The 13th Vote

Bren G

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Folks,

thanks for allowing me into your writing process. I now welcome you into mine. Honest feedback is a gift so if you are so inclined to give it, I will gladly accept it with thanks. Please let me know your thoughts whatever they may be. This is the opening Prologue that has big implications later on. Particular interest to me is : does it invoke enough curiosity that you'd want to continue reading? Does the opening have a good enough hook? What of the style? Again, please don't feel like you need to stay within these lines but rather, feel free to point anything out - good or not so good. With all that... have at it :)

***********

1 Day Before Landfall


The door slid closed with a soft click and muffled the ruckus of dissenting voices. The quiet overtook him like a cool breeze on a hot day, at least from what he remembered, for it had been a long time since he had experienced either. He leaned back against the polished silver door, and looked each way into the brightly lit hallway. Satisfied that no one was around to see him in this state, he closed his eyes and breathed deeply in the effort to steel his rubbery legs and settle his queasy stomach.

“Alyn. I’d like a—” said the woman who had sprung around the corridor’s gentle curving wall. Her pursed lips and furrowed brow told him everything he needed to know, and so, he interjected before she could form the words that he didn’t want to hear.

“Captain,” he said with a curt nod before he bolted in the opposite direction, not the least bit interested in her reaction. He stopped at his room a short while later, pressed his thumb up against the security keypad and slipped past the automatic sliding door. It closed behind him, and it felt good too, as if it sealed him off from the lunacy that had just befallen the others. Like the Flu bug they struggled to contain, the madness could infect him too, and so it was best to put as much distance between them as he could. But, ideas were not like viruses in the physical sense, they could pass up corridors, enter through doors and infiltrate the refuge of his self-imposed quarantine. In a daze, he made his way to the center of the room and looked around it for inspiration but its unadorned walls and Spartan trappings offered none and now approaching whit’s end, Alyn collapsed on the white leather couch, kicked his feet on the glass coffee table and inadvertently knocked the vase with the dozen red flowers on to the floor where it split into pieces and soaked the carpet with dank, stagnant water.

He sighed and closed his eyes. He had grander problems to think of. If only he could rest, gather his thoughts and work through the details. The details. So simple in nature but complex in their implication, and he could find no means to simplify them the more he thought them through. But he tried anyway. There was no choice. He would have to come to a decision tonight, for not coming to one, was in itself a decision. But who was he to make it? What qualified him to make one of this magnitude? He was, at essence, just like everyone else. Human. He could no more decide without bias or preference than anyone else. Could he?

The pleasant tune of the doorbell echoed through the room. Alyn rose, went to the door and opened it. There stood a man, slightly younger than he and whose face, though grave, possessed far more optimism than the situation warranted.

“Eleazar. Please come in,” said Alyn with a warm smile that he hoped his guest would find authentic for it was fabricated to hide the shame of what had transpired behind the polished silver door.

“Thank you,” Eleazar replied. The two men went to the center of the room and seated across from one another. “Alyn. It’s been over three years my friend. We are finally here. Can you believe it?”

They talked for about twenty minutes before they embraced and said good-bye. Alyn leaned against the door frame and stared as Eleazar passed around the bend in the corridor, out of sight, and he knew in that moment - whichever decision he came too - that he would never see him again.

Zzzz.Zzzz. The little red light on the intercom panel flashed in-step with its buzzer.

“Yes, Dara,” he said.

A reedy computerized voice replied; “The six Congress members have voted unanimously. You are required to register your vote to Congress no later than 00:00 Earth Time today.” Alyn went completely still, as if he could turn himself invisible and they would all forget about him, forget about the secret behind the silver door. However, a few seconds later, Dara responded, “Sir?”

