kais

01/14/19 - kais - SANDS (L,V) - 3746 words

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Oh look, it didn't autocorrect my name this time!

Same as last week with edits to hopefully make it read a lot faster and smoother. Be as harsh as you'd like, it's still pretty early in the drafting process but this time around it shouldn't make your eyes bleed. Well, hopefully not, anyway.

If pronouns are a concern, you are welcome to use 'she/her/hers' for all characters in this piece, regardless of their gender, unless the character states otherwise. 

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2 hours ago, kais said:

Oh look, it didn't autocorrect my name this time!

Lol. I was wondering about that.

 

Overall, this was a quicker read, and a lot faster to get into the meat of the story. I'm still not completely on board with the end of the chapter. I feel it's still lacking something, or the order of things (listen, then stab?) is wrong. There's more urgency to E discovering T may not be dead, but still not the hook that I really expect. Maybe because it's stated earlier E stopped searching three years ago, so it's not given that urgency earlier in the story? I dunno, I'm rambling at this point.

 

Notes while reading:

Lots of references to "click." I'm not sure where it's a sound the beetles make, or something the avalanche mortar does, or what, but the word is repeated a whole lot.

pg 10: "grip on one of the low, wind-bent trees "
--I don't think you've described any vegetation so far, so I'm assuming a dune sea with no plant life. Suddenly having a tree by the rider throws me out.

pg 10: Ah. The M's recognition of E works a lot better in combination with the headband.

pg 11: "some chitinous impact"
--with an insect? Is there something else on the dunes? Is the suit chitin?

pg 12: "a maple species I’d engineered to grow"
--Interesting explanation, but I'd still like their mention sooner in the story.

pg 13: "Now back off and listen."
--This helps with the ending, but now I'm wondering what the woman has to tell, expect the chapter ends. Also, she stabs E after telling her to listen, which is sort of weird.

 

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This reads a lot better than the first iteration. There’s a little more urgency in what’s going on without the extraneous moping, but it’s still a slow start. The fact that the M. are looking for E. helps with hooking me in, but like Mandamon I feel like there’s something missing.

 

Beetles and flyers: The visual is confusing to me. The M. are riding flyers (e.g. machines that fly, just like the one N. used) but they are also riding the beetles. Are the flyers mounted on the beetles? If so, are the flyers creating the movement (if so, why need beetles?) or the beetles (if so, why the need for flyers with engines that create dust clouds?)?

 

We need to talk – I mean stab: This came very much out of the blue in this version. The M. know E.’s name and title and they couldn’t just have guessed this from E.’s appearance alone – the gear would hide most of it. So they were indeed looking specifically for E., which I take to mean that the M. wasn’t just trying to distract E. and gain the upper hand in a struggle. So why stab E. with a sharp implement? I could understand some kind of taser, because though E. appeared to want to listen, if I was in the M.’s shoes I wouldn’t just take it on good faith that E. would stay to listen to the end and/or come along. But this wasn’t a taser. This was a very sharp implement in a place where medical attention could be a big problem.

 

Some of my points from the last version:

  • Planet’s worth: The previous version really had me wonder why this planet was colonized if it was so horrible. While I’m still wondering what the worth of the planet is, now that there’s less introspection by E. about how horrible everything is the question about the planet’s value is no longer a burning concern, now it’s just a question I’d like answered along the way.
  • Female planet: This works better, leaving it as a mystery what the original reasons were for making an all-female planet, but do making clear that there was a reason to do it, even though E. doesn’t know what that reason was. The addition of the technology for reproduction also helps. It’s still a risk to do colonization that way, for should the technology fail and none of the other colony ships make it, the human species would still be doomed, but the mention that there was a rationale for this decision makes me less bothered about the risks of doing colonization that way.
  • E's likeability: E's character is also helped by being less moody and introspective. It sets E. apart from So., the previous main character who came to mind. It makes sense that E. would drift away from the people she loved after losing T., rather than E. being an introverted lonewolf type character like So. was. 
Edited by Asmodemon
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@Asmodemon and @Mandamon do you think the ending would hit better if T had only recently died? Say, a few months instead of a few years? It can't be too soon, as Plot Relevance later, but a month would work just fine. It'd give E's grief more sharpness, but be long enough that her family might be starting to 'yeah, come on, move on.'

Thoughts? I agree the ending bit needs something, but I'm struggling with what.

