The Story Idea: First Flash

I find that I have two favorite parts when it comes to writing a story: The First Flash when I get the original idea and the next when writing the last sentence because by that point I’m tired of the story and want it finished.

But let’s rewind…

The First Flash is when that idea pops into your head. Anything can spark an idea. Something you read, a random conversation, anything at all can plant that seed in your imagination. It’s a lot like meeting that special someone for the first time. You get excited, a little light-headed, and your entire being opens up to the possibilities that lay ahead.

It’s an intoxicating feeling to say the least.

The Original Story Idea is important because it is probably the purest and simplest form you will ever get for the story you are about to create. It can also be the most ambitious because it hasn’t been filtered yet through Research, Revision, and the necessary planning involved to turn it from a simple idea to a fully developed story.

Write. It. Down.

No matter what form the idea will eventually take, you should write it down in its initial state because you want to capture that original thought. I consider this an important step because you want to consider it as the foundation for what is to become and it’s pretty cool to look back at the finished story and remember where it all came from.

The most important thing to me is to fall in love with each story idea. Granted, most ideas have the potential to languish in the Idea Folder for a while, but that can have a positive effect because when we revisit something with a fresh perspective, we often come up with new ways to write about it. That’s always a good thing.

Did I mention writing your ideas down?

My 777 Writer’s Challenge

I’ve had a number of requests to participate in The 777 Writer’s Challenge, especially from Sandra J. Jackson at https://sandrajjackson.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/the-777-writers-challenge, Jacqueline at http://acookingpotandtwistedtales.com/2015/09/13/excerpt-of-my-work-in-progress-777-challenge/, and Orangepondsconnects at https://orangepondconnects.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/the-777-writers-challenge/.

I tend to shy away from these things because they cut into my Writing Time, but the idea grew on me and it seemed a fun way to do some writing practice and be more a part of the Blogosphere Community. Plus, I’m sure they will keep after me until I give in…hehe.

Since I promised that I would participate, here is my response. I decided to use my current project, Lights and Shadows, for the Challenge:

Before I start, let’s get the rules out of the way, courtesy of a Copy and Paste.

The rules are: I am to go to the 7th page of my WIP, find the 7th sentence on that page, and then paste the following 7 sentences into my blog post. And then select 7 other writers for the challenge!
The best way to describe Lights and Shadows is to call it a Sci-Fi/Adventure/Mystery since there are elements of all three in the story. I don’t get hung up on labels because, in my opinion, they’re only useful in Marketing and blah blah blah. Anyway, let’s do this thang. 😉

The bike hummed to life and rose up on an invisible force cushion. He pulled his pistol from the holster and popped the revolver’s cylinder free to study the six rounds in the chamber. Directed energy weapons were common sidearms among the Alliance, along with plasma-based firearms, but batteries had a tendency to fade with repeated use and without a handy charger, that fancy-schmancy laser pistol turned into a flimsy club. Plasma weapons fared a little better, but they tended to break under arduous conditions. Projectile weapons almost faded away altogether except for the invention of the smart bullet, turning an ordinary lead bullet into a deadly accurate slug with an onboard guidance system capable of traveling around corners and some cases, straight through a wall. Now all you had to do was aim, wait for the targeting data to be uploaded to the bullet, and then squeeze the trigger. He admired the feel of the brushed chrome finish before he snapped the cylinder back into place, giving it a spin for luck.

Now, for my challengees. The choices were tough because there are so many good bloggers out there and being limited to 7 means being choosier than normal. Man, I feel like I’m doing an Academy Awards Thing here…hehe:

1) Barnaby Taylor at http://falconboy.ie/about/

2) Michelle Iannantuono (Sorry if the spelling isn’t right) at https://aetherhouse.wordpress.com/

3) Eve Messenger at http://evemessenger.com/

4) Michael at https://michaelathonyrios.wordpress.com/

5) E at https://writingthentonow.wordpress.com/

6) Wings-of-Dawn at http://trudistreasures.com/

7) Kay Morris at https://kaymorriswrites.wordpress.com/

This has been a fun experience and to those who kept after me to do this: See? Persistence DOES pay off…lol.

