Opening to my space opera (380 words)

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Shane Enochs

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Be harsh as possible. I'm looking to improve my writing skills, so take the kid gloves off =P





"This is Cyprus," said Fleet Commander Arnold Smith; a blue and red planet appeared on the screen behind him. "Colonized seventy-some odd years ago because it was found to be rich in cinnabar ore and therefore mercury. After thirty years, it became too costly to mine the deeper ore, so the mines were shut down.

"There were those who didn't want to leave, however. Cyprus had become their home, and that was fine. We left them with a small slipstream capable ship as a thank you for their years of service, and that was that.

"Two months ago we received intelligence that the colony has been building unregistered ships, so we sent drones in to investigate. They never returned. That's where you come in. We want you to scout the system to see what's going on. Purely a recon mission. If they are building ships, we need to know about it as soon as possible."

I leaned back in my chair. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. It wasn't an assignment that I was particularly thrilled about. "What am I commanding?"

"The SR-78." He tapped a button on his console, bringing up the ship behind him. The craft appeared to be charcoal in color, and was obviously built with atmospheric flight in mind. There were no visible windows. It reminded me of an elongated guitar pick. "One deck; maximum crew of five, but you'll have three including yourself on this trip. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8. It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."

"Will they be able to detect the carrier in orbit?"

"The carrier isn't going to be anywhere near Cyprus. The plan is for you to undock four lightyears out and fly the rest of the way yourself."

It took more than a few moments for me to realize what he was saying. Then it hit me. "It's slipstream capable?"

Smith grinned and nodded. "Its slipstream drive isn't nearly as advanced as larger ships, but it can still generate one that moves at about a 1/4 lightyear per hour. It'll take you the better part of a day to get there, but it should allow you to get in unnoticed."
 
Be harsh as possible. I'm looking to improve my writing skills, so take the kid gloves off =P You're brave....





"This is Cyprus," said Fleet Commander Arnold Smith; a blue and red planet appeared on the screen behind himif we're going to be really nitpicky and it is the first sentence... cyprus comes up after he says this is. . "Colonized seventy-some oddseventy some or seventy odd I don't mind, but both seems very vague. Plus, it's not that long ago, presumably they have records. They are military, they like facts. years ago because it was found to be rich in cinnabar ore and therefore mercury. After thirty years, it became too costly to mine the deeper ore, so the mines were shut down.

"There were those who didn't want to leave, however. Cyprus had become their home, and that was fine. We left them with a small slipstream capable ship as a thank you for their years of service, and that was that.it reads a bit info dumpy. Cyprus had been their home.... i think the average reader will join the dots.

"Two months ago we received intelligence that the colony has been building unregistered ships, so we sent drones in to investigate. They never returned. That's where you come in. We want you to scout the system to see what's going on. Purely a recon mission. If they are building ships, we need to know about it as soon as possible."

I leaned back in my chair. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. It wasn't an assignment that I was particularly thrilled about. "What am I commanding?"

"The SR-78." He tapped a button on his console, bringing up the ship behind himoh, isn't it a bit big for the room. ;) . The craft appeared to be charcoal in color, and was obviously built with atmospheric flight in mindwhy obviously? the average sci fi reader will want details.... at least a few.. There were no visible windows. It reminded me of an elongated guitar pick. "One deck; maximum crew of fiveI'm surprised the pilot? doesn't already know this. , but you'll have three including yourself on this trip. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8the sciency guys will know better than me, but it read more like a planetary ship than deep space. Ditto stealth. . It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."

"Will they be able to detect the carrierwhich carrier? if it's the same ship we need to be told. in orbit?"

"The carrier isn't going to be anywhere near Cyprus. The plan is for you to undocknot sure about the term. four lightyears out and fly the rest of the way yourself."

It took more than a few moments for me to realize what he was saying. Then it hit meow. I'm surprised it took him so long - in one way he seems very clued in, in other ways, not so much. . "It's slipstream capable?"

Smith grinned and nodded. "Its slipstream drive isn't nearly as advanced as larger ships, but it can still generate one that moves at about a 1/4 lightyear per hour. It'll take you the better part of a day to get there, but it should allow you to get in unnoticed."

