Damion Fitz Intro v.2

Joshua Jones

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#1
Thank you, once again, to all those who reviewed the earlier version of this introduction to Damion Fitz. I have taken much of the advice you gave to heart and made some significant changes.

This section is not the introduction to the novel as a whole, the Luyten/Tauron conflict, or the Tauron military, but it is the first section with Damion as a protagonist. He is an "Irregular", which is a penal division of the Tauron military, and "Irregulars are expendable" is something of an informal motto/catchphrase of the division, meaning somewhere between "embrace how horrible things are" and "We get more done with less". As for the Luytens, at this point, it is known that their armies are either entirely drone armors or entirely occupied by a human (technically transhuman, derisively called "mind links" and variations thereof) but not why.

Also, it should be noted that there are some edits for clarity to the present readers, such as using the term "powered armor", over "Minotaur".

Thanks in advance for reading!

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



Damion Fitz shuddered as the clamps locked in place, securing his powered armor into the launch vehicle. He hated this mode of insertion; he’d take a transport shuttle deployment or 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 at launch were significant enough that, despite his g-suit and training, he would lose consciousness almost immediately and only recover fully when the acceleration stopped at roughly mach 5. 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!

The next couple minutes of maintaining speed, while not enjoyable, were at least not as openly hostile to his comfort as a forced G-LOC nap and the utter misery that is deceleration. This was its own problem, though. Damion knew when his mind wasn’t occupied with fighting g forces or Luytens, his nerves would creep in, or his mind would wander back to the life he had lost with his sentence. Before he was condemned to the Vela’s tidally locked training ground, before nearly half of his training company was executed by the instructors, before the brutality conditioned him into an Irregular. The faces of those he lost, first in training, then in combat over the last year, forced their way into his mind. Benson, Cruz, Almut, Yankee Company, ’36, ’53…

“Nope, not going there” he said, willing his mind toward the mission. He couldn’t face those ghosts right now. Instead, he reread the mission briefing, out loud, to himself.

“Let’s see, background: Having secured the continent YZ Ceti (c) 1…they need to come up with a better name… we are now seeking to establish blah, blah, blah, foothold on continent YZ Ceti (c) 2…take over Luyten supply base. Skip ahead, skip ahead sending the Irregulars. Launching them across the ocean rather than droping them off like normal people. Maybe they live, maybe they die, no one really cares. More bullsh** about the importance of this mission, sandwiched between drivel and clichés about serving your nation. Not that they gave me much of a choice in the matter.”

“Deployment vehicle separation immanent,” his suit’s OS announced. “Please prepare for deployment.”

The deployment vehicle broke apart around him, leaving him a hypersonic projectile over the ocean. Damion felt a momentary sense of panic, visualizing his body skipping across the open sea, before his glider wings and deceleration jets activated. The next minute and a half was spent with his body’s supply of blood being forced into his eyeballs as he slowed. Reason #2 he hated this sort of insertion.

When he’d decelerated enough that the pneumatics in his suit wouldn't explode and limbs tear off, Damion swung around to an upright, feet first landing position. The change made the g forces more tolerable, his vision returning to normal almost immediately. It also gave him a clear view the continental beach and the storage facility he would be infiltrating. An orbital strike destroyed several Anti-air guns and punched a hole in the facility’s dome shaped shield. 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 insertions.

Damion’s muscles gradually tensed in fear and anticipation 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. He held his breath as the dome neared.

He breathed a sigh of relief as it became clear that his fate was not as a smear on the wall. However, after a year of hellish combat on this rock, he knew he was still far from safe. He still needed to get on the ground and survive long enough for the rest of his squad to land before he stood a chance. While he was not nearly optimistic enough to anticipate no resistance, he hoped that the Luytens had at least not regrouped enough to shoot him out of the air.

Projectiles flew as he entered the storage room, declaring as only bullets can that the Luytens had, in fact, regrouped. Steel crates littered the room, which provided cover for the opposing soldiers. 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 on his lap. The automatic fire was already zeroing on his position. Damion needed to move. Now.

He came to a stop as the computer counted “Five”. Bullets whizzed by, bouncing off the 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 soldier. They raised their weapons simultaneously, but Damion was faster with the trigger. A shotgun blast sent a spray of bloodless metal in all directions.

“Three.”

A second blast to the downed armor ensured the kill, but still 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. He used this opening to throw a jammer grenade toward them. He dove for cover as gunfire came from his side.

“One.”

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

Lexx half flew, half fell through the hole, landing in a 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 jumped the crate, scoring a bloodless kill on the Luyten 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.”

“Rodger Garza.”

Damion and Lexx spread 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 skidded lifelessly across the floor.

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

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

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

“Damn. Hell of a way to start an op…” Kelsow trailed off, then shrugged. “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!”
 
