November 20, 2016

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #7 “Last Contact” (Submitted 4 Times Since 2011, Revised once)

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: A living road which has partially eaten a murder victim, a bunch of suspects, and a detective who can read the roadway lead to the person who had “last contact”.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?) I was working in the world I’ve created in which the federal government has mandated the abandonment of the Wild and is deconstructing everything outside of the major cities. One to ten million people are moved into massive some 10,000 structures called Vertical Villages which are built from deconstructed towns and cities by DEconstruction And Recovery Robots – DEARRS or dearrs and a maglev system that constantly funnels the construction debris into the VV system. I’ve written a couple of published stories in this world, “Invoking Fire”, “Oath”, “Technopred”, and most recently, “Carpe Hnub” all take place in this future. It also includes a concept that is playing out in real life – the adaptation wildlife is making to technology – and how that might lead to intelligences other than Human in the long run. If you’re interested, the story is here: . At the end is a link to a National Geographic special called “Raccoon Nation”. Fascinating stuff.

Opening Line: “Be Nho Elf let the car float to a stop and settle, then popped the door, swinging her short legs out into the muggy Minnesota heat.”

Onward: Not a bad opening, and I even start out with a corpse, which is, I am led to believe, what EVERY murder mystery is supposed to do.

However, from there it slides downhill slowly into technobabble: “Tykaetrice signaled “Corporal Stager Ma’am” who came over and sprayed the corpse with an old-fashioned pump sprayer. The solution would send the road organism – a bioengineered DNA patchwork of cellulose, heme, eel, ameba, peat moss, alfalfa, leukocytes, iron and a mix of Notothenioidei and Noctilucan cells, more commonly known by its acronym CHEAPALIN – around the body into hibernation. The entire network of asphalt roads in North America had been converted into sets of living organisms. Modified electric eel cells created current passing through hair-fine iron filaments in the road. A thick black pad of organic road organism attached to the underside of any car with a bioconversion, charged a set of batteries. A magnetic field generated as cars moved over the filaments got read by a microchip implanted in the car’s pad, matching the road’s magnetic field creating a maglev effect. A variety of chlorophyll and alfalfa genes allowed roots growing under the road organism to return nitrogen to the soil, pull up micronutrients and conduct photosynthesis. A semi-transparent, thick cellulose skin protected the whole thing while remaining flexible. A few Notothenioidei genes kept cellular fluids from freezing during Minnesota winters. Noctilucan genes made it glow at night when disturbed. Leukocytes digested roadkill, leaves, branches and old pizza boxes.”

There’s nothing gripping – not even for me and I was the one who wrote it. I KNOW I got lost in the science of the thing and just tacked on the murder part to show off my biology expertise…

What Was I Trying To Say? I guess I was trying to say that the future is going to be different in ways we can’t even conceive.

The Rest of the Story: Amazingly, the story DOES pick up and even reading something I wrote myself, I was puzzled enough that I couldn’t figure out who the real murderer was. The biggest problem is that I ended the story – and I STILL don’t know who killed. On page 22-24, which is really supposed to be the dénouement, it’s not even clear to ME who the bad guy was! I THINK the brother did it but sent the boyfriend to the teacher’s house to scare them all be threatening to pin the murder on him…

End Analysis: The story’s interesting (for me) because of the science. As it was written in 2011 and COULD have followed a storyline like the TV series BONES, I hadn’t graduated into really know what I was doing. I’d gotten plenty of things published, but I also hadn’t read many mysteries. I’ve done so now – mostly BONES and LONGMIRE and William Kent Krueger’s CORK O’CONNOR books, so I think I might be better at writing in the mystery genre.

Can This Story Be Saved? I think there’s a really good chance I could save it. I need to read more SHORT mystery fiction though. I’ve got the basics of long-fiction, I think (I DID writing a SF novel, OUT OF THE DEBTOR STARS that I’m shopping around, that is basically an alien murder mystery…) Besides, I only tried four markets then gave up…I need to be more persistent with that!


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