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First Page Feedback: Immortal Messiah by Lindsey C.
Hypnotized by the flashing red and green lights and humbled by the immense import of the moment, the scientists sat in their chairs around the Trans-temporal Subconscious Adjuster. The dignitaries surrounding them nervously whispered to each other as they awaited their effort's results.
“This may be our last chance,” one official observed to a colleague. “We need to put things right, correct the time line and make sure history unfolds the way it should.”
“Correct? Should? For us maybe,” his comrade replied, “but who’s to say what is correct andshould have happened?”
“I am saying it,” the Chancellor asserted, overhearing the two. Holding his tail erect he added, “We all are. Our will must prevail over the will of the Others. Our entire world is depending on you Rectifiers to retrieve this situation so that the Shadows don’t triumph.”
“Our chances are better than theirs,” one of the junior rectifiers suggested.
“Our chances were better,” the Project’s Director corrected, “Temporally, we are dimensionally closer than the Shadows – and of the same species as our subjects, but the Shadows have outsmarted us at every turn and turned all of our subject adjustments against us.”
“So sadly,” the Chancellor concluded, “our existence hangs by this slender thread.”
And all bowed their heads is silent prayer.
“Be careful on your way home, Julie.” The conductor advised. “It’s awfully dark in this neighborhood,” he added, “and the vampire murder is still out there.”
“Thanks Max, I will.” Julie replied. Stepping off the tram, Julie felt her graveyard shift through the weary pain from the tip of her tail to the soles of her hind feet. But as soon as a foot hit the dark station, she was gripped by an unnatural fear.
Don’t get out! her emotions screamed, There’s danger in the darkness.
Don’t be ridiculous, Julie’s intellect responded, You can’t ride the tram all night. We’re tired, hungry, and need to get home. Before long it will be time to get up for another work shift on those merciless water wheels. How many times before have you walked back to our tenement without any light?
[A small note: Manuscripts should be double-spaced, in twelve-point type (preferably using any font OTHER than Times New Roman), with 1”-1.25” margins all around. As a rule of thumb, a typical manuscript has about 250 words per page.]
Hypnotized by the flashing red and green lights and humbled by the immense import of the moment, the scientists sat in their chairs around the Trans-temporal Subconscious Adjuster. [I’m afraid this feels a bit overloaded to make for an effective opening line. It doesn’t elicit a strong feeling of mystery, tension, or anxiety, in my view. Doesn’t compel the reader’s interest. Beyond that, it also feels a bit too distanced and authorial. We’re not in any particular character’s perspective here but viewing the moment from afar. Also, I’m not quite sure of the genre or the age group for which this is intended, but “Trans-temporal Subconscious Adjuster” sounds a bit comical. Taken literally, it seems to refer to a device that can change people’s minds or memories.] The dignitaries surrounding them nervously whispered to each other as they awaited their effort's results.
"This may be our last chance," one official observed to a colleague. [Again, whose perspective are we in here? Rather than showing us generic people from a distance, bring us deep into the perspective of a character who has an important and critical aim for the scene.] "We need to put things right, correct the time line and make sure history unfolds the way it should." [I’m afraid this feels like an overly familiar story problem. Unless you’re going to dig in and help us know what SPECIFIC issue in history has to be resolved, the reader may not feel much concern.]
"Correct? Should? For us maybe," his comrade replied, "but who's to say what is correct and should have happened?"
"I am saying it," the Chancellor asserted, overhearing the two. Holding his tail erect he added, "We all are. Our will must prevail over the will of the Others. Our entire world is depending on you Rectifiers to retrieve this situation so that the Shadows don't triumph." [My feeling is that if we’re going to spend time with a species in possession of tails, you might want to establish that right away, if you can. And you might want to help us get a more vivid picture of your characters’ physicality. Are they aliens (to us, at least)? Mice? Kangaroos? Help orient the reader a bit more fully.]
"Our chances are better than theirs," one of the junior rectifiers suggested.
"Our chances were better," the Project's Director corrected, "Temporally, we are dimensionally closer than the Shadows--and of the same species as our subjects, but the Shadows have outsmarted us at every turn and turned all of our subject adjustments against us."
"So sadly," the Chancellor concluded, "our existence hangs by this slender thread." [A bit cliché, I’m afraid. Might he state this in a less expected way?]
And all bowed their heads is in silent prayer.
[I wonder if you really need this preamble? It feels a bit broad to be as effective as it might be. I don’t feel as though I’m in a specific time and place with concrete dimensions that have been revealed to me. Nor do I feel as though I’m sufficiently locked into the specifics of the problem or the specific character—protagonist—whose journey I’m going to share. Might consider beginning the book elsewhere.]
"Be careful on your way home, Julie." The conductor advised. "It's awfully dark in this neighborhood," he added, "and the vampire murderer is still out there." [Again, I can’t quite get a handle on whether all of this is meant to be comical or sincere. And the mix of elements—science fiction in the above, horror/urban fantasy here—might be a bit tough for readers to digest.]
"Thanks Max, I will." Julie replied. Stepping off the tram, Julie she felt every moment of her graveyard shift through the weary pain from the tip of her tail to the soles of her hind feet. [Nice]
But as soon as a foot hit the dark station, she was gripped by an unnatural fear. She stepped off the tram and felt immediately gripped by an unnatural fear.
Don't get out! her emotions screamed, There's danger in the darkness. [Intriguing]
Don't be ridiculous, Julie's intellect responded, You can't ride the tram all night. We're tired, hungry, and need to get home. Before long it will be time to get up for another work shift on those merciless water wheels. [This feels a bit heavy-handed and too emotional in nature to actually come from her intellect.] How many times before have you walked back to our tenement without any light? [I wonder if you’d be better of beginning with Julie, backing up a bit so that we join her as she’s riding the car, anticipating getting home, and working to accomplish some specific goal within the scene? At the very least, that will put us in a more palpable time and place, within the body and psyche of an actual character rather than in the possession of passive observer.]
Thanks for sharing your first page with me, Lindsey! I appreciate it and hope you find my comments useful.
My feeling, as explicated above, is that though you have some intriguing elements here—time travel, a species with tails, a vampire (Or maybe the murderer of vampires? Not actually clear in the above, though I assume you mean murderers who are also vampires.)—as an opening this doesn’t serve you as well as it might.
It may be that you’re attempting to feed the reader too many elements at a time and taking too broad a view at first in doing so. Perhaps you could launch the story with Julie, give us a more substantive feeling for both her world and her DESIRES, and let us focus there first before introducing other story problems.
Further, you might consider the genre of this story. As also mentioned above, it’s a lot to ask a reader to absorb a multiplicity of genres, which you have here in the use of time travel, creatures with tails, vampires, etc. The opening has an unsettled feeling to me, a sense of not quite knowing what it aims to offer the reader, what it wants to BE.
Lastly, I’d urge you to give some consideration to the shape of a scene. Try to construct each story moment around the idea of a specific character in pursuit of a specific, concrete goal, meeting some obstacle to that goal’s attainment.
I know you haven’t had the space to play out a full scene here, but help us understand, as soon as you can, what your viewpoint character WANTS, and help give us a feeling of that desire driving the scene forward.
Again, hope that helps! Thanks again and take care.