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Author Topic: Opening section first 13 lines
New Member
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Hi, this is the opening to an untitled Sci Fi novel I'm working on. Early days yet, really just an introductory passage to the story, just hope it's interesting enopugh to make people want to read more. [Smile]


Soaring through space, a small probe headed far out from Earth, its destination was not one of the planets that make up the Sol system, but a different world, a 'Super-Earth' some call it. Kepler-22b an extrasolar planet that lay in orbit around a star in the constellation of Cygnus. The probe had travelled across six hundred light years of empty space since 2020AD. And now in the year 2090AD the probe had arrived at last.

The AT-Rover lay where it landed near a strange towering plant like structure that sported massive leaves splaying outward on large thick branches. After an hour a set of tracks unfolded from the underside and it rolled forward through a thick orange foliage, a couple of intelligent mechanisms on the front shifting the leafy obstructions. A single lens rose up from the top, ready to survey this strange extra-terrestrial landscape.

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My two bits:

The first paragraph is very info-dumpy, which does not catch my interest. Not that the story doesn't sound like a good one, but you're dumping a bunch of info on me that I have no reason to care about because I have no people to attach it to. Much better, I think, to find a way to SHOW me that information in a scene (i.e. specific things happening to specific characters in real time).

Like, for example, your second paragraph, which does exactly that. Maybe consider cutting that first paragraph and starting with the second, which I think would make a perfectly serviceable opening, and find ways to weave in or imply the info from that first paragraph in the course of the narrative.

That first paragraph feels to me like you have included your prewriting. Important to do it, but leave it out of your finished product.

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Hi GCanty,
Rather than wrestle with usage and grammar, as I'm sure others will do once Kathleen has moved this to Fragments and Feedback for Books, I'll mention this.

I need people. People interest me. The people I like to read about might be my species, alien, robotic or even robotic aliens. I notice that there aren't any people in the fragment you've provided.

One technical point I'm sure you've done some thinking about, but I'll bring it up anyway. The probe is faster than light, but still takes 70 years to get to its destination. Why? Seventy or seven hundred years, both are beyond the working life of a single individual.

Good luck,

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Member # 8019

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Extrasolar exploration is intriguing for hard science fiction. Awe and wonder are an emotional cluster on point there for tension's empathy.

A little too fantastical, though, for me: 70 years to travel 600 light years on, presumably, ballistic impluse drives, Kepler-22b is thought to be an ocean world, maybe with an atmosphere, maybe not, maybe in the Goldilocks not-too-hot and not-too-cold range, no moon for tidal forces that influence waste flushing for life's emergence, gravity in the ~2.5 to 15 Earth normal range.

For human interest purposes, I see no interest. A science clerk that discovers, say, an old, long-forgotten mission portfolio could be a basis for human interest. Or a personification of the mission, the AT-Rover as, say, an anthropomorphic personification. Human interest relates specific individuals with specific crises, usually moral and external life complications for tension appeals. Say AT-Rover's lander crashes into a sea surrounded by Kepler-22b megafauna and has problems with the life. The lander needs to relocate before deploying the rover.

The overall mission I assume is seeking out extrasolar life. The mission could focus on whether the life is intelligent, above or below Earth normal intelligence, or if misapprehended that life exists but is found to be an erroneous conclusion. The rover could then unintentionally start life or actually be a terraforming mission, or the rover comparable to a frontier explorer of old out of contact with home, or about any of a near infinite variety of scenarios.

Worth note: NASA is currently seeking proposals for a Jupiter ocean moon Europa exploration mission. Water-based exploration missions have under-represented exposure in the science fiction realm.

"Kepler-22b[,] an extrasolar planet that lay in orbit around a star in the constellation of Cygnus." Incomplete sentence. Sentence fragments in prose are as a best practice used to express emotional commentary, interjection part of speech. Also, a comma is indicated, as marked, to separate the noun from its appositive phrase.

"2020AD" and "2090AD" are problematic. At the least a space separating the Anno Domini abbreviations is required. Prescriptively, AD precedes the year. CE and BCE (Common Era and Before Common Era) are the religion-neutral international date system for physics. CE follows the year: //2020 CE//.

". . . now[,] in the year 2090AD[,] . . ." Dependent internal clause warrants comma brackets as marked.

