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Author Topic: Dark Host ~ sf...ish
Kim K
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This is the start of a 20k novella. I'm about 2k in and want to know if it grabs your attention (I'm planning on entering it for a comp later in the summer *fingers crossed*)

Thanks.

Everything about the cabin doorway smelled wrong.

This is what I get when I canít sleep. An overactive nose.

The scent of non-humans brushed the metal frame and the tight-locked door panel. I stopped and leant against the rail running along the promenade. My back to the door, I stared up at the great curve of the IPS Natalianís transparent hull. Space stared back; space filled with the bloated mass of a dying star.

The damn thing made my skin crawl.

So I ignored it.

Drawing the scrubbed air deep into my lungs, I let instinct pick apart the individual scents. One of the


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val*wings
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Hi, I have a few small problems: is the MC inside or outside the cabin (and by 'cabin' i'm assuming it's not a little cottage made of logs which was my initial impression--maybe say right away whose or what kind of cabin it is)? Why is it the doorway that doesn't smell right and not the cabin itself? I think my biggest confusion was trying to figure out if he/she's inside the spaceship looking out or if he/she's on the ground in a building maybe looking up at a spaceship.
the first few sentences hooked me enough to want to read on because I want to know why the cabin doesn't smell right and who are these 'non-humans' and is the MC in danger? however, when the MC just kind of leans back and contemplates the heavens it throws me off. I would suggest on keeping the MC's focus on the smell and this suggestion of danger and maybe sketch in the setting around that. I tried to give an example of what i mean in my version below:

Everything about the cabin <whose cabin?> doorway smelled wrong.

This is what I get when I canít sleep. An overactive nose that leads me to places I shouldn't be. Like the officers' cabins on the promenade deck.

The <sour? acrid? sweaty sock?> scent of non-humans clung to the metal frame of the tightly-locked door. I shivered a little. Behind me I could feel the weight of space pressing against the great curve of the IPS Natalianís transparent hull--space filled with the bloated mass of a dying star.

The damn thing made my skin crawl. So I ignored it.

Drawing the scrubbed air deep into my lungs, I let instinct pick apart the individual scents. One of the


is the dying star actually significant and is there a real reason why it would make the MC's skin crawl? if the answer is no, then it's just distracting from the main idea here which is the mysterious smell (at least get rid of the line <The damn thing made my skin crawl. So I ignored it.> )
Good POV, btw, you got in the character's head well, although i still have no idea about who or what he/she is. and as i said, i'd read farther based on those lines as long as a few things were clarified.
hope this helps!


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InarticulateBabbler
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My take:

quote:

Everything about the cabin doorway smelled wrong. [Is there a pungent stench?]

This is what I get when I canít sleep. An overactive nose.[Who are you? And why do you have an overactive nose? This is wierd. I could see if it was a former smoker -- as I am -- and smells had become arresting.]

The scent of non-humans[Is just the long way of saying ALIEN, or are you including animals in that statement?]brushed the metal frame and the tight-locked door panel.<--[Huh? I thought this was a cabin?] I stopped and leant against the rail running along the promenade[<--What promenade?.] My back to the door, I stared up at the great curve of the IPS Natalianís transparent hull[<--Huh? When did we leave the cabin? What hull?]. Space stared back; space filled with the bloated mass of a dying star.

The damn thing made my skin crawl.[<--I like this. This SHOULD be part of the hook. Why did it make your skin crawl?]

So I ignored it.[<--If it made your skin crawl, you couldn't possibly have ignored it.

Drawing the [scrubbed air<--What is this?] deep into my lungs, I let instinct pick apart the individual scents[<--Has he got an augmented nose, or is this from a bloodhound's POV?]. One of the


  • Whose POV? Human? Alien? Other?
  • Let us know it's a spacecraft up front.
  • Give us a sense of urgency to go with the crawling skin.

    [This message has been edited by InarticulateBabbler (edited June 09, 2007).]


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  • debhoag
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    when the character couldn't sleep, i made the (incorrect assumption) the MC was in bed. it was a jar to find out that MC was walking around with no transition.
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    LindskoldCardFan
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    Okay, the character couldn't sleep, so he gets out of bed, and steps into the doorway of his cabin (Quarters, bunks), and smells something that made him realize that something was wrong.

    He (Or she, I guess) walks out, where there is a promenade with a rail, and leaning against the rail, the character looks out through the transparent hull.

    The character is scared of the giant star, but obviously he's by the star for a reason, and gets the creeps every time he sees that star. So, he ignores his fear, like he usually does with this star, and decides to deal with the problem (Out of place smells.)

    Scrubbed air is a term we'll learn about later in the story, I'm sure. :~)

    I'd keep reading.

    If my analysis of the first thirteen lines is wrong, then you may not have communicated the story as well as you could have. I thought it was pretty coherent though.


