Critique Group – Jupiter’s Ghost

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Jupiter’s Ghost –by Kate

Space year 5026
Kitalpha System
Planet Ecrora

Nashira sped West across the plain, her land speeder flying just inches from the ground. The digital map on the dash told her she was three miles from her destination. A tall cliff rose out of the horizon in front of her. She steered the vehicle toward it. A light blinked on the screen signaling an incoming transmission. She touched it and a hologram of Tyrell appeared on the dash.

“Nashira. Where are you?” Tyrell’s voice came faintly through the speaker. Nashira  turned the volume up.

“I’m a few miles from the outpost. I’ll be there soon.”

“Well you better hurry. General Kuiper knows where you are. A patrol has been  dispatched from Rackmai.”

“What! How did he find me?”

“My guess is someone saw you when you left the port.”

“Doubtful. I was wearing a holo suit. Anyone who saw me would have seen an angry Hurian.”

“Is there any other kind of Hurian?”

Nashira grinned. “Not that I know of.” She slowed to a stop at the base of the cliffs.

“Tyrell, I’ve reach the facility.”

“Good. Contact me when you’ve finished.”

“I will” Nashira reached over to end the transmission.

“Nashira, wait.”

She stopped her hand hovering over the screen. “Yeah?”

“Don’t take any chances.” His face was earnest. “Get out of there before Kuiper or the patrol reach you.”

Nashira smiled slightly. “I promise.”

He smiled. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Nashira ended the transmission. She grabbed her pack from the side seat and stepped out of the speeder. She walked to the rock wall of the cliff. “Hologram deactivate.” The portion of the wall in front of her disappeared to reveal a metal door built into the side of the rock.

“Please state you name,” a electronic voice commanded.

“Nashira Ellix Dangent.”

“Voice confirmed. Please enter.” The door swung open. Nashira stepped into the dim interior. Lights came on in front of her as she walked down a long hall. She came to the end and entered a large room that was half filled with a gigantic computer.

“Welcome back, Princess Nashira,” a voice said from the back of the room.

Nashira looked up, searching for its owner. “Mal, for the last time I’m not a princess.”

The humanoid droid walked out of the shadows. “My programming says otherwise, Your Royal Highness.”

Nashira rolled her eyes. She could shoot Tyrell for messing with the droids programing. “Mal, I need you to lock down the facility and have Jojo bring in my speeder. Monitor the scanners and let me know of any incoming ships.”

“Expecting trouble, Your Highness?”

“Yeah. A whole lot of it.” She crossed the room. “I’ll be in the lab.”

The lab was a huge room that took up half the complex. Half-finish droids leaned against one wall. A stasis pod was inset into the wall opposite. Spare parts littered the floor and tables. At the far end of the room a window overlooked the launch pad. In the center of the lab stood a work station fit with a holo computer. Nashira went to it. “Right,” she sighed. “Time to get to work.”

She opened her bag and pulled out an energy tablet, which she interfaced with the holo computer. A message requesting a pass code popped up on the holo screen. “Computer, began decryption process.” There was a whir of motion on the screen as the computer responded. A moment later a timer popped up showing twenty-five minutes to completion.

Nashira left the work station and wandered deeper into the room, picking through boxes for any useful items. On a table in the far corner of the room she found two holo discs. She activated the first and a still hologram of an eleven year old Nashira, with her two parents, appeared. They were seated on a bench in front of a setting sun. All three smiled into the lens as if there was not a worry in the world. The image caused Nashira’s eyes to fill with tears. That had been their last family picture before the terrible accident that made her an orphan. No, not an accident. Her parents were murdered. She slipped the disc into her pocket and activated the second one. This one was a moving image. Tyrell running his hand through his thick brown hair, his dark eyes sparkling as he laughed. Nashira smiled at the image. She slipped the disc into her pocket with the first.

Behind her the computer dinged, signaling that the decryption process was complete. As she walked back to the work station, Mal’s voice came over the intercom. “Princess Nashira, the scanner is detecting three speeders heading this way from Rackmai.”

“Most likely soldiers sent by Kuiper. How soon until they get here?” Nashira reached the computer and began shifting through data on the screen.

“Approximately fifteen minutes. Shall I send out Jojo to greet them when they arrive?”

“No, they may not know exactly where the entrance is and I don’t want to help them find it. For now just put him on stand-by.” Nashira clicked into a file that looked promising: Research on genetic enhancement.

