Starting New Story, Chapter 1

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#1
I'm starting a new story, trying a different style, more interactive. This is the beginning of the first chapter. I'm wondering if there is enough in it to make sense of the situation so a reader would continue reading.

The music stirred my bones, lightly vibrating, I didn’t recognize the tune. Mostly music for the bone ringer wakeup call, probably something popular. The voices would be drowning out the world later if I left it on a public setting. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I looked out the window, a real window. Sunlight for a change, could already see it was gonna be a busy day. Kids were playing on the balconies inside and outside of the building across the courtyard. The floors were all two stories apart for a random flooring pattern. Must be one of those holidays. Everybody’s home. I lived in a childless building, none of that role model business for me. Let the kids follow someone else as they made their way through their formative years. Every couple of years they needed a new role model, maybe I’d be good as a discarded scoundrel when they get old and retired. No one knew why birthrates were down, just another one of those fallout facts that went along with recovering Earth. Like a grand old alcoholic, freed of the crap that did nothing for nobody, it was just a phase everyone was going through. We had all been drunk on civilization and never saw the ship go a ground. Hung up on a garbage bar, great props spinning in the air, everything looked like it always did. Now we had to take good care of the kids, at least until their minds knew more than the last group, each one taking the lead back to where the dirt wasn’t poisonous and natural food didn’t kill ya. Anyway, I left the kids upbringing to those who cared about what tomorrow would be like.

A buzz hit my forearm, looking down at the built in arm screen, I saw it was Alfred ringing me up. I clicked my mind twice, picked up the call, Alfred, you still walking after last night?

Sure am, always got my frementator set on high speed for the morning hit up.

Alfred was like that, always using everything to its best advantage. I just ate plain old flavored cardboard and let my body catch up to me later in the day. Any jobs today? I was curious if we could pull another job so soon after the last fiasco. We got the job done but we weren’t known for finessing anything, we didn’t care about a few bodies floating away in Free Space. The chief had mumbled something amount navigational headaches, but we never listened. By the time the job got to us, the Justice Machines had failed miserably and the Earthers weren’t much better at figuring out what to do next.

Yeah, we got to back to Free Space, Horaces says there’s an anomaly out there, Lector will meet us at the Herodotus bar in an hour.

What kind of crap is that, an anomaly, can’t they ever say anything in plain text?

I won’t have a safe connection until I get to the ship, Alfred replied.

Yeah, right. Killed the connection, hit the breakfast button on the frementator.

“Milk, cream, yogurt, wheat, rice, banana starch, tree sugar syrup, blueberries, coffee beans, did you want that separated into recognizable products?” The frementator cheerfully inquired.

“Every morning we go through the same nonsense, no rolls, no yogurt, no cereal, no fruit, just a milkshake, you think ya can do that?”

“Absolutey, plus today’s recommended anti-virals and phages.”

“Fine.” I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, socks, found my suit from yesterday, a scuffed up carbon filament Armani, put that on. Looking at the hat shelf, I picked up a black derby with dark blue rims. Drank my breakfast shake. Pulled out a clean smoke, lit it up, the Weedy smoke tasted good, pineapple flavored. Any smoke given off by anything, big, small, machine, whatever, was clean healthy smoke. I knew of some who insisted on smoking original trash. Bad smoke for fools. Vicey Mars was one of those dummies and I hoped we’d stay out of his way for once. But with the jobs we got we usually ran into Vicey’s underlings sooner or later. Locked up the flat, took a brisk walk on the roof top connected balconies.

I boarded the 7th Story M-train two buildings down from my hangout. Within minutes I was at the Herodotus Bar and Grill. Known for its history as a place where even the most determined bugs failed to record anything of use, at ten am it was already crowded. Lector and Alfred were sitting at our usual table towards the back, away from the crowded ballroom floor. Someone else was sitting at the table, apparently leading a spirited discussion. I sat down in the circular booth next to my buddies. The stranger was seated across the table. Listening for a moment, I could tell he was gonna annoy me.

“These gods don’t exist, I’m tell you, people are in control and always have been.” The stranger glanced at Cycle.

“Go on, don’t let me stop ya,” I answered his blank stare. Emotionally drunk, easy to see.

