Dynasty: Roots of an Empire (Revised 1471 words)

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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I am already up to chapter three using this draft so I am sticking with it. Please feel free to take a look. I took all of your advice and tried to shove it in here. Enjoy.

“How many times could one ride a dinosaur before it became boring?” She vividly remembered the question asked by one investor at an after party. It even stuck in her mind days after the temporal conference. Sharon Baker Hark had never quite thought of time travel in such ridiculous terms, but she did know that the cretaceous era was a popular destitution and that it was quickly losing profits. While time travel was exciting some three hundred years ago. She had heard that it was quietly losing its appeal to some investors. Even though it’s ubiquitous status was comfortable for the government, politicians, and even industry itself. Stocks were fluctuating in ways that made a few investors hesitate. These were the people Sharon kept both eyes on. Realizing that sentiment in the bar was something that was spreading around Venture Capitalists all across the universe, she decided to make something—a bit different. Investors wanted to know what new technological marvels could possibly await a near immortal civilization which seemed to have reached its peak. She knew she had cracked the answer to that question. Now it was only a matter of trying to explain it to a public still largely obsessed with riding dinosaurs.

She stared down at her desk as a blank piece of holo-paper that illuminated the area. As far as her investors were aware, she was hard at work writing her proposal for the so-called Free Will Project. She was having a hard time trying to explain how it would be appealing to investors, let alone the public. Her hesitation made her think that it was way before its time. “The Constant, The Constant, The Constant!!!” An announcer-like and frankly old fashioned tirade interrupted her daily grind. She looked outside the large glass panel that lined her corner office, and saw others stop in their tracks and they did so in order to listen to it. She knew, that the memory rich targeted advertising from The Temporal Consortium was working its way into their minds feeding off their paranoia and leading them to believe false advertising. Too bad her blockers already expired. She stared down longingly at a nearly empty glass of red and blue bills. Best to be conservative, she thought. No need to waste the blockers on this one. No matter how ridiculous it sounded. Still she figured, pills worth ten thousand bitcoins each should have more effect than a few minutes. She swore that the Pharma companies were making them less and less effective on purpose.

The voice continued in its annoying but upbeat voice. “Here at The Constant Superstore. We have all The Constant goodies you could ever want!” Though her employees seemed to drool. She couldn’t stand a minute of it. “The Constant trading cards, The Constant board games, The Constant Video Games, The Constant candy! Get all The Constant merchandise you need here.” The voice seemed to finally fade in the background. She massaged her temples. She had no time for this.

“But wait! For a limited time, at select Constant Superstores we now have everything you need to show your love and devotion to The Constant! Starting right now, The Constant Wedding Chapels and The Constant Churches will be available for any and all Citizens. Please bring your Temporal ID Badge for authentication purposes… and a ten percent discount! Remember, keep searching. The Constant is out there.” Well, at least they’re finally admitting it’s a religion, she thought. One of her employees seemed to snap back to reality but instead, chose to rush out of the building, arms flailing. She rolled her eyes and went back to work. Never able to get those few seconds back. She had too much of a headache to track down the deserter. If he wanted to devote himself to that silly religion, she wouldn’t stop him.

Brushing off the distraction Sharon quickly worked to intercept a message that she didn’t like. Oh no. She thought, The Consortium couldn’t see that. Her fingers flew over the keyboard so that in the end there were no traces left of it. She made it seem like it was sent out anyway and no one on her team was the wiser. At least not yet. Another disaster averted. Another grave mistake by those trapped under the promise of utopia. The candidates that they were picking were getting more and more ridiculous. Her workstation was reset and there appeared an unwritten proposal to the Consortium to consider further Free Will development.

Deep in thought, the Time Code managed to catch her eye. It was a large black leather bound book of encyclopedic length resting in the middle of her and every single Desk at Temporal Entertainment Services. The dos and don’ts of Time Travel were listed in a pretty simplistic format. The recently updated version being Volume 16-A had nestled somewhere between the working acknowledgements and table of contents, the greatest myth of the thirtieth century. Every scholar knew the legend: One Bloodline influences all of time; Known as The Constant. She found herself thinking back to the good old days. Before that theory was ever conceived by the losers over at The Temporal Consortium. That was when accountability actually mattered. Before The Constant.

