Red sunlight scattered across the rocky terrain of Mora as Jackson Trammel trudged his last few steps, a Galactic soldier pressing a plasma rifle to his head. The tip of the gun felt cold and hard against Jackson’s neck, and he shivered. His eyes caught sight of a dozen or so prisoners all standing in line, mixtures of fear and sadness on their faces.
“Get in line,” barked the soldier holding Jackson as he shoved his prisoner into place.
Jackson obeyed. His hands were bound, and twenty plasma rifles were pointed at him. What choice did he have?
He tried not to think of the brother and sister he would leave behind. They would surely get the news of his death. The Galactics always liked to scare Earthian rebels into submission with news of an execution.
Heart pounding, Jackson put on a courageous face as he stared down the barrels of the executioners’ rifles. One quick shot to the head, and it would all be over. One quick shot…
The executioner, masked and dressed in black, approached Jackson. "Any last words?"
Jackson smiled. "Don't think you have me yet," he said. "It was no accident you finally caught me. We've been planning this for months. The rebels are in position. This is not the end. Today, Lunar Day 24, is the beginning. So if you look behind you--"
"Today is Lunar Day 23."
" . . . Shit."
One quick shot was all it took.
Opening: Ryan Mueller.....Continuation: anon.
The Galactic captain ordered his soldiers to aim their rifles. “Fire!” He shouted. Red balls flew out of twenty rifles. One struck Jackson squarely in the forehead and splattered. Raspberry flavored paint dribbled down his face and into his mouth. Jackson thought, ‘at least I like Raspberry’. The rebels were using licorice.
The referee--dressed in black and white horizontal stripes—walked onto the field. “Okay, it’s over for you fellows now. The reception area is to your right through the double doors. You can see the rest of the game on the overheads.”
A dozen rebel warriors trudged off of the field--their hopes of a paintball championship all but dashed.
"Bang! You're dead!" Tommy shouted.
"Bang! Bang! Bang!" echoed the others, as The Earthians dropped to the floor in cries of agony, their vests blinking and beeping in defeat. "Galactics win!"
"Cheaters," Jackson accused. "We coulda won if the teams was even."
Tommy's mom appeared on the porch. "Time for lunch, boys," she called.
Jackson tried not to sulk too much as his friends abandoned their plasma rifles and trooped to the house for pizza and cake. Maybe if he was nice to The Galactics, Tommy would let him have the corner piece with extra frosting.
While more condemned were marched in, Jackson surveyed the dishevelled row of prisoners. Rebels, mostly, guilty of crimes of thought, or crimes of deed; any crimes against the state. So-called crimes that threatened to destroy the political status quo, yet actions that any reasonable human would be compelled to take.
Jackson whispered to the sorry creature standing next to him. "What did you do?"
"I had an audience with the Galactic High Chancellor," he replied, visibly shaking. "I told him 'Earthian' wasn't a world."
Insolent, perhaps, but... "And they're executing you for that?"
A guard moved closer, roused by Jackson's raised voice.
The prisoner cleared his throat. "Also, I wrote Why You Don't Get Published, and Why You Don't Get Published 2."
Jackson grabbed a nearby guard's gun and shot the evil bastard himself.
P1: YYou wouldn't have to say "against Jackson's neck" if you had specified "neck" in the first sentence, instead of "head."
P3: He had the choice of not obeying. Possibly this would mean dying ten seconds sooner, but most likely the guy with the gun on his head doesn't want to get sprayed with brains, so he probably won't shoot him till he's in line.
P4: For someone trying not to think of something, he's giving it a lot of thought. Also, scaring rebels into submission works about as well as trying not to think of something.
P5: If this were a TV show, at the end of this paragraph it would say "Three days earlier" on the screen and then we'd get a flashback to how Jackson got into this predicament. Eventually we work our way back to the firing squad, where the rebel who infiltrated the Galactics kills them.
What choice did he have?
They would surely get the news of his death.
You can drop the above two lines, unnecessary. Trammel trudged, Galactic(a) maybe rethink, also a mixture of fear and sadness instead of mixtures. Barked, read something in an excerpt of Self-Editing about that. Also King's On Writing so I'm sensitized.
No other nits. Nice going.
Sometimes authors seem to worry that if they don't get all the important information into the first line, there won't be a second chance.
Maybe there are readers who go, hmmm, the author told us the date, the place, the action, but they left out the character's surname, so I'm not reading any more. But I doubt it.
Periodically, people on boards I frequent select their favourite opening lines from novels. You'd be surprised how sparse of information some of them are.
oops! sorry, EE, that was in the wrong comment window! pls don't post it
--OK. I'm sure I've made a mistake here or there (disclaimer), but I suggest something more along these lines. I kept as many of the original sentences as I could so as not to lose your voice:
A blood sun bathed the rocky terrain of Mora with a red glow as Jackson Trammel trudged behind the other prisoners, their faces a mixture of sadness and fear. Had he any thought of escape, the notion was quickly erased by the gun barrel pressed against his head. He shivered as the Galactics lined them up against the wall.
“Get in line!” barked a soldier, shoving him back.
Bound as he was, with twenty plasma rifles pointed at him, what choice did he have?
He tried not to think of his brother and sister. They would soon find out. That's how the Galactics worked, terrorizing the rebels into submission with news of steady executions.
