I’ve started and stopped a post three million times in the last few days. Every time I get some words down, it turns into a post that I’m “forcing,” and that just sucks.
For those who don’t know, forcing = bad writing. No matter what you’re working on, if you are forcing the words, you’re starting off on the wrong side of the bell curve…and that climb to reach even “average” is pretty damned steep.
So I’m forcing the content, and the words…oh, and my keyboard is starting to go bad…
Welcome to writer-hell.
I could, I suppose, just do a post on politics…
Or a list post…
Or I could remove my own spleen with a dull spoon, for that matter…
I just wrote five hundred words for a freaking football site, goddamnit! No problem with that post, by the way, even though my interest in — and passion for — football is nowhere near my passion for writing. But here? Here I’ve written 175ish words about…not writing.
Is it really all that bad if I start in on the scotch at 7:30 in the morning?!*
*A favorite movie scene of mine, by the way, comes from “Mr Mom”: Michael Keaton is trying to act all tough and ‘manly’ when his wife’s new boss comes to pick her up. “Want a beer?” Keaton asks. “It’s nine o’clock in the morning!” comes the reply. “Scotch?” Keaton responds. That scene still cracks me up.
Ahem. Never mind.
Oh, I did have a couple folks ask me if I’ve made up my mind about which fantasy series to write.
Err…well…no. Not really.
One of the things I do when I’m thinking through and trying to prep a story is write a few random scenes — unplanned stream-of-consciousness scenes, I should add — from different POVs. Doing that lets me explore my characters to see if there is any there there. It also lets me explore different voices and narration options.
I doubt it needs to be stated, but I’ll put this little lesson out there anyway: your story’s narrative voice and tone are freaking vital to the story itself! You absolutely cannot just “wing it” with that stuff. You have to explore and test and find the right fit, or your story will fall apart no matter how good the characters and plot.
The thing with the two series I’m looking at is that I don’t yet have that clear voice and tone. I have the characters for both (I think!). I have the basis for building plots for both of them, as well. What I don’t have is exactly how I tell those stories…
Hence my exploration and writing of random “test” scenes.
I suppose I should offer an example. I’ve put it up here before, but below is one of the “test” scenes I wrote for Somewhere Peaceful to explore some of the dynamics for my protagonist (specifically his relationship with his father, and the incident that changed his life). Keep in mind, the bit below is exactly what I described: random, unplanned, unedited, stream-of-consciousness writing…it also (somewhat accidentally) defined the tone I used for the stories, albeit from a different character’s POV.
Oh…and this scene feels kinda right to post again given everything that has happened in the US in the last 6-8 months…
Riot Memories: Connor’s Dad
The biggest crime of it all is that I’m not there to tell you this myself. I will never forgive myself for that. You and I have had our problems, but in spite of disagreements and arguments, in spite of my failures and the ruin I’ve made of your life, you’re still the only good thing I’ve managed in this miserable universe.
I went to the Market that day just looking for a few drinks. I was off work, and our visit the day before was eating at me. My last words to you were pissed off, and through all eternity I can never make up for that.
I should have known something was wrong. The atmosphere was too tense, the voices too quiet and the tempers too short, for it to be a normal day. A couple of beers over lunch was enough time to see that atmosphere grow worse and worse.
Finally, I could hear a commotion at the hatch to the transit dock. Not really shouting, but voices raised in question and answer. Anger and stress everywhere.
I should have left.
Instead I went to see what was happening. That decision changed everything. That decision ruined your life more than everything else I fucked up, and that’s saying something.
You know the Market, that area around the door is pretty tight. It might be just the stairs coming down from the entrance, and a bunch of stalls and tables, but it is packed. Nothing really substantial, but more then solid-enough for a semi-converted cargo hold.
Johnny had told me the takies were coming. He said he’d heard about about some kind of raid. I guess the Council assholes decided it was time for another crackdown. Can’t leave Dockside alone…no, sir, we can’t have the poor bastards just getting on with life and business. Not when there’s money to be made from taxes and fines.
No one knew what the fuck to expect. Everyone I asked figured it would be a few Stationside cops and a Council agent or two. Roust the stalls a bit. Confiscate some shit. Harass people for not having implants. The same shit they pull every few years.
An assault? Nope, not a fucking soul saw that coming.
The guy next to me had a buddy workin’ the slime farm. He got a flash over his screen that the universe was goin’ ape-shit. Then the message just stopped. The last words were something about cops and guns. Dude musta been in a hurry ’cause his message made no fucking sense at all.
