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Monday, July 1, 2013

Long form crit: LEGACY OF THE EYE

My turn to take a week here at UB, so you know what that means -- long form crits! Send up to 1500 words to unicornbellsubmissions at gmail.com and I will take a stab at it. 

Thanks, Patricia, for sending in your new opening to LEGACY OF THE EYE!


David: Proposal

It might have been a symbolic gesture, but I was not budging. My hand covered the keypad inside the traveling pod as I faced the old instructor. "Come on, Max. We're leaving the school anyway, why not let me punch the code?"

Arms crossed and hat in hand, the instructor's black outfit obscured the doorway. "The council should have made you wait until after graduation like everyone else."

Cat and I had been confined in the school since we were two. What difference would two weeks make after sixteen years? "We've earned the distinction."

"Next you'll ask to stop for a black uniform on the way out," Max said.

We probably earned that too, but I knew how to pick my battles. If the council accepted our petition, the Governance Department would not be able to deny us a position in their faculty.

Cat's hand pressed my shoulder. "David, we'll be late."

"Tell him that."

"You're only making him more stubborn, Max," she said. "You know we have no reason to run away."

The instructor hesitated. Would he make us miss our appointment with the council? The fastest way to the front entrance was by pod, but the motorized spheres did not travel at the speed of light. >>Personally, I don't like throwing a question in the narrative like this -- there are more useful ways to get the information across. The meeting was in fifteen minutes; my nerves jangled at the thought of being late. But that's a matter of voice and style.

"CO3X04W." Max pointed his rolled up hat at me. "If you don't behave, I'll deny you my recommendation and the council will veto the Tutor Program."

He must be bluffing. I doubted we needed his help to defend the proposal. We had discussed the idea with students and faculty for months. Plus, Cat had written a meticulous petition.

"We don't have our hats," Cat said as I turned to the keypad and pressed the first two letters.

Max stepped out of the pod. "Then go get them." >>Max was in the pod? BTW, how big is the pod? You haven't set the scene yet...

I finished inputting the destination code to the front entrance and grabbed Cat's hand before she could exit the pod. The doors sealed us in and the sphere descended into the network of tunnels underneath the Academy of Demia. >>This would be a good place for some description

She held onto a handlebar as the pod gathered speed. "What have you done? You never said anything about leaving without Max." >>?? It seemed obvious to me -- and to Max -- that David meant to go without him. Why else would Max just step out of the pod? 

I pulled down two of the four jump seats. "Thanks for getting rid of him."

"We'll be in so much trouble when he catches up with us. They'll deny us the directorship of the Tutor Program."

"They won't. By the time Max summons another pod, we'll be beyond the gate. He won't interrupt the proposal defense to yell at me." And after the council approved the new program, we would not be his students anymore. >>if Max meant to shoot down the proposal, why wouldn't he interrupt?

She sank into the seat next to mine. "Maybe we should go over your speech one more time."

"Five times today isn't enough?"

"Four. And you're still forgetting to mention that the tutors will be traveling to their pupil's home planet. That's a big point in the proposal."

"Do you want to give the speech?"

She bit her lower lip. "No."

"Then stop fretting. If the council hadn't liked our idea, they wouldn't have requested an audience."

"They probably read the proposal once. How much do you think they grasped? You've read it a dozen times and you still forget some of the details. I should have made you write it."

I grinned. "Then it wouldn't have been perfect."

"Or written at all."

The corners of her mouth twitched. I could make her smile if I kept the bickering going. But I yielded instead. My speech needed to be perfect if we were to merit directing the program. And I was grateful for Cat's help, not only today, but also convincing our instructors that we should be present at the council meeting. Without her cool-headed argumentation, we would have had to wait in the Governance Department while Max petitioned for us. But this was our project. The idea to send tutors to the other colonies in the Tetracoil Galaxy was ours. We should be the ones defending the proposal and managing the program. >>arguments?

When the pod opened at the main building, there was no one waiting for us. Apparently, Max had not asked anyone to intercept his runaway students. Cat and I walked to the heavy pine door that led to the outside and I pulled it open. The bright afternoon light spilled into the hallway. She walked out first, but stalled at the front steps, her dark gray uniform not quite blocking my view of the gates.

She turned when the door slammed, eyes squinted. "We should have brought our hats."

"It's after the ninth hour. The light's not so dangerous anymore." >>Just wanted to note that this is the single most interesting thing you say in the whole scene.

She gnawed on her lower lip. "I'm not sure it was a good idea to leave without Max."

"Relax. We'll be fine."

I reached for her hand and she smiled tentatively. She latched onto my fingers as if she could milk them for the courage she lacked. I led her down the front steps towards the open gate, a hundred feet away. The gravel crunched under our feet. Cat glanced back at the door to the main building.

"We're supposed to be here," I said.

"With a chaperone."

"If we want to be taken seriously we need to stop behaving like students." She needed to relax.

We stepped through the wide-open gates and out of the Academy grounds. The thought that we were probably the first students ever to leave the school before graduation made me smile. I smelled freedom in the cool afternoon air. Our future started today. >>if students aren't allowed out, why are the gates open?

