Friday, July 5, 2013

First Page Friday

Whew, it's Friday!  I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day celebration yesterday. I know I did!

I wanted to let you know we have one July opening for First Page Friday so if you would like the first page of your manuscript critiqued by a national editor, please submit your double-spaced 12 pt. font manuscript page to

As always, thank you to our author LAA and to Ms. Shreditor for their time and effort.  See you next week!

The Entry

middle grade science fiction
by LAA

Here’s the thing about super heroes: you can’t count on them. How many infant aliens manage to find their way to earth? How many lab accidents are there? The answer: not a lot. And then you run into the problem of, hey, they have a life. They’re not reliable to be there whenever you want them to be. They’re human (well, most of the time) and flawed.

That’s where I come in. My name is David and I’m four years-old. I don’t look it though. Physically speaking, I look about thirteen. I was born four years ago. Well, woke up. I wasn’t born like normal people.

The scientists at Epsilon Labs made me, the Lambda Project, code named ‘Sigma’. Their slogan is even ‘Heroes Aren’t Born. They’re Made.’ They collected the best genes they could find, from the fastest, strongest, and smartest people from all over the world. Then they mixed it all together and added in a bunch of other stuff, and voilà, me.


This is the game everyone talks about: Auto Jack 7, at least according to Anthony. I’d been begging the Docs to rent me a copy for weeks now and now I finally get to play. My leg jiggles with excitement as the game starts up. I can do this. I know I can.

The game starts and I move my character, going through the tutorial on stealing cars. The pressure in my chest grows, and my hands lock up on the controller. Not even a few minutes into the game and I'm already trapped. This is ridiculous, it's not even me that's really jacking a car, and none of this is real. Tons of other kids can do this, and if they can so can I. The Docs’ programing does not rule my life.

Ms. Shreditor's Comments

          This piece has a lot of potential. The narrator, David, has a distinctive voice (and also the distinctive problem of being a four-year-old trapped in a thirteen-year-old’s body. He tells us in the first section that he was engineered by scientists, and then the narrative cuts to him playing Auto Jack 7, which sounds similar to Grand Theft Auto.
The section break that splits this first page into two parts is what concerns me. We get a very cursory introduction to David that reveals a few basic biographical details, and then we’re transported to a new scene in which he’s playing Auto Jack 7. It’s a bit too abrupt; there’s not a smooth enough segue between the two scenes. We’ve just found out a pretty juicy detail about David—that he essentially sprang from a petri dish of desirable genes—and then the curtain falls. When it rises again, David is playing the video game.
I’ve read some authors, particular postmodern ones, who can get away with frequent cutaways, but it takes some finesse to pull off this technique. You’re trying to leave the reader with impressionistic shreds of narrative while simultaneously developing characters and—one of the most important components of sci-fi/fantasy—world building. In this case, the sudden shift to the video game makes the entire introduction feel perfunctory, as if it’s there only to dispense a few key details before the story gets under way. It almost reads like a bare-bones prologue.
The thing is, we have two compelling tidbits of story here that are dueling in a very small space. We have our introduction to David’s character versus David embarking on what I assume to be a training exercise. These are both key elements of the story. Perhaps it would work better to open with David playing the video game and work in the biographical details as the story progresses. This would eliminate the troublesome section break halfway down the first page, and it would allow the author to develop David within the story (as opposed to outside it, in a cordoned-off introduction).
Overall, the story touches upon some classic sci-fi tropes, so I would only caution the author to avoid clichés. There have been plenty of stories about biologically engineered children, so make sure that yours stands out on the shelf. As a reader, I can often forgive a story that doesn’t break much new ground if the writing is strong and the characters are well developed.
The writing here is quite good. It could benefit from some copyediting to resolve various syntax and punctuation issues, but the author has a good sense of rhythm and transition (with the exception of the aforementioned section break issue). My best advice would be to revisit the structure of this first page. If this is a work in progress or a finished manuscript, examine any other section breaks closely to ensure that they interrupt the narrative in logical places and don’t compromise the integrity of the scenes on either side of the break. The result will be a fun sci-fi story that flows well and keeps readers turning the pages.


Debra Erfert said...

I love the concept of "growing" a superhero. Why not? And I agree about the split. I wanted more of the prologuish beginning, to know more about David. Otherwise, great story, LAA.

Hallee Bridgeman said...

I just wanted to offer my sincere congratulations to you on being a fellow FINALIST for a RONE Award as best of 2012. I am attending the conference. If you also plan to attend, which I believe you do, I look forward to meeting you in person and chatting. Or at least congratulating each other in person after we both win! (Wink!) God Bless, Hallee Bridgeman

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Hallee, thank you! Congratulations to you, too, and I hope we can meet in person as well. :)