Greetings writers and critics,
I'm new to writing. All I know is that I have some ideas I want to bring to life through story and explore concepts through a story game. Writing in this style seems to be a great way to keep the baby and the bathwater, which I have a tendency to grow attached to.
The story I have in mind revolves around an outcast loner whose special abilities set him apart from society. He will confront choices throughout the story game to develop his untapped potential and share his powers/abilities with the people he encounters. If he does this skillfully, he will save himself (sometimes literally) and offer society something to chew on.
Does this sound interesting? Would you read it?
Whether or not this interests you, I would appreciate your constructive feedback on the excerpt below. Be as brief of longwinded as you can while keeping it clear. Thank you!
You turn from the busy corridor onto a rugged mountain highway. The vegetation spills over the road, determined to cross through growth alone. Your headcover rattles on the dashboard as your tires pull through loose gravel. You scan your route: a half-day along a commuter line dotted with outposts lie ahead of you. Centered in the middle of your forehead, a third eye fixates on the darkness not yet illuminated by the headlights, but your thoughts are on easy money.
Smoke rises from the front of your vehicle as it rolls to an unresponsive stop. You perform a series of fruitless reboots before giving up. So much for getting an early start, you think. You step out into tall shadows cast by the morning light, stretching to ease the transition from prolonged sitting to the trek ahead of you.
You open the hood carefully and stare at the jumble of cables, tubes, and metal boxes through the haze. Lacking mechanical training, the components appear to have an urgent yet incoherent need. You let the hood slam shut, regretting haven grown accustomed to the warning lights.
You rub your third eye reflexively as it darts from side-to-side, desperately searching for something more complex than an empty road, trees, and a steady incline. Feeling restless yourself, you put the car in neutral and push it from the road and into a shallow ditch. It sticks out in sharp contrast from the rock outcropping, but you couldn’t exactly leave it in the middle of the road.
Approaching the passenger side of your vehicle, you scan your surroundings. Your third eye would have alerted you of anyone nearby, but you've grown dependent on the lower two. Satisfied with your solitude, you open the door and run your hand under the front seat. You feel the small pouch taped beneath it and rip it lose. So, you ask yourself, I'm risking my neck to afford a life to be left alone? Several troubling memories flicker before you. Yeah, it’s worth it. You turn the package over and wonder at its contents.
You remember your employer’s advice: “Don't look at what you carry, man. Knowing that will change your behavior - and you don't want to be noticed making runs!"
Your third eye twitches. I couldn’t stand out more if I tried, you think. Still, maybe he’s right. You shrug and slide the pouch within your jacket. Maybe later.
You dawn your headpiece, adjust its straps and flip the goggle-lens over your third eye. You feel your third eye moving frantically within your skull. A subtle feedback loop of dread builds within you as fear drips steadily into your limbic system. Snug, you think, like a coffin. You tap the side of the lens, and the eye is immediately engrossed in displays of ghostly images cascading before it. In a trance-like state it grasps for meaning without purchase, providing you with a kind of white noise from which your mind could work around.
With your vehicle abandoned and your vision impaired, you continue your uphill journey. You consider the towns you’d pass through and wonder how people in remote areas would respond to your appearance. Besides the freak beacon on your head, empaths like you were commonly accused of mind control and crowd manipulation. You had to admit, even you weren’t sure how you’d respond if you encountered one of your kind.
You’ve never met one.
[END OF EXCERPT]
Thanks for your feedback! I've drafted the full story almost a year ago, fueled on exploration of fun concepts rather than knowing where the story would take me. Now that I've stepped back to revise and hone in what I'm actually trying to say/write about, I realize I have a lot to clean up.
RE: you, your - I agree. I’ll need to explore how to keep the flow between sentences. I think much of the disjointedness is attributed to copy/pasting and neglecting transitions.
RE: strange characterizations - I also agree. These were cheap attempts to give hints to the reader that the vehicles and how they operate are different since it is an alien planet, similar but different to our own.
RE: thoughts of character - Glad this read well and carried the narrative along.
RE: persecution plot - Yes, this is where I was going. He is persecuted by others – and himself. I’ll need to introduce this self-perseuction better, maybe by using some self-deprecating humor. He’ll need to confront himself as much as those more obvious obstacles (car breaking down, carrying illegal materials on foot through unfamiliar territories, third eye probs, etc.)