Everyone knows the Council would never put a gun anywhere near Dockside; too much chance of shit spiraling out of control. No one wants blood on their hands, not when us poor-ass scumbags are nice and isolated a thousand clicks from their perfect little Station.
I guess shit changes.
They musta hit the Ops center first because they definitely had control of all the major systems. The hatch just popped. No warning, none of the usual shenanigans, it just popped open to let in a flood of assholes in black.
They weren’t storming in with guns pointed, which I guess is a miracle, but they were still ready for trouble. They were pretty fucking free with their clubs, and they used their riot shields like battering rams. I was in the back of the crowd so I didn’t get hit, but fuck me if I didn’t get half-trampled by people trying to turn and run.
I was thinking about getting the hell back to our pod when the shit really started. I know the hold is fifty feet high, and sound echoes like mad in there, but damn if that wasn’t the loudest few minutes of my life. Insults and threats were everywhere, but mostly I remember the screaming…the fucking screaming was the worst. I almost pissed myself. It was definitely time to leave.
Trouble was, more and more people kept pushing in. Everyone wanted a piece of the goons who were trying to beat their way in. Those goons all musta had the same bullshit fantasy about being bad-ass special-forces types because they came in wearing all-black fatigues and tried to look like some fantasy version of an assassin. Fucking idiots. Everyone wanted a piece of them. I’m not small, but fuck if I could push back against all the bozos who wanted a go at the cops.
Then I heard a shot.
Well, I didn’t so much hear the shot as what came after: dead silence.
I haven’t heard silence since I left Mars. You haven’t been on a planet since you were six, so you have no idea what it’s like. To hear the Market go absolutely still and silent, even just for a second, was the oddest, worst thing I’ve ever heard.
Then all hell broke loose.
I thought it was bad before, but that was nothing next to what happened.
I’ve been in riots, and what we had going until then was a normal, garden-variety riot. Some broken bones, a shit-ton of damage, and nothing more than funny stories and bad feelings. That shot changed everything. It went from riot to full-fucking battle real fast.
“Push back the takie cops” became “kill the takies” almost instantly. It’s Dockside….I think the Stationside assholes forgot what that means. They’re used to being the only ones with guns in their safe, quiet station. Well, half the Market was armed…and all of it was panicked. Shots came from everywhere, but you could barely hear them over all the screaming.
People were pushing and shoving, trampling each other to move around. No one was going the same direction, no one knew what the fuck was happening. All we knew was that it was time to get out.
The place was a nightmare. All the stalls had been turned over and everyone was panicked as hell. Everything as far back as Snug was a mass of chaos. I don’t know if most folks were rioting or running, but no one was gettin’ anywhere in all that shit.
I’m not much for brains, you know that better than anyone, and I’m even less for bravery. When I smelled the smoke, I gotta admit I joined the panic. A fire. A fucking fire. In the Market. That place is a death trap at the best of times, but in the middle of a fucking gunfight? Anyone who didn’t get out was screwed.
I didn’t get out.
I looked back and saw the last of the cops back away through the hatch, then the fucking thing slid shut. Even over the noise and chaos, you could hear the locks seal. That left only the one way out, the door back into the res-holds. The Market is only three hundred feet long, but it might as well been three hundred miles. With everyone screaming and panicking, there was just no way out.
A minute later the lights snapped off. I can barely make my way through that place at the best of times, but in pitch dark? We were all screwed…then screwed times ten when the air-system shut down.
You don’t think about them very much, but the hum of the blowers and filters going is literally a part of life. When everything shuts down, however, you can’t hear anything else. Shots; screaming; shit crashing; none of it was loud enough to drown out the silence.
There was no air, and the only light came from a fire that was growing fast.
Yeah, we all know that’s a possibility. We all know the only safe way to deal with a fire is to completely cut off the affected hold, but who the hell expects that to happen to them?
The smoke was the worst. There was no circulation, so the air just hung there and let the smoke accumulate. I must’ve been near the heart of the thing because it was only a few seconds before I couldn’t breathe.
Then some big bastard knocked me down and pushed over me as he ran for the door. I tried to pick myself up, I really did, but I just couldn’t. I was already half in the bag, and random assholes kept stepping on me.
I looked over and saw some girl who was in the same boat. She had a baby with her. I don’t how or why I noticed, but that kid looked exactly like you did the day your mother bugged out on us.
The last thing I saw was that kid’s blue eyes, and his hand reaching out to me for help.
Fuck, I can’t even die right.