First Page Friday #16: Science Fiction

This week we have our first teen writer on First Page Friday! Aimee is sixteen, so it’s super brave that she’s sharing her work with us today! (:

In case you missed it, I posted a new video this week called How to Spot a Bad Scene or Chapter. Also, please note that I will be gone for the next two Fridays because I will be on my honeymoon! Woohoo! I am scheduling First Page Friday for both of those weeks so hopefully they will go up without a hitch, but if they don’t, I will get them up as soon as I get back.

Just a reminder to all the readers, it’s great when you can leave comments for the author letting her know what you think of the opening! If you catch anything I missed or agree or disagree with my edits, I know the author would appreciate your feedback! Just please be polite to both me and the author. Also, please share this post on Twitter, Facebook, etc. so the author’s feedback can be diverse and plentiful. Thanks!

YA First 500 – Aimee

Bright lights glared in my eyes, and there was a constant soft hum of the whirring machines around me. I tried to shift out of my uncomfortable position, but the binds all over my body were too tight. How long had I been strapped to the cold table? An hour? Ten hours? A day? Every time I was in the Operation Room, it was as if I was in a time warp, unable to determine how much or how little time had passed. I was trapped in a horrible nightmare, unable to escape the never-ending torment I was faced with each day.Oh, how I wished it was just a nightmare.For a long time, the lights were the only thing I knew, and the machines were the only thing to pierce the cold silence. I strained to tilt my head up to survey my surroundings. Out of the corner of my eye, a tiny Asian woman with thin-framed glasses was standing at a table full of macabre instruments. I knew them by heart, and had experience with many of them. My least favorite was a mix of a scimitar and a saw. It had a curved, serrated blade with a long, blood-stained handle.

Dr. Euterpe’s back was to me and the soft ping of glass against fingernail met my ears. She turned and click-clacked towards me with her pointy heels, placing a gloved hand on my shoulder. “Eliana, you’ll be okay,” she said in a pseudo sweet tone. “This is your last injection for the day. You can go back to your room when I’m finished.”

Prison cell was more like it.

The woman pierced my skin with the syringe gun in her hand and I winced. In my peripheral vision the green liquid seeped into my arm, making tingles spread throughout my whole body. Once the syringe was emptied, she pulled it out of my skin and put it back where it belonged. Snapping off her gloves, she switched off the light hanging over my head. I blinked as bright circles entered my vision.

“Well, we’re all finished here for today, Eliana!” the woman bubbled. I groaned at her enthusiasm and she glared at me. “I’ll have Bruce and Octavious bring you back to your room.”

The woman pressed a red button on the wall and sauntered to the sink to cleanse her hands, humming as she did so. A few minutes later, two armed, muscular men strode into the room, hands on their guns. One of the men, Bruce, had a huge scar running down his face, making him much more intimidating than Octavious.

“You called, Dr. Euterpe?” Octavious asked in a gruff voice.

“Would you please escort Eliana back to her room?” the woman asked the men without turning away from the sink. They grunted in response and came to the table I was lying on.

“What nice weather we’re having, huh?” I asked. “Well I wouldn’t know, of course. I’m always locked away in my musty little cell.”

I couldn’t help but chuckle at them. They never struck me as smart people. And I was pretty sure they weren’t. They were mindless idiots, always lumbering around like robots and taking orders from people. Only an imbecile would want to work for Paragon Corporations.

Reader Participation – What Do You Think?

Before reading my take on this novel opening, please take a moment to record your thoughts in the poll below.

Your thoughtful critiques and suggestions for the writer are also welcome in the comments section. Explaining your vote gives the author even more insight into where they’re hitting the mark and where they can improve.

The Writeditor’s Feedback

 Critique Key

Original Text is in italics.

Red is text I recommend removing.

Green is text I recommend adding.

Blue are my comments.

YA First 500 – Aimee

Bright lights glared in my eyes, and there was a constant soft hum of from the whirring machines around me. I tried to shift out of my uncomfortable position, < What about the position is uncomfortable? More details here would be nice. but the binds all over my body were too tight. How long had I been strapped to the cold table? An hour? Ten hours? A day? Every time I was in the Operation Room, it was as if I was in a time warp, unable to determine how much or how little time had passed < This is implied by “time warp” and her questioning of how long she’d been there.. I was trapped in a horrible nightmare, < I’d prefer if you could show what is horrible about it. unable to escape the never-ending torment I was faced with each day. < If she knows she is there each day, then it seems like she has a better grasp on how long she’s there than the previous sentences imply.

Oh, how I wished it was just a nightmare.

