Plotting: A Suggestion

  • by Gitabushi

I recently “purchased” (it was free) and started reading an e-book on how to plot.

“The Plot Machine: Design Better Stories Faster,” by Dale Kutzera

For the most, it was worth what I paid for it.  Many of the points it made were obvious to anyone who has done any reading at all, much less writing.  Several other points were among the first, and most basic, techniques any writing book will mention.

Since it was free, I didn’t expect much from the book.  Even if free, there is still a time cost, and I invested that cost to get some additional insight into how to effectively plot a novel.

One point it made changed my viewpoint, and I think will have a deep and profound impact on my writing.

The book pointed out that while a novel is more complex that a short story, both should follow the Three Act format. In this format, the First Act is setting up all the pieces. The Third Act is resolving all the conflicts and returning all the pieces to their resting places.

The book says the Second Act: *that’s* what makes or breaks a story.

What makes a story good is what obstacles have been placed in the path of the protagonist, and how the protagonist resolves them. These obstacles make a memorable story. This is where most of the action occurs.  This is where the protagonist’s character is honed or revealed.

The book when on to explain that, in fact, it is the Second Act that defines your characters.  You want to put them through hell to make an interesting story, but they need a *reason* to go through the hell instead of just giving up.  They need a *reason* to be in the position to go through that hell.

As such, deciding on the conflict first can make it clear who your character should be. And deciding the conflict first makes it more obvious how to make the resolution more dramatic and effective.

Okay, maybe I’m reaching with this by embracing the book’s suggestion. Maybe it won’t work for you to write the conflict first. Maybe it won’t end up working for me to write the conflict first.

But too many of my stories have foundered when they reached the conflict stage.  I had a great beginning. I had a decent ending. I couldn’t get through the middle. Too often, the conflict didn’t match the motivations I established at the beginning. Or the method of overcoming obstacles didn’t match the character I established at the beginning.

You could say that this just because I write poorly, and I’d have a hard time arguing that. On the other hand, I think of a character and a starting point, and think I have a story idea.  Perhaps, instead, I should think of the conflict a character is going to go through, and think I have a story idea.

Looking at this from a different direction: I love twisty, complex plotting.  I have a “story idea” right now that I want to turn into a twisty, complex plot.  So I’ve come up with all my main characters, the universe, the starting motivations, and now I want to add complexity.  I can’t really get started on it. I can’t figure out how to put these characters into seemingly no-win situations where they have to dismantle the Destruction Engine piece by piece to avoid their destruction and win the story.

My plan was to start writing and add complexity.

I now think a better idea is to start with a complex, seemingly no-win situation and write backwards, figuring out how the protagonist got into this situation.

For example, I’ve been watching a few Chinese Spy/Suspense television serials.

In one, Protagonist 1 is drawn into the spy world to work for the Chinese Nationalists (who are resisting the Japanese occupation), and from there, gets drawn into being a Communist spy inside the Nationalist organization…because of the temporary partnership to resist the Chinese.  His older brother (Protagonist 2) is a collaborator working with the Japanese government…but is actually a Nationalist spy working to undermine the Japanese, and is Protagonist 1’s superior in the National spy organization. At one point, Protagonist 1 is given the order to assassinate his older brother, Protagonist 2, for being too effective as a collaborator. He didn’t know at that point that not only his older brother a Nationalist spy, but the order itself came *from* his older brother (who, having ordered it, knows how to avoid it, but it helps him gain additional credibility with the Japanese). When it is all over, however, Protagonist 1 learns that his older brother is actually his superior in the *Communist* spy ring that’s inside the Nationalist spy ring that’s resisting the Japanese.  He’s been acting according to his training and character, but he’s been moved around like a chess piece, based on his older brother knowing him, and being his superior two layers deep.

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I don’t think you can build in that sort of complexity as you go.  I think you have to start with that incredible situation, and then work backwards, adding layers to the complexity as you move earlier in the story.

In another, the protagonist is just a normal Nationalist officer in what seems to be a National Guard/Reservist unit.. They are getting ready to go to the front line to fight the Japanese. His unit’s commander is out of action while recovering from surgery, and the 2nd-in-command is leading a cabal of the top few officers to surrender and collaborate with the Japanese.  The traitor has one week to do it, before the Commander recovers and returns to duty. A junior officer (not the protagonist) discovered this, and formed a group of officers and NCOs to resist (the Iron Fists). The protagonist joins, making 30 in all, and they are set to meet at 9pm on a certain date.

