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Thread: Please critique

  1. #1
    Roy Lindsey

    Please critique

    Hello, I'm a first time writer. I was looking for some input on my work. This is a first draft of ch.1, but it has had some modifications. Just let me know what you think, thanks. Hope it's not too long

    Dr. Sebastian Hoffman, a renowned bio-chemical scientist, was working on one of his many projects. This particular project was to determine the long term impact of refinery waste being dumped into the Mississippi River and how these chemicals affect reproductive habits in fish as well as the dangers of human consumption of the effected fish.
    Dr. Hoffman at age thirty began his carrier with the Leachman Corporation after completing his second Doctorate in bio-science at Yale. In those days his hair was jet black, he didn’t need glasses and his posture was more upright. Now at age fifty-seven, his jet black hair has begun to show flecks of gray. His blue eyes had now become pale and crows feet had appeared at the corners of his eyes from the many years he had spent peering through microscopes. As with many who lead a sedentary lifestyle he had put on a few extra pounds. Though not entirely overweight, his midsection had expanded somewhat giving him a pear shape, which might account for his sagging posture. Dr. Hoffman was a devoted husband and father of two daughters, and a company man who was dedicated and dependable, but there were times when he felt that his years of service lacked something with regards to recognition.
    “Dr. Hoffman?” inquired a man in a dark suit.
    “Yes?” said the doctor turning around to see who was calling him.
    As the man approached, Dr. Hoffman observed that he had dark hair and a mustache with a goatee and was wearing eyeglasses. The man was slim and well dressed, he carried himself in a manner that gave the impression he was in a hurry. Dr. Hoffman wondered how the man had entered the high security building.
    Extending his hand, the man spoke saying, “Dr. Hoffman, I hope you will pardon the unannounced visit. I am with an organization called the Keller group. I am here to make you an offer that could change your life.
    “Sir, I’m a very busy man. I work for the Leachman Corporation and any offers you may have will need to be presented to them. I am sorry but I must ask that you leave, thank you and good day.” replied Dr. Hoffman. A few lab tables away stood Dr. Janet Meacham a colleague of Dr. Hoffman, who could not help but overhear some of the conversation.
    Dr. Meacham had a dark complexion from her years growing up in the California sun, but also from her time in the field taking samples to complete her required lab work. At age twenty-four she received a Masters degree in Ecology at UCLA and through an accelerated Doctorate program at age twenty-eight received her PhD in Bio-Genetics. She was attractive and had naturally curly brown hair and wore a pair of thin lens glasses that outlined her brown eyes. The glasses were to correct her far sightedness. She couldn’t stand the thought of using contacts; the idea of putting something in her eye was more than she could handle.
    Frowning but undeterred, the man pulled Dr. Hoffman away from curious ears and in a low voice said, "Dr. Hoffman, it is not my intention to bring my offer before the Leachman Corporation, I specifically came to see you. Your work deals with an animal or insect’s ability to use chemical agents as a defense mechanism. The people I represent are willing to pay you a hefty sum of money if you can bio-engineer an insect that has the capability of transmitting a pathogen.”
    At first, Dr. Hoffman thought the man to be joking. “Are you mad? What kind of pathogen? What do you mean transmit?”
    The man explained, “The Keller group works primarily on safe guards and security for national defense. As for the kind of pathogen you do not need to know, and by transmit, I mean infect. The Keller Group understands that your research of chemical agents in insects, used as a weapon is at the forefront, and because of this you have been chosen as a top candidate for the job.”
    “Sir, I can assure you that flattery in my line of work will almost always get you everywhere, but what you are asking for, if it was to get into the wrong hands, could cause a worldwide outbreak, and I will have no part in such a conspiracy.”
    The man, with a smile said, “I understand your hesitance in undertaking this experiment, but conspiracy? On the contrary, the Keller group does not involve themselves with conspiracies. It is our mission to develop the means to protect human life, even if by the use of force. Remember Dr. Hoffman, we at the Keller group can make you a very rich man.
    The man paused to determine if his words were having any effect, “Such a shame really, all those unpaid bills, the mortgage holder calling all the time, your two daughters in need of education assistance. What are their names? Elizabeth and Jenny, I believe you call them Liz and Jen don’t you? We can make it all go away. You have twenty-four hours to make up your mind, we will be in touch.” Turning the man left Dr. Hoffman to ponder the proposal.
    “What was that all about?” asked Dr. Meacham
    Startled, Dr. Hoffman said, “Janet, I didn’t see you. Oh, it was nothing. Just someone needing directions to the exit”
    “Are you sure you’re ok? You seem a bit pale.”
    “Yes, yes of course I’m fine. I’m just fine.”

  2. #2
    Carl Purdon

    Re: Please critique

    Hello, Roy. I like the story idea. Your first few sentences made me think it might be a magazine article, though. You might try rewriting it with Dr. Hoffman as the POV character. A more active tense would help, too, I think.