“Very well. Jojo is on stand-by near the entrance.”

“Ah ha!” Nashira smiled as the file she was looking for popped up on the screen.

“By your exclamation of delight, I assume you found what you were looking for,” Mal commented.

“You can say that again!”

“Very well. By your exclamation of de…”

“That was an expression, Mal.” Nashira interrupted.

“Understood.”

Nashira plugged a chip the size of a thumbnail into the computer. “Mal, head to the launch room and get the G68 Pod started up.”

“Right away, Your Highness. Shall I send the security scans to your screen?”

“Yeah, go ahead.”

Images appeared on the screen. A map of the countryside showed the fast approaching speeders. Next to it was a live feed of the area outside the front door. Nashira swiped the images to the second screen and continued her work. She copied the files onto the computer chip and ejected it.

As she closed out of the files, a different document caught her eye. Dangent Family. She clicked on it and began to read. Tears sprang into her eyes. She clenched her teeth and balled her fists. “He’ll pay for this, Dad.” she mumbled.

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19 replies

  1. Love the mystery, Kate. If this is where you’re planning on starting your story, it certainly has me hooked! For the holograms, the ones I’ve seen in movies have always been blue (Star Wars), so how can Nashira see the sunset and brown hair if the holograms don’t have color? Just something you might want to check into. Have you ever read The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer? It’s a sci-fi quartet that you might get some ideas from.
    Good luck with this story!

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    • Hi A.J. Thanks for commenting! This is where I’m starting my story. Glad you liked it. The holograms aren’t like the ones from Star Wars. These ones are in full color. Yes I have read the Lunar Chronicles! They’re great books and I did get some inspiration from them for this story.

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  2. Hello!
    Before I jump in and join the fun here, I would like to thank you, Mr. Davis, for the invaluable advice and tips that you have provided in this blog. I am a new subscriber, but as I have followed your helpful posts for quite some time, I would like to express my gratitude for how much you have helped me understand the art of creative writing. Also, hearing that Mrs. Davis is healing gives me great joy, especially as I personally know the trials and strain cancer puts on the whole family. Thank you for letting all of us be a part of praying for her and you.
    Kate, I found that your work has the beginnings of something very interesting.
    Nashira seems like a character for which one can easily root and I think you are very smart to give the reader reason to sympathize with her so early on in the story by relating the fact of her parents being murdered. She had good personality, confident yet with tender vulnerability, which is the making of a protagonist with depth and one any reader would like to follow along her journey. I would feel driven to continue in the book to find out what happened in her past as well as to become more acquainted with Tyrell’s character, which seems to be a very promising one. And by the way, I think their names are awesome! They have very pleasing sounds.
    From personal experience, I know that “world building” is difficult and the glimpses that you have given into the different kinds of people and places—the Hurian and Planet Ecrora—show that you have put depth and thought behind your setting. Good job!
    As a comment on the structure of the piece, I find that varying the length of sentences adds more flow and makes reading even more enjoyable. Most of the narrative paragraphs in this piece have sentences of the same length and syllabic cadence. I would try combining some sentences to create a better flow which can sometimes be as simple as adding just a couple of words. For example, here are the last two sentences from the first paragraph combined: “A light blinked on the screen signaling an incoming transmission and when she touched it, a hologram of Tyrell appeared.” You might even continue to describe the hologram and what Tyrell looks like or what he is doing.
    At first, I was slightly confused about Nashira deactivating the hologram on the face of the cliff because at that point, the reader is unaware that there is anything behind the rock wall. A little more clarification would benefit the reader and this can be achieved by adding more description of the facility in the cliff, perhaps even by giving information about what purpose the facility serves. Good description is the key to a good Sci-Fi.
    I am also unclear about what she is doing in the lab. What is the decryption process and what is significant about it? Is she harvesting information from enemy computers, like what a spy would do? I know it’s hard to satisfy questions like these in only 1,000 words, but clarity is important when introducing what is essentially a new civilization with new technology.
    All in all, what you have presented here has great potential to make an engrossing story so keep writing! You have great visions for stories and now only need to refine how you tell the story which is the never-ending battle for every writer.
    I hope this helps.

    Best regards and happy writing!

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    • Thank you for the comment. It has been fun doing this blog. I hope I can keep it up. And thank you for praying.

