In this chapter, titled Error, Parlay sends a magical robot through the hex door to Jesice. This nameless machine moves toward the cliff-side city on a secret mission. The police and military attempt to stop it, yet they are powerless against the bizarre technology it commands. Guns can’t stop it. Rocket launchers only make it angrier. And fighter jets have their energy cannons’ blasts redirected at their allies.
Now, this is the kind of stuff I love. Wanton destruction! Chaos from an attacking alien force!
However, Kim has sensed a problem with my explosion-fest:
Either add some kind of stakes so we care about the officers winning against the machine (but it you want to keep the machine’s purpose a surprise, might not work), or add more character to the scene so the reader cares about the characters involved. Doesn’t have to be a lot, just little bits of development to get the reader attached to them. Otherwise, there’s a lot of shooting and explosions, but it doesn’t feel like anything really happened. Or maybe just condense the whole scene to a few pages.
Now, she has a point. None of these cops have a large role in the story beyond this chapter. But I don’t want to shorten the scenes that much, since I DO think it’s important to show how the Jesian forces fail against Parlay’s robot. Because when Hatchel and Tecker come to the rescue later, I need the reader to believe that those two rapscallions are the only hope of stopping it.
Maybe I’ll come up with something as I go through Kim’s margin notes. Continue reading
In this chapter the crew meets Vornis, an organically modified human. He’s Parlay’s friend from the old days, you see, and he’s got a story to tell about their friendship. In fact, Vornis’ tale was so long that Kim thought he sounded like a video game NPC that you meet inside a house.
I started to protest, but realized that I do agree with her: Having a setting that fits the conversation is one of the lessons I learned from the Aeon Flux commentaries. I talked about this a while back, but I’ll go over it again. It also gives me an excuse to reuse this image of Trevor:
See, in the episode titled The Purge, Trevor Goodchild has a philosophical discussion about conscience. At the end of the episode he talks with Aeon. The setting for this finale is on a stage with an audience full of people. It’s around this point in the commentary that Peter Chung says:
Well what happened I think is that the discussion about the value of conscience and morality became–it’s such an abstract thing. You can’t help but address it using a lot of dialog and I just hate having scenes where people are just in a room talking. And the way to kind of–push it onto a stage and exaggerate it. Because if Trevor had to give these speeches in a normal situation it would come off as being incredibly declamatory. But in this setting he can say very declamatory things. And it fits.
The episode also has interesting things going on in the background so even if you don’t understand all the dialog you can still be entertained by dancing girls and mask-wearing cactus beverages.
Now, back to my chapter, where Vornis is talking to everyone in a single room of Parlay’s house. How can I make this conversation more interesting? Move the group throughout the various rooms of the mansion? Like a tour? Since the discussion is about Parlay’s life, it would make more sense for Vornis to bring up different events as he passed by Parlay’s old stuff.
So that is my mission! I’ll spice up Parlay and Vornis’ backstory by having the characters move through the mansion as he speaks! No cactus juice boxes though.
Oh dear, Kim had quite an email for me after she finished this one. Scathing stuff. Worthy of that picture above. But first, here’s the chapter summary for context:
Mackaba is going through his day in Hardpan City. He’s pacing the halls of Police Headquarters, telling himself how noble he is to stay and defend the empty buildings.
As he reaches the lobby window he notices that a billboard outside has been vandalized. He flies out in a rage to find Mean standing in the streets. A seven-page battle ensues. It’s totally amazing.
Mackaba is defeated and Dark comes out of police HQ with Parlay’s DNA sample.
Now here’s what Kim told me in the email:
- The fight scene goes on a bit long. Could trim by a couple pages to help keep the action flowing at a fast pace.
- There aren’t really any stakes to the fight. We don’t know why Mean’s fighting Mackaba or what will happen if she loses. We find out later she’s distracting Mackaba so Dark can find the case, but during the fight, there’s a slight lack of suspense.
I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to hear this. I LOVE my fight scenes. I told Kim that she’d have to try harder in order to convince me to change it. So she DID try harder. She called me on the phone and told me how she was counting the pages until the end because the battle was dragging on and on.
Oof. BUT–! Lesson time! That’s the first rule of taking criticism. You gotta put your ego away. Even if it’s a chapter you’re proud of. So I did. And I listened.
Because you know what’s next? After you’ve humbled yourself at the feet of the teacher, you get to follow the second rule of criticism: Bring your ego BACK out to fix the problem! Tell yourself “I can do this! I can find a solution! I am the greatest storyteller in the entire UNIVERSE!! HAHAHAHAHA!”
So that’s what I’ll do. First I’ll add a quick scene at the start, with Mean and Dark walking toward Hardpan City. They’ll discuss the distraction plan and they’ll see the birds flying around the buildings. They can also mention changes to the grounds by the walls which will come in handy during the finale. This will also match up with the scene that Thomas Hugo painted for my cover: it depicts Mean and Dark staring at Hardpan City. I hate it when covers depict events that don’t take place in the story, so now I won’t be a hypocrite.
