At sixteen, Martha kidnapped her surrogate son Karl from their private prison and the only home they had ever known. IKG Psinetics, the most sophisticated genetics laboratory on Earth, created, raised and trained her to be the best at something. But they never told her what that something was. The anonymous staff taught her nine tongues fluently and a survivable grasp of twenty more. She was a biopid, pronounced like myopic, they told her, a genetically modified human. She learned a barrage of espionage techniques, philosophy, math, science, wide-ranging social skills including seduction, and most especially, psychology, both Eastern and Western.
The staff never told her their names, so she came up with names for them, which they accepted with indifference. Doctor Bob, Doctor Harry, Doctor Marcia. If one got too close to her emotionally, as happened a couple of times, they disappeared. She never left.
At fifty, she knew more about psychology than anyone else on the face of the earth. She was a psychic, pronounced like tripod, they told her, a reincarnation of Freud. But they were wrong. The Oedipus Complex was off, for one thing: Martha took Karl with her, but she left him at McDonald's (pronounced like "orange"). The psychology of surrogate motherhood was to be her next study.
Opening: Kelly Mitchell.....Continuation: Rachel
When Martha fled with her son, corporate security recaptured them within hours. It seemed suspiciously easy. Indeed, the escape was nothing more than a ruse, an opportunity for Martha to make a few strategic phone calls. As the directors of IKG Psinetics found out, when they suddenly found themselves hit by a barrage of criminal and civil charges, including false imprisonment, corporate malfeasance, barratry, infliction of emotional distress, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
As they conferred gloomily, before the first of the trials that would take up the next ten years of their lives, the directors agreed one thing; next time they planned the education of a biopid agent, they were going to leave out the law degree.
It's not clear to me what you mean by She never left. It's a pretty lame kidnapping that doesn't make it out the front door. If she and Karl did leave, I'd delay the paragraph about the staff names and follow Martha and Karl.
True story: Until about three months ago I thought "biopic" rhymed with "myopic" and had roots in "biopsy". The truth depressed me.
I'd be more on board with the story if it started with a scene rather than an explanation. First line's fine; second line killed it.
This opening would be more exciting for me if it focused exclusively on Martha and Karl's escape.
I like the idea (I'm all for genetically enhanced assassins/spies), but I had a couple problems:
* The first sentence is intriguing, but then the scene leaves Karl and talks about Martha. Could you start the scene with Martha (I was also intrigued by the fact that she doesn't know what she's being trained for)? Or talk about her escape with Karl and bring up the background information later?
* "their private prison" confused me at first. I thought they owned a private prison and didn't get why she was kidnapping her son from it. Lesson: Don't start with a metaphor, at least not in sci-fi; we'll take you literally.
* "pronounced like myopic" needs to go. If you're afraid the reader will pronounce it wrong, find a different spelling or a different word.
"pronounced like myopic" must go.
I'd keep reading, but in the back of my head I'm thinking "this better take me in a new direction."
Super-spy who doesn't know what they were trained for/who they are working for isn't new. Hopefully you have a new angle that shows up in the first few chapters.
Best of luck. It's something I'd read more of.
To me, this read more like a summary than an opening to a novel. I agree with those that said it would be better to open by showing the escape. The other information can be revealed as the story continues.
I see a lot of first lines like this in slush. You don't have to cram that much information into an opening line; for me it usually works better if you don't.
Going into backstory killed this for me. If Martha and Karl are escaping, I'd rather see a scene about that then hear the background to it.
Start with a character in a situation.
The story idea is neat-o, but it might grab the reader by the throat if the action is shown, not explained. I know it's a cliche', but show, don't tell.
I couldn't shake a feeling that I'd seen this somewhere before, only as a query letter or a synopsis, rather than the actual opening of a book. It does look more like tha start of a query. Or the plot summary on the back of the book.
Apparently, my unshakeable feeling was completely unfounded, though. (I didn't half find some weird stuff, Googling on "biopid", but that's probably beside the point.)
Is it, maybe, the start of a prologue or something? You know, a few paragraphs in italics about Martha and her programming and her awful life, and then the book actually starts on page 2 with Karl coming back to IKG Psinetics to wreak his revenge?
This opening reminds me of an "origin" story where previous stories have already established the character and his/her abilities and some previous escape from a confining authority.
My advice -- Don't Do It. Write the outlines of the story you think is the beginning and then write the next adventure of the two characters Martha and Karl. You will have plenty of story to let the reader find out about Martha's abilities, you don't need the origin story at the very start. Find ways to let the reader discover that history as the story moves forward.
It reminds me of the opening to a TV show, like the A-Team, Gilligan's Island, or Dukes of Hazzard, where a narrator gives us a set of insta-characters right before the story starts. Such openings can be iconic. I remember most of the words from all three of those TV openings, but you have to be going for that intentionally. As everyone else has said, unless you have a vision here, move straight to the scene instead.
Can you find some way to work all this in without using backstory, infodump, As You Know Bob, etc.? Refer to the Turkey City Lexicon.
On the other hand, I think I'd rather have this chunk of info here than put in the story ostentiously. Show the doctors being anonymous, etc, and worm in the skills subtly. But do NOT tell the reader she has skills right before she uses them. I don't like, "As the nine thugs came at him, Alex thought how fortunate it was that he knew karate." You could either mention the karate (kind of like you do here) or just have her do it. If she just starts talking in Japanese, the reader will figure it out sooner or later.
I'm probably not as offended by the infodump as some of the others; infodump isn't really good, but I'm used to it being used at the beginning of spy novels. It makes the character in question a bit more intriguing. The story sounds like something I'd like; I'd read on.
Seduction as a social skill? I guess I'm an awkward little nobody, then. ;)
Steve, that's hilarious!
This reads like a summary of events. Can you show us more?
Thanks for the comments!
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