Cat's hand tightened around mine. I doubted she even noticed the huge garden in front of us.

"Stop worrying and look around you," I said. "Have you ever seen so many flowers in one place?"

She stared at the bright-colored plants as if they would swallow her alive. "Now we know why everyone talks so much about the Center Gardens. Do you even know where to go?" >>if students aren't allowed out, who talks about the gardens? 

"Third building to the left, according to a book in the reading room."

She turned to skim the garden.

"We're early," I said. "Let's walk through the park. If Max shows up, say we're waiting for him." If she did not calm down before the meeting, there was no way they would let her direct the program with me. >>why?

"We don't want to be late."

"Then don't waste time arguing." I guided her down the closest footpath, which started by a two-tiered stone fountain marked with the letter W.

We walked toward the larger waterspout in the middle of the garden. The flowerbeds on either side were in different shades of blue, dark-colored at first then lighter the deeper into the park we walked. The fragrance in the air shifted and intensified with each step we took. By the time we reached the lilies, I realized why the book had called this a sensory garden. Some of these plants were edible; the park could stimulate all five senses.

Cat pulled me towards the lilies. "How do you think they water the flowers?"

"Underground capillaries."

"How come you always have all the answers?"

Just the ones found in books. "Why do you think instructors don't trust students?"

"They do."

"Not without supervision."

She stared at the lilies by the fountain. "Remember Paul and Solana?"

Last year, they had snuck up to the roof after curfew. They let biology get them in trouble. "That was different."

"Why?" She was looking at me intently. >>she's asking how nooky on the roof is different from a presentation?

I had no answer. We had been classmates for eight years. Best friends for just as long. Even more than that--we were a team. I needed her. And not just to write my reports. She had been in my life since I was ten and I could not imagine a future without her. Together we could conquer the galaxy.

The fountains seemed to ask why I had never kissed her. We had never been alone. At a ratio of three to one, instructors were always monitoring students at the department. Maybe I could convince Cat to come back to the garden after the proposal defense. If no one showed up to rush us back to the Academy. We would not get another chance to be alone until after graduation. Two weeks was a long time.

She stepped closer. Her tongue moistened her lips. I swallowed hard as my body responded to the invitation. This was not the right time but I did not know how to tell her. I needed blood in my brain not where it was flowing.

Cat did not give me the chance to think. Her hand reached for my neck. She rose to her toes and pressed her mouth to mine. My arms tightened around her. She interlaced her fingers into my hair, her warm body pressed against mine. I did not want her to stop. I wanted to pull her clothes off and lay her down where we stood.

>>Overall, this is pretty good. First time I read this, nothing jarred me enough to stop and add notes. 

But while it's good, it's not... grabbing. You're laying out the situation and the relationship, and that's well and good but it's all rather straightforward. Except that one point of interest I noted. That intrigues me. Something weird and different there. But it's only two little sentences in all this.  

I think my question to you is: what's the risk here? A project passing or failing... meh, happens every day. Hoping to get a kiss, that's nice. What's the real, personal, even deadly risk they're taking? 


Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

Building a world, setting a hook, introduction of the characters, AND bonding with the reader is a monumental task. Sci Fi is especially difficult.

For now though, bring on the Voice and Conflict and build the world sparingly. Hook and making the reader care about your story is way more important.

"After sixteen years confined in school, what difference does two weeks make?"

"I wouldn't say 'confined' exactly..."

"Since we were two? That's what I'd call it. We've earned the distinction."

Huntress, aka CD Coffelt said...

*hit publish your comment too soon*

Also, careful with the internal.
Much better to 'show' this in body language and dialogue.

Giving information that you want the reader to know is called the "Bob" method, a foil. Be careful not to make too obvious though.

Patchi said...

Thanks for the crits. I know I need tension, but this is an academic society, so life and death situations are not quite that deadly.

I rewrote this novel in 1st person POV because an agent suggested it would work better. I like how it brings out character voice. My worry is that its sounding too YA now. It's an Adult Sci-Fi Romance. David and Cat are 18 at the start, but the novel spans quite a few years. I don't want to set the wrong pace with the opening.

L. Blankenship said...

They do sound very young, that's true.

This being the start of the story, I have no idea why they haven't been allowed outside all their lives -- it must be something dangerous? If the light itself is dangerous, wouldn't it be more frightening, for hem?

Show the reader that the characters have a reason to be scared... and then something as simple as going outside becomes a source of tension.

Liz said...

"She latched onto my fingers as if she could milk them for the courage she lacked."

Love this line.

Jadzia Brandli said...

I agree that it didn't grab me immediately. I had to read a bit before I became interested. Even after I was interested, I wasn't hooked. It seemed to progress slowly and I wanted the pace to pick up a bit.

Brooke R. Busse said...

Just for the critiquer, when Cat asks how it's different, she's not talking about the presentation exactly. She's talking about the fact that she is a girl and he is a boy just like the couple on the roof.

Patchi said...

You're right, Brooke. I changed it to "Are we different?" just to make sure it made sense.