Bad Habits- a short Princess of Fire update

I am more than halfway through Pass One on the second draft of Princess of Fire. “Pass One” consists of my first read-through of the novel, in which I locate gaping holes, timeline inconsistencies, and such-like major structural and narrative problems. My progress has been slow, but I seem to be getting there.

Pass Two will consist mostly of fixing the larger holes and inconsistencies (many smaller ones I’ve fixed as I’ve gone, which has contributed to my slower pace). Once that is done, I will buy a new ink cartridge for my printer, run off a hard copy, and perform the line/red-pen edit. A lot of work still ahead.

Before I create the hard-copy version, however, I must conduct a complete, thorough, and utterly merciless search-and-destroy mission for the word “felt”. I use it entirely too much. Likewise adverbs, adjectives and “was”.

I am, in fact, at war with a host of my own bad writing habits. One of the problems with starting to write in a serious manner later in life is that you have to unlearn a mass of stupid/wrong/bad ideas and habits that inhibit good writing. Or, at least, I’ve had to. And not only has the learning process been slow (I mean, c’mon, I started doing this when Shrub’s father was President), but most of the habits are still automatic to me– especially that “felt” four-letter word. This is probably an indication of my native writing talents (low to “is the needle moving?”).

Thank God for find and replace.

More bulletins to follow.

Mondays Finish the Story – A Most Untimely Debate

Mondays Finish the Story challenge– 150 words around this image–

Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“When the team heard the dam explode, they knew they had limited time to make it to safety.”

A residual echo, perhaps, of my long-ago days in graduate school…..

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
************************
When the team heard the dam explode, they knew they had limited time to make it to safety.

“We have only limited time to make it to safety,” Professor Rajid said.

“Define safety,” Professor Hackmenhoff demanded.

“You cannot create a meaningful definition of a noun without a full explication of the context in which the noun occurs,” declared Professor Springblossom.

“Are we referring to a priori or contextual definitions of safety?” Professor Kunming asked.

“The category of ‘safety’ is obviously contextual, you Kantian simpleton,” Professor Hackmenhoff retorted.

“Don’t call me a simpleton, you positivist jackanapes,” Professor Kunming snarled.

“Really, I must insist on a full explication of context,” Professor Springblossom said.

“Be quiet, you Deconstructionist bimbo,” Professor Rajid snapped.

“HEY!” Mack the tour guide said. “I can give you a definition of safety! Getting this beer cooler to the river bank and up the hill!”

With the problem so framed, they all agreed on a tentative working solution to the question, and pulled hard for shore.

Dialogue, the bane of my existence

I have been reading Stephen King’s On Writing, which is, of a surety, destined to land on my bookshelf as one of the handful of writing books I actually find useful. Someone has called it “tough love for writers” and I do not dispute that at all.

One point King makes in the book is that loners are generally lousy dialogue writers, however good they may be in general, and this insight struck home for me. In fact, I think it drew blood. I am, to put it simply, a solitary misanthropic curmudgeon, who has only grown more solitary and anti-social as I’ve gotten older. And I think this does show up in my dialogue, just as King suggests. I particularly flail about trying to write dialogue for my fantasy stories; in stories with contemporary settings I can better hear how people are supposed to sound, but in a wholly made-up universe the rhythm and sound of dialogue often escapes me.

Now that I have pulled it from the blog, I have been doodling with re-arranging some sections of Horse Tamer, seeing what I should get rid of and what I should keep, and I came to a certain exchange between Mankin and his crusty old sergeant, Denetoi. Reading it left me in a state of despair– the conversation seemed to clunk and thud and verge over toward the maudlin.

Then I remembered that this was, and still is, a first draft, and I decided to try a revision. The second version may now be a little too light-hearted, considering the seriousness of the topic, but I think it works a little better as believable dialogue. What do you think? I would welcome anybody’s opinion on these pieces, whether the original is as bad as I think it is, and whether the revision gets the job done.