“There are water gods, it’s just plain old water running out of control. It has to stabilize, go back to normal, but I’m not afraid to walk in the rain.” The stranger looked around like he might be struck by lightning.

“If you don’t want to acknowledge that nature is not paying the slightest bit of attention to your existence, that’s okay by me, just don’t tell me about it. I respect things I have no idea what makes them tick.”

“That’s so uneducated, storms are storms, nothing more, those elemental temples are useless.” The stranger sneered at me.

I leaned across the table and smacked hard him in the nose, just the nose. He reared back, screamed, “My nose is broken!”

“Now maybe you’ll pay attention to things that are bigger than you can ever imagine.”

“You didn’t need to do that,” Lector said, giving the man a Weedy napkin to stem the bleeding.

Alfred rang up a BodyServer to take the guy away. He could have been serviced at the table, those machines were fast, but I’d only hit him again. When the weather turned bad, you ran away, only a fool stayed outside to see if this was the day they’d be blown away.

“What’s the job?” I asked.

Alfred drummed his fingers on the table top screen, sending out colorful wave patterns across the table.

“Recovery operation, supposedly a vial of Pleiades ship hull dust has turned up. We have to take possession of it.”

“And where is it?” Lector spoke up, cleaning the last crumbs off his plate.

“Garden Of Earthly Delights.”

“Geez, the Moon,” I groaned, barely legal. No rules.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
21,956
Location
Highlands
#2
My concern here is that it's not really a story starting, as much some stuff warming up before the story actually begins.

For example, at the start - lots of meandering about the kids and more which comes across as unnecessary. News of an anomaly sounds like the seed of a story, but simply hearing about something isn;t the start of the start - someone doing something because of the story is.

Also, the conversation at the bar comes across as unnecessary, and assaulting someone because of a difference of opinion makes your character something of a thug and possibly unsympathetic to potential readers.

My advice would be to look at where the story really starts, where something is actually happening and the character is actually doing something - and consider that your actual start to the story.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
10,090
Location
nearly the New Forest
#3
The software here always rips out formatting, so it left the extract with a wall-of-text appearance which was a little off-putting. Since I would hate other members to be discouraged from reading as a result, I've gone through and left a clear line's space between each of your paragraphs which makes it a little easier to read and digest.

Apropos of that, I'd suggest that you think about breaking up the long paragraphs you have here. That opening one would take up over a page once printed, and is itself rather intimidating. Shorter paras create more pace, and help the reader take everything in, so are to be recommended most of the time.

The style of this isn't something that appeals to me, and I have to confess there was nothing in the story in the opening half that interested me enough to keep me reading, so I pretty much gave up when he was getting dressed.

Nit-picking-wise, I was frequently brought up short by non-standard words, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. I couldn't tell whether this was all due to a deliberate attempt to show a cyberpunkish dystopian future with variant English to match, or whether in fact these were mistakes. If the latter, then you do need to brush up on grammar rules and the like -- if you're not sure of anything in that respect, just ask and we can help you sort it out.

Anyway, not one for me, but all credit to you for trying a new style. Good luck with it.
 

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#4
character something of a thug
He's off the grid, somewhat of a thug, but on the good side, as much as he can be.

Thanks for reformatting, I always wondered why some stories are published like that.

The story is based on a near future space opera setting which uses Earth to Mars, I think that is going to become more common place as an ordinary story setting as time goes on.

The style is deliberate, bits and pieces flying off an engine that won't quit. It's not going to be pretty.

I am clueless on what type of action would be best to start a story, what can characters do generally speaking to get a readers attention?
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
21,956
Location
Highlands
#5
I am clueless on what type of action would be best to start a story
Well, what's your story about? Don't tell me - just think about it. Then think about what you've posted and whether that takes place within the story, or simply before it.

It's a hard lesson I've learned myself that readers don't need context at the start of the story explained in order to make it interesting - actually, the reverse as true - that the less they know, the more interested they may become to find out what will happen next. :)
 

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#6
One thing I thought of right of way, I'll just the make the guy who gets punched a member of the wrong side, more menacing, maybe even warning them off the case. Shift the blame.
 

