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]

Motivational Reaction Units

I wrote about 600 words last night, and I was attempting to use the Motivational Reaction Units (MRU) style.  The idea is that the narrative follows this format:

Event (motivation) happens. It’s something that anyone in the room or scene could see or hear or sense. For example, Elsa, Anna, and Olaf walked into the room.

Characters react instinctively; then with thoughts; then words.
The protagonist first reacts instinctively. Taylor threw up her hands. This happens first because it’s the natural reaction, the instant reaction.
What is that? she thought.
Then she finds her voice: “A walking, talking snowman?” she asked.

Let’s view that as one unit:
Elsa, Anna, and Olaf walked into the room. Taylor threw up her hands. What is that? Taylor thought. “A walking, talking snowman?” she asked.

Then you repeat the format. What would happen next in a scene where a young pop singer meets the cast of Frozen and they’re real? Remember the format:
Action
Instinctive reaction.
Thought.
Speech.

By making up these motivational-reaction-units, you will create strings of an interesting narrative, in the sense that each one will move the story along in a brisk manner. Taking the elements out of order is jarring to the reader. The order is exactly how it would be done in a movie. You don’t hear speech and then see a reaction. It’s the other way around.

Sure, it’s easy to say, but does it work?  And does great literature employ it? What about great fiction? If I go to Mr. Tolkien’s opus and try to match this method up to his fiction, is the template going to fit, or did he do something different? You’re saying, but, but, that’s TOLKIEN, dude, that’s different, he can break rules because he’s the man.  So what? Does he have a good commercial sales technique, does he employ MRUs or not?  And if he does something different, why does it work and what is his method?

And does any combat vet pan his books by saying, “Tolkein doesn’t know squat about cavalry charges, everyone knows who’s done one that it isn’t like what he wrote.” or “Helm’s Deep was totally unrealistic, I fight in the SCA and that’s not how combat really is.”

As a side note, the Hobbit clearly doesn’t utilize the Scene/Sequel format.

Back to MRUs. I am doing my best with them, but then my characters want to talk to each other and it doesn’t fit the MRU template.  Maybe it does.  Is this a format you have attempted, and if so, was it successful or was it an exercise?