AEC Part I Introduction (second go) 1126 words

Heijan Xavier

nathanjessehoffman.com
Joined
Apr 17, 2016
Messages
305
Location
Raleigh
#1
I guess the rough draft is like mining the ore. Revision after revision is forging it like into something special. Here's a revision. Thanks to those who spent a lot of precious time educating me.

Heijan’s skiff was old. It was covered in dust, which was odd given that it had been a relatively rainy winter, but It didn’t surprise Xaviera. Heijan didn’t like to clean things much because, as he loved to say,

“The accumulation of filth tells a story.”

Heijan pulled the chair around the skiff and opened the passenger side door. The seat slid out from the chassis and Heijan placed Xaviera carefully onto it, then slid her back in and closed the door.

The seat modification was no surprise. Heijan had actually done that to both seats on his and her skiff. It was designed to eject an undesirable passenger (or driver). Heijan felt that living so close to the Black Basin, a centuries old open-air prison, came with certain risks. In the unlikely event that an inmate (or more accurately an alien; as the Basin was more of a small, isolated, undeveloped nation now) escaped and wanted to hijack one of their skiffs, they would be prepared. Xaviera generally thought Heijan was overly paranoid about the risks of living near the Black Basin, and some of his preparedness measures were an extreme waste of time and money. The ejector seats were probably the most extreme and unnecessary of all his measures. She loved them though. She felt very secure in having that much control of something so close to her.

Heijan entered the skiff as the desk chair slid itself back to the lift. The interior of the vehicle was far more updated than the exterior. There were control panels everywhere. Some were carefully placed and shaped to fit, looking like optional manufacturer upgrades. Some panels were hanging loose from the console and dashboard, held in place only by the wires that connected them with the main system. Heijan engaged one of the larger levers. There was a loud clank and the skiff shuttered. The turbines were attached.

This wasn’t going to be fun.
Heijan punched a few more levers, then set some functions on his watch, and the Tracker-Transponder turned off.

“What are you doing?” Xaviera asked, amazed as she was angry that Heijan could arbitrarily subvert and disengage it. The Topean government’s crowning achievement of “peaceful and safe travel coordination,” as they called it, was the Tracker-Transponder. Owning a private vehicle was a privilege, they contended, one that would be monitored.

“I need to get you to the hospital,” Heijan replied calmly. He coerced a slightly more annoyed tone. “I need to be able to fly.”

“We’ll have to go to ZMS,” Xaviera said, dejected. There was no time to drive all the way around the Black Basin to the much nicer and safer Khamaiu Pass hospital. As it was she didn’t even think they’d make it to ZMS in time.

“OK,” Heijan said in a patronizing tone. He was always very polite and obedient, but every now and then he would get a little obnoxious and chippy. Why he chose now for one of those times made no sense. He seemed to be taunting her.

Heijan set off slowly at first but picked up speed as he piloted along the curving driveway. The driveway curved to the left but pitched slightly down the hill to the right. Heijan pitched the skiff steeply into the curve as he picked up speed. The magnets held the road well though, considering only three of the six were engaged. The driveway straightened out as it merged with the main house drive and curved slightly to the right and down a gentle hill. He turned left onto their street and headed towards the main surface roads.

Heijan picked up speed as he approached the curving intersection but instead of turning left to take the southern road to Main Mesa and out to Pota-Mei proper, he made a sharp right turn onto a winding untreated road out towards the Basin.

“Where are you going?” Xaviera yelled, “This road doesn’t go around!”

“Shhh,” Heijan said quietly as he gently placed his hand on her thigh. He was too calm, too irreverent of the moment and her pain. She was in too much pain to protest though.

Despite the road being untreated, Heijan did not engage the propellers or the tires, The magnets remained engaged and kept the skiff hovering.

“Another modification?” Xaviera asked, tense with pain. Only Equilibrium Trooper and military vehicles had magnets that could function on untreated roads.

