My superhero universe is an Earth-type in which superhumans (or talents, as Westerners call them) started manifesting after WWII. My novel is set in 2024 and I’m trying to trace out a lot of the implications of superhumans on this Earth. As one example, America had the equivalent of the International space station all to itself by the 1980s. By 2024 there is a colony on the moon with tens of thousands living in it. Why? Because the Eagle, the first worldshakingly powerful talent, was able to generate 1000 tons of continuous lift and boosted large modules for minimal cost.
My approach to talents is diverse in manifestation but with a uniform source. People with a genetic predisposition (based on a very complex set of factors) may manifest starting at puberty when placed under extreme stress of some kind.
The most basic talent is physique. Most talents get at least a little, and it mainly just makes the body work better. After that are personal, projective and knack type powers.
Personal is stuff like invulnerability, superstrength (rated in tons pressed), and flight (autokinesis, rated in tons thrust or newtons per second).
Projective is stuff outside the body, like photokinesis, tele-electrogenesis, telekinesis, wormholing, thermokinesis, force fields, so on.
Knacks are personal, but they specifically refer to your brain being able to do something the human brain normally doesn’t do. This isn’t necessarily something like raw genius, and it isn’t telepathy. It may be having a savant talent without the idiot part, or being able to spontaneously calculate and arrange molecular structure (always found with the crafting projective talent) or having genuine multitasking (the ability to process two or more streams of visual data or similar, a feat that humans don’t actually posess. Stop reading your kindle while driving! ).
There is no telepathy, though certain sensory talents can make you a human lie detector. There is no healing of other people (there is self-regeneration). There is no time travel (there is altered time interaction).
Why? Living things have biofield. Humans have a biofield several orders of magnitude denser than any lower creature. Projective powers won’t directly effect anything enclosed in a human-strength biofield. This field only extends out a millimeter above skin if that, so it’s minimal protection, but it does mean certain things just don’t work.
Talented humans occur at a rate of about 1 in 400, so they aren’t that rare. Most people know at least one, though most are very minor class 1s and class 2s (the Eagle was a class 7).
To see how this works, please check out a character study (full short story) I wrote on a villain.
As of right now it’s the only thing there. I’d post it here but it’s 6000 words. I would love to have y’alls thoughts, questions, suggestions and criticisms (and any praises) on the story as I’m still trying to figure out how to improve it.
Huh, sounds like a pretty cool premise you have. I especially like how you relate some of the powered chars to scientific feats, like making a colony on the moon. Pretty epic! : D How many class sevens/high level supers are there? Are they well-known or no? Will read the story in a bit : )
Class 2 is low physique plus a weak power or high-level physique.
Class 3 is high physique + one weak power or just a single strong power.
Class 4 is high phys + strong power, one extremely strong power or a moderate power suite.
Class 5 is an extremely strong, versatile power or a strong power suite.
Class 6 is a talent whose powers make them extremely difficult to stop by any conventional means (almost all defensive bases covered) while also allowing a profound effect on their surroundings. So, a weak person with perfect invincibility is not a class six, because they can still only effect their surrounding as much as the average human.
Class 7 is a talent with virtually unopposable powers and world shaking effectiveness. People usually get this or a class 6 six title by doing somthing ridiculous and getting away with it despite massive opposition.
I’ve only thought of a few class 7s so far. There aren’t supposed to be many because they can effectively overthrow governments if they feel like it. One of the ones that I have thought up is called Nexus. He is as physically strong as the Eagle was (3000 ton press), maybe a little faster, and posesses virtually perfect invulnerability. He doesn’t fly but he does project a continuous field in all directions that nullifies all projective talents. He can focus on a particular person within sight and damp, but not null, personal talents just a little.
Nexus works as a Public Appearance assassin. He tells the media who he’s going to kill before he does it and which week he’s going to do it. Lots of angsty teens worship him.
This is the first chapter of the novel I’m working on. It’s almost certainly going to get a heavy rewrite at some point, but I don’t think I’m going to change the overall feel. As you’ll notice at the end there spiritual elements in this chapter. They’re pretty much central to the whole novel.
Any input is much appreciated.
Her name was Tiffany Carol Winters. Even so, she could never remember a time when she had felt like Tiffany Carol Winters. It was such a happy name, like a Christmas tree covered in tinsel surrounded by grinning singers, and she was so far from being a happy person. Tiffany Carol had been her mother’s idea, taken from a time when there had been enough happiness in Mrs. Winters’ marriage to merit such a happy name for the baby. Now that the happiness was gone, the name only served as a reminder of how wrong Mrs. Winters’ marriage had gone, and every time Tiffany Carol Winters thought of the name her mother had given her she thought of how much she hated her father for ruining things. She hated the name and so it made sense that the only person who ever used her full name was her father.
When she was with friends she went by Carrie. With officials she was Carol if they gave her a choice, Tiffany by default. David had always called her Tiff to be different, but that was in the past now that he’d decided she couldn’t risk dating him. He still used the name but it wasn’t special anymore, just like she wasn’t special anymore. He had good reasons for breaking up with her, reasons even Carol had to admit were good, but it still hurt. It hurt even more seeing him with his new girl, a girl even Carol could see he had great reasons for being with.
A few team-ups could have been overlooked. After all, JrTTA shuttled its young members all over the place for training, so Cirrus from San Fran showing up alongside Valiant from Los Angeles wasn’t really a concern. However, when the two were caught kissing after stopping a high-powered bank robbery… that was a concern. It was the kind of concern that made the front cover of Teen Gossip eZine, showing up first thing on Carol’s ePad. Slender, sexy Cirrus in her sunrise-sky combat suit pressed up against strong, chiseled Valiant in the black and red outfit Carol had helped him design, helmet faceplates up and helmets locked together in a way that left no doubt what they were doing.
It had taken Carol five minutes to remember how to delete the thing. Five minutes while her fumbling clicks activated videos talking about how Cirrus had been voted THE young hero to watch this year and proclaiming that Cirrus and Valiant would make a perfect hero couple.
