Followers of the site might remember a submission a few months ago about on-line gamers mysteriously disappearing. This author has comprehensively revised the previous version. How does it stand now?
Language: US English
Synopsis: Pulled from the safety behind his computer screen, Jake finds himself in a dangerous new world. He and a handful of online friends must learn to survive in a land ruled by magic and steel. Together they must become the heroes they are needed to be.
It was just after one p.m. when I rolled out of bed. Going through my “morning”ritual, I immediately sat at my desk and flipped open my laptop. The instant I logged in I was bombarded by message notifications. I glanced at the time, it was only six after. Twenty unread messages across my social media pages were already waiting for me.
Here we go again.
I clicked on the first one. ‘Hey.’ Then the next. ‘Where are you? Are you not coming?’ Followed by four more that basically said the same thing. As I went down the line, they only increased in desperation. By the eighteenth, I swear I could hear them yelling through the screen. ‘FORGET IT. DON’T EVEN BOTHER. I’M KICKING YOU FROM THE GUILD.’
Speak of the devil. A small box with a phone icon popped up in the center of the screen. I had grabbed my headset off the arm of my chair and held it at length before I accepted the call.
“You’re late!” The headset quivered as my guild leader launched into a tirade about tardiness.
I stared at the clock as I entered my password into the game launcher. Three minutes later his voice still assaulted my poor speakers. I calmly brought the mouthpiece to my lips. “You’re not even logged in.”
A tense silence fell until it was broken by the hearty laughter of a guildmate. “Really? What kind of noob mistake was that?”
“Shut up,” he growled back. A halfling thief appeared on-screen next to my avatar.
I slipped my headset over my ears then readied my hands at the keyboard. “Shall we begin? Wait, where’s Zoe?” She was absent the night before as well. It wasn’t like her to miss a single raid, much less two.
The dungeon queue popped a few seconds later. Within ten minutes, we were locked in combat in the main hall of the grand castle.
Our guild leader quickly incapacitated the tanks with a smoke bomb and rushed straight for the backline mages. Three chained skills later, and the first enemy was slain. Before the mob of knights could react, our tank rushed into the densest pack and cast a broad taunt. Within moments, the entire room converged on his location. My fingers swept across the keys, releasing a barrage of arrows that landed with surgical precision all around the tank. With my role fulfilled, I sat back and watched.
A mist descended over the battlefield. To my right, a freezing aura swirled around our mage. Ice crystals hung in the air as he flourished his wand. The crystals gradually grew in size until they merged into one solid mass.
Even though she was out of view, I knew our healer was chaining skills with expert timing—she couldn’t afford not to. The tank’s health bar flashed like a disco ball as the monsters slashed at him from all directions. Then his health plummeted. Our game chatter was snuffed out with all but a single red pixel. The fate of our party now rested solely in her hands.
The rhythmic tapping on her keyboard cut crisply through the silence.
“Now,” she said, casting one last big heal.
The tank ducked behind his shield, becoming invulnerable just as the mage finished their spell. The sheet of ice detonated all at once, instantly turning everything within the mist into a living statue.
Only one thing was left to do.
With one keystroke, I set off my explosive arrows.
“Nice work everyone. Fantastic heals as always, Shawna,” I said once we finished collecting our loot.
Shawna’s avatar let out a cheer. “You think so?”
“Indeed, I thought I was a goner!” Elliot exclaimed.
Keith snorted. “It was sloppy and Ryan was late with the freeze, as usual.”
“If you hadn’t rushed in without warning…” Ryan mumbled.
“Whatever. The boss fight is next.”
The final stage was set as we opened the grand doors. A column of pillars rose from the floor on either side of us as we proceeded into the room. At the opposite end, sitting upon his throne, was the evil king himself. It was time to discover whether or not the last year of heavy grinding would pay off.
The doors slammed shut behind us and smoke filled the room. When it cleared, more than one hundred black knights materialized all around us.
“What?” yelled Keith. “This is impossible.” Even so, he dashed straight ahead.
