Just finished my second short story. This one is based on an distant future and alternate time line in which New Orleans was flooded entirely. The city was rebuilt in the image of Venice (waterways and footpaths), and has become a center of gambling, music, and excess that rivals Los Vegas. It was rechristened New Venice. I’m still playing with the history and events of the world that lead up to the point that the story takes place. Right now I just plan to write several shorts, probably from different characters perspectives, so that I can get a good feel and idea of the city and how technology has advanced. My initial feeling is to try and makes things fantastical and fun, but as believable as possible. We’ll see how that goes.
Currently I submitted this short to be included in issue 12 for eFiction Magazine. So instead of posting the entire thing here, I’ll just drop an excerpt for you all to enjoy.
He was onto me. I could tell by the way he shifted his weight forward on his bar stool- with one foot on the ground, ready to run. My first time out and already I made a mistake. It probably didn’t help that I was an over forty in a black and white suit amongst the hoppers in the club. Not to mention the scars from where they had inserted fibrous lines into my skin made me a real piece of work. Well too late now, Corbin. You’re just going to have to deal with it. I was sitting in a corner booth of some random gin mill. Like most clubs and bars in New Venice the noise of heavy Jazztronica pumped through the speakers. God, I hate that perversion. Guess that’s another reason I caught his attention. Probably should have grabbed a dame to hop with.
My mark tried to play it cool and slip off his stool when a large group of Janes with their daddy’s passed between us. Good for me, this Hood didn’t know his history very well. The network of fibrous in my eyes shifted into a pattern which caused the light in the room to refract off the new angles and bend the light around the crowd. Anyone paying close attention would have seen my eyes become multifaceted. Everyone turned into this murky swirling cloud, causing him to stand out. Keep running kid, I need to get you out of here. I watched him make his way to the front of the club towards the entrance, look over his shoulder, and quickly make a cut to a side emergency exit.
The foot-chase began. I dropped my light refraction and made my way after him. Years ago I learned trying to tail someone with that vision cost me some serious migraines and a few days in bed. I burst out into the hot Louisiana night air just in time to see him turn the right corner. It would take him to the street along the back of the bar. I started pounding pavement, the heels of my dress shoes resounded against the walls of the tight corridor. As I cleared the corner, I looked right just in time to see a two by four come swinging at my head. As quick as thought, the fibrous attached to my nerves fired an electric pulse throughout my body. With my reflexes boosted into overdrive the lines shifted and to reinforce the bone and muscle along right arm. Using my momentum and new found speed, I brought my forearm up and drove it through the wood, sending it splintering across the ground; leaving just a mangled haft of wood in his hands.
If you’ve never seen someone tap into fibrous before, it can be a bit disturbing. You can hear their muscles stretch and pull while the visible cut lines on their skin heats up to produce a reddish glow. And believe me; it’s just as painful for the user as it may sound. I looked up to see the confusion plastered on his dumb goon face. Sure, he’s seen people use bioware to do some pretty superhuman stuff, but nothing is as visceral as fibrous.
Keeping the charge in my nerve lines going, I pushed off my right leg, pivoted on my left and tried to bring my right down on his clavicle like a forty pound sledgehammer; the glow of energy diffused through my pants leg grew bright. I had mistaken this guy for just another Hood. Seemed that he had gathered up some extra cash and bought himself an adrenal swell.
From the time it took for my leg to go from where he should have been, to smashing six inches into concrete, he had cleared six feet running. I really hate the new tech. He was going to gain another twelve or thirteen by the time I could get my foot out of the hole and be long gone before I could get up to speed. I couldn’t make my first hit a failure. And who was going to hire a past his prime hit-man who was bested by a pushover Hood. I pushed back my suit jacket and withdrew my Eris-G22. It was an action my body had gone through hundreds of times. Like old friends, the fibrous in my palm reached out to handshake with the hundreds of leads set into the grip. My vision exploded in an array of readouts and tactical information that was overlaid on top of the ground and walls. I could tell you in an instant how fast the wind was blowing, where he would be in the next second on his present course, and how many rounds were left in my gun. As I swung the gun up a round was chambered and safety turned off.