Heart pounding, Jackson wore courage best as he could while staring down the barrels of his executioners’ rifles. One shot to the head and it would be over. One quick shot…
--I want to know where the execution happens. A wall? A base? Where?
--Instead of red sunlight, I prefer some kind of imagery. I can picture it better that way, that's just me.
--You started off by saying the gun is pressed against his head and the very next line you say his neck. Which is it? Does this gun have two barrels? (lol)
--I thought it was wordy. I deleted redundant adverbs/adjectives/words and re-arranged some sentences.
--Take it with a grain of salt. Just my opinion.
If you want to create suspense, you need to stop distracting us from the scene. You do that by using excess verbiage and by describing too much. Once they've been plasma rifles once, they need only be guns thereafter.
If I may:
The tip of the plasma rifle felt cold and hard against Jackson’s neck, and he shivered. A dozen other prisoners stood in line, fear and sadness on their faces.
“Get in line,” barked a soldier.
Jackson obeyed. His hands were bound, and twenty guns were pointed at him. What choice did he have?
His brother and sister would surely get the news of his death. The Galactics liked to scare Terran rebels with news of an execution.
Heart pounding, Jackson stared down the barrels of the executioners’ rifles. One quick shot to the head, and it would all be over.
(I changed Earthian to Terran. It's been Terran since golden age SF; why change it now? If you don't like it, "Earth" is less awkward than "Earthian". I dropped the first sentence because it was an info-dump rather than a hook.)
Rashad, if Jackson is behind the other prisoners, how does he know what their faces show?
We call this an action slip. Unless we're in omni, that is.
Buffy, the same would hold if he was in front of the prisoners. Or for that matter, if he was in between them. He couldn't see their faces regardless when using strict mathematical logic--the assumption here is that they do turn their heads every once in a while, so he notices their expressions and it doesn't need to be explained that they turn their heads. Too much clutter. Simple human curiosity, no?
Hmm, no, I think the assumption is that the author hasn't visualised the scene correctly.
I like this piece. Looks like sci-fi fantasy but come on, Earthian and Galactics? You can't be serious? I sure hope this is not even a first draft but a pre-pre-draft.
1. I like the suggestions of both Rashad and Alaska. Although, Rashad, I don't know if I like blood and red so close together in a sentence. Maybe another word for red. Something. (<--Not that word!)
2. Buffy. I can see what you're saying. But short of being nuzzled by horse blinders, a man standing behind a twelve man prisoner line, with a 180 degree line of sight, can more than likely catch men's expressions throughout their journey. This is very subjective.
3. If it is an omniscient slip, it's one I've read many times on pages and does not strike out as jarring. I certainly didn't notice it. However, now that you point it out, I would slightly alter the sentence.
I like, I like. Seems like a fast-paced piece.
But squirrels are omniscient! they're always right! XD
I assumed he could see the expressions because he's approaching the line -- the guard tells him to get in line therefore he wasn't in line originally.
The 'caught sight of' bothered me because it sounds like the prisoners suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Has he been staring at his shoes? Did they just round a corner/outcrop/rock formation?
Small planet, Anon? Limited horizon?
Aw blogger ate my post. bad blogger, smack, bad blogger, smack!!!
I think these two lines are your opening:
"The tip of the gun felt cold and hard against Jackson’s neck, and he shivered. His eyes caught sight of a dozen or so prisoners all standing in line, mixtures of fear and sadness on their faces."
And I think you should change "standing in line" to "waiting for execution" or "waiting for the firing squad."
Thanks for the comments everybody. I'll work on fixing the details you mentioned. This was a very early first draft, but it's always good to see how it's working as is.
I'm not all that attached to the names Earthian or Galactic. I always have trouble coming up with names. Anyone have suggestions as to what I could call the Galactics instead?
I'm not sure how you managed to spot the fantasy element in this section, but that's a good thing, I guess. I am intending this piece to be more of a science fantasy.
I haven't touched it in a couple of weeks, though. Maybe the comments will motivate me too look at it again.
Thanks for the help, everybody.
I'm not sure, but I think Blogger might have eaten my original comment.
Thanks for the comments everybody. I'll work on fixing the details you pointed out. I'm glad one person correctly identified it as a sci fi fantasy. I didn't think the fantasy elements were apparent in this first bit.
As for the names, I'm not attached to Earthian and Galactic, and I agree that Earthian is a little awkward. This is a very early draft, and names are often one of the things I go back and fix later. Does anyone have suggestions on what I should call the Galactics (I know it's a little cliche)? Terran will probably work. It sounds better than Earthian anyhow.
I wonder what made me spot that it was sci fi, mm. I think it was the red sun. No, no. Mm. I know it couldn't be the plasma rifles. I think it was maybe the Galactic soldier? Or Mora?
A really minor point, but why is the plasma rifle (Golden Age SF vibe, yeah) touching him? Isn't the point of a rifle, plasma or otherwise, that it's a distance killer and doesn't need to be so close to someone that he could grab or shove it out of the way?
I know, everyone in movies & tv does it, viewers expect it, but I've never understood it.
Clearly, Batgirl has never used a plasma rifle.
Ril, dear, she's hunting you with one right *now*.
By the time she's done reading the manual, I'll be in the next galaxy.
I wouldn't be so sure. She's a fast reader, that Batgirl, even if she does only read at night.
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