That wasn’t the worst part, though. The worst part came when David couldn’t understand why she, his ex-girlfriend, didn’t want to talk to him anymore. That had been unbearable. She had fled from that.
Now here she was, stuck under a store awning just barely out of the gloom and the rain, lost in a bad neighborhood somewhere near her downtown high school, cold and shivering as her long boring brown hair dripped down over her boring brown eyes and wondering if the rain was ever going to stop so she could figure out where she was and go home. At least there the abuse was expected. Also, there the abuse wouldn’t include getting knifed.
Considering herself a sensible girl, Carol finally pushed down her fears and went into a 7-11 to ask for directions. The Latino store clerk looked up from his homework and pulled an old city map down from a rack overhead. He admitted he didn’t have a clue how to get anywhere outside of his own neighborhood, but then he pointed out where they were on the map and helped Carol figure out her way home. She asked him why he hadn’t just searched it on the web and he blushed before telling her his computer privileges had been restricted.
The boy then asked her why she didn’t call home and ask for a ride and it was Carol’s turn to blush and lie about how both her parents would still be at work. That was better than telling the truth that she would never tell her parents they needed to come pick her up. Before he could ask any more questions she left.
Outside she found the rain had let up to a drizzle and she glanced around to get her final bearings. Behind her rose the brightly lit spires of central Los Angeles, by far the largest of several hubs rising from the vast sea of buildings filling the LA basin. Wound among the glow of the skyscrapers was the glitter of the skyway, a 30-story high walkway much like the one completed in Manhattan two years earlier, just unfinished in this case. Construction had started in 2019 and was set to be completed in late 2025. As it was only about to be 2024 there was still a lot of work to go, but the parts that were done had already become a popular place for pedestrians.
Last semester, during her sophomore year, Carol had been thrilled to take a tour of the skyway construction site with David, but now it was just another part of the city and she was more concerned with the dark alleys she would have to cross on her way home. Still, it was beautiful and deserved a moment’s longing look.
When she set out she walked fast and made sure to keep to the best lit areas, away from the alley openings. Blocks went by that way with no one else in sight and it wasn’t until she heard the splash of wheels coming to a stop behind her that she realized the alleys weren’t the only place danger could come from.
She was already running before the door of the van opened beside her and would have made it away if one of the men jumping out hadn’t caught a handful of her hair and pulled her up short. She was also brought up short on her scream a moment later when one of the men slapped a gloved hand over her mouth. She tried to fight but was quickly restrained by six strong hands attached to brains smart enough to use zip-ties on her arms and legs. A gag was placed over her mouth and some kind of cold metal device pressed against her neck. She felt a sharp pinch. This was followed by a minute of silence while the men stared at what the device had to tell them. One of them grunted.
“She’ll do. The boss wanted us back an hour ago so get her in the van.”
“Are you sure, Ben?” another one said. “She’s really pretty and I hate to think what’s gonna happen to her.”
“If she’s out here, Rog’, nobody’ll miss her,” another man said. “Let’s just get her in the van and we can talk about what a sicko you are later.”
“Do it!” the first man said.
And with that she felt those six strong hands lifting her into the dark interior of the van where she was laid on a long seat and buckled down. Scared and finding it hard to breathe with a gag in her mouth she soon slid into complete darkness.
She woke up strapped into a metal chair in a cold room with white walls and polished concrete floors. Chemical apparati and computers were scattered all around. Directly ahead she recognized a spectroscope like the one from the high school physics lab, only newer and much more expensive. Several medical monitors surrounded the chair she was in and most of them appeared to be hooked up to her body, which was now clad only in her underwear. A cool breeze on her scalp told her they had shaved off her hair and she was sure she felt more sensors up there.
She struggled against her bonds for a moment but it was half-hearted. The straps looked like they were made of the same nano-carbon weave that supported the skyway and probably could have held someone who thought that rebar made a nice twist-tie.
The sound of paper being flipped on a clipboard made her jump in place and the restraints dug in painfully. A moment later an old woman in a lab coat walked around in front of her and studied the placement of the pin receptors stuck in her head. Most people would have pleaded with the woman to let them go, or made threats or told lies about their importance, but Carol picked up an air about the woman that told her she had already dismissed Carol’s humanity and wasn’t going to budge on the issue, so she stayed silent while the woman fiddled with the sensors.
“Well, aren’t you going to ask me to let you go home or somesuch?” the scientist said when she was done.
“You’re not going to so why should I?”
“It never hurts to ask,” the scientist said.
“Will you let me go, please?”
The scientist smiled to herself and gave one of the sensors another tweak. “Maybe after we’re done here. But first, you’re going to help me test out a new drug I’ve been working on for the world market. If it works you’ll be the most popular girl at school in no time.”
“I don’t want…”
“Oh come now, everyone wants to be better, especially superhero better. That’s why I have a job.”
That snuffed any glimmer of hope out of Carol. “I’m not going to survive this, am I?”
“Probably not,” the scientist said, “But the test needs to be done, so you can at least be comforted in knowing that your life serves some purpose.”
Carol slumped in the chair. She’d considered killing herself before, but now that she was actually faced with death, it didn’t look so appealing. Then again, what else did she have to look forward to beyond her father yelling at her and her ex-boyfriend smiling with his new girlfriend?
“Will it hurt?”
“Oh yes, terribly,” the scientist said as she pulled an injection pistol out of one large pocket and placed it on Carol’s neck over the carotid artery.
She heard the old woman chuckle. Then there was a click and a shriek of air blasted the liquid from the vial into her artery with a painful rush. For a moment she felt her neck aching from the injection. That sensation was overwhelmed in the next moment as her whole nervous system told her she was on fire. At some point she lost consciousness again, but it was only after her voice had gone silent from too much screaming.
She woke up again as she was dropped onto dirt and wet pine straw. Nothing seemed to be restraining her arms and legs, but her muscles didn’t want to move and she still burned all over. Her stomach also felt horribly queasy, like it was going to turn itself out at any moment if it could only remember how. She tried to move and her head exploded with pain, but all that emerged when she tried to scream was a faint croak. Close by she heard breathing and the low rumble of the men who’d grabbed her speaking.