And all of that is great. But for all that, I knew something those readouts didn’t. I lifted my pistol and lined up the iron sights to meet right between his neck and shoulder. With a gentle squeeze of the trigger the servos wound up. Oxygen surrounding the gun was drawn in and with a soft hiss and… Pop, the gas was expelled out the back of the gun as the massive charge was released propelling the bullet forward. This all took but a moment before the goon’s trapezius and adrenal swell exploded in a shower of red and green. You see, while the newer bioware is better it still needs a power source; a power source that can be shut off, or run out. And, like most street bio-docs, they don’t take the time to bury the swells very deep.
My mark hit the ground and slid another five feet, blood mixed with adrenaline fluid pumping out of the hole I blew in his back. Gritting my teeth and with a sharp tug I freed my shoeless foot from the pothole I helped create. I did that limp walk, the kind you can only get when wearing one shoe, over to the bleeder as the stiffness in my knees set in. He started trying to half get up and half crawl. Hiss… Pop, another round went through his knee. That’s when he started to scream and flail.
So I’m working on my next short story using the bit I wrote from my Voice Exercises. Things were going pretty well until I realized that what I was writing wasn’t really a short story at all. It was turning into something bigger than that. It is rather funny how that happens sometimes. You set out with one intention and get something completely different. What before was just going to be a quick dive into a fun cyberpunk theme morphed into a creature that demanded more information and fleshing out.
While that is all well and good, I also realized it wasn’t something I was ready or wanted to do yet. The questions that the longer story was asking for weren’t going to be answered just yet. I still needed that short story (or several) to be able to develop the world in a more free form fashion.
Having come from a world of drawn art, I see short stories as my character sketches. Here I allow myself to make mistakes and explore without hesitation to make very grande concepts. Pushing things to their limits to see what works and what doesn’t. It may be odd to some people, to think of it that way, but why not give it a try. Get into the mindset that your short story is just a character sketch. It might not be anything you show anyone. It may end up being the thing that defines your whole novel. But always keep in mind that its allowed to be as big and over the top as you want.
Some of you may argue, “Why not just do that within your novel. Go big! You can always bring it down later.” I can see the validity there. But imagine for a second that the shorts also allow you a chance to build life experiences for that character. Not only are you finding their size, shape, and attitude; but you’re developing their background. Just like real life, your actions are defined by your past. And here you are, building a past for that character and really getting to understand them.
Chew on it. You may find that you like the taste.
Started working on my exercise for voice usage. I started with First Person and will re-write this piece in Third Person Limited next. Once that’s complete I’ll try Third Person Omniscient.
The red glow of the neon sign outside my room was comforting. Most people got unnerved by it, but there was something about that light that set me at ease. Maybe it just let me know I was home and alone. That wouldn’t last forever. Darren would be calling soon.
I took the time to clean up a bit. My place was just a single unit above one of the many clubs in New Venice. It was large enough to hold a reinforced bed set against the long wall, a small refrigerator in the back corner, and a plaid arm chair facing the door that predated the flood. The décor suited me just fine; simple and practical. Not much to trip up on in a fight, but tight enough to keep an attacker close.
After throwing the plain white linen sheets back on the bed I sat back in my chair and waited. I could feel my shakes starting up. It always started the same. My left thigh muscle starts to contract, which moves up my side until the fibrous lines in my left arm start to feel like they’re trying to burn out through my skin.
It always made me feel like one of those junkies near the spillways, but what could you do, the serum was the only thing that could keep me alive. Lining the inside of my armored long coat I always keep a set of Eristech canisters. My arm was already starting to burn by the time I shucked off the left shoulder of my coat to get at the shunt grafted into my deltoid. I clenched the cap in my mouth, yanked it, and shoved the needle in and gave it a half twist to secure it. Yeah, this is how those junkies must feel. I sighed and leaned back as the Veriscyclin entered into my bloodstream. It felt like a cold shower that I’ve grown to love.