Character Development

Characters are the people that populate our stories. Without them, all we have is a collection of interestingly described settings with nothing going on. It’s great if you are an artist, but not so much if you’re a writer.

However, simply plopping some fictional people down isn’t enough. That is where Character Development comes in. The Collins English Dictionary defines it as:

“the portrayal of people in a work of fiction in such a way that the reader or audience seems to learn more about them as they develop.”

Pretty simple, right? Well, let’s do a little handy-dandy deconstruction of that definition.

“The portrayal of people in a work of fiction”

Pretty straightforward. You need people in a story in order to create action. People can be humans, aliens, sentient turtles, amorphous blobs, pretty much anything you want to tell the story around.

“In such a way that the reader or audience seems to learn more about them as they develop.”

Again, pretty straightforward because as we experience the story through their eyes, we learn more about them. Therefore, we could conclude that characters should possess a minimum dynamic that allows them to grow and develop as the story develops.

Still with me? Good, because putting my “Mentor” Hat on isn’t the most fun thing. I’d rather be writing. 😉

How do we develop our characters? The first thing, in my opinion, is to plan out who and what they are. There are tons of different techniques to do this that range from writing long in-depth character biographies to starting with basic characteristics (General Physical Characteristics like Height, Weight, etc) before advancing to internal attributes like personality, intelligence, education, occupation, potential internal conflicts, etc).

It’s not enough simply to give them a name. As writers, we are responsible for giving our characters life and if we are really fortunate, the reader will latch on to what we’ve done and adopt our characters as their own companions or friends. James Bond started out as a character in a novel as did Harry Potter and Hermione Granger and we all know how popular these characters became. These are, but three examples and you could find hundreds of memorable characters throughout literature over the years.

I write Character-Based Fiction, which means that my characters’ strengths and weakness take precedence over Plot Events. This also means that I have to invest more into who they are and what they do. It’s a more challenging way to tell stories, but I find it to be more rewarding at the end. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I hope I’ve made the concept a little clearer to understand.

Now get writing. Ever Forward. 🙂

Make It Your Own

Apparently I missed a day with the recent reblogs so here’s a little catch-up. WARNING: If you haven’t read the following stories, they are available on Amazon and of course, I highly recommend them. 😉

Those of you who know me know that I am a huge fan of original creative works and by original, I mean the execution of an idea using the Writer’s own style and voice.

The Title of this particular article is “Make It Your Own”. It refers to an old saying where you take something that may have been coined by someone else and use it as part of your personal identity. As I have been known to do in The Past, I like to put my own spin on things.

For Example, when I wrote Corona, I took the garden variety Ghost Story in a Hotel and added a twist by making it more high-tech in nature. In essence, I made the idea of supernatural goings-on my own.

In Vessel, I took a Detective Story and set it in The Future with Spaceships and Aliens along for additional flavor.

In The Three Safeties, I took the trusty Time Travel Story and added my own particular spin on it.

Ideas are free game. Only the execution determines how individual to the Writer they become. I’ve always found it helpful to think of Beef Stew. The dish is a very simple and basic recipe to follow, but there is probably an infinite diversity in what you can add to it. Ideas are the same thing.

Remember to season to taste. 🙂

Leviathan Sleeps

This is something that I decided to dash off at the spur of the moment. It’s more practice at writing beginnings than anything else, but I may do more with it. In any case, enjoy. 🙂

The colony had been out of contact for three days. Normally this wouldn’t be cause for much concern considering the unstable nature of the quasar that formed the nucleus of L972’s system, but when the last computer link went dark, a ship was sent to investigate.

