Damion Fitz Intro

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#1
I would greatly appreciate some feedback regarding a portion of a chapter which introduces a minor protagonist in my WiP. He belongs to a society which has no prison system; rather, if a fine or mandated civil service is not appropriate, they are sentenced to years in the "Irregulars". The protagonist was sentenced for life, the reason why is not revealed until the last couple chapters of his story. The balance of this backstory is revealed by the middle of the second chapter, however this section is the introduction to the character.

***********

Damion Fitz shuttered as the clamps clipped in place, securing his powered armor into the launch vehicle. He hated this sort of insertion; he’d take jumping out of a transport shuttle or an amphibious entry any day. Even an orbital drop was preferable to being placed inside a glorified cruise missile and fired at the objective.

“Clear launch bays Alpha through Epsilon,” the announcer voice said. “Strike team, prepare to launch.”

“5:06” appeared on his visor, denoting how long this particular ordeal would last. He would be out of it for at least the first minute, though; the g forces were significant enough that, despite his g-suit and training, he would lose consciousness almost immediately and only recover fully when the acceleration stabilizes. Of course, they never gave Irregulars the decency of a countdown or…



Damion awoke to a massive headache and the visor numbers counting down from “3:57”. Damn these launch insertions! he swore in his mind. bullsh**, is what this is.

“Unknown sender; please identify.” The irate voice said over the radio. Damion looked and, to his horror, discovered that he had activated the comm in his unconscious state, and apparently said that over an open channel.

“Unknown sender; identify yourself immediately.”

There was only one way out of this. He drummed up his best Altairian accent and said, “I ain’t f*cking stupid. Out.” Givens, the grenadier and squad’s only Altair native, would have no idea why an angry comm Lieutenant would be chewing him out when he came to, but passing the blame was a military tradition all the way back to humanity's Earthbound days. He switch to the unit’s tactical channel, affectionately named “tac-chat”.

“You know you’re a bastard, right Fitz?” said the familiar voice of Lexx, the other rifleman and bunkmate of Damion, over tac-chat. “Did you have to practice, or does it run in your family?”

“Ah, I’ll make it up to him back at base. Besides, you did the same thing to Garza a month ago!”

“Shhh! He doesn’t know I did that…”

“Did what?” came the gruff, groggy voice of Corporal Garza, machine gunner and second in command of the fireteam. As he could bench press both men together, staying on his good side was a priority.

Lexx, in a panic, replied with his first thought “Oh, ah, Corporal Fezz, Garza.”

“Fezz? The canine unit in Charlie company?” Garza asked with sudden clarity. “Lexx, I know you are depraved and all, but a dog?”

“No, sh*t, I meant Fetzer…” denoting the blonde Regular from Bravo Company who used to be a model.

Damion took advantage of the situation. “No walking this one back, Lexx. Looks like someone’s been chasing a different kind of tail…”

“Fitz, no…”

The computerized voice of his suits OS interrupted the ribbing, “Prepare for launch vehicle separation.”

“Sorry Lexx, you will have to introduce me to her later. I’ll bring a chew toy. See you on the ground!”

The deployment vehicle broke apart around him, leaving him careening over open water at several times the speed of sound. He quelled the intrinsic sense of panic this brought and activated his glider wings and deceleration jets. The next minute and a half was spent with red vision at just over -1 g, which was nearly as unpleasant as the forced nap earlier. Reason #2 he hated this sort of insertion.

When he had decelerated enough that the pneumatics in his suit wouldn't explode and his limbs be ripped off, Damion swung around to a landing position. The change in position made the g forces more tolerable, and his vision returned to normal almost immediately. It also gave him a clear view of the orbital strike punching a hole in the dome shaped objective. In....38 seconds, he would be at this newly created entry point. A good flight computer would take him right through the center. Irregulars didn't get good computers. Reason #3 he hated these sort of insertions.

Every muscle tensed as he neared the hole in the dome. He had decelerated to less than 100 m/s, but he would still be converted to a fine paste and bone fragments if he hit the wall. Thankfully, this time, the computer spared Damion this fate and sent him through the hole. The Luyten soldiers, however, began firing at him as soon as he passed through. He decided to forego the soft landing, ejected his wings, and rolled out of the impact as another counter began at 0:06. At 0:00, Lexx would be in his lap. Damion needed to move. Now.

He came to a stop as the computer counted “Five”. Bullets whizzed by, bouncing off the steel crates. He made a break to his right as he produced his sidearm; a three barreled shotgun with explosive pellets. He bounded over a crate...

“Four”

...and practically into the arms of a Luyten armor. They raised their weapons simultaneously, but Damion was faster with the trigger. A shotgun blast sent a spray of metal in all directions.

“Three”

A second blast to the downed armor ensured the kill, but there was no blood. “Drones,” Damion mouthed as he replaced his sidearm and drew his battle rifle.

“Two”

Damion turned back toward the entry point and opened fire on the drones, dropping one and causing the rest to seek shelter. A jammer grenade followed these bullets.

“One”

The jammer clinked on the cement floor and activated, disabling the drones for a few seconds. That was all they needed.

