I may have mentioned that one of my goals is to increase my writing output, increase my publication rate, and increase the relevance of my writing. In my WRITING ADVICE column, I had started using an article my sister sent me by Lisa Cron. She has worked as a literary agent, TV producer, and story consultant for Warner Brothers, the William Morris Agency, and others. She is a frequent speaker at writers’ conferences, and a story coach for writers, educators, and journalists. I am going to fuse the advice from her book WIRED FOR STORY with my recent trip to South Korea. Why? I made a discovery there. You’ll hear more about it in the future as I work to integrate what I’m learning from the book, the startling things I found in South Korea, and try and alter how I write in order to create characters that people will care about, characters that will speak the Truth, and characters that will clearly illustrate what I’m writing about.
“Remember when Luke has to drop the bomb into the small vent on the Death Star? The story writer faces a similar challenge of penetrating the brain of the reader. This book gives the blueprints.” – David Eagleman
“The reader expects that the plot will force the protagonist to confront and overcome her misbelief, something she’s probably spent her whole life avoiding.
“As readers we cue into the protagonist’s misbelief surprisingly early, and expect the plot to continually challenge it. And, because misbeliefs are deeply ingrained early in life, we know that the protagonist isn’t going to give it up without a fight. Especially since to her it isn’t a misbelief at all, but a savvy piece of inside intel she’s lucky to have learned early in life.”
I’m trying to write a piece of flash science fiction. I have 1200 words to tell an entire story aimed at young adults – and in the case of SF, that includes BUILDING THE WORLD THAT THE STORY TAKES PLACE IN!
Oh, and having the protagonist and antagonist being best friends. And their parents are dating and that dating may or may not have political overtones, or even be entirely politically motivated.
Twelve hundred words.
The original story went something like this: The guys are on their way to the last few days of “school” (which is ALSO different in this, the 25th Century, “On a well-settled Mars, the five major city Council regimes struggle to meld into a stable, working government. Embracing an official Unified Faith In Humanity, the Councils are teetering on the verge of pogrom directed against Christians, Molesters , Jews, Rapists, Buddhists, Murderers, Muslims, Thieves, Hindu, Embezzlers and Artificial Humans – anyone who threatens the official Faith and the consolidating power of the Councils.” (https://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/search/label/SCIENCE%20FICTION%20-%20Martian%20Holiday))
So – our hero and anti-hero are getting ready for being drafted into their chosen profession as apprentices. They’re also getting ready to “vanish” into the depths of Burroughs Dome to celebrate their newly-conferred adulthood. For Kalbin and Waqas though, things are turning sour. Waqas hates Artificial Humans; Kalbin may be a partial AH, which is HIGHLY illegal not to mention unethical and unprecedented as well. Kalbin’s dad (Mom disappeared shortly after his birth) is the Circulation Director for the online tabloid, “UNDER THE DOME, All the News That’s Fit To Whisper!” Waqas’ mom is running for her third term as the minority Liberal party candidate on Burroughs Dome Council (they have a Strong Mayor, Weak Council structure) and has been pushing for extending civil rights for Artificial Humans (and for the rest of them as well, but that’s not important at this time in Martian history.)
Waqas hates it because “indigoes”, sewerslang for Artificial Humans, are more important to his mom than HE is. (Which is, I might point out, a misbelief of a minor character.)
A lot. He’s a beefed up version of his dad, who owns and operates an ice rig on the bottom of the Northern Dune Sea. Dad is OK with Artificials – as long as they know their place...and stay there.
Kalbin, who was diagnosed with methemoglobinemia (“It’s under control! I just look more blue at some times than at, uh, others…”) as a child. Common practice is to wait until puberty has run its course to do full retrogene replacement. That’s what was going to happen after Kalbin announces his draft choice.
Waqas doesn’t have a choice. As much as he wanted to be an entrepreneur, his dad overruled his choice and he’ll start as an apprentice on the Northern Dune Sea with the rest of his sisters and brother. He’s…um…slightly ticked off about it and as he can’t take it out on his family, he’s taking out his frustration on Kalbin. Who has issues of his own.
See, he suspects he’s not entirely Human. In fact, he suspects that not only is his dad NOT the Circulation Director, but is the author of the infamous “Not-Quite-Blue-Boy” recurring series in the tabloid UNDER THE DOME.
For whom he is the model…and IS he Human at all? If he’s partially Artificial, then what is he? Was he created as a political statement? Is that why Waqas’ mom is dating Kalbin’s dad – to make some sort of political score? Has his dad EVER really cared about him as a person, a son, or has his whole life been a fake? He’s wondered this for a long time. It’s not only a misbelief, it drives how he sees himself and how he’s reacting to the world around him.
At the beginning of the ORIGINAL story, none of this was clear. Now it is. In the end, Kalbin confronts his father, and not getting any satisfaction, he runs off into the Underground.
That is a MANIFESTLY wimpy story.
The first two lines were awful as well…
“Face2FaceSchool was a drag even when Kalbin’s dad was a kid.
“‘We got five weeks, then finally, the Draft!’ Qusay said.”
That is such a wimpy beginning, I’m embarrassed. It’s as if the writer of my most recently accepted story gave writing the opening line to the thirteen-year-old Guy Stewart instead of to the more experienced writer who recently wrote: “Larry Henry was muttering in the Orion Lunar lander mockup when Mission Control interrupted their regularly scheduled disaster.”
That line was so well-turned it surprised me. And I wrote it.
To the current blog point, though: “The reader expects that the plot will force the protagonist to confront and overcome her misbelief, something she’s probably spent her whole life avoiding.”
This is what the readers will expect in “Not Quite Blue Boy”; it’s something that’s not quite there yet. On the other hand, it’s something that after ruminating on what I was trying to accomplish and (in this case, having to write out the story here, ruminating on how it intersects with Cron’s reader expectations and her other 52 Mass Points. If it’s a formula, thus far it’s been extremely successful – “Road Veterinarian” and “Kamsahamnida, America” were both written under the influence of WIRED FOR STORY; both sold to a top market.
This one, finally, will also be written “under-the-influence”. I’ll keep you posted on it!
(While it's NOT part of the Korean Solar Expansion, all of the stories will now be influenced by my experience in South Korea.)
Maps and Photos: http://www.faculty.virginia.edu/rwoclass/astr121/marsImages.html