Sunday, March 20, 2011

Show Me the Voice Blogfest

Somehow I missed adding the link. Thank you Brenda Drake for hosting this blogfest! Everyone, please click HERE to see the list of participants and rules.

I really needed this challenge because I think I've revised all the voice out of my WIP. It's awful! Here are the first 250 words of my sci fi adult novel SENDEK. Yes, I keep coming back to it because I can't give up on it yet since it is still improving. :)

Please be brutally honest with anything you see that pulls you out of the story. Look for voice. Is it there? I'm going to be reading the 100+ entries and will come back to respond as soon as I can...and make adjustments/improvements to this. I can email them in to be judged and possibly win a critique from the awesome agent Natalie Fischer.

Note: I've posted an alternate first 252 words. Is this better than the original? The backstory that is in this is very important and needs to be established right away. Unfortunately, my MC doesn't have any friends or family to talk to, so it has to come out this way. I tried to pare it down to the barest necessity. All thoughts appreciated, cause you guys are awesome!
New version after reading comments--While other girls dreamed of ponies and boys, I dreamed of fire and pain. By the time I turned seven, I knew the dreams foretold my future. I understood they were a gift, a chance to save myself if I could find the way. Those dreams shaped my life, and it’s up to me to stay alive.

The last of Sendek’s three moons had set, but I didn’t need their light. My legs knew the way and moved me instinctively up the tree-covered hill. The moss, soft and cool under my bare feet, carried the promise of relief. With only moments left before the double suns crested the horizon, I ran faster and reached the clearing at the top. My muscles twitched as I stared at the light of Gneledar below me. The small city was aglow with activity, and as I watched the skylanes filled with transports.

Is it safe? I asked the trees around me.

YES. Their deep calm filled me and I knew they would continue to protect my secret. 

The first sun rose beyond the village and light bounced off the metal and glass of the city in a glaring shower of light. Tendrils of light pushed their way into the shadowy places at the base of the buildings chasing away the darkness. As the second sun climbed into view, I called the light to me.

My lungs expanded as I inhaled the energy of the suns. Synapses fired and blood pumped the pure life through my veins.

Original--Joharadin, known to most of the world as capital of Algodova, but I know from dreams that it’s where I’ll meet my death at the hands of scaled demons. The nightmares have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Because of them, I’ve avoided the city all my adult life, but if I want to keep my job with the Space Exploration Foundation I’ll move there today.

There’s always the hope I’m crazy, but if not, this will be the last time I drink the sunsrise from my secluded hilltop. 

I breathed the cool morning air, felt the ache of every muscle in my body. Each dream drains me of energy and leaves me bruised and battered. Only one thing heals the damage. Sendek’s double suns at sunsrise.

The last of Sendek’s three moons set an hour ago, but I didn’t need their light. My legs knew the way, moving instinctively up the tree-covered hill. The moss, soft and cool under my bare feet, carried the promise of relief. With only moments left before the double suns crested the horizon, I ran faster and reached the clearing at the top. My muscles twitched as I stared at the light of Gneledar below me. The small city was already aglow with activity and the skylanes filled with transports as I watched.

Is it safe? The thought filled my mind and pushed out to the tree line.

YES. A deep calm filled me and I turned to the sunsrise.

22 comments:

  1. I did a bit of editing and emailed it to you. You know I'm the sort of follower that only chimes in when I want to be a smarty pants ;-)

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  2. It's interesting but for me it has no hook. You character's voice is scared and timid and I can't really connect to her yet. *shrugs*

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  3. Your first sentence pushed me out, because I had to read it several times. There's no verb corresponding to the first half of the sentence--Joharadin. And the second half is awkward and bulky. Here's my suggestion to make it stronger:

    Joharadin--known to most of the world as the capital of Algodova, I know it’s where I’ll meet my death.

    I took out all references to dreams and aliens, not because it's not important, but because you want to make your readers keep reading and ask "why?" I'd take out the line about nightmares from the next sentence, and continue with "I've avoided the city all my life..." Doing something like that might solve the issue of the hook that didzioba mentioned.

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  4. You've created some lovely images with your first 250 and I enjoyed reading it. I especially liked the phrase "...drink the sunrise from my secluded hilltop." Also, your decription of the moss was done well.

    I had trouble following your first sentence because of the structure. I read it three times before moving on. I think Rosie (previous commentor) gave a good start on fixing.

    That being said, the first paragraph read to me like backstory. Could you move it to another place? I say this because I REALLY liked the second paragraph, and could see it as the beginning.

