Excerpt for Critique 005


We have another volunteer today with an excerpt from a prequel she is working on for her book, Story Time.  The novel itself is already out.  Thanks to Linell Jeppsen for being willing to provide her work for us to look at. Keep in mind that this is a post-apocalyptic tale where earth was destroyed (that part is covered further in the novel mentioned above).  This excerpt opens up with the survivors on an alien ship.

For those interested, please place your feedback in the comments section.  If you have specific points, try to provide examples of what might work better.  Be gentle and let her know what she did right as well.  I will paste the story as I received it below.  After that will be my own critique.  I don’t expect anyone to be as thorough as I am, so don’t feel like you need to take that kind of time.  Even a few lines describing your thoughts can be useful.  The greater the participation, the better overall idea Linell will have of where she stands with this portion of her WIP.

——————————–

FORWARD
Part One

I swam to consciousness slowly… languidly. My scattered thoughts coalesced and I understood that something new and utterly strange lie beyond my closed eyelids. I was both frightened and overjoyed.
A cool touch prompted me to wake, but I stubbornly refused to cooperate. Instead, I listened, hearing the hushed, efficient hum of the ships medi-bots as they attended to the still sleeping humans in their care, and the subliminal howl of the Aluarian deep-space exploration craft, turned hospital ship.
My memories came back to me all at once, like a swarm of locusts. Somehow, despite everything that happened and against all odds, I survived the death of my planet. Tears seeped through my eyelids and ran down either side of my face. Instantly, gentle fingers wiped the moisture away.
“It is time for you to wake up now, Mr. Cummings. You have been chosen, as Chronicler, to help your fellow humans adjust to this new reality. Your accounts will explain what has happened and why. Our research shows that human beings need to understand their circumstances, or their minds will fracture.”
“Andy, where’s…” I croaked.
“Your companion is operating at optimal efficiency, Steven. He is recovering from cryo, just as you are. He too, has been chosen to help with patient wellness.”
I opened my eyes slowly, carefully, and winced. I saw the spacecraft’s rock walls stretching overhead as far as the eye could see. I studied the shimmering silver net that clung to the walls surface. It was the ships infrastructure…its heart, brain and soul. Pinpricks of light traveled along the veins and arteries of that living structure like blood; blue, green and purple impulses that powered the engines, transferred oxygen and fuel, manufactured food, medicines, water… transmitted communications. The ship, once a hollowed out meteor, was now a living organism.
Looking down, I watched the floor and saw it move slowly in and out, like living flesh. It resembled an elephant’s hide, gray and wrinkled, porous and pocked with tiny openings like mouths that yawned wide, ingesting and digesting waste materials from within the sickbay. Looking out at the vast room I saw hundreds of beds, each with its own occupant, humans like myself, who stared around in panic, gasping with shock, weeping. Tiny robots hovered over them, cooing in comfort.
My stomach lurched. Turning away, I vomited over the side of the bed. Like a cloud of dust, Nanonytes rose into the air, devouring my spew. They swirled dizzyingly for a few moments and then disappeared back into the floor.
I turned to look at the doctor. He stood on a floating platform that hovered three feet in the air, beside my bed. My eyes grew wide and I blurted, “Uncle?”
The little Tatularian shook his head and replied, “The tabulators have done their job and are home now. They are rewarded for their efforts and will be allowed to rest by the One-mind.” The tiny alien stared down at me with eyes as wide and dark as night.
His beak-like mouth quirked up in a smile, and he added, “You have been very brave, Steven. It is never easy to lose one’s home world. My associates and I are impressed with your resiliency. You must continue to be brave now, for the sake of your fellow humans. There are approximately one thousand humans aboard this ship, which is named the Trident.”
The doctor pulled a tablet out of his silver robe and studied the words that scrolled across its screen. I, in turn, studied the doctor. He was approximately four feet tall (very tall, by Tatularian standards) and obviously quite young. His gray skin was smooth and un-lined; his long, three-fingered hands looked extremely strong.
He frowned at the tablet and recited, “There are twenty-two ships in this fleet. Each ship carries from one to three thousand passengers and crew. We estimate the Alurians saved approximately 54,000 humans, before Earth cracked open and disintegrated.” He stopped speaking and glanced down at me. “The Alurians wish to convey their condolences,” he whispered. “It was hoped that more humans could be saved, but the end came sooner than expected.”
Looking back at his tablet, the doctor started reading aloud again as more data cast reflections across his large, slanted eyes. “A caregiver has been assigned to every one hundred human patients. Each caregiver is expected to explain to their patients what happened, and why. Each caregiver will study, and learn about the new home planet…”
“What is your name?” I asked.
The doctor stopped speaking and for a moment, I thought the alien blushed.  A faint violet hue bruised its cheeks and its eyes went from black to silver. Then, the doctor bowed.
Straightening from its obedience, the alien doctor sighed, “Steven Cummings, please accept my apologies. My teachers say that, although I am very intelligent, I still lack wisdom.  You have proven my elder’s theories correct. My name is M-4120, Xmind.”
I remembered Uncle and Aunties kindness, strength and vulnerability. I remembered loving them and knew that, given time, I would grow to love this young Tat. Sitting up slightly, I said, “I’ll call you Spock.”
The Tatularian doctor smiled and bowed again.
I lay back, exhausted, closing my eyes as one of the ships medi-bots placed a shimmering silver patch on my right arm. Within seconds, my stomach settled and the pressure behind my eyelids eased.
I remembered…I remembered everything, and my heart wept. My world was gone. The very core of my humanity was nothing but stardust now, swept up in the swirling vortex of time and space, nothing but a memory. My lips drew back over my teeth in a snarl of rage and grief. Silent howls of mourning racked my body.
The egg-shaped medi-bot that hovered nearby chirped and its pincher patted my arm in clumsy comfort. Spock spoke from somewhere to my left, “Steven, it is time for you to rest now. You have been in the cryo-chamber for almost a year. You are healthy, but your body needs time to adjust. Sleep, my brave, human friend. Sleep now.”
Curtains of darkness dropped over my eyes. I suspected that the bot had drugged me, but I embraced the quiet dusk. Just before I fell back asleep, I thought, my name is Steven Cummings, reporting for… for, The New World Chronicle.