At 8:30pm on that day, the protagonist is getting ready to leave for the meeting when the 2nd-in-command traitor locks the HQ down. He then orders the protagonist to lead the arrest of the 30 cadre members who are mutinying. Meanwhile, the Iron Fist group, lacking two members, decides to start the meeting with the 28 who are present.

The protagonist arrives on the scene, and tries to make noise to alert the Iron Fists inside. It doesn’t work. With no other choice, he leads the charge. But the first thing he does is shoot out the light. With the lights out, he trips a few of the capturing force, throws a bench out the window to help the Iron Fists escape, etc. But it is all for naught, all 28 are captured.

The traitor officer knows two people didn’t arrive, and knows the protagonist did some weird stuff. Plus, there’s another officer who isn’t in his cabal. So he sets the 2nd officer to torture a confession out of the protagonist. The 2nd officer is, of course, the 30th Iron Fist (who was also locked up in the HQ building and couldn’t go to the meeting, and so was spared). He finds out that the protagonist was Iron Fist #29, and vows to help him.

But the issue facing them both is, “Who betrayed the Iron Fists?”  All 28 in captivity are executed within a day (to silence them), so Iron Fist #30 begins to suspect the protagonist, despite the protagonist being Iron First #29.

The Traitor officer has two military representatives in custody, one Nationalist and one Communist.  He finally decides (for a couple of reasons not worth explaining now) that *they* are the two missing Iron Fists, and so stops worrying about the protagonist and the other officer.  Except these two officers aren’t part of his cabal, so he doesn’t completely trust them.

To strengthen his position, he decides to get a hostage: the Commander’s mother. So he sends a team to escort her from her home (a day away) to his location.  He puts the protagonist in charge, sets the 2nd officer to watch him, sends one of his cabal officers along to watch them both, and sends along the two military representatives as hostages. They will go near a Japanese stronghold, and the cabal officer will give the Japanese the two military representative hostages to seal the deal that allows the traitor cabal to deliver the entire unit to the Japanese.

So along the way, the protagonist is trying to help the two military representatives escape without letting the other officers know he is doing it. At the same time, Iron Fist #30 officer is trying to help them escape, but not letting the other officers know he is doing it, and doesn’t see the protagonist doing anything to help, which deepens his suspicion that the protagonist betrayed the Iron Fists.

Everything that happens puts the protagonist in a no-win situation.  If he does anything to help get the word out, the cabal officer will kill him as a traitor. If he works too hard to follow his orders, the unit will be handed over the Japanese, and he betrays his fellow Iron Fists.  But when he helps the military representatives escape, he can only help by throwing some things through the window to them, and pre-positioning some escape aids, which they attribute to Iron Fist #30 who was actually able to make contact with them and tell them he was going to help them escape.

I hope that’s clear.  It’s pretty twisty to watch, and hard to explain. Basically, because the protagonist is trying to remain undercover, all his very risky attempts to help get attributed to other officer, so he is still considered a traitor by the people he supports, yet if he is any more overt, the cabal officer will kill him.

Again, I don’t think you could add in this complexity as you go.  The best way to write this (I think) is to start with a no-win situation: your protagonist is in a situation where if he acts overtly, he is killed; if he doesn’t act overtly, he betrays his principles.  What does he do? He tries to act *covertly*, right?  So how can we make those efforts not help? Add in another person who gets credit for it, *and* that person suspects him.  Okay, what kind of person would have the freedom to act *and* be in a position to matter in this sort of betrayal drama? A young officer who is the Commander’s favorite, highly principled and motivated.

Then  you just add in misunderstandings from there, working backward.

Well, time to see if it works.  I’ll report back in a later post, either way.

 

 

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Upcoming release: Cirsova #9

I’ve got another project in the works and so I lost track of this, but better late than…too late. Glad HP reminded me.

Cirsova #9 and #10 are up on Kickstarter, and the funding project is in its final days. I’m taking this particular opportunity to plug because I’ve got a short story dropping in #9. It’s the tale of a pair of reptilian searchers, who must brave the perils of a dead city in the hope of unearthing ancient weapons and technology to aid their struggling tribe. If that sounds at all interesting to you, and/or if you’re curious about the kind of fiction that oozes from a mind like mine, be sure to get your claws on this.

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Now I’m a Cirsova fan (though I’ve made some perhaps harsh remarks about issue #1). I love what Alex is doing in fostering this kind of publication, and I’ve personally bought every issue that’s come out thus far. I admit, I’m behind in the actual reading (that reminds me that I also need to read more of Cirsova contributor Sky Hernstrom’s stuff in light of the praise he’s been drawing). So certainly, I am plugging this Kickstarter because I’ve got a stake in it. But rest assured I’d be buying issues #9 and #10 even were that not the case.