TheEndIsNigh

...Prepare Thyself
Supporter
Joined
Mar 16, 2008
Messages
2,867
#7
I'm going to resist critiquing it all. Mainly because when it was first posted it was, as the Judge mentioned and kindly corrected, it was just a wall of text, which (although not your fault) still put me off.

You may be familiar with my methods see comments in the quote.

Remove
Comment
Suggest

Only opinions obviously.

I'm starting a new story, trying a different style, more interactive. This is the beginning of the first chapter. I'm wondering if there is enough in it to make sense of the situation so a reader would continue reading. (Are you suggesting its a prologue - because for me those are diliked)

The music stirred my bones, lightly vibrating, I didn’t recognize the tune. Mostly music for the bone ringer wakeup call, probably something popular (I assume this is an alarm clock of some kind - if so, The alarm woke me to a world of ... whatever). The voices would be drowning out the world later if I left it on a public setting. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I looked out the window, a real window. (If it wasn't you wouldn't be looking out of a window) Sunlight for a change, could already see it was gonna be a busy day. Kids were playing on the balconies inside and outside of the building across the courtyard. The floors were all two stories apart for a random flooring pattern (can't picture it). Must be one of those holidays. Everybody’s home. I lived in a childless building, none of that role model business for me (?). Let the kids follow someone else as they made their way through their formative years (isn't that the role of parents). Every couple of years they needed a new role model, maybe I’d be good as a discarded scoundrel when they get old and retired. No one knew why birthrates were down, just another one of those fallout facts that went along with recovering Earth. Like a grand old alcoholic, freed of the crap that did nothing for nobody, it was just a phase everyone was going through. We had all been drunk on civilization and never saw the ship go a ground. Hung up on a garbage bar, great props spinning in the air, everything looked like it always did. Now we had to take good care of the kids, at least until their minds knew more than the last group, each one taking the lead back to where the dirt wasn’t poisonous and natural food didn’t kill ya. Anyway, I left the kids upbringing to those who cared about what tomorrow would be like.

(a bit rantish and nothing grabbed me)

A buzz hit my forearm, looking down at the built in arm screen, I saw it was Alfred ringing me up. I clicked my mind twice (?), picked up the call, Alfred, you still walking after last night?

(This might have worked pre mobile phone but it's a bit dated now IMO)

Sure am, always got my frementator set on high speed for the morning hit up.

Alfred was like that, always using everything to its best advantage. I just ate plain old flavored cardboard and let my body catch up to me later in the day. Any jobs today? I was curious if we could pull another job so soon after the last fiasco. We got the job done but we weren’t known for finessing anything, we didn’t care about a few bodies floating away in Free Space. The chief had mumbled something amount navigational headaches, but we never listened. By the time the job got to us, the Justice Machines had failed miserably and the Earthers weren’t much better at figuring out what to do next.
As I mentioned above, I'm stopping here. Basically, I'm having trouble with the info-dumpish style and the actual science which, as I mentioned seems out dated. Sadly asI also mentioned the original post put me off going further. But in answer to your question.

No it didn't give me much of an idea of what was going on (I glanced at the dialogue, and the pacing seemed OK, but I didn't test the content, so that may have improved things)

I have trouble with occasional Huckleberry Finn like words that are just thrown into sentences.

Dialect in fiction is very hard to pull off in my experience and in my opinion the fact the Huck Fin is still on the reccomended reading list for schools is a nonesense. (but there you go, I don't rule the world)

Sorry to be a bit negative.

Hope I helped

Tein
 

The Big Peat

Darth Buddha
Joined
Apr 9, 2016
Messages
1,815
#8
For my tastes its too busy and too quick. Nothing's explored deep enough to hook my interest and the change in tone from the first internal monologue to the quick paced dialogue throws me too much. I'm not sure how exactly I'd change it but I think it needs to concentrate on one thing - this guy in his surroundings, or this guy getting a job, or this guy talking to his buddy or this guy having an argument at the bar - and focus on that more.
 