As I leaned back into the chair with my head hanging over the back and eyes closed, the call came in. It was a slight knocking against my left ear drum and with a thought, a connection of synapses, my implanted phone connected the call, “Here.”
“Corbin, we got the go,” Darren’s clipped voice wrung in my ear making me wince. Guy needs to learn how to slow it down, “Rooster is sending the info downstairs to Gran now.”
“I’ll get it in a minute.”
“Oh, and keep your eyes out for the Red Lions. They’re out in force tonight. Some gangers tried to rob the Belagio in your area. Just thought I’d let you know.”
I let his warning hang there for a moment. This is the last thing I wanted. The Red Lion were the privatized security firm constructed and hired to patrol the footpaths and waterways of New Venice. They borrowed their motif from the Winged Lion of St. Mark and acted just as self-righteous as you would imagine.
“Lucky day.” I hung up with Darren, and began to gather my things. That evenings band started up in the club below. Soft bluesy notes of a sax began to waft up into my room, then the soft thump of the upright bass. Good tunes. As I slipped the Eris-10 into its concealed holster in my long coat the singer finally entered into the fray. It was dissonant but beautiful against the grime of the city. If tonight’s my last night, at least I get to go out swinging.
Third Person Limited
It is interesting. I was able to get a bit of a clearer vision of the world I’m developing here. I really liked the idea of the characters using some slang from the 30’s and 40’s. There isn’t much of it in this piece. It is something I want to keep in check. While it will be interesting here and there, I don’t want to completely alienate the reader. Also, I started working on the Third Person Omniscient and realized it would be mostly a copy of Limited and wouldn’t add much to the narrative, so I’ve decided to forgo it at this point. If people show interest then I may give it a go.
The glow of the clubs neon sign washed the second story room in a soft red light. Corbin sat at the edge of his bed in his small single unit room. The light had always comforted him, made realize he was home and alone. He knew that wouldn’t last forever. Darren would be calling soon.
He began to clean the sparse room while waiting. Like many apartments in New Venice it was situated above a small club called the Wayfaring Stranger. He kept it sparse, with a reinforced bed along the long wall, a small refrigerator in the corner by the exterior wall, and a single plaid armchair that predated the flood facing the door. The décor suited him just fine. It was simple. It was practical. Not much to trip on in a fight and small enough to keep an attacker close.
Corbin threw his plain linen sheets down over his flat mattress, surveyed the room, and sat down in his chair to wait. That was when the familiar shakes started. His left thigh began to contract rhythmically and would soon be uncontrollable. Corbin knew that to expect next; the contractions would move up his left side until the fibrous lines in his arm would began to super heat until they felt like they were going to burn through his skin.
This part always made him feel like a junky along the spillway, but what could he do. The serum was the only thing he found that worked. Lining the inside of his armored long coat he always kept five ErisTech canisters filled with Veriscyclin. He plucked out one just as his arm began that familiar burn. Shucking off the shoulder of his black coat revealed a shunt grafted into his deltoid. With methodical ease Corbin stripped the cap off with his teeth, inserted the needle into his arm and gave a firm half-twist to set it into place. This is exactly how they must feel, he thought, desperate for their fix. Slouching back into his chair, he let his head lull over the back and closed his eyes. The medicine spread out through his arm like an ice cold shower.
A dull, measured beat started on Corbin’s ear drum. The call was coming in. With a quick thought, a connection of synapses, the implanted sub-dermal phone connected the call.
“Corbin, we got the go.” Darren’s clipped voice raked across Corbin’s ear. The guy always seemed to be in a rush. Like he had somewhere else to be and you were bothering him. The guy was a terrible Connector, but the best Corbin could afford these days.
“Rooster is sending you the logs now. Gran should have it by the time you get downstairs.”