Elliot raised his shield and charged the nearest group of enemies. He cast his taunt and prepared for the worst. To my surprise, they ignored him. Instead, they turned their attention to Keith. In a few brief moments, the thief laid dead.
“Don’t just stand there, revive me!”
His words were drowned out as a voice echoed inside my head. ‘Give me the girl.’
An icy blast struck the knights while I rained down immobilizing arrows by the dozens. Four dropped dead, but the rest marched toward us unhindered.
My head throbbed as the voice spoke to me again. ‘Give me the girl!’
Keith’s character disconnected, followed immediately by Ryan’s.
“Elliot! What’s going on?” an unfamiliar voice screamed through his mic. Then he, too, disconnected.
Only Shawna and I remained.
I forced my character forward, loosing arrows as fast as the game allowed. I have to protect her!
The evil king appeared before me. His blackened crown was like horns atop his head. A hideous cackle erupted from his twisted mouth as he drew a jagged sword. I felt the entire length of the blade enter my character’s body as if it had been my own.
When my health reached zero, the screen went black.
Editorial comment: I think this has taken a huge step in the right direction. Instead of a lot of exposition about what is going on elsewhere in the world, this opening drops us right into the thick of the action, with language and idiom that will be very familiar to anyone with experience of gaming (the likely audience for this kind of book). Hands up who doesn’t understand what a “boss fight” is?
However, it can take many rewrites to polish a novel to the standard that is going to interest an agent or publisher and writers have to understand this, and not want to pull the trigger prematurely. You want your book the best that it can be before sending it out into the world. That might take many rounds of revision and rewrites. Writing a good book is not easy, and getting to “The End” on the first draft, although it is a major milestone of which anyone should be proud, is only the first step of a long process.
Here there are a number of small details, insignificant in themselves but that, taken together, tell me that this opening needs more work.
Mostly the problem is wordiness, odd words and phrases that aren’t really working hard enough for you. Look at I immediately sat at my desk. Why is “immediately” necessary? He gets up and only gets as far as sitting down at his desk. The “immediately” is a given. In the next few lines you essentially repeat the same information: I was bombarded by message notifications and Twenty unread messages across my social media pages were already waiting for me. This is saying exactly the same thing twice, which is an awful waste of words in the first few lines of your book. Which one to choose? I was bombarded by is a perfectly decent phrase, but it is very passive. Why not make it more direct and no-nonsense? As soon as I logged on, a staccato series of pings rattled out of my tinny laptop speakers. I had mail. Lots of it. Direct, active phrasing is usually more descriptive and more interesting, more engaging. Alternatively let’s try and work with the other sentence. Why the “unread” in Twenty unread messages …? They’re obviously unread, otherwise they wouldn’t be waiting for him. You’re wise not to be too literal with “social media pages”—who knows what app we’ll be using in ten years’ time—but it’s a bit of a vague term. This is a story about gamers. Why not hone in on the gaming aspect and narrow your reader’s focus? Isn’t there some chatline that these gamers use to communicate? If there isn’t one, invent it. My gamechat mailbox was off-the-screen full.
I think this is the main message for where you are now with your story. There is still a lot of work to do, I’m afraid. You’ve probably read that writers’ meme about every word needs to be necessary. It’s true. In good fiction, every word is working hard for the author, often working a double shift, seeming to mean one thing whilst also implying another. That’s where you need to aim.
A few general pointers for the rest of the passage (just to give you your money’s worth! 🙂 ):
The MC gets lambasted for being six minutes late, but Zoe has been missing for two whole days. Why hasn’t she been chucked out of the guild?
She was absent the night before, but MC is playing at 1 pm in the afternoon. Are we talking timezones?
Who brings a tank to a swords and sorcery fight (I’ve a feeling I’m betraying my ignorance here)?
My advice would be to keep working at it. It’s really hard work, writing a good book. You’re definitely on the right track—this is much better than your first version. Incidentally, perhaps readers might like to comment. What do you all think? Is this version more immersive, more active than the first (“Gamer finds reality encroaching on the virtual”)? Which would you rather read more of? Commenting is via the Comments box below.
Thanks for posting.