One last note – these issues are already funded and already happening. Backing the Kickstarter just gets you the next two issues and serves to fund the next round of Cirsova issues (should he raise enough cash). So backing doesn’t just mean buying these zines; it means supporting a budding scifi/fantasy publication amidst the decay of a dying industry.

-Bushi

bushi

Appendix N Review

It’s been a couple years now since my Epiphany. Voices from the Internet issued forth and said:

“Bushi. Much of the scifi and fantasy you have read has been comparative garbage.”

“Comparative to what?” I asked.

SLAH-WHAMO came the reply.

Since then I’ve grafted together other important lists and tables into something that’s pretty handy when rummaging through old books in secondhand shops. After all, Appendix N is only D&D’s list of inspirational reading, not an exhaustive list of all good classic SFF.

Has it really been only two years? I’m not nearly as prolific a reader as some of my blogging fellows, but it just feels like I’ve read more than two years worth of stuff.

Let me take this opportunity to look back on what’s now under my belt. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to limit myself to Appendix N here. Stuff I’ve read is in red, with some other notes included.

Anderson, Poul: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD

Bellairs, John: THE FACE IN THE FROST
Brackett, Leigh (I’ve covered three of the Stark stories and a number of assorted other short stories)
Brown, Frederic
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: “Pellucidar” series; Mars series; Venus series (I’ve read the first Pellucidar book and the first three Mars books; also Tarzan, which interesting isn’t included here)
Carter, Lin: “World’s End” series
de Camp, L. Sprague: LEST DARKNESS FALL; THE FALLIBLE FIEND; et al (Also read the Tritonian Ring)
de Camp & Pratt: “Harold Shea” series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August
Dunsany, Lord
Farmer, P. J.: “The World of the Tiers” series; et al
Fox, Gardner: “Kothar” series; “Kyrik” series; et al
Howard, R. E.: “Conan” series (I’ve gotten to a lot of Conan, but not all of the stories yet. Huh. Another author with a lot of great stuff, and yet no Solomon Kane or Kull or Bran Mak Morn, which I also covered)
Lanier, Sterling: HIERO’S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz: “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” series; et al (Check – Swords Against Death and Swords and Devilty)
Lovecraft, H. P. (What SFF fan worth his salt hasn’t read at least a few of his short stories?)
Merritt, A.: CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE MIRAGE; et al (I color him orange because I’ve only read one of his story stories in its entirety. Need to get to more)

Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” series (esp. the first three books) (Read Elric of Melnibone)
Norton, Andre
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III (Maybe I need to hunt down this magazine? Anyway I read his novel My Lord Barbarian)
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al (Have read Berserker)
St. Clair, Margaret: THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; “Ring trilogy”
Vance, Jack: THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al (Ah yes. These plus the first three Demon Prince novels, the first Alastor book, the Blue World,  the Grey Prince, and a number of miscellaneous short stories)
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manley Wade
Williamson, Jack
Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” series; et al (I’ve read half the Amber books plus Dilvish, the Damned)

So I’ve covered more than half the Appendix N authors, and I’m sure I could have checked out more if I hadn’t been reading so much Howard and Vance. But they’re just so damn good…

At any rate, if you like the Forgotten Realms books and you think Drizzt is cool, go find Dilvish, the Damned or a Conan collection. I can’t in good conscience recommend The Dying Earth. You are not prepared, and your mind may not survive the magnitude of the blowing it will incur.

If you’re into scifi but are starting to feel like the Hunger Games is getting a little stale, try a Princess of Mars. If you’ve dipped 30 or 40 or 50 years back to Asimov and Heinlein, you’re getting close, but it gets even better. Check out Berserker! It’s a story about a fleet of Death Stars that fly around trying to exterminate all life! Pick up a collection of Leigh Brackett’s stuff. Did you know she wrote the first draft of the Empire Strikes Back?

If you think fantasy and scifi have to be separate genres, go read the High Crusade. Knights and footmen lobbing nuclear bombs at aliens — sooo good!

These are the lost classics! Seek them out!

