Our next submission for First Impressions is a return visit from Patricia Moussatche and THE LEGACY OF THE EYE, an adult science fiction novel. Patricia shared her first page of this manuscript with us back in February and has revised it since then.
After following Cat into the traveling pod, I covered the keypad and faced our instructor, who blocked the doorway. “Max, we’re leaving the school anyway, why not let me punch the code?” It might be a symbolic gesture, but I was not budging.
Arms crossed over his loose-fitting black outfit, Max obscured the pod’s exit despite his short stature. “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,” the instructor said.
We probably earned that too, but I knew how to pick my battles.
Cat’s hand pressed my shoulder. “David, we’ll be late.”
“Tell him that,” I said.
“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? Max knew Cat and I could not navigate the maze of buildings to get to the gates–even disregarding the risk of being detained as soon as we left the governance complex. Our gray uniforms would give us away as soon as we stepped outside because students were not allowed to leave their home departments. How long would it take to convince every instructor in our path that we had an appointment with the council? We had one, not fourteen daylight hours to reach the government building. The easiest way to the front entrance was by pod. I had never been in one of these vehicles, but I was certain the motorized spheres did not travel at the speed of light.
“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.”
I finished inputting the destination code to the front entrance and grabbed Cat by the waist before she could exit the pod for our hats.
This is a lot of world-building information packed onto the first page. The first paragraph alone introduces three characters, a traveling pod, and a keypad. The one line of dialogue is not attributed, so you have to infer it’s the narrator speaking. I admit, I was lost.
Why not start with David’s thoughts as he enters the traveling pod with Cat? Explain what this means to him and why he wants to enter the code himself. If the entire first paragraph was just about David, it would ground us in the here and now while helping us understand the character and the whole page.
When Max says, “The council should have made you wait until after graduation like everyone else.” I want to know, wait for what? Based on what comes later (and on the previous version of this page), I assume Max means they shouldn’t be allowed off school grounds until graduation, but why not directly say so?
Then, Cat says, “You know we have no reason to run away.” Well, it’s clear they’re leaving the school, but this must not be what she means by “running away.” Does she mean, they have no reason to take the pod anywhere except to the council meeting? They can be trusted to fly it without Max’s supervision? Was he planning to go with them – or just punch in the code for an automated flight?
I think these problems could easily be eliminated if the author let us into David’s head right from the first paragraph and shared his thoughts and feelings on this momentous occasion. If we knew the importance of this trip and why he wants his instructor to stand aside and let him punch in the numbers, we’d automatically learn a lot about this world in one swoop: the rarity of students leaving school, the purpose of the pod, where they were going and why.
Readers, what do you think?