". . . plant[-]like structure . . ." Hyphen as marked for the adjective phrase.

"sported" is problematic, a trite word often used as a substitute for a robust verb. "Splayed", or "splaying" used in the sentence, is a proper dynamic verb.

"After an hour[,] a set of tracks unfolded . . ." Likewise, prefatory dependent clause warrants comma as marked.

"it rolled forward . . ." "It" is a vague pronoun for subject antecedent "tracks". The AT-Rover is the intended subject.

My imagination projects many possible wildly imaginative scenarios onto this fragment. I'd at least like some grounding into what the novel is about in human interest terms before the fragment ends.

[ May 21, 2014, 10:50 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Cheers for the responses and critique, thats what I need [Smile]

I shall try to tweek the opening a bit to perhaps give a better idea of what this is about a little sooner. The general premise is Earth is becoming uninhabitable and a secret company is planning to relocate the human race on another world.

The idea was that technology for interplanetary travel has been in existence for years, Top Secret and unknown to the general public.

I chose Kepler 22-b at first as it seemed a possible location. But I understand now this year, dozens more possible planets for life have been discovered, Gliese 581d being only 20 light years away being a more plausible candidate.... maybe.

Thanks again for the help. Shall keep working at it.

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Member # 8019

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Consider a fictional, credible planet or moon more Earth-like, closer by, and a solar system dynamically similar to Sol's. This is fiction, after all. Earth-analog planets at, say, 90 percent or better concordance, are not yet so easily discovered as more massive extrasolar planets.

Planets located within a stellar habitable zone is one crucial scenario; stellar systems located within the galaxy's habitable zone are another equally worthy consideration: too close to the core, too much wild radiation; too far away from the core, not enough metal elements for life, too close to dense star formation region radiations in the main galactic arms' urban stellar environments, for examples. Earth's location in the galactic habitable zone, middle of the Orion spur's rural stellar neighborhood, is a one-in-a-billion fortuitous circumstance, or, from another perspective, one of a few suitable zones where life may emerge nurtured by ideal conditions.

A setting is secondary to antagonizing human events in any regard, events that place characters in clash with: nature, society, the gods or government, technology, science, folkways, culture, etc.

From the scenario given, secret corporation, uninhabitable Earth, secret advanced technology, a resettlement mission, I'd be intrigued by a question of who does the selection for migration privileges. Who gets to play god? A central agonist might be otherwise left out and desperate to migrate, her or him and her or his close family and acquaintances. The agonist could be a programmer, ROV operator who's deemed ineligible. What a monument to surmount!

I believe a faster-than-light audiovisual and digital data communication system would be essential, as well as travel.

[ May 23, 2014, 01:40 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Member # 10202

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I believe the words, “Soaring through space,” are not necessary because it is understood quickly what is happening. They’re canned or cliché sounding anyway, in my opinion. Similarly, the words “extra-terrestrial” should be deleted because we already know that by then. Reading the words takes us out of the story itself and reminds us we’re reading a science fiction novel. Such is not good.

Regarding the “info dump” issue, you can keep all that information but spread it out over a couple pages. Insert between each tidbit the story of who designed it: Who built it? What for? Who benefits by it? Who doesn’t? Treat the probe and the rover as you would human characters. This gives them life and the reader will relate to it and hope for its success. Or demise, depending on the story.

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Grumpy old guy
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It would appear from recent cosmological investigations that the number of rocky planets within what is colloquially known as the Goldilocks zone (where water is in a liquid state) may be as common as sand on our beaches. However, that doesn't mean that all, or most, are habitable; mass is one crucial consideration, as is an electro-magnetic shield to protect the surface from solar winds and cosmic radiation.

As far as the opening goes, I agree with Kent--give me a person's perspective. As an opening it may work in a visual sense but for me it doesn't quite work 'on the page'.


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New Member
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Thats what I'm thinking. I'm just trying to splice fact with fiction the planet and star actually exist whereas the worlds eco system, atmosphere...etc etc is entirly fictitious. I'll have a re work on the opening, and post.
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Member # 10257

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I think your second paragraph would be a more compelling first paragraph. It is a better hook. Your first paragraph does not capture my interest.


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