Last edited:

Brian G Turner

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#2
I'm still hearing a mostly objective narrator, rather than a subjective character experience. This isn't a fatal criticism, especially in a genre such as science fiction which is more renown for the cerebral nature of the story ideas, rather than the emotional development of its characters.

However, I think you would still need to look to condense - some of those dialogue sections still come across as too long. Think in terms of what point of information you really need to get across, then state that with the least number of words necessary.

Also, watch out for those missing little details. For example, near the start you mention an "announcer voice" giving instructions, which is vague and doesn't suggest a chain of command as might be expected in military SF. Sometimes you seem too focused on the physics of the projectile to the exclusion of other useful details that could provide a vivid image or feeling in the reader.

However, I can see that you have tried to push on the character experience and made an effort with this rewrite, which is definitely good - I just feel you're missing something still - perhaps a mixture of being concise and using little details to fullest effect?

Normally I'd recommend writing books but I think I already mentioned those last time. What I'd do instead here is recommend that you make a point of reading the greats of military SF - and by that I mean read them and then read them again, not as a reader, but as a writer, looking to how different authors tell their story. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Halderman's The Forever War should probably be high on such a list.

In the meantime, good luck. :)
 

Joshua Jones

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#3
I'm still hearing a mostly objective narrator, rather than a subjective character experience. This isn't a fatal criticism, especially in a genre such as science fiction which is more renown for the cerebral nature of the story ideas, rather than the emotional development of its characters.

However, I think you would still need to look to condense - some of those dialogue sections still come across as too long. Think in terms of what point of information you really need to get across, then state that with the least number of words necessary.

Also, watch out for those missing little details. For example, near the start you mention an "announcer voice" giving instructions, which is vague and doesn't suggest a chain of command as might be expected in military SF. Sometimes you seem too focused on the physics of the projectile to the exclusion of other useful details that could provide a vivid image or feeling in the reader.

However, I can see that you have tried to push on the character experience and made an effort with this rewrite, which is definitely good - I just feel you're missing something still - perhaps a mixture of being concise and using little details to fullest effect?

Normally I'd recommend writing books but I think I already mentioned those last time. What I'd do instead here is recommend that you make a point of reading the greats of military SF - and by that I mean read them and then read them again, not as a reader, but as a writer, looking to how different authors tell their story. Heinlein's Starship Troopers and Halderman's The Forever War should probably be high on such a list.

In the meantime, good luck. :)
Well, you can never go wrong with advice like "read great milsf"! Thanks for giving me an excuse to pick Starship Troopers back up.

Seriously though, thank you for taking the time to review this. I will take a good, hard look through the dialogue and see what can be cut without compromising characterization. It also sounds like I need to reassess my attempted balance between technical details and characterization. What I am attempting to do is create character driven, mostly hard SF (I am including FTL, but everything else is hard). My idea was to include enough detail that someone could go back through and run the details for themselves, but to present it through the eyes of the character based on their way of seeing the world. A housekeeper, for example, isn't likely to be talking about centerfugal forces and tensile strengths, but she may note that the space colony curves up, rather than down like the terrestrial colony she grew up in. It sounds like I need to work on this balance a bit more, though.

Thanks again for the review!
 
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#4
Much stronger than the previous version. The part where he is talking to himself does run on a bit. Maybe alternate between aloud and thoughts:

"Maybe they live, maybe they die". Not like I had much choice in the matter.

On that note, "not that they gave me much choice..." is how you would talk to someone else, but "not that I had much choice" is more how someone would talk to themselves. When people are talking or thinking to themselves, do read those sections aloud to hear if they are genuine or not.


The best military powered suit combat book I've read is John Steakley's Armor. You might check that out.
 

Joshua Jones

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#5
Thank you for the review and recommendations. I haven't heard of that book before, so I will have to see about tracking it down. I have quite a range of powered armors in this universe, and each has a slightly different role and doctrine in their respective militaries, so it will be interesting to see what Steakley did with it.

Interesting point about how one talks to oneself. I actually did voice that one and thought it sounded fine, but perhaps I am the odd one here... That said, I will certainly take a look at the monologue there and see what can be cut without loosing the character and his purpose of stalling/keeping his mind occupied until the decelerating starts.

Thanks again for the review, and I am glad you enjoyed this one!
 

Jay Greenstein

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#6
Damion Fitz shuddered as the clamps locked in place, securing his powered armor into the launch vehicle.
Wordy. Won’t we notice that the armor is “powered” when it operates? And why explain that the clamps “locked into place,” then tell the reader what it locked? So in reality, it reduces to:

Damion Fitz shuddered as his armor was latched to the launch vehicle

But that’s not right, yet, because it places effect, the shudder, before the cause, the latching. And in his viewpoint, as in ours, cause always precedes effect. The difference is that presented as it is, it can’t be him living the events, only you, someone who can be neither seen nor heard, telling us a story, which places you on stage, blocking the audience’s view of the action.

