September 18, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #4 “Death of Faerie” (Submitted 6 Times Since 2009, Revised 1 time)

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line: "Imagination ... is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." Albert Einstein (October 26, 1929; The Saturday Evening Post)

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?): Using the metaphor of starship FTL travel, I can comment on the plight of kids who STILL are forced to take Ritalin.

Opening Line: “‘Do you know you’re a lot more fun when you’re not drugged?’ Rejuan Daboh said to the man with grizzled and gray old man lying on the bunk bed, reading a flatbook.

“Dain Portland shot a glance at Rejuan then went back to reading. He added, ‘Do you know you’re a lot less obnoxious when you’re drugged?’”

Onward/What Was I Trying To Say? : It’s been years since I read this story. The world-building is clumsy and laden with the names of ships and WAY more characters than I could ever possibly use. The main thrust is completely unclear, and old-guy character I START with (signaling the reader that he’s supposed to be important) never appears again. I was about to say that the story then changes focus to Rejuan’s two friends Hue and Verdeen, but at this point there doesn’t appear to BE a focus! It’s very random.

I suppose I could say that I intended to write the story that way to emphasize the perceptions of a ADHD mind – but I’d be lying. The problem here is that I didn’t have a handle on the story. Even I would have rejected this because I didn’t hold to the intent. I was trying to show that it’s sad that Ritalin and other ADHD (more properly now, “ADHD-Predominantly Inattentive…and ADHD-Combined type”) killed the imagination. Hobbes went from being Calvin’s imaginary friend and as real as a “real tiger”, to a simple, lifeless stuffed animal. I was trying to show that in the world of FTL travel, drugging someone – giving them something I called “TruFocus” would make them worse starship pilots. I was trying to say that aging out of ADHD made a person more adapted to the real world, but less imaginative.

The Rest of the Story: While I set out to do the above, I eventually muddled my way to illustrating the opposite, because my main character, Rejuan proves the exact opposite to what I set out to do:

“Forty hours of intensely constricted focus on maneuvering around, through, under and over physical perceptions of probability occupying not-space, brought Rejuan to a spot congruent with HD23127, 291 light years from Earth. Enstad’s Planet was a world with one immense continent dominated by a pair of high, jagged mountain ranges east and west. Between them, prairies, salt marshes, deserts, and freshwater marshes teemed with life. Two other minor continents were ringed and extended by over one hundred volcanic island arcs.

“Rejuan fell into a dreamless sleep immediately. Once he woke, he took three more tablets of TruFocus, waited a half an hour and then taking SCAMP along the pre-calculated flight path, he arrived in Earth space thirty-three hours later feeling tense and stretched.

“‘You don’t feel any other side-effects?’ asked Xiao.

“‘Like what?’ he knew all of them were listening, ‘Do I feel like I’m going insane or losing my mind?’ He considered, ‘I don’t know if asking me is a good way of getting an answer. I’m tired, I think your question is stupid – but other than that, all I want to do is sleep.’

“There was a long silence. Baldy said, ‘Then sleep is what you’ll have – and we’ll send you to the suite your friends have been staying in.’ He paused then grinned crazily, ‘You’ll be happy to know that while you’ve been gone, we started another dozen pilots on TruFocus and their travel times to Gliese 86 and Upsilon Andromedae have dropped over fifteen percent! We’ve started hearings to ram mandatory usage of TruFocus for all pilots and we’re drafting guidelines to recommend that passengers use it as well.”

End Analysis: Without knowing it I illustrated the opposite of what I wanted. In fact, I so muddied the waters with this story, I’m shocked I didn’t see it before. Was I so “gone” on my mission that I didn’t even notice what I was doing? How is it that I thought I was doing one thing, but I was in fact doing something completely different? My experience has absolutely been that ADHD (PI and C) can be controlled using drugs and making better students out of kids who would otherwise be unable to focus on the everyday life of the modern classroom.

I wanted to point out that making kids better students shouldn’t be our goal – making better people, people who can use their imagination to solve problems – should be what education is all about.

Can This Story Be Saved? Good question. I’d have to answer, “Probably,” in this case. But I’d have to rework everything. It also doesn’t connect the whole virtual reality game to non-space navigation at all. If I did rework it, there’s a good chance it would hardly resemble the present story. I also do something I’ve realized I do far too often – I try and do too many things at the same time. I’ve got the “union” thing going, the relationship between Rejuan and his pilot friends, and Rejuan with his captain – and like I said, I abandoned the relationship between Rejuan and the older pilot. These are all separate issues, and while they’re related, they don’t help the story along much. To do that, I’d probably drop the friends, keep the old guy, I NEED the captains as a foil (I also switch from using the captain’s name to using a pejorative in the last two pages of the story – and I’m pretty sure I changed genders as well. According to the website Baby Name Guesser, “It's a girl! Based on popular usage, it is 1.527 times more common for Ying to be a girl's name.” That’s how I envisioned her. Yet I change her to him in the last few pages.


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