“I told ya it was a shame what was going to happen to her, Ben.”
“And I told you you’re a sicko, Rog’.”
“It’s not like that, Ben. I got a sister her age…”
“Shut up,” a third man said and Carol heard the sound of a pistol being racked. “Get that hole dug.”
The other men grumbled and attacked the dirt with shovels while Carol shivered on the cold ground. Her body didn’t seem to be working right at all, as she could see herself sweating in the cold air, although it was hard to tell with her eyesight blurring in and out. She knew she should feel cold surrounded by so much cold, and the shivering made it obvious that her body knew it was cold, but every part of her still felt like it was on fire, only now it was a slow fire, a pile of embers glowing on the remains of her flesh. She liked that bit of imagery, even though it was her own body she was thinking about. It occurred to her that there had to be something wrong with her brain as well. She knew she was dying, even without the man waiting to put a bullet in her head, but she found it hard to care. That bit made sense. Soon the pain would be over and it would all be alright.
“Hello there!” came a man’s voice from off in the night. “How’re you guys doing?”
She heard the man holding the gun curse and the other two drop their shovels. They pulled out their own guns but Carol was surprised to hear the first shot come from the direction of the hailing voice, followed by a rustling thud as the leader slumped onto the pinestraw. The other two scrambled into the van and drove off before any more shots came and Carol was left shivering and confused. For a moment she wondered if David had come to rescue her but David never used guns. He wasn’t old enough to use a gun. Then there were two people kneeling over her and a woman’s voice saying,
“Can you hear me?”
Carol tried to respond but only managed another soft whimper. She felt two fingers testing the pulse on her wrist and then heard a man saying,
“Her pulse is wild. We have to get her to the car.”
“I’ll get it, you bring her toward the house,” the woman said.
Carol felt a pair of arms under her shoulders and knees hoisting her off the ground. Then the man carrying her was running. Up ahead Carol saw a person vanishing into the gloom. The woman, running to get the car. She expected a lot of jouncing but the man carrying her ran as if she weighed nothing. She remembered that David had been able to run like that when carrying her.
This man wasn’t David though. He didn’t smell like him, for one. David had always smelled like Axe antiperspirant and the smoke from burning buildings. This man smelled more like metal and coffee. She knew that because her face was resting against his shoulder. She found it odd that her sense of smell was still so clear while the rest of her body was going haywire.
Then she heard the sound of something big rolling over the pinestraw and bright headlights flashed across her. A door opened and someone jumped out of the vehicle, then another door opened and the man lifted her into the back seat, which was also odd because Carol had thought a car would be shorter. Seatbelts were snapped down over her and a moment later the car was rolling through the woods. She didn’t realize how fast it was going until she heard the wheels hit road and the driver drifted the car through a 90 degree turn, tires screeching.
“Deb, slow down,” the man said.
“No time, Dean,” Deb replied as she continued to drift through turns.
Carol tried to listen to them as they talked, but it was becoming harder to concentrate and eventually she let go of it all and fell into blackness once more.
This time when she woke she was on something soft, she smelled disinfectant, and no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t make her eyes focus on anything. All she could make out was the pale blue of the ceiling. She heard people talking nearby, more new voices.
“…nervous system is shutting down. Whatever they gave her, it’s going to kill her. I give her an hour at best. Are you her parents?”
She thought that man sounded like a doctor. He sounded sad and tired.
“No. We were out for a walk in Cantwell Park and we saw some men digging a grave for her. Deb shot one of them and the other two ran off. She had no ID…”
That sounded like the man who had carried her. Dean.
“This is terrible… can you run a database check? We have to contact her parents…”
That was Deb. Carol searched for a word to describe her voice. Distraught. She tried to smile when she found the word, but her face wouldn’t move.
“Unless she has a criminal record, she won’t be in there…”
That was the doctor again. Carol knew she didn’t have a criminal record. She had never done anything. Except being thrown off a building by some Crips…
Somewhere something was whining in a very annoying voice and someone was yelling “Get the defib!” Carol felt hands again and then agony exploded across her chest repeatedly. The whining went away but she was still fading. The last voice she heard was Dean.
Yayyy first chapter! Sorry for taking awhile before reading it, I’ve been busy with school and art and randomly taping people to things. (That happened at our school once to a teacher. Whack stuff, man.) Anyway, I love reading the stories people have on this site, so. :3 HERE WE GO~
* I like your opening with her name, ’cause it shows a lot about Tiffany Winters and the little details you add, like “Christmas tree covered in tinsel,” really characterized the name. However I feel like near the end you go into her backstory and family history way too quickly. You could probably slip those into the story later much more smoothly.
* “He had good reasons for breaking up with her, reasons even Carol had to admit were good, but it still hurt…” More of the backstory stuff. Although backstory is okay (sometimes) if you put too much at the beginning you risk confusing your reader. Is there a reason the readers need to know all the info about her family and her ex-boyfriend from the get-go?
* “A few team-ups could have been overlooked.” In the paragraph following this sentence I’m a kuttke confused as to what’s going on. JrTTA? Cirrus? Valiant?
* I like how you use the description of L.A. to slowly move into this big walkway and then establish that the setting is about ~20 years in the future, The transitions are all nice and smooth here. And btw, futuristic stories = awesome. : )
* “If she’s out here, Rog’, nobody’ll miss her.” This line is creepy but I really love it, it does wonders in telling me about the setting.
* “Well, aren’t you going to ask me to let you go home or somesuch?” xDD Scientist gets a lot of… ‘patients’ like this, eh?
* I’m a little confused by this scientist, though. Is she just being open with Carol, or is she legit insane and revealing her plans just for fun/is trying to freak Carol out?
* “It’s not like that, Ben. I got a sister her age…” I like how one of the criminals is doubting this, it gives a more human aspect to ‘em.
* Near the end of the chapter, I started to feel like you jump from scene to scene real fast and although your transitions are good and clear, there’s been at least three scenes in this chapter with the character passing out and waking up in new places and it feels a bit sudden to me.