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#9
The comments are helpful, I am working on making any statement into a direct action by a character. I am going with the idea that any statements in a story not directly brought into play by a character's actions are assigned to the author who is responsible, while any statements made by characters actions are assigned to the character and free of judgement. What a character can't say or do stays out of the story. The actions by characters would have to contribute to plot advancement and not lines of thought separate from the main story. Ironically when I mentioned a new style, I was trying to change my style into something with more action and less distribution of info. I see I will have to redouble my efforts.
 

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#10
Can someone give me the names of a few science fiction stories I could check out that have good examples of how a science fiction story starts up. I've been reading a lot of mysteries, covering a range of dates, and they just don't start out giving out clues about the main story right off the bat. Seems like the story has to warm up a bit before you start getting any traction about where it is going.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,208
#11
My big problem with this is the info-dumping. I think anything that is a general point about the way that the setting works risks looking awkward. A lot of the time (as here), backstory can be introduced like this: (1) character does/sees something in the present; (2) that triggers a memory or general thought; (3) the general thought introduces a fact about the setting. So, I put some artificial milk in my coffee, I reflect that I miss real milk, and I mention that there haven’t been any cows since the Cow Plague of 2025. However, this can look crowbarred in, and I think that’s especially the case where the style is close 3rd person and the noir-type voice makes us expect something sparse and stripped-down. I’d be wary of it here, especially where the style gives the impression that this will be about a tough guy doing dramatic things. In the circumstances, I’d be wary of anything that pulls the reader away from the narrator and onto other people (in the first paragraph, children). It might be a matter of confidence in the setting, but I think these things could be dripped in later.

On the subject of dramatic things, I really don't get why he punched the man in the bar. Something more is needed, even if it’s just “He was looking at my pint”. My main thought was “Did I read that wrong?”. If he does do it completely out of the blue - at least, with no more clear reason than we have here - I think it needs to be a bigger thing in the plot and you need to brace yourself for a negative reaction from readers.

A small thing: when the narrator spoke about weedy smoke, I assumed that he was literally smoking weed.

I like the setting and there is clearly something interesting going on. As to where to start the story, as a rule of thumb I’d begin at the point where the story departs from daily routine (or, if there is no daily routine, the point where a mission is given, a strange event requires investigation or the equivalent). There could be different options for the same thing - deciding to rob a bank, acquiring a gun off a criminal, drawing the gun in the bank - but I would always start with some decisive act that changes things. Of course there's nothing stopping you starting elsewhere in a different fashion, but I think this is the safest option.

I'd be cautious of looking at "classic" (ie old!) SF as to how to start, as times have changed. However, I think the opening to Count Zero by William Gibson is very strong (perhaps slightly too bewildering, depending on what you want to do), and the start of 1984 remains powerful.
 

tinkerdan

candycane shrimp
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
3,856
Location
x(squared)+y(squared)=r(squared) : when x~infinity
#12
I like this, however I've taken quite a bit of abuse before and I'm getting used to it.
I think that for anyone not reading Asteroid Fever this is going to be a bit hard to swallow in the beginning.

It reminds me of the time I read Charles Stross' Singularity Note:: that was Accelerando that I was thinking of:: novel. It's packed so full of what for me was meaningless jargon that went on and on like that endless song that Lamb Chop used to sing.

You said you are trying something different--and I think you are--however it's difficult to tell and I think that is part due to your style of writing.

You actually seem to be up to your usual tricks. Take this paragraph.

“Fine.” I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, socks, found my suit from yesterday, a scuffed up carbon filament Armani, put that on. Looking at the hat shelf, I picked up a black derby with dark blue rims. Drank my breakfast shake. Pulled out a clean smoke, lit it up, the Weedy smoke tasted good, pineapple flavored. Any smoke given off by anything, big, small, machine, whatever, was clean healthy smoke. I knew of some who insisted on smoking original trash. Bad smoke for fools. Vicey Mars was one of those dummies and I hoped we’d stay out of his way for once. But with the jobs we got we usually ran into Vicey’s underlings sooner or later. Locked up the flat, took a brisk walk on the roof top connected balconies.
People are mostly used to paragraphs that start with an idea, subject or thought and then precede to expand or expound as a means to move the reader forward and you mostly make it.