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    wrenbird
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    I liked it alot. I think it was quite well written, and I was hooked. I would totally read on.
    The reason I responded (not that praise isn't reason enough to post) was to chime in on one thing. The choice of the word cabin before any detail let us know that you meant a cabin on a spaceship, in space was confusing. I read cabin and thought of a forest and grizzley bears. I was stopped up when you mentioned the promanade etc.
    That said, I think it would take a minor, super easy tweak, such as saying "the cabin doorway of Space Station Luna (I don't write Science Fiction, can you tell )
    But, the rest is great. I think you do a pretty good job of introducing suspence without trying to confuse us.

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    Kim K
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    Thanks for all your advice!

    I'm going to plough on and get the whole monster of a story finished before I go back and tweak. (I know, only 20k - but I write s-l-o-w... and I have two... no three other wips I'm supposed to be working on too *sigh*)


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    Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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    Wise decision, Kim K.

    It is better to finish the whole thing and then go back through it and fix problems than to spend all your time fixing the beginning and never getting the thing finished.


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    Antinomy
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    Kim K wrote:

    -------
    The scent of non-humans brushed the metal frame and the tight-locked door panel.
    -------

    To me, this sentence is an opportunity to inform the reader about the non-humans. A descriptive adjective might help: the brassy scent, or the carbolic scent, for example. Also, "brushed" the metal frame doesn't grab as well as "penetrated" the metal frame IMHO.

    Just a couple of thoughts Kim. You're doing a good job.


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    KayTi
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    Nifty concept.

    I found the scent being present on a metal frame (and tight-locked door panel) distracting. Scents don't usually stick to metal (other than the scent of...well...the metal!) In fact, in my sink I have one of those metal bars that you can use to wash your hands with after peeling garlic. My husband, a former chemist, tells me that there's some ion in the metal (or something) that wants the stinky molecules off my hands more than my hands want them. Or some such. Anyway, point being, in my world (I read and write Sci-Fi, FWIW) - scents don't stick to metal.

    I suspect this is part of the point of your story, but I point it out because (have I said this lately) you have to watch out for us sci-fi/fantasy readers (sci-fi more than fantasy, IMO) - we take things LITERALLY - as evidenced by several who thought the cabin was in the woods, not on a spaceship. Without knowing the genre I briefly thought this too, but then realized we were on a ship and happily switched into my "oh, she's writing sci-fi, cool!" mode.

    Anyway, we take things literally and anything that diverges from the way the laws of nature operate here on earth today has to be explicitly spelled out. Sooooo, all this to say - if in your story, scents can stick to metal and/or characters can have super-human scent abilities, you should spell that out for us.

    A few ideas for you to ponder - you could add something after "an overactive nose" - like, for example: "Which is how I found myself wandering the C deck well after lights-out (or some miltary-ish term if your MC is in the military)." This would help address some points other reviewers brought up that they didn't understand the character was walking around, they thought perhaps he/she was staring at the ceiling in bed with insomnia. Valid point.

    Slight tangent - but at a writing group I attended tonight, a writer read a segment of her work that included her MC putting on a pair of denim shorts and a t-shirt with a slogan, then going out the door into the night. I asked if she had been naked before. The writer laughed, and said no. My point was that there was no mention of the MC taking OFF other clothes to get the jeans and t-shirt on, just that she pulled these new clothes on, so I was left to conclude she'd been naked. Just an example of how sometimes you have to back up a bit for the reader. To you, of course the MC's out of bed wandering, but oops, we readers didn't quite get that. No big deal, just one of those funny things that happens from time to time.

    Good luck. When you get closer to done I may be able to read, depends on whether I get my own writing done...so let me know.


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    Kim K
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    I'm adding a little explanation as you've all given me something to think about as I carry on writing *grin* (4k and rising)

    It could be just me, but the word cabin does make me think of a ship first. Might be because I'm in the UK. There aren't that many 'cabin in the woods' here, I think.

    Vals*wings: Yep, the star is important.

    IB: using the word non-human was a deliberate choice, specifically to include animals.

    LindskoldCardFan: Yep, you got it *grin*

    KayTi: Thanks for the metal info.

    That last point, with the mention of superhuman abilities, has made be wonder about something. The explanation why my MC *can* smell the scents staining the door starts to appear three short paragraphs down from these thirteen lines. Is that too late? I want to drip my info, not dump it.

    Anyway, back to the story. My MC just punched someone...


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    KayTi
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    A few paragraphs I think is fine. Particularly if you're working on novel-length. The key is when you get into revisions, go back to the beginning and re-read with an eye toward "does this make sense if you don't know the whole story?" and/or get fresh readers for your revisions so you can get that directly from readers.


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    Kim K
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    okay, I finished this at 27k and it's been subbed to an anthology. Now I have to not bite my nails too much and hang on until the end of August *grin*

    Thanks for the input on the first 13 lines. It really helped.

    Kim


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