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    • Hi Haley,
      Thanks so much for your comments. You have given me some good ideas for improvement! As for what Nashira is doing in the lab, I wanted it to remain a mystery for later in the story. Revealing it too soon would spoil much of the story later on. The basic of what the reader needs to know is that she is using the computer to hack a tablet to get an important file. Again thank you for your thoughts and ideas!

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  3. I hope to critique this piece in the next few days.

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  4. Hi, Kate! I really enjoyed this snippet of Jupiter’s Ghost! I have only a few small suggestions to add. 🙂
    In the first paragraph, maybe consider reorganizing the sentences a little- so that each sentence doesn’t start with a determiner or pronoun. Alternatively, you could start with an “-ly” word, verb, etc. 😀
    When Tyrell’s hologram first appears I kind of want a word to describe his countenance. I like how you describe him as earnest later on, but when they first talk does he express a sense of urgency? Or is he calm (confident in her) or unusually serious (cares a lot- as shown later)?
    In parts of the dialogue there are quite a few locations, people, and other vocabulary that are unfamiliar to the reader. A little bit of unknown is really good for intrigue, but sometimes a lot can be confusing. I know it’s a challenging balance when creating a new world and set of characters.
    Sometimes it’s good (and maybe more concise) to let the reader reach their own logical conclusions about certain things rather than stating it explicitly- like the fact that she is an orphan. “Though she’d viewed the hologram a thousand times, the sweet memory brought a spasm of sorrow, anger, and bitterness. They were gone.”
    You’re a great writer, Kate, and I would love to read more of Nashira’s story! 🙂 Best wishes!

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  5. Hey, Kate! First of all, I really enjoyed reading this! This piece really had me wanting more. You have a really good story going on here: sci-fi, mystery, a murder, revenge, I hope we get to see more! There were just a few things that were confusing to me. What is Nashira doing in the lab? What is she decrypting? And Is Jojo a droid like Mal? And lastly, the transition between “I’ll be in the lab.” and “The lab was a huge room that took up half the complex,” wasn’t very smooth, in my opinion. Maybe start the sentence with “Narshira entered the huge room that took up half the complex.” Just a thought. Happy writing!

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    • Hi Hope,
      Thanks for commenting! What Nashira is doing in the lab is supposed to be a mystery for now. It is revealed later in the story. Jojo is also described later in the story as well. As for the transition, I know I need to work on it but your sentence gave me a good idea so thank you!

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  6. Bryan Davis,
    Would it be okay to send more of this story in to be critiqued sometime?

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  7. Hi Kate!!

    I loved your story! It seems so cool, and I’d like to read more!

    I have a couple things to suggest, though (just some things that usually bother me the most in books).

    – At the beginning conversation with Nashira and Tyrell, have some indicators at who is speaking. When there are two characters you don’t have to have a bunch of he said, she saids, but you have to have some little actions or the such so people (like me) don’t get confused about who says what.

    – Something else is that you could probably break down some of your bigger paragraphs. It’s just a preference that a lot of people share.

    There are some other things, but those are the biggest! Hope I’ve helped a smidgen! Keep on writing!!

    Alyssa

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  8. Okay, in a hurry so can’t comment a whole lot now, but I’ll note just a couple things I caught in my skim-reading of this (don’t worry, I’ll probably go back later so I can enjoy it more thoroughly).
    First:
    “State you name” I think that’s a typo. If not, then my bad, but I don’t understand.
    Second:
    “‘Ah ha!’ Nashira smiled as the file she was looking for popped up on the screen.” Um, I think that you’re supposed to put motivation before action, so I might put instead:
    Finally the file she was looking for popped up on the screen. ‘Ah ha!’ Nashira smiled triumphantly.

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  9. I found this piece interesting. It’s a good start to your story.

    My overall impression is that you need to include more motivation for your point-of-view character’s actions. You too often blind the reader to what her objectives are. I would like to see a bit more description of her base, or whatever the place is. As others have noted, your sentence structure could be more varied.

    Here are some details:

    “The digital map on the dash told her she was three miles from her destination.”

    Can you name the destination? Home? Hideout? Base of operations?

    “A tall cliff rose out of the horizon in front of her.”

    If it is rising out of the horizon, and she can already tell that it is tall, then it must be rising quickly, which indicates that this is an extremely small planet, since she is only a few miles away. Since the planet is that small, I suspect that gravity will be minuscule. If this is the case, you should compensate for lack of gravity.

    “She touched it and a hologram of Tyrell appeared on the dash.”

    This is a compound sentence. You need a comma after “it.”

    “Tyrell, I’ve reach the facility.”