“Affirmative. I understand Dara.” They had sent her to remind him of the futility of avoidance, and with point taken and driven by an abundance of restless energy, he got up and moved across the room and planted his hands on the window sill. Like twin pearls in a deep black ocean, two planets glowed softly in the sun’s cool bluish light. A deep urge had stirred inside him ever since he had first cast eyes on them two days ago. Hope. They had not had hope for quite some time and oh had they suffered from its lack, but like lime to scurvy, hope had reconstituted their spirits, straightened their backs, and squared their jaws and shoulders. Who was he to take that away from them?

He knew in that instant what decision he would make, though in truth, he always did, he just would not admit it to himself. But with the clock close to midnight, there was nowhere to hide, not from Dara, not himself, and not from those who would live with the consequences.

“Dara?”

“Yes.”

“Notify the others that I am ready.”

“Yes. I will.”

He fiddled with his wristwatch, stared back at the planets and spoke with a measured cadence and clear tone. “Governor Alyn Frederick reporting to the official log of Earth’s Own Ship Dominus on this 28th day of April, 2080 Earth Time.”
 
Quick thoughts only I'm afraid.

I liked it for the most part, and am curious about what the decision he needed to make was.
I (to my personal tastes) felt there was too much of the similes. They were mostly fine but came off as a little ham fisted to me (but then they usually do).
Time jumps (a problem for a lot of 1st person POV) like the twenty minutes talking and the short while later. They could use a little bit of filling to show rather than tell how long it lasted (where possible).
 
Quick thoughts only I'm afraid.

I liked it for the most part, and am curious about what the decision he needed to make was.
I (to my personal tastes) felt there was too much of the similes. They were mostly fine but came off as a little ham fisted to me (but then they usually do).
Time jumps (a problem for a lot of 1st person POV) like the twenty minutes talking and the short while later. They could use a little bit of filling to show rather than tell how long it lasted (where possible).
Thanks .matthew.

I appreciate the feedback. I had some uneasiness about the '20 mins later' and you've confirmed it. I'll file away your comments on simile over use before I determine if I'll take action since as you say, it may be somewhat unique to you (or not). It'd be interesting to know how others think on this.

good stuff!

BG
 
I found this interesting. There were some points of interest in the whole.
However the suspense is killing me.
The POV here seems to be a distant third--very distant.
That's a problem; though I think you may have deliberately gone that way because you want to keep some information from the reader.

Do you really need to keep that information secret?
I think that a closer POV would allow for more in-depth assessment of the character's feelings; which is something missing here.
However doing that would involve revealing more of what he is so upset about. So far all we know is that he is upset and seeks quiet sanctuary.
However after blowing the Captain off--he inexplicably finds time for this other person knocking at his door.

That aside; it's important to point out that the POV chosen is not being handled very well, and I'll try to show you what I mean.

The door slid closed with a soft click and muffled the ruckus of dissenting voices. The Quiet overtook him like a cool breeze on a hot day, at least from what he remembered, for it had been a long time since he had experienced either. He leaned back against the polished silver door, and looked each way into the brightly lit and empty hallway. Satisfied that no one was around to see him in this state(<this is needlessly explaining something that is obvious by his actions), He closed his eyes and breathed deeply in the effort to steel his rubbery legs and settle his queasy stomach.
\/Below is where you are running into your problems with POV and with hiding information
Alyn. I’d like a—” said the woman(<Whether this is distant third or omniscient The first consideration is that she must know him as the Governor and should address him as such unless they are otherwise intimate. You seem to want to hold that office for reveal latter; however I don't see the point in waiting when it damages the writing of the POV. Add to this that right below this he identifies her as the captain and it would work just as well to use>) "Governor, I'd like a..."Said the captain as she

who had sprung around the corridor’s gentle curving wall. Her pursed lips and furrowed brow told him everything he needed to know, and so, he interjected before she could form the words that he didn’t want to hear.(<this is needlessly explaining something that is obvious by his actions below)

