Monday, May 5, 2014

First Impressions: THE ANIMATE

Our second submissions for First Impressions in May comes from Elizabeth Arroyo. It’s a New Adult Science Fiction/Dystopian with a working title of THE ANIMATE.

Morph could almost forget that Earth was a dying planet. It looked normal from space: a bright blue sphere with a stable atmosphere. Most of its natural resources, including humans, had been depleted as the Earth crumbled in on itself, unstable and volatile.
“Lieutenant Murphy.”
Morph turned to the cyborg. Its sole purpose to record and retrieve information, Aislyn, priest and executioner, listened when you thought you were alone and backstabbed you to Crux with the information. Morph could forgive it since it didn’t have a conscience. “Aislyn, how are you?”
“I am well, thank you. This way.” Aislyn led him into the circular chamber hovering between Earth’s atmosphere and space. The Needle.
The blackness of space jolted Morph’s nerves. Shyla had demanded his council eighteen times in the last six months, and he’d denied her until now. Keeping the supply ship from him had convinced him of her power. As leader of the world government, Shyla was not used to waiting. She was going to be pissed.
“Well, well, it’s about time.”
Morph drew a smile on his lips and turned to the shadow figure outlined in red. “Hello, Shyla.” He had to admit, though never to her, that he was relieved she decided to use a holograph. It had been three years since he’d last set foot on the Phoenix where Crux had settled. Since his mother died.
“I thought you were dead,” she said.
“Not yet.”

There were a lot of names – both people and places – in this sample of less than 300 words. I counted 7, not including Earth.  I assume Morph is a nickname for Lieutenant Murphy, but I think it would be better if the page started with his full name, first and last, and the nickname was explained afterward. (Maybe when the cyborg addresses him by his title, he could be startled because he’s so used to being called just Morph? Something like that?) Other than the name, I really liked the description in the first paragraph. I get a strong sense of the setting of the story.

I had trouble with this sentence and read it several times: Its sole purpose to record and retrieve information, Aislyn, priest and executioner, listened when you thought you were alone and backstabbed you to Crux with the information. I concluded that Aislyn was listening through the cyborg, therefore I was surprised when the cyborg was called Aislyn further down. I think my confusion is the use of the pronoun it at the beginning of the sentence in conjunction with such a feminine sounding name – not to mention referring to the cyborg as a priest. I thought they were two different entities at first.

After that, there was a lot of information for me to absorb. This is something I struggle with myself—as my crit partners, beta readers, and editors will be quick to tell you! It usually takes me several drafts to find the right place to introduce information at the beginning of a story.

My suggestion is to focus on Morph going to meet Shyla and especially his feelings as he accompanies the cyborg: This is a meeting he’s tried to avoid. Help us make a connection to him through his feelings. His supply ship, his mother, Phoenix, and Crux – perhaps all those things can be held back and slipped into the conversation in later pages? Also I’d like a little more physical description of his surroundings. I had trouble picturing a circular chamber that hovered over the Earth, and I didn’t know exactly why it was called The Needle. Oh, and one last thing – council should be counsel, so we know Shyla is seeking advice from Morph, not demanding he turn over his own council of advisors.


Elizabeth, thanks for sharing your first page with us! Readers, please tell us what you think. Elizabeth can be found at her website, and don’t forget to check out Marcy’s critique of the same page at Mainewords.

8 comments:

  1. Hi, Elizabeth!! Just saw you over on Marcy's site. Left my comments over there.

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  2. As always, I agree with Dianne's notes. I also stumbled on that sentence about the priest and read it three times, and was still confused. For me, the biggest thing is that you had so much backstory crammed into this sample. When you delve into the history of the last six months (even if you're talking about it in regards to the present), or how things had happened in the past, I lose interest. I want to know what is happening now.

    For example, you could remove that part about how he'd avoided the meetings for the last six months, and have that come out in their dialogue. The same goes for why he's willing to go into the counsel now, put that in the dialogue and put me in the moment. If he's been avoiding her this long, then surely it'll come up in the dialogue anyway, and if so, then you're just being redundant here.

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  3. As you can tell, my biggest problem is grounding the reader using setting, character, and circumstance. I tried putting way too much info. =) My first pages have been known to see quite a few changes and even deletion. No... Thanks, this helps!

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  4. After reading the sample, I was getting ready to form my thoughts for my comments. Then I decided it was best to first read what Dianne shared. Good thing I did. She captured my stumbling moments perfectly. Otherwise, I must say that I'm intrigued to find out what follows.

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  5. I like the concept, but after three read throughs, I still can't be certain what the second paragraph means.

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  6. i loved both these entries, and not just because i'm biased because the authors are my buddies! love the premises and the names.

    and i do agree with your advice to them. i know they will rock these stories!
    and congrats on your release, the eighth day!

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  7. I think the premise is goodm and I like the voice very much. I had trouble with the logic in the beginning: Earth's atmosphere is stable, yet it's unstable and volatile. Huh? I was also confused by the same line that got Dianne, and suggest: Morph turned to Aislyn, the cyborg. Considering this is probably an adventure, I wanted to see a bit of a stronger hook by the time the first page ends.

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  8. Like the other commenters, I enjoyed the premise and the voice. But there is a LOT of information to be digested in these paragraphs: names, backstory, roles, etc. I would definitely read on if some of it were distilled into later paragraphs or even pages/chapters.

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