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Disclaimer: English isn't my native language.

A while back, I posted this and this. I got... well, reviews. While not outright helpful (ie. indirect, which is the whole point of critiques, I guess) they helped me shape the following extremely revised beginning.

Cuba: 1972 A.D.

I'm dead.

Conscious enough to know it but too much to joy it. At least to you.

I knew this was the only possible end for my quest, my curiosity-cursed pursuit for knowledge and survival. Yet it was the trait that defined me.

Even now -to you: then-, with all my knowledge of the future, some I remember and some I calculated. Even now, I'm sending myself, you, the rebirth note. Again. Hating every bit of myself that allowed it and dreading the day I could no longer do it.

For on that day, I'll lose the ability to control how my life starts. And I don't know how much I could trust myselves.

Of course, it's just easier to have a good, new and old story told.

“And that’s what we’re offering, ma’am. This opportunity will benefit everyone if taken.”

The man and his partner in suits had barely blinked during the information relay, which Amira saw empty and useless. Amira, The young woman sitting across and the house owner, had long given up trying to read their faces and instead stared into the cofee in her hands, head bent. The steam leaving the mug threatening her eyes teary.

She spoke, “Your current offer is whether my son and I agree to hear your next offer. That’s not helpful.”

The bigger man’s eyes shone behind the contacts, a gleam harsher than the artificial reflection of contacts. “Not quite. We must take your word that you and your son will be bound to not disclose any information given here, now. Apart from that, you already know it’s about your son’s future.”

A young boy paused on the stairs behind the table the grown-ups were talking around. I had another nightmare, he wanted to say. But instead just waited there, remembering all the details of the dream and calming down; he continued his way down the stairs. It always helped him to think of things, to find their intricacies and secrets. Knowledge was life or death to him and so his mind, which made it a breeze to acquire, became his second loved one after his mother. He glimpsed the men talking to her as he went down and smiled, already composed.

On seeing her son awake, Amira motioned for the man. “Ask him yourself.”

He asked. I said yes. After all, the offer only said a scholarship, nothing suspicious in that.

I still remember this day for it was my version of it. And I know of a few others I’d taken care to recount in the note before. Thousands… Millions of other versions undoubtedly lost forever. Unless I could travel between timelines which isn’t a calculable possibility right now. And I wouldn’t want to if I could. It’s millions of Earths and populations frozen in time the moment I leave. Every time I do it. All because I wanted to live again, differently.

By the time you read this, you’ll know I’m telling the truth… With whatever constant intricacies in it you might benefit from. But know that the note was always there to give you, me, us, a different life, every time, never knowing it existed until too late. But now that I told you… Now that, to my knowledge, you are the first me to read it before writing it. I beseech, I implore you to hole and behold. Don’t send it again. It gives us new lives by taking what we already had. I want to die.

Notes for previous drafts:

  1. Too many elements with no clear focus. Solution: Here, I only focused on the main 'flame' of the story. See #a

  2. Strange language construction. Solution: I can't say what exactly but I believe my language is much clearer (and intriguing, I hope) here than in the previous trials.

  3. Pronoun misuse and name changes for characters. Solved.

  4. Info dumps. Solution: The pace is a bit slower now with less descriptions and is always to the point. Thus it should be balanced out.

a. The target market is young adults and the main genre is hard science fiction. This is crucial to the plot but I'm afraid I might frighten away potential readers if I went hard from the get go so it's just SF at the beginning; not providing SF explanations on the 'flames' of the story such as the rebirth note, timeline freezing's, ... etc. Being of the target age-group myself, I feel I might be swayed toward the bad practices of the current works offered for this market.

How would this beginning sell the story to people? As a story not a commercial product.

That was the first one and a half pages. The next two pages of chapter one could be found here.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

The ideas in this excerpt grab me. We have a first-person narrator who's dead; how does that work? This seems to have involved some sort of deal to help the narrator's son, and there seem to be alternate timelines or worlds involved. This makes me curious and it does not feel too information-intensive. I get the sense that you'll explain these details in time.

However, the writing is difficult enough that I would not keep reading. English is a hard language to learn and I applaud anybody who can get as far as you can with it as a second language (says the mono-lingual American). But this would need substantial revision before I would be able to get past the writing to get to the story. Your best bet is probably to hire an editor rather than trying to do it yourself; editing your own work is always a little dicey and, as noted in the question, you have some language challenges. Don't make yourself crazy trying to figure it all out; get an editor or perhaps a co-author.

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-I'm pleased that the two characters in the excerpt (the main and the one in the secondary block quote) came as blood related that easily. -I'd said it (and edited to make the 'question points' clearer) that the hard SF part was crucial to the plot that consists of events and causes scattered across several universes, timelines and points in timelines. -Can you point the most obvious problem with the writing? The one that made you notice the rest? Don't elaborate; a comment would do. –  Mussri May 25 '12 at 20:20
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On the writing, the first thing that jumped out at me was word choices, like "to joy" (did you mean "enjoy"?) and "in suits" near the beginning of the second layer. I tripped on "have a good, new and old story" -- not sure what you meant. I also tripped on "threatening her eyes teary" -- felt like there was a word missing, maybe. Stuff like that. Does that help? I know that English is maddenly hard to get the fine details of, and again I applaud you for getting this far. –  Monica Cellio May 25 '12 at 22:16
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