I think it needs more explosions. And radio coms.

Synopsis is bad

I picked up my 18000 word monster and tacked on another 1000 words.  See, I was stuck in this scene where it was an expository thing – we need to find out what the priest knows. I took Dave Koster’s advice and cut out the introductions. He’s right. You don’t want to read a synopsis again and again. We are all reading over your shoulder, so we know this stuff, yadda yadda. Cut to the chase. There are any number of books where I have this problem – I was thinking the starship mage series, the first book, was written in serialized chunks, then the author tacked the whole thing together without a re-write. Therefore, you get a synopsis of what’s gone on before every 3 chapters, and it’s annoying. I learned to skim/skip those. The book would be far tighter if we could dump those 2 pages of summary happening throughout the book. Keep the serialized pieces as is, but the stitched together version demands an edit.  It won’t hurt anyone if you cut 4000 words of unnecessary explanation out.

Military radio communications

It’s been a while since the hospital rescue, which may need rewriting. I read through it again and while the radio stuff is pretty solid, I think, it gives things a chaotic view, especially if you’re not familiar with military radios. Then again, I’m assuming most readers will be familiar with military radios or some variant of it and will be able to follow all that.  Coms are the way that infantry communicate with each other if they’re in all these large suits. You can’t yell to your buddy as easily (like “Left doorway!”), and if you have a fluid system to make the communications easy (to squad, to individual, to your immediate superior in chain of command) then it makes sense to use that. Anyone familiar with using multiple nets to communicate knows the difficulty in keeping them straight– don’t make the wrong radio call to the wrong recipient.

And coms that aren’t policed for uniformity in transmissions are also chaos. If you work with someone long enough, you get to know their voice and they don’t have to identify themselves on every radio transmission. You know their voice, their stupid accent, their favorite expletives they use when something doesn’t go right.  So that’s a tactical squad net, you aren’t as formal. When you start speaking to the chain of command, however, those guys higher up might not know your voice, or accent, or stupid expletives. So the superior guy needs to hear the broadcaster’s designation. I chose to go with the squad designations in a platoon – alpha, bravo, charlie, delta.  Each of those is 9 men, which is two fireteams of 4 plus the annoying squad leader. Each fireteam is broken down further into the fireteam leader (FTL), the assistant fireteam leader, a machine gunner and a loader, or the sci fi version of this.  The two fireteams are further designated as alpha and bravo. The radio call sign for the alpha fireteam leader is alpha-alpha-one.  Bravo fireteam leader is bravo-alpha-one or just alpha 5–it’s interchangeable. The squad leader is alpha 9.

Chain of Command (COC)

And the chain of command is pretty important. If your immediate superior dies, the next senior person takes their place. In the real world military, you’re supposed to know the roles/mission of the people you supervise, your own role/mission, and the role/mission of your immediate superior.  Thus, if a colonel gets killed, a captain steps in and takes over to further the mission.

This pecking order descends to the junior-most guy, the new guy on the fireteam. If his three fireteam members are dead, he’s in charge of his fireteam, at least until his squad leader re-assigns him.  Is it reasonable to assume that alpha 4 is going to know how to perform the fireteamleader role? Not really. It still happens in real life and sometimes unlikely guys turn out to do amazing things on their own initiative.

Tension

I think I’m going to tension the next scene by having an inconvenient conversation, where Father O’Hara and Yuen are finally going to have the conversation they should have had long ago, and right when Yuen knows there are people with guns who are going to come any minute now.  Stuff like that makes my teeth itch. It’s a mean writer trick. People really do decide to have important conversations at bad times, oblivious to the danger.  “Just go!” the reader squeals. “Talk about it later. Go!”

Meeting that deadline xbyfri

This is a miserable process.

The more I study character archetype, the more conflicted I am. (That’s good, conflict!) My goal? Fix the character archetypes to match the standards of whichever system you’re using (there seem to be several, Jungian included).

Doing that requires that I fix the story to meet the requirements of the character arc. The start point of the writing has been changed three times now.  It may get changed again. From my previous post, I had the story start with the navy crew detecting four ships. It was a yawner. Well written, but boring from a plot perspective. [Modestly speaking.]

So I yanked that out. Started it with the Captain getting on the bridge, evaluating the threat, saying alert the marines.

This is still inadequate because it’s not meeting a scene/sequel format.  I believe that the captain scene will also be dropped.

Alternate currently considered beginning: Marines get alert, get ready, load on shuttle, some equipment failures, shuttle launches when ship is in danger and the shuttles make their way back to the planet.  The ship becomes a bookend ship (destroyed in first act).  Obviously, this is moot, writing like this, since there’s no plot.  I’ve abandoned the one I have, so I need to go back and re-do that part.

But first things first! Back to creating a plot.  The one I have isn’t going to work, primarily due to the character arc.  I. Am. Throwing. Clumps. of. Hair. On. The. Floor.

Argh! back to my outline.  Define the character. Surround character with the stereotyped characters. Create goal. Create conflict.  Redo characters. Adjust story to characters. Expand from general short outline to one page on each act, then create scene sequel pairings with specifics: goal, conflict, disaster, recovery, dilemma, (oxford comma ftw) and decision.

This is going to be bloody.  Step back.  I will do this.  There will be a book series. I will prevail.