Josh Dannick watched the flashing blue-white star from behind the safety of one of Callisto’s polarized observation ports. L972 was one of the few systems discovered that had habitable planets orbiting an actual quasar, which made it a scientific curiosity. Still, the colony was established with adequate shielding to protect it from losing contact and that was a cause for concern. He longed for a cigarette as he allowed himself to fall under the star’s hypnotic gaze. He sighed as he caught a glimpse of graying brown hair reflected in the window glass.

“Commander Dannick, your presence is requested in the Captain’s Stateroom.”

His brown eyes snapped away from the spectacle outside to tap a small communicator badge embedded in the right sleeve cuff of his gray one-piece uniform. “This is Commander Dannick. I’m on my way.”

Callisto would never enter too far into the system. Exploratory cruisers normally deployed teams in drop ships to do the actual surveys while the mother ship waited for their return at the system edges.

His boots made a ripping sound as tiny hooks embedded in the soles bit and released their way through the red and brown carpet that lined the deck, bulkheads, and ceiling. Artificial gravity was limited to work and living areas, so the Velcro footwear was necessary for getting around.

He made his way down a ladder and stopped at a cabin just below the Bridge where an armed guard checked his credentials and announced his presence.

Captain Surai was a Mantisoid, an insect race that despite looking like something out of an old monster video, were surprisingly even-tempered and analytical. The Captain’s carapace was a bright green and her twin antennae were twitching wildly as she tasted the air. Her compound eyes took him in from several angles as she bid him enter. Her multiple arms were clasped behind her back in a very familiar human gesture.

“Commander Dannick, please make yourself comfortable and close the door behind you. We have much to discuss.”

Dannick did as he was told. “With all due respect, Captain, Star Diver team captains aren’t generally briefed by the commanding officer prior to deployment. May I ask why you have summoned me?”

“No, you may not.” Surai’s carapace shifted colors to yellow before returning to green. “I wanted to speak to you about the incident at Archimedes.”

“Unavoidable, Ma’am.” Dannick said, adjusting his collar that suddenly appeared a bit too tight for comfort. “I was forced to make a snap decision in a volatile situation.”

She slammed an armored claw down upon her metal desk, rattling the stack of data pads on top. “You physically assaulted the Lead Delegate in response to a ritual greeting. I have tolerated your unique command style for a while because you get results, but you must exercise restraint.”

Dannick nodded. “Understood, Ma’am.”

“Fortunately for you, The Admiralty agrees with your handling of the situation and has entered a letter of commendation in your service record.” She replaced her arm behind her back. “Joshua, the Star Diver Program is a cooperative venture between the Navy and the Science Bureau. I don’t have direct authority over the scientists and engineers on your team, but I do over you. You represent us and I will not tolerate officers who deviate from established protocols whenever it suits them. Am I understood?”

“Clear as crystal, Ma’am.”

“Very well. Meet with your team and prepare for deployment. Dismissed.”

Parallax Update #11

Kicking off September with an update on Parallax is a special joy of mine. Here is where we stand on the story:

1) Word Count: Parallax is now at 87,916 words, or 352 pages if you prefer. This is significant because it now exceeds my original target length by almost 500 words and keeps climbing. I am anticipating another 8000-9000 words until the story is complete and ready to go to Amazon.

2) Deadline: I’m well ahead of my September 30 Deadline and I couldn’t be happier. It’s no secret that I detest deadlines, but I’ve come to regard them as necessary inducements to achieving the results that I want, namely the completion of this project and on to the next story I want to tell. The end justifies the means.

3) Sequels: Yes, there will be sequels. The original storyline was way too much to cram into one book and I’ve decided to spread it out over three books.

That’s the Big Three and now on to an excerpt:

“I’m not buying that mystical stuff he layed on me back in M’Tat.” Pratt replied. “He told me that the device was disabled for a short time.” He tapped his wrist. “Tick Tock.”

“I don’t understand.”

