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[personal profile] rhienelleth
After yesterday's epiphany, I thought I'd post an example as I work on fixing it.  Also, unexpected things about one's characters often come out on the page when you aren't looking for them.  Apparently, Drug (a minor character) is devoutly religious.  And Mercy (my MC) isn't.

Since I myself am of a religious bent, this is an odd realization to have.  Especially given that this counts as the third rewrite of this book, and religion has never particularly played a role before.  But what do people do when faced with death?  If they believe in a God, often they pray.  

So, without further ado:

 
A burst of bright, crackling energy shot past the Zephyr’s bow, missing them by less than thirty feet, and momentarily washing the red cockpit lights orange. The concussive wake  damn near sent the dropship into a spin. Mercy’s hands tightened on the controls, while the ship shuddered with turbulence.  She spent the next several seconds fighting to keep the Zephyr’s nose straight. 
 
Fuck me,” said Drug beside her.  He hit the thrust controls on the starboard side to help level her out.  “They have a goddamn ion cannon.”
 
“What’s their fire refresh rate?” she asked, checking their shields.  Still at full; good.
 
“Two minutes. Three, if the power transfer is really damn slow.  Why the hell didn’t anyone brief us about this?”  
 
Mercy shook her head, just as frustrated.
 
“Maybe it’s new.  Maybe the Typhus didn’t know.”
 
“Then where did they get it?  That’s military grade shit, strictly controlled.”
 
“No idea.”
 
“God damn,” said Drug, banging a fist on the console. “Don’t they know shooting at us is an act of treason?”
 
“I don’t think they care.  Not many people know it these days, but Ferras used to be a Bennethan colony, back before they started supplying the monarchy with about thirty percent of the ore needed to sustain the Fleet.” 
 
She shared a quick, grim look with her copilot.  Bennett had started this war, in the wake of King Pyralis’s assassination four years before.
Drug shook his head, fingers moving fast over the controls for both sensors and shields.
 
“How is it you always know all this shit?” he asked.
 
“It’s called reading.  You should try it some time.”
 
He muttered something under his breath, while Mercy adjusted their heading to hopefully avoid the cannon’s next blast.  She spent a lot of her free time reading histories and listening to news reports from the fleet.  It was one of the few activities she could while away the hours with, holed up in her bunk away from everyone.  It kept her sane.
 
 

See how, not once do I mention how Mercy feels in this situation?  Everything is conveyed through dialogue, or a description of her doing something.  Even though the story is told from her POV, we aren't really in her head here.

And here's the new opening.  Same scene, different approach:


 
A burst of bright, crackling energy shot past the Zephyr’s bow, missing them by less than thirty feet, and momentarily washing the red cockpit lights orange. The concussive wake  damn near sent the dropship into a spin. Mercy swore, holding the controls in a white knuckled grip, while the ship shuddered with turbulence.  She spent the next several seconds fighting to keep the Zephyr’s nose straight. 
 
Fuck me,” said Drug beside her.  He hit the thrust controls on the starboard side to help level her out.  “They have a goddamn ion cannon.”
 
“No shit,” Mercy muttered through clenched teeth.  Her stomach rolled and dipped completely independent of the Zephyr’s flight, a cold sweat instantly coating the back of her neck.  She really hated days like this.  “What’s their fire refresh rate?”
 
“Two minutes. Three, if the power transfer’s really damn slow.”
 
Hell.  Too long.  Time enough for at least one more shot, before the Zephyr could get to ground.  Maybe two.  Mercy imagined they made a bright red target in the sky. In theory, the crimson color of Rescue was supposed to grant them safe passage on any world.  In practice, it didn’t always work that way.
 
“What the hell is a mining colony doing with an ion cannon?” Drug asked, clearly rattled.  “That’s military grade.  We don’t even get shit like that.”
 
“Does it matter?” Mercy asked, her voice sharp with the potent mix of fear and anger, chased by the adrenaline making her blood pound in her ears. “They have one, and some asshole down there has decided to use us for target practice.  Can we deploy stealth flaps?”
 
“Not while we’re in re-entry,” Drug said, shaking his head.  “They’d burn up in seconds.”  He leaned forward, yelling at the viewport as though whoever was manning that cannon planetside could hear him.  “We’re Rescue, you morons!  What, are you colorblind?”  
 
“Nice try, but I don't think they care.”
 
He blew out a tense breath, muttering in the language of his homeworld. Mercy recognized the important bits, the ones she’d heard pass his lips again and again.  The curses and the prayers.  
 
“Maybe God's listening today,” he said after a moment, “and that shot was all they could muster.”
 
Mercy made a noise, deep in her throat.  It wasn’t agreement. 
 
“We’re never that lucky,” she said, never taking her eyes off the flight controls.
 
“Luck has—”
 
“—nothing to do with it.  I know, I know.”  The familiar banter gave them both something comfortable and routine to ease the tension.  “But God has a big universe to keep track of.  I’m just saying, we probably shouldn’t hold our breath.” 
 
“Heathen.”
 
She threw him a quick, sweet smile. “You say the nicest things.”
 
 

See how adding bits about what Mercy's feeling makes the situation more immediate?  At least, I hope it does.  In fact, I think it changes the entire mood of the scene.  Let me know if you agree, or if you don't! :-)

Date: 2010-03-09 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mercwriter.livejournal.com
Oh, I agree. Adding a bit more emotion and physical reaction from Mercy helps ground me the reader in her POV.

(I think an emotionless POV can certainly work, but it takes a different kind of skill and needs to be handled carefully.)

I like the second version here where we're more intimate with Mercy--it makes the scene feel more active and alive. :)

Date: 2010-03-10 02:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragonsinger.livejournal.com
The rewrite does seem more accessible. Well done.:)

I was hoping you were still working on this. I hadn't heard an update recently so I was worried.:)

Date: 2010-03-10 04:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dthon.livejournal.com
I like it - though one small thing kind of got my attention in both examples.

By saying 'damn near' it seems like you're making a judgement or a measurement as the omniscient narrator, when I suspect by using 'nearly' would keep the focus closer to the level of action that Mercy and Drug are facing. Damn near does wonders for implying the tone of the story to come, but I suspect nearly might be better for you..

(honorable bow)
-Scott

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