In the format of a non-traditional critique, Writing That Scene examines the fundamentals of what makes a scene powerful and memorable for readers.

The goal of these posts is to provide an opportunity for authors to learn from each other and to see their own writing with fresh eyes. In my own experience, hearing what other writers and readers thought of my writing has been hugely helpful, and Writing That Scene aims to provide other authors with this opportunity.

If you are interested in sharing a scene of your own for a future post, click on the Writing that Scene Submission link. To see the last scene featured, click here.

Author: Alex Fayman

Scene location: Beginning of the book

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Superhighway

Moving at the speed of light through the darkness of a vast fiber
optic spider web always evoked a hypnotic state of peace. The
astonishing velocity through hairpin turns and the barrage of oncoming lights falsely insinuated that my problems were being left behind. In the form of amorphous gaseous light, my body was no longer subject to physical pain, augmenting the illusion of healing. At that moment, I was likely in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately ten to twelve thousand feet below the water’s surface.

The reality was simple: I would never escape my problems. The powers, disguised as a gift, became the root cause for everything that went wrong. I knew that this burden would never relinquish its grip on my psyche and, even though it was easy to blame the circumstances, the truth would haunt me forever. My life was suddenly drained of meaning and purpose, forcing me to consider the alternative. It would not take long. I figured a few minutes would painlessly cease the pain.

Upon entering a large opening inside an optic tunnel, I encountered an intense exhibition of flashing lights that failed to captivate my
attention. The weakness came on more quickly than usual. A flash fired right in front of my face. I saw a beach and felt the water caressing my feet. A second flash snapped me out of my momentary trance. My strength was waning; the end was near. Another bright flash to my left, and I saw sparks escaping the barrel. I heard the gunshot, and watched her fall. Flash. My heart pounded like a jackhammer as I stepped through the windowpane of a house lit with red neon lights.

The stunningly perfect female form held my hand, leading me up the
narrow winding staircase into a small room. I saw myself lying naked
in front of her as she helped me overcome anxiety. Flash. As my energy wilted and I began to drift, the flashes around me turned into a solid bright light. I saw my father’s face and felt his disapproval of my cowardly exit. It pierced through me like a bolt of lightning,
stinging my vaporous soul. Flash. Instantly, I knew that my life could
not end. I summoned the remaining morsel of power in order to
accelerate in the familiar direction.

Superhighway [my comments in blue]

[Moving at the speed of light through the darkness of a vast fiber
optic spider web always evoked a hypnotic state of peace. This sentence felt a bit long for a first sentence, and a few of the elements didn’t make sense (how moving so quickly could be hypnotic: it made me pause and want to figure out how this could work).]

[The astonishing velocity through hairpin turns and the barrage of oncoming lights falsely insinuated that my problems were being left behind. I liked this. The fact that things moving by suggests motion, emotionally, made sense.]

[In the form of amorphous gaseous light, my body was no longer subject to physical pain, augmenting the illusion of healing. At that moment, I was likely in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately ten to twelve thousand feet below the water’s surface. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but your point-of-view character seems to like long sentences and big words (augmenting, insinuated, velocity, barrage…these aren’t typical words for a young adult book. If you truly want a young adult audience, you may have to rethink your point of view, using a character with a simpler vocabulary. Or, you could move your novel into adult science fiction, where the words and sentence length won’t matter as much.]

[The reality was simple: I would never escape my problems. The powers, disguised as a gift, became the root cause for everything that went wrong. I knew that this burden would never relinquish its grip on my psyche and, even though it was easy to blame the circumstances, the truth would haunt me forever. My life was suddenly drained of meaning and purpose, forcing me to consider the alternative. It would not take long. I figured a few minutes would painlessly cease the pain. One challenge, unique to jumping into a suicide attempt (if I’m correcting interpreting what he means by “painlessly ceasing the pain”) is that it’s very hard to show an emotional state that leads to such an action in a few hundred words. At this point, I don’t feel like I know this character well enough to feel for him, one way or another, and the long words aren’t helping, because I have to wade through the verbage to understand him and what’s going on (which is still quite unclear at this point: what his powers are, how he’s moving so fast, etc.).]

[Upon entering a large opening inside an optic tunnel, I encountered an intense exhibition of flashing lights that failed to captivate my
attention. Again, this made me stop and wonder why. An exhibition of flashing lights sounds like a fireworks display, and usually, one notices such things.] [The weakness came on more quickly than usual. A flash fired right in front of my face. I saw a beach and felt the water caressing my feet. A second flash snapped me out of my momentary trance. My strength was waning; the end was near. Another bright flash to my left, and I saw sparks escaping the barrel. I heard the gunshot, and watched her fall. Flash. My heart pounded like a jackhammer as I stepped through the windowpane of a house lit with red neon lights.

The stunningly perfect female form held my hand, leading me up the
narrow winding staircase into a small room. I saw myself lying naked
in front of her as she helped me overcome anxiety. Flash. I don’t understand what’s happening here. He’s in a hypnotic state, apparently, but he’s seeing things–are they visions or memories?–and yet he’s also trying to die?]

[As my energy wilted and I began to drift, the flashes around me turned into a solid bright light. I saw my father’s face and felt his disapproval of my cowardly exit. It pierced through me like a bolt of lightning, stinging my vaporous soul. I like this phrase “stinging my vaporous soul;” it’s very consistent with the overall narration choices you’ve made, and it sounded somewhat poetic.]  [Flash. Instantly, I knew that my life could not end. I summoned the remaining morsel of power in order to accelerate in the familiar direction. Again, I’m not sure whether I should rejoice that this character is coming back to life or not. He certainly has a distinct, scholarly voice, but I can’t relate to him. His long words almost come between me, as a reader, and him, the character. I’m intrigued to know more about his powers and what he was doing, but I don’t really care, yet.]

The author asks, ” Does this beginning hook you, as a reader? Would you want to barrel into the book to see what happens? And do you find the beginning compelling or confusing?”

For the most part, I find the beginning confusing. Caring about characters, or understanding, at least in part, what is going on is what makes me want to keep reading, and right now, both elements are missing. You might consider giving the main character a friend and starting from a scene where he or she is waiting and worrying while the main character goes through whatever it is he’s doing. Starting with such a scene might help us relate more to the main character by showing us someone who already does care, and his or her worries might give us hints of what is truly going on without explaining everything.

You can find out more about Alex Fayman and Superhighway here.

Photo and text from Superhighway used by permission from Alex Fayman

4 thoughts on “Writing that Scene: Superhighway

  1. I am far from a professional writer but your comments on the piece are insightful and I agree with you. Personally, I like the idea with the mystery that starts out here but I found it hard to follow or relate to. I feel for the descriptive words that were used ( which I always appreciate) it was overdone and not applied to the situation in which I needed more description. The “Flash” I feel this should be described in more detail. I feel there are lots of great ideas happening here. Just needs a little organization that’s all 🙂 Thanks for sharing! I think this is a wonderful idea to help the writing community! 🙂

    Like

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