Do it for Dejah Thoris, daughter of Jeddacks

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-Bushi

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“Salad Undressing”, Intermittent Short Fiction by Gitabushi

  • by Gitabushi

Originally done live on Twitter. I came up with the idea, a few tweets in the middle, and an ending, and then just went with it.  I kinda like Twitter for short fiction.  Dividing ideas up into individual tweets certainly paces the unfolding of information, and it can be used to good effect, I think.  But I’m not sure if it works as well out of Twitter.  I’ve added the breaks to try to give that same feel.  Without further ado:

 

I finally developed my Mutant Superpower.

After reading the X-Men comic books, and Spider Man, and the Fantastic Four, I had yearned for my mutant awakening.

Something to confirm my uniqueness in the world, something to justify my sense of isolation.

The day has finally arrived. The moment I’ve longed for and dreamt of for so long is finally here.

Unfortunately, my superpower is the ability to put just the right amount of vinegar-based salad dressing onto a salad so that there is enough flavor while eating, but isn’t a pool of dressing at the bottom when you are finished.

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Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

When my parents found out, they threw me out of the basement. I lost my job. I was shunned. My friends laughed at me, but I could see the terror, lurking in their eyes, behind the rictus of mocking smiles.

My dream had manifested, but at what price?

I struggled. I tried to find other, more socially-acceptable applications of this superpowered curse. I tried to match the right amount of chips to salsa. I tried to make sure you finished the shrimp with the last bit of cocktail sauce.

No luck.

I was undone.

Rejected by society, I wandered the streets accompanied by the jeers of the unsympathetic. They threw rocks. Tomatoes. Radishes. Lettuce.

And even bottles of salad dressing.

But never vinaigrette. Never vinaigrette.

I bottomed out. I considered suicide. I turned to distractions, trying desperately to find acceptance among society’s dregs, like Live Action Role Playing groups.

I finally realized that as my life has become hell, I should embrace it. I sought out pain, and frustration, and foul smells, and risked collision, fire, and asphyxiation.

I rode the DC Metro.

They say life is always darkest before the dawn.

The DC Metro never sees the sunrise.

But in this thick blanket of darkness, among this miasma of urine, amid the non-functional escalators, I have found hope.

A help wanted ad.

…for Summer’s Eve.

The End

Forever Warring

I read the Forever War a month-or-two-ish ago and shared a few comments. Although it’s no longer fresh in my mind, I’d like to mention some further thoughts before it all fades beyond recall or desire!

*Spoilers Ahoy*

In a lot of ways Haldeman’s military scifi story reminded me of Starship Troopers. Ironically, though a lot of Heinlein’s work is often weirdly sexualized, I don’t remember Starship Troopers suffering from this problem. I say “ironically” because Forever War does include quite a bit of sexuality.

It didn’t turn me off as much as, say, Glory Road’s sexual stuff did. Maybe this is because in Forever War it seems more intended to serve the story rather than to satisfy some lewd dream of the author.

It was quite shocking, especially considering this was written in the 70’s and not in 20XX.

Eventually everyone on earth is gay and the protagonist and other old war fossils like him are the deviants. Quite a turn. Wonder how far off from reality, though.

Later on he finds even his mother has gone gay. You can see this stuff bothers him, but part of me wanted to see the reaction of a normal, red-blooded soldier without all the hippie “tolerance.” I imagine things would have gotten more explosive and probably not gone so well for him.

An interesting, though somewhat wonky, concept is the idea of a global economy based on calories (k) as currency. There area few points where Haldeman goes back and forth between calories and dollars, so that is a little inconsistent.

Look, Apple Pay!

Ah taxes.

The most chilling part of the story is the result of socialized healthcare operating with limited resources. People become numbers.

Damn.

Well, the story wraps up on a happier note. The war, it turns out, was all based upon a (silly?) misunderstanding! Now the glorious clone empire reigns supreme, and all it wants is to make everyone happy!

Eh, at least the main guy (I’m not sure if he’s a hero) gets the girl in the end.

Not exactly an uplifting read, but there’s a lot to appreciate here, if even just the eerily prescient-seeming dystopian notes it hits.

-Bushi

bushi

Making Your Readers *Feel* It

  • by Gitabushi

One of my more favored authors is Alistair MacLean. When he’s at the top of his game, like in “The Guns of Navarone,” “Circus,” “When Eight Bells Toll,” or “Where the Eagles Dare,” he’s amazing.  When he’s not, well, let’s just say I don’t recommend “Goodbye California” and “Athabasca.”

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One of the things he does well, however, that I rarely see authors include is make his heroes fatigued.  The fatigue could be seen as a dodge to make it easier for them to make mistakes that help drive the plot, perhaps.  But he does a good job of making you feel how tired the main character is.

