Saturday, March 12

Real Life Diagnostics: Would You Keep Reading About This Character?

Critique By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and I diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines.

Submissions currently in the queue: Five 


Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are booked through April 16.

This week’s question: Would you would keep reading and whether the character is working, i.e. is she someone you're interested in following, so far?


Market/Genre: Adult Suspense

On to the diagnosis…

Original text:

There’s a dead girl in my head. Most of the time, she’s quiet. But sometimes I hear her voice drifting up from the depths, surfaced by my programming to provide some momentary guidance or human insight.

Right now, she’s telling me to relax. Like that’s possible.

Four minutes until my first test. Four minutes until I step outside my room and walk alone to the handler’s office. I give myself a fifty-fifty chance of making it.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, I clutch my knees as I wait out the clock. The second hand click, click, clicks its way around the circle, moving too fast. Six minutes have already passed with me sitting like this in the warm embrace of my small room, taking turns looking at the clock and the solid, ochre, metal door that stands guard between me and the looming hallway beyond.

Three minutes.

I’ve walked to the handler’s office twice before, but both times she was with me, blocking for me by intercepting passersby with a graceful nod or smile. Now I’m the one that’s supposed to silently dismiss any good-willed people.

I gnaw the inside of my lip. This is too soon. It’s only been month since I woke up. Though waking’s a poor analogy for my entry to the world. It implies a sudden awareness, whereas mine was a many-day climb from the dark depths of unconsciousness, kicking up through layers after layer of increasing awareness until I finally broke the surface.

And here I am, android Delta Phoenix, prototype 594—barely treading water.

My Thoughts in Purple:

[There’s a dead girl in my head.] intriguing Most of the time, she’s quiet. But sometimes I hear her voice drifting up from the depths, surfaced by [my programming] nice clue and context to provide some momentary guidance or human insight.

Right now, she’s telling me to relax. Like that’s possible.

Four minutes until my first test. Four minutes until I step outside my room and walk alone to the handler’s office. I give myself a fifty-fifty chance of making it. Clear show of conflict and stakes, even though the details are still a mystery

Sitting on the edge of the bed, I clutch my knees as I wait out the clock. The second hand click, click, clicks its way around the circle, moving too fast. Six minutes have already passed with me sitting like this in the warm embrace of my small room, taking turns looking at the clock and the solid, ochre, metal [door that stands guard between me and the looming hallway beyond.] I like how it’s unclear is she’s being guarded or protected. Just ambiguous enough to create mystery

Three minutes.

I’ve walked to the handler’s office twice before, but both times she was with me, blocking for me by intercepting passersby with a graceful nod or smile. Now I’m the one [that’s] I like the break with the more grammatically correct “who” here. Subtle clue? (if not, say it is if anyone ever asks. It’s great) supposed to silently dismiss any good-willed people.

I gnaw the inside of my lip. This is too soon. It’s only been month since I woke up. Though waking’s a poor analogy for my entry to the world. It implies a sudden awareness, whereas mine was a many-day climb from the dark depths of unconsciousness, kicking up through layers after layer of increasing awareness until I finally broke the surface.

And here I am, android Delta Phoenix, prototype 594—barely treading water.

The question:

1. Would you would keep reading and whether the character is working, i.e. is she someone you're interested in following, so far?


Yes (readers chime in here).

I thought this was great and I’d keep reading. I loved the voice, the subtle clues about Delta’s origins, the sense of anticipation and conflict over something that scares her. The worldbuilding is just enough to provide context, but I’m not feeling overwhelmed or lost. Lots of things to discover and I'm curious to do just that.

I like this character, and I want to see how she handles her test and if she’s ready to be on her own or not. The reassurances of the dead girl in her head are sweet, which really plays off the creepiness of a dead girl in her head. Even she’s supportive of Delta (she may not be “real” in that sense, but it’s enough to make me feel that way so far). The "Delta makes a connection with a human to help her deal with humans" is a really nice mirror as well. The literal made metaphor.

Delta is very relatable, even though she’s not human. She’s exhibiting very human emotions and dealing with issues readers can easily relate to—fear of failing and fear of being on your own. I don’t know the details of her test yet, but I can see she’s worried about it and it’s important to her. I wonder what will happen and what it will all be about.

One minor nit...the genre says adult suspense, but with an android, I'd think science fiction.

A great job overall. If I saw this in a store I’d buy it.

Thanks to our brave volunteer for submitting this for me to play with. I hope they–and others–find it helpful. I don’t do a full critique on these, (just as it pertains to the questions) and I encourage you to comment and make suggestions of your own. Just remember that these pieces are works in progress, not polished drafts, so be nice and offer constructive feedback.

11 comments:

  1. Sounds interesting to me and I'd keep reading. I don't read a lot of science fiction so sometimes snippets lose me quickly but I enjoyed this and was able to follow along easily.

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  2. I'd definitely read on. I really like how the setting is introduced; it's easy to tell roughly what's happening (a newly created/awakened android is being tested on something very important) without giving the details away. I'd read on just to find out what exactly this test is about, and her displaying such a realistic fear and nervousness makes me root for her and hope she passes the test.

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  3. Love this...wish I'd thought of it first!

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  4. I was hooked by the voice and the hints. Want more, now.

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  5. I would read on because Delta displays'human'characteristics that promise to deliver a story about the woman in Delta's head.

    I may understand the reluctance of the author to place her story outside the genre of science-fiction. I've faced this dilemma. I've written two books about a female human hybrid-android and they were a love story as much as anything clinical or mechanical which the dreaded restricting words science-fiction evokes.

    But that's the challenge for readers - to think outside the classic sci-fi box of outer space and futuristic cities.

    Character driven stories are about people, and Delta is a compelling 'persona.' this story could be women's fiction as it introduces a strong female lead.

    The writing is nicely-done and accomplishes the hook of an interesting first page.

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  6. I liked it, and would read it.
    Yet, why everyone presumed the protagonist is female? Because of the dead girl in its head?
    It would be much more interesting if android is male; it offers more chances for conflict and tension.

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  7. Wait a minute! Where's the rest??? Yep, would read on...

    Want to know if the MC even has a gender, though the voice leans to feminine to me -- and also 'felt' younger, but that fills in once we see where that young feeling comes from.

    I moved toward a female protagonist because of the dead girl. I 'felt' that the dead girl was the protagonist. I would gladly switch 'her' to a 'him' though, if the story took me in that direction. My dedication to a female protagonist is fluid at this point.

    Also, as a female, I related to the character's attempts at control, the watching of the clock - tense, yet passive - which I equate less with a male character. My bad...

    Well done and want to know when it will be available!

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  8. YES! Loved the writing, loved the concept. I want to know when I can buy this.

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  9. Usually, it takes a lot to draw me in. This made it seem effortless

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