    Take my advice for what it's worth, Roy, because I am unpublished, too. Actually, this is my very first critique -- it's harder than it looks. My guess is you'll get some good advice from the regulars here.

    Good luck with it.

  3. #3
    Kate B.

    Re: Please critique

    I have a few comments.

    First of all, hold back from giving long descriptions for each of your characters. It interrupts the flow of what’s happening. It would be better if you could describe as the characters are doing something (ie…pushing her glasses up her nose before she looked through the microscope or he smoothed the silver edges of his black hair.) The same thing is true of background. Don’t tell me that he graduated Yale…have him think fondly (or not-so-fondly) of his Yale days.

    Avoid unnecessary words. In this line:

    “Yes?” said the doctor turning around to see who was calling him.

    You could shorten it to: “Yes?” asked the doctor, turning. You don’t lose any of the meaning. There are other places where you could trim words also.

    On another note, you could also tighten up the science. Genetics is just genetics, not bio-genetics. Things that aren’t “bio” don’t have DNA, so it’s redundant. If you want something more professional sounding, call her a molecular geneticist.

    They are “lab benches” rather than lab tables.

    Many, many insects transmit many, many types of pathogens. Think West Nile Virus, malaria, or even plague. I would give a little more of a clue about what they are trying to do with this insect to make the situation even more treacherous.

    This is just my $0.02, so use whatever you like and throw the rest away.

  4. #4
    Roy Lindsey

    Re: Please critique

    Thanks for the critique. I'm working hard to employ some of the suggestions. Some of the things mentioned such as lab tables are personal preferences and as for bio-genetics well I didn't just pull that out of a hat. I researched the term and found it on many scientific web pages for different Universities. Please continue to let me know what you think and thanks again.

  5. #5
    Kate B.

    Re: Please critique

    OK Roy. Like I said, discard what you don't like.

    But, so you know, I'm a molecular biologist and have worked in various medical research labs for the past 13 years. I gave you the most authentic scientific advice I know how to give. Good luck with your book.

  6. #6
    nancy drew

    Re: Please critique

    I'd pretty much second what Kate said (except for the bio-molecular-genetics bit--know nothing of that).

    Much of the piece smacks of an info dump. Every time I'd get going, the flow would be interrupted by the lengthy description of various physical characteristics.

    Also, the man with the goatee has entered a high-security building and yet Dr. Hoffman feels compelled to inform him that he works for the Leachman Corporation? There's probably a big sign out front saying "Leachman Corporation." Smells like info dump. (Unless he's saying this to make some sort of impact on the Dr. Meacham character--and then this should be clearly indicated by Hoffman's actions.)

    Try incorporating some of Kate's suggestions and see how they work.

    On the upside, it did keep me reading. It could be an interesting piece. Hone up on the basics and you could have us all riveted!

  7. #7
    Roy Lindsey

    Re: Please critique

    Thanks nancy drew, I am currently going back through and shortening some lines and taking out unnecessary words, and I'm doing my best to incorporate a characters description along with some action and possibly stager it instead of as you say "info dump". I would like to point out that Dr. Hoffman nor is Dr. Meacham a prime character. This book I'm trying to write is about an undercover Special Taskforce agent named Grant Dalton and female private eye named Robyn Kyser who happen to get thrown together in this case looking for the terrorist.
    I didn't necessarily want to just tell you that but for anyone else who might see this thread. Of course I have some of the same problems with their characters as well so I have been trying to find those places and correct as best I can.

    Also,Kate, I wasn't trying to be snooty.I recognize that this happens to be your profession and I have no idea what I'm writing but I just didn't think those two items you pointed out were that critical to the story line. I did though appreciate your other commments. Thanks!

  8. #8
    Carl Purdon

    Re: Please critique

    As a reader I assumed Dr. Hoffman was a major character. Now, understanding that he is not, explains my confusion with POV. The trouble, I think, is that you can't just put a note in there telling your readers this. I would suggest you open with Agent Dalton doing something, establishing him as the POV character, before the scene with Dr. Hoffman.

    When I browse the shelves at the local bookstore I typically read the blurb on the jacket then read the first paragraph of the first chapter. If it grabs me I buy it.

  9. #9

    Re: Please critique

    Just my opinion, feel free to ignore:

    " . . . just didn't think those two items you pointed out were that critical to the story line"

    Getting the terms right may not be critical to the storyline, but it is essential if you want an informed reader to read your work smoothly and not trip over the incorrect terms. It makes you look like you didn't do your homework.

    Why would you choose not to use the correct names for things? Don't you know how lucky you are to have an expert like Kate give you the correct terms? You admit that you have no idea what you're writing. She does.

  10. #10
    Kate B.

    Re: Please critique

    All good Roy. You DO have an idea of what you are writing. I can tell you've done research. Science has such a specific vocabulary, things stick out at me all of the time in sci-fi. But if the plot is good, I don't care (ie Deep Blue Sea...mind candy with very loose science) I was just picking nits. Good luck!

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