Thursday, May 7, 2009

Workshop: Revision Requests

We've reached the final step of the workshop! Participants, look in the comments area; in the next day or so I'll be posting your original excerpts with comments on how you might approach rewriting them. I hope you can all run with the ideas we've discussed here, and try either revising or rewriting your short excerpt. I know some of you have already started. If possible, I'd like to see those by Monday, May 11th. I'll respond to those, and that will be the end of our workshop. Thank you all for your hard work and patience.


  1. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with, Juliette.

  2. Jeanne,

    As I said in my email, I'm waiting your reply before I make a recommendation...

  3. David,

    Your piece is compelling and the voice is great, but it currently functions better as an introduction to Jasmine as a character than to the central conflict of your story. I'd like to see you rewrite it in a way that establishes Jasmine's goal - to get away from her watchers so she can go figure out what she did and try to fix it - and the stakes - what she has lost or will lose if she doesn't manage to fix it. So please understand my comments below in that context.

    [In a time that now seems ancient beyond imagining, I could slip effortlessly into the shadows in other people's heads. When I was a child, I used to hide there all the time. That was for fun, nothing more than a young telepath's game of hide-and-seek. It was totally forbidden, of course, but, hey, that never stopped me. My family knew that if they ever wanted to find me, they just had to follow the sound of breaking rules. I had a natural talent for it. In that ancient time. When I was whole. I can still hide in mindshadows, if I'm willing to pay the price. But it stopped being easy a couple of years ago.]

    => great stuff; but start somewhere else and hold this back until you have a spot where you're showing what she's trying to do with her guard, and/or showing the full extent of what she's lost. From what you've told me, the loss she feels most keenly is not the loss of her ability, and thus the primary loss should be mentioned first.

    [Another day, another futile attempt to drown my pain before it drowns me.]

    =>Yes, but you don't mention the source of her pain straight up. You should, at least if you're going to start with her internalization like this. If you choose instead to go with an action sequence that puts her daily job/punishment up front, along with her keeper and her fellow prisoners, then you'll have to find a different context for this information.

    [ I smuggled a full bottle of tequila across the Veil last night, but I was so exhausted that I hadn't needed to seek alcoholic oblivion.]

    =>Perhaps mention that she smuggled it from an alternate Earth? She pretty much knows what she's doing and how the universe works, right? By leaving it just as "the Veil," without anything else, you (the author) come across as coy with information. Is there any reason why you'd need to hide this from your readers? Try giving a single additional phrase - to orient readers while keeping with Jasmine's universe concept.

    [ And it really was waaay too early today for that sort of thing.
    Hard liquor is for evenings. Beer is for breakfast. But I didn't have any beer.
    Maybe tonight I would drink my fill of the hard stuff, and beyond. But until tequila o'clock rolled around, I would try to drown my pain with music.]

    =>This is character stuff. Nice. It will mean more when we have a better sense of her pain.

    [ I tickled the SoundPod coiled around my left ear until my head pulsed with my illicit download of Grown To Nubility, the latest album of broken-hearted rock ballads by the Lingerie Valkyries.]

    =>This works well as a placement of Jasmine in a universe not our own but like our own. Whether it's future or just alternate will be clearer if you can show just a little of Jasmine's cosmological sense earlier.

    [Hey, when you walk across the rainbow bridge and into Valhalla, you gotta listen to the Valkyries, right?]

    =>This is cute but will work much better when you ground it in what's really going on.

    [The title track just blew me away. Vixen's voice was like honey poured over broken glass. The way she sang, I could almost believe that she had been hurt as badly as I had been. Almost. It helped. A little.
    I'll take all the help I can get.]

    =>This is well written, again. You're assured in your treatment of Jasmine in a way I didn't feel during the last workshop, so great job. I think the issue here is how to focus the mystery. You're setting up curiosity in the reader about why Jasmine is hurting, so that keeps us reading. But if you showed us at the start precisely why she was hurting, you might be able to achieve a different kind of forward momentum: momentum related to how she's going to fix her situation. Since I assume that's what the whole story is about, my recommendation would be to aim for that.

