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DPVP
June 25th, 2013, 04:19 PM
Hi, this is my first thing im putting up for critiquing. its the opening to a science fiction book im trying to write. im pretty new to writing so i need lots of help. thank you in advance.

Battle Marshal Higgins stood in the control room of the star-ship Helenpous. Standing still his hands clasped behind his back, moving nothing but his eyes, his lips curved down as they always do. A hologram of the planet below them was projected into the center of the room; all around the hologram computers were filled with personal controlling the ship.

“Looks as dry as my wife’s cooking” Higgins commented to no one in particular. There was no particular humor in his voice, just the need to say something. He had not eaten his wife’s cooking in years.

The hologram of the desert planet shimmered; the planet was habitable around the North Pole. There, the land went from arid to a semi-arid with shrubby plants protected by mountains. There were signs of ancient rivers that carved canyons in the north, but those rivers no longer ran. The planet’s greenest areas were easily the mountains that caped the planet. Higgins had heard the reports from the scout crafts, but it was the not the planets geography that had brought him out this far from the farm.

The scot craft reported that there were people on the planet. They had limited industry and their technology was archaic, but the scout crafts were unable to find anything that appeared to be the old research facilities they had been sent to find.

The door to the control center wooshed open and Lapis from the Diplomatic Agency walked in to the control center, disturbing Higgins’ thoughts. Lapis was as usual dressed in colorful civilian clothes, he had on a purple shirt, cargo pants with black leather boots and followed by a tall female in a long heavy green jacket that went to her knees. A third smaller female followed the two in, she was an intern from the Unity Political Academy named Millida, she bowed slightly as she walked into the room and got a simile form a guard at the door. Shamis, Lapis counterpart from the Political Corps, still had not arrived.

“Great it’s that faggy diplomat and his Amazonian bitch” Higgins thought to himself, as he clenched his fist, and made a point to not look at Lapis. Lapis was a Gladonian who had been former planetary governor until he made the unorthodox decision to go back into the Diplomatic Agency to be the Chief Diplomat. Diplomacy was seen as a very limited field because the Alliance for Humanity had limited interactions with those outside of itself. However Lapis had risen above simple diplomacy and had become the Polit-bureau’s go to guy for brokering negotiations. Along with that it he was Gladonias representative for the Alliance of Humanity.

Higgins had found this all out from questioning his contacts when he learned civilians would be joining him on this mission. He had expected an arrogant prick with the bodyguards surrounding him. He got that in Shamis but not in Lapis.

“Hi, Janice how’s it going?” Lapis then began a conversation with one of the sergeants at a computer, ignoring the officers on the deck and the marshal himself.

Higgins hated how Lapis would talk to anyone, and his choice of protectors was unsettling. The Civilian Services had their own security-bureau so that they did not have to rely on the military for their guards and security of buildings. Most diplomats of a high level had bodyguards from the this security-bureau. Lapis had one: a Yummis for a guard.

Higgins knew little about the Yummis program except that they were genetically engineered females. Being under the command of the politburo, not the military, they were known to be used to take out the disloyal and to commit purges. Yet for some reason this one was assigned to Lapis, according to paperwork, as a staff member. She spent most of her time on the trip hibernating so Higgins and the rest of the crew rarely saw her.

“What are you up here for?” snapped Higgins, his voice more gruff and confrontational than he’d intended. The Yummis gave him a cold don’t fuck with me stare. Part of what made Yummis scary was there lack of emotions. This was the only one Higgins had ever seen have facial expressions, and it scared him more.

Lapis ended his conversation with a nice “I’m glad to hear she’s getting better, now if you will excuse me, I have to go.” He turned sharply and started towards Higgins saying “I see I beat Shamis hear”

Higgins gave a grunt for an answer. He really hated that man, he hated members of the Civilian Services in general, he hated Glaonians even more but he hated Lapis and his attitude more than any. Much to Higgins relief Shamis arrived. Shamis was a more traditional Political corps member. He was on the plump side and wore formal clothing. He was followed by his two bodyguards and staff members as usual. His intern, Matthew, was also in tow for once. Shamis was arrogant and acted in disgust towards the lower level crewmembers. He made a wide detour around the Yummis and joined them, exchanging bows ignoring Lapi and the Yummis who never participated beyond a salute where they bladed their hands in front of their face.

“So any new news Marshall?” Shamis asked.

“No, no sign of a facility,” Higgins responded.

“So what now?” Shamis asked unsure of himself.

“Well we should obey the first standing order and civilize them” Erron the ethics officer assigned to Shamis chimed in. The ethics officer assigned to the Helenpous had gotten injured the day before departure, leaving Erron the highest-ranking ethics officer

“That would be …” Lapis began

“All right then, I will prepare the troops” Higgins concluded cutting Lapis off

“Your will not” Lapis said as he grabbed Higgins uniform.