In this same vein, when one of my sisters read “The Stand” by Stephen King, she said it entranced her so well that she would look up and think, “What are all these people doing here? Everyone is dead!”

As an aspiring writer, I want to be able to do that.  So I set out to write a section of a story with an exhausted combatant.

The inspiration was somewhat based on this event from my own life.  I had so much to do, and I couldn’t stop until I finished the work for the day.  I just kept going. I got tired, then weary, then exhausted. I got to the point where I had to stop and rest.  But energy would return after even just a 30 second rest.  The thing is, the energy span you get after a rest gets shorter and shorter.  You get so tired your arms just go limp when you aren’t lifting something.  If you sit down, you risk falling asleep if you close your eyes even for a second.  Your skin chafes. You get blisters, and just keep moving…your brain sort of switches off the pain notifications. By the end of the day, you are truly spent.  To the point that you try to eat a hamburger and have to go vomit.

And then you get up and do it again the next day.

Your body has truly astounding reserves of energy.  There’s almost always more you can call on in need.  But every movement takes an effort of will. Just standing becomes difficult.

I wanted to capture that.  Here’s an attempt:

Another opponent.  He staggered toward me, barely able to lift his axe off the ground.  I knew my shield had sagged to the point of leaving my upper body exposed, but I couldn’t find enough energy to lift it any higher.  He summoned a burst of energy to swing the axe upward in an arc, letting the momentum and its own weight bring the axe blade down toward me, inexorably obeying gravity to try to bite deeply into the metal of my armor, and the relative softness of my flesh underneath.

But I was no longer in the axe’s target point.  I had pushed off with my exhausted and cramping left leg, and gathered enough power to move my body out of the way.  I yanked my sword arm up, so the point was no longer pointing at my feet, and fell foward, reaching out with the point for a spot on his side, just above his belt.  I managed to get my foot up in time to place in front of me to prevent falling on my face.  As my sword point cut through cloth and parted hide, I twisted my body to add force, trying to make it go deeper.

The axe head hit the ground, and his body followed it a second later.

I stared stupidly at his dying body, only dimly aware of other things happening on the periphery of my vision.  Unable to hold my arms up a second more, I let them both drop by my side.  I lifted my eyes to my surroundings, willing my head to follow, and looked around me.  I squeezed my eyes shut tightly to try to rid myself of the stinging sweat dripping down from underneath my helment.  I couldn’t lift my arm to wipe away the sweat without dropping my sword, and I didn’t want to do that.  Not until the encampment behind me was safe.

The closest enemy combatants were no closer than a half-dozen yards away, all engaged with different members of my company.  I had time to feel and catalog all my pain and discomfort.

My right hand ached from gripping the hilt of my sword, and a blister had formed and burst on the webbing between thumb and forefinger.  The sweat begain to sting.  My left arm ached from the blows absorbed by my shield. I’m sure the arm itself was mottled with black and purple bruising.  A dozen or more nicks and cuts; nothing deep nor serious, or I would not be able to stand, but with a growing pain, the longer I had time to think and experience the sensations, undistracted.  My head ached where the leather band in my helmet rested. My shoulders burned with exhaustion.  I would have given my right arm for an M-58 and three clips of seeker rounds, but we ran out of ammo two years ago, and the metal from the rifles salvaged for medieval arms not long after.

I breathed deeply, trying to find oxygen to regain my wind.  I buried the point of my sword in the dirt, and fell to one knee, gripping the crossguard and bowing to rest my head against the hilt. I closed my eyes.  I could feel sleep stealing about the edges of my consciousness, ready to dart in and drag me down into blessed oblivion of sight, sound, sense, and pain. The dizziness made my head spin, I felt the sensation of falling…

…and snapped my eyes open.  It would help no one if I fell asleep at this moment.  As exhausted as I was, I had slept more recently than most.

I saw man, clad in enemy colors, trudge up the hill toward me.  He ignored my engaged compatriots and came right for me. He raised his sord to point it at my head.

Show-off. If he were half as exhausted as I, he would regret the wasteful display of excess energy only long enough for his life blood to leak into the sandy soil.

I put the effort of my whole body into standing up.  I still leaned against the sword, as if a cane, with its point still lodged in earth, as my determined opponent approached me.  I could see his eyes light up as I refused to pull my sword, saw the wolfish grin as I let my shield fall, as if from nerveless fingers. He pulled his arm back, and thrust as he stepped forward…

…to pierce the air where I had been. The knife I had drawn with my left hand and concealed along my forearm twirled out, and I let his momentum carry him onto the point, driving it deeply into his heart.  He fell, and I lost my grip on the knife.