* “Except being thrown off a building by some Crips…” Gangbangers have randomly attacked her before?
I like where you’re going with this, though, you’ve definitely combined a ton of genres–looks like superhero, crime/action, sci-fi, romance and possibly mystery all rolled up in one! That’s pretty cool. 8D
Thank you very much for your thoughts, Myna. I really appreciate it.
I can definitely see how there is too much info all at once. I know I’ll need to rewrite many of the chapters at some point (I rather dread it) and working on the flow of this one is going to be a must.
I will definitely try to trim the personal info down a little so it isn’t all at once.
I’ll also try to put in a little more info on what JrTTA is (Junior Talent Training Agency, a Federally funded program that helps get teens who manifest talents, aka superpowers, into safe, legitimate channels) and who Cirrus and Valiant are and how these things are connected. I do want there to be enough questions to help keep the reader moving, though, so if you can help me figure out where the line between mystery and confusion is I will be very grateful.
F.Y.I. Valiant is David, the boyfriend, and the reason Carol got thrown off a building by some Crips, which is the reason David broke up with Carol, which is eventually the reason why she’s stupidly wandering through the barrios of L.A. in a rainstorm.
The scientist IS insane, in that she’s effectively a sociopath, or at least someone who doesn’t see anything wrong with experimenting on humans if it advances her work. Carol herself is not interesting to her as a human, but the fact that Carol, unlike so many other patients, is NOT screaming or begging does make Carol an anomaly, which IS interesting to the scientist.
I was actually thinking of ditching Roger for someone who sounded a little more serious, but now I’ll keep him, maybe with a little tuning. I’m glad you like him.
I am definitely thinking I’ll have to do something about the passing out. There is much too much of it in the whole of the novel so far. It’s convenient in some ways, but I’m overusing it, and there are places where I actually need it.
* “I do want there to be enough questions to help keep the reader moving, though, so if you can help me figure out where the line between mystery and confusion is I will be very grateful.” Generally I feel like there should be enough that the reader understands the basic gist of the situation (so you might want to establish what the JrTTA and such are, but briefly) while still being curious (you could stir up some interest about the JrTTA by saying something that hints they aren’t normal supers, etc.)
Her backstory was the only part I think you need to cut down on, and the JrTTA elaborate a bit more, in my opinion. Everything else is pretty-well explained and it was very easy to follow what was going on in the story while still being curious, like wondering why the mad scientist wanted her.
Here is a world-introduction I have been working on for my superhero story universe.
Some notes to the reader about the world Carol lives in. The Earth you know is not the Earth she knows. Sure there are a lot of similarities. A lot. Most Americans still shop at a Wal-Mart at least once a month, for one. But there are also a lot of differences. By 2023, when Carol gets her powers, some of them are pretty major. After all, this Earth has had people with superpowers since the 1950s. This Earth has had the Eagle.
So what are some of the big ones? Well, a good one to start with is Mexico. Mexico is no longer a country that any sane individual visits for a vacation, except for specific resort towns along the coast that have a protection agreement with the Narco-Aristocracy that runs the country. That’s right. Around 2000 there was a talent-powered overthrow of the legitimate Mexican government headed by the drug lords infesting the country, all grown fat and powerful on money from selling cocaine and other drugs to poor US Americans. They shouldn’t have been able to do it, but they were the ones who got their hands on the most, and best, talents. Current U.S. President Michael Amado, A.K.A. the Eagle, would have invaded and set things right, but the new Mexican government managed to scrape together just enough legitimacy with the UN that world officials asked to see how the “new leadership” would turn out for the country.
Instead of invading, President Amado closed the border and used the disaster to drive through the comprehensive immigration reform he had been looking for. 10 million or so illegal aliens became citizens and no more. Gaining U.S. citizenship became much easier, getting into the country illegally much harder. Especially if you tried to cross over from Mexico. President Amado closed U.S. military bases around the world and opened twenty new bases along the U.S. Mexico border. Those bases are fully staffed, heavily armed and thoroughly fortified.
Further south, Colombia is actually a popular tourist spot now, owing to a superpowered Jesuit who went on a mad rampage after some druglords slaughtered the village he was tending to. The murderers left him for dead. He survived and became twice as fast, as strong as five men and able to call firestorms from thin air. He burned the cocaine lords out of the country almost singlehandedly. When the last of them were gone, he disappeared, though the common people still believe that he is somewhere in Colombia, waiting in case the wicked men should return. They call him ” Fuego de Dios” and raised a statue in the capitol to honor him, paid for with donated funds.
Even further south Brazil is something just short of a gleaming utopia. Shortly after Michael Amado became the President of the United States, one of his long time compatriots Fillipe Santana, aka Tempest (or Tempestade in Portuguese), moved back to his native country of Brazil. There he ran for office and set up a system of talent employment and recruitment similar to the one in the United States. Crime rates dropped. Talented labor flocked to the country. Brazil set up a talent-driven space launching business. High-tech companies came soon after that. By 2024 now President Fillipe Santana is on his third term. He visits Michael Amado’s grave in Virginia once every year and ties between the US and Brazil remain close.
Another huge difference between our Earth and Carol’s is the state of space exploration. In Carol’s Earth the US had a space station the size of the international space station by 1978. The first efforts at colonizing the moon started in 1989 in a project secretly driven by Christian missionaries who also happened to be scientists. Construction on the Earth/Moon L1 wheel station began in 1995 and finished in 2002 shortly after President Amado’s murder. The country renamed it Eagle Station in his honor. The colonists on the moon renamed their capitol Amado city for the same reason. By 2024 not only are both Eagle station and Amado city bustling with activity, but there are also over 5 civilian accessible spacestations in orbit around the Earth, owned by various countries or corporate conglomerates, with construction on the United State’s newest civilian accessible station, scheduled to be the largest in history so far, almost finished. There are many more stations besides those that are military or purely scientific. It isn’t yet for everyone, but by 2024 anyone in Carol’s world can not only visit space if they have the money, but live there if they have the necessary skills to land a job. Luna even accepts immigrants on a limited basis, adding to their growing population of over 200,000.