MCUs – Writing sample draft

The following text is a draft from the beginning of the novel. I’ve attemped MCUs, as much as I can. How’d I do? I also tried to sneak in some environment.  I have no idea how to better deliver the technical information about the ship than by slugging in a large paragraph.  Maybe that’s not necessary?


The alert occurred just as Captain Luke Advance of the Ruth’s Diamond received payment for several tons of guns and ammunition. Multiple audible alarms sounded, and the personal communication devices of the locals rang stridently.

His eyes widened and he glanced from his crewmember Anastasia back to the agent. “Should I be concerned about that? Overflowing Toilet?”

The agent smiled wanly and brought out her personal communication device and checked it. Her face registered shock, then anger. “It’s war!” she said.

“Then, yes, I should be concerned?” he asked peevishly.

“I have to go.” She replied as she hurried away.

Luke leaned against the spaceport wall and considered the credit in his hand.  This might not be a good place to get repairs and parts. We should leave as soon as possible.

“I’m going to a kiosk to get more information,” Anastasia said.

“I’m going back to the shuttle. It’s probably not an overflowing toilet,” Luke replied to her back. Or it could be. .9 gravity might play havoc with a gravity water system. He straightened up and walked back to the transshipment shuttle for the Ruth’s Diamond, checking the credit chip as he walked.  Cold, dry winds battered him as he left the building and walked across the tarmac. The last container of ammunition had been cleared from the shuttle, and was cordoned off from other supplies and equipment and protected by a pair of soldiers huddling for warmth in the cold winds. That was no longer his concern. His concern was war.

Anastasia returned a moment later and secured the shuttle ramp while he began the preflight check. “So, war?” he asked urgently.

“Sorry, was trying to hurry. Yes. A fleet of five non-imperial warships were detected entering the system. The local government believes they’re the American Confederation of Planets troop and warships, and they’re going to invade this place.”

“that’s better than Miss I’m-Vague-About-Important-Things-Agent. `War! Gotta go!’” he mocked in a falsetto voice. “A local war, interstellar war, intergalactic war, what? Has the Empire ever been at war?! I thought their version of war was to drop rocks on naughty populations.”

“We’re not supposed to panic. They said that,” Anastasia informed him. He questioned her with a look as she strapped into the seat beside him. “What?! Oh, the government, they said not to panic. It’s just in this system, as far as we know.”

He rubbed his temples, then grimaced. Doesn’t the Empire have any warships out this way? “If the Empire tells you not to panic, you should probably panic. That’s like saying, ‘Don’t panic, it’s the plague, but only you’ve got it.’ They knew this was coming.  We just delivered thousands of rifles, ammunition, and rations and there ain’t no such thing as a coincidence. The Imperial navy might be on their way, or hiding to do an ambush, or maybe the navy doesn’t exist anymore.  We need much better information and then move quickly, either profit or run.”

“What does some warship want with us? We’re civilians, we’re not anyone’s enemy.”

“Stasia, we have a commercial mega container ship that can tow umpteen zillion containers or bricks of ore through any wormgate in the Empire. An upstart government would love to have us join their fleet or destroy us so we cannot help the Empire.”

“We’re not joining anyone’s fleet!” Anastasia said.

“Merchant marine, however unwilling. We might if we stick around to find out. And they tell you, they don’t ask.”

“So… what about that HCA cargo we were to pick up?” Anastasia asked.

Heavy Combat Armor. Of course. This place manufactures the stuff, we were going to pick up a cargo of it for the marines. “That’s what the Amcons want.”

“The HCA?”

What else would they want with a planet in the third year of a fifteen year winter and no gas giant in the system? “Yep, I’m pretty sure of it. This place doesn’t have anything else of value, no gas giant, no planet teeming with life, just this icy rockball. Checklist clear?” He responded.

“Yeah, we’re green on everything. Seems like a lot of effort just to get HCAs, though.” Anastasia said thoughtfully.

He keyed his radio and notified the spaceport’s traffic control of their desire to depart, which was quickly granted.

“There’ll be a queue later, I suppose,” he mused, as they accelerated out of the planets diminished gravity.

The Ruth’s Diamond rested in geosynchronous orbit over the planet’s spaceport. Luke admired her lines as the shuttle boosted into orbit and closed with the docking port.  She was designed with minimal crew compartments, and had a massive long lattice work which was just barely the height and width of a wormgate and could handle everything from raw ore to large containers. Because the wormgates charged by mass, the unloaded ship travelled pretty cheap. The only constraint on cargo was to where it was delivered: if to a planet, it needed to fit in the ship’s shuttle or the planet’s transshipment shuttle, or it could not be delivered; if to an environment in micro-gravity, ore could be shipped in raw or smelted form, with the only limitation being safe maneuvering of large masses.  The ship was capable of transporting other ships in tow, as well.

“As soon as we’re back on the Di, contact the HCA orbital facility and ask if they still want to do business.” Luke paused, then said, “no, find out the ETA for the warships, and see if we have a margin to do the pickup, then call the HCA-Orbfac.”

“Got it.” Anastasia took a note on her personal data device.

“Maybe we can hook ‘em as we go by.” Luke snorted.

Anastasia looked amused. “Collisions in space tend to explosively reflect the relative speeds of the objects in involved. Most cargo doesn’t like massive acceleration or deceleration.”

“Shuttles and tugs are hardly a fast way to accomplish tasks,” Luke pointed out, as they docked with the command capsule of the Diamond.

“Figure out a better way, –“

“—and you’ll be rich.” Luke finished.

[~990 words]