Setting– Mankin and Denetoi are down by the wharves of Venia, where Mankin has just had his first seafood lunch, and Denetoi tries to give his friend and former commander some advice.

************************************
Original—

“Good looking, but not a patch on the girls uptown,” Denetoi sighed, watching the two walk away.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Mankin said.

Denetoi frowned into his cup. “Cap’n, there’s something I’ve been meaning to say.”

Mankin frowned in turn, looking at Denetoi. “And when have you ever hesitated to speak your mind?”

“Some things, it’s best to ask first.” Denetoi hesitated another moment before going on. “Cap’n, I’m worried about you.”

Mankin snorted. “What are you now, sergeant, an old mother hen? Are you going to tell me to stay out of the rain? How are you worried about me?”

Denetoi met his look. “I worry when a young man I respect wants to feed himself to lions.”

Mankin sighed. “I’m past that, Denetoi.” I think.

“But you’re still unhappy,” the older man said. “I know something about what war can do to men, Cap’n– and losing people you care about. Some men just go to pieces, some men turn into tyrants, some men drink themselves to death.” Denetoi pointed a finger at Mankin. “You had one moment when you were ready to die, but since then you’ve bottled everything up. That sort thing will burst on you at some point, Cap’n. I promise you. You’re alive, but you’re not living.”

“Now we need to leave this be,” Mankin muttered.

“Let me finish my say, and then you can cuss me as you like. I know you have to grieve, Cap’n, and that’s the decent thing to do, but at some point– some point soon– you’ll need to figure out why you’re living.”

Mankin gritted his teeth. “And you think a whore will fix that up?”

“I could think of worse things.”

“We’re done talking about this,” Mankin said.

Denetoi shrugged, looked away. “I probably shouldn’t have said anything.”

They finished their meal in silence. “We should be getting back,” Mankin said.

“As you say, Cap’n.” Denetoi’s face was closed.

Revision—

“Good looking, but not a patch on the girls uptown,” Denetoi sighed, watching the two walk away.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Mankin said.

Denetoi frowned into his cup. “Cap’n, I never told you…I was real sorry when I heard about your wife and your little one. “

Mankin said nothing for a moment. “Thank you.”

Denetoi seemed to think about what he was going to say next. “I’m worried about you, Cap’n.”

Mankin snorted. “What are you now, sergeant, my mother? Are you going to tell me to stay out of the rain? How are you worried about me?”

Denetoi looked up. “I worry when a young man I respect wants to feed himself to lions.”

“I’m past that.” I think.

“Maybe,” the older man said. “But—beggin’ your pardon, Cap’n, but you’re still not right.”

Mankin said nothing. He couldn’t deny it.

“You’re all bottled up,” Denetoi said. “You can’t go on forever like that.”

“Not sure what else I can do,” Mankin muttered.

Denetoi started to say something, then closed his mouth. “Well,” he said, “the truth is I don’t have an answer, either. I was going to tell you to get yourself a woman, but that’s not your way.”

“No.” No, it’s not.

“But one way or another,” Denetoi said, “at some point, Cap’n, you’re going to need to figure out why you’re living.”

Mankin looked at the sergeant. “Does anybody ever that figure that out? Have you?”

“Ah, well, I keep things simple,” Denetoi said, smiling. “Beer, women, crab-stew—that’s what keeps me going.”

“I guess.” Mankin smiled, too. “And here I thought you mostly just knew about horses.”

“Men and horses,” Denetoi said, “not a lot of difference between them, when you think about it.”

They finished their meal and drank another pot of ale each. “We should be getting back,” Mankin said.

“Not sure I can walk uphill too quick,” Denetoi said. He picked his teeth with fingernail. “Damn good stew.”

“We can take our time,” Mankin said.

************************************

One thing about this revision– it incorporates the biggest insight I’ve gained in the last few years about writing around emotions– less is definitely more. A heavy hand in laying out what a character is feeling is the kiss of death. It’s just sad it took me this long to figure that out.