“Oh, and keep an eye out for any Red Lions in your area. They’re out in force tonight after some Hoods tried to rob a Belagio. Just thought you should know.” The warning hung in the air. The Red Lions were the privatized security force for all of New Venice. If you could pay them, they were happy enough to patrol the footpaths and waterways of your sector. They borrowed their motif from the Winged Lion of St. Mark and acted just as self-righteous as you would imagine.
“Lucky day.” Corbin disconnected with Darren; removed the canister from his arm and placed the empty shell in his breast pocket. He quickly began to gather his things, just as that evening’s band started up. Bluesy notes from a sax crept in first, followed by the soft thump of the upright bass. Whoever was playing tonight was good. From underneath his pillow Corbin drew out his Eris-10 pistol and slipped it into its concealed holster in his long coat. The singer finally entered the fray. Her sound was dissonant but beautiful against the grime of the city. If tonight’s my last night, Corbin remarked, at least I get to go out swinging.
I’m interested in hearing everyone’s thoughts on which they preferred. Which parts they felt were stronger than others. This was a fun exercise and really helped me flesh out my character and world. I recommend everyone trying it out. Take something you’ve written one way and try it out in another. See how it works out for you. Maybe you’ll learn a bit more about yourself in the process.
As I develop my current story-line I’ve come across an interesting quandary. How much planning is too much planning. I know many writers who just dive right into the meat of it. They figure they’ll sort it all out later. I can appreciate that. It allows you to get things down on paper and let your characters drive. You let them speak to you, and show you those extraneous details as you move along. However you leave yourself open to getting bogged down during the actual process; stuck on some detail that could have been decided on before hand.
This is where my personal taste wants to take over and plan. I like to know the area that my characters are in. The name of the town, the street name, the mayor, and even a bit of their family history. Those are details I feel need to have been setup ahead of time. The reason being is that I feel this frees me up during the writing process. Instead of coming to a point where I might need to come up with a detail only to stall. I can just look it up in my story ‘bible’, the move forward. But then the problem comes down to getting caught up in doing too much planning. I can get caught planning forever. Never coming to a point to actually write the book. When you’ve reached that point then it isn’t doing you any good.
Too little or too much planning both feel as if they can get you into a bit of trouble. On one hand you can get tripped up while writing, unable to move forward. Where the other you can spend all your time detailing things out, only to be unable to move forward. I’m sensing a theme on both ends.
We need to find a way to move forward.
As I begin to develop my style of writing and work each day I am often faced with the question “Do I use first or third person?” I look to authors that have inspired me for direction and of course find a mix. There are obvious pros and cons to both and my first inclination is to use first person for a number of reasons.
My primary reason being that I’m able to hide certain bits of information from my reader. I can allow them to know only what my character knows. Very handy if you’re writing a mystery. If you’re using third person your reader might feel jilted that you didn’t share everything with them. They shall say, “You know everything so why shouldn’t I?”. Very disappointing as a reader to feel left out of the loop.
But that brings us to the reverse side of the coin where we are given the great tool of suspense. With your reader having more information than your characters you’re given the opportunity to build suspense. You can let the reader fret about the creature-of-nightmare around the corner. While your protagonist walks blindly into danger. Does that mean first person is devoid of suspense? Certainly not. Traversing into the unknown is unsettling in its own right. And you can work to give your readers clues as to what will happen next.
In the end it is about finding that voice that will work best for me as a writer. So now I am on that journey to find the tool that will work best for my style. There is an exercise I want to try where I write the same scene in both perspectives. I think that will give me a good idea on which I like better, and which I’m stronger with using. So keep a look out for that.
Seems that the idea I had for my Star Wars short story has more or less already been done. While doing research on if there was any information on the squad that killed Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru I came across more than I had bargained for. There is a short story dealing with two particular troopers where Davin Felth has an awakening and defects from the Empire. Parts of the details are similar to what I had in mind so I figure I’ll just let it stay there.
So now I’ll move to focusing on my Dragon Age module. There are several details that need to be hammered out there.