For a long time, the lights were the only thing I knew, and the machines were the only thing to pierce the cold silence. I strained to tilt my head up to survey my surroundings. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see < Add this or cut “out of the corner of my eye.” Otherwise the wording seems strange. a tiny Asian woman with thin-framed glasses was standing at a table full of macabre <“Macabre” doesn’t seem like the right word to me (it means pertaining to death), but others might disagree. instruments. I knew them by heart, and had experience with many of them. < I don’t think you need this because it’s telling what is already apparent based on the next two sentences. My least favorite was a mix of a scimitar and a saw. It had a curved, serrated blade with a long, blood-stained handle.

Dr. Euterpe’s < Is this the Asian woman or someone else? If she knows the Asian woman’s name, it would probably be clearer for her to use it straight away. back was to me and the soft ping of glass against fingernail met my ears. < What makes this sound? She turned and click-clacked towards me with her pointy heels, placing a gloved hand on my shoulder. “Eliana, you’ll be okay,”  < I think Eliana needs to indicate in some way that she’s not okay. Otherwise, it’s not clear what Dr. Euterpe is responding to. she said in a pseudo sweet tone. “This is your last injection for the day. You can go back to your room when I’m finished.”

Prison cell was more like it.

The woman pierced my skin with the syringe gun in her hand and I winced. In my peripheral vision the green liquid seeped into my arm, making tingles spread throughout my whole body. Once the syringe was emptied, she pulled it out of my skin and put it back where it belonged. Snapping off her gloves, she switched off the light hanging over my head. I blinked as bright circles entered my vision. < “Entered” seems a tad too formal. Perhaps something like “flashed across my vision” would work better? 

“Well, we’re all finished here for today, Eliana!” the woman bubbled. < I didn’t realize the doctor was supposed to be enthusiastic. I’m not exactly sure if she’s faking and is actually malicious or if Eliana just finds her genuine enthusiasm frustrating given the circumstances. I groaned at her enthusiasm and she glared at me. “I’ll have Bruce and Octavious bring you back to your room.”

The woman pressed a red button on the wall and sauntered to the sink to cleanse < “Cleanse” seems a tad too formal. Perhaps “clean” or “wash”? her hands, humming as she did so. A few minutes later, two armed, muscular men strode into the room, hands on their guns. One of the men, Bruce, had a huge scar running down his face, making him much more intimidating than Octavious.

“You called, Dr. Euterpe?” Octavious asked in a gruff voice.

“Would you please escort Eliana back to her room?” the woman asked the men without turning away from the sink. They grunted in response and came to the table I was lying on.

“What nice weather we’re having, huh?” I asked. “Well I wouldn’t know, of course. I’m always locked away in my musty little cell.” < I’m not sure if she’s saying this as a joke or if she’s serious.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at them. They never struck me as smart people. And I was pretty sure they weren’t. They were mindless idiots, always lumbering around like robots and taking orders from people. Only an imbecile would want to work for Paragon Corporations.

My Overall Thoughts

Your voice is good (you said this is science fiction/fantasy, but is it also YA?), and you don’t have any of the major beginner’s issues. So congrats! You started at an interesting place that doesn’t feel contrived or overdone, and you dropped the reader right into the story rather than making them wait to get to the interesting parts. The main thing you could work on is showing more (see below).

Key Places to Improve:

  • Try to show more and tell less. Rather than saying that she is in an uncomfortable position, show this to your reader. For example: “My knees were pressed so hard against the table that the joints ached.” Do you see how that shows the reader that she’s uncomfortable? Showing just means that you let the reader infer what you’re trying to convey (that she’s uncomfortable) rather than outright telling them. This makes for a much more evocative piece of writing.
  • I would like more vivid descriptions of the girl’s surroundings. The blade is described as “blood stained,” which would not be allowed in a clinical environment (they would be steralized and cleaned immediately after use), but the Asian woman was described as a doctor (not a torturer), so I wasn’t sure how to imagine the surroundings. Was it like a hospital or more like a dungeon? It only takes a few well-written sentences to create a much stronger impression of where they are.
  • The intentions behind the lines of dialogue were a bit unclear to me, so I would also work on clarifying the motivations. Was the doctor pretending to be nice to comfort Eliana or to condescend her? Did Eliana tell the guards she never gets out to make them feel bad or was she just trying to make conversation? Clarifying motivations will help give the reader a stronger impression of what’s going on.