——————————–

I swam to consciousness slowlylanguidly. My scattered thoughts coalesced and I understood that something new and utterly strange lie beyond my closed eyelids. I was both frightened and overjoyed.
A cool touch prompted me to wake, but I stubbornly refused to cooperate. Instead, I listened, hearing the hushed, efficient hum of the ships medi-bots as they attended to the still sleeping humans in their care (if he hasn’t opened his eyes, how does he know there are so many humans still sleeping?), and the subliminal howl of the Aluarian deep-space exploration craft, turned hospital ship.  (You might break this last sentence up into two for ease of reading.)
My memories came back to me all at once, like a swarm of locusts. Somehow, despite everything that happened and against all odds, I survived the death of my planet. Tears seeped through my eyelids and ran down either side of my face. Instantly, gentle fingers wiped the moisture away.
“It is time for you to wake up now, Mr. Cummings. You have been chosen, as Chronicler, to help your fellow humans adjust to this new reality. Your accounts will explain what has happened and why. Our research shows that human beings need to understand their circumstances, or their minds will fracture.”
“Andy, where’s…” I croaked.
“Your companion is operating at optimal efficiency, Steven. He is recovering from cryo, just as you are. He too, has been chosen to help with patient wellness.”
I opened my eyes slowly, carefully, and winced. I saw the spacecraft’s rock walls stretching overhead as far as the eye could see. I studied the shimmering silver net that clung to the walls surface. It was the ships infrastructure…its heart, brain and soul. Pinpricks of light traveled along the veins and arteries of that living structure like blood; blue, green and purple impulses that powered the engines, transferred oxygen and fuel, manufactured food, medicines, water… transmitted communications. The ship, once a hollowed out meteor, was now a living organism.
Looking down, I watched the floor and saw it move slowly in and out, like living flesh. It resembled an elephant’s hide, gray and wrinkled, porous and pocked with tiny openings like mouths that yawned wide, ingesting and digesting waste materials from within the sickbay. Looking out at the vast room I saw hundreds of beds, each with its own occupant, humans like myself, who stared around in panic, gasping with shock, weeping. Tiny robots hovered over them, cooing in comfort.  (Nice, vivid description!)
My stomach lurched. Turning away, I vomited over the side of the bed. Like a cloud of dust, Nanonytes rose into the air, devouring my spew. They swirled dizzyingly for a few moments and then disappeared back into the floor.
I turned to look at the doctor. He stood on a floating platform that hovered three feet in the air, beside my bed. My eyes grew wide and I blurted, “Uncle?”
The little Tatularian shook his head and replied, “The tabulators have done their job and are home now. They are rewarded for their efforts and will be allowed to rest by the One-mind.” The tiny alien stared down at me with eyes as wide and dark as night.
His beak-like mouth quirked up in a smile, and he added, “You have been very brave, Steven. It is never easy to lose one’s home world. My associates and I are impressed with your resiliency. You must continue to be brave now, for the sake of your fellow humans. There are approximately one thousand humans aboard this ship, which is named the Trident.”
The doctor pulled a tablet out of his silver robe and studied the words that scrolled scrolling across its screen. I, in turn, studied the doctor. He was approximately four feet tall (very tall, by Tatularian standards) and obviously quite young. His gray skin was smooth and un-lined; his long, three-fingered hands looked extremely strong.
He frowned at the tablet and recited, “There are twenty-two ships in this fleet. Each ship carries from one to three thousand passengers and crew. We estimate the Alurians saved approximately 54,000 humans, before Earth cracked open and disintegrated.” He stopped speaking and glanced down at me. “The Alurians wish to convey their condolences,” he whispered. “It was hoped that more humans could be saved, but the end came sooner than expected.”
Looking back at his tablet, the doctor started reading aloud again as more data cast reflections across his large, slanted eyes. “A caregiver has been assigned to every one hundred human patients. Each caregiver is expected to explain to their patients what happened, and why. Each caregiver will study, and learn about the new home planet…”
“What is your name?” I asked.
The doctor stopped speaking and for a moment, I thought the alien blushed.  A faint violet hue bruised its cheeks and its eyes went from black to silver. Then, The doctor bowed.
Straightening from its obedience, the alien doctor sighed, “Steven Cummings, please accept my apologies. My teachers say that, although I am very intelligent, I still lack wisdom.  You have proven my elder’s theories correct. My name is M-4120, Xmind.”
I remembered Uncle and Aunties kindness, strength and vulnerability. I remembered loving them and knew that, given time, I would grow to love this young Tat. Sitting up slightly, I said, “I’ll call you Spock.”
The Tatularian doctor smiled and bowed again.
I lay back, exhausted, closing my eyes as one of the ships medi-bots placed a shimmering silver patch on my right arm. Within seconds, my stomach settled and the pressure behind my eyelids eased.
I remembered…I remembered everything, and my heart wept. My world was gone. The very core of my humanity was nothing but stardust now, swept up in the swirling vortex of time and space, nothing but a memory. My lips drew back over my teeth in a snarl of rage and grief. Silent howls of mourning racked my body.
The egg-shaped medi-bot that hovered hovering nearby chirped and its pincher patted my arm in clumsy comfort. Spock spoke from somewhere to my left, “Steven, it is time for you to rest now. You have been in the cryo-chamber for almost a year. You are healthy, but your body needs time to adjust. Sleep, my brave, human friend. Sleep now.”
Curtains of darkness dropped over my eyes. I suspected that the bot had drugged me, but I embraced the quiet dusk. Just before I fell back asleep, I thought, my name is Steven Cummings, reporting for… for, The New World Chronicle.

