The Solar 1 Incident by C.A. Massa

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Post May 30, 2007, 09:23:28 PM

The Solar 1 Incident by C.A. Massa

I felt bad that no one had critiqued this story. Having me as the first, and maybe only, critic could be dubious comfort, I'm afraid.

I may be criticized for preaching my personal views on what a story should be, but, really, our own perception is all each one of us has. I believe that stories require a strong hook, input with all your senses, convincing world building, professionalism in writing, believable dialog, endearing characters that grow and change, and a plot wherein characters try to solve a dilemma (unless it's flash or literary). (Yes, that's the same thing I said about "In Deep Cover".)

Under my definition, this story has serious issues.

First off, I didn't like the hook. I'm a firm believer in the concept that you only get 200 words to win a reader over and make them want to read your story. I think a writer has to think about it in the terms that there are other stories in the issue, and if you want the audience to read yours, even at a free magazine, you need to start with your most gripping part. I stopped reading after the 2nd sentence of the 3rd paragraph, and skipped all the way down to where Helena called to Caesar. None of that backstory interested me.

Likewise, the many times that the flow stopped to tell the "why" of the scene, like that the humans didn't know which planet they came from, I skipped ahead. As a rule, I say that any time you think you need to stop and explain why, don't. It isn't important that we know, only that you know. We'll either figure it out from hints or it just isn't necessary for the story.

I believe in a dilemma/resolution model. Caesar has a problem. He's at war, and his opponent wants him to leave. As I understood it, he goes to find out why. I'm not certain he really found out. Even if he does get the answer, he doesn't seek a resolution. I would have much rather seen him try to fix his problem or fail trying. Choosing not to and losing his temper (resulting in his death) wasn't nearly fulfilling enough to me.

Another thing that bothered me was how Caesar allowed himself and his men to be put into such a precarious position. I'm not sure how they were a challenge to these beasties, but the humans were pretty wimpy here. If you were that weak, why go in and put everyone in such danger? What motivation, or reasoning that would delude himself into believing they stood a better chance? If arrogance blinded him, that would make it tragic, but I needed more character development before I could feel that.

Got to run, so in short, I felt there was a lot of room for improvement here.

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Post June 01, 2007, 11:07:41 AM

Re: The Solar 1 Incident by C.A. Massa ... ident.html

Well, it’s certainly an ambitious tale.

Let’s start with the title: The Solar 1 Incident. The backdrop is a war that has lasted nine centuries. The world is nearing its demise, the continuous destruction having taken its toll. So why is it called an incident? An incident is a minor event. The author has diluted his story before anyone has actually read it. Unless, of course, he was being sarcastic or satirical, which given the tone and nature of the story I seriously doubt.

The author tries to capture the feel of a Biblical or epic writing style. Long portions of the narrative read like a sermon. Unfortunately, most modern people find church boring. They don’t like sermons. Yes, I know some will give me flak for that unsupported poll, but I’ve sat in pews as a child and seen those glazed eyes. That’s most likely why very few have read the story.

Word variation and word choice are also a problem. Countenance is used multiple times. The following sentences I found jarring, after getting in the mode of reading Biblical style (my own emphasis in italics):
“Don’t know,” the pilot said, chewing on some sort of strong gum, the kind not made for kids, “these cursed blizzards are making conditions terrible out here, our radar is failing…but they still might be able to pick us up.”

“We’ve been brothers for a very long time, Drake-O, if anything should happen, I want you, my brother, to be by my side.”

If you’re going to write in a particular style, you had better be consistent or you’ll distract your readers. I got the sense the writer was a young person, inadvertently slipping to his own mode of speech.

As Nate pointed out, too much backdrop. Way, way, way too much. As a writer, you can also be burned if you give too little, but that’s the art. No one said it would be easy. In this particular story, you could probably forgo the entire introduction and start with the scene of Caesar and Helena.

The ending would have been clever if it hadn’t been done before. Seeing the Statue of Liberty is a scene right out of Planet of the Apes.

There are other issues as well, but these are the ones that jumped out at me. I don’t know if this story could be salvaged without a total rewrite. I applaud the writer for setting the bar high, but I don’t believe he has the experience yet to pull it off.
"Even the straight arrow needs a crooked bow."
- Samani

jaimie l. elliott

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