“What the First standing order” Erron sneered, looking ready to lecture Lapis

Higgins was taken aback, he had the urge to strike him for a second, the urge to beat the man down, but some instinct told him that regardless of the political ramifications it would be a bad idea. Maybe it was the Yummis was poised perfectly still, cat like ready to strike or maybe it was a second of doubt unsure if he wanted to find out if the legends of Gladonian brutality are true.

Lapis smiled in a scary way and removed his hand from Higgins. “Gentlemen we have a situation here where we don’t have to run in blind as you advocate. I would hate to make another Sincerian situation” Higgins flinched at the mention of the military debacle that he participated in as a younger man. He hated how Lapis seemed to know what to say to cut someone down. “We have the perfectly good option of going down and talking to them, we can observe if they know of the labs or not. Maybe even find out where they are.” Lapis looked at the other men, “We can avoid losses and make this cheaper” then turning to Higgins, “We will need to take a transporter so we can go down to the planet.” Lapis then walked out of the control nexus followed by Mallida

“What about the first standing order?” Shamis yelled at his retreating back

After a quick cold glance the Yummis followed Lapis out. Despite not having eyebrows she still convey her meaning.

“Damn that bitch is creepy” Higgins said out loud

“I know, I have never seen one give facial expressions like that,” Shamis agreed.

“I really hate that man,” Higgins declared not caring who heard

“I don’t get him either, he probably could have ended up a politburo member.” Shamis shook his head as he began to walk to the exit “He was a planetary governor.”

“And at a young age, too.” Higgins added, turning back to the hologram.

“And now he is violating the first standing order” Shamis concluded as he too left the control center.

OurJud
June 26th, 2013, 10:07 PM
Outer-space sci-fi isn't really my bag; I prefer Earth-based sci-fi, but I'll add my views regardless, as the setting is only relevant to some degree.

The reason I tend to avoid outer-space sci-fi is because of the frequent non-words and made up names for species, etc. There seems to be quite a bit of that here and I found it all a bit overwhelming. This passage, for instance, almost made my brain explode:


“Great it’s that faggy diplomat and his Amazonian bitch” Higgins thought to himself, as he clenched his fist, and made a point to not look at Lapis. Lapis was a Gladonian who had been former planetary governor until he made the unorthodox decision to go back into the Diplomatic Agency to be the Chief Diplomat. Diplomacy was seen as a very limited field because the Alliance for Humanity had limited interactions with those outside of itself. However Lapis had risen above simple diplomacy and had become the Polit-bureau’s go to guy for brokering negotiations. Along with that it he was Gladonias representative for the Alliance of Humanity.

Gladonian, Gladonias, Polit-bureau, Alliance of Humanity, Diplomatic Agency...

Too much info and difficult to get your head around. No one wants to have to read a passage three or four times until it sinks in. However, I accept it may just be me who feels this way, and that someone else may think it reads perfectly clearly.

It is also littered with spelling and grammar mistakes. Not the end of the world, of course, and easily rectified, but it still needs addressing.

A few of your sentences are rather clumsy too - fine if this is a rough first draft, but:


The door to the control center wooshed open and Lapis from the Diplomatic Agency walked in to the control center, disturbing Higgins’ thoughts.

Dropped 'wooshed' or come up with a better onomatopoeia. Also, you've already told us it is the door to the control center that has just opened, so there's no need to tell us this is where Lapis walks into. A better way to construct that sentence would be something like: "The door to the control centre opened and a man entered. It was Lapis - someone Higgins knew only too well."

On the plus side, it has a nice pace, generally speaking, and gives off a very strong, traditional sci-fi vibe.

I would say just watch those spelling mistake (presumably your WP has a spell-checker?). Ignore the spelling mistakes for your first draft, if that's how you like to work, but I'd recommend fixing them before you present it for critique.

Good luck with the rest :)

DPVP
June 27th, 2013, 06:57 PM
thank you OurJud! thanks for pointing out the info overload. i think that i had been looking at if for so long i kind of forgot they need to be introduced. i'll try to limit info dump/ overloud. yeah spelling is a major weak point of mine.

Lsahlm
June 27th, 2013, 07:52 PM
agreed on the info dump--there's just too much getting in the way of the story. If this were a movie, the dialog wouldn't keep stopping so someone could explain who everyone was. sure, some things need to be known, but it's best kept at a minimum and expanded upon later--particular both because this is the opening and you stated it will be a novel.