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@kais, I think this draft is pretty good. A couple of notes I had to make things a little clearer:

Flyers

Your descriptors of the flyers arriving and taking off is an area I am really struggling to comprehend. From the description, it almost seems like they travel through some kind of mechanically-based sand portal (which is kind of neat now that I think on it), the idea that this is a intraplanetary or even interplanetary means of transportation is completely lost on me when Nadia appears or leaves--it's only after the Mella appear that I even realized they were ships. Maybe some descriptors near the beginning to indicate it's a type of ship or hoverbike that Nadia disembarks from would go a long way to helping us frame the scene a little better?

Flyers and beetles

It sounds like theres some confusion as to why beetles would be combined with flyers...perhaps that aforementioned description of the flyers would help with that? I'm assuming from context that the beetles are faster than foot travel, and the flyers are used to transport the beetles more quickly over long distances, kind of like corralling horses on a train to a certain destination?

Mella

This section is kind of unclear. Why would Ember let down her guard with the Mella enough to be stabbed, if these Mella are truly the drain on society and the reason for her wife's death? Just a thought I'd had.

The stabbing

Why did that happen? This has been commented before, I dont really have anything to add beyond what's been said. 

That said, I think placing Taraniels death closer to the scene in question would have significantly more effect on the reader, because of the reasons you pointed out. Shadows of Self, by Brandon, pulls a similar concept off really well in its opening scenes, and I think reading that (if you havent) or perusing the beginning of that book would be a great source of inspiration for you....not that I'm trying to tell you how to write (heavens, no, you're far more experienced than me).

Thoughts and speculation

I really like this world you're introducing us to. It seems like you're set up to speak of gender roles and dynamics (which is a topic I'm working on in my book too, haha), and the whole "female only world" brings to mind some interesting questions:

How is the concept of "female" addressed by society? You've touched on this a little bit, and what intrigues me is the idea that the settling entity determines sex by chromosomes, not by professed gender. I'm admittedly not an expert on the nonbinary stuff--Im a traditionalist in this regard--but I think a discussion of how, for example, humanities need for reproductive capacity forced these females to be "women" regardless of how they saw themselves, (considering the main character seems to be nonbinary) would be interesting to read.

I understand that may not be the narrative you have in mind (and it certainly wouldnt have to be the main focus of the narrative, it could certainly work as a tangential plot or not at all) but it was just something that had crossed my mind while reading.

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15 hours ago, kais said:

do you think the ending would hit better if T had only recently died? Say, a few months instead of a few years? It can't be too soon, as Plot Relevance later, but a month would work just fine.

Yes, I think this would help. I was going to suggest something like this, but wasn't quite sure about when I first read the piece. Now, I'm leaning more toward it to give E more immediate grief.

Having the headband as a more recent gift might also help. Not sure if that's plot relevant or not...

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20 hours ago, kais said:

@Asmodemon and @Mandamon do you think the ending would hit better if T had only recently died? Say, a few months instead of a few years? It can't be too soon, as Plot Relevance later, but a month would work just fine. It'd give E's grief more sharpness, but be long enough that her family might be starting to 'yeah, come on, move on.'

I also think changing it from a few years to a few months would work better. Rather than having accepted that T is gone forever, as the three year difference has done, E would still be in the middle of mourning her wife as well as holding out hope that she isn’t gone, that she’s out there somewhere.

It would explain why a successful doctor, who could get her own type of tree to grow on that planet, would be out there serving as a sentry. If it was just about avoiding her family E could have locked herself away in a lab and focus solely on work. This way her motivation for being out there could be that the rational part of her is looking for T’s body, but another part is hoping to see T alive, just over the next dune. That would be a good motivation for E to break cover and get close to the M when she sees the headband.

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Overall -- this is improved. I'm not frustrated at the text anymore and I'm getting more of a feel for the character as her own person. The action happens faster, but I think E's motivation and the story's through-line is still somewhat lacking.

 

As I go:

 

I do not think they're hunting animals anymore, at least. ;)

Though, now I'm wondering why N is there at all. She's an interesting character and the interaction's not bad, but it doesn't seem to do much for the forward momentum of the story.  It seems like now that the order is the primary thing that gets E moving, and most of the info about T -- and N for that matter --  comes out in internal monologue anyway, I feel like N's character could be just as easily conveyed in a personal PS to the bottom of the message itself, and the official text or whatever could establish the plot more concretely early on. I feel like since E's already prone to internal wandering, that the plot should be clear and bold as early as possible so E can embroider around it effectively.

