Concept: Hysterical buddy-adventure version of October Sky.
Opening: The in medias res opening was fun, but takes away the suspense of “if” John would achieve his goal. It turns the story into one of “how” John achieves his goal which was fun. I think what you did very well was in one line of dialog instantly create a likeable character in John.
Plot: This one was very much by the book. Solid structure and pacing with the plot turns occurring when I hoped and expected them to fall. So well done! John picks up some scrap at the army which includes some ordnance (pg 12), after being harassed by everyone that he’s a slacker, he declares that he really wants to do something cool (pg 23), trips over the ordnance and by the time he discovers what it is (pg 26), we’re off to the races and we break into Act 2. I love that the potential of what this solid rocket fuel could do instantly changes his character on pg 27 and suddenly he’s driven and determined. Most of Act 2 really pushes the A-story along with him getting his crew together and figuring out how to “safely” get the rocket car to launch. You also moved the B-story romantic storyline with Ellie in a credible way. The threat of Walt discovering what they were up to was peppered in (pg 34-38, 54, 58, 77-78) until the final confrontation (85-93) during which Dad shows up and saves the day. That last resolution felt like something out of an 80’s kids movie and I guess for 21-year-olds, I would have liked to see John figure out a way to out-maneuver Walt. Still, it made a nice poignant moment for John and his father, who let him test one ordnance and still realize his goal in the story. Then we break into Act 3 with testing the rocket car and when it fails, you have a little more theme being drilled into John (this time by Ellie), but only after experiment succeeds and John actually accomplished something cool in his eyes, does he have a taste of what other possibilities he could experience in his life (pg 14). That was a satisfying ending.
Characters: John – empathetic, relatable, with clear goals. Starting him out as a slacker without any ambition and even kind of an asshole about it was incredibly dangerous. Not many can pull it off so that the reader can still relate to him, but I think the humor worked in your favor. That as well as introducing that catalyst and breaking into Act 2 when you did. Any longer, and you would have lost me as a fan.
Ellie was a bit of window-dressing for a while, and I’m glad you eventually folded her into the team and tied the B-story closer to the A-story. A lot of her backstory came across through expository dialog, but I can understand that you didn’t want to cut away too much from the A-story. A really delicate balance, so if there’s anything I’d want to see more of is “showing her backstory” rather than “telling it”.
Walt was a bungling antagonist and not really threatening or nefarious, but that’s fine in this context. He really just served as an opposition to John achieving his goal.
Dialog: You have a gift for dialog. It all came across sounding natural, and especially the humor worked (see page notes below)
Writing: I didn’t stop to point out all of the grammatical nits because I really wanted to get into the story. You have some trouble with homologues and a few typos, so you may want to go through this and sweep up those mistakes in the next draft.
Overall: This story fires on all cylinders. It was well-plotted, has likeable characters, conveys clear goals, repeats the theme over and over again, and has a protagonist who arcs at the end. Well done and good luck with this one!
1 / JOHN (V.O.)
But what else you gonna do with a
solid fuel rocket in the middle
I love the line of dialog at the end of this page! Kinda made me chuckle and made your character instantly likeable.
2 / montage isn’t necessary because all you’re doing is describing the setting as opposed to moving the story forward or revealing character (John). Consider cutting.
4 / Her face lights up and we see a glimpse of what 30 years of work and dust can't quite erase. = great example of your voice coming through. Love it!
6 / Great things are afoot. Great hook. I love the introduction of Sal. Be careful that we don’t like Sal more than John.
8 / design flaws – haha
11 / Light, heat and John enter. – great line
12 / Inciting incident foreshadowed with consequences of not returning hazardous items.
14 / Been learning about the riches to be had - haha
18 / Maybe the inciting incident is Sal and Beck’s offer.
19 / Introduce Ellie the love-interest (B-story)
22 / This Budweiser’s making me philosophical – haha. Almost a little forced for a conceit, but charming.
23 / John’s stated goal = do something cool with his life, and then he literally trips over the opportunity and figures out what it is by pg 26.
Break into Act 2
27 / I love how quickly John’s attitude changes.
28 / Green beans’re on sale, though – haha
28 / He wears and apron and a frown – I love it!
31 / But why this? – haha
32 / three-and-a-half anyway. – haha
42 / you wanna do it with the fire-guy? – haha
50-51 / Another montage.
54 / Tip off Walt
65 / eaten by dogs – haha
71 / man vs. drunk dogs – that’s pretty funny
73 / lent should be leaned
74 / your the pilot should be you’re the pilot
83 / Listen—haha. The plot turn happens because Art beats it into John and not because he came to that realization on his own.
87-88 / Having Dad (Ted) come to the rescue is a little disappointing rather than have John figure a way out of this. Almost seems clichéd.
91-92 / Nice father-son moment.
97-98 / Nice build-up to have the fuse fizzle.
100 / Now it’s Ellie’s turn to beat into John not to be defeatist.
101 / Ka-pow! Haha
101 / Sal has ran… should be Sal has run…
101-102 / Another montage
104 / The rocket changes John’s outlook on life.
Review of: Rocket '78
reviewed by **DELETED ACCOUNT** on 07/20/2010
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