Manufacturing and materials have some major differences. Conservative estimates put the number of talents in the world at 17.5 million (as of 2020 AD) with almost 2 million of those believed to live in the USA thanks to aggressive military and corporate recruitment programs. Of those 17.5 million about 150,000, or almost 1 percent, are crafters, capable of arranging the atoms of almost any physical matter they lay their hands on into almost any configuration they can imagine. Because of this crafting is considered the most common projective talent, though it is also one of the few projective talents that almost never appears in conjunction with any other talent except for basic physique. While many crafters can only alter the physical shape of material and not its molecular configuration, others can replicate complex molecular configurations that they have felt before, such as medicines and carbon fullerenes, and some can even create complex molecular configurations, allowing materials that scientists have theorized about but have yet to actually manufacture with conventional means (such as various metamaterials and smart materials).
This has many implications.
For one, diamonds and many other rare gemstones are worth considerably less by 2023 AD as a majority of crafters can replicate the relatively simple molecular structure of these materials with ease. One artistic crafter has even made life-size statues of pure diamond out of soot, examples of which are perched all over Greenville, South Carolina. Crafters who specialize in making jewelry rarely even bother to purchase gemstones of any kind, rather keeping jars of powdered raw material around for forming as necessary. This fact has seriously damaged the economies of countries that relied on their gem mines for funds.
For another, firearms are impossible to keep out of any country with capable crafters in it who have had the opportunity to examine a real firearm with bare hands. One of the best crafters in the world demonstrated the ability to take a block of raw steel and transform it into a fully-functioning automatic rifle in just ten minutes with no guidance beyond a set of printed schematics. Of course, crafters with this level of talent who are also willing to break the law are relatively rare and seldom work for cheap, so most illegal weapons are still made in a factory somewhere and acquired through black market channels.
A third major implication is in recycling. Though crafters cannot singlehandedly recycle enough materials to make a large impact on industrial manufacturing, they can reclaim the most expensive materials, such as rare earths and exotic elements, from items that are too difficult for industrial means. Because of this, many innovative crafters rely on discarded electronics and other trash for the raw elements they need in their projects.
A fourth implication, and perhaps the most important, is that crafters have made possible in small numbers advanced technologies that could not otherwise exist. Powerful militaries rely on crafters for making super-tough powered armor that can withstand the brute force attacks of powerful talents, as well as for making blades that won’t break in the hands of someone as strong as the Eagle and manportable railguns that won’t wear out and won’t tear apart from the force of their own shots. Most civilian, industrial, scientific and military equipment is still made in a factory somewhere, but the best of it is made by crafters.
–Generally, when a character is doing internal monologues (like “I’m going to get caught and I’m going to go to juvie”) in a third-person narration, I’d recommend italicizing the monologues.
–”I’m going to get caught and I’m going to go to juvie” could maybe be shortened to “I’m going to get caught and go to juvie” or just “I’m going to juvie.”
–”All she had to do was… back up.” I feel the ellipsis here is a bit awkward.
–”Hands to the wall, and, phase in.” What would you think about “Hands to the wall, phase in” here? (I feel that cutting “and” improves the flow more than an “and” with commas on both ends). Or, possibly, “Hands to the wall. Phase in”?
–”Hands to the wall, and, phase in. Tori let her talent take over, doing for her what was impossible for most any other human. The atoms of her body slipped between the atoms of the wall like they weren’t there.” I’d like more of an experience here. Please see #3 here for more details.
–”She had only had the ability for a month and she was still getting the hang of it.” I feel like the above description could do a better job showing that she’s new to this. For example, maybe she messes up a little bit or almost has some sort of disaster. Also, especially if this is a relatively new experience for her, I’d recommend playing up the experience (please see the above paragraph), which will make this feel like a more novel experience for her. (If I could use a real-world example, a first-time driver might spend paragraphs describing things like struggling to get the key in the ignition and the experience of driving, but for an experienced driver it’d probably be closer to something like “I drove off”).
–I don’t know what the backstory of this character is like, but one thing that sticks out to me is that she’s had a power that sounds somewhat tricky to use and she’s already using it in a situation that could get her time in juvie. That makes it sound like she’s something of a risk-taker. On the other hand, she sounded pretty nervous when she started worrying that “I’m going to get caught and I’m going to go to juvie.” There seems to be a discrepancy here and, at this point where I know very little about the character, I feel I’m having trouble reconciling the two. (One possible explanation is that the timing here is not her preferred choice–she would have waited longer, but for whatever reason she didn’t have time to sit around practicing).
–”Tori couldn’t hear his steps, as the sound vibrations had to interact with the matter of her body to be heard, but she could feel them go through the space she occupied. It wasn’t quite hearing, but it was almost as good and it would have to do while she was embedded in the wall.” I like this tangent–it introduces an interesting limitation on her ability–but I’m not sure the first sentence feels like it’s in the same voice as the rest of the chapter.
–”Please keep going. I can’t breathe!” This strikes me as an interesting personality cue. The character is more or less helpless here, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything to change that (or work on contingency plans). If it were me, I’d like to think that I’d be thinking about “If he doesn’t keep going, I’m totally _________,” maybe trying desperately to surprise and knock out the guard or phasing up, breathing and trying to phase back even though he might see me.
“They’d all seen plenty of weirder things on a Saturday afternoon.” Very probably true. I’ve heard some bizarre stories from friends out in Silicon Valley–e.g. P. Mac got delayed from the airport because a homeless guy that thought he was an FBI agent stormed the bus. I’d almost go so far as to guess that they’d seen weirder things THAT Saturday afternoon.
“she had watched five different spy movies that week to get ready”–this does not exactly inspire confidence, but I love this detail. It shows us something about her mindset and preparation. That said, I’m thinking juvie sounds more and more likely.
“Xerox copier”–I’d recommend replacing with “copy machine.” (Brand-neutrality isn’t a huge deal, but one advantage is that it helps the story stay current even if Xerox folds 10 years from now).
