Market research: Steampunk Preview

Alright, I can’t resist, I’m writing some steampunk. Don’t expect this to hit the market anytime soon; I’m still working on plot outlines and gestating ideas, but the idea for a prologue to let you get to know the characters a little bit hit me while I was at the Symposium. This needs polish still, but I’m curious how it hits you:

Robert wasn’t certain he was awake. The world around him looked ordinary enough: his father’s room, his rifle displayed prominently on the wall, the Colonial Flag displayed in a position of honor, his tricorn hat placed carefully upon a stool. And yet there was something dreamlike about the scene. How had he gotten there? He had been in the basement with his father, assisting him with the latest attempt at devising a way to fight the Evil Redcoats, and then the world went all stars and spots and then he was here.
Was this some kind of vision? Feeling sluggish and heavy, he reached down and pinched his left hand firmly. Nothing. Excellent! So this was a dream after all. Time to see what he adventures he could have while he was here.
He crept from the bed, slipping into the hallway. He could hear voices in the living room: his mother, using her “I am very angry” tone. Wary of being noticed, lest this become some kind of awful nightmare, he snuck forward to listen.
“You could have killed him! He’s only a boy!”
“An acceptable risk in the battle for freedom.”
“Freedom? What freedom? The only threat we face now are traitors to the Empire like yourself! The rebellion is over! There will never be a Third Uprising! Stop living in the past and learn to value what you have before you!”
Robert flinched as he heard the sharp crack of flesh meeting flesh. This old fight? Why would he dream about something as boring and mundane as that? He wasn’t dead, so he didn’t understand why Mother was so upset. Unless. Was he dead? He pinched himself again, harder. Not *quite* nothing — it didn’t hurt, exactly, but he could feel a dull echo of sensation. Probably not dead.
“I will never abandon my comrades,” his father was saying. Good. That meant Robert could still be useful. Being useful was fun, even if Father did make him drink icky things.
Lucky thing this was a dream. Usually he hated to hear Mother and Father fight — but since it wasn’t real, his stomach wasn’t tied up in knots. If only he didn’t have to wake up. It was much more fun dreaming.


Some specific questions I have:

  • How old does Robert feel? I know how old I’m aiming for, I’m curious if I hit it or not.
  • Does it come off too heavy-handed, or does it draw you in?
  • Would you read more?
  • Where would you guess the story is going from here?
  • What do you think happened just before this snippet?
  • If this was part of the free chapter on kindle, would you be interested in buying the book (assuming the price was right?)
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2 Responses to Market research: Steampunk Preview

  1. Colleen says:

    Robert reads very young to me. Maybe as young as 8, as old as 12, tops? Something about the passage just seems to indicate that he is not yet a teen (which would convey a certain amount of responsibility and demeanor in this time period). Perhaps it’s the use of “icky?”

    I would probably download the book, provided it has a price point that I find negligible – perhaps 3.99 or less. I know that’s pretty low, but, while your worldbuilding definitely caught my attention and made me want to know more, I question how well I can relate to a young male protagonist. (Which makes me not your target audience, of course, but I thought it might be useful to hear from an outsider, as it were.)

    I think there was an experiment, a blackout, and Robert roused with limited sensation in his body. Having never fainted, I don’t know if this is normal or an effect of whatever experiment it was.

    After? Hm. Dunno. You could really go just about anywhere with it.

  2. Ž says:

    Robert could’ve been as old as 20 until the last paragraph. Now he seems about 11 or so.

    A bit heavy handed and too much descriptions of scenery — those are important, but it’s too early because we don’t know what’s happening yet or what the story is going to be about. If Robert really is that young, he’s not going to be surveying his surroundings in that much detail either.

    No, I wouldn’t. I started skimming about halfway through.

    There are many places you can go with it. From what you’ve given us, we can assume Colonial US, American Revolution will probably factor in and domestic violence.

    I dunno, maybe Robert’s dreaming. But he’s not having much fun dreaming. He should try flying. That’s what I tended to do as a kid when I was pretty sure I was dreaming. I only ever had flying dreams when I was lucid.

    No, not as it is. But it’s just a first draft. You’ll polish it up better in your second and third drafts.

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