    If you have a second, pop over to my blog (#39 on Brenda's list).

    Christi Corbett

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  5. Small clarification...I said the second paragraph could be the first, but re-read and see it's just a sentence (the "There's always the hope" one).

    Christi Corbett

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  6. I'm also in agreement that your first sentence does not flow. It is supposed to be set up where if the bit between the commas was missing the sentence would still make sense: Joharadin but I know from dreams that it’s where I’ll meet my death at the hands of scaled demons. You can see what I mean.

    You're also having trouble with your tenses. Some of it, like the first paragraph, is set in present. While some of it is set in past, like the last paragraph. As I always tell myself when I'm unsure about how to use a tense, it's all or nothing. If your story is in past tense, make it all past tense.

    Hope this helps. ^^

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  7. You have some great imagery in this opening. The first sentence also confused me and I had to reread it.

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  8. You DO have some great imagery here, which gives you a good foundation on which to build.

    I agree that the first sentence throws one out of the story immediately. I too had to reread it several times. While I like RosieC's rewording, I'd go a bit different to create a hook with spikes that drags the reader into the next sentence. I too have bypassed the dreams & specifics of the dreams--leave the reader guessing a bit, anticipating the mystery.

    "Joharadin--known to most of the world as the capital of Algodova--is where I’ll meet my death. But although I've avoided the city all of my adult life, I'll move there today. If I want to keep my job with the Space Exploration Foundation, that is."

    What this does is gives the character a chance to show that with her choice, she can be strong--I also agree that her voice is somewhat weak, and weak heroines are hard to sell.

    Brooke already mentioned the issue with shifting from past to present tense, so I won't flog that dead horse except to say that if you're speaking of a subjective idea, it's OK to shift to present tense in a past-tense narrative, but not OK when you're writing the action. (For an example of a subjective idea, I'm using something from one of my own works: "The day had taken on the golden light of a summer afternoon, that ageless quality when you’re certain that time has stopped and you can live an eternity without aging, drinking your fill of life and love and youth until your soul is drunk with them." The dependent clause following the first comma begins the subjective idea.)

    I didn't quite understand the last two sentences, but that could be just because we only have a fragment of the story here, so I'll leave those alone.

    I always qualify any critiques I give with the disclaimer that all critiques are subjective; others might disagree with my opinions and advice. Take what you want & throw the rest in the bin. :-)

    (Blogger is being finicky, so I'm using my Google login. Here's my blog: sharongerlach.wordpress.com)

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  9. Joharadin is where I will die.

    To the rest of the world, it is Algodova’s capital but in my dreams it is where I meet my death

    Here is my feeble effort. Love your world of Sendek, btw. :)

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  10. I agree with everything said here so far, thought I would make a few other line-edit suggestions.

    **
    There’s always the hope I’m crazy, but if not, this will be the last time I drink the sunsrise from my secluded hilltop.

    Joharadin is known to most of the world as the capital of Algodova. To me it is the setting of my nightmares. These dreams have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Because of them, I’ve avoided the city all my adult life, but if I want to keep my job with the Space Exploration Foundation I’ll move there today. But I know from my dreams that it’s where I’ll eventually meet my death.

    I breath the cool morning air, feel the ache of every muscle in my body. Each dream drains me of energy and leaves me bruised and battered. Only one thing heals the damage: Sendek’s double suns at sunsrise.

    The last of Sendek’s three moons set an hour ago, but I don’t need their light. My legs know the way, moving instinctively up the tree-covered hill. The moss, soft and cool under my bare feet, carries the promise of relief. With only moments left before the double suns crest the horizon, I run faster and reach the clearing at the top. My muscles twitch as I stare at the light of Gneledar below me. The small city is already aglow with activity and the skylanes are filled with transports.

    Is it safe? The thought fills my mind and pushes out to the tree line.

    YES. A deep calm fills me and I turn to the sunsrise.

    **

    I changed everything to present because it flows better, I think. But you can just as easily change to past. Just one or the other, through the whole work.

    I also agree with the poster that said your character seems kind of timid and I don't relate to her. I might try and add some more courage, defiance of fate, or maybe that she's going to the place she will die without a care, a strength in acceptance. Depends on the rest of the story.

    Sounds like a cool plot, though. Rearranging like this gives your hook sooner and engages the reader more. I would keep reading. :)

    ~Tara

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  11. I like Sharon's suggestion for fixing your first sentence the best (it also threw me). Overall, this sets a great mood, but I'm not hearing a voice "speak" to me. This is the first time I've come to your blog, so keep that in mind when I say that I'm not sure this is where your story actually starts.