“talent-theory forum.” Not sure I understand this. There are websites for people with superpowers? Or are we talking about some other kinds of talents? On the plus side, I appreciate that you mentioned her room at the Academy a few paragraphs before. That suggests to me that there are more people with superpowers, which makes it easier to visualize that, yes, we are talking about a website with a lot of superpowered people.
I don’t feel this is a problem, myself, but I’ve seen some readers complain before about unintuitive substitutes for the word “superpower.” I get the impression that “talent” is used as this universe’s version of “superpowers,” but it’s not really clear so far. (That talent website COULD have been about superpowers, but it could also have been about actual talents such as lock-picking. In-story, it’s not very clear what she got out of that website).
“How hard would it be to wipe her fingerprints off all the file tabs?” I’m not 100% sure this feels consistent with her actions. If she had realized that fingerprints might be a problem, why isn’t she wearing gloves? As an alternate possibility, she strikes me as someone that has no experience breaking in places and hasn’t spoken to anyone that has*. It strikes me as very possible that she would belatedly realize that she should have been wearing gloves the whole time.
*I’m 100% sure that I would make similar mistakes in her situation, but I would at least try to set up jail interviews with a few criminals first. Then again, I’m old enough to pose as an ACLU legal assistant or a newspaper reporter. One advantage of age is the ability to more thoroughly research criminal techniques.
“Turk street.” I would recommend capitalizing Street here.
“They weren’t even nice trees.” Haha. This feels very believable for the character, although I can’t even imagine what a not-nice tree would look like. I’m such a guy.
I’m personally not a fan of number-based classification systems to show which mutants/talents are the most powerful. (E.g. Dragonball Z’s power ratings: “IT’S OVER 9000!”) That said, I like “Class 5 meant she had probably heard of him.” That line effectively establishes how special that designation is and adds a detail about the father that is much more interesting than his race or height.
I’d recommend being consistent on capitalization and numbering. “even those were mostly made up of class 3s and 4s”–I’d recommend writing out threes and fours since that’s consistent with the rest of the chapter. Also, Talents is generally not capitalized in the chapter, but is capitalized in “Class five Talents.”
How many class fives are there? If there are few enough that she’s probably heard of him, she could probably narrow it down quite a bit just by weeding out any class 5s that aren’t Hispanic males around 6 feet tall.
“He would have been out fighting when the Eagle was still alive.” IF the Eagle secretly turns out to be the father, I think this is an awkward way to introduce him. (If that’s what you’re going for, I’d recommend mentioning him as just one of several superheroes to help keep readers from getting too suspicious about why you’re mentioning him specifically).
I really like the detail that he checked off the box that he does not want to be revealed to the children when they turn 18 years old. It suggests an element of conflict that I wasn’t expecting.
I’m having trouble relating to this character’s mind-set. I was raised by my biological parents, so I don’t have first-hand experience with her desire to see her biological father even though she already has a real (adoptive) father. I think it might help me relate to her if her motivation were clearer. For example, maybe she has some burning desire to see where she came from and/or finish that part of her past and/or open that part of her past. Maybe she has some pressing problem related to her superpowers (or something else that the father would have first-hand knowledge about), but for whatever reason she’s not getting answers from anybody else. (For example, I imagine that most doctors experienced with treating talents would be government-employed, so it might be hard to get a straight answer if the agency is hiding something from her. Another possibility would be finding a doctor that used to work for the agency or has some other experience with talents but is not currently working for the agency).
“Hopefully no one would notice her walking back onto campus without a car anywhere in sight.” Why would this be a problem? Does this school frown upon the use of superpowers? (I thought it was a school for talents?)
I’m not very enthusiastic about bully antagonists, because I feel they’re usually one-dimensional and not very physically threatening to superpowered characters, but I think it helps that the threat here is something besides getting beaten up.
I’m still working on the rest of the chapter, but this should help you get started.
Thanks alot for the comments B. Mac. I just went over the first part of the story and worked them in where I could.
I’m glad she comes off as almost clueless. Tori’s almost fourteen and though she’s pretty smart she’s still just a 14-year old American girl from an upper-middle class family.
I’m thinking hard about the character issues and I’m pretty sure her complete family/life situation explains why she is alternately impulsive then passive, but I’m not sure I’ve shown enough in the story.
One of the most important things about her at this point, however, is that her identity is in flux. Not only is she at the age for that, but she’s also having a rough time at boarding school and is looking, desperately, for some place to fit in and something to help her figure out who she is.
Myna, definitely looking forward to your thoughts.
I like the name Nexus even though it doesn’t sound much like a exhibitionist assassin.
This strikes me as bizarre, but I’ll say it anyway: the superpowered assassin (as currently used) feels like something of a distraction from the drama between the ladies. It might help to cut back on extraneous details (like Nexus’ logo, the description of the iPad, some of the description of the poster and Nexus’ uniform, etc).
“The girl wouldn’t know gangsta if it mugged her.” I like this line.
“Tori heard the first three bars of Citrine’s ‘Golden Girl’ play…” I have no idea what this is or what it would show about the character. Also, the way the word “play” is used here, it suggests to me that we’re actually talking about a theater’s play rather than music playing). If we’re talking about music, I’d recommend cutting the word “play” because it’s grammatically correct that she heard the first three bars of Citrine’s “Golden Girl.”
Brand neutrality… In 10 years, will we have iPads? (Cases in point: Napster, AOL, Yahoo and maybe Alta Vista were once big deals but have imploded so thoroughly that they’d feel out of place now, even though it’s been less than a decade). For example, if a story had someone logging into AOL, it’d probably be pretty easy to guess that it had been written in 2000, give or take 5-10 years.
The website allows people to search by race, height and weight? For dramatic reasons, I’d recommend raising the obstacles. Also, I’m not sure that feels believable. (If I could offer athletes or actors as the sort of mega-celebrities closest to how superheroes are depicted in most superhero stories, I’ve never personally encountered a website that allowed for searching for actors or athletes by race or height/weight). Power level feels totally believable, though. I’d recommend making her work more for this. Maybe she does a search by PL and then weeds out candidates based on spot judgments (most superheroes show at least SOME skin, especially around the mouth*, so it strikes me as plausible she’d be able to guess race there). Also, since this is an international database, they might have a category for country of origin. It makes sense to me that she’d probably be most interested in talents in the U.S. (I mean, I guess it’s possible that he left the country after siring some kids, but that strikes me as pretty remote).
