Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Beginning 540

I always thought my father was just a legend, a story to make kids who had a bad day have a reason to think tomorrow would be better, and I never knew differently until my mother was murdered. Of course, I always knew I had a father, but there's a difference between being knowing you were fathered and having a father.

When the world faced an alien invasion, it was my father who worked out how to kill their mothership and went and did it. He left behind my mother, who raised me alone, always telling me as much as I could handle as I grew up about who my father was. I don't think she'd finished.

She hadn't even begun telling me about who she was.

Dr. Sternberg sighed deeply. "I see. So your father killed a Martian mothership?"

"Yeah, he went into—wait a minute. How did you know it was Martian?

But Dr. Sternberg was already peeling off his mask.

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: freddie


Evil Editor said...

Unchosern Continuations:

“I think I can answer that question,” said Dr. Chowdahead, Actors' Guild psychiatrist. “You are an unrealized fictional character, chopped out of life--if you will--by the director of Independence Day. You, poor girl, are cutting room floor sweepings.”

“Egads. If that's true, this story is doomed. Doomed! I say. A tempest in a teapot, I am.”

“Too late.”

--Bill H.

I learned a lot more than I expected when I accidentally walked in on her in the bath. See, it turns out that my father knew the aliens would return, that they'd want revenge, and that he needed a way to hide that no one would expect.

Being a clone isn't too bad, but when your daddy is also your mommy with a few bits retooled, the aliens coming back aren't your worst nightmare. It's what the kids at school will say when they find out.


So I never knew who I was. I still don't. I don't even think she ever showed me my birth certificate.

Which, I'm sure you can see, is the very good reason you caught me driving without a license, Officer.


Imagine my shock when I realized that 'mothership' wasn't just a metaphor. My mother WAS the ship - she'd somehow been infected when she was doing fieldwork on Xeta-9. My dad spent ten years learning how to take her out without risking the rest of the planet, and then one night he came back and socked her into another dimension before she could say 'Son, your dad's here - why don't you order a pizza?'

- Tracey S. Rosenberg

writtenwyrdd said...

I like this opening. It's got some backstory, but it shares that in a way that makes me curious. And then you dangle mom being even more unusual and promise you'll be telling us soon what that is. I'd definitely have read on.

However I bet this is one of those openings where you hear a lot of "Trim! Add tension! Fewer words!" Because this sort of opening is a bit slow for some folks. Seems great to an old pulp fiction reader like me, though.

Robin S. said...

Hi Jason,

Popping on quickly to say - I really like this a lot.

Wouldn't change a thing.

Moth said...

"but there's a difference between being knowing you were fathered and having a father."

Proofread a bit more carefully before you send this on submission. It's a really bad sign when the SECOND SENTENCE has a typo. That said, I did like the voice in this.

I dunno, tho. This feels a bit infodump-y to me. I don't have a problem with slow starts, I do have a problem with a fat wad of backstory crammed down my throat right out the gate. I would read on but not if there was too much more stuff about his dead mother and Enigmatic Father(TM) before there was anything about the MC himself.

Ali said...

I liked this, and didn't find it too info-dumpy or slow, assuming that something happens in real time in the next page or so.

The only change I'd make is always telling me as much as I could handle as I grew up about who my father was. Who believes they can't handle the full story about a parent they never met? Now if you made it "as much as she thought I could handle," or, better yet, "as much as she could handle," I'd be right there with you. And I love the next two lines.

fairyhedgehog said...

I really liked this. I didn't think that having the narrator's mother murdered in the first sentence was particularly slow.

AR said...

I think the continuation points up the real snag. The writing has forward direction for the most part...'my dad was so incredible my mom couldn't tell me about him, and then my mom was murdered and I found out she had been even more remarkable.'

But right in the middle of it you throw in "alien invasion" and "mothership" so casually. A real alien invasion is so catastrophic that someone whose own father stopped it would likely speak of it with more profound feeling. The terms you've chosen are so generic that it flattens the impact. And this is where the whole "write tight" thing, IMO, lets you down. There's so little room for the luxury of really feeling what's happened.

Assuming the aliens really need to be worked in, to establish that this is sci-fi or whatever, I'd be tempted simply to say something like "One day my father went off to save the world from aliens, leaving behind my mother, a posthumously-awarded medal of honor, and me..." The medal thing is just to suggest the legitimcay and gravity of what happened...I'm sure you can come up with a more fitting way to do that.

Also instead of "make kids...have a reason" why not "give kids...a reason." I love how you stick the "I never knew differently..." on after the comma. It's striking.

And the last two lines are a treat.

Nice work. And I bet the rest of the story is better.

Dave F. said...