“Captain,” he said with a curt nod before he bolted in the opposite direction, not the least bit interested in her reaction. He stopped at his room a short while later, pressed his thumb up against the security keypad and slipped past the automatic sliding door. It closed behind him, and it felt good too, as if it sealed him off from the lunacy that had just befallen the others. Like the Flu bug they struggled to contain, the madness could infect him too, and so it was best to put as much distance between them as he could. But, ideas were not like viruses in the physical sense, they could pass up corridors, enter through doors and infiltrate the refuge of his self-imposed quarantine. In a daze, he made his way to the center of the room and looked around it for inspiration but its unadorned walls and Spartan trappings offered none and now approaching whit’s end, Alyn collapsed on the white leather couch, kicked his feet on the glass coffee table and inadvertently knocked the vase with the dozen red flowers on to the floor where it split into pieces and soaked the carpet with dank, stagnant water.
The last paragraph that starts with "Captain" is almost a powerful paragraph. It falls short because there is never an explanation of what is so important or traumatic that he would feel this way and as the thing folds into its mystery it looses its power to confusion and disappointment that the reader has no idea what this is about.

I could continue on; however it's much the same with people being introduced as unknown and then he address them by name.
And the mystery that is not quite compelling for this reader to want to find out what it's all about or trust that the author will get to all that soon.

I think third person Close POV would be better for this; however when you do that it might be much more difficult to hide things and I still have to question why you are hiding things from the reader.

ie; you hid the fact he was Governor, at the beginning and yet it really doesn't affect things beyond the fact that the Captain may have addressed him inappropriately.

i hope that's clear enough to help.
 
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Having had a little reread, along with the comments made by ginny I'm going to retract my objection to the similes. One I'd only just woken up when I read it and like a wizard, I'm not my best until noon. Two it's clearly your style of writing and you shouldn't change something that reads as an individual voice just to please others :)

I still partly feel the same way, but I think it's less about the direct use of similes and more the length of the sentences that are around them. As a brief apology for a stupid point, have a more in depth critique of the first paragraph.

The door slid closed with a soft click and muffled the ruckus of dissenting voices [I really liked this sentence]. The [I could take or leave the 'the'] quiet overtook him like a cool breeze on a hot day [should that have been a warm day or a cold breeze (hot/cold warm/cool)? Maybe add from where he last was like a region or local town to give him some grounding and clear up he's not on Earth anymore, then end the sentence], [start new sentence here but reword slightly to make it a complete sentence] at least from what he remembered, for it had been a long time since he had experienced either [but I do like how this establishes duration]. He leaned back against the polished silver door,[you'd pause when speaking that sentence? I use a lot of commas but that feels a but pointless even to me] and looked [I like it but maybe add a way he looked around to give away some of his emotions] each way into the [down? the] brightly lit hallway. Satisfied that no one was around to see him in this state [I agree with ginny on this one, lose the satisfied bit], he closed his eyes and breathed deeply in the effort to steel his rubbery legs and settle his queasy stomach ["breathed deeply, steeling his rubbery legs but doing little to ease the queasiness he felt?" makes it a little more immediate and leaves him queasy which helps sell his inner turmoil].
 
Hi Bren,

Thanks for sharing this. A good start in many ways. I think the prose is rendered well enough to give me a good sense of place and to see the characters. Good job. You have also started with a big conflict for the POV character another great way to get your reader hooked. There was one thing that prevented me from getting absorbed into the story.

By halfway through, I still don't know what the decision he's trying to make is. I can tell that he has some kind of conflict going on but I really can't guess what it is. That frustrated me a little. It's hard to go through something with a character when I don't know what they are going through. This is also a POV problem, I think. The POV is a close 3rd so far as I can tell; we are in Alyn's head, reading his thoughts, feeling his stomach pains. And he knows what his problem is, so why is it withheld from the reader? My guess is dramatic effect. But that reason is not a story reason, so it weakens the narrative. And makes me wonder why I'm reading this. Were I already invested in the characters, I would probably hang on to see where it was going but here I have stopped in the middle to write this. So, I can tell it wasn't pulling me in enough.