You've given a lot for me to think about.
Probably the most important thing that'll help you get better at the start is...to write. Write and read. Paying attention to what you are writing/reading is also very helpful, heh.
As I have said more times than I have published storygames, I'm a strong advocate of 'any idea can work', so if that's what you want to write, go for it.
But that isn't why people ask about their ideas, so I'll add:
Outcast loners need to be handled carefully because they're not very rare, which means readers can easily roll their eyes at your protagonist's angst. This doesn't mean outcast loners can't be cool tho (it just might not be as easy to write as some people expect).
Anyway, what are the powers? How big is the untapped potential? Having a story about getting stronger is good and all, but it can really get messy due to how vague it is.
Sharing the powers seems like a cool concept that can really put character interaction at the forefront, and that does sound neat.
You want to stay focussed on your story so that it doesn't get out of hand, keeping the scope of what you're writing in mind is very important, especially when you're new to writing, since it is SO easy to just keep adding stuff, and then lose all motivation because you're now writing an epic to put LotR to shame (just length wise, mind you).
Offering society something to chew on is a bit less cool, since society is so vague and something we live in. Anyway, my point is, you'll want a stronger theme surrounding that to have it be engaging. What is he getting society (and by extension, the readers) to think about?
Themes have so much potential but how far you want to go depends on what you're writing and why.
Overall, the idea can work, but it is the specifics that'll make or break it. Certain issues that may arise can also be fixed later, which is something new writers may like to ignore (since who wants rewrite/proofread?).
I'll start by saying I'm not here to proofread (since I'll miss something and feel stupid), but: 'You let the hood slam shut, regretting haven grown accustomed to the warning lights.' You want to reword this, haven isn't the word you're looking for, but just replacing it with "haven't" isn't enough either.
Mouthing the words or reading aloud is a good way to catch some of these mistakes, but it is important that you read what you actually wrote and not what you think you wrote when doing this (which might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised what mistakes can slip by when not paying enough attention).
Anyway, the writing seems to move along well, which is good. The setting is only beginning to get fleshed out, but what is there is getting me to wonder about stuff, so that's nice. Considering you also have the pouch for establishing the goal, you're definitely off to a good start.
You even build up some stakes and tension at the end, regarding empaths (and the fact the protagonist is one). Good stuff!
As was mentioned by Enterpride, 'you' and its variations are overused as sentence starters, but personally, that didn't bother me too much. Trying to word sentences in more interesting ways is, however, worthwhile.
In second person it is very easy to just use 'you' constantly, but that repetition can become an issue. You do this, you do that, etc, is also a pitfall you want to try to avoid. Having a story just be a sequence of actions can be rather dull, and is worth watching out for (this is something that can be fixed after the initial write-up, as having an idea of what happens 'action by action' can be helpful, but do what works for you).
Look at Enterpride's feedback, maybe find something useful here too, and get back to writing! It does seem interesting from what I can see here, but an opening that piques my interest isn't enough for a good storygame, aha.
Thanks for your feedback! You've given me plenty to think about and bring to my next draft.
RE: outcast loners – I definitely want to avoid the “nobody gets me and everyone is dumb but me” attitude. I’m trying to hit the angle of a guy who is feared AND self-fearing. He doesn’t really get himself and he’s basically taken illegal jobs to stay off the grid, retire early, and live in solitude where he can't be bothered to examine himself or how he might relate to others.
RE: 3rd eye power – it would be funny if there wasn’t any powers or ability but a giant third eye with superstitions about it but.. the third eye will reveal relationships within and between complex organisms, which is misunderstood as mind reading by nearly everyone, hence the headcover.
RE: Focus of story– Agreed. This is challenging. I’m noticing that I cannot simply cut details to make my story clearer. And the details do tend to unravel more and more the more I get into it. I’ll have to experiment (perhaps read more to see how others have successfully offered the right amount to the reader)
RE: Society’s chew– Yeah, “meet society’s three-eyed chew toy,” doesn’t sound that interesting. I have to work on the pitch. I have the feeling of there’s something here that is exciting but I’ve been struggling with how to deliver it in a proper pitch.
RE: Rewording in excerpt – “haven” doesn’t sound right when read aloud. Thanks for the tip. “You/Your” overuse: agreed. I hadn’t thought about other ways to write in second-person and keeping the flow engaging. I’ll review this/ read more of what’s worked for others.