...and the occasional awkward sentence. the one that caught me most was:



“Great it’s that faggy diplomat and his Amazonian bitch” Higgins thought to himself, as he clenched his fist, and made a point to not look at Lapis.

first, a comma is missing after "bitch". one can only think to him/herself (unless he's a telepath). then all the commas in the whole sentence (except where there should have been one). i think that could have been broken up for better clarity.



“That would be …” Lapis began

“All right then, I will prepare the troops” Higgins concluded cutting Lapis off

---should be “That would be--” Lapis began. elipses is a trail-off. a dash is a cutoff.


Higgins was taken aback, he had the urge to strike him for a second, the urge to beat the man down, but some instinct told him that regardless of the political ramifications it would be a bad idea.

another "too many commas" sentence that could be broken up.

all and all, certainly not terrible for an early attempt, and i think you'll do fine after getting those thousands of words written that we all need to go through.

my personal opinion would be to really watch the amount of info you provide at one time,
and watch your sentence flow--and poor spelling is just not excused at all these days unless you're writing in Notepad.

keep an eye on those points, and maybe even OurJud will be reading you one of these days. hehe :)

Sintalion
June 30th, 2013, 01:52 PM
Hello! I'm just going to delve into the first section, although I did read it all. I just find it easier, but I'd be happy to provide more info about what I found in other areas as well!

"Battle Marshal Higgins stood in the control room of the star-ship Helenpous. "
As an opener this works perfectly for me. Specific enough for me to get a sense of character and scene. Not cheesy enough to make me stop reading. It's not the most interesting sentence out there, but sometimes the best stories are the ones that don't try and do anything fancy and obscure with the first line. What's more, there's nothing inherently confusing about this sentence, so reading the next one comes naturally.

"Standing still his hands clasped behind his back, moving nothing but his eyes, his lips curved down as they always do."
This line I have a problem with and had to read it twice to find the sentence and I'm still having trouble. I can read it two ways- and so can just about any other reader. Namely the confusion boils down to the last third of the sentence: is "curved down" a description or the verb?

If it's the verb, it contradicts the action of standing still and moving nothing but eyes (which I really dislike, as people breathe and brain stems balance and such. Act this out. It's very hard to just stand still and move your eyes).

If it's a description, (his lips are curved down) then we don't have an actual sentence here.

Also, watch the verb do.

After the first sentence, I think you could re-write the second to be much more engaging. You have a curious reader, a brand new scene and character for them- and you basically told us he's doing nothing.

"A hologram of the planet below them was projected into the center of the room; all around the hologram computers were filled with personal controlling the ship. "
You're clearly trying to paint a picture of location here, but I think you could do it a little better. Really let the reader know they're floating above a planet, and not just looking down at a model from a balcony or something.

These two sentences, while containing the word hologram, aren't really linked enough for a semi-colon. I'm not even sure that you need to be so direct in the second half. Why not hint to the reader it's busy? They'll get a more specific image if you use more specific words. Maybe someone elbows past him, or there's the hum of clicking keys that acts like white noise, chatter, etc.

I also don't think you need to repeat hologram so soon. It's sort of like saying the dog sat for the dog trainer. Sure you can do it and there's no harm, but the reader will still understand. If it's something unusual or unclear, feel free to clarify by adding emphasis. Like if the dog sat for a train conductor, or if the trainer could be confused with someone else.

"“Looks as dry as my wife’s cooking” Higgins commented to no one in particular. There was no particular humor in his voice, just the need to say something. He had not eaten his wife’s cooking in years." "
The double particulars and the hologram right before slow your pacing. I'd suggest removing one particular and one hologram.

I think you'd make a better point by relating the planet to the cooking more. Sure you can generalize, but the reader has a better idea of color, geography, and texture if you make a direct comparison. Blackened skin, shriveled, wrinkled, etc.

Here you also make the reader a little conscious. You're basically telling the reader that they found it funny, but it's not supposed to be funny because he's being serious. This is the narrator coming out in front of the audience. You can easily work around this.

Things move a little more smoothly after this point, but since it was the beginning I wanted to make a few comments on it. It's clear that you know where you want this to go, but I think you could benefit from a little more clarity. Good luck! :)

reverend ben
July 4th, 2013, 10:05 PM
One way, if this is to be a novel, to get all yr info across without a dump would be to show it all in a different context.

If you take all of the important stuff that you just laid out, and stretch it out more naturally over a couple chapters establishing what is 'normal' for the place and time, you can get all that info and more through in a really convincing way. Think of the opening scenes of Star Wars on Tatouine.
You get a little storyline that hooks you, lays out all those facts by showing, and you don't even realize that you just agreed that droids are an important thing.

I think you can refer to that part as the 'ordinary world' stage of story. It can set the tone for what is going to happen, and you don't have to run the risk of letting your readers get bored with the info dump. Which is a big challenge in sci fi universes, even the really really good ones.