When Eleazar comes to his place I learn more of the emotions Alyn is feelings. But since I don’t know what he is feeling shame about (a powerful emotion) I can't make a call on whether he should or shouldn't feel this way. I can't say, "chin up buddy you did the best you could," nor can I be angry at him for not measuring up. I'm kept out.

As Eleazar leaves the question gets repeated but no new information is added. His line We are finally here. informs the situation somewhat, but I still don't know for sure if that pertains to Alyn's question.

By the end, Alyn has made his choice but I but still do not know what it is or what the topic is that he is choosing about. My best guess is that it relates to where they have arrived and it must be a big decision that affects all the people on the ship, but also as he is but one voice on a council. His vote may not be the deciding vote so the outcome may or may not be aligned with his decision. It's hard for me to get invested in that since I don't know what the decision is, what he's decided or if his choice matters.

That seems like a big problem to me, but also one I think is easily remedied by letting the reader in on what he is debating about. Right now, I don't know the stakes. Let me know the stakes and then I'll know if I care or not. I think this should be made known in the first or second paragraph.

I know I've spent a lot of words here on this one thing. But I feel it’s the most important issue to address right now. I like the language you are using to render the scene. I can't say if the similes are appropriate or not because I don't know if they are informing the narrative or not, but I like them well enough.

I hope my feedback is helpful to you. If it seems I'm off the mark don’t take it too seriously.

-CK
 
I found this interesting. There were some points of interest in the whole.
However the suspense is killing me.
The POV here seems to be a distant third--very distant.
That's a problem; though I think you may have deliberately gone that way because you want to keep some information from the reader.

Do you really need to keep that information secret?
I think that a closer POV would allow for more in-depth assessment of the character's feelings; which is something missing here.
However doing that would involve revealing more of what he is so upset about. So far all we know is that he is upset and seeks quiet sanctuary.
However after blowing the Captain off--he inexplicably finds time for this other person knocking at his door.

That aside; it's important to point out that the POV chosen is not being handled very well, and I'll try to show you what I mean.


The last paragraph that starts with "Captain" is almost a powerful paragraph. It falls short because there is never an explanation of what is so important or traumatic that he would feel this way and as the thing folds into its mystery it looses its power to confusion and disappointment that the reader has no idea what this is about.

I could continue on; however it's much the same with people being introduced as unknown and then he address them by name.
And the mystery that is not quite compelling for this reader to want to find out what it's all about or trust that the author will get to all that soon.

I think third person Close POV would be better for this; however when you do that it might be much more difficult to hide things and I still have to question why you are hiding things from the reader.

ie; you hid the fact he was Governor, at the beginning and yet it really doesn't affect things beyond the fact that the Captain may have addressed him inappropriately.

i hope that's clear enough to help.
Hi ginny,

thanks so much for your thorough and great feedback!

That's an interesting point you made about 'distant' vs 'close' POV. And honestly, I had started to notice it novels I've been reading recently since I let the manuscript sit and got back to reading. I need to think about this some more, but given my deadline, I am not sure I can perform such an overhaul but it's something I agree may give more more intimacy which is what I am after. Thanks for pointing out this.

As per the secret and his acceptance of the knock at the door, they are both there for good reason. Alyn only appears in the prologue and his actions form the secret that drives the plot. In other words, events unfold because of it, and the characters of course become intertwined. The 'big reveal' of the secret occurs in the middle of the story and ties up the loose plot threads. I sense that this causes frustration in the Prologue and think I need to indicate at a minimum, the conditions that have lead them there, and specifically to Alyn's decision. Am also thinking of letting the dialogue between Alyn and Eleazar flow more so that it solves the 'twenty minutes later' problem .matthew. identified. The idea is to give the reader a bit more substance as to the 'big problem' plaguing Alyn's conscience but not letting the rabbit out of the hat so to speak.