Pratt rolled his eyes. “It means that we’re wasting time while this joker is about to make their escape.” He looked behind them. “I see an access tunnel behind us that looks like it links all of the escape exits. I’ll go at him from the front, while you circle around through the tunnel and catch him if he gets past me.”

Zeoko nodded and disappeared. Pratt took a deep breath. “Jack, my boy.” He muttered to himself. “It’s now or never.”

He was careful not to get too close to anyone, else his disguise come undone. Koren and The Hegemon were still debating below as he made his way toward the exit to block The Traitor. A part of his mind observed dispassionately how the scene reminded him of old movies where the Good Guy raced against Time to beat the Bad Guy and save the day. He reached the exit and blocked it.

“Sir, I think you should remain to hear the end of the speech.” He said, hoping that the disguise would enhance his voice to match the facade. He raised his hands, remembering too late that holographic claws were very different from real ones as he looked up. “I insist.”

The Traitor, Sartung, snarled and raised his claws. “Out of my way, Fool, do you know who I am?”

The words jarred Pratt and something inside his mind snapped. “I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are, Pal. All I know is that you caused a great deal of misfortune to come down on my friends and I won’t allow that. Turn around.”

Sartung lunged forward and although Pratt dodged the attack easily, one of the Locknar’s limbs came into contact with his holographic disguise and disrupted it to the point of shutting down.

The whole room went deathly silent as Zeoko appeared and attached a restraining collar around Sartung’s neck before he could struggle free. “Jack, I warned you.”

“Koren consorts with our enemy.” Sartung shouted, struggling against the collar’s influence. “He is the real traitor, not me.”

Koren shook his head. “I did not want to reveal John Pratt’s being here in this way. However, he is here and has been helping our people fight the unknown enemy hiding amongst us.”

“This is a severe breach of Protocol, Lord Koren.” The Hegemon said. “Tread carefully because your words and actions are suspect from this moment on.”

“I will make my case.” Koren turned and looked at Zeoko. “Bring him down here. Jack, you come with her. I need you.”

The Hegemon stopped the guards from detaining Pratt. “This human is very brave to come here. Let us hear what he has to say for himself.”

“Great. No pressure.” Pratt muttered as he followed Zeoko as she guided Sartung down the stairs with a handheld controller. As they passed the other delegates, Pratt realized from their expressions that many had never seen the face of who they had been told were their enemy. He kept his expression neutral. I wonder if this is one of those moments that go down in History, he thought to himself. He looked down at his clothes. If so, I hope the historians will embellish a little because I look like crap.

The tension in the room was fast reaching manic proportions as all eyes turned toward the spectacle happening below. I need to do something, Pratt thought. Then it occurred to him and he crouched into the start position for the Ritual of Greeting. His movements were a little clumsy, but competent as he swept through each step. As he finished the last step, he noticed Koren nodding his approval. The Hegemon blinked and gave a grudging nod.

“You have studied our ways well, Human. Your diligence and bravery in both learning Protocol and coming here speaks well of you.” He tapped the claw on the floor twice. “However, despite you impressing me, you are still an enemy of the Locknar Hegemony and must be dealt with.”

“He is the Lion of Pegasi.” Koren stated for the benefit of all, making Pratt cringe. “Let him speak.”

“Koren, for Hades’ Sake.” Pratt sighed. “Your Majesty-”

“Hegemon.”

“Whatever.” Pratt said. “I have guns pointed at me so semantics mean squat at this point. Sir, I was a member of my military until an encounter with The Signiferians put me on a new path.” He walked over near Sartung but just out of reach. “I can’t speak for this gentleman’s motivations but for me, I’ve learned to recognize my enemies.” As he spoke, Pratt noticed a muscle twitch under Sartung’s neck scales. It was imperceptible at first, but it didn’t match Sartung’s defiant body language. An idea came to him and he decided to run with it. “Zeoko, restrain his arms. I want to check something.”