Lexx soared in, also abandoning the soft landing for a slightly less controlled roll; his feet touched first, followed by his head, then ass, feet again, and chest in rapid succession. He was back on his feet and to Damion's position by the time the next counter read “Two”.

“Drones?” Lexx asked as he bounded the crate, opening fire on the one trying to maneuver behind Damion.

“So far. Just like the other continent.”

“Tin cans, mind links… only difference is the cleanup.” Garza chimed in as he descended, floating down while his automatic weapon roared to life. “Secure the ingress point while the rest of the platoon lands.”

“Roger Garza.” Damion and Lexx fanned out as Givens’ countdown reached one. Instead of an anticipated grenadier, though, they heard a loud thump, were pelted by a shower of debris, and Givens’ armor bounced lifelessly across the cement floor.

“Givens!” Damion called instinctively, but he resisted his impulse to come to Givens’ aid. There was no point; Givens was dead before he hit the ground.

Sgt. Kelsow arrived a few seconds later. “Form up, men… Where’s Givens?”

Lexx pointed toward Givens’ mangled form. “Soup in a can, Sarge.”

“Hell of a way to start an op…” Kelsow trailed off, then shrugged, “We Irregulars are expendable; his weapon isn’t. Lexx, Fitz, secure his weapon. It will be synched to Fitz’ biometrics by the time you get there. Garza, suppressing fire. Move!”

“Roger,” they all said in unison.
 

The Judge

Truth. Order. Moderation.
Staff member
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Messages
9,614
Location
nearly the New Forest
#2
I don't have a great deal to say about structural and other issues. It reads well and quickly, which is what you need in military SF. One problem about introducing a character as he's about to fight is that we're not invested enough in him to care if he lives or dies. You get around that by giving us a hint of his character with the quick-thinking on the comms before he lands, which is fine, but I can't help thinking that (a) the trick with pretending to be someone else isn't terribly believable in the context of advanced communication technology and (b) grunts engaged in joshing each other before they hit the enemy is probably something of a cliche.

To my mind, though, there's a paucity of description which makes the whole thing a little vague and nebulous. I've no idea what he's going to be landing in or near, what kind of target this is, whether the open water is sea or lake, whether it's like an oil rig platform in the water or there's an island etc. If this has been shown in a previous briefing scene, then all well and good, though it's handy to refer back to it even then, but if not I'd like a bit more, just to get a feeling of where he is. And once inside the dome there's nothing shown apart from one or two drones and some steel crates. You can't spend pages on detailed description, but I do think we need more than this.

The other thing lacking, of course, is any emotion. I don't know if he's been give some kind of drug to reduce fear and panic, but I can't believe there'd be nothing here, not even when he sees his squad mate killed. If there is a drug, mention it and his lack of emotion, otherwise you need to have him thinking and feeling. Even battle-hardened troops must have some kind of reaction when they're shooting and being shot at even if it's only adrenalin rush.

Anyhow, there were a number of other issues I found, particularly over punctuation, so I'll do a nit-pick.

Damion Fitz shuttered [confused: do you mean shuddered?] as the clamps clipped in place, securing his powered armor into the launch vehicle. He hated this sort of insertion; he’d take jumping out of a transport shuttle, or undertaking [another verb needed here, as otherwise he's jumping out of an amphibious entry] an amphibious entry any day. Even an orbital drop was preferable to being placed inside a glorified cruise missile and fired at the objective.

“Clear launch bays Alpha through Epsilon,” the announcer voice said. “Strike team, prepare to launch.”

“5:06” appeared on his visor, denoting how long this particular ordeal would last. He would be out of it for at least the first minute, though; the g forces were significant enough that, despite his g-suit and training, he would lose consciousness almost immediately and only recover fully when the acceleration stabilized. [not sure if merely a typo or an error of tense; if the latter, do take care] Of course, they never gave Irregulars the decency of a countdown or…

Damion awoke to a massive headache and the visor numbers counting down from “3:57”. Damn these launch insertions! he swore in his mind. [I'd suggest either italics or the explanation of "he swore..." not both] Bullsh**, [capital needed as it's the start of a new sentence] is what this is. [I'm not clear what the "bullsh*t" is for -- in British English we'd use it to indicate something is stupid, but he's surely swearing because its horrendous, which requires something more aggressive, I'd have thought]

“Unknown sender; [semi-colon surely not required -- a comma would be enough] please identify,the [dialogue tags always require lower case whatever the punctuation, and comma instead of a full stop] irate voice said over the radio. Damion looked and, to his horror, discovered that he had activated the comm in his unconscious state, and apparently said that over an open channel. [?said? It was "he swore in his mind". Even if he's only just coming to, shouldn't he know the difference between thinking and speaking aloud? If in fact the comm picks up thoughts, you need to make that clear]

“Unknown sender; [ditto re semi-colon] identify yourself immediately.” [NB not convinced their comms can't identify which glorified cruise missile the swearing came from]

There was only one way out of this. He drummed up his best Altairian accent and said, “I ain’t f*cking stupid. Out.” Givens, the grenadier and squad’s only Altair native, would have no idea why an angry comm Lieutenant would be chewing him out when he came to, but passing the blame was a military tradition all the way back to humanity's Earthbound days. He [strictly "He" = Givens, who is the subject of the last sentence, so you need to confirm it's Damion] switched [again not sure if typo or tense error] to the unit’s tactical channel, affectionately named [those two words very tell-y to me -- just a "otherwise known as" is more neutral and less obviously you the author speaking] “tac-chat”. [no need for inverted commas there]