    [According to the unofficial motto, only wounded souls end up in the Voidwatch. Hell, I'm probably over-qualified. Hiding in mindshadows again just opens old wounds, forcing me to face all that I've lost. But I'm damned if I'm going down without a fight.]

    =>This is the first place you tell us where she is currently and what she's actually doing. Can you try to begin by showing her in her situation so we can understand it through her responses in the action?

    [Let Cybergirl think she had only four wounded souls to escort; Little Black Riding Hood, Captain Obvious the Masked Wrestler, Cannon Cop, and...Alaric. Four wounded souls, not five. I don't exist, remember?]

    =>So she's going somewhere (does she know where? she'd remark one way or the other) with three other people and *the ex-boyfriend she's afraid of.* I see you trying to point him out as different, but to this point he's just a name, even if he's separated by an ellipsis... Can you put Alaric in a context where he fits in with her discomfort over her situation? Does she feel like the universe is conspiring against her, sticking her there with him?

    [I'm lucky they sent a sentient cyber to fetch us, because I can't hide from less-advanced machines. Cybergirl's self-awareness contains shadows that a dumb robot will never know.
    I'll stick to the shadows for as long as I can. I may not be able to avoid it forever, but I'll delay my punishment for as long as I can, thank you very much. Besides, who in their right mind would voluntarily stand on the Thin Red Line between Reality and Chaos? ]

    =>this would work really well as motive/justification for an escape attempt that she's about to make (if she's planning one)

    [Those who have nothing left to lose, because they have already lost it all. Wounded souls. Nothing like me. Nothing like me at all.]

    =>Really really important. This suggests *she has something to lose*. Which is what will make readers care and keep turning pages. But you seem to be saying that they're different from her because 1. They've lost it all and she hasn't, and 2. They're wounded and she's not. Which is not the case. So tell us what's really going on. My guess from what you've told me is that the real difference is this: they're wounded and have nothing left to lose because they've lost it all (what this means for Alaric is still a question!), while Jasmine is wounded and has lost it all, but if she plays her cards right and figures out what happened and what she did, she has a chance of getting it all back.

    Those are my thoughts. Ask any questions you want; I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  4. Catreona,

    I'd like to see the scene you showed me a paragraph of, in which Cindy witnesses the attack. Please as you work try to keep in mind what I've said about the scale of details, so that you can be specific in a few key places and ground the reader. For example, instead of saying that Cindy doesn't feel at home away from "their prosperous little farm," try for example saying something like "the smell of the earth had been alien at first, like the [alien name for food crops] they grew, but now it was home; she hated to leave it for the flat dust of the town." Give Cindy more of an opportunity to come through in her personality and character, because this is what will get her through the experience. How might her ability to adapt to alien farming relate to her ability to survive the attack?

    Just some thoughts. Ask any questions you'd like, and I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  5. Colin,

    I'd like to see a rewrite of the scene you sent, but beginning a little earlier when Lanuz wakes up to discover he's suddenly got a bionic arm. I want to share his confusion, and understand how it is that he decides to go to an inn/a pub to get help, and what he wants them to do (remove the arm? Make it stop hurting? Tell him where/when he is?) Put the focus closer in on Lanuz as he tries to make sense of the weird stuff that is happening in terms of what he knows. Surely he's been attacked and wounded before - maybe even knocked out. It may be the experience you and I spoke about where squabbling went wrong. So he might use that experience as a resource to help him know what to do when he wakes up confused and seeing unfamiliar technological things that also have "come home" to him in a very unexpected way. The sword should be mentioned, since that's what the whole story is about - along with whatever parts of the bad guy situation he understands, as he remembers them. Once he's in the pub, if the young mechanic is going to ask to go with him, then try to give some context for that. Don't worry as much about length as you did when submitting the first one.

