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MistbornAlpaca - 4/30/18 - Purpose - 4331 Words (VG)


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Hey all!

It's been a while since I've submitted and I'm happy to be back on the boat! Thanks for reading and giving me feedback as always! This was an idea I had for a novel that I actually wrote as a short story for a class I was doing. It's got waaaay too much happening in waaaay too short of a space, so it all happens to fast, there's not enough time to develop many characters, and the ending doesn't feel deserved IMO. Give me everything you've got! But mainly I'm looking for critique on plot and characters.

P.S. Sorry I didn't get this out yesterday :wacko:

Edited by MistbornAlpaca
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Yep--I think you've already encapsulated the problems with it! Those are the same thoughts I had.

There are the bones of a good story here, but I want more: more emotion, more tension, more of a resolution at the end. Maybe take a look at the main character to see what his motivations are. Getting these in place early on gives him a reason to lead the revolt. 

Notes while reading:
Pg 2: he seemed like he was accepting his fate,  but now he wants to take over the ship?
Ok,  you address this later on. So that's good. 

Pg 2: "crou," "crax," and "crak" are all pretty close

Pg 2: the prisoners fall into line very easily. 

Pg 3: pushing through the pain of an electrical shock isn't very easy. 

Pg 4: taking the bridge is sort of a letdown. There's also only 2 enforcers now instead of several? Can we see the action?

Pg 4: Why are the prisoners downcast? They just took over the ship! 

Pg 4: The tattooed man hasn't been introduced before. 

Pg 5. "seven small fighters wouldn’t be enough to get sixteen people off the ship"
--I mean, there are a lot of ways to reduce the number of people to 7, if each ship holds one. If they can hold two, then they're most of the way there.

Pg 5: Chrag. Another similar name.

Pg 6: Why isn't he telling the others about the ships? It could be an incentive for the people who want to leave to join him.

P6 6: He's really dumb and not military trained if he didn't think of taking the guard's gun in the first place.

Pg 7: How easy is it to learn how to pilot a fighter? I have a feeling a lot of these prisoners won't survive getting out of the hangar.

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Hi! Welcome back to RE!


I'll echo @Mandamon, in that you've already nailed the main issues. 

14 hours ago, Mandamon said:

but I want more: more emotion, more tension, more of a resolution at the end. Maybe take a look at the main character to see what his motivations are. Getting these in place early on gives him a reason to lead the revolt. 

Exactly all this. I need a lot more emotion, and more stakes than just 'death,' and motivations would be amazing. I need to feel the need for the revolt, so I can get behind it!

As I go

- page 1: a lot of redundancy with the word 'die' in that first paragraph

- page 2: I remain disoriented. Where is he?

- ah, I see. Prison ship. That should probably be in the first paragraph. How does he know though that there are only 16 other inmates?

- page two: I'm not really invested in this escape plan because all I know about these characters is that they're navy deserters

- page three: I don't feel any real...anything, for the taking down of the enforcer, since I don't know enough about the world to know if I should A) like them or hate them and B.) how powerful they are


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Great to have you back, Alpaca!

I've sent you some tracked comments and LBLs by email, as I seem to have got into the habit if working that way. Hope they are useful.

The first thing that weirded my out was the lack of double line spacing, which is a cast iron 'must' for publishers, editors, agents, etc. (I am given to understand).

Second thing. The title didn't really engage me. I thought it sounded a little overbearing and preachy (potentially, depending on the nature of the story). I think the title is there to pull people in, and I'm not sure this would do it for me.

I don't know what kind of ship it is, what kind of story I'm in. Is it a spaceship, or a waterborne vessel? I'm guessing a spaceship could avoid a meteor, or at least would be making the attempt, so probably it's a waterborne vehicle of some sort.

"Burning meteor" - so, we must be in the atmosphere, are we not? Otherwise, there is nothing to be burned. Did you do any research on meteors?

If a meteor (or even a meteorite) is coming straight at him, I believe that the entire ship would be obliterated pretty much instantly. The object is going to be travelling a at monstrous speed, I would think. Look at the craters that get formed on Earth by meteor strikes. I know they are all different sizes, and that small ones fall with very little impact, but this ship is in orbit(?), so will be slowed less by not passing through the whole atmosphere to reach the planet. I just struggled to accept the outcome of the impact, simply being thrown against the wall.

I'm still struggling a bit with the setting. There's mention of fantastical / mythical a creature, and there's a laser door.

By the end of a couple of pages, I'm onboard for reading on, because there is an element of mystery as to what's happened, but I'm not that invested in the character. He doesn't have anything to live for, and nothing in his background is especially captivating. You've set up something of a mystery about what his crime is, but still, I'm not sure what the stakes are since he doesn't really have anything to fight for, it seems.