“Hegemon, the human lies.” Sartung yelled. “Our intelligence on him shows that he is an officer in the United Earth Union Navy. What is the word of a man who has a history of murdering our people?” He snarled as Pratt drew closer, his fangs gleaming as he bared them. “Get away from me, Human, or I will bite you despite this twice-damned restraining collar.”

“Jack, I advise caution.” Koren said, holding himself back. “The restraint collar is not a foolproof device and Sartung is well-regarded for his martial prowess.”

“In for a penny, in for a pound.” Pratt muttered as he avoided Sartung’s snapping jaws and gently bent the Locknar’s head to one side to expose the neck scales. Once an evolutionary nod to an amphibian past, the neck scales became vestigial coverings for ancient gills. He separated the stiff scales with his hands until he found a spot at the base of the green skin. The spot had turned the skin around it to a sickly gray and he felt Sartung wince as he gently probed the wound site with a finger. Something hard moved under the skin. He released the scales and stepped back. “This man has been implanted.”

“Impossible.” The Hegemon stated. “My people outlawed the use of control implants long ago. You must be mistaken.”

Pratt pointed to Sartung’s neck. “Then how do you explain this?” He then pointed above them as Signiferian ships once again made their way down to Planet Chaos. “And this?”

The Hegemon’s wizened face darkened. “It took a human, of all the aliens in this galaxy, to undermine such a perfect plan.” He raised his claw. “I commend you, Lieutenant Pratt, on your powers of observation. I can see our mutual foe’s interest in obtaining you.”

“I don’t follow.”

“First thing’s first.” The Hegemon thrust his claw into Sartung’s abdomen and gave it a twist, severing the spinal cord and dropping him to the floor in a bloody heap. He pulled it back out and wiped it with a red cloth. “Sartung was a loyal subject, but he thought much as you do.” The claw’s point still had flecks of Sartung’s blood on it as he turned it on Pratt. “He didn’t understand that I enacted a compromise with The Signiferians in exchange for them to leave us alone when they were finished with us.”

“You struck a deal with them?”

The Hegemon nodded. “It is my duty to protect my people, even if it is to make an agreement with our most hated ancestral enemy.” He raised the claw. “They don’t really need all of your intact, Lieutenant. They only require enough of your cellular structure to complete their work and under the circumstances, I believe that a little of something is better than all of nothing.”

“My people will be jumping into orbit within a few hours.” Pratt said. “Your plan will not succeed nor will I agree to be sliced and diced for someone’s science experiment.” He watched Koren stir but didn’t allow that knowledge to register. “This will end badly.”

“Indeed.” The Hegemon’s neck gave up a familiar twitch. “As we speak, Signiferian ships are arrayed in orbit. They have a wonderful arsenal of devices capable of capturing ships of all classes and types. When the Earth Fleet arrives, they will be captured and convinced to aid the Signiferians. The war will be over, Mr. Pratt, but not the way you probably envisioned.”

“The Gorashto Invasion was a ploy to get us in your territory.” Pratt replied. “Damn, I would have never expected that given the level of resistance you put up.”

“Seal the Assembly Chamber.” The Hegemon commanded. “No one is to leave until our business is concluded.”

From the corner of his right eye, Pratt could see the glint and glimmer of several blades pulled from discreetly concealed scabbards and sheathes among the captive delegates. None would make a move toward the guards, but the tension in the air made it abundantly clear that it wouldn’t take much to instigate a riot.

The Hegemon lunged, with more strength than Pratt would have given him credit. Pratt dodged the thrust and caught the battle staff that Koren tossed to him. Staff met Claw with an audible crack, knocking it away and giving him several opportunities to land return blows. A stray swipe from The Hegemon’s Claw caught him across the abdomen, tearing across the fabric and leaving a small red stripe of blood behind. The wound wasn’t serious, but much too close for comfort.

The Hegemon smiled while wiping a thin stream of blood from the side of his head. “You’re quite good, Mr. Pratt. I won’t underestimate you again.”