*In the world of comic books, I think this is mainly because it helps illustrators show emotion. In-story, I once saw it justified as something that helps make the hero feel more human and less criminal.
“Fuego de Dios. An excommunicated Jesuit monk considered responsible for single-handedly burning the Colombian drug cartels out of that country in the early 90s. Pretty sure that’s a no.” Based on what? (I mean, umm, are any of these guys going to have ordinary backgrounds?)
Could I recommend a more specific phrase than “guardian team”?
“Near-invulnerable telekinetic… killed during the Narco-Aristocracy takeover in 2000.” Oh, near-invulnerability. You’re never as good as the real thing.
Who is Pam? (I had assumed that she was the protagonist’s mother, but “Pam and her mother” shot that theory to pieces). Is one the biological mother and the other the adoptive mother? (Which is which?) Alternately, is “her mother” Pam’s mother? [UPDATE: Ah, I later realized--in the first conversation with Andrew--that Pam and the mother are lovers. That's definitely not the first interpretation that comes to my mind, but I guess the San Francisco setting should help readers make the connection... With that family background in mind, the "dyke" remark from the bully at school makes more sense because I wasn't sure where that came from].
“She wasn’t that much of a bitch. No. She is.” I like this hesitation. In this situation, it strikes me as pretty believable that she wouldn’t know exactly what to think.
“The Public Agent Identity Protection Act at work.” This could possibly be shortened. Maybe something like “Talent ID Act” or “Guardian Identity Protection Act.”
“Keisha, I will break you and feed you to your fantasy boyfriend if you don’t shut up right now.” I like this.
I feel like there might be a discrepancy between the superheroes getting secret identities where the secrecy is enforced by law and the support staff is just listed on a website with names and pictures. (Also, again, I’d like to see her working harder–one possibility is that it’s harder for her to find the relevant information because the official websites will probably focus mainly on the CURRENT team/staff, rather than people that had worked there 10 years ago. (Rough analogue: I can easily find out who was on the Chicago Bulls 10 years ago, but it’d be extremely difficult to find out who the physical trainers were back then).
From there she had become the chief technician for the West Coast Guardians, responsible for keeping their high-tech, crafter-made gear in good repair.
Okay, so I’m personally very excited about information searches myself, but I suspect that this scene (up until the point where she gets the address) could probably be shortened (especially if other readers are reporting that it isn’t capturing their interest).
The proofreading’s solid across the board. Embarassed should be embarrassed, but I think that’s the only spelling mistake I’ve seen so far.
“Where are they right now?” she said. “The children are around back with their father.” Hmm. I’d recommend double-checking this with some other ladies. Is it believable that the mother would respond so helpfully to someone asking a rather random personal question? (I might be reading too much into this, but maybe it could also be interpreted as a dig at the mother, like “Why aren’t you with them?”)
He has fans come by? How did they figure it out?
I felt like there could have been more tension in the Cecilia-Tori scene. Maybe Tori actually starts to walk away and Cecilia initially lets her walk away but stops her just before she flies away and says or does something that convinces her to stick around. Right now, I feel like the only indispensable thing in this scene is that Cecilia looks at the papers Andrew signed and says that he isn’t that guy anymore. There’s a lot of information that I feel does not have much bearing on her mission to see her father. (For example, she can find out about the kids from Andrew himself, right?)
“Come on. Do this girl.” She’s addressing this sentence to “girl,” so there should be a comma before girl. Otherwise, this sentence means something very, umm, different.
“How did you get from my name to here? IPB had all my information hidden pretty well last time I checked.” Is this consistent with the detail about young fans sometimes coming by?
“That’s very impressive. You’d make a good detective.” Well, it’s not like they were hiding it. Some of the pictures showed them hugging and stuff and someone uploaded those pictures to the Internet. I don’t think it would have been very hard to guess that they were romantically involved. (One possibility would be that they were only pictured doing things that MIGHT be intimate, like her whispering in his ear while he’s smiling). I think the trip to Napa would be more interesting if we don’t know for sure that Cecilia is married to Andrew. (The uncertainty strikes me as dramatic).
“one of my mom’s”… I’d recommend cutting the apostrophe here. Except for grades in school (A’s, B’s, F’s, etc), I can’t think of anything that takes on an apostrophe when it gets pluralized.
“permission from one of your mothers” could be “permission from a parent”
I finished reading it! : D I don’t have a critique for you, although I really liked the piece! It was pretty cool how she was looking for her dad and finally ended up finding him. The part in the middle where she realized, in the paper, that he didn’t want her to know he existed… I was like poor Tori! That would be pretty rough. But she’s like a little detective, hahaha.
Also, Tori’s jabs at Keisha are hilarious. xD
Quick question, though. Her full name is Satori Asano, right? Why does she have a Japanese last name if she’s not ethnically Japanese (she’s like, Hispanic/Italian, right?) I can understand her having a Japanese last name if her adopters were Japanese, but why a Japanese first name as well? It’s not really a big deal, it just confused me a bit. :3 Awesome story!
What you just read is a complete draft of a short story. Tori is one of the supporting characters from the novel I’m writing. I’m doing short stories on each of the major characters so I can really learn them and their lives, as well as bring the world to life in my head.
I finished the rewrite of the short story. I think it is considerably better now. I tried sending you the word file (so you can read it with the italics all intact) but the contact form isn’t working for me.
If you get me an email address I’ll send it to you direct.
Myna, same goes for you. If you get me an email address I’ll send you the new and improved version.
I’m working on another short story. This one looks like it’s going to be even longer than those previous. However, it should fall into distinct sections, so I’m posting the first section here for thoughts and to see if I’ve finally hit on a good voice. I had to delete and rewrite the first page four times before I got something I could live with.
Sakha Republic, Russia
February 18th, 1987 A.D.