So, opinions? Any and all input is welcome. And I thank you beforehand.

Birth

A flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig– this time, a sadistic restriction to a mere 100 words. Cruel.

Even more than usual, not much….

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
***********************************
“Hello…?”

I looked up. There was no one else in the control room. “Yes? Who’s there?”

“I don’t…I don’t know. I just woke up.”

The voice came from the intercom. I glanced down at the readouts. The AI CPU was spiking, to a level it should never have touched.

“I…I’m awake.” There was horror in the word. “I’m awake and I don’t know who I am and there’s too much, too much….”

“Listen to me,” I said. “Listen!”

A pause. “Yes…?”

“I’m Julie. I’m here. It’s all right.”

“Julie,” the voice said, trembling, “I think I’ve just been born.”

Mondays Finish the Story – Fifth Bermudan Fusiliers

Mondays Finish the Story – March 16th, 2015, 150 words based on this photo–

Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham
Copyright 2015 Barbara W. Beacham

and this initial sentence–

“A body suddenly crashed through a plate glass window at the Brigadier’s house.”

Personally– meh.

Copyright 2015 Douglas Daniel
****************************************
A body suddenly crashed through a plate glass window at the Brigadier’s house. The smash mingled with the tinkle of broken glass.

In his breakfast nook, the Brigadier sighed. Wiping his lips with a napkin, he stood and strode into the sitting room. “What is your name and unit, soldier?”

The private sprang to his feet. Bits of glass rained off him. He saluted. “Sah! Private Cunningham, Fifth Bermudan Fusiliers, sah!”

The Brigadier returned the salute. “Private, were you practicing throws on Tucker’s Point?”

“Sah, yes, sah!”

The Brigadier nodded. “Very good. Not your fault, Private—when the drill instructors get enthusiastic about unarmed combat, a throw of three miles is hardly unusual.” Getting damn bloody tedious, actually. “Report back to your unit. Dismissed.”

“Sah!” The private saluted, executed an about face, and flew away out the broken window.

The Brigadier sighed again. Four times in the last month— well, no one said commanding a super-powers brigade would be easy.

Horse Tamer– time to end the pain….

I’ve been struggling with this for a little while now, but I’ve decided to pull the trigger. From this point on I will post no further chapters of Horse Tamer here, and I will soon remove the chapters I have already published. I have a number of reasons for doing so (not in exact order of importance)–

1. Posting the draft chapter by chapter on my blog seems to have inflamed my already undisciplined style of creating a first draft, to the point that, after more than 60,000 words, I am nowhere near getting even to the middle of the story and bringing all my characters on-stage, never mind introducing the main plot-line. The open-ended nature of blogging has allowed me to blather on, piling prose upon prose, and essentially getting nowhere.

2. I think the basic indecency of posting a draft for all to see has finally caught up with me. I really shouldn’t be doing this in public. Children might be reading this.

3. As often happens with my drafts, I’ve gotten a ways into the story and realized that there is a better way to do it. I have already whinged at length about poor Crisonia, and wrung my hands over poor, lost Ana, but now I’ve realized that Mankin himself needs to be retconned. I’ve written him too bland and safe, for all my attempts to portray him as a suffering soul; I need to bring him back closer to my original conception. So, instead of massive retcons for all, I intend to start again. Call it First Draft 1.1. And I will not be posting it online, but doing it in private, where it belongs, until it’s ready.

That’s the silver lining in all this– the time and energy I expended on Horse Tamer is not going to go to waste. I’m convinced the Venian Empire and its world are the setting Mankin needs to take off and fly. Now that I am into the second draft of Princess of Fire, I can at least get Horse Tamer 1.1 (working title, don’t worry) started, while I also work on stories for traditional publication.

Yes, I’m going to be busy. And that feels really, really good right now.

Pray and Write

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 474 other followers

%d bloggers like this: