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Author Topic: Bliss - First 13
JSchuler
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Third Version
quote:
He had no name of his own; it was on loan from the company.

The other passengers called him Aden. For three days, he had been just like them. They were refugees, young runaways, vagabonds, those who didn’t like their future planetside. Few wore the signets of the contract governments below or the security forces above. Aden’s worn suit was as bare as any. Being protected meant nothing if he couldn’t display it. He kept his back to the wall.

And yet, these people were friendly. When the opinion of those around you is the one thing stopping your neighbor from bashing in your skull for a piece of jewelry, it pays to make people like you. Everyone became family, and everyone had something to offer. “Brother, I got a guy flies a liner.



Second Version
quote:
He had no name of his own; it was on loan from the company.

As far as anyone on the crawler was aware, he was like them. They were refugees, young runaways, vagabonds, those who didn’t like their future planetside—people who could afford three days on a cargo elevator, but not a ticket for an orbital shuttle. He could play that role, and it was all the easier with an audience that kept its curiosity in check.

They knew to call him Aden. It's enough for them, and all he wanted.

He was pushed and jostled towards the exit. Beyond the gate the mob sought unbounded lands of milk and honey. In just a few feet, their old problems would be trapped on the gravity well below. Enthusiasm compelled the mass to move out in a slow, crushing exodus.



First Version
quote:
He had no name of his own; it was on loan from the company.

The stream of chattel exited the crawler, carrying him away with the current. They were desperate refugees, young runaways, and impoverished wanderers; people who could afford three days of captivity, but not the ticket for an orbital shuttle. The description did not fit him—his time was always valuable—but it did fit Aden Roth’s.

This arrival would be expected.

The crowd expanded into the gate as the former passengers gained their bearings. There were few frequent travelers in the group. Many were flying blind, not having thought of anything beyond getting off planetside. How many did Aden overhear talking, believing that their problems could never escape the gravity well below?


-------------------------------------------------

So, completely new start point and main character since I last posted a first thirteen for this here.

In particular, I want to know if the introduction of the protagonist's alias is smooth, or if it's confusing.

[This message has been edited by JSchuler (edited August 20, 2010).]


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History
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quote:
He had no name of his own; it was on loan from the company.

I like this.
quote:
The stream of chattel exited the crawler, carrying him away with the current. They were desperate refugees, young runaways, and impoverished wanderers; people who could afford three days of captivity, but not the ticket for an orbital shuttle. The description did not fit him—his time was always valuable—but it did fit Aden Roth’s.

I admit I found this confusing, but I may be a bit dense.
Keeping in mind the voice of the opening sentence, I deduced the following from the 2nd and 3rd:

He exited the crawler and was carried away with the stream of desperate refugees, young runaways, and impoverished wanderers.

I was confused by "people who could afford three days of captivity, but not the ticket for an orbital shuttle."
I believe you wish to convey that "They were people who could afford the time to be held captive". I only deduced this from the aside comment in the subsequent sentence, "his time was always valuable."
Does this time held captive relate to travelling in the shuttle? Taking an orbital shuttle should not be a 3 day event, however. Thus, I apologize for my confusion.

The reference to "Aden Roth" as being one of the "described", therefore, took me some time to understand.
After a few minutes of deduction, I first assumed that our unnamed protagonist has been sent as an agent of "the company" to seek, possibly hunt, this Aden Roth. I like this type of plot [as I did something similar in Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
However, I then came to concude that Aden Roth is his company-assigned name--but then your opening sentence becomes less clear. Perhaps add : "His assigned name was Aden Roth."

quote:
This arrival would be expected.

Whose arrival?
His/Aden Roth's? The "chattel"?
quote:
The crowd expanded into the gate as the former passengers gained their bearings. There were few frequent travelers in the group. Many were flying blind, not having thought of anything beyond getting off planetside.

"Expanded" does not seem the best word.
Do you mean: The crowd grew (or swelled) as they approached the gate"?
"Gained their bearings" is cliche as is "flying blind."
Perhaps both are unnecessary?
"The crowd swelled as they approached the gate. Few had made the trip before. Most had thought of nothing beyond getting off planet.'
Of course, as a reader I'm interested to know why they are so desperate.
quote:
How many did Aden overhear talking, believing that their problems could never escape the gravity well below?

If they could not escape their problems from below/planetside, why did they travel, particularly as "chattel"?

I'm sorry I'm so numb. I see the makings of an interesting story and world, but I struggled in comprehending it. Others may not.

Respectfully,
History


[This message has been edited by History (edited August 18, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by History (edited August 18, 2010).]


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JSchuler
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Don't apologize for being "dense" or "numb." If you're confused, others will be, and the fault for that is solely my own. Since I don't like just coming out and flatly saying things, I end up trying to be too clever.

You've given me some good stuff to think about and work in, and tighten up some language (I agree, in retrospect, "chattel" is not the right word).

However, I will ask another question for you (and everyone else who chooses to comment):

Would you be annoyed or feel like I was stringing you along if I did not mention the character's alias until several pages in?


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KayTi
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quote:
He had no name of his own; it was on loan from the company.

This, my friend, is a rockstar hook.

Now I'm afraid I need you to deliver on it. I need to have some way to ground myself in this scene and the rest of your fragment here doesn't quite get me there. I'm confused, I don't quite know what's happening. There's fabulous stuff hinted here - people who could afford three days captivity but who are impoverished wanderers?

This arrival would be expected - whose? The MC's? Aden Roth's? (who we don't know at the time if Aden = MC.)

I also suggest given the strength of the rest of the ideas and language used, ditch the cliche "flying blind." Come up with a new cliche that fits your world if you want to, but flying blind doesn't fit the story very well, in my opinion. It can be a fun way to throw in a tidbit about your world/environment/character "as much fun as a Galactic GargleBlaster{tm*" or "that'd be suicide by Kurazo" or stick with less obvious cliches like "most didn't have a clue" or "most were just sheep, following along behind the rest of the wanderers..." -- just be warned, speculative fiction readers tend to take things literally so they might think ACTUAL sheep if you call them sheep, be sure to differentiate/make sure we know they're human.

This is a really strong start in terms of hook and language, but I think it is too confusing to the reader. At least this reader.

As with all feedback, take what works, leave the rest. Best wishes to you!


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Delli
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I am a bit of a skim reader - so your first sentence has me hooked. I like it a lot. The other sentences I noticed and liked were:

quote:
The description did not fit him—his time was always valuable—but it did fit Aden Roth’s.

quote:
This arrival would be expected.

and

quote:
not having thought of anything beyond getting off planetside

The description about the other travelers had too many long words for me (though that may say more about me than your writing ). I didn't enjoy the last sentence for some reason - but have no suggestion about how to change it.

All in all, my first thought is that this would be a book I'd enjoy. I'd probably have to read on a little further though to confirm it before putting it on my "to read" pile


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WouldBe
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Seconding what KayTi said. I spent three times longer trying to decide if "he" and Aden were the same or different people than it took to read the opening. Why keep "he" nameless? (A pet peeve of mine.) The last sentence of the first paragraph is a bit confusing, but suggests the two are different folks.

And just as importantly, I'm not certain who the MC is. Aden seems to be. He seems to be tracking "he." Perhaps mention Aden first.

The last sentence of the opening negated any hope that I had figured it out. Earlier, the ominous tone was all about "he." In the last sentence, it was about Aden.

Good idea...worth fixing. Good luck with it.

[This message has been edited by WouldBe (edited August 19, 2010).]


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Osiris
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quote:
He had no name of his own; it was on loan from the company.

Excellent first line. Introduces immediately the notion that there is a dichotomy with this character. I sort of feel like you should expand on it in the next few lines.

The problem occurs, as others have noted, after this line. I see no reason to string the reader along and not explicitly state that the MC and Aden are the same person. If you are waiting to reveal this until later, I suspect the reader will feel deceived not by your story but by the author. You don't want that.

What is important is that the MC is concealing his identity from the other characters in the story.

quote:
The stream of chattel exited the crawler, carrying him away with the current. They were desperate refugees, young runaways, and impoverished wanderers

These two lines together threw me out of the story. The reason is that the use of "chattel" as a term came off to me as the narrator being cold and aloof. I think the term is a bit too strong here. Yet in the next sentence, he sounds sympathetic to the refugees, runaways and wanderers when he calls them desperate and impoverished.

quote:
This arrival would be expected.

By who? Also, you might be able to do some scene description here. Maybe describing the MC looking for one of those signs waved by suited limo drivers when they are picking up someone important. It would give him an air of importance without explicitly stating it. I can tell you as a person who has been in many an arrivals hall, I was always a bit jealous of those people who had a someone who had a limo drive picking them up. Just a thought.

quote:
The crowd expanded into the gate as the former passengers gained their bearings.

Good description, this is exactly what it feels like when I come off a plane into a busy arrivals hall. People expand like water dribbling out of a hose.

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JSchuler
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Thank you for the helpful comments, everyone. New version posted. Hopefully it has fixed a lot of the confusion.
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pdblake
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This is for the second version:

I like it, even though SF really isn't my cup of tea. As a hook it got me, especially that first line.

Only one thing leapt out and tripped me: 'It's enough for them,' seems to be a tense shift from past to present.

As for the protagonist, I get the impression of someone who is older than the person he is pretending to be, works for some secret agency and for whom pretending to be someone else is a day job. I get the idea that to everyone else he is Aden but, as the reader, I want to know who he really is.

From a reader's point of view you need to be careful with this character. I might spend a few pages getting to know and like his persona but, when his real identity is revealed, might positively hate the real him. Or maybe even the other way around

Just what I see, ignore what you don't agree with

BTW: Are these colonists boarding a ship or walking out onto a new planet? I couldn't really tell, though line 14 might let me know

[This message has been edited by pdblake (edited August 20, 2010).]