    Ask any questions you'd like. I didn't feel it was critical to go through and annotate the text you gave me, in part because I'm asking you to recast the scene somewhat. Do let me know, though, if you feel you need me to, because I'm happy to do it.

    I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  6. Khajidu,

    I'm hoping that you can approach a revision of your piece with the following goals in mind: 1. Let the reader feel who Tsumw really is, a wealthy doctor and pillar of the community who has a job in a band but still has to maintain his reputation, 2. Give readers a sense of the conflict to come, by showing us what the consequences of finding a real sailor's necklace might be, and 3. Link your world information into the understanding of your POV character. I hope you can take my comments into account from this perspective.

    ["Gods, Xodull, will you shitting stop it? "
    We were going back home from our last concert and Xodull was acting silly again. We'd known each other for almost thirty-two years and he never wised up. This time, he was climbing down the canal bank to get something he claimed to see there.]

    ->I like that you start us in a piece of action, but in this segment Xodull and Tsumw's interaction seems not to fit their age and station, and I have a hard time they've known one another for so long. Maybe Tsumw has a fun/silly persona he uses when he's on stage, but he feels that once they're offstage, he has to get back to his doctor's reputation, and that doesn't involve hanging out with guys who go scrambling down muddy embankments to pick up junk. Could you consider approaching the interaction from this perspective?

    [The thing is, not only it was dangerous because the bank was slippery due to the storm last night, but he was going down with the two-month old tsu he carried in a pouch on his lap. The poor animal looked scared.]

    => Here you create tension by making us wonder whether Xodull is going to make it without an accident, and whether his animal will be okay. This is less effective than it could be because we don't really know Xodull or his animal, and the tsu is not in fact directly related to the main conflict of your story. As I understand it, the main conflict of your story has to do with how Tsumw, a respectable citizen and celebrity, gets involved in something that puts his wealth and/or social identity at risk. So in fact I think you could leave out the animal, or make it incidental (don't make readers worry about it), and have Tsumw be more concerned about his companion's foolery damaging his reputation - because that is the risk that will carry through into the main conflict once they figure out the true identity of the necklace.

    ["Don't worry, Tsumw, I'm being careful this time."
    "Last time you were “being careful this time”, you pretty much destroyed all the furniture in my home."
    "Don't bring this again! I was just trying to help you cleaning the ceiling. If you just didn't try to distract me by talking about this all new scientific idea of your sister's... what was it already? Something about where living species come from."
    "Evolution. And that's not any excuse."
    "Squack!" the little feathered thing in the pouch approved.
    "Shuddup, Tipsy. Yes, evolution. Very new, indeed." Xodull wasn't listening to me, as usual. "Well, after a thought, it looks obvious, right?]

    =>This section is related to the anxiety over whether Xodull will be okay, and I don't think you need it. You might be interested in a discussion of plot obstacles by Janice Hardy on this topic, here: .

    [Ah, here you are." He pulled something from the weeds below. Something that looked like a sailor's necklace, but it was too dirty to tell.]

    => Here is our first glimpse of what it is he's picked up. If it is indeed a sailor's necklace, there will be consequences, because you've told me the necklace is a means to communicate with a sentient ship. But right now readers don't know that. So Tsumw's reaction is what we need, to show what the possible consequences might be. If he thinks it looks like a sailor's necklace, should he should respond with shock and anxiety? Should he be worried that they need to find a sailor to return it to? That a sailor will be coming to try to find it? Is the communication device something that might be useful or valuable to someone who finds it, and would Tsumw or Xodull be tempted to keep it? Is Tsumw hoping that once the thing is cleaned off, it won't actually turn out to be what he thinks it is? That is the direction I'd like to see you go here.

    [Xodull climbed back up. I couldn't believe he made it without a scratch.]

    =>You don't need this unless in the reputation context I mentioned, in which case it would be more like, "well, at least nobody saw him."

    ["Looks nice, hey? Well, after I clean it, of course. Don't look at me like that."]