“You know you’re a bastard, right Fitz?” said the familiar voice of Lexx, [if Lexx has heard the other bit, why hasn't Givens, who will therefore know why the comm Lt is chewing him out] the other rifleman and bunkmate of Damion, [to me this is telling. Why do we need to know this last bit, and why now?] over tac-chat. “Did you have to practice, or does it run in your family?” [surely all the tac-chat is going to be monitored, or at the very least recorded for later review if only by automated software, so any reference to the earlier conversation is dangerous for Damion, so why isn't he shutting Lexx up?]

“Ah, I’ll make it up to him back at base. Besides, you did the same thing to Garza a month ago!”

“Shhh! He doesn’t know I did that…”

“Did what?” came the gruff, groggy voice of Corporal Garza, machine gunner and second in command of the fireteam. [again, to me this is telling. We don't need to know any of this at this point] As he could bench press both men together, staying on his good side was a priority.

Lexx, in a panic, [you've just swapped POV -- to remain in Damion's put in "obviously" and delete the "with ... thought"] replied with his first thought. [full stop needed] “Oh, ah, Corporal Fezz, Garza.”

“Fezz? The canine unit in Charlie company?” Garza asked with sudden clarity. “Lexx, I know you are depraved and all, but a dog?”

“No, sh*t, I meant Fetzer…” denoting [again, this is straying into Lexx's POV by the use of "denoting". Instead, pull away with something like "Fetzer was..."] the blonde Regular from Bravo Company who used to be a model.

Damion took advantage of the situation. “No walking this one back, Lexx. Looks like someone’s been chasing a different kind of tail…”

“Fitz, no…”

The computerized voice of his [the last person speaking is Lexx, so potentially confusing. Best to confirm it's Damion's] suit's [missed possessive apostrophe] OS [might be best to explain what this is] interrupted the ribbing, “Prepare for launch vehicle separation.”

“Sorry, Lexx, you will [why not "you'll"?] have to introduce me to her later. I’ll bring a chew toy. See you on the ground!”

The deployment vehicle broke apart around him, leaving him careening [in British English, "careening" means something very different. I think US English accepts it as a synonym for "careering" but it might be an idea to choose a better alternative] over open water at several times the speed of sound. He quelled [how?] the intrinsic [not convinced "intrinsic" is right here -- it's not inherent in the speed itself, and something brought can't be intrinsic] sense of panic this brought and activated his glider wings and deceleration jets. The next minute and a half was spent with red vision at just over -1 g, which was nearly as unpleasant as the forced nap earlier. Reason #2 he hated this sort of insertion.

When he had [why not "he'd"?] decelerated enough that the pneumatics in his suit wouldn't explode and his limbs wouldn't [usually I'd agree only one use of the "wouldn't" is needed, but here with the "be" it's very awkward without the repetition] be ripped off, Damion swung around to a landing position. The change in position [close repetition of "position" ugly] made the g forces more tolerable, and his vision returned to normal almost immediately. It also gave him a clear view of the orbital strike punching a hole in the dome-shaped [hyphen needed] objective. In.... [only 3 dots needed for the ellipsis, and best to have a space between it and the next word] 38 seconds, he would be at this newly created entry point. A good flight computer would take him right through the center. Irregulars didn't get good computers. Reason #3 he hated these [sort of] [no need to repeat] insertions.

Every muscle tensed as he neared the hole in the dome. He had decelerated to less than 100 m/s, but he would still be converted to a fine paste and bone fragments if he hit the wall. Thankfully, this time, the computer spared Damion this fate [this moves away from Damion's POV andinto you as omniscient author speaking, so suggest changing the wording so it's his POV] and sent him through the hole. The Luyten soldiers, however, began firing at him as soon as he passed through. He decided to forego the soft landing, ejected his wings, and rolled out of the impact as another counter began at 0:06. At 0:00, Lexx would be in his lap. Damion needed to move. Now.

He came to a stop as the computer counted “Five.”. [in two minds about that full stop -- the "Five." needs one, and I'm pretty sure in US English it's acceptable not to repeat it after the quoted bit, though in UK English it would be needed] Bullets whizzed by, bouncing off the steel crates. [do we already know there are steel crates here? If not, delete the "the"] He made a break to his right as he produced his sidearm; [semi-colon wrong -- either a colon or a long dash] a three barreled shotgun [can a shotgun be a sidearm?!] with explosive pellets. He bounded over [no gravity here, or does the armoured suit give him extra powers? Either way a word or two might help to explain] a crate...

“Four.[full stop here and hereafter for the numbers]

... [gap needed here] and practically into the arms of a Luyten armor. [confused as doesn't appear to be a countable noun. Is "armor" short for "armoured soldier" or is it an android? Might be an idea to confirm that somewhere if so, as on its own "armor" looks and feels wrong] They raised their weapons simultaneously, but Damion was faster with the trigger. A shotgun blast sent a spray of metal [no blood and flesh? Presumably then it is an android? Ah, have just read on and you deal with this next. Think that's too late by then] in all directions.