Now, the Time Code seemed to be a heavy burden on the Government in their most hopeless pursuit. Still she had a job to do. Though, Temporal Entertainment Services was essentially a startup. Sharon, knew it was destined for greatness. The Company pioneered strict methodological time tracking technologies that were used throughout the universe. She loathed the purpose they were used for. So presently, she had hired a special team devoted to something truly spectacular. Something that may finally get someone to pay attention to something other than the search for The Constant.

It was time for a paradigm shift, and even if society wasn’t ready. She was pooling all of her resources into it and used secret black budgets for its purpose. She tapped on her keyboard and instantly a bunch of files appeared in mid-air. Taking her finger she swiped through the holograms and simultaneously listened into their thoughts. As she swiped through the files she couldn’t wait to try out her new idea on some live test subjects. All she could currently work with were employees that were willing to have their thoughts tampered with for a pay raise. While, still important work, the real test happened in the real world. Her thought experiment would change everything, and likely make time travel obsolete if it was allowed to be developed to its full potential. She saw dollar signs in her eyes as grandiose visions of new industries and new applications danced around in her head.

When she found a thought that she would love to exploit eventually, she took her free right hand and stuck a finger into a slot on her desk. She pulled out a stream of blue static energy. She played with the string. Forming it and bending it to her liking, since it was flexible like rubber. She was getting distracted and she let it take over, for only a couple of minutes. Previously she had allocated for some meditation time. Though, it must have seemed like she was daydreaming she actually was working out the future of humanity’s next greatest craze.

Sharon’s heart skipped as the lights in the building suddenly flickered. That was literally impossible. She knew, for she helped design the building. The power systems were all controlled by a temporal computer which hijacked various power sources from the Temporal Consortium. If one power source failed. The rest would kick in. Of course, with its solar reserves there was no way on Earth, the lights could go off. She got up off her chair and it rose at least a foot in the air as her body weight left it. She opened the door of her office and looked around. No one was in sight. Even the stragglers who before had listened to the ad had vanished to whatever cubicle they had emerged from.

Shrugging and thinking that she was just tired, she went back to sit into her chair. When out of nowhere, a single piece of holo-paper had replaced her thought experiment. It nearly took her breath away. Flustered and angry. She swore she had deleted that message, but this wasn’t the same message at all. It was something entirely different. And she instantly recognized it for what it was. It was a slipstream! A single six letter word was written on the paper: WILSON. It seemed to flicker in and out of existence in six second intervals. No matter which gesture she tried, she couldn’t get it to go away. She also tried willing it away and manually hitting a delete key.
 

TitaniumTi

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I don't mind some telling, but I think this could tightened up substantially. I found the concepts interesting, but lost them in the words. This is what I mean:

“How many times can you ride a dinosaur without becoming bored?” She vividly remembered the question asked by one investor at the temporal conference. Sharon Baker Hark had never quite thought of time travel in such ridiculous terms, but she did know that even the popular cretaceous era was losing profits. Time travel, exciting three hundred years ago, was now ubiquitous -- and dull. The investor's question showed, once again, that it was losing its appeal.

It was time to make something—a bit different. Investors wanted to know what new technological marvels could possibly await their near immortal civilization. Sharon had cracked the answer to that question. Now she needed to explain it to a public still obsessed with dinosaurs. [Actually, this contradicts statements about the declining popularity of time-travel... Perhaps it should say, "a public who thought of dinosaurs when they heard 'time-travel" ( although that's too clunky).]

She stared down at the blank piece of holo-paper illuminating her desk. As far as her investors were aware, she was hard at work writing her proposal for the so-called Free Will Project. She would have problems selling it to investors, let alone the public. It was way before its time.
[I think you need a paragraph break here.]
I have reduced repetition and cut some moderating words. I also removed some of the veiling words. However, I left "remembered" and "stared down at"; I found it hard to remove these words without changing the context.
 