“Ahh…you know…I just…got it done…” Heijan, fumbling for random words, didn’t want to answer. Normally Xaviera would press; she was not one for letting things hang. She couldn’t today though, and Heijan was taking full advantage of it.

The road they were on led to an old concrete bridge that traversed a shallow ravine, Heijan sped across it and onto a dirt road that ran straight down the middle of an ownerless mesa.
He began pressing buttons and adjusting knobs. He was going too fast. Xaviera didn’t want to raise another objection though. She couldn’t deal with having to react to another snide retort. His hand remained on her thigh though, and the touch that was originally obnoxious and condescending had become tender. He was always a dutiful husband. Now his duty was to comfort his wife and he did just that, to the best of his ability.

Heijan seemed more excited by the current situation than concerned. He seemed to welcome this adventure, this literal life-or-death mission they were now on, almost as if he was planning for and looking forward to it. They sped onward over a shallow hill and down the swale towards a dead end. The dirt, sand and desert brush reflected the light of the near full moon. Beyond the cliffs though, nothing was visible. The Black Basin was before them, and Heijan was speeding straight towards it. The road disappeared about a mile from the Basin and the desert shrubbery became thicker. Heijan pulled back on the steering wheel to keep the bottom of the skiff above the thicket.

“The Basin…” Xaviera gasped “…the…the Transponder!” for some reason this mattered more to her in the moment than the impending cliffs.

“Disabled my love, you watched me do it,” Heijan replied, his eyes fixed on the precipice ahead. “We’re going to Khamaiu. Trust me. For once, trust me.” His words were more pained then sarcastic now. Above all else, for a moment, Xaviera felt guilty. Her husband was right; after 14 years of marriage she never really trusted him. He leveraged this moment against that history. He seemed to feel it necessary to force her to feel the self-inflicted pain of her own doubts. He was doing so in the most unbearable of ways right now. Heijan was heading for the Black Basin.
 

tinkerdan

candycane shrimp
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
3,789
Location
x(squared)+y(squared)=r(squared) : when x~infinity
#2
This does begin better and it gets us away from all the extra gadgetry that was initially there, so it's stepping forward.

I do think that it still lacks something in the POV and now almost feels like bordering onto omniscient and objective and I think that might be robbing the scene of any potential for immediacy. That is without close involvement with either character we don't know anything about what they are feeling or really thinking or how urgent the necessity for going to the hospital is.

However this is more hidden in this version because now we miss out on some cues that may have helped us feel that the scene should contain urgency.
Without knowing about bleeding during the third trimester we only know that they are heading to a hospital. Neither of them seems to outwardly show any urgency.

Getting closer to know what Xaviera is thinking and feeling and dredging up her most visceral reactions to what her urgent needs are and the divergence from that to Heijan's actions should begin to ramp up the urgency as they seem to be moving away from where she is certain she needs to be.

On the other hand if you decided to get closer to Heijan then we might see the disparity between his worry and his own attempt to compartmentalize that while he tries to follow what he perceives as a logical plan, while trying not to worry Xaviera and knowing that his intent is 90 or 180 degrees from her's and might worry her more and so he has to decide how much to tell her. Not realizing perhaps that the less he says the more agitated she'll become.

There is so much emotional potential here from either point of view--which might be mined--though I'd suggest one or the other rather than to try to mine it all in this scene.

I'm not saying that what you have doesn't work or can't work; however as a reader I so far lack the involvement in the character's urgency that's necessary to possible continued interest.

Once again you should wait for others to weigh in on the piece.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,912
Location
nearly the New Forest
#3
I have to confess that I rather gave up at the para starting "The seat modification" and I only quickly glanced at the rest.

To be frank, this is all info-dumping, and far less engaging than your original which at least had the benefit of showing urgency and some fear in the opening paragraphs. I've never suffered a miscarriage, or feared I was, but I have been in pain and anxious about what it meant, and I can assure you that when I got in the car to go to hospital, I was not in any mood to wonder about seat modifications. Here you don't even tell us that Xaviera is suffering at all until several paras in, and my skim-read didn't throw up that she is miscarrying at any stage, which would be the first, last and only thing on her mind.