Hiya, Shane, I had no real probs with the writing which seemed easy to follow, but I had some stuff with the details. It did read a bit info dumpy, especially at the start, and I wonder how much I need right now.
 
"This is Cyprus," said Fleet Commander Smith; a blue and red planet appeared on the screen behind him. "Colonized seventy odd years ago because it was rich in cinnabar ore and mercury. After thirty years, it became too costly to mine the deeper ore, so the mines were shut down."

"Some of the colonists didn't want to leave. Cyprus had become their home. We left them with a small slipstream ship as a thank you for their service, and that was that."

I would break this info dump dialog up with some activity be either person. Here a gesture or something. Also serves to remind us who's talking, even though it's clear.

"Two months ago we received intelligence that the colony is building unregistered ships. We sent drones in to investigate--they never returned."

I would break this info dump dialog up with some activity by either person. Here it would seem appropriate for the FC to shuffle around, look away, grimace. Something.

"That's where you come in. We want you to scout the system to see what's going on. Purely a recon mission. If they are building ships, we need to know about it as soon as possible."

I leaned back in my chair. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. It wasn't an assignment that I was particularly thrilled about. "What am I commanding?"

Show his displeasure with a frown, a grimace, an absent gesture. Make him move, cross his legs, recross his legs, tap his fingers, stare absently into his coffee cup, something.

"The SR-78." He tapped a button on his console, bringing up the ship behind him. The craft was charcoal in color, and obviously built with atmospheric flight in mind. There were no visible windows and looked like an elongated guitar pick. "One deck; maximum crew of five, but you'll have three including yourself on this trip. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8. It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."

Not sure they'd have guitars, much less guitar picks in the future. But I would rephrase that bit either way. His thoughts mixed into a paragraph with someone else speaking is a bit jarring to me. Keep them, just make them statements rather than using "I" or "me".

"Will they be able to detect the carrier in orbit?"

"The carrier isn't going to be anywhere near Cyprus. The plan is for you to undock four lightyears out and fly the rest of the way yourself."

It took more than a few moments for me to realize what he was saying. Then it hit me. "It's slipstream capable?"

I would tone down his surprise or how long it took him. It makes him sound kinda slow, and not the person you'd want leading the mission.

Smith grinned and nodded. "Its slipstream drive isn't nearly as advanced as larger ships, but it can still move at about a quarter lightyear an hour. It'll take you the better part of a day to get there, but you should get in unnoticed."

I cut here and there, hope you don't mind.
 
Hiya, Shane, I had no real probs with the writing which seemed easy to follow, but I had some stuff with the details. It did read a bit info dumpy, especially at the start, and I wonder how much I need right now.



So perhaps it should read like this?

"This is Cyprus," said Fleet Commander Arnold Smith; a blue and red planet appeared on the screen behind him. "Colonized seventy-three years ago because it was found to be rich in cinnabar ore and therefore mercury. After thirty years, it became too costly to mine the deeper ore, so the mines were shut down.

An exact figure does sound better.

"There were, of course, some who didn't want to leave their home. Since the planet had little value, we didn't see any problem with letting them stay there. We left a small slipstream capable ship as a thank you for their years of service, and that was that.

I attempted to make it a little less info dumpy. Not sure if I succeeded.

"The SR-78." He tapped a button on his console, bringing up an image of the ship behind him. The craft appeared to be charcoal in color and looked to be very aerodynamic, obviously built with atmospheric flight in mind. There were no visible windows. It reminded me of an elongated guitar pick. "One deck; maximum crew of five, but you'll have three including yourself on this trip. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8. It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."

He's not the pilot, just the commander, so the ship is kinda new to him. As far as it being used for planetary stuff, that was the point I was trying to make. Not only is it useful in space, but it can fly in a planet's atmosphere, which requires different physics.

As far as the carrier thing, my thought is that a carrier ship (think aircraft carrier) will be bringing in the main character's ship inside of it. Not sure how to explain it better in the story without info dumping.

The strategy that the main character is thinking about is the carrier travels to the planet, and then his ship (which he doesn't know is capable of FTL) simply flies into the atmosphere.

What would be a better way of putting this?
 
In terms of an opening, I'm wondering if the actual flight might be more engaging. If he doesn't know the details, and they're unfolding there, you could skip to a key moment, and get a lot in by showing....