And, why do we really need to know his last name in the first line?

So why not state the opening as:

The clack of Damions armor latching onto the launch vehicle brought a shudder.

But why not jazz it up and make it personal by combining the second line’s thought with the first:

As always, the clack of Damions armor attaching itself to the launch vehicle brought a shudder. Pretty much anything was preferable to being fired into battle inside a glorified cruise missile.


Thirty one words, in-his-viewpoint, as against fifty-three words from a dispassionate external narrator, reads faster, for more impact, and is presented as he notices and reacts to the “clack.” The original version is telling and this one showing. And, another word for the term “showing” is “viewpoint.”
He would be out of it for at least the first minute, though; the g forces at launch were significant enough that, despite his g-suit and training, he would lose consciousness almost immediately and only recover fully when the acceleration stopped at roughly mach 5.
You’re way over-explaining. This story is about him and how he handles his problems. The reader doesn’t care that he’s going to blackout for five minutes, and why. They don’t give a damn that he has on a G-suit. And they assume he has training. You need to get off stage and let the poor bastard live the story in real-time. Fair is fair. You’re going to make his life hell. The least you can do is let him live it. As it is now, you’re on stage talking about him, as if providing the director’s cut narration for a film that the reader can’t see or hear.
The next couple minutes of maintaining speed, while not enjoyable, were at least not as openly hostile to his comfort as a forced G-LOC nap and the utter misery that is deceleration. This was its own problem, though. Damion knew when his mind wasn’t occupied with fighting g forces or Luytens, his nerves would creep in, or his mind would wander back to the life he had lost with his sentence.
This is not Damion living the adventure. This is you, talking about it in the form, “This happened…then that happened…and here’s why that matters…and then…”

I cannot stress this strongly enough: You cannot, cannot, cannot tell the reader a story because storytelling is a performance art. Your dramatic use of tone, cadence, intensity, and all the other tricks of vocal storytelling never make it to the page. Nor do the gestures you visually punctuate with, the expressions that demonstrate emotion, and the body language that amplifies or moderates it.

In short, you’re working hard, but using a skill-set inappropriate to fiction for the page. And that’s what you need to address. You have a lot of company, because we all leave school believing that we know how to write. We do, but not as a publisher views that act.

In our schooldays we worked hard, learning the style of writing our future employers require. But they want us to write reports, essays, papers, and letters. All nonfiction applications. They have informing the reader as their goal, where fiction seeks to entertain. Different objectives….different methodology. And you’re as capable of learning that methodology as you were the nonfiction tricks of the trade. Of course it helps to know that you have to learn it—something we’re not told in our school years. In reality, while we all leave them believing that we need only a good story idea, a “natural talent for writing fiction,” and a bit of luck, we are exactly as well prepared to write a novel as to remove an appendix.

Thank God that we realize that we’re not ready to perform surgery on our friends without training, right?

So here’s something that might help. I don't have enough points, at the moment, to link to the article, directly, but a search for Writing the Perfect Scene will lead you to Randy Ingermanson's article, which defines one very powerful way of placing the reader into the protagonist’s viewpoint. Use it well, and if someone throws a rock at your protagonist the reader will duck.

Chew on it for a bit, till it makes sense. One side-benefit to the method is that it forces you to think as the protagonist, and weigh their options. Then, if you try to force the protagonist to do something for plot purposes that aren’t mandated by their perception of the situation and available resources, the character will tell you, “Hell no. I won’t do that.” So it keeps you honest, so to speak.

It’s a very different approach from that you learned in school. It’s character-centric not author-centric, and emotion-based, not fact-based. So when you try to use it, it will feel “unnatural” till it becomes part of your writing reflexes. Then, you’ll wonder why you never saw it for yourself.

And if it seems like something worth looking deeper into, pick up a copy of the book it was condensed from.

Not the news you were hoping for, I know. But you do have a lot of company, including me when I stood where you are now. Look at it this way: if you write just a little better every day, and live long enough…

Hang in there, and keep on writing.
 

Joshua Jones

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#7
Wordy. Won’t we notice that the armor is “powered” when it operates? And why explain that the clamps “locked into place,” then tell the reader what it locked? So in reality, it reduces to:

Damion Fitz shuddered as his armor was latched to the launch vehicle

But that’s not right, yet, because it places effect, the shudder, before the cause, the latching. And in his viewpoint, as in ours, cause always precedes effect. The difference is that presented as it is, it can’t be him living the events, only you, someone who can be neither seen nor heard, telling us a story, which places you on stage, blocking the audience’s view of the action.

And, why do we really need to know his last name in the first line?