As it stands, this extract is all rather dry and uninvolving, and it would be hard enough to keep most readers' interest if it appeared at any stage of the book, but in the opening of the novel you really need to grip your readership. To my mind, the best way to do this is for you to put yourself fully into the mind of your POV character and feel everything through his/her senses -- I think part of the problem is that you're not inhabiting your characters at present, you're only watching them. Xaviera will be consumed with fear, mostly for her child and the risk of losing the baby. If you don't feel you can write something so traumatic, then Heijan may well be more objective, but presumably he is a loving husband and father-to-be, so he should also be worried and show that worry in everything he does.

Even if you don't want to get into very close third POV to show all the fear and anxiety, there is still a lot you can do to tighten this and make it more involving. My advice would be to cut everything that's in any way technical that isn't absolutely necessary for us to understand this part of the story -- so seat modifications etc all go -- then delete everything to do with their history together. Things such as "He was always very polite and obedient" is also info-dumping. We don't need to know this, not now, and if we did, it's best if you don't just plonk it on the page like this. If it's something that can't be shown -- because you should always try to show character not tell us about it in a distancing way like this -- then have it come through the POV character's thoughts eg "the chippiness which made him unbearable surfacing again".

Sorry that I can't be more enthusiastic about it at this stage. Good luck with it anyway.
 

Heijan Xavier

nathanjessehoffman.com
Joined
Apr 17, 2016
Messages
305
Location
Raleigh
#4
Thanks @The Judge @tinkerdan and @Brian G Turner for the extensive and thoughtful critiques. I think I may be trying too hard. Three people have now said the POV is pretty numb and there’s too much info dumping.

I think trying to identify with Xaviera at this very moment may be a bit ambitious. I’m still a novice writer. Heijan is kind but oblivious and a bit of a sociopath, so I may need to write this scene from his POV; much more relatable. The alternatives would be extensive research into first hand accounts of women who have gone through this trauma, or making the event not quite as traumatic.

As for the info dumping. Yeah..

Would it be worth having a companion piece for that? There’s so much. Or do you just have to ease into the world building as the book goes on and you’ve earned more trust?
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
21,748
Location
Highlands
#5
Have a look at the books I mentioned in the other thread - you're not going to learn to get deep into POV overnight. Let it sink in - there's no rush. :)
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,912
Location
nearly the New Forest
#7
I think trying to identify with Xaviera at this very moment may be a bit ambitious. I’m still a novice writer. Heijan is kind but oblivious and a bit of a sociopath, so I may need to write this scene from his POV; much more relatable.
Do be careful if dealing with non-empathetic individuals, though, as it might come across not as his lack of emotion, but as a failure of writing, so it actually might be more difficult to write him nher.

As for the info dumping. Yeah..

Would it be worth having a companion piece for that? There’s so much. Or do you just have to ease into the world building as the book goes on and you’ve earned more trust?
Basically, keep extensive world building for your website -- the novel should only have what's necessary to understand the plot and/or entertaining to read. You can get away with more info about the world as you get on in the book, but you still can't dump it on the page without care unless you want the reader to skip whole paragraphs/pages.

There are lots of threads here on Chrons about info-dumping. This is the latest Info dumping vs Narration and background setting but go looking and you'll find more. There are posts about it in The Toolbox including this one of mine here The Toolbox And if you go through the last couple of pages of Critiques -- which is something I would encourage all writers to do, whether novices or otherwise -- you will see lots of comments about it relation to other members' work. I'd suggest you work your way through all these threads, and in relation to the Critiques threads that you offer your own thoughts, since it's a valuable way of learning.

Writing is something of a marathon not a sprint, so take your time. Good luck!
 

Similar threads

Top