    Maybe it starts when they leave? When they arrive at the new job/planet? This all seems like backstory that you can work in later. Use the first page to really draw us in and connect with your MC

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  12. It definitely has me curious and the story line is interesting, but I'm just a bit confused. This is a huge info dump, I'm warning you, so it might get a little jumbled in the reader's head. I would spread this out, stretch the beginning half of this scene. The end is good, I especially like the "is it safe?" part. I wonder what could be considered dangerous for your MC? I really like what you did with the "sunsrise". I'm definitely intrigued, good job and keep writing!

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  13. Since everyone has already pointed out any problem areas, I will just focus on what I liked. I really liked the suns and the description of the hill and the skylanes. While I do think the information might be a tad too much here, I do like it. It sounds fascinating.

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  14. Just a note - I'm assuming your MC is male, but can't be sure.

    I think the first sentence wasn't too well structured - and also, I've noticed you passing from past to present tense and back. Sometimes this can work in a story, but I think in this instance it just sounds wrong.

    I really love your description of the path he walks - this sounds like a fascinating futuristic place.

    Just one thing - if our MC is gonna die, why WOULD he want to keep his job? Unless he has no other choice and will die instantly if he leaves his job or something.

    It's not established yet that our MC has a pattern of seeing the future & knowing it's true. But I assume there is a pattern, or he wouldn't have reason to be worried about the dreams (I wouldn't think).

    Intriguing beginning for sure, but it could use some rearrangement :)

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  15. You're doing a lovely job of establishing an interesting setting, Charity. I can visualize the locale. Like others who have commented, however, I would suggest changing the first sentence and creating a greater hook with it and then doing away with a chunk of the "telling" backstory. I like Sharon's suggestion as one option. It could also give a stronger personality to your main character. You might enjoy exploring more about deep point of view... getting right into your character's head so the reader sees things as she does rather than being told about them. That might strengthen her voice.

    "Is it safe?" opened up questions but the next sentence squelched them and any urgency to read on, but I'm sure if we had more of this story we'd become more invested in it. I like your writing, so I hope you'll continue to work on this. I think it has the potential to be a very intriguing story. :)

    Carol J. Garvin
    http://careann.wordpress.com

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  16. I definitely hear the voice coming through, but I don't know yet if I'm sympathetic to the character. But this isn't my genre, so take that with a grain of salt!

    Good luck in the contest!
    -Vicki

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  17. Thank you to everyone for your comments. I've replied to half of you, but the other half came to my email as "no-reply blogger". Sorry that I'm not going to get to reply personally.

    I have family in town, but I'm sneaking minutes here and there and will get to everyone's blog by the end of the week. Good luck to everyone that is doing the contest part of this.

    I'm not sending mine in until I know I've found the right starting point.

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  18. I knew (I would change knew with realized) the dreams foretold my future.

    Those dreams shaped my life, and it’s up to me to stay alive. (watch your tenses here)

    I really like this version. Your imagery is beautiful. Good luck!

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  19. Okay, I like your revised version SO much more than the original. Your new first line is great and hooks me a lot quicker. I would definitely read on after the new version, so great improvements! The only thing I would recommend in the new version is watch your overusage of words. You use light three times in the second to last paragraph and it starts to get stale. I like the glaring shower of light image, but then would change the tendrils of light to something else. Illumination, radiance, etc. But other than that, great work!

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  20. Thank you Nicole and Kalen for the suggestions and the things you caught. It's good to know I'm moving in the right direction too.

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  21. I like the imagery in the second version a lot. Only suggestion I have is what Kalen already mentioned. "Shower of light" and "tendrils of light" are too similar. Try to break up the terms a bit. Otherwise I really like this version!!

    ~Tara

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  22. It's always tricky to begin a sci-fi novel, you have to engage the reader, do a subtle info-dump and start your story with a bang (sometimes literally!)

    THe trees are sentient and telepathic- that was the most striking part and I think you can start with a conversation between your protagonist and the talking trees of Sendek. I get the sense that the protagonist is an outcast, so I'd like to get a hint of why and how (what's the culture of Sendek?)

    Btw, if a planet has 3 suns, its going to be very hot, inhospitable and bright. Unless there's something in the make-up and atmosphere that protects life on Sendek and makes the flora and fauna so lush? Or have the inhabitants constructed a shield or satellites to shield against the light and UV power of three suns?

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