So why not state the opening as:

The clack of Damions armor latching onto the launch vehicle brought a shudder.

But why not jazz it up and make it personal by combining the second line’s thought with the first:

As always, the clack of Damions armor attaching itself to the launch vehicle brought a shudder. Pretty much anything was preferable to being fired into battle inside a glorified cruise missile.

Thirty one words, in-his-viewpoint, as against fifty-three words from a dispassionate external narrator, reads faster, for more impact, and is presented as he notices and reacts to the “clack.” The original version is telling and this one showing. And, another word for the term “showing” is “viewpoint.”You’re way over-explaining. This story is about him and how he handles his problems. The reader doesn’t care that he’s going to blackout for five minutes, and why. They don’t give a damn that he has on a G-suit. And they assume he has training. You need to get off stage and let the poor bastard live the story in real-time. Fair is fair. You’re going to make his life hell. The least you can do is let him live it. As it is now, you’re on stage talking about him, as if providing the director’s cut narration for a film that the reader can’t see or hear.
This is not Damion living the adventure. This is you, talking about it in the form, “This happened…then that happened…and here’s why that matters…and then…”

I cannot stress this strongly enough: You cannot, cannot, cannot tell the reader a story because storytelling is a performance art. Your dramatic use of tone, cadence, intensity, and all the other tricks of vocal storytelling never make it to the page. Nor do the gestures you visually punctuate with, the expressions that demonstrate emotion, and the body language that amplifies or moderates it.

In short, you’re working hard, but using a skill-set inappropriate to fiction for the page. And that’s what you need to address. You have a lot of company, because we all leave school believing that we know how to write. We do, but not as a publisher views that act.

In our schooldays we worked hard, learning the style of writing our future employers require. But they want us to write reports, essays, papers, and letters. All nonfiction applications. They have informing the reader as their goal, where fiction seeks to entertain. Different objectives….different methodology. And you’re as capable of learning that methodology as you were the nonfiction tricks of the trade. Of course it helps to know that you have to learn it—something we’re not told in our school years. In reality, while we all leave them believing that we need only a good story idea, a “natural talent for writing fiction,” and a bit of luck, we are exactly as well prepared to write a novel as to remove an appendix.

Thank God that we realize that we’re not ready to perform surgery on our friends without training, right?

So here’s something that might help. I don't have enough points, at the moment, to link to the article, directly, but a search for Writing the Perfect Scene will lead you to Randy Ingermanson's article, which defines one very powerful way of placing the reader into the protagonist’s viewpoint. Use it well, and if someone throws a rock at your protagonist the reader will duck.

Chew on it for a bit, till it makes sense. One side-benefit to the method is that it forces you to think as the protagonist, and weigh their options. Then, if you try to force the protagonist to do something for plot purposes that aren’t mandated by their perception of the situation and available resources, the character will tell you, “Hell no. I won’t do that.” So it keeps you honest, so to speak.

It’s a very different approach from that you learned in school. It’s character-centric not author-centric, and emotion-based, not fact-based. So when you try to use it, it will feel “unnatural” till it becomes part of your writing reflexes. Then, you’ll wonder why you never saw it for yourself.

And if it seems like something worth looking deeper into, pick up a copy of the book it was condensed from.

Not the news you were hoping for, I know. But you do have a lot of company, including me when I stood where you are now. Look at it this way: if you write just a little better every day, and live long enough…

Hang in there, and keep on writing.
Thank you for your honest assessment. You have given me some things to think about, as did the article you recommended. I may need to simply cut this character entirely, as his goals are to survive the hellish existence of being cannon fodder, numb himself to the hopelessness of his situation, and hopefully keep his friends alive for a time too. Any other goal is entirely out of reach for him.

In seeking to be fair to my own work, it doesn't help that I can only post about half the chapter here due to word limits (next, they recover Givens' weapon, proceed to their main objective [the landing pad] and take it, then enter a transport to take them back to base while the rest of the company continues, ending with him breaking down as he looks into his helmet, aware that he will die behind its visor). So, for the goal of suppressing his helplessness, it ends in disaster, as he is unable to do so. Same for staying alive and keeping his squadmates alive; the former is futile, because he will eventually die an Irregular, and the latter is failed for reasons completely outside of his control, going back to the helplessness of his situation. But, there is the rub. Does this degree of helplessness about his situation make it so the reader is not likely to engage? From his perspective, he cannot have an ultimate victory, but he fights on to stall defeat until an unexpected glimmer of hope comes up toward the end of his arc.

So, I guess my question is if this arc is simply too pessimistic to hold the reader's attention? I definitely see areas where I can improve things based on your feedback and the article you shared, but if the character is too bleak to be engaging, there isn't much point in spending time doing so... Thoughts?
 