"Fine"

I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, socks, found my suit from yesterday, a scuffed up carbon filament Armani, put that on.
I know what you are trying to do here; trying to avoid the stack of multiple intrusive I s.
Also one might argue that that is followed by trying to avoid run-on sentences that stack up too many actions in to a sentence.


Looking at the hat shelf, I picked up a black derby with dark blue rims.

Drank my breakfast shake.

Pulled out a clean smoke,lit it up, the Weedy smoke tasted good, pineapple flavored.

Any smoke given off by anything, big, small, machine, whatever, was clean healthy smoke.
For me, it is here that things go slightly off rail.
I knew of some who insisted on smoking original trash.

Bad smoke for fools.

Vicey Mars was one of those dummies and I hoped we’d stay out of his way for once.

But with the jobs we got we usually ran into Vicey’s underlings sooner or later.
Those four sentences wander far enough afield that I think you need to bring the I back for this next and
last sentence to this paragraph.

Locked up the flat, took a brisk walk on the roof top connected balconies.
However, before ripping any out you might consider some alteration-even if some of it seems to break rules.

I pulled on my shorts and t-shirt, socks, found my suit from yesterday, a scuffed up carbon filament Armani, put that on, looking at the hat shelf I picked up a black derby with dark blue rims. I drank my breakfast shake, then pulled out a clean smoke, lit it up. The Weedy smoke tasted good, pineapple flavored, any smoke given off by anything, big, small, machine, whatever, was clean healthy smoke, I knew some who insisted on smoking original trash, bad smoke for fools; and Vicey Mars was one of those dummies and I hoped we’d stay out of his way for once, but with the jobs we got we usually ran into Vicey’s underlings sooner or later. I Locked up the flat, took a brisk walk on the roof top connected balconies.

I took great licence with that. However even with all the stops in it that's how your paragraph reads for me anyway.

On another note: This seems to be mostly first person.

However::
“These gods don’t exist, I’m tell you, people are in control and always have been.” The stranger glanced at Cycle.
:: Since I've no idea who Cycle was I somehow assumed that it was our POV which means this is way off the POV--Still when I look back--I've not clue who Cycle really is so that could still be in the correct POV.

Finally:
You've a distinct style of writing that few might understand without first reading Asteroid Fever.

Since I have read it--I'm just having a bit of fun here and you can disregard half or all of what I've just written above.
 
Last edited:

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#13
My big problem with this is the info-dumping.
I am working on that problem. I personally don't want to leave things unexplained but that is how it will have to be. I am going to try to make the story set up so anytime words come up that are not coming out of the characters mouth or advancing the plot by character actions, these words will be restricted to descriptions of the scenery that would be seen directly by the characters as they travel from scene to scene to scene. I could be tempted to stick something in the scene as a prop but it would have to be part of the story, not part of the scenery. Anything that would have been put in an info dump has to come directly from a characters actions, such as, instead of seeing dead bodies laying around, the character would be stepping over dead bodies.

Things like Weedy smokes, that comes from a previous story which is not directly linked to this story. Picture the old TV series, Naked City. It premise was that 8 million people lived in New York City (the Naked City) and so there were be up to 8 million tales to be told, each one separate from the rest. Every week a new story in the same old city. Weedy smokes are from a company named Weedy Labs, which worked with real weeds to make all kinds of things, foods, drugs, trees, anything that could be grown. I made this entire world up so I figure I might as well get some mileage out of it. That way things that are used while only mentioned in passing (no deep explanation) would have a logical linkage in the background, at least for me.
 

Robert Zwilling

Well-Known Member
Supporter
Joined
Jun 12, 2018
Messages
214
#14
Since I've no idea who Cycle was I somehow assumed that it was our POV which means this is way off the POV--Still when I look back--I've not clue who Cycle really is so that could still be in the correct POV.
I am happy to hear when my writing seems to be confusing, that gives me feedback to improve my understanding of how writing works and hopefully able to avoid doing things that cause unintended confusion in the future. I will be more careful where I point my words.

I am having fun writing this one and that will be my priority this time around. I write poetry with my own phrasing style and I am going to draw from those writing experiences to make some kind of unique statement with my style of writing but tempered so that it isn't confusing to the reader.
 

Similar threads

Top