“Three.

A second blast to the downed armor ensured the kill, but there was no blood. [shouldn't he have thought that before? Even if the armour protects the body inside, there'd surely be some blood even on a first hit] “Drones,” Damion mouthed ["mouthed" means his mouth forms the word but it isn't vocalised. Why does he do this? Why not say it, so the others on the tac-chat know?] as he replaced his sidearm and drew his battle rifle.

“Two.

Damion turned back toward the entry point and opened fire on the drones, [where are they?] dropping one and causing the rest to seek shelter. A jammer grenade followed these bullets. [his or theirs?]

“One.

The jammer clinked on the cement floor and activated, disabling the drones for a few seconds. That was all they ["they" = the drones, so you need "he" or "Lexx"] needed.

Lexx soared in [surely not. Soaring = rising upwards, or gliding at a constant height], also abandoning the soft landing for a slightly less controlled roll; his feet touched first, followed by his head, then ass, feet again, and chest in rapid succession. He was back on his feet and to Damion's position by the time the next counter read “Two”. [same problem as before with the full stop]

“Drones?” Lexx asked as he bounded [onto? over? And repetition of the "bounded" which Damion did] the crate, opening fire on the one ["one" = another crate] trying to maneuver behind Damion.

“So far. Just like the other continent.”

“Tin cans, mind links… only difference is the cleanup,[again, this is a dialogue tag so comma not full stop] Garza chimed in as he descended, floating down while his automatic weapon roared to life. “Secure the ingress point while the rest of the platoon lands.”

“Roger, [comma needed] Garza.” [new para required] Damion and Lexx fanned out [can two people "fan"?] as Givens’ countdown reached one. Instead of an anticipated grenadier, though, they heard a loud thump, were pelted by a shower of debris, and Givens’ armor bounced lifelessly across the cement [you've already told us it's a cement floor] floor.

“Givens!” Damion called instinctively, but he resisted his impulse to go [come] to Givens’ aid. There was no point; Givens was [strictly this should be "had been dead" as it happened before the past tense in which this is narrated] dead before he hit the ground.

Sgt. [give the rank in full] Kelsow arrived a few seconds later. “Form up, men… Where’s Givens?”

Lexx pointed toward Givens’ mangled form. [but it's not his form, it's his armour] “Soup in a can, Sarge.”

“Hell of a way to start an op…” Kelsow trailed off, then shrugged. [full stop required; comma not strong enough] “We Irregulars are expendable; his weapon isn’t. Lexx, Fitz, secure his weapon. It will be synched to Fitz’ biometrics by the time you get there. Garza, suppressing fire. Move!”

“Roger,” they all said in unison. [suggest dropping this, as it sounds a bit too much like a glee club]
As you can see, I've picked up a few errors in punctuation and tense usage, which might just be typos in both cases, but if not, you'll need to sort things out. Some word use I'm not over-happy with, but that might be the US-UK division in language. Watch the drifting POV -- if you want close POV for Damion, then be him, and write it as if it's happening to you, which will also add the emotion that is lacking.

Overall, despite my cavils and nit-picks, a useful first draft on which you can build. Well done.
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
21,481
Location
Highlands
#3
Damion Fitz shuttered
I kept re-reading this line, wondering if you'd meant "shuddered"?

Either way, it starts of nicely enough, but seems to lose focus quickly - I'd like to see the beginning condensed a little more to focus on immediacy. What you do have goes on a little more than I'd have patience with - but then it all becomes very chattery. I know you want to introduce the other members of the team, but the way you do it I think is far too long and destroys any sense of tension we may have felt early on.

In the attack itself, you give us a lot of detail - especially about the suit and physics involved - but I don't get much of a sense of the target or how it's being viewed. You describe a "dome shaped objective" and then "Luyten soldiers" firing - but I don't really get much sense of the setting or how instruments in the suit are being used to target them. And while you do describe physical actions, such as rolling and firing weapons, I don't really get much of a sense of the experience of being within that suit - does your character feel cramped, hot, sweaty - nervous? Or does he feel confident, invincible, like a man stomping on ants?

Again, with the dialogue during the attack you're using it to describe what's happening in lieu of the character experience - I think you could make this stronger by focusing on the latter.

Just immediate thoughts.
 

Toby Frost

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
4,046
#4
I agree with Brian and The Judge. It's well-written but my main issues are that I had almost no idea of the setting, and I didn't feel anything for the character. He does a few wisecracks and seems rather blase to it all. There wasn't a sense of threat to my mind, which seems odd considering that one his guys dies almost immediately. Personally, I'd cut the talking and replace it with something more menacing that suggests that things are going to go wrong. He doesn't have to see panicky or less competent, just more concerned or interested in what he's got to do.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#5
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read through this and responding. As you all put a fair amount of time and energy into critiquing this, I will respond to each person individually, but I also wanted to give a global thanks to those who have and those who will respond. Both the encouraging and critical comments are quite appreciated.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#6
I don't have a great deal to say about structural and other issues. It reads well and quickly, which is what you need in military SF. One problem about introducing a character as he's about to fight is that we're not invested enough in him to care if he lives or dies. You get around that by giving us a hint of his character with the quick-thinking on the comms before he lands, which is fine, but I can't help thinking that (a) the trick with pretending to be someone else isn't terribly believable in the context of advanced communication technology and (b) grunts engaged in joshing each other before they hit the enemy is probably something of a cliche.