Jay Greenstein

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#8
In seeking to be fair to my own work, it doesn't help that I can only post about half the chapter here due to word limits
You're thinking in terms of story. A reader thinks in terms of the character's "now."Is something interesting going to happen later, to make up for the mundane now? Who cares? No one reads on in hopes that it will get interesting. We read to be entertained. Fail that on one page and the reader won't see the next one. Story is something that can be appreciated only in retrospect. But writing is what makes us turn the pages. As Alfred Hitchcock observed, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

it ends in disaster, as he is unable to do so.
Disaster is fine, but...if that's it, and we abandon that character, that's the point where lots of people will toss the book against the wall. Remember, your reader isn't seeking to learn about the story. They're not "looking through the window" as the camera focuses on various people for dramatic/artistic effect. Your reader is seeking to become the character and live the scene with that character as their protagonist. So by scene's end they have been made to care, and to cheer the character on. The character has become their measuring stick with which to calibrate their response to events taking place. They've spent time worrying, and advising the character, and shouting advice as to what the protagonist should do next. In short, they've invested themselves, emotionally, in your character's welfare. So to them, poetic justice demands something better than to have the character crash and burn, and be abandoned in favor of the next character tyou focus on. Something like that can work, but the gains toward the solution of the primary problem had better be worth the sacrifice. If not, you're just chronicling events, with characters as shadow puppets used to illustrate the passage of time and events.
 

Joshua Jones

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#9
You're thinking in terms of story. A reader thinks in terms of the character's "now."Is something interesting going to happen later, to make up for the mundane now? Who cares? No one reads on in hopes that it will get interesting. We read to be entertained. Fail that on one page and the reader won't see the next one. Story is something that can be appreciated only in retrospect. But writing is what makes us turn the pages. As Alfred Hitchcock observed, “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”

Disaster is fine, but...if that's it, and we abandon that character, that's the point where lots of people will toss the book against the wall. Remember, your reader isn't seeking to learn about the story. They're not "looking through the window" as the camera focuses on various people for dramatic/artistic effect. Your reader is seeking to become the character and live the scene with that character as their protagonist. So by scene's end they have been made to care, and to cheer the character on. The character has become their measuring stick with which to calibrate their response to events taking place. They've spent time worrying, and advising the character, and shouting advice as to what the protagonist should do next. In short, they've invested themselves, emotionally, in your character's welfare. So to them, poetic justice demands something better than to have the character crash and burn, and be abandoned in favor of the next character tyou focus on. Something like that can work, but the gains toward the solution of the primary problem had better be worth the sacrifice. If not, you're just chronicling events, with characters as shadow puppets used to illustrate the passage of time and events.
Ok, that gives me some ideas. Thank you again for your critique!
 

awesomesauce

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#10
From his perspective, he cannot have an ultimate victory, but he fights on to stall defeat until an unexpected glimmer of hope comes up toward the end of his arc.
You basically just summarized Hiroshi Sakurazaka's All You Need Is Kill.

I'm going to disagree with Jay Greenstein somewhat; as a reader, I don't look for a character to be my avatar in a book. There certainly is a place for that, Bella in Twilight being a stellar example of a character that's conducive to reader insertion. (People criticize Twilight a lot, but that's a book that captured the imaginations of a huge number of people, so it must have done some things right.) But for that to work, the character has to be weak, in a way. They can't have strong opinions or forceful desires because if the point is for the reader to imagine themself in the avatar of the character, you don't want to jar them out of that. At least that's what I think.

I don't really like that kind of story, or character, though. I prefer characters that are like people. The thing that makes them engaging to me is their humanity, I guess. That they're individuals. My favorite characters in literature, I've never imagined myself in their stories as any of them.
 

Jo Zebedee

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#11
I haven't read the earlier version. Be warned, I have teeth.
Damion Fitz If you are looking for a close point of view, the full name removes us from that. If you're happy with a more distant style that's fine. shuddered as the clamps locked in place, securing his powered armor into the launch vehicle. He hated this mode of insertion; he’d take a transport shuttle deployment or amphibious entry any day. Even an orbital drop was preferable to being placed inside a glorified cruise missile and fired at the objective.reasonably voicey.

“Clear launch bays Alpha through Epsilon,” the announcer's? 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 at launch were significant enough that, despite his g-suit and training, he would lose consciousness almost immediately and only recover fully when the acceleration stopped at roughly mach 5. Of course, they never gave Irregulars the decency of a countdown or…


Damion awoke to a massive headache This could be much more visceral. Massive is largely a telling word - can you show this headache? Did it make his eyes water? Where was the headache? Did it run down his face, or disturb his vision? The more you can show us the more we are pulled into the story. and the visor numbers counting down from “3:57”. Damn these launch insertions!