As for the battle with Mackaba, well, I’ll think of something.
A short chapter, but Kim still has a few good ideas to talk about. Including one idea of hers that I ignored from the previous chapter, ha,ha.
But first, here’s the summary:
After the confrontation in the Pinada wing of the Brinkland National Museum, Mean and her buddies use the hex door A.I. to search for Parlay’s house. They eventually find a promising result: a run-down mansion. The group pops on over.
Mean reveals that she can use one of Tenny’s arts to fly now, and she zooms across the garden with Dark. The two have a bit of a talk where Mean promises to reveal the secret of her origin. Of course she doesn’t get the chance since they’re interrupted by Darrow. Man, I hate it when that happens in OTHER stories but I’m sure I have a really good reason for delaying it.
The mansion, however, is locked. Forcing the door open will only bring doom upon them. So of COURSE the only option is to go to the Hardpan Police Department to pick up a sample of Parlay’s D.N.A. that was obtained with the help of a cryogenic root beer mug. What? I set it up in the prologue! It makes perfect sense!
Time for a new chapter! Confrontation in Pinada Wing! Kim, you’re killing it; I’m getting one done a week now! Keep it up!
Now for the summary:
Mean and Trisk have been training at Tenny’s Tower for one month. Parlay, after watching Darrow through a hex door camera, realizes that Tome is actually a spirit. As we all well know, spirits can be trouble, so Parlay decides to call Darrow and his friends together so he can determine who this mystery person is.
Parlay meets them in the Pinada Wing of the Brinkland National Museum. (Kim will probably get upset now because I don’t mention the museum’s name in the chapter at all.) He exposes Tome as the Traitor Sing, a criminal that caused a comet to crash into the planet. Darrow defends Tome and Parlay smashes the crown that Tome was using to communicate. As Parlay attacks Darrow himself, Tome possesses Parlay for a brief moment to stop him. Tome speaks through Parlay’s body and apologizes for not telling him the truth. Darrow forgives him. Parlay escapes.
Kim’s rampage of critiquing continues! She’s ahead of me at this point, on chapter 15. I’d better get to it, starting with the summary:
“As the Lords Ley make contact with Parlay, Mean and Trisk continue to ascend Tenny’s Tower for training.” Yeah, this will be a short one.
As I said last week Kim already has a new chapter ready to go! I must honor her effort with quick blog posts. But first here’s a summary:
After Mackaba’s attack, Agent Tramania finds Mean and nurses her back to health. When Tramania goes to tell Darrow and Trisk what happened, Trisk tricks Tramania into taking them to where Mean is.
Whew. It’s a good thing I don’t have to say any of this out loud. How did this book turn into tongue twister hour?
Anyway, Trisk whisks Mean away to a hidden tower for some training. They ascend to higher floors by focusing on different emotions to activate the hex doors leading upward. This also gives Mean a chance to tell her thrilling backstory!
Kim found the time to critique chapter ten. Then, JUST to get back at me for complaining how slow she is, she finished eleven as well! How dare she! I mean, fantastic!
So let’s hurry through this. Here’s the summary of the chapter first:
Mean, Dark, Trisk, and Darrow are contacted by the Jesian government. Lord Ley Tecker, specifically. Since Mean assumed that Dark WAS Tecker in a suit of armor, she is now horrified that Dark led her on.
Mean runs off in a rage through a hex door. She arrives at the abandoned hotel she’s been using as a garage and home. It is there that Mackaba ambushes her with his new odd-water-based powers. Continue reading
In this chapter the point of view changes. Everything before this has been set on the planet “Overland” with Mean and her friends. Now the setting switches to Lord Ley Tecker’s perspective on the planet “The Eye.” The narrative follows him from his home underground all the way to his place of work on the top of a cliff citadel.
Tecker is going to vote, much like a senator does, on a bill. It will re-establish communications between the two planets.
This is also the first chapter where Kim’s email complains about the story itself. She tells me ‘nothing happens until the end.’ Kim says there are no stakes and Tecker’s goal to ‘go vote’ is super lame.
I thought she was wrong at first. I argued that if the vote passes, then Mean would know for sure that Dark is NOT Tecker and from there the stakes are set.
But then I realized something. I used to complain about this situation ALL the time on the ‘Mark Reads’ blog. On his site, when we were reading the Harry Potter books, there was a chapter called The Ministry of Magic. In it, Harry picks up a letter from the title location. That’s it. I remember typing a comment that the entire chapter was just people walking through a massive office building for pages and pages. “Ooh! Look at the magic airplanes deliver messages to cubicle workers!” Boring.
But Egads! Have I done the same thing!? Am I a giant hypocrite!? Continue reading
Well guys I have great news: The cover for Abandonment Party is complete! Now all I have to do is wait ten more years for Kim to finish critiquing my chapters! Zounds! I’d better get the blog entry started!