    =>This is very cool. I think Tsumw has a great reason to have a strange look on his face, i.e. the potential consequences of having found a sailor's necklace. Here you have a contrast between what Tsumw suspects, and what Xodull knows. So it's a perfect opportunity to let Tsumw explain what he thinks it is, and what that means.

    ["Well, there's a fountain right there, you'll be able to practice your awesome cleaning skills. But I'm not standing near. I know you."
    "Oh, you're afraid of water? You wimp."
    "Don't. Just don't."
    We laughed all the way to the fountain.
    Xodull then cleaned the necklace, not without pouring water on himself, Tipsy and of course me. "Shit," he said.
    "Oh gods, you've been faster than me. I was just about to say the same."
    "I'm faster, I'm faster... Well that's so rare it needs being noted, right?"
    "Stop that." I answered.]

    =>This material is related to the potential problem of Tsumw getting wet, and while he might be concerned about that on one level - in fact, he might ordinarily worry about it for reputation reasons - at this point the reader's focus should be on whether the necklace really is what he thinks it is. So I don't think you need it.]

    [After more cleaning and more water pouring, the necklace looked much nicer. Xodull showed me. "Well, I dunno who made this but they have my congratulations. Look, it seems genuine, don't you agree?"
    "It's very well done, yes, but I don't think it's genuine. They're so rare and I tend to believe sailors are not the kind of people who dispose of these like this. Even if they had very bad relationships with their ships."
    "Well, I didn't hear anything like this lately. You're right, it must be a fake. But very well done indeed."
    "Did you look if the jeweler put a mark or something? They have to, if I remember correctly."
    "No, I didn't find anything like that. But maybe you could also check, you got a better eyesight."
    "I'm not touching that."
    "Don't talk like Zhebvu, I don't need another one." Xodull then wore the necklace. "It looks nice on me, right?"
    I couldn't believe he was wearing it. Well, it did look nice on him, but it needed a little more cleaning first. And I didn't think it was fit for a Sky Hierarch-Elect's husband to wear fakes, even if it was the fad of the moment.]

    =>What happens here is going to depend entirely on what the possible consequences are of Xodull wearing a sailor's necklace that isn't his. It makes sense for Tsumw to claim it's a fake and his friend shouldn't be wearing it - because he doesn't want Xodull wearing it. But even if he *says* it's unbecoming for Xodull to wear a fake (which is very plausible for reasons I've already mentioned), you should give us a sense in Tsumw's internalized thoughts of what his real reason is for not wanting Xodull to wear it. Real consequences, having to do with the sentient ship, or the sailor, or the police, or even all three.

    ["Well, it looks like I'm going to ask all the jewelers in the whole Orlêzh if by chance one of them made this." Xodull finally said.]

    =>This is the piece that tells readers where you're going next. Here, Xodull says he's going to ask around about the necklace, but I don't think he has a really good reason to. Tsumw should be the one taking the initiative here, since he's your main point of view character. My sense is that he should try to put Xodull off wearing it until they verify whether it's a real sailor's necklace or not, and Xodull should probably be reluctant to go around town asking about it, but Tsumw should insist because he thinks bad things will happen if they don't. I also have a sense that a necklace like this would not be made by a regular jeweler. We haven't discussed the mechanism by which the communication with the ship occurs, but if there's a communication device set into a necklace, you might have a regular jeweler set it (one place that X and T could go to investigate), but I think there might also be a special industry for creating the communication device itself (another possible place for investigation). Try to end the piece by giving us a sense of what Tsumw will try to do next, and why, and what might go wrong if he doesn't find out the answer.

    I hope this helps. I welcome any questions you may have, and I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

  7. Juliette,

    In fact, the real sailor's necklaces are produced by the ships themselves before adulthood and are picked by their first sailors. The jewelers only make fakes. In both cases, the necklaces are valuable (but the real one are much more valuable obviously) and my characters will want to look for the owner. As fakes are much more frequent and as they didn't hear about somebody looking for a real one (yet), they're going to believe and test the 'fake' hypothesis first.
    I might also want to consider writing the piece from a different point of view, it's not definitive yet.