To my mind, though, there's a paucity of description which makes the whole thing a little vague and nebulous. I've no idea what he's going to be landing in or near, what kind of target this is, whether the open water is sea or lake, whether it's like an oil rig platform in the water or there's an island etc. If this has been shown in a previous briefing scene, then all well and good, though it's handy to refer back to it even then, but if not I'd like a bit more, just to get a feeling of where he is. And once inside the dome there's nothing shown apart from one or two drones and some steel crates. You can't spend pages on detailed description, but I do think we need more than this.

The other thing lacking, of course, is any emotion. I don't know if he's been give some kind of drug to reduce fear and panic, but I can't believe there'd be nothing here, not even when he sees his squad mate killed. If there is a drug, mention it and his lack of emotion, otherwise you need to have him thinking and feeling. Even battle-hardened troops must have some kind of reaction when they're shooting and being shot at even if it's only adrenalin rush.

Anyhow, there were a number of other issues I found, particularly over punctuation, so I'll do a nit-pick.

As you can see, I've picked up a few errors in punctuation and tense usage, which might just be typos in both cases, but if not, you'll need to sort things out. Some word use I'm not over-happy with, but that might be the US-UK division in language. Watch the drifting POV -- if you want close POV for Damion, then be him, and write it as if it's happening to you, which will also add the emotion that is lacking.

Overall, despite my cavils and nit-picks, a useful first draft on which you can build. Well done.
Wow, thank you for the time this surely took and your ever sagely advice. This is, I am fairly certain, the most thorough critique you have made of my work, and I daresay the most optimistic. Seeing someone of your caliber saying "well done" is as encouraging as it is humbling, so thank you.

To touch on a couple of your points, I agree that the setting isn't particularly clear. There was a side comment of "the other continent", which implies that the base they are attacking is on a continent, rather than an aquatic platform, but it is extremely easy to miss. This exerpt is around chapter 25 of the first novel, and some of the powers that be are introduced in chapter 18, as well as the setting of a water world with two main continents in a system which is disputed between the Tauron city-state (the nation Damion belongs to) and the Luytens (who are antagonized by most factions in this universe and are introduced in chapter 3). There are two primary categories of Luytens soldiers; the drones, which, as the name suggests, are controled remotely (and this story arc reveals exactly how they are controlled remotely), and the ones Garza called "mind links" which are fitted at birth with an implant that allows the sharing of thoughts, feelings, and so forth wirelessly and instantly with their entire society. This implant also enables them to outfit themselves with the drone's combat armor, which completely encases the wearer. As such, there is no way to tell if you are fighting soldiers or drones until you kill one, but for reasons which are revealed later, they don't appear together. It is either all drones or all mind links. I should also note that Luytens are not a hive mind or shared consciousness. While they don't value their individual identity (to the point the first person singular doesn't exist in their language), they retain it.

Regarding the technology...yeah, they don't give Irregulars advanced communication technology. Their armors are outdated, though functional and effective, and they are typically sent on suicide missions and used as cannon fodder. So, their communications equipment consists of a more powerful radio to communicate with the home base and the tac-chat unit, which is a very low power radio coupled with a low powered repeater. It is only effective to about 5 meters, so the repeater enables the whole team to communicate with one another in a chain. The reason for this is purely financial; it is cheaper to put a repeater on the radio then an encryption computer, and in order for an enemy to intercept the communication, they must be nearly on top of the soldiers, and likely in the process of dying. The launch vehicle amplifies the tac-chat signal a bit, so the team can coordinate before arriving. But, when the launch vehicle breaks up...no more communication. Hence why Damion left the conversation when his vehicle broke up, why Damion didn't just tell them before arrival that they were fighting drones, and why the home base would not have been able to hear their conversation.

Regarding Givens hearing the conversation, he was launched after Garza, and Garza was coming out of G-LOC as he entered the conversation, so Givens would have still been unconscious.

I also need to explain a little about the lack of emotion, though I agree there should be more by this point. There is a particularly emotional moment at the end of the chapter where he has removed his helmet on the transport shuttle and breaks down while staring into the polarized glass visor, as he reflects on the fact that, as someone who received a life sentence, he would almost surely die behind this visor. But, by this point in his life, he has undergone a full year's worth of training where it was beaten into him that he is expendable, lost about 40% of his training company (primarily to the trainers, who are legally permitted to execute any of the convicts who they believe cannot be emotionally broken for their role as Irregulars), and has lost about 12-14 trained squadmates from his five man team over the last year. He has become so numb to battle that it is roughly equivalent to him walking into the office, and so numb to death that he has stopped processing it. This becomes important later, but it is also intentional on the part of the Tauron military. All that being said, there does need to be something there, so perhaps I should scale back the brutality of his conditions so that the audience can relate better.

Other than those points, I think your feedback is spot on, and for those points, there needs to be additional work to communicate this information, either in previous chapters or in this one. So, again, thank you for your feedback!
 
