April 9, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #12 “Extreme Contact” (Submitted 12 Times Since 2013, Revised 0 times)

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:
Extreme climates evolve extreme aliens – who need extreme measures to make a successful First Contact.

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
Sacrifice is necessary to get what you want.

Opening Line:
“After watching the live, streaming reports of the Heinlein Dome disaster on the Moon, Zahar Qasoori was certain that dying to save someone’s life would be less painful than living as the bastard son of a rich interplanetary business man and playboy.”

A couple of kids – who were captured as they were about to die – are used as a First Contact team with a bizarre society of intelligent beings descended from an Hallucigenian-like predecessor. Human adults in wheelchairs were insulting to the Ho*fart* and the Contact nearly caused Humanity to be FINED instead of gaining credit in the Unity toward the purchase of mathematical techniques leading to equations leading to a Human theory of faster-than-light space travel.

What Was I Trying To Say?
I was trying to counter the meme that seems to have swallowed the idea that sacrifice is sometimes required to advance either our personal goals – or the goals of society at large. That’s why the main character, Zahar, willingly gives his life in pursuit of a greater goal: to make sure First Contact with a weird alien intelligence is successful.

I believe that we’ve pushed such an absurd idea aside in favor of…well, lots of things: personal aggrandizement, the sense that we DESERVE to have whatever we want, that other people should give it to us, and that we deserve it NOW. [Personally, I believe that’s why Hillary Clinton has (as they say in several of the Jane Austen movies) “disappeared from all good society”. She felt she deserved the presidency (as do her followers, who continue to tell me that “Trump is not my president!”…though, I’ll point out that I refused to vote for either one of them. BOTH were bad choices for America. I was, at one time, very interested in Bernie Sanders.]

The attitude I get more often than I like in my line of work, is this profound sense of entitlement; that the person “deserves”…well, to get whatever we want; good grades without working for it, be it education, advancement, wealth, position, or authority.

The Rest of the Story:
The main character sacrifices his life in the end to save the life of his First Contact partners – an older man who is really wheelchair bound – and another teen like himself. Together, the survivors can negotiate with the Ho*fart*, but only because the aliens are impressed by the sacrifice .

End Analysis:
On rereading the story, I found that the thing was more a vignette with all kinds of details describing the world and the Ho*fart*, both of which were cool, but the story itself was extremely weak, being more or less a thinly veiled excuse for me to show the place off.

That’s a Novice Mistake if ever I saw one. Oops.

Can This Story Be Saved?
The first question to ask is if it is, indeed, a story.

I’ve long believed that it is, until I just reread it and discovered that it’s not. So now what do I do? I may have to abandon THIS story, though I think the concept is fine. It’s just that I go totally lost in the world itself. If I can sideline some of the world building wonder and focus on character (which is a weakness of mine), I might be able to shave it down to only 4000 words if I cut out all the coolness. However, the complexity of the aliens and their world are integral to the actual story. Perhaps I could study Dr. Robert L. Forward’s world-building wonder DRAGON’S EGG or even Hal Clement’s short story, “Under” (ANALOG 2000) and MISSION OF GRAVITY (ASTOUNDING SF April, May, June, July 1953) to get a better idea of what to do with this place…

So, the answer is a definite, “maybe”…

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