  8. Oh man... Juliette, do you realize what you've done!? You just gave me free reign to write three distinct scenes with no limitation on size!

    Haha. Honestly, I'm only kidding. But in all seriousness, I'm a bit daunted by the task. Especially considering the deadline of Monday (and this being a holiday weekend I'll be with family most of the time). Aside from that, let me share my concerns for what you've asked for.

    You want the excerpt to start with Lanuz awakening in the future. This is an entirely separate scene where he wakes up shortly after being operated on. He is in the care of a group of people who are an offshoot of the original runescribers that deal with engineering and technology. I've struggled with how to get that scene moving as the runescribers aren't going to reveal very much information to Lanuz about what he's supposed to be doing. They kind of just set him up and send him on his way. But how does he know where to go or what to do, especially considering he's lost his memory. This is a major reason why I didn't use this scene for this workshop. Most of the information that starts Lanuz on his task is revealed later on... I suppose that could be changed though.

    So, the next scene is Lanuz being attacked by some of Thrall's minions. This is also the same scene where Allen and Lanuz first meet. Allen is out in the ruins of an ancient city nearby his town scavenging pieces when he happens upon Lanuz (not necessarily from that point of view...) At this point Lanuz's arm is hit and destroyed. The damage the mechanical arm took caused a surge in the power output, great big light, blinded everyone, the thugs run away and Lanuz and Allen retreat to Allen's town where the scene I posted takes place.

    So... that's pretty much what I'm dealing with. Any advice?

    And btw, I'd love for you to annotate my piece. That's if you'd be willing. Even if I redo the whole thing it would be nice to get the detailed input. It might also help when I get to that portion of the rewrite even though it will be different.

  9. Okay, Colin, here are my thoughts (annotations may come later).

    You're telling me this isn't the opening scene of your piece. That's fine, but it is the one you chose for the workshop; so work with me here. I had a friend tell me today that the object is to try to start as close to the end of your story as possible. Why can't you reorder it and compress it, just for kicks, and an experiment? Even if his alterers are going to show up later, you could have them keep him sedated and then turn him loose, where he wakes up just with the results of their labors. What if you start there, have him attacked (briefly, not a full-on fight scene but just a chance to show that he's under threat) and then have Allen (maybe with a new name) take him to the pub? I think what you're seeing as three scenes could actually be rendered as one and a half, with the result that the pacing would go way up, as would the sense of stakes.

    What do you think?

  10. That... sounds great! I never thought of having Lanuz be sedated and waking up unaware of who gave him the arm. You're also right that putting him directly in the mix of action would get things moving faster.

    And yes, Allen needs a new name. A lot of things need names in my story at this point. There's a lot of placeholders that need to be replaced.

    Thanks again Juliette!

  11. Khajidu,

    So what you're telling me is that these two guys find a necklace and they want to be good citizens and return it to its owner. My immediate reaction is that that motivation is not going to provide enough drive to keep people reading your story. If they truly think it's a fake, just a nice necklace someone lost, I don't see how they'd be in any rush to go around looking for its owner; they'd file a report maybe with the police and leave it at that. What you told me is that the necklace, and the ship it belongs to, are going to have a profound effect on Tsumw's life. So you need to get that momentum started as soon as possible. So for the purposes of this workshop, please try approaching the piece from the point of view of Tsumw, and using the suggestions that I've made. If you do that, and it still doesn't work for you, then you can approach the story from a different angle later. I hope that makes sense.

  12. Jeanne,

    Why don't you try giving me a little piece of your opening scene that tests out the idea of bringing in Wrai's anti-father motivation. It strikes me that if you've attempted that before, and it didn't work for some people, I might be able to make some comments that might be helpful if I could see what you're trying to do. I'm also fully open to discussing your language issue as much as you need.