I didn’t want to bend over to pick it up, fearing I might fall over.  I stood where I was, still gasping for air, still trying to marshall my energy for my next opponent.

I turned and looked behind me at the summit of the knoll. The defensive wall still stood, and the orange and yellow flag still flew.  It was weighted, and held aloft by a rotating set of the older children. Had a wall breach threatened, or even worse, broken through, the child would have let go the rope to make some pitiful attempt at defense, and the flag would be in the dirt.  Our children remained safe and unmolested.

I turned back to the battlefield, and saw two more warriors notice me, and begin walking toward me.  My breathing had still not slowed to normal, but I had regained a little energy; enough to retrieve and sheath my knife, and even enough to shrug into the battered shield.

The first reached me, and I had gained enough energy to knock his javelin thrust to the side before stabbing him in the throat. He fell to the ground, and the next was upon me.

He swung, and I parried. I thought I saw an opening and jerked the sword up and around in a path to hit him just above his shield, but he raised his shield arm to deflect, while ducking under the rebound.  I had to use energy, too much, to stop the sword from dragging me all the way around.  My sword and shield drooped again.

His dropped, as well. Early in the battle, I would have made him pay for the poor defense, but then, I would have paid for my own.

We stood, facing each other, gasping for breath. Two men. One who turned his back on humanity and civilization, one who defended the last remnants of it. I thought of Sarah, back in the encampment, and the hell I was certain waited for her if I fell. I ignored the seat in my eyes, ignored the pain in hands, and lifted my sword for another attack.

I drove him back with the ferocity of my attack, pushing him to the edge of the nearby gully that guarded our left flank, but even my adrenaline frenzy drained away quickly.  I had to end this quickly. I took a chance.

I beat his sword out of line, and thrust.  He recovered, more quickly than I hoped, nearly as quickly as I feared. His sword sliced my side as mine slid between his ribs.  He fell backward, and my sword stuck on his ribs, dragging it from my grasp.  I let go as soon as I felt it stick, but it threw off my balance.  I staggered foward, tried to catch myself, stumbled, and fell onto the steep slope.

I grabbed for anything I could, but my grasping fingers met only the body of my last opponent, pulling him down with me.  I tumbled for a few dozen yards before tubmling into a crack between two boulders, the body of my opponent on top of me.  I tried to push him off, but with one arm wedged beneath me and trapped by the boulders, I couldn’t summon up enough strength to move him. I closed my eyes to rest a moment before trying again.

When I opened them again, it was night.  All was still.  There were no sounds of battle.

This time I was able to wiggle my way out from beneath the dead weight.  Being so close to the galaxy’s core, the stars were bright enough for me to slowly, and mostly silently, clamber my way to the top of the ravine.  I looked up at the encampment. No lights, but in the starlight, it was clear: the flag was down.

I let the other Bushis read it, and I think we all agree: there’s something good there, but overall, it’s clunky and overwritten.  I think I’m going to distill this down to a page-length or so, then write about the pursuit and rescue.

But what are your thoughts?

Of course, we don’t write about normal body functions in a story, but has anything in your life ever been disrupted by having to use the bathroom?  How about being sick?  How about being exhausted?

If it can happen in real life, why shouldn’t it happen in your story?

I have mixed feelings. I think I’m happy that we don’t talk about urinating and excreting in most stories.  It just gets ignored, right?  On the other hand, could it increase the verisimilitude? Or add further plot complications? Could it be done tastesfully?

What do you do to help your readers *feel* what your characters are going through? What should be out of bounds for inclusion, when it comes to bodily functions?

Glory Load

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Ok, Glory Road is ultimately kind of garbage. I don’t often quit reading books once I’ve begun, but if I do it’s usually within the first chapter or two. This thing strung me along to within 50 pages of finishing. But alas, I can take no more.

And you know, if Heinlein had possessed the humility or sense not to keep writing once the adventure was done, or if his editor had possessed the cajones to rein him in, it would have been a middling, serviceable scifi story.

But nope. Instead we get more Stranger in a Strange Land Heinlein, who can’t stop himself from writing about free love and weird sex. The adventure is over, so here’s a few chapters of exposition about some weird imperial sex culture stuff.

Oh well.

As Kaiju tweeted some days ago:  Heinlein died after writing Starship Troopers.

The end.

-Bushi

bushi