[This message has been edited by pdblake (edited August 20, 2010).]


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Osiris
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I prefer the tone of the second one much better. I think the paragraph after your hook could be tightened up a bit, but you'll get that done in your revisions.

quote:
They knew to call him Aden. It's enough for them, and all he wanted.

This threw me a bit. As mentioned, it is a tense shift from past to present. It also seems a bit awkward I would suggest something like "All they knew was to call him Aden. He preferred it that way." Also, it begs the question, who is the "they" in this sentence?

I'm also left a bit confused about location now. The use of the term crawler suggests to me they are on a planet's surface, yet the disembarking passengers are hoping their problems were trapped on the gravity well below, which suggest they are either on a moon or an orbital or spaceship of some kind.


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WouldBe
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Much better. I agree that the tense shift should be fixed. 'It was enough for them...'

'The land of milk and honey' is a particularly Earthly phrase. I wouldn't be surprised of other worlds were destitute of milk and honey. So unless the passengers are traveling to or from Earth....

I still trip on the next to the last sentence. I don't know if the old problems are being left behind or following them into the new place, or whether the new place has the gravity well.


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JSchuler
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Ok, third version is up.

Backed up a bit to remove the whole transport issue from the first thirteen. Obviously, with a name like "crawler," it's not easy explaining something that gets you into orbit. But, it's the technical term for the vehicle on a space elevator.

pdblake: I understand what you are saying with the identity issue. But, it's unavoidable as the first line is not an overstatement: he has no name, just aliases. He's not going to hide anything from the reader, and whatever mystery surrounds his circumstances is a mystery to him as well.


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pdblake
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I see, kind of a Bourne thing? That would make me more forgiving

I like the new version, it's less confusing on the setting.


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WouldBe
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I should have gotten that. I wrote a humor piece/short story about a space elevator. Haven't sold it, yet.

I don't know if I like V3 better than V2, but in either case, if you say 'space elevator,' everyone will get it, in either version. Why withhold that term?


[This message has been edited by WouldBe (edited August 20, 2010).]


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JSchuler
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quote:
I don't know if I like V3 better than V2, but in either case, if you say 'space elevator,' everyone will get it, in either version. Why withhold that term?

Fair criticism, but I was attempting to convey (poorly) several things in the first thirteen:

1) The trip is slow and not particularly pleasant
2) The people are poor
3) The elevator was not intended to move people.
4) But there are proper and accessible means for most people to get in space.

So, you get three days trapped in a box, instead of the more expensive and quicker orbital shuttle, and the space elevator is (in the second version) referred to as a "cargo elevator."

Now, beyond that, I want to know how the characters would think about it. Would they think that they were in the space elevator, or would they think they were in the crawler? That depends on the nature of the elevator. If it's just a single string that one object goes up and down, then they're riding the space elevator. If, however, it's a collection of multiple strands (let's say a dozen), and each one carries tens of vehicles at a time, then the space elevator is somewhere you go to catch a crawler, just like an airport is somewhere you go to catch a plane.

Anyway, it's all too much (nonessential) information to put into the first thirteen, even if any confusion would be cleared up later. So, I slowed it down to let the details come in gradually. Aden's important. The technology isn't.


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Lissa
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Well, as someone who can't resist a good dystopian tale, I would definitely read on! (Just read the third version.) Your hook, alone, would have me take the book home!

The above segues into something that has been a bit troubling to me. There are so many published books out there that have such intriging plotlines that people snap them up as soon as they come out. The writing, however, is sometimes messy, at best. They would never "pass" many of the critiques on this site. A confusing dichotomy, eh?

Lis


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DerekBalsam
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My grandfather rode the railways for a time in his youth, as what we'd call a 'hobo'. The beginning of your story brings that to mind. If this is the kind of effect you're aiming for, you've done well.

You have, " Aden’s worn suit was as bare as any." The word 'any' reads a little awkward to my eye there. Perhaps "as bare as the rest" or some such?

'Signet' in my understand is used for a small symbol that specifically is embossed or impressed, as with a seal or a ring. To be sure, this is SF, so words can mean whatever we want. I don't have a big problem with it; just thought I'd throw it out there.

Nice stuff, I'd read more.


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bemused
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I really like the third version. It is a strong improvement on the other two and has plenty to suggest the complex politics of an interesting world.

If I had to be critical of anything the lines "Few wore the signets of the contract governments below or the security forces above. Aden’s worn suit was as bare as any." are a little awkward. The "Few wore the signets" I think is the part that I stumble on. I feel like its missing an "Only a few." And the "bare as any" might be smoother as "bare as most." I think this would help clarify that barely any of those present have signets of any kind.

Honestly, the first line alone was enough to hook me and keep me reading. Well done.


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