  13. Juliette,

    It's not so much that they think it's a fake, but they really hope so (that's why they're going to check before they give up their hopes), but they both have stronger doubts than they wish to admit (maybe that's why they don't go straight to the police). I think I may want to add something along the line of "if it's a real one, why didn't we hear about someone looking for his? Is there something up?"
    Another thing. During the course of the story, I'm going to use several POV characters, whose lives will ALL be affected. I started to implement the suggestions you made, and the more you tell me, the more insights it gives me for the story and the different perspectives on it. For example, I would never have thought about Tsumw trying to save his reputation, because Xodull has more at stake (I explain in the modified version, and he's going to be one of the POV chars as well).

  14. Good points, Juliette. I’ve been considering a rewrite with a new beginning, one which establishes the central conflict as well as Jasmine’s character. The excerpt I sent you, while occurring very early in the story, was not intended as the first scene.
    At this moment I am wrestling with two different possibilities. Which is my own fault, really, since much of the story will be about potential and possibility and alternatives…of reality and history.
    One new beginning sees Jasmine sitting in her room, licking her wounds. In an attempt to seek some comfort (and avoid thinking too much about bad stuff that has happened), Jasmine fires up her large holoscreen and tries to phone home.
    She doesn’t really expect to make contact - home is on the other side of the veil between realities, after all. She is at least as surprised as her parents when they answer.
    “Why haven’t you called” soon becomes “What have you done?” And the story is told in flashback as Jasmine spills her guts about what has gone horribly wrong with reality (at least, as much as she knows about…)
    The other possibility (the one I think I’ll go with), has Jasmine waking up to the noise of her alarm clock in her room. She thinks for a moment that she is home, until she remembers the matter-duplicating tech that the VoidWatch has. This is just a replica of her room, her real room is still back in her own timeline.
    She hits the snooze button on the alarm. Several times. (Jasmine is not a morning person). Eventually, she realises that she has snoozed once too often, and now she is late. And SHE will be here soon.
    No time for breakfast. Hurries to wardrobe, runs program to create embarrassing outfit (sometimes Jasmine has a little trouble with the concept of planning ahead). Hurries to get dressed in embarrassing outfit. A knock on the door. Opens door. Cybergirl says hello, comments on outfit. Jasmine blushes, and then she is in Cybergirl’s mindshadows. Cybergirl forgets Jasmine exists, turns, and heads for the next team member’s room.
    An invisible Jasmine follows, knowing that if she lets Cybergirl get too far away, she will remember Jasmine exists. Jasmine thinks about what she has to lose if that happens.
    The cute Valhalla/Valkyries comment naturally works much better when I tell the reader that Jasmine is climbing one of two intertwined spiral staircases to the executive level of what was once a biocorporation HQ. The stairs are made from a transparent material that shatters the morning light into rainbows. So it looks like she is walking over a rainbow bridge, hence the Valhalla reference. Sadly, some material is lost in 500 words or less.
    Can Jasmine get back what she’s lost? Sometimes she thinks she can, and sometimes she thinks she's lost it all, forever. Time is very fluid in the wrong hands, but the price of change can be way too high. If only she could remember exactly what she did. Or maybe it's better that she doesn't.

  15. If it were any other day of the week, I would have been at home with Keith and the girls. But it was Tuesday. So, I had come into the country town, already dusty though Spring was only half over, that humans called Robinsonville and Strlinkmr called something that translated roughly as "Strlinkmr and Humans Live In Harmony." Humans and Strlinkmr did live in harmony there, as in so many towns on Strlinkmrlad. And, the town itself reflected that happy fact, being a Hodgepodge of building and design styles that somehow melded into a place that was homelike and welcoming for both races. It was simply "town" to the farm families of the district where I, like everyone I knew, went each week to do my errands, get the local news and gossip, and generally have an afternoon to myself.