“Talk is cheap, Sir.”

They readied themselves to go again when a loud commotion on the other side of the room brought them to a halt, breathing heavily as they began scowling at each other. The High Master strolled into the Chamber, limping slightly and leaning on a staff of his own.

“Q’Sok.” The Hegemon said. “This is a long way from M’Tat and you are interrupting matters of state. Take your leave.”

The High Master raised his staff and detached it into two separate pieces. “I know exactly what I am interrupting. You forget, Sen, that my position is more than a religious distinction.”

“Yes, yes, you are The Overseer to The Throne.” The Hegemon dismissed the proclamation with a wave of his claw. “I suppose you feel you must take Lieutenant Pratt’s place in his duel?”

“I will do as I must.” The High Master put a hand on Pratt’s shoulder and with surprising strength, moved him away from the fight. “End this now, Sen, or it will be a very short fight.”

“You know the rules. Once blood has been spilled, a duel cannot be suspended. That is Protocol.”

“You have been corrupted by those who you wished to accommodate.” The High Master removed his cloak and badge of office and reverently set them aside. The next few minutes were a blur as The Hegemon seized on the moment and lunged. The High Master spun and blocked the attack, flipping The Hegemon over his left shoulder and ramming both ends of his staff into the monarch’s chest cavity. He studied the fallen leader with sadness and regret for several seconds.

“Mr. Pratt is right.” He noted. “Talk is cheap.” He turned to the delegates. “Send a message to the Stellar Alliance and copy it to our military. Tell them that we are wishing for an end to all hostilities.”

One of the delegates found the courage to stand. “High Master, are we surrendering?”

The High Master let out a tired sigh. “No, we are reintroducing sanity in a universe suffering from dementia by warfare.”

Another delegate stood. “Our people will not understand this unexpected change in attitudes.”

The High Master reconnected his staff and turned to face the speaker. “Then make them understand.” Reassuming his cloak, he turned to the guards. “Release them. All of them.” Without another word, he walked over to The Hegemon’s seat of power. “Be at peace.”

Pratt, Koren and Zeoko followed him and began peppering The High Master with questions. The High Master raised a hand to silence them. “My Children, this is but one ending to one part of a very long story. I will take over as Regent until a new Hegemon is selected.” He waved his hand. “My duty is to manage, not to rule.” He turned to Pratt. “Mr. Pratt, it has been a singular pleasure to meet you once again, but it is time for you to go. Koren, would you please return him to whence he came?”

Koren bowed. “It would be my honor.”

The trip back to Koren’s ship took less time than anyone had expected. As the skies of Mitalum faded to now-familiar nebular colors, the trio took some time to relax and enjoy a few moments of relative peace. The Cease-Fire News spread across interstellar comm channels with a speed not even the original designers could have foreseen.

“You look troubled, Jack.” Koren noted as he watched Pratt finish up some work on the ship’s computer.

Pratt swiveled around in his chair. “The Locknar are some of the strongest, most proud warriors I have ever dealt with, and yet they were co-opted by an alien race that they knew hated them. I can’t wrap my brain around that.”

Koren brought two small black equipment cases over and set them at Pratt’s feet. “Political concepts are ephemeral things. These are gifts to you and your people from me and mine.”

Pratt opened the cases and stared at the rows of neatly spaced data chips in foam container trays. “Data chips?”

“I had two copies of the mining station’s data records prepared. One set is for your use and the other is for you to deliver to your government.” Koren explained. “My people will be working very hard to root out and eliminate the Signiferians in our space. Your people need to be made aware of the threat that has undoubtedly made its way to your home.”

Pratt nodded, closing the cases. He stood and began walking from the cockpit.

“Where are you going?”

“Well, with all the commotion gone.” Pratt said. “It occurs to me that I haven’t visited a bathroom in a long time.” His pace quickened. “Excuse me.”