This is the fourth of six or seven installments depending on how things go while I’m writing the conclusion — one consequence of my outline-and-planning-free writing style is that I’m not often good at predicting final wordcounts. After it’s done I’ll release an omnibus and a print edition. At a projected 30-35,000 words, it will be the longest thing I’ve written. Right now it’s right around 20,000 words, equal to my previous record in Isolation, the title story in the Isolation and Other Stories collection.
So, why the heck am I writing a serial? And why was there a long pause between installments three and four?
Because I’ve been hit or miss in terms of finishing my work on longer stories. I have several projects that have been waiting at 10,000 or 20,000 words for me to finish them. I’ve let myself be derailed into turning to shorter projects and finishing those instead. But that’s not a good pattern for a writer to be in.
Writers need to finish their writing, dammit!
So a serial seemed like a good way to make a public commitment to finishing a story. I started this project to light a fire under my butt. By following through here, I demonstrate to myself that this unfortunate pattern of leaving long stories lie fallow for months or years before finishing them is unnecessary. I show myself that I can finish what I started. And I force myself to figure how how to motivate myself to do it.
Sometimes we realize that something is wrong, and it needs fixing.
It won’t get fixed unless we work on it with a seriousness.
So here I am, working with a seriousness. And I get a finished story out of it, and I hope you’ll find you got a good read out of it.
Back in the days when I read more superhero comix, and today when I watch a movie with a flying superhero — especially one with some kind of ranged attack, IRON MAN I’M LOOKING AT YOU — I’m super annoyed when they just happen to fly low enough for an opponent with no ranged attack to grab or hit them.
JUST FLY HIGHER, DUMMY.
“But the plot requires me to get close enough to let my opponent start a thrilling grapple…”
SHUT UP THAT’S LAZY-ASS WRITING.
Same goes for every drama that features a standoff with a gun and the hero stands there holding the gun on the villain as the villain creeps closer and closer until they can just grab the gun. It rarely makes sense. If there’s something about the character holding the gun that makes it make sense, fine. Maybe they’ve just realized that they can’t bring themselves to shoot another human being. Or there’s some overriding reason that shooting and maybe killing the villain would be a terrible idea.
But that’s so seldom the case. More often than not, it’s a contrived situation to up the tension.
Don’t be lazy and write things that don’t make sense. If you want more tension or whatever, and it doesn’t make sense, GO BACK AND WRITE IT DIFFERENTLY SO IT MAKES SENSE.
If the tiger catches the drone, make sure there’s some internal logic to it.
It’s about writing hard science fiction when you’re not a scientist, which is a lot of what I do, so I speak from experience. If you write or read science fiction I think you’ll like it. 🙂
I know what I’m trying to do here — but I’d rather have your unbiased comments, if you’d be so kind as to give them. I’m interested in your thoughts as a reader. This excerpt is just short of 400 words out of around 12,500 so far and maybe 20,000 or more by the time I finish.
(Before I post the excerpt, this is simulposted on my Patreon page for maximum reactions — though if you were to head over and become a patron, even for a buck a month, you’d get free ebooks, see new ebooks a month before they come out, and see most of my posts here three days early. Plus you’d get the satisfaction of helping a self-published science fiction author write his, his wife’s, and his 3 sons’ way out of the trailer park. But who am I to be pushy? :-D)
So, the excerpt from Broken Rice:
And thunder boomed into the room and Caleb jerked in panic the needle falling from his fingers and a burst of shards of fine imported Brazilian rosewood (how do I know that?) hit the blinds and the window behind them like the first driving hail out of a Texas thunderhead, the kind of hail blown out of a cloud when there’s a tornado hot on its heels. Caleb saw splinters as long as his forearm, frozen in a moment of timestop clarity, protruding from where they’d impaled slats of the blinds, from where they’d driven their spikes into the thick bulletproof plastic of the window. Sawdust swam like a galaxy of fireflies flying far, far away through the shaft of light that speared the ragged hole one of the bodyguards – Caleb guessed – had blown through the doors of the office with some ungodly powerful weapon. The hole was too small and the light falling the wrong way for Caleb to see who and what and he didn’t try to see but threw himself sideways out of the chair and landed on Jewel who was scrabbling across the carpet on all fours crazy like a crab thrown onto a hot flattop grill (something hit the door again, not the weapon but still like thunder, this time farther away maybe, and the sound of splintering wood and a curse and someone shouted “AGAIN!”) and they tumbled apart Jewel scuttling under the desk and Caleb speedcrawling on hands and knees and he thought he might be screaming but it was hard to tell and where am I going Caleb’s head slammed into the base of the big old clock making the crystal inset of the door shiver and behind it the heavy gold pendulum swung back and forth unhurried like it had no worries in the world and another clap of thunder blew more splinter hail into the blinds and spearing into the back of the chair Caleb had been sitting in moments before and the white hulk of a huge bodyguard shouldered through the wreck of the rosewood doors that cost more than Caleb’s daddy had made in his whole life racking the slide on a shotgun which Caleb knew and didn’t know how he knew is this a dream was custom made to drop a rhinoceros in mid-charge.
So, there it is. Reactions? I’m looking forward to seeing any and all comments! Thank you.
“Younglings” as a crappy word choice comes to you from the Star Wars prequels, specifically when everyone is horrified that Anakin killed “younglings.”
But, you say, look at that Star Wars Wikia pic you just posted. It’s meant to be used to refer to juveniles in a species-neutral way. It’s a piece of worldbuilding!
Maybe so. But, for one, you don’t need a different term for that. “Child” will work fine for the juveniles of sentients in general. Establish it by having characters refer to nonhuman children as children. Nobody will misunderstand.
Second, “he killed the younglings” sucks the emotional juice out of the scene, which is much more important than a small bit of superfluous linguistic worldbuilding. It comes across as a euphemism. Euphemisms exist to soften harsher words. And so “younglings” softens the impact of the idea that Anakin just slaughtered a classroom full of kids and reduces it to the impact of a nasty bit of vandalism. Oh, damn, we’ll have to repaint the whole nursery. What a shame.
And that IS a shame. If any scene should have high impact, it’s the scene that establishes that Anakin has gone full-on evil bastard. But letting a worldbuilding detail take precedence over the emotional impact of the story took the wind out of its sails.
Writers need to look to the integrity and purpose of their scenes and stories first. And that means killing children, not euphemistic “younglings.” When picking words, make the right choices. Your stories and your readers (watchers, for screenplays and their dialogue) will thank you.