    This Tuesday was overcast and unseasonably warm. I'd been very uneasy for no discernable reason and had rushed through my round of purchases and visits in order to get home as soon as might be. I was hurrying, head down, towards the parking lot, concentrating on reaching the hovercraft, clambering into its comfortable, somewhat battered passenger compartment and getting home when the strangely impassive yet imperious Strlinkmr caught me with one large, clawed hand on my shoulder and drew me back to the Concourse, the broad pedestrian way at the heart of Robinsonville. some fifty humans were assembled there, herded by about a score of Strlinkmr. A few faces turned towards me as I was thrust into the group, faces that reflected my own bewilderment.

    Something was terribly wrong. This wasn't the sort of thing Strlinkmr did. Strlinkmr were kind and helpful, sometimes almost maddeningly so. They were talkative; their furry faces expressive, antennae nearly always aquiver. And, Strlinkmr were as different one from another as humans if not more so. But these Strlinkmr radiated a dull menace. They had an unsettling immobility of face and altogether too accentuated sameness. The most unnerving thing was their silence. Did I say Strlinkmr were talkative? It would be more accurate to say that they hardly ever were silent. Talking, making soft musical sounds somewhere between a hum and a whistle, tapping their claws together to make a light, castanet-like sound, Strlinkmr were sounding creatures. Yet, these made no sound whatever. My skin prickled. People shuffled and glanced uneasily at one another, but no one seemed inclined to speak.

    Glancing about me in the gray light, I saw that most of those assembled were rural folk dressed, like myself, in practical, attractive but hardly modish clothes. Here and there I spotted a townsperson, with stylishly quaffed hair or a jacket cut in the latest fashion. And that was unsettling too. Why the preponderance of countrymen? Strlinkmr were, with rare exceptions, blind to any but gender distinctions among humans. I turned, scrutinizing the Strlinkmr. From what I could see, their similarity one to another was eerie, unnatural. I continued to pivot and stare. What if... The impossible thought died aborning as, still in silence, the Strlinkmr began marching us along the Concourse. The faces of those around me mirrored my own evolution from bewilderment to alarm and anxiety. But, no one was afraid. Unusual, unprecedented as the situation might be, there must be a logical, harmless explanation. Fearing a Strlinkmr was unthinkable, because that a Strlinkmr would harm anyone was unthinkable...wasn't it?

    Near the back of the loosely packed, shuffling crowd as I was, I had no idea what was happening at the front or even where we were being taken, until there was a slowing, as at a bottleneck. Then, at last, exclamations, cries of fear and muted sounds of struggle broke out. We stopped in confusion, turning this way and that. A man's voice, strong with the unquestionable command borne of crisis shouted, "Run! It's --" His words were cut off as by a hand clamped over his mouth. I darted sideways, but more Strlinkmr, or whatever they were, had materialized around us, tightening like a noose, channeling us towards the trap that unknown, courageous man had declared.

  16. Okay. Very much first draft of a new beginning, but hopefully one that establishes Jasmine as a slightly unreliable narrator with a couple of urgent problems (besides her obvious lack of organisational skills).