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Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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I don't mind some telling, but I think this could tightened up substantially. I found the concepts interesting, but lost them in the words. This is what I mean:



I have reduced repetition and cut some moderating words. I also removed some of the veiling words. However, I left "remembered" and "stared down at"; I found it hard to remove these words without changing the context.
Thanks for taking the time to edit. I will put some of this in there. I see where you cut a lot of repetition. So even with your edit, do you still think it's too telling?
 

TitaniumTi

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I think it is telling. She is thinking about things she knows, she has heard or she has done, rather than experiencing, acting and reacting.

Too telling? I quite like telling, so I'll let other people answer that.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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I think it is telling. She is thinking about things she knows, she has heard or she has done, rather than experiencing, acting and reacting.

Too telling? I quite like telling, so I'll let other people answer that.
Most of the first chapter is like that. With little bits of action thrown in there around her thoughts. If you go back to my previous postings you will see that it's a lot different from where I started. Which was basically writing down a summary about this universe. People advised me to throw in thoughts and actions and I think I got a good mixture of the two.

Glad you liked it.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Yes, for me, way, way, too much telling. How does she feel through any of this? Bored? Challenged? Busy? Scared? I have no idea.

I know you have characters planned. But are you in their skin? Here, it feels like the key point of the scene is to get info across. I could live with that if the character gave me any reason to care about the info. I'm sorry, I know this is hard, but we read books to get immersed, and that, mostly, means a character pulling us along with them. Here the character is secondary to everything else, which makes the scene static and telling.

Sadly, I wouldn't read on. :(
 

Cli-Fi

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Yes, for me, way, way, too much telling. How does she feel through any of this? Bored? Challenged? Busy? Scared? I have no idea.

I know you have characters planned. But are you in their skin? Here, it feels like the key point of the scene is to get info across. I could live with that if the character gave me any reason to care about the info. I'm sorry, I know this is hard, but we read books to get immersed, and that, mostly, means a character pulling us along with them. Here the character is secondary to everything else, which makes the scene static and telling.
Well I guess I could add that scene at the bar in. So that it's an action rather than her remembering it. Other than that I don't really know how to "show" how a person thinks.
 

TitaniumTi

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Okay, building on Jo's comment.

The sentence, "She stared down at the blank piece of holo- paper..." is problematic. Could you replace it with something that conveys emotion? For example: "Damn." She slapped her hand against the blank piece of holo-paper illuminating her desk. The investors would never buy it. They thought she..."
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Well I guess I could add that scene at the bar in. So that it's an action rather than her remembering it. Other than that I don't really know how to "show" how a person thinks.
It's just another writing skill. Imagine you're a director - that's the distant narrator. The audience is a little closer. The actor is the close point of view. Imagine you were the actor - can you write it as them? If you acted it and the point of view character was scared, how would they feel? Their heart would pound, they'd get tense. That's showing. Telling us her thoughts is telling. It takes practice.
 

Cli-Fi

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It's just another writing skill. Imagine you're a director - that's the distant narrator. The audience is a little closer. The actor is the close point of view. Imagine you were the actor - can you write it as them? If you acted it and the point of view character was scared, how would they feel? Their heart would pound, they'd get tense. That's showing. Telling us her thoughts is telling. It takes practice.
I'm trying to show that she is frustrated actually. Frustrated with the way things are and how they don't change, but does that have to be apparent right away? Do readers prefer to know that she is frustrated before they know why or vice versa? Anyone reading this will come up with the conclusion that she will have a difficult time getting this project officially approved and that she hates that she is trapped.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
I'm trying to show that she is frustrated actually. Frustrated with the way things are and how they don't change, but does that have to be apparent right away? Do readers prefer to know that she is frustrated before they know why or vice versa? Anyone reading this will come up with the conclusion that she will have a difficult time getting this project officially approved and that she hates that she is trapped.
Well, um, I didn't. The info might be there but I was disengaged because the character wasn't showjng me any of that - all I got was info and lots of it.

Instead I need they started to talk and she fidgeted, bored. The sort of stuff Titanium mentioned above.

But, look I'm a huge character reader and writer - others are less so. See what the jury come out with....
 