    This should be included in the previous paragraph since she is speaking again.

    She stopped her hand hovering over the screen. “Yeah?”

    You need a comma after “stopped.”

    “His face was earnest.”

    Can you give the reader a better visual?

    Nashira smiled slightly … He smiled.

    This feels repetitive.

    “Voice confirmed. Please enter.”

    I think a voice confirmation would be needed when she said, “Hologram deactivate.” Otherwise, anyone could make the wall disappear.

    “Lights came on in front of her as she walked down a long hall.”

    Since the walking causes the lights to come out, I suggest changing the order. “As she walked down a long hall, lights came on ahead.”

    “She came to the end and entered a large room that was half filled with a gigantic computer.”

    Can you provide a bit more detail? Any sounds? Lights?

    “Nashira looked up”

    Was she looking down?

    “programming”

    Should be “programming.”

    “Mal, I need you to lock down the facility and have Jojo bring in my speeder. Monitor the scanners and let me know of any incoming ships.”

    Why didn’t she bring the speeder in herself? She already knew someone was looking for her. If it should be brought in, leaving it out there seems odd.

    “She crossed the room.”

    Did she walk? Jog? Maybe she should be in a hurry?

    “The lab was a huge room that took up half the complex.”

    Did she go through a door to get to the lab? Climb a ladder? Run through a hallway? Since I don’t know how bbig the complex is, telling me that the lab takes up half the complex doesn’t help me know the size.

    “A stasis pod was inset into the wall opposite.”

    I don’t know what a stasis pod is.

    “At the far end of the room a window overlooked the launch pad.”

    What launch pad? This hasn’t been mentioned before. You haven’t given a clue about the purpose of this place.

    “Nashira went to it.”

    Did she walk? Shuffle? Droop her shoulders?

    “Right.”

    Why did she say this?

    “Computer, began decryption process.”

    I assume she should say, “begin.”

    “There was a whir of motion on the screen as the computer responded.”

    Weak verb phrasing. Was the whir audible? What did the motion look like?

    “A moment later a timer popped up showing twenty-five minutes to completion.”

    In decryption, how does a computer know how long it will take?

    Nashira left the work station and wandered deeper into the room, picking through boxes for any useful items.

    What is her purpose for doing this? “Any useful items” is vague and without objective.

    “On a table in the far corner of the room she found two holo discs. She activated the first …“

    What is her purpose for doing this? Every action should be motivated by something.

    “The image caused Nashira’s eyes to fill with tears.”

    You don’t need “the image caused.” Just write “Nashira’s eyes filled with tears.” Readers will figure it out.

    “She slipped the disc into her pocket and activated the second one.”

    Why did she put it in her pocket?

    “This one was a moving image. Tyrell running his hand through his thick brown hair, his dark eyes sparkling as he laughed.”

    Use a comma or an em dash after “image” instead of a period.

    “Nashira smiled at the image.”

    Just write “Nashira smiled.” Readers will know why.

    “She slipped the disc into her pocket with the first.”

    Why did she do this? Readers need to know the motivations behind her actions.

    “Princess Nashira, the scanner is detecting three speeders heading this way from Rackmai.”

    How does the android know where the speeders came from?

    “No, they may not know exactly where the entrance is and I don’t want to help them find it.”

    You need a comma after “is.”

    “Nashira clicked into a file that looked promising: Research on genetic enhancement.”

    The action is out of order. She should notice the file, find it interesting, and then click on it.

    “Nashira smiled as the file she was looking for popped up on the screen.”

    The action is out of order. The information should pop up on the screen, then she should smile and react verbally. What does she see? Since readers are in her point of view, they should be able to see it as well.

    “By your exclamation of delight, I assume you found what you were looking for,” Mal commented.

    Put in speaker tags as early as possible, and use “said.” “By your exclamation of delight, “ Mal said, “I assume you found what you were looking for.”

    Nashira interrupted.

    You don’t need “interrupted.” That is obvious. In fact, you don’t need the speaker tag at all.

    “Nashira plugged a chip the size of a thumbnail into the computer.”

    Where did the chip come from?

    “Mal, head to the launch room and get the G68 Pod started up.”

    Does she have other kinds of pods? If not, then she probably wouldn’t include “G68.”

    “She clicked on it and began to read.”

    What is she reading? Since readers are in her POV, they should get some idea about what she is reading.

    That’s all. I think this can be an interesting story if you fill in more information.

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