Herrick reached out to me on tapas.io after he started two series. The first, A Scholar’s Journey, is complete. It’s available at Patreon here. I don’t have a book or ebook link. The second is KRIS – First Impact which is still ongoing. I offered some advice about dialogue, and he said he would like it for First Impact.
Anyone who reads and subscribes to my material may get a chapter’s worth of extensive C&C. I hope this is useful and productive.
Chapter 1 consists of three total conversations, the first I addressed yesterday. The second one is the most important, and the third should be the most exciting.
Preliminarily, I’d put the description of Dane between the guards talking and his holo message with Hale. Otherwise it’s a bit far from where it becomes useful, and I had a scroll a few times to recall who was talking. Likewise, the quote at the very beginning which introduces Hale was an odd place to introduce characters. I also thought Haley and Kaylee were the same person, and Hale, Kaylee, and Haley are very close names. Maybe switch that up a bit so they’re not so phonetically similar?
Also preliminarily, grammar and syntax: “They Killed Kaylee!” Killed shouldn’t be capitalized. Dialogue, specifically direct quotes, usually takes its own paragraph. Don’t stuff description and dialogue in the same paragraph, especially not if they’re on dissimilar ideas. Later: “Kaylee,” he gasped. “No!” he yelled <- is redundant and repetitive. Remove the 'he yelled.' The mantra Dane repeats to himself should not have the same punctuation as a direct quote, because it becomes unclear if it's being said out loud. There's no speech attribution, but it's got the double quote marks of a direct quote.
But what is said here works much better. Hale's internal conflict is visible and accessible. The words themselves do a good job of displaying his anguish, and I'd rely on the strength there instead of explicitly stating it later. Hale also has a good description. I can pin that name and face to an identity. I'd put Dane's big No closer to Hale saying they killed her, because as is there's a pause and Hale's moved on to other topics before Dane let's loose. Again, I would condense that paragraph (the one where Kaylee is killed and Aiden disappears) into one idea. Right now Hale talks about some problems and goes into his 'I need you' Dane bit. Those are distinct ideas. Let Dane react to Kaylee dying and have his freakout.
Also, names so far are Hale, Haley, Kaylee, Dane, and Aiden. Syntex breaks the streak, but those are too many names too close together.
Dane escapes with hacker help, and then we finally get the description of the guards. But this is long after the guards are introduced. They shoot him, and the narrative goes back to that attempted de-escalation. The officer says don't shoot the prisoner, and now the stakes of Dane's escape are lowered. I assume you're going to raise them next chapter, but again, you've got to set your hooks in the first chapter. Very challenging to maintain excitement. Also, Dane says that was a "fatal mistake" right after the officer says don't kill the prisoner. So Dane's the killer, but he's also got the nannites, so he comes across as the unstoppable bad guy trying to kill the good guys. The whole thing is very jumbled.
In general, the dialogue needs to be simplified. The first few paragraphs of Hale speaking have multiple speech attributions and statements and descriptions in a single paragraph, and that is difficult to read. Descriptions of people should be close to those people talking. The flow needs to follow ideas. Again, going back to Hale's BIG REVEAL, Kaylee is dead, presumably Hale is deeply upset about that too. But he rushes past it. Hale needs to react to what he says and Dane needs to react too.
That came across as being far more negative than I meant. My objective here is to help you improve, and I focused on what should be improved. But I'd like to point out a few things that worked well.
Hale saying come to me is perfect. It sets up the immediate plot and an immediate bit of direction. The next few chapters have a clear idea, and as a reader, I know what's going on and I know why.
Syntex opening the cell is fine. Gets things moving, develops the bit of help Dane needs to get working, and now the actiony stuff can take place without a series of 'how did he get out of the cell' questions. That's good, and establishes Syntex for later. It's good to have characters in the wings for later use.
Hale's internal conflict, anger at Dane for abandoning him and presumably Kaley/Halee, is good. Got some characterization there, and the conflict makes it interesting. Dane's aside that he can't pilot a shuttle is also perfect. Adds danger.
The setting is cool. I like the idea of orbital prisons, so I'm interested in seeing the details of where this thing is, who runes it, the cool technobabble and futuretech within. That's a good hook to drag your readers along.
I think you have some potential here. Good luck, and I hope this helps.