The Writeditor’s Grade (out of 5): 3.5

Most of what this opening needs is more details and a bit of clarification. I feel like your writing is competent, easy to read, and doesn’t have an amateur sound to it, which is awesome! Since you’re only sixteen, I do want to mention the piece of the puzzle that First Page Friday doesn’t (and can’t) address: plotting. There’s no indication that you can’t plot (it’s impossible to assess from the first page), but it’s an element of writing that a lot of people forget to study and it can bite them in the butt later. So make sure you work on not just the sound of your writing, but also its content.

If you have any questions or need any clarification, don’t hesitate to ask. Best of luck to you!

A note on the grading scale: The rating of the first chapter does not indicate the rating of the novel as a whole nor does it indicate the writer’s overall ability.

Submit to First Page Friday – (currently booking first week of March and beyond)

If you’d like to submit your novel for First Page Friday, please send the following to ellenbrock@keytopservices.com:

  • The name you want me to use in the blog post (real name, alias, or anonymous).
  • The genre of your novel.
  • The first 500 words (give or take, don’t stop in the middle of a sentence) pasted into the body of the email.
  • Any links (Twitter, Blog, Goodreads, etc.) that you’d like included in the post (not required).

Please do not submit if you are not okay with your first page being posted, critiqued, and edited on my website.

About the Editor

Ellen Brock (AKA The Writeditor) is a freelance novel editor who works with self-publishing and traditionally publishing authors as well as e-publishers and small presses. She owns the editing company Keytop Services and the writing and editing blog The Writeditor. When not editing, she enjoys reading, writing, and geocaching. Check out her freelance novel editing services and mentoring.

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7 thoughts on “First Page Friday #16: Science Fiction

  1. Ella says:

    Two things that bothered me:

    1. At first, when Eliana is not saying anything, she seems frightened, but at the end of the passage she’s evidently at ease enough to make sarcastic comments to the ‘intimidating’ guards. Are they somehow less frightening than Dr Euterpe? Or does she show this kind of bravado towards everyone? If the former, perhaps a line like, ‘Despite their fierce scowls, she relaxed at the sight of them,’ would signal that she feels at least a bit safer and more free with her tongue. If the former, I think that we need to see her at least thinking mutinous things towards Dr Euterpe — beyond ‘this is uncomfortable and I’m unhappy’ — so that the snark at the end doesn’t catch us by surprise.

    2. Why ‘Octavious’? I think that Octavius is a perfectly good name (as is the related Octavian). Is it supposed to suggest that the story takes place in the future, by which time names have changed? The name Octavius, taken directly from Latin, hasn’t changed in two millennia, so it’s unlikely to change any time soon. I can’t help suspecting that you’re falling for the common misconception that tweaking a name (adding or subtracting a letter or two; adding a random h or apostrophe) makes it look ‘original’. It doesn’t. Almost everyone does it nowadays. And even if (within the story) the character’s mother was the one trying to be original, wouldn’t Eliana hear it as ‘Octavius’? Even if it was pronounced differently, wouldn’t she assume that’s a quirk of his pronunciation that others have picked up?

    • Aimee says:

      Thank you for your feedback! It’s always really helpful when I get critiques from someone. (:

      Okay, first of all, I totally agree with you with your first thing, and I understand where you’re coming from! I guess it does seem a little odd, huh? I’ll have to work it out so it seems a bit less awkward.

      And second, I honestly had no clue ‘Octavius’ was spelled that way. I’ve always seen it as ‘Octavious,’ and I think it looks better spelled that way, personally. (Kind of like the ‘grey’ vs. ‘gray’ debate, I guess) I wasn’t trying to be ‘original’ or anything, it’s just how I spell it.

      Thanks, again!

  2. The Writer's Wrong says:

    I enjoyed this read. I agree with Ellen that it drops the reader right into the middle of the story. I really like action, and this delivered it right from the get go! Keep up the good work! I think you’re onto something 🙂

  3. Aimee says:

    Thank you, Ms. Ellen, for posting my First Page Friday! 😀 I really appreciate the critiques and advice you’ve given me! Someone has told me before that I need to show not tell, and sometimes it’s hard! Other times it comes really naturally, but most of the time, I find myself struggling with trying to translate what I see in my head to what is written on paper. It’s just something I’ll have to work on, I guess!

  4. Tessa Bertoldi says:

    Too slow to engage, this passage begins like “a dark and stormy night” cliché. I would lift out the entire sentence, “I was trapped in a horrible nightmare, unable to escape the never-ending torment I was faced with each day.” and use that as my beginning. I agree with the Show/Tell comments. Great beginning writing, advanced for 16! Keep writing and don’t let anyone tell you that you are not a writer, you have the goods!

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