The next couple minutes of maintaining speed, while not enjoyable, were at least not as openly hostile to his comfort as a forced G-LOC nap and the utter misery that is deceleration.You've lost the voice from earlier. This doesn't feel as real. This was its own problem, though. Damion knew when his mind wasn’t occupied with fighting g forces or Luytens, his nerves would creep in, or his mind would wander back to the life he had lost with his sentence. Before he was condemned to the Vela’s tidally locked training ground, before nearly half of his training company was executed by the instructors, before the brutality conditioned him into an Irregular. The faces of those he lost, first in training, then in combat over the last year, forced their way into his mind. Benson, Cruz, Almut, Yankee Company, ’36, ’53…Ooh, that is an ugly info dump. Do you need it right here, right now? (Clue: no. :))

“Nope, not going therecomma” he said, willing his mind toward the mission. He couldn’t face those ghosts right now. Instead, he reread the mission briefing, out loud, to himself.

“Let’s see, background: Having secured the continent YZ Ceti (c) 1…they need to come up with a better name… we are now seeking to establish blah, blah, blah, foothold on continent YZ Ceti (c) 2…take over Luyten supply base. Skip ahead, skip ahead sending the Irregulars. Launching them across the ocean rather than droping them off like normal people. Maybe they live, maybe they die, no one really cares. More bullsh** about the importance of this mission, sandwiched between drivel and clichés about serving your nation. Not that they gave me much of a choice in the matter.”And that's the single person equivalent of a 'You know, Dave...' info dump. He knows all this. He's only telling it to himself to tell the reader - and it reads like that. I think, again, I'd look at getting this in in a different way, or in a different place. (The bit above, when he's counting down? This could be great merged with that cynical voice? Just a thought.)

“Deployment vehicle separation immanent,” his suit’s OS announced. “Please prepare for deployment.” They give warning here, though, but not a countdown above? Made me wonder why.

The deployment vehicle broke apart around him, leaving him a hypersonic projectile over the ocean. Damion felt a momentary sense of panic, visualizing his body skipping across the open sea, before his glider wings and deceleration jets activated. The next minute and a half was spent with his body’s supply of blood being forced into his eyeballs as he slowed.Again - how does this feel? Get in deeper. Reason #2 he hated this sort of insertion.There's the return of the nice voice I like. Sardonic.

When he’d decelerated enough that the pneumatics in his suit wouldn't explode and limbs tear off, Damion swung around to an upright, feet first landing position. The change made the g forces more tolerable, his vision returning to normal almost immediately. It also gave him a clear view the continental beach and the storage facility he would be infiltrating. An orbital strike destroyed several Anti-air guns and punched a hole in the facility’s dome shaped shield. 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 insertions.See, here you can be drip feeding us the mission info and it wouldn't stand out.

Damion’s muscles gradually That's a little passive. Damion tensed in fear - muscles can't feel fear. tensed in fear and anticipation 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. He held his breath as the dome neared.

He breathed a sigh of relief as it became clear that his fate was not as a smear on the wall. However, after a year of hellish combat on this rock, he knew he was still far from safe. He still needed to get on the ground and survive long enough for the rest of his squad to land before he stood a chance. While he was not nearly optimistic enough to anticipate no resistance, he hoped that the Luytens had at least not regrouped enough to shoot him out of the air.

Projectiles flew as he entered the storage room, declaring as only bullets can that the Luytens had, in fact, regrouped. Steel crates littered the room, which provided cover for the opposing soldiers. 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 on his lap. The automatic fire was already zeroing on his position. Damion needed to move. Now.

He came to a stop as the computer counted “Five”. Bullets whizzed by, bouncing off the 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 soldier. They raised their weapons simultaneously, but Damion was faster with the trigger. A shotgun blast sent a spray of bloodless metal in all directions.

“Three.”

A second blast to the downed armor ensured the kill, but still 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. He used this opening to throw a jammer grenade toward them. He dove for cover as gunfire came from his side.

“One.”

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

Lexx half flew, half fell through the hole, landing in a 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 jumped the crate, scoring a bloodless kill on the Luyten 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.”

“Rodger Garza.”This all worked for me.

Damion and Lexx spread 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 skidded lifelessly across the floor.

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

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

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

“Damn. Hell of a way to start an op…” Kelsow trailed off, then shrugged. “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!”
 

Joshua Jones

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#12
I haven't read the earlier version. Be warned, I have teeth.
Wow, thank you for your thorough review! I think I agree with all of your points, and I am thrilled there were entire sections which you liked.

I do have a couple questions, though, based on your critique of specific sections, because it is clear that my intention didn't come across in the text when you read it.

In the opening line, I used his full name so there would not be confusion when his squadmates called him Fitz. Do you think it would be clear if I did not?