I could indeed have the Captain address him as Governor. I believe I held it back for purposes of suspense but I agree that it doesn't buy me anything. I think it's probably more appropriate.

Thanks for the inline edits as well. I will digest!
 
Having had a little reread, along with the comments made by ginny I'm going to retract my objection to the similes. One I'd only just woken up when I read it and like a wizard, I'm not my best until noon. Two it's clearly your style of writing and you shouldn't change something that reads as an individual voice just to please others :)

I still partly feel the same way, but I think it's less about the direct use of similes and more the length of the sentences that are around them. As a brief apology for a stupid point, have a more in depth critique of the first paragraph.
Having had a little reread, along with the comments made by ginny I'm going to retract my objection to the similes. One I'd only just woken up when I read it and like a wizard, I'm not my best until noon. Two it's clearly your style of writing and you shouldn't change something that reads as an individual voice just to please others :)

I still partly feel the same way, but I think it's less about the direct use of similes and more the length of the sentences that are around them. As a brief apology for a stupid point, have a more in depth critique of the first paragraph.
Thanks .matthew. again!

Good suggestions. I really like the one to add in a region he frequently occasioned. It as you say, establishes quickly that they're not in Kansas anymore. Thanks for the inline recommendations. I will digest!

BG
 
Hi Bren,

Thanks for sharing this. A good start in many ways. I think the prose is rendered well enough to give me a good sense of place and to see the characters. Good job. You have also started with a big conflict for the POV character another great way to get your reader hooked. There was one thing that prevented me from getting absorbed into the story.

By halfway through, I still don't know what the decision he's trying to make is. I can tell that he has some kind of conflict going on but I really can't guess what it is. That frustrated me a little. It's hard to go through something with a character when I don't know what they are going through. This is also a POV problem, I think. The POV is a close 3rd so far as I can tell; we are in Alyn's head, reading his thoughts, feeling his stomach pains. And he knows what his problem is, so why is it withheld from the reader? My guess is dramatic effect. But that reason is not a story reason, so it weakens the narrative. And makes me wonder why I'm reading this. Were I already invested in the characters, I would probably hang on to see where it was going but here I have stopped in the middle to write this. So, I can tell it wasn't pulling me in enough.

When Eleazar comes to his place I learn more of the emotions Alyn is feelings. But since I don’t know what he is feeling shame about (a powerful emotion) I can't make a call on whether he should or shouldn't feel this way. I can't say, "chin up buddy you did the best you could," nor can I be angry at him for not measuring up. I'm kept out.

As Eleazar leaves the question gets repeated but no new information is added. His line We are finally here. informs the situation somewhat, but I still don't know for sure if that pertains to Alyn's question.

By the end, Alyn has made his choice but I but still do not know what it is or what the topic is that he is choosing about. My best guess is that it relates to where they have arrived and it must be a big decision that affects all the people on the ship, but also as he is but one voice on a council. His vote may not be the deciding vote so the outcome may or may not be aligned with his decision. It's hard for me to get invested in that since I don't know what the decision is, what he's decided or if his choice matters.

That seems like a big problem to me, but also one I think is easily remedied by letting the reader in on what he is debating about. Right now, I don't know the stakes. Let me know the stakes and then I'll know if I care or not. I think this should be made known in the first or second paragraph.

I know I've spent a lot of words here on this one thing. But I feel it’s the most important issue to address right now. I like the language you are using to render the scene. I can't say if the similes are appropriate or not because I don't know if they are informing the narrative or not, but I like them well enough.

I hope my feedback is helpful to you. If it seems I'm off the mark don’t take it too seriously.