Last edited:

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#7
I kept re-reading this line, wondering if you'd meant "shuddered"?

Either way, it starts of nicely enough, but seems to lose focus quickly - I'd like to see the beginning condensed a little more to focus on immediacy. What you do have goes on a little more than I'd have patience with - but then it all becomes very chattery. I know you want to introduce the other members of the team, but the way you do it I think is far too long and destroys any sense of tension we may have felt early on.

In the attack itself, you give us a lot of detail - especially about the suit and physics involved - but I don't get much of a sense of the target or how it's being viewed. You describe a "dome shaped objective" and then "Luyten soldiers" firing - but I don't really get much sense of the setting or how instruments in the suit are being used to target them. And while you do describe physical actions, such as rolling and firing weapons, I don't really get much of a sense of the experience of being within that suit - does your character feel cramped, hot, sweaty - nervous? Or does he feel confident, invincible, like a man stomping on ants?

Again, with the dialogue during the attack you're using it to describe what's happening in lieu of the character experience - I think you could make this stronger by focusing on the latter.

Just immediate thoughts.
*Facepalm* yeah... I can't even blame autocorrect for that one. I thought at the last minute "Hey, I think 'shuddered' works better than 'trembled' here" and didn't double check that I put in the right word. I shall properly self-flagulate later for that one.

Fair enough on the opening part; I may switch it around so I introduce the rest of the squad as they enter the enemy base. There is also a break in the action not long after this exerpt (they recover the rifle/grenade launcher, Damion says a quick word over his fallen comrade which nearly gets him impaled by a Luyten, the rest of his squad arrives, and the Lt in charge gets them lost in the base on the way to the landing pad, which is their objective) so I will keep the banter to this part.

There is a balance I need to walk with describing the suit and Damion's experience in the suit, though. He has been using this powered armor for the better part of two years, so it is as familiar to him as the jeans I am presently wearing. It would be odd for him to start reflecting on what it feels like to be in the armor. However, it IS the first time the audience has been in the armor, so while some of those things are explored in a subsequent chapter during a training scene, it would be helpful to figure out a more subtle way to help the audience understand. This armor does bring him to a level place with the Luyten drones, so he would likely feel a bit of desperation if he weren't so emotionally constipated from the brutality of his conditions. But, he generally doesn't think about where he ends and where the armor begins when he is deployed.

Thank you for taking the time to read, reflect on, and respond to my work!
 
Last edited:

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#8
I agree with Brian and The Judge. It's well-written but my main issues are that I had almost no idea of the setting, and I didn't feel anything for the character. He does a few wisecracks and seems rather blase to it all. There wasn't a sense of threat to my mind, which seems odd considering that one his guys dies almost immediately. Personally, I'd cut the talking and replace it with something more menacing that suggests that things are going to go wrong. He doesn't have to see panicky or less competent, just more concerned or interested in what he's got to do.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this. He does seem a bit distant from the fact that he is about to go into combat, but this is primarily a function of the brutality of his conditions and how commonplace battle is in his life. He does break down a bit at the end of this chapter, but the bigger issue is that it is hard for an audience to connect with someone who is emotionally distant from his own mortality and the mortality of his brothers in arms for the better part of a chapter. I may cut back the brutality of his situation to make him more relatable. But, I will likely relegate the wisecracks and banter to a break in the action which comes after this exerpt and another combat scene, and introduce the fire team as they come onto the battlefield.

Thanks again for your feedback!
 

tinkerdan

candycane shrimp
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
3,654
Location
x(squared)+y(squared)=r(squared) : when x~infinity
#9
I really did enjoy reading this and have nothing to contribute toward grammar and other mechanics.

However I did have a question here.

The deployment vehicle broke apart around him, leaving him careening over open water at several times the speed of sound. He quelled the intrinsic sense of panic this brought and activated his glider wings and deceleration jets. The next minute and a half was spent with red vision at just over -1 g, which was nearly as unpleasant as the forced nap earlier. Reason #2 he hated this sort of insertion.
My question might be tempered with the notion that physics is not my strength and possibly the setting here is a bit sketchy enough that I'm not certain of what is going on.

With that in mind, it struck me that -1 g might not be the best explanation for what's occurring(keep in mind I'm confused a bit about what is happening)

When I think of negative gs I think of rollercosters that flip over and keep the occupants inside and the forces they are experiencing.

Back to the the problem though of setting--Where are they coming from? Is it a zero g environment are they shooting into vacuum and landing in vacuum with minimum exposure to other bodies of gravity. Not that the reader needs to know. But if they were somehow shot from vacuum(or I guess even from high altitude) to atmosphere and gravity then perhaps their trajectory would be such that they might experience a negative g as they are going downward.

However I keep thinking they might be using a breaking force of 1 g to slow them before they do impact, which after 5 min of acceleration at 1 g would require the application of the breaking force of 1 g acceleration in the opposite direction for the next 5 min. If that were the case I wouldn't call it negative 1 g; but again that might be a valid use of the term--I have to admit to a limit to my knowledge; however it struck me as odd calling it a negative 1 g because I am familiar with the term used in rollercosters, which seems more related to freefall than breaking.