The info dump is intended to be less about the info and more about him distracting himself during this phase. The absolute last thing he wants is free time with his thoughts, but what options does he have when immobilized in a deployment vehicle? Pretty much the only option is the mission briefing, but that is better than reflecting on his fate. So, what I am trying to go for is that he would do anything to keep himself busy, even rereading the mission briefing. But, I have no objection with something else taking the briefing's place, but he doesn't have internet access, personal reading materials (a barbaric life, I know), or the ability to move around, so there aren't many possible options. Maybe music?

Any feedback on these would be immensely helpful. Thank you again for your review, and I am genuinely glad someone of your caliber enjoyed sections of it!
 

Jo Zebedee

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#13
The use of Fitz wouldn’t pull me out if the context is clear - you also have the option of just calling him Fitz in his own POV too. It’s not a deal breaker, the full name, just a small thing so easily ignored.

As to the other, I understood the distraction thing - it just felt a bit ‘authorly’ to give information. For me, it might have been smoother if mixed with a real sense of angst mixed with the distraction, if that makes sense.

And you’re very welcome - but I’m just a part time writer and could be very wrong about things so balance my comments against everyone else’s!
 

Joshua Jones

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#14
The use of Fitz wouldn’t pull me out if the context is clear - you also have the option of just calling him Fitz in his own POV too. It’s not a deal breaker, the full name, just a small thing so easily ignored.

As to the other, I understood the distraction thing - it just felt a bit ‘authorly’ to give information. For me, it might have been smoother if mixed with a real sense of angst mixed with the distraction, if that makes sense.

And you’re very welcome - but I’m just a part time writer and could be very wrong about things so balance my comments against everyone else’s!
Thanks for the response and the suggestions. I am going for a close 3rd, and I cannot foresee someone internally referring to himself by surname, so I probably will take out the last name in the opening and see how it goes.

I completely understand wanting to add in the angst, but I hesitate because of his character. He has become very good at suppressing his feelings and hopelessness, only breaking down at the end of the chapter because of the adrenaline crash combined with no distractions. But, as I said before, your critique is correct, so I need to figure out something else he can distract himself with which makes sense in universe, or an alternate presentation of this time period which doesn't look so much like an info dump. I may also need to be more ambiguous about what he is suppressing in the paragraph prior (although, to be fair, he is suppressing MUCH more than that, especially his reason for being in the Irregulars with a life sentence).

Now, there is no need to be modest about your abilities. There are a handful of writers on this forum that I have immense respect for due to their demonstrated skill, and you are on that list. Whether you do it part time or full time, you are highly skilled and I would be foolish not to take your opinion seriously. And, I will certainly be soliciting you aid when I get Dies Irae, my other, Fantasy WiP, is ready for some critique.
 

The Judge

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#15
Just putting my oar for a couple of points.

Re the name, it didn't over-worry me using both his names, but if everyone is going to be calling him Fitz, I'd suggest you do the same, even though you are wanting to be in close third. I'd advise that in any situation, but here it's particularly the case as he's in the military, where surnames or nicknames are used usually to the exclusion of given names -- if everyone around him is calling him Fitz, he's much more likely to use it for himself, too, and to think of himself that way. (For myself, I used the male protagonist's surname throughout in my SF WiPs, even though I was also writing in his close POV, since he's in a gendarmie type of paramilitary police.) Indeed, you could say Damion effectively died when he was forced into this army, and if you then used his given name in flashbacks it might prove very effective as showing the divide between his two lives. If, however, you want him to still think of himself as Damion, because he hasn't yet relinquished his soul to the military, then perhaps make more of it eg his one and only revolt/rebellion -- a kind of "I am not a number". (Showing my age here with that one!)

As for the angst/distraction point, I think part of the problem is you're telling us he has to distract himself, and doing it at length, then separately you're dumping the distraction on us in one hit. Drop the telling, and start showing, and mix the two together a bit more, so it reads less as you informing us, and more as him living it. By way of example I'd approach it something like this (very rough as I'm doing it on the fly):

Faces crept their way into his pain-fogged mind: Benson, executed by the Vela instructors; Cruz, crushed to death at Sparshat...​
Sh*t. No. Not again.
Reason #2 he hated the inserts -- the opportunity it gave his mind to drift back into the hell of his past. "Something else," he said out loud. "Think of something else."​
Almut, beheaded on the training ground...​
"The mission. Right. Read the briefing again, Fitz." Read out loud, to stop the voices in his head -- the screams, the pleas for help -- being heard. "With the continent YZ Ceti (c) 1 secured -- f*cking stupid names -- a foothold on (c) 2 is required..."​
He read it all, the weather conditions, the cynical drop of the Irregulars, the anticipated response from the Luytens at the supply base, the anticipated casualties -- as ever a gross underestimate of the losses his squad would take -- even the bullsh*t about the importance of the mission, and the cliched drivel about serving the nation. All to keep his memories -- and his growing fear -- at bay.​

Obviously this is my voice, not yours, but by chopping it up in this way, to my mind it makes the information you need to impart much more manageable and easier to read.