TitaniumTi

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Could you add another character -- a boss she needs to persuade, or a subordinate who discovers her work and threatens to go over her head?
 

TitaniumTi

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I'm trying to show that she is frustrated actually. Frustrated with the way things are and how they don't change, but does that have to be apparent right away? Do readers prefer to know that she is frustrated before they know why or vice versa?.
As a reader, I expect the two to go hand in hand. We're in her POV; we know these things because she's thinking about them. We also need to know how she's feeling about what she's thinking. It's easier to do when the protagonist is reacting to dialogue or events as they happen, but I've read some very clear POV from protagonists who are thinking about past or big-picture situations.

Edited to add: This image flashed into my mind...

Sharon, frustrated, screws up the holo-paper and tosses it into the bin. It immediately smooths out and starts beeping at her. She stomps over to retrieve it. "Darned holo-paper."
 
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Toby Frost

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To my mind, this is well-written but there are two problems with the excerpt that work together to damage it. First, Sharon isn't really doing anything. Visually, she's not really doing much apart from sitting down until the very end. There isn't a sense that she's leading the story. Secondly, I think you're still trying to prime the reader with backstory. There isn't a sense of these events being a break from the norm until the lights go off in the penultimate paragraph. That's a dramatic event - not because it's wildly exciting, but because it's different, and suggests that things are going to change, that an adventure is about to start. But up till then, she's essentially thinking about backstory and isn't engaging in the plot. At the moment, it seems like a very low-energy way to start a book.

The drastic approach would be this: forget about the backstory entirely. Totally ignore the need to tell the reader about the setting. Describe Sharon doing something important or distinctive, something that is a break from the usual routine. Personally, I think it needs to be an activity, not a mental realisation, which means that she will have to physically do something, even if it's just walking into another room and saying "I am worried about X". Then, and only then, add the backstory only when it becomes absolutely necessary to make sense of what's going on.

It's certainly not badly-written - I think your prose is fine - but it doesn't feel as if it's moving forward as a story.
 

Cli-Fi

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To my mind, this is well-written but there are two problems with the excerpt that work together to damage it. First, Sharon isn't really doing anything. Visually, she's not really doing much apart from sitting down until the very end. There isn't a sense that she's leading the story. Secondly, I think you're still trying to prime the reader with backstory. There isn't a sense of these events being a break from the norm until the lights go off in the penultimate paragraph. That's a dramatic event - not because it's wildly exciting, but because it's different, and suggests that things are going to change, that an adventure is about to start. But up till then, she's essentially thinking about backstory and isn't engaging in the plot. At the moment, it seems like a very low-energy way to start a book.

The drastic approach would be this: forget about the backstory entirely. Totally ignore the need to tell the reader about the setting. Describe Sharon doing something important or distinctive, something that is a break from the usual routine. Personally, I think it needs to be an activity, not a mental realisation, which means that she will have to physically do something, even if it's just walking into another room and saying "I am worried about X". Then, and only then, add the backstory only when it becomes absolutely necessary to make sense of what's going on.

It's certainly not badly-written - I think your prose is fine - but it doesn't feel as if it's moving forward as a story.
Thank you for your thoughts. I am not sure I have done exactly what you suggested, but I have rewritten this chapter to be more action packed and character driven. I also tried to show how she feels about time travel instead of just telling. At least I think I did. I will be posting another re-write this weekend.

I know flashbacks aren't necessarily a good starting point, but with the time travel there as a literary device, it twists that up in a good way. I basically made this scene into something a bit different and she is thinking back, but time travelling at the same time. Well, you'll just have to read it this weekend to fully understand what I am talking about. I describe a totally unique way to travel through time in the novel.
 

Cli-Fi

John J. Falco
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Could you add another character -- a boss she needs to persuade, or a subordinate who discovers her work and threatens to go over her head?
While I know not necessarily a good idea, I added three new minor but important characters to this chapter. I added a lot of her thoughts described here in to her interactions with these characters. I also introduced the second main character towards the end, which solves one of my original problems with the first and second chapters. Keep an eye out this weekend for a repost.
 

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