'thinking those thoughts'.

My assumptions could be off-base though.

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