Cyprus - still light years away. On this ship. He leaned forward, wondering what it was actually capable of. He knew it had planetary capability, but deep space?
The pilot glanced at him. "What is it?"
He chewed his lip. They had to get to Cyprus and follow up the claims of illegal shipping activity, he knew that. "How soon can we make it?"
The pilot shrugged. "Faster than light - how does a day sound?"
He moved his hand over the control panel and the stars streaked into pure lines of white....

Only much, much better, of course?
 
In terms of an opening, I'm wondering if the actual flight might be more engaging. If he doesn't know the details, and they're unfolding there, you could skip to a key moment, and get a lot in by showing....

Cyprus - still light years away. On this ship. He leaned forward, wondering what it was actually capable of. He knew it had planetary capability, but deep space?
The pilot glanced at him. "What is it?"
He chewed his lip. They had to get to Cyprus and follow up the claims of illegal shipping activity, he knew that. "How soon can we make it?"
The pilot shrugged. "Faster than light - how does a day sound?"
He moved his hand over the control panel and the stars streaked into pure lines of white....

Only much, much better, of course?

That's actually a pretty good idea. The only thing that gives me pause, though, is I would imagine he would be briefed by the time he steps onto the ship. I suppose most of the stuff I listed in the briefing isn't totally needed, though. I'll give it a shot and see what I can come up with.
 
Hiya Shane -- I tried to be picky but this seemed well written to me :)

"This is Cyprus," said Fleet Commander Arnold Smith; a blue and red planet appeared on the screen behind him. "Colonized seventy-some odd years ago because it was found to be rich in cinnabar ore and therefore mercury. After thirty years, it became too costly to mine the deeper ore, so the mines were shut down.

[does the story come back to mining much? If not, I wonder if you could use this introductory paragraph to say something more... grabby]

"There were those who didn't want to leave, however. Cyprus had become their home, and that was fine. We left them with a small slipstream[hyphen?]capable ship as a thank you for their years of service, and that was that.

"Two months ago we received intelligence that the colony has been building unregistered ships, so we sent drones in to investigate. They never returned. That's where you come in. We want you to scout the system to see what's going on. Purely a recon mission. If they are building ships, we need to know about it as soon as possible."

I leaned back in my chair. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. It wasn't an assignment that I was particularly thrilled about. "What am I commanding?"

** this bit is so cool and interesting and it grabs me completely -- the guy is being hired to go and investigate something that's a capital offence, in a planet from which drones never returned. And his attitude is brilliant. This is great.

Could you bump it up a bit closer to the beginning? I don't really care about the stuff about ore etc. (I will later, when I have context and characters I care for etc. but not yet) and I know it's only three paragraphs but it reads as a little infodumpy and I have a horribly short attention span.


"The SR-78." He tapped a button on his console, bringing up the ship behind him. The craft appeared to be charcoal in color [I don't like 'in colour' -- it makes me wince because it's so often used unnecessarily. Obviously here you need it because otherwise you'd be saying 'The craft appeared to be charcoal' :) -- Here, though, I'd be tempted by 'The craft was dark grey' -- or, if you like, why did it 'appear'? Was it something funny about the light on the display? In that case why not say what it is?], and was obviously built with atmospheric flight in mind. There were no visible windows. [no windows at all? or invisible ones? No windows visible?] It reminded me of an elongated guitar pick. "One deck; maximum crew of five, [wouldn't your man know how many people these ships took? And telling him reads a little infodumpy to me] but you'll have three including yourself on this trip. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8. It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."

"Will they be able to detect the carrier in orbit?" [they? the stealth technology? or is they the baddies on the planet?]

"The carrier isn't going to be anywhere near Cyprus. The plan is for you to undock four lightyears out and fly the rest of the way yourself."

It took more than a few moments for me to realize what he was saying. Then it hit me. "It's slipstream capable?" [it hasn't hit me. I don't understand (although I don't read much science fiction any more so it's probably just me]

Smith grinned and nodded. "Its slipstream drive isn't nearly as advanced as larger ships, but it can still generate one that moves at about a 1/4 lightyear per hour. It'll take you the better part of a day to get there, but it should allow you to get in unnoticed."