Linell, I really enjoyed this forward.  It was a nice view into how things first went after earth was destroyed.  I am glad to see you writing it.  Doing a critique on this is a little tricky for me since I’ve already read your book, so I know much of the story and didn’t have any trouble following along.  We’ll have to rely on those who haven’t to get an idea of how well it works for those new to the story.  Regardless, it was a great beginning.  I’ll be curious to see how the rest of the forward goes.

I just have a few comments to make, as this is fairly well-written already.  The biggest thing is you use a lot of adverbs.  “Slowly” was used three times.  There are so many good alternatives that can be really great in their place.  This is one example:

Your version:

I watched the floor and saw it move slowly in and out, like living flesh.

Alternate version:

I watched the floor and saw it rise and fall in slow motion, like living flesh.

The only other things I saw were many instances where you used “that” when it wasn’t necessarily needed.  In some cases, you could have left it out altogether without hurting the sentence.  You might do another read through and see which ones I mean.  It’s one of those words we tend to stick in a sentence, whether it is needed or not.  Also watch word repetition.  I highlighted the cases I noticed in green for you.  Each of them could have alternatives used and still be fine.

Thanks again for submitting your excerpt.  I was really excited to see it and thought it was a great lead in for your novel!

—————————————————————————

To everyone else- If you have an excerpt (up to 1000 words) that you would like to submit, please go to this page for further details.  I’ll be happy to schedule your critique for a future blog post!

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~ by Suzie on June 24, 2012.

3 Responses to “Excerpt for Critique 005”

  1. Thanks Susie. It’s amazing how time…in this case about three weeks, and another set of eyes can clarify some issues in a WIP- Of course, now that you mention it, the piece is full of adverbs! Sheesh! Also, thanks for the catch on all the “thats”!
    As you know, a writer can either feel HOT, or COLD as ice. When the words are flowing, there is a lot of emotion in the work, and anxiety to share. That’s why time, and cool, dispassionate eyes are needed for a great product. I think that a few extra descriptions are really necessary in this section of the novel, but I need to be careful that describing things doesn’t become either sloppy, or boring.
    I will take another close look at these words and be sure the forward is cleaner than this before I publish. Thanks again! Nel

    • Nel, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been finding the same mistakes in my latest run-through of my own MS. I don’t know how I missed them all the other times I looked it over, but it seems to take many tries to get all that stuff cleaned up. For adverbs, though, I just use the microsoft Word find feature and search “ly”. Then I force myself to limit them to one-two instances a page. Of course, everyone has their own system, but that’s mine.

      As for description, I really liked how you handled yours. The entire excerpt really gave a great visual. I’m not sure you need more, but must admit you have a way with words. I usually prefer light description, but you write it in such a way that I don’t mind the heavier use of it at all.

  2. Hi Nel! I thought it was very well written also. Aside from the adverbs, which Susan noted (and taught me how to catch!), I noticed two typos/grammar things: “I studied the shimmering silver net that clung to the walls surface. It was the ships infrastructure”—walls and ships should be possessive, wall’s (or walls’) and ship’s.

    Oh, and when Steven opens his eyes, we get a description of the room and everyone in their beds, which is good, but why not describe the doctor? It felt weird, like he had been talking to this disembodied voice who was invisible once he opened his eyes. Because there’s a description of robots hovering over each bed, so I thought Steven had been talking to a little robot, only I didn’t know what it looked like. So perhaps a slight adjustment in the order of description would help?

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