What is a 'cr-x'? Is it money, sheep, fruit? The story so far is based around 'real' things so, the introduction of these 'made up' things is rather jarring. What function do they perform in the story? Does there need to be a thing that is strange and unknown? There's no other world-building, like names of planets, races, aliens, etc., so I'm finding this unknown element a bit jarring.

Yeah, I take @Mandamon's point about the word's being so similar. It's rather odd, and almost implies there is some purpose to it.

"raising prisoners to their feet" - This was odd to me. Are none of them capable of standing on their own? Surely, they don't all need him to help them up.

Again, the prisoners all standing around waiting for R to lead them (in effect) is strange. Why would they all be so meek and compliant? They are criminals, after all.

"knocked us all out" - sorry this is quite lame. For me, it's the kind of phrasing that children use when they're playing 'action' games in some form. To illustrate, I would probably use a phrase like 'Left us all unconscious.' This said, they weren't not all unconscious, some of them died.

"we can storm the bridge, overpower the crew, and take control of the ship" - Not sure I understand where they are coming from either. What is his motivation? Does he plan to escape? Run away?

"we could escape the D! We could be free" - I could do with this clarity of motivation much earlier than Page 4. I guess he's disoriented, but I think the trail of realisation and motivation could be a bit cleaner, clearer and sooner.

"They were a bunch of prisoners, with no training" - Really? Are none of them deserters like him? Are there no hardened criminals at all?

I don't get what an End is. Is a man, a machine, a beast of some sort, an alien? I'm still not sure what kind of story I'm in.

"What had changed?" - Well, in theory, is this guy an agent of the state? In which case, theoretically, he is not an enemy. That would be different. R is an outlaw, in effect.

"He didn’t know what to believe now" - the mind-wiping drug seems to have fallen off the radar. Previously, he noted that his memories were affected. How does he know any of that is real? How do we know that?

"Ch--g" - Why does every name in this story start with a 'c' apart from R's? It's getting weird.

I'm wondering what the range of a fighter is. I would guess not that much, as they are designed for close combat usually. Also, why do they have fighters of a prison ship? That doesn't seem to make much sense, it's not like it's a carrier. Also, if there are only two Enf, why do they have all those fighters. If I'm asking these questions either (a) R should be asking them too, or (b) perhaps the details don't fit together too well, and maybe are contradictory?

"Why are they protecting me? Do I deserve protection?" - He's asking an awful lot of question and seems to be full of doubt in his own motivation, and everyone else's. It's difficult to root for someone who seems to have little idea what he's doing or why he's doing it.

"It’d been a long day." - This thought is kind of weirdly out of tune with the others; for me it doesn't really with with him having fought for his life more than once, and almost been killed by a meteor!!!

The number of prisoner with Cr-- is over-complicated, and doesn't matter, surely. I'm trying to figure out what's happened but I'm being distracted by trying to count prisoners when it doesn't seem relevant. The end of the story should be about impact, not counting on fingers, I think.

Ooh, introducing a new name on the last page? I guess it's okay, because it doesn't really matter who saved him. Given that none of the characters has had time to develop much character, an anonymous one at the end perhaps doesn't really matter.

Yeah, I was worried about how they were going to fly. Is it really so easy that they can just do it never having done it before? Maybe it is. That isn't my biggest problem. I come back to the range issue, although I suppose I should just accept it. What about the nearest habitable planet though. Are there other world and civilisations that the Dynasty doesn't control that will take in fugitives? I am left with so many question, ultimately though, the problem is I'm not sure how much I care about the answers.

In summary, my thoughts at the end are:

- Why do I care about R, if I do at all? I guess the Dynasty is an oppressive regime, and so I should be rooting for these guys getting their freedom, but R was just a bit too full of doubt and never really seemed to be convinced that what he was doing was right;

- The story is a wee bit one dimensional. There have been many, many prison break stories before and this one doesn't really have a great spark of originality. The world-building is fairly light. Accepting that you don't have many words in a short to do that, it's still eminently possible to craft a world with hints and a few scattered references, and avoiding massive tracts of exposition. I'm glad you avoided that in this story, that's good, but I think the world-building that is there can be stronger, more effective;

- No female characters, but actually very few characters at all. More description of the characters would bring them off the page, just one or two physical attributes for each named person would give them more than one dimension. Description in general could be a bit better, I think, using other senses than sight for one thing;

- It's a very tight and person POV. Did you consider at any point writing it First Person? That can be really effective in this type of situation, I think;

Conclusion: I think you have the bones of a decent story here, but it needs (a) more character in the characters; (b) bit of tidying up of some of the science and logic (e.g. why does a prison ship have fighters?); (c) some unique or near-unique element that would, on the first page, make the reader go 'Whoa, I've never read a story like this before.'

Good start; now go edit! :) 

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