I agree with the others that a more recent death would make more sense and give E more of a reason to go hunting in the desert. It would also give a little more believably to the is-she/isn't-she reveal around T's death.

Queen being all female still feels weird, but less so now. 

I also don't understand why there are beetles on top of the flyer. It seems impractical and redundant and not especially good for camouflage if the suit can spot them that far away. 

I honestly feel like it would make more sense for E to save the headband and that as a side-effect saves the M, than for her to decide no other human needs to die today after she's just spent this time calling M in general all sorts of disparaging things and generally having the story show that none of the colonists care at all about them. Or maybe E decides that the headband means T isn't dead at all and thus saving the M becomes the only way to find out where T is now... or just... something decisive? It just doesn't sit right with me and I can't quite place why. It's like after E fires the rocket all her higher reasoning functions just turn to mush. 

The scene at the tree doesn't sit right for me either, but I think I know why I'm feeling it. E is mostly catatonic in the scene -- she's passive and doesn't take her own initiative to save herself. She's short-circuited from too many emotions before, but that was brief, and quickly followed by action. Here, the M (which E would rather see dead than alive) has to repeatedly prompt E to take a basic lifesaving measure that apparently she already know how to do. E listens to the M and passively follows instructions. It's a very Foxfire So sort of reaction. 

 I feel like the stabbing makes even less sense now that the M know E's name. If they're looking for her, and since they don't try to kill her (and also this isn't flash fiction) I assume it's not to assassinate her, then what's the purpose of stabbing her like that? Drugging, knocking out, that I could see... maybe a bit of roughing up as payback for the rocket... 

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Thank you everyone, for the excellent feedback. I think with this I've got chapter one pretty much sorted. I've taken care of the flyers, the clicking, etc. T has now been dead for only a month, and the ending is much snappier. E's interaction with the M is also more about E finding information. 

I won't resubmit this chapter because I'd like to move on but I'll include it in grey (ala @Robinski style) on top of the next sub so you can scan changes if you'd like.

Thank you again!

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19 hours ago, kais said:

Thank you everyone, for the excellent feedback. I think with this I've got chapter one pretty much sorted. I've taken care of the flyers, the clicking, etc. T has now been dead for only a month, and the ending is much snappier. E's interaction with the M is also more about E finding information. 

I won't resubmit this chapter because I'd like to move on but I'll include it in grey (ala @Robinski style) on top of the next sub so you can scan changes if you'd like.

Thank you again!

I just finished reading...I guess this is  a lesson to be more on time with my crits. Oh well. I did enjoy it, and the end certainly left me wanting to read on. I can see this turning into something book length if you want it to. The world building and character is definitely there, and your descriptions were gorgeous, though sometimes to the point where I got caught up in them and forgot about the plot. 

I'll type up my notes just in case something in them is useful that  you haven't changed, though I am skipping over a few little picky things since I don't know if those lines are still there. 

The opening about Earth dying rang true, and while opening with description isn't always my favorite, I loved it here because the imagery was stunning. 

This is going to be a mix of as I read and some more general things

"Hail, Ember." The Magicians popped into my head when I saw this name. I doubt other people would have this reaction, but it is one of two tv shows I have watched in the past year... I haven't watched a full episode of a tv show since the last Season of Agents of SHEILD ended, so names from that and magicians stick I guess. 

"I'm supposed to be here..." From here until the narrator leaves, I was a little confused about the setting. It seemed like E was all alone on a dune with no supplies or shelter and days away from an outpost. Does E go the bathroom in the suite? Sleep on the ground? Is there food? Water? Does the suit do everything? Or did I miss something big?

"two days ride." I wondered why E didn't have a sand transport thing, but then my question was answered later in the story. 

I loved the interaction between the sisters. Their dialogue was fantastic. 

"From where I stood..." The mention of height here compared to others confused me. Why does it matter if there are no other people around? I guess it would be easier to see over dunes, but unless she is feet taller, how much of a difference will it make? It almost felt like that detail was there as a too visible reason to get into the gender discussion. I like the way that was all explained, but the segue into it seemed a little forced. I loved how the explanation of E's gender built  from "...of them. Of us." to the part about not needing menstrual supplies. 

Within that section, when you mentioned chromosome requirement, it didn't seem 100% clear whether that requirement was for reproductive purposes or to be allowed on the planet.