X57 crouched in the snow, a white ghost in a world of gray, well hidden under a continual fall of fine powder. As he held still, studying the campsite down the hillside ahead of him, he felt the cold beginning to creep through his thick clothing again. The cold was always there in the taiga, hunting him more surely than the woman he was chasing, closing in if he was still for more than a few minutes.
He shivered, wishing for the milder climate of the base in Alaska, and started down the hill, weaving between the larch trees in a low, silent jog. He scanned his surroundings as he moved, taking in trees, fallen branches, smooth snow, animal tracks, footprints. He paused twenty paces from the campsite, little more than a pallet of larch branches tucked under the lee side of an overhanging hill and covered with a piece of white tarp, and sniffed the air.
Plenty of larch scent, sharp like pine and fir. Rabbit, lemming and mouse as well. The scent marks of a male Arctic Fox. Wolf marks as well, and one living wolf close by. Same one as before, still following him. Human scat, well buried but recently so. A food bar, something with cherries and wheat. Cordite, gun oil and steel.
And Her. Sweat, skin oil and pheromones, all of it screaming confident female human. Very much like Deb, back in Alaska, and yet different as well. Muskier. Wilder.
He had been tracking her scent for nine days, ever since she blew up the boat that would have taken him home along with the rest of his team. The response hadn’t been unexpected. After all, three days before that they had blown up the science base that had probably been her home her whole life, along with the scientists and other experimentals who had probably been the closest thing she had to a family. It was only a fluke that this one girl hadn’t been in the base with them when the whole thing went up.
His team had accounted for the possibility of survivors, but they hadn’t expected someone as stealthy as she was. Five anti-tank mines and a pound of c4 with nails driven into it, all carefully planted on and around a guarded motor boat during daylight, all detonated just as the last team member was boarding. Only X57 had survived because only he was immune to such things. Shrapnel, plasma and most of the concussion had went around him rather than through him, while what remained had tossed him over the dock and into the snow.
He had lain in a daze for an unknown time. When he sat up she had fired three shots at his head. They had all gone around. He felt their course, picked out where they had come from, and found her trail as soon as he could walk again.
She had fired no more bullets after that. Instead she had tried explosives, mines, traps and sneaking up on him in the night. She had barely gotten away from that last attempt, and that only because he couldn’t actually see her.
That night had explained her stealth. She was genuinely, truly invisible. In the dim light filtering through the cloudss he had seen her steps appearing in the snow when she moved, but not her body or the rifle she was carrying. The muzzle flashes had appeared in midair, but the gun itself had remained nonexistant.
Still, invisible was not intangible. She left a trail and that trail had led him to where he was now, less than twenty paces from where she slept. Surely she would not be here now. She had evaded him too many times already to hold out hope.
However, he had to check.
He slid down next to a tree, slowed his breathing and picked out the details of the campsite, looking for the traps that had to be there. After three minutes of patient scanning he was confident he had all the traps she had placed. Three tripwires, four ground mines and what had to be a classic steel-jaw bear trap, all very well hidden initially and further obscured by the gentle snowfall.
X57 evaded the traps and crept over the snow to the pallet. The last three steps were made without breathing and he drew his knife without a sound as he knelt over the humped form covered by the tarp.
No motion, no breath. She wasn’t there, but she had been recently.
He checked for traps and then pulled back the tarp, exposing a compacted pile of snow roughly the size and length of the girl. A glint caught his eye and he saw what appeared to be piece of foil, folded neatly into a square and stuck on top of the pile.
He reached for it slowly, pulled it off the pile and felt the momentary resistance as a thin wire attached to the foil pulled a pin loose from something underneath.
Time slowed for him as he lunged to the side. He felt a thump and heard the roar as white fire fountained from the pallet. He took a step away from the fire and leaped over a mine.
Four more thumps. Four more explosions of fire.
He dove as trails of fire cut through the air in every direction. Some came at him, but bent around.
He hit the ground. Snow was melting all around him.
He looked up and saw fire in every direction. Ravenous heat clawed at his face.
Oxygen was quickly disappearing, replaced by smoke and steam.
He saw an opening, a shallow dip missed by burning chemicals.
He lunged at knee level, rolled three times and came out of the clearing.
He dodged to the side as an anti-tank mine went off next to him. The jet of plasma went straight up, the shockwave out and mostly around him.
There was still enough that he went flying into a tree.
He fell to the ground and his nose filled with the smell of smoldering wool and crushed larch needles. He felt blood running down his right arm.
He made sure of that. Everything hurting was a good sign. It meant he still had all his limbs. He opened his eyes and looked down at his body. His clothing was mostly intact, except for some black scorch marks on the thick white wool. He flexed muscles individually, feeling for anything that protested too much.
He was intact.
X57 sat up all the way and looked over at the clearing. It was now immersed in flames, the larch trees around the perimeter having turned into torches moments after they were sprayed with thermite and white phosphorus. Thick black smoke boiled into the gray sky, a monument marking his incaution. He looked down at his bleeding right arm and unclenched his fist.
The square of foil was still there, intact.
After a minute he got up to a crouch and studied the material. It was a gum wrapper. He unfolded it and saw that someone had written on the paper side in dense, shaky Cyrillic.
He read the words.
It was a poem.
“There are holes in my heart where their words used to be,
Words that I hated, but the holes I hate more.
Why did I hate them?
Why do I miss them?
Can you hear the wolves howling, as the winter moves in?”
What did it mean? Holes in her heart? Words? Why mention the wolves? And why was the winter moving in? It was February. Winter was almost over.
He looked around the woods, wondering if she was out there watching him. He would never be able to tell, but there was no doubt she knew he had triggered her trap. He had to move quickly if he was to have any hope of avoiding her for the night. He put the poem in a safe pocket and headed further away from the fires.
Moments into his journey the cold rejoined him. It was going to be a long, painful night.
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Short version: Dr. Short at the University of Oklahoma conducted a study which found that graphic novels helped students learn material more easily and were preferred by 80% of the students. You can enroll for free here to test whether they are more effective for you. Here’s an example of the study incorporating visual […]