    The saw-toothed scream of the alarm flailed at my skull like the mother of all hangovers, and I went from zero to consciousness in one really nasty second. I answered with a scream of my own, and glared at the time displayed on the screen of my wristcomp. It was something-obscenely-early o’clock.
    I punched the snooze button, hard. I swore. I sucked on my bruised knuckle. I planned a hideous revenge upon the evildoer who had set my alarm sooo early.
    I wondered who it could have been. I thought for one brief moment that it might have been me, but then common sense made me dismiss that stupid idea. After all, I certainly had nothing important to do so early in the morning.
    I rolled over, and went back to sleep.
    Pandora was waiting for that. But she knew that if she set off another alarm, I'd just punch her again. So she linked with the room systems, and threw open the curtains instead.
    I groaned and tried to bury my head under the pillow as the morning sun invaded my room. And then my brain slowly caught up with reality. Morning sun? But my room faced West. Since when did the whole world get so seriously turned around?
    Oh, yeah. Since I was dragged kicking and screaming into the VoidWatch.
    This wasn't my room. Not really. It was an exact duplicate of my bedroom back on my Earth. And I mean exact, down to the scratches and dents in the furniture. The Voidwatch has some powerful matter-duplication technology, but they really should have edited out all the damage I'd caused over the years.
    That was my job now, whether I liked it or not. Quantum Mechanic to all of the myriad branches of the timestream. Alternate realities repaired while you wait. Paradoxes unparadoxed...or something.
    Well, I didn't like it. And I was not gonna do it. Why should I? The only timeline I wanted to repair was the one that I wasn't allowed to touch. The timeline that used to contain Ben.
    My eyes snapped open. Ben! What the hell was I doing lying here all warm and snuggled up in bed, while the boy who should be snuggled up with me is busy not existing?
    I glared at the time displayed on the screen of my wristcomp.
    'Aaah! What time do you call this?' She would be here soon. And I was not ready to start saving Ben. Again. 'Pandora, why didn’t you wake me up earlier?'
    I tumbled out of bed. Breakfast? No time. But I’m hungry! No time! The right outfit is sooo much more important.
    I powered up my wardrobe, and flicked through the menus. I scrolled down through my Shadows file, and found it in the very last entry. Why did I list them alphabetically?
    I hit 'create', and my wardrobe started
    kintting raw atoms into an outfit to die for.

    There was a knock on the door. I opened it, to find Cybergirl waiting for me. I tried not to stare at her, though she was clearly built for staring at.
    Her skin was flawless alabaster. Or porcelain. Some sort of toughened ceramic, anyway. I think. I couldn't be sure just what she was made of, under the slicksilver coating that bathed her surface in my liquid reflection.
    She was a 'bot with the shape of a female humaniform. A gyndroid.
    She looked me up and down, and gave me a mocking wolf whistle. 'And where do you think you're going, dressed like that?'
    I could feel the blood rising in my cheeks. Perfect, just perfect.
    And then I was slipping into her mindshadows. Cybergirl's eyes darted around, as if she was sure that she had just misplaced an object of some importance.
    With a shrug, she turned away, and went in search of the VoidWatchers who still existed in her memory.

    In a time that seems ancient beyond imagining...can it really be a whole two years already?...........

  17. David, this is very cool. I like it a lot, first draft or no. You have setting going in a way you didn't before; you also have a sense of what Jasmine is supposed to be doing, and her main problem. I'm intrigued by the hint that her punishment may enable her to solve personal problem in a way that her punishers didn't expect. If that's true, punch it up. I like the whole two years already thing, and "ancient" doesn't ring quite the same way as it fits now into the preexisting context. The outfit part is quite special, and I like how you have her using her talent straight away. I'd suggest you end that first scenelet with a sentence that indicates what Jasmine plans to do next so that we don't feel an ending there, only propulsion into the next piece. Definitely some exciting differences between this and the first draft I saw; nice job.

  18. Thanks, Juliette.

    Just after I posted the revised draft, I found some earlier hand-written notes on what she misses about her family. Maybe a little long to include here, but I'm going to see how it works.

    P.S. Also had a very nasty idea about the consequenses of her paradox. How unreliable is a narrator if the past changes shape on them?

  19. David,

    Yes, but be careful not to lose your readers by confusing them too much. I wonder if you've ever read "The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde. You might enjoy it and it has a great take on time travel in a totally surreal environment. It will show you how far the boundaries can be pushed, that's for sure.

  20. Juliette,

    Yes, "The Eyre Affair" pushes the boundaries, all right.

    I do have Jasmine's take on WHY she is such an unreliable narrator. Just have to decide exactly how early in the story she should reveal that.

  21. My only suggestion as to when would be this: don't make readers think you're keeping secrets from them. If the reason becomes relevant to Jasmine's experience at any point, that is when it should be divulged. Just make sure that she demonstrates her unreliability in a principled way so that when the reason is revealed, people go "aha!" instead of "wha?" :)