There's a lot of technology and mining and stuff. I appreciate that's how science fiction works, but if I were reading this, I'd like some more about the person being sent to scout out the planet and his (or her) interaction with Arnold Smith. As it is, it's well written and there's clearly a story about to happen, but my head is full of information that I suspect I won't need.
 
I realise you've written an update to this. Will get to that in a minute!

I really enjoy your writing and voice, but like others I found the actual narrative a bit too dry. Though while I felt there was a little too much talk and not enough walk, I found I did want a bit more talk about things like why building unregistered (with who?) ships was such a crime. I guess you could say I felt like the info-dump didn't scratch my itch, which was why it seemed so dry.
 
The problem I had with this exceprt is that it all feels like info-dump with character as an after thought, when I think you should be writing a character-driven POV where the details of the mission, planet, etc, only see mention as part of that character POV.

I think one of the problems we have when world-building something new and unfamiliar to readers is to try and add as much background information as you can to help explain this world, provide a context, and therefore share that same understanding we have as writers.

Usually, however, what we have is entirely unnecessary and simply clogs up the story. Even small infodumps I've had in last writing drafts I'm now removing because they really are unnecessary.

I think the character POV needs to drive a story, and everytime there's an infodump, it stops the story. The way this piece is set up, there is no POV story, just a series of info dumps, which means the story hasn't really started yet, in my opinion.

The one glimmer I think is the second to last paragraph, when suddenly the character enters the story - but I think we need more character POV before we even get there.
 
"This is Cyprus," said Fleet Commander Arnold Smith; a blue and red planet this description seems flat for a first sentence... Is it beautiful? Harsh? Gas giant or terrestrial?appeared on the screen behind him. "Colonized seventy-some odd years ago because it was found to be rich in cinnabar ore, and therefore mercury. After thirty years, it became too costly to mine the deeper ore, so the mines were shut down.

"Some didn't want to leave, however, and that was fine. Cyprus had become their home, we understood that, so we left them with a small slipstream capable ship as a thank you for their years of service, and that was that. just suggestions, but my thought is to give a slight amount of character to the speaker through the diologue, a bit of authorotative tolerance. Also, this raises the question, was the mining operation military or commercial, or is the Fleet Commander saying 'we' as in 'we the human race'?

"Two months ago we received intelligence that the colony has been building unregistered ships, so we sent drones in to investigate. They never returned. That's where you come in. We want you to scout the system to see what's going on. Purely a recon mission. If they are building ships, we need to know about it as soon as possible."

I leaned back in my chair. Building unregistered ships was a capital offense, especially if they were capable of interstellar travel. It wasn't an assignment that I was particularly thrilled about. "What am I commanding?"

"The SR-78." Blackbird reference? (SR-71?)He tapped a button on his console, bringing up the ship behind him. The craft appeared to be charcoal in color, and was obviously built with atmospheric flight in mind. There were no visible windows. It reminded me of an elongated guitar pick. this seems to be one of the only clues into the main character, could be developed "One deck; maximum crew of five, but you'll have three including yourself on this trip. It's got four pulse detonation engines with a maximum air speed of Mach 8. It's also equipped with the latest stealth technology."

"Will they be able to detect the carrier in orbit?"

"The carrier isn't going to be anywhere near Cyprus. The plan is for you to undock four lightyears out and fly the rest of the way yourself."

It took more than a few moments for me to realize what he was saying. Then it hit me. "It's slipstream capable?"

Smith grinned and nodded. "Its slipstream drive isn't nearly as advanced as larger ships, but it can still generate one that moves at about a 1/4 lightyear per hour. It'll take you the better part of a day to get there, but it should allow you to get in unnoticed, and give you some time to get to know your crew."

I liked it very much, and thought it read well and easily by and large. My problem was that there was no establishment whatsoever of character or setting. Maybe the character establishment could wait a bit, but i definitely felt groundless, not having any image of scene and setting to attach the conversation to... What room were they in? What was the screen or projector like? Was his chair distinct in any way?
 
I think you need to describe the characters, where they are, who they are working for, whether or not they are smoking cigars or cigarrettes, and other details before you go into the description of the mission and the ship that is taking them there to the mission.
 
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