I can't recall if anyone has suggested it already, and if so, sorry for the repetition, but try writing the whole scene in first person. That will help bring you closer to him, and show you where you're sometimes falling away from that closeness. Having said that, it may be that in military style SF, you can get away with the more distant voice. You know your own market better than do I, so check what's being published now.
 

Joshua Jones

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#16
Just putting my oar for a couple of points.

Re the name, it didn't over-worry me using both his names, but if everyone is going to be calling him Fitz, I'd suggest you do the same, even though you are wanting to be in close third. I'd advise that in any situation, but here it's particularly the case as he's in the military, where surnames or nicknames are used usually to the exclusion of given names -- if everyone around him is calling him Fitz, he's much more likely to use it for himself, too, and to think of himself that way. (For myself, I used the male protagonist's surname throughout in my SF WiPs, even though I was also writing in his close POV, since he's in a gendarmie type of paramilitary police.) Indeed, you could say Damion effectively died when he was forced into this army, and if you then used his given name in flashbacks it might prove very effective as showing the divide between his two lives. If, however, you want him to still think of himself as Damion, because he hasn't yet relinquished his soul to the military, then perhaps make more of it eg his one and only revolt/rebellion -- a kind of "I am not a number". (Showing my age here with that one!)

As for the angst/distraction point, I think part of the problem is you're telling us he has to distract himself, and doing it at length, then separately you're dumping the distraction on us in one hit. Drop the telling, and start showing, and mix the two together a bit more, so it reads less as you informing us, and more as him living it. By way of example I'd approach it something like this (very rough as I'm doing it on the fly):

Faces crept their way into his pain-fogged mind: Benson, executed by the Vela instructors; Cruz, crushed to death at Sparshat...​
Sh*t. No. Not again.
Reason #2 he hated the inserts -- the opportunity it gave his mind to drift back into the hell of his past. "Something else," he said out loud. "Think of something else."​
Almut, beheaded on the training ground...​
"The mission. Right. Read the briefing again, Fitz." Read out loud, to stop the voices in his head -- the screams, the pleas for help -- being heard. "With the continent YZ Ceti (c) 1 secured -- f*cking stupid names -- a foothold on (c) 2 is required..."​
He read it all, the weather conditions, the cynical drop of the Irregulars, the anticipated response from the Luytens at the supply base, the anticipated casualties -- as ever a gross underestimate of the losses his squad would take -- even the bullsh*t about the importance of the mission, and the cliched drivel about serving the nation. All to keep his memories -- and his growing fear -- at bay.​

Obviously this is my voice, not yours, but by chopping it up in this way, to my mind it makes the information you need to impart much more manageable and easier to read.

I can't recall if anyone has suggested it already, and if so, sorry for the repetition, but try writing the whole scene in first person. That will help bring you closer to him, and show you where you're sometimes falling away from that closeness. Having said that, it may be that in military style SF, you can get away with the more distant voice. You know your own market better than do I, so check what's being published now.
Can I like your suggested edit something like 6 times? I LOVE that approach! And, that is extremely helpful in seeing how I can bring it in closer. Thank you so much!
 

Jo Zebedee

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#17
Just to second TJ on the name thing. I use Carter's surname in his own point of view as well as the other characters' and no one has ever blinked. He's a policeman so I think it works okay. Plus, as I used it, he became Carter rather than Henry and that gave an added nuance to the character that suited a professional role.
I also second the first person suggestion.
I also, also second the breaking up the narrative - that's what I was (badly) trying to explain. It's okay to distract but it needs to be shown, not told to us. In fact, if anything I think a few practise crits on what is showing and what is telling might be really useful for you - once you get into the habit of it, it's much easier to stay in it. :)
 

The Judge

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#18
Just as a side issue, how wedded are you to the "Luytens" name? Every time I read it, I see "Lutyens" and have a fleeting image of an army of Arts and Crafts country house architects and garden designers (with a regiment of Jekylls held in reserve...)! :p
 

Joshua Jones

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#19
Just as a side issue, how wedded are you to the "Luytens" name? Every time I read it, I see "Lutyens" and have a fleeting image of an army of Arts and Crafts country house architects and garden designers (with a regiment of Jekylls held in reserve...)! :p
We are courting one another, but the relationship has always been a little sour, so I may be inclined to seek another suitor here. They are so named because they are a collectivist faction with no self-designation (or, for that matter, singular first person pronouns) who were first encountered on Luyten's star. I originally had The Collective as their working name, but that has been used... By people who like to sue. So, yeah, not opposed to change.
 

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