After that, I was very engaged with the action and didn't make any more comments until the end. The chapter ended more or less how I expected it would. I mean this in a good way. It was well set up. It let me know what type of story I was reading. I want to know where you take it next. 

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Detail Editing From Elisabeth:

- "She didn’t remove her goggles but with her camouflage down I could see bits of the white leather she wore, though mostly she was as caked with redness as the landscape." And yet, in the next line, you mention a white glove. Inconsistent.

- “I’m supposed to be here for another three days,” I said, frowning as I read the hide letter. Not that she could tell." Didn't realise that she couldn't tell the frowning -- thought it meant she couldn't hear the words. Clarify?

- Really really love the sister connection between N and E. The dialog flowed really well, and their dynamic rings true.

-Weird q, but would you really refer to it as "earth" when it's getting in your clothes -- not "sand"? (This might be an ESL clarification).

-The blue headband is so poignant!!!! The emotional rush feels so true!!!!! I love it.

-ahhh the end of this chapter!!! so good!!!!!!!!!!

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Hurrah. Very interested to start the new story (finally). I'm jumping over the first submission. Don't know if that will give anything fresh, perspective-wise. Also, I'm not LBLing, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not.

Off I go.

- If the dust gets everywhere, I presume they were scarves, etc., a la Rey?

- "Now N was older than me" - neat.

- "For me it was a way station" / "bad aftertaste" - I like m/c's frame of reference for Earth vs. Queen, I enjoy the colour of their memories against the arid nature of this place, very effective .

- "council" - These things seem to be called the council 86.9% of the time, I think it would be more distinctive to use another word, like conclave or assembly. Council is a very bland word, lacking any interest or colour.

- M sounds like a person when first mentioned, which threw me off. Seems to me 'the M' would have been clearer in that first reference, distinguishing them from T.

- "into oblivion" - `I don't see how throwing the letter away conveys acceptance of the order, for me it's the opposite, it's a rejection of the order, very clearly. Also, Em is closest for the purposes of going on this mission, but N appears to have arrived at her location easily enough. If someone can bring an order in person, why not just send someone else to go on the mission, or send someone to relive Em's post, so she can go? Something feels off about the rationale here.

- If the council knows where the M are and are not, why do they need a lookout? Also "We’re still not great at tracking groups smaller than three" is very maid-and-butler. Em would know this, I feel.

- It's LBL level, but I don't like 'jettisoned' and it really stood out. Seems to men it's pretty clearly defined as ejecting something from something else (a ship, etc.), whereas N is transported by the flyer, not ejected from it (or by it).

- "Earth's legacy" - while this is an effective line, I find myself wanting to challenge it. Seems to me that perhaps a lot of causes of cancer are manmade and self-inflicted, so blaming Earth for it is harsh.

- "quin or heat" - the former, presumably some kind of big animal, sounds comical, because it don't know what it is, but even then. I'm thinking of it in terms of 'I would walk away into the bush and maybe a hippo would eat me.' Makers me want to chortle rather thank choking with emotion.

- I've been waiting for and wondering about the size of the colony. Page 6 seems pretty deep in before receiving this piece of info that allows me to calibrate my impression of the place. Also, I'm not 100% clear on how long they've been here. Is the colony not growing naturally in numbers? Surely restock brings 100 of new folks, but the impression given is that population is in stasis.

- "So, yes, we were mostly women..." - Love this paragraph that nails down so many of the questions that I've been asking since the beginning of this story. Nails them down in a way that 'Fox' every really did, for me (as best I remember),  and it tells us a good deal about the planet, too. I don't suppose there's any way it would fit further up closer to the beginning?

- The premise of the planet: ha, I was ready to go off on one about the cost inefficiency of setting up an entire planet for anything other then the full range of human society, how surely the additional costs of tailoring to specific groups, and planning out any logistical issues, must be more than simply planning an open society. HOWEVER, you convinced me about the all-female thing, and there is a worrying, but perhaps not surprising kind of symmetry (in a bad way) of such an endeavour as this ending up with the 'leftover' inhospitable planet, as if being deemed not to merit a 'high quality', more hospitable planet with fully diverse ecosystem / biosphere / etc. ( :( ).

- I'm struggling to picture the funnel, where, how big, in relation to what, etc.