Just a thought and maybe not that important.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#10
Just thought about something which may help with the setting issues... I didn't include the tentative chapter tag for this chapter when I posted it, and I typically include some significant information here. Here is the tag:

Chapter 23: Desperation and Resignation.
YZ Ceti (c)
Disputed Luyten/Tauron space
25 April, 2556

While the setting should still be clearer in the text, does this help any?
 

Brian G Turner

Fantasist & Futurist
Staff member
Supporter
Joined
Nov 23, 2002
Messages
21,481
Location
Highlands
#11
It would be odd for him to start reflecting on what it feels like to be in the armor.
Quite true - but what does it feel like to be in combat in it? Is he comfortable in it? Is he able to require targets easily? Is everything effortless? Or - is there some challenge to it, a required skill and training to get the most out of it, that requires him to push himself physically and mentally to get the most out of it. Especially when his squad is being shot to pieces.

One of the secrets to good writing - that is easy to learn but difficult to put into practice - is to try and feel the character experience, and write from that.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#12
I really did enjoy reading this and have nothing to contribute toward grammar and other mechanics.

However I did have a question here.



My question might be tempered with the notion that physics is not my strength and possibly the setting here is a bit sketchy enough that I'm not certain of what is going on.

With that in mind, it struck me that -1 g might not be the best explanation for what's occurring(keep in mind I'm confused a bit about what is happening)

When I think of negative gs I think of rollercosters that flip over and keep the occupants inside and the forces they are experiencing.

Back to the the problem though of setting--Where are they coming from? Is it a zero g environment are they shooting into vacuum and landing in vacuum with minimum exposure to other bodies of gravity. Not that the reader needs to know. But if they were somehow shot from vacuum(or I guess even from high altitude) to atmosphere and gravity then perhaps their trajectory would be such that they might experience a negative g as they are going downward.

However I keep thinking they might be using a breaking force of 1 g to slow them before they do impact, which after 5 min of acceleration at 1 g would require the application of the breaking force of 1 g acceleration in the opposite direction for the next 5 min. If that were the case I wouldn't call it negative 1 g; but again that might be a valid use of the term--I have to admit to a limit to my knowledge; however it struck me as odd calling it a negative 1 g because I am familiar with the term used in rollercosters, which seems more related to freefall than breaking.

Just a thought and maybe not that important.
No, that is a great thought; thank you for sharing it, and I am glad you enjoyed it altogether. They are on a planet, and when he was launched, he was subjected to enough g forces to make him instantly go into G-LOC, bringing him to hypersonic speeds in about 30 seconds. If it weren't for the g-suit he wore under his armor, he would have likely died due to acceleration forces. So, the -1 g was from his deceleration jets slowing him from Mach 5, and the glider wings are to make sure he doesn't wind up skipping across the water a few kms away from his target and so the computer can get him into the rough proximity of on target (they didn't help Givens much, though...).

There probably is a way to make that more clear...
 

tinkerdan

candycane shrimp
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
3,654
Location
x(squared)+y(squared)=r(squared) : when x~infinity
#13
As far as I know Negative gs are experienced when accelerating toward gravity.
No, that is a great thought; thank you for sharing it, and I am glad you enjoyed it altogether. They are on a planet, and when he was launched, he was subjected to enough g forces to make him instantly go into G-LOC, bringing him to hypersonic speeds in about 30 seconds. If it weren't for the g-suit he wore under his armor, he would have likely died due to acceleration forces. So, the -1 g was from his deceleration jets slowing him from Mach 5, and the glider wings are to make sure he doesn't wind up skipping across the water a few kms away from his target and so the computer can get him into the rough proximity of on target (they didn't help Givens much, though...).

There probably is a way to make that more clear...
If the negative g mentioned here is for deceleration then that would seem to be more equivalent to deploying a parachute which is more like breaking.
I'm not sure how susceptible one is to the red out effect, which occurs from acceleration toward gravity. That's not to say he isn't still accelerating toward gravity-however he does have the offset of constant deceleration to lessen the extent of that negative g effect and hopefully slow him down so he doesn't go squish when he hits.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#14
Quite true - but what does it feel like to be in combat in it? Is he comfortable in it? Is he able to require targets easily? Is everything effortless? Or - is there some challenge to it, a required skill and training to get the most out of it, that requires him to push himself physically and mentally to get the most out of it. Especially when his squad is being shot to pieces.

One of the secrets to good writing - that is easy to learn but difficult to put into practice - is to try and feel the character experience, and write from that.
Absolutely agree, and again, while Damion may not be thinking about it, the audience surely is. For Damion, it is like a second skin, but that is only because he spent 9 of his 12 training months using it before ever seeing combat, and a year in combat wearing it. When trainees are first introduced to the suits, they have regulators on to reduce the odds of significant injury until they are accustomed to not tensing their muscles and the like. But, once the user is accustomed to it and the control sensitivity is set to maximum, it moves almost as fast as the user's body, can support about 500 lbs (which, btw @The Judge, is how a shotgun with explosive pellets can be a sidearm. The battle rifle is a 60 caliber with armor piercing, delayed explosive rounds that weighs about 50 lbs. We won't even discuss Garza's machine gun...), has quick switch magnets built into the boots for low/zero gravity situations, and the deceleration jets double as jump jets. It isn't all powerful, and there are surely more capable armors in the universe, but it does make them much more capable than a dismounted soldier and a match for Luyten soldiers/drones.

