May 7, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #13 “Small Battles” (Submitted 9 Times Since 2014, 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:
Laughter is universal, though HUMOR is not – can learning to laugh together avert all-out war?

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?)
The alien WheetAH are descended from mobile plants; Humans from tiny mammals. When war is imminent between the only two sophonts in our part of the galaxy and based on uncountable numbers of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and outright incomprehension – can anything be done by anyone to stop it?

Opening Line:
“‘The literature supports slowing natural growth when WheetAH are anywhere off Wheet,’ said Martin Hardy.” (WOW! There’s a gripping beginning! Can you even wait to read the rest of the story???)

“When had their friendship stopped being fun? ‘When the governments stuck their slimy noses in it,’ he answered his own question. When their co-authored literature review and speculation caught the eye of the Human and WheetAH military looking for a reason to accelerate their arsenals – or keep the other side from figuring out how to build theirs up.” This is an awfully obscure block of text – though it’s masquerading as something important. It doesn’t even “do it” for me…and I wrote it.

“Puffing, he headed for their usual watering hole, The Dirt-n-Drink, along cobblestone and lichen pathways. Beyond the edge of the campus, an old warehouse had been turned into an alcohol and sludgee bar for Human college students and analeptic-laced root boxes and a cheap selection of insects and rodents for WheetAh college students. Along with free stellarnet, The DnD exerted an inexorable force few undergrads of either Kingdom could resist” OK – THIS is somewhat interesting and I go on from here, but this doesn’t arrive until page three.

Page four is where the story starts: “He had a message. From Groan. He stared at the icon for five minutes debating whether or not to open it. A second message popped up as he watched. He swiped that one, and her image said, ‘I saw you come in. I’m in the back of the sunny side. Think you should get here fast. Trouble.’”

Trouble. That’s where the story AWLAYS has to start. Mine doesn’t…and in a moment, I’ll share with you a comment from one of the editors who rejected it.

What Was I Trying To Say?
I want to explore commonalities and differences and how war – and in the current political climate – folding our arms over our chests or breasts and intoning, “You can’t make me!” – will neither solve any problem whatsoever. We have to LISTEN. Listening and open discussion is the only way to avert war; it’s the only way to get things done. It seems that the current belief of Humanity is that the only way anything can be done is by shouting louder than the other party/candidate/country.

I am trying to say we have to talk, and perhaps the language of humor, explored with compassion and intelligence, might lead to understanding.

The Rest of the Story:
It can be summed up right here, from page twenty-two:

“‘They’ll need us when whatever plan the authorities tries fails miserably.’
“‘Why would they fail?’
“Groanhootpeefei said, ‘Because they don’t understand each other like we understand each other.’
“‘We understand each other?’ Martin said.
“‘Well enough to make a dynamite comedy couple.’ She spun up the ramp.
“Martin followed as the door pixelated after identifying them, and said, ‘We did, after all, win the comedy contest.’

End Analysis:
“‘What say we start a new group on campus – give the Comedy Club a little competition?’
“‘We could call it the Inter-Kingdom Philosophy, Religion, and Comedy League; and before you ask, our mission statement will point out that you can’t make people laugh until you understand them. To understand them you need to know everything about them – not just how they talk, act and reproduce,” Martin added, Ick Prickle.’
“‘Excuse me?’
“‘The I-K-P-R-C-L – Ick Prickle,’ Martin said, nodding but lifting his arms half-way up in an approximation of a WheetAh raising their head fans. ‘Good idea. We can get started when we have our proposal written up.’
“Groanhootpeefei sounded like bending timber as the door slid down behind them and she said, ‘We’ve got two weeks. Maybe we can find some of that coffee Barby was talking about and take our time writing the proposal. It’s got to be a real killer if we want the Committee to give us the grant.””

This is a good ending, but as the editor of PERIHELION noted: “I was expecting more dramatic tension.” I imply impending war, but never make it clear. Another editor said it was too long – though he liked the idea.

Can This Story Be Saved?
Yeah – but I need to re-write it from top to bottom; make it along the lines of Poul Anderson’s “Wings of Victory” that takes place against the background of impending war between Humans and the Ythrians. I don’t know if that would work. OTOH, I love this world and the characters. I want it to succeed, so I guess…I’ll do it. The name, however, may change…

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