- I'm not sure I understand the beetles. Uneven legs, okay (no cracks about them walking round in circles), but what's this cold side, sun side? Is the sun fixed in the sky, or does it rise and fall on one horizon? Either way, surely the beetles can't keep one side to the sun or they wouldn't be able to go back the way they had come. You'd have to take one beetle to work, and a beetle with the opposite sun/cold side combination to come back again. Please tell my I'm missing something.

- Are the beetles the quint-pods?

- "didn’t produce any plant or animal capable of generating textiles" - I like these touches of difference that colour the environment and the society that lives there.

- "nice work scrolled" - excellent: love that :) 

- "The wind began its warning keel" - I think maybe 'keen' was intended here? I looked it up, and apparently 'keening' is the noun, and there is no 'keen' meaning to wail. Sorry, super LBL-y.

- I'm really struggling with the use of 'M', because it sounds so much like the name of a person. Is there a reason you can't say 'the M'? You wouldn't say 'If French wanted to live by their own code...', of course, you'd say 'If the French...' (Other nationalities are available for use in generic grammatical example.)

- How are the M children of the sand, they are not an indigenous race, so I'm not sure how they much of an advantage over the other colonists.

- Tree, what tree? Where did the tree come from?

- "Dr..." - Eh? Really? And they're a guard in the middle of nowhere? Hmm...

- "...give her blue" - That is quite the gut punch of a line.

- Brace yourself, pedantry coming, but with a purpose. To me, skidding mean boots moving when the surface doesn't, but that can't be the case on sand, surely, which would move all over the place too.

- Not convinced the shoes would be adopted, would they? Surely they would have brought the right kind of shoes for sand? Then, the shoes would be designed for sand, rather than adapted. These things bother me, as you know.

- What are "Sinew stitches"?

- The last line "There’d been no body" is clunky because it's in past tense. Can she not just repeat the line 'There was no body'?

I really wanted to delve into LBLs. Obviously there is still some roughness about the language in places, but it still reads pretty easily at this point. Good clear arc to the chapter and a strong inciting incident in revealing the potential that T might still be alive. I think the thing that is weakest is in the imagery and sense of the environment, which I didn't feel that much impact from. 

Still, very keen to read the next bit, which I will directly (whatever that means).

<R>

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7 hours ago, Robinski said:

I think it would be more distinctive to use another word, like conclave or assembly. Council is a very bland word, lacking any interest or colour.

I 100% agree. If I ever finish the first draft of this thing, that is getting changed in round two. It's a placeholder right now.

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

Seems to me 'the M' would have been clearer in that first reference, distinguishing them from T.

Solid idea. Will edit.

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

If someone can bring an order in person, why not just send someone else to go on the mission, or send someone to relive Em's post, so she can go? Something feels off about the rationale here.

You're correct. It's why N was originally a hologram. I think I need to go back to that because the rationale doesn't make sense at all

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

If the council knows where the M are and are not, why do they need a lookout? Also "We’re still not great at tracking groups smaller than three" is very maid-and-butler. Em would know this, I feel.

Because my worldbuilding is problematic ATM. 

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

quin or heat" - the former, presumably some kind of big animal,

Wait, where is this? I can't find it in the document

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

I don't suppose there's any way it would fit further up closer to the beginning?

Unfortunately no, and it's been moved to chapter two, even later! I'm planning on reformatting this for a novel instead of a short. As such I'm going to do some deep editing in chapter one and two, which should give more about the planet upfront and push the gender part way back. I'm really interested in toying with this same sex planet thing while acknowledging gender outside the binary, but I think I want to pulp trope it for a while first. Set up expectations and then crush them. 

Well, that's what I want. We'll see if it actually happens

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

Please tell my I'm missing something.

I think so? There was a part about the primary colony just being in the habitable zone, which is neither light nor dark side (but sunrise strip). So in theory, beetles from either side could live there.

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

Are the beetles the quint-pods?

Yes. I must have cut out the part where it addressed that directly.

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

These things bother me, as you know.

LOL. And we value such nitpicks. Will edit shoes

7 hours ago, Robinski said:

Can she not just repeat the line 'There was no body'?

I've scrapped the whole part there so indirectly this has been taken care of

Thank you! Chapter two was this week's but I won't be subbing this through again for a while until after I get through the short. That'll give me time to get all these edits in!

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6 minutes ago, kais said:
7 hours ago, Robinski said:

quin or heat" - the former, presumably some kind of big animal,

Wait, where is this? I can't find it in the document

The line is "before a quint---pod, or the heat" - I just botched the pasting / quoting

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