Interesting... Angst-ridden commentary. My favorite type of commentary. (Sorry, this morning I'm cynical).

What is the difference and sameness of i) I always thought my father was just a legend and ii) I always knew I had a father ? That's something that should rattle around your mind. When I read the first paragraph, those two clauses clash in my head. It's like start here at point A, move to points B and C and then returning to point A. You even start those with the same words "I always". That simple repetition of words draws attention big time.

Either you need to change the "Of course" as the lead in, or you need to change the second mention of the father. And watch when you repeat words.

In paragraph two you do some things that I really don't like. i) a repeat with change of meaning, ii) too many words and iii) too many past, past perfect and whatever else past tenses. (will the grammarians give me a break if I forget the names? probably not...)

"Mothership" and "my mother"... Try flagship or something else. Don't repeat mother because you want to engage the reader with HIS mother. Don't pollute the reader's thoughts.

Now let us remove "it was" and "who" and "and went and" to leave:
When the world faced an alien invasion, my father worked out how to kill their battleship and did it.

Now my next suggestion is to bring attention to his Mother. Try changing your sentence length. simply say He left us alone. He saved the world and let Mother raise me alone. Those sentences are dissimilar enough in style to call attention to themselves. They do the the same work as an opening sentence. The repeat of "alone" is purposeful. Personally, I would make the sentence more reflective and deliberative if this were mine: He left Mother to raise me. However, I'm not sure your style would let you get away with only those six words.

Then you can easily add the hook in the last sentence. But before that, rather than say "always telling me as much as I could handle" how about changing "always" to "only" ? ...
Then saying "I don't think she finished" has more meaning and the observation that she neglected telling the speaker about herself takes on greater significance. You are building from a father-legend to a mother-with-past and you did that very well.

Scott from Oregon said...

I was good until the last paragraph. I felt the tug of the hook in my lip in the first paragraph, and then gave in to being caught. And then jeez... more hooks. Now I was an angry fish.

The last paragraph felt like you didn't trust the first hook.

Perhaps further down the page I would have tolerated it. But so close to the first hook, I thought, "hooks!"

BuffySquirrel said...

I think this shows potential, but it's still at the beating-it-into-shape stage.

Needs tightening. Yes, I'm always saying that, but what do I mean?

I mean, strip out the stuff you don't need to tell the story.

I'd start like this:

There's a difference between knowing you were fathered and having a father. I always thought my father was a legend, a reason to hope tomorrow would be better, and I never knew differently until my mother was murdered.

Note that I cut that opening paragraph almost in half without losing much of the sense of it.

WouldBe said...

Dave, I'm shocked. It's superperfectpasteristic tense. Sheesh.

I like the story idea. But I think AR and Dave hit on an issue. It doesn't seem possible that a kid would be uncertain that his father stopped an alien invasion. If it is his father, then this is not ancient legend, this is recent history. There'd be all manner of honors thrown in their direction on every anniversary of the invasion.

So consider replacing this uncertainty with more clues about where the story is headed.

Bill H.

pacatrue said...

I too like the idea of this opening very much, but the writing seems a bit circular. Perhaps the discussion of too many hooks above is the best reason why.

Am I the only one who thinks his father is Jeff Goldblum with a laptop?

Jeb said...

Hee-hee-hee... love that continuation!

I liked this opening, too, even though I recognize the merit of previous comments about trimming repetition and leaving off the alien invasion until a few paragraphs after we've digested the absentee father (and what kid doesn't secretly hope his absentee father isn't really off saving the planet?) and the murdered mother.

Discounting the alien invasion, the last line is a great setting of the hook.

freddie said...

EE improved this, so I shall give credit to where credit is due.

D Jason Cooper said...

The circular writing was meant to show his thoughts revolving. His father's dead, now his mother's dead, I think it gives a teenager pause to think.

This is actually a YA superhero piece. I didn't think a superhero not done in a comic book could sell as a text piece. His father was a superhero, with a secret identity, and thus whatever plaudits that might come his way would not fall to his son.

He knew he was fathered, i.e. was not a virgin birth, but there's a vast difference between that and a man who's there and shows you attention.

It's not that mom is more incredible, it's that she didn't even mention her superhero career. But her death will show that the aftereffects of the invasion are still being felt.

Probably needs a bit more tightening and maybe I'd have less typos if I didn't keep doing this as the last thing at night. I'll sleep on that.

AR said...

Sounds really cool, Jason.

batgirl said...

I liked this, and would read on - and hey, superheroes in prose are practically mainstream now, so you shouldn't have to do it as a graphic novel anyways.

Moth said...

I like the premise. Does the kid have powers or is he a gadgetty batman types?

Did we see a query for this yet and I missed it?