-CK
ckatt,

first off, thanks for your thorough and thoughtful reply. Second, your instincts are bang on. The secret Alyn holds drives the plot and binds the characters in this adventure. Alyn's vote is the 13th Vote of twelve, which makes him the deciding factor in the important decision. I reveal this piece of info about two or three chapters in. The big secret of his actions (which was life and death in nature) is revealed about midway in the book and ties things together.

I can see from your feedback and others thought that there is frustration since I am alluding to a secret but not giving any indication whatsoever what it is, nor the stakes. Conversely, if I divulge too much, then all the air leaks out of my suspenseful balloon. That said, if in its current state, a reader is unlikely to move past the first page, then I need to take that risk. I believe I will build out Alyn and Eleazar's dialogue a bit to let some air leak with out deflating the balloon. Keep in enough air so that it pops when finally pricked. Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated.

This was most helpful. Thank you so much!

BG
 
Hi,
The opening is interesting, he is wanting to relax. Thinking about what he has done. When the person comes to see him. He is reminded him that they haven't seen each other for three years. Their discussion is able to relate to us these facts. He has to cast a vote towards the arrival of a space ship and what they wish to do about it,
The way that they have brought to him the intention to do this is good, He has to cast his ballot. The story is interesting, I can not wait to see what he has done, The story is able to draw us into his mind about what he is deciding to so. You have brought us an interesting story.
 
Hi,
The opening is interesting, he is wanting to relax. Thinking about what he has done. When the person comes to see him. He is reminded him that they haven't seen each other for three years. Their discussion is able to relate to us these facts. He has to cast a vote towards the arrival of a space ship and what they wish to do about it,
The way that they have brought to him the intention to do this is good, He has to cast his ballot. The story is interesting, I can not wait to see what he has done, The story is able to draw us into his mind about what he is deciding to so. You have brought us an interesting story.
Thanks again @Richard-Allen. His decision is the 'big' secret of the whole book. I'll let you know when it's out :giggle:
 
Bren, overall I like your writing style. It's clear and descriptive enough for me to imagine the setting without being verbose. My hopefully constructive critique? Start the whole thing with action and your conflict.

"There was no choice. He would have to come to a decision tonight."

For me, the first three paragraphs went nowhere. I learned of a plague (maybe), a character he doesn't like (and not much of why). There just wasn't enough hook.

I know its an intro to a larger story, but many will stop if they have no reason to keep going, even on page 1. Sure you have a bigger plot, but the VERY beginning of this story isn't about disease or politics or anything. It's about a guy who has to make a HEAVY decision. What does that do to his? How would THAT cloud his view of the things you mentioned? He's clearly wanting to run from it. What could you tell us about this character by showing his reaction after the doors close to his office. Would he slump against the wall? Just stand there? Dance to a silent song to snap him out of it?

You don't have much action to work with, so you need to deliver on the character connection a little faster. Just my two cents. I'm curious. Need to know more!
 
Bren, overall I like your writing style. It's clear and descriptive enough for me to imagine the setting without being verbose. My hopefully constructive critique? Start the whole thing with action and your conflict.

"There was no choice. He would have to come to a decision tonight."

For me, the first three paragraphs went nowhere. I learned of a plague (maybe), a character he doesn't like (and not much of why). There just wasn't enough hook.

I know its an intro to a larger story, but many will stop if they have no reason to keep going, even on page 1. Sure you have a bigger plot, but the VERY beginning of this story isn't about disease or politics or anything. It's about a guy who has to make a HEAVY decision. What does that do to his? How would THAT cloud his view of the things you mentioned? He's clearly wanting to run from it. What could you tell us about this character by showing his reaction after the doors close to his office. Would he slump against the wall? Just stand there? Dance to a silent song to snap him out of it?

You don't have much action to work with, so you need to deliver on the character connection a little faster. Just my two cents. I'm curious. Need to know more!
@reggiesaun

Thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback. I am seeing a consensus here and think you nailed it. I will start chopping tonight!

PS - I laughed at the 'Dance the silent song..' too funny!

cheers

BG
 

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