But, I need to communicate this to the reader, and I don't want to info dump or have a moment where he decides "Oh, I have used this a couple hundred times; let's contemplate its arm strength and targeting systems!". Some of it comes naturally (they use the jump jets, the magnets, and knock stuff out of the way as his story arc progresses, and at one point his armor is disabled, so he has to continue on foot with his backup, non-50 lb rifle), but the rest should be communicated somehow. I'll work on exactly how, but I would love some suggestions if you have any ideas!
 

tinkerdan

candycane shrimp
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
3,654
Location
x(squared)+y(squared)=r(squared) : when x~infinity
#15
As to the mental state of your character and how he responds to what is about to happen and possibly helping your reader understand him.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1481921460/?tag=id2100-20
Rory Miller's book Violence:A writers guide contains a section in chapter 4 called The Survival Stress Response. There might be something in there to help you get a feeling for what he is thinking and why.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#16
As far as I know Negative gs are experienced when accelerating toward gravity.


If the negative g mentioned here is for deceleration then that would seem to be more equivalent to deploying a parachute which is more like breaking.
I'm not sure how susceptible one is to the red out effect, which occurs from acceleration toward gravity. That's not to say he isn't still accelerating toward gravity-however he does have the offset of constant deceleration to lessen the extent of that negative g effect and hopefully slow him down so he doesn't go squish when he hits.
Generally speaking, you are correct, except that gravity is simply a form of acceleration. When a person experiences -1 g in earth gravity while upright relative to earth, there body is actually going through -2 gs upward and 1 g downward from gravity. In Damion's case, he is pointing head first in the same direction as the launch vehicle, so the acceleration from the gravity of the planet doesn't do much to his blood supply. The acceleration along the flight path from the vehicle's engine is substantial, and makes him black out and loose consciousness almost instantly, then after the launch vehicle breaks up, the acceleration against the flight path pushes blood toward his head, until he has slowed enough to move to a roughly seated position perpendicular to his flight path where 1g is barely noticeable, at least in contrast, and doesn't have any negative effects on the body.

I think what I need to do here, though, is focus less on the forces themselves and more on what he is experiencing from the forces. All this physics is well and good, but it seems more interesting to the reader to focus on his reddening vision, discomfort and the like over how many gs he is enduring.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#17
As to the mental state of your character and how he responds to what is about to happen and possibly helping your reader understand him.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1481921460/?tag=id2100-20
Rory Miller's book Violence:A writers guide contains a section in chapter 4 called The Survival Stress Response. There might be something in there to help you get a feeling for what he is thinking and why.
That is a good book and a very useful chapter. The problem is that he has basically lived in survival stress for the last two years, and anticipates doing so for the rest of his life. But, it may be better to note some of these things, describe them as "familiar feelings" and the like, and make a point of his general disregard for his life, rather than simply make him emotionally constipated until...something happens that you will have to buy the novel to find out about. But, I think the problem is that the reader won't care until at least the end of this chapter, and possibly until that point of transition, so they won't care when it does happen. So, yeah, I think I am going to make him a bit more emotionally responsive, though still pretty stunted.
 

Joshua Jones

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2017
Messages
676
#18
So, I am a little embarrassed now... I just reran my g calculations and it looks like the g forces required for near instant G-LOC would require him to come to Mach 5 in 15 seconds, not 30 seconds. I will have to change a few points in my revision to reflect this correction.
 
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
756
#20
Some things are a bit "on the nose", like "We Irregulars are expendable; his weapon isn’t." It is a bit Basil Exposition.

Also, using terms like "power armor" is simply borrowing someone else's concept by referring to it by name. If you want to build a world, build it from the ground up without using borrowed tropes. You can use power armor, but invent it with fresh language or by simply letting the reader figure out what the character is wearing by what he experiences. You wouldn't simply borrow "death star", so maybe avoid the SF shortcuts.

You may well have a common coms channel, like Emergency Guard, that doesn't come with ID. But maybe say it was over that channel because your readers will make the same objection as the Judge - electronic tagging is cheap compared to Mach 15 space suits. There's just so much you can strip things down before it becomes unbelievable that a spacecraft doesn't have running water, for instance.


My suggestion is to tell the reader less exposition and demonstrate it instead. Use fewer descriptive words for the facts of the universe and more action to describe how the objects and events shape events. Give the reader credit for understanding how expendable the troopers are by the Sgt ordering "Dump him and secure the armor". What isn't said is more powerful than spelling it out.


"Negative G" usually means a rapid decrease in G toward zero, like going into freefall in an elevator, or G that is upside down to the orientation of the person or vehicle. So someone who spends a minute at -1G is someone who is upside down. Is there a reason that he would be oriented upside down?


I agree that the piece seems emotionally detached. Mainly because it seems to offer the character's internal state, yet he seems about as inconvenienced as someone who's coffee cup needs refilling. There's nothing wrong with not depicting how the character feels at all, or having a character that doesn't care about what's happening to them. But you have the character both involved and detached in a way that doesn't feel realistic.
 

Similar threads

Top