Monday, July 20, 2015

Spaceships: The Borg Cube

This week I was browsing through different spaceships in fiction and paused at finding the Borg Cube. This is one of my favorites, even though it’s an enemy ship. It was first introduced on Star Trek the Next Generation when Q (an immortal being with unlimited power) became annoyed with Picard’s arrogance. So to teach him a lesson, Q hurled the Enterprise into a different area of space. I remember the first time I watched that episode and the Borg Cube made its appearance. My first thought was “This thing is going to be impossible.” That’s exactly what they wanted me to think too.

The designers did a great job inspiring fear with this ship. First of all, the Enterprise is small next to it and it becomes clear it’s also a lot weaker. The very design of the cube (a square mass of twisted metal) gives one the impression that these cyborgs don’t have any remaining human characteristics, so how could they spare anyone? In general, the very mechanical nature of the cube is disturbing because as humans (in real life) we use technology more and more. It asks the question, will humans someday be part human/part machine?

Then, to make things even more disturbing, the Borg were bent on assimilating humanoids of all kinds, so it plays on a fear we humans have of still having a body, but being stripped of our personality and everything that makes us human. The Borg and Zombies have a lot in common.

1. The body lives on while the soul is questionable.
2. They want you to become one of them.
3. They come in large numbers.
4. Both are ugly.  

Of course, the Borg are even worse because they're much more difficult to kill. Then there is their signature phrase “resistance is futile.” This just added to the suspense because there was no way there wasn’t going to be resistance. 

Of course, there were many episodes about the Borg and their Cube, which just proves how well thought out the idea of the Borg turned out to be.

See the video for some Borg action.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Results of the two versions: A show versus tell experiment.

Last Monday, I posted two different versions of possible beginnings for one of my works in progress (Native Shifter) to find out what version readers preferred. You can see the post right below this one or click HERE.

Version #1 was pure showing.

Version #2 was a mix of showing, telling, backstory and a flashback.

I didn’t really have time to push for a lot of comments, but I did get three comments from authors: PT Dilloway, Michael Offutt and Alex Cavanagh.

All three preferred version two.

Version #2 is the one where I tried to let the reader know more about the main character before having things happen to her. The goal, of course, is to have the reader care about the main character before things go wrong.

However, it has many of the things that other writers (usually in critique groups) will tell you not to do.

Telling: Show don’t tell is a common expression. It makes sense. I mean, the reader wants to be able to see what is happening and not be told. But version two has plenty of telling in that it tells Rayen’s background. I included her relationship with her father and things about her, such as how she likes to hunt, rather than cook.

Backstory: Is often frowned upon. It’s basically another form of telling and it can be boring. However, I have things about how Rayen had traded for some objects such as a spy glass and a book, but was forced to throw them away.

Flashback: Is also frowned upon because it can be jarring. It can stop the action and force the reader to get interested in a new situation when they just want to get back to the present. However, I even have a brief flashback of her father defending her ways with the tribe elders.

Overall, I enjoyed writing version #2 more because I ignored the usual guidelines and did some characterization.

Version #1 was all showing. Alex said it came across as more of an account, than a story. I tend to agree with him. For a long time, this was how I tried to write. Perhaps I went too far with the showing in those days. So my conclusion is….

Conflict mixed in with the telling, backstory and flashbacks can enhance the story. 


In other news "Seer of Mars" is being featured on eBookStage today. They posted it free, so fellow authors head on over there and check it out. Readers, be sure to check out all the deals!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Writing Styles: Caring about the main character.

I sometimes question with how much to show and when to tell. It seems as if I stick to mainly showing something is lost in characterization. I want readers to care about the main character as soon as possible. Here are two different versions of the start to the prequel to Rebel Shifter, which will probably be titled Native Shifter.

Which one of these do you like better? Which one makes you care about the main character more? 

First version:
Rayen hid up in a tree with her bow and fired down at the enemy. The whites fought with fire sticks that held a dark and deadly magic. Their weapons crackled and banged, drowning out the shouts of pain and fear as metal balls pierced the flesh.
She looked for her father, but couldn’t see him anywhere among the trees and brush. Overwhelmed, her heart raced as their warriors went down into the mud on the overcast, drizzling day. Rayen ignored the drizzle on the hot and steamy day, aiming at the enemy. She pulled the bow string over and over, her fingers numb, plunging arrows into anyone who came within range. Her teeth dug into her bottom lip as men clutched the arrows and fell into the mud.
Braves fell to their deaths while the whites crept out of the woods, staying low and working their way closer to their abandoned camp. She looked around for her father again, hoping to stop him. 
A neighing sound caught her attention. Across the clearing, more soldiers emerged riding tall, brawny animals called horses. Their muscles rippled as they moved through the brush.
Rayen glanced down and spotted a group of young braves heading toward the battle. Desperate to stop them, she worked her way down among the branches, jumped down and hurried over to them.

Second version:

Rayen walked along the trail heading toward the battle. Dark clouds hung in the sky and drizzle filled the air, making it steamy and hot. She carried her bow and moved carefully through the forest, checking in all directions, not wanting to be seen by anyone – not even her own people. They would tell her she’s a woman and demand she go back to camp. Was it so wrong to want to help? Her father was out here and she feared he would not be coming back.
The whites had powerful weapons. Some had called them fire sticks that must be powered by dark magic. Rayen had spied on the white people enough to know this wasn’t true. Their enemy made their own muskets.
The others either laughed or scolded her for her interest in the tools and the gadgets of white people. She was used to it. They already ridiculed her for avoiding women’s work. Her father was the only one whoever accepted her different ways. She had tried to be like other women, but it was impossible. Rayen loved to hunt for prey, rather than cook it.
The gadgets of the white people fascinated her so much she traded with a white boy for a spy glass and a book. Horrified, elders made her burn the book and throw the spy glass into the lake. Her father protested.
We need to learn everything we can about these people if we are to live in peace with them.
The elders disagreed.
No! These things will contaminant our people.
            Her father continued to argue, but he was drowned out by the other elders. It was hard to imagine a world without the only one who accepted her, but even he told her to stay back.
            As she neared the battle, the sound of the muskets firing grew louder. Her heart raced as she found a tall tree and climbed up as far as possible. From here, she could see men fighting in the clearing. Smoke rose up from the muskets and arrows flew back and forth. Shouts of pain and fear echoed through the woods as metal balls pierced the flesh.
  Overwhelmed, her heart raced as their warriors fell to their deaths while the whites crept out of the woods, staying low and working their way in her direction. She feared they would go beyond their abandoned camp and find the women and children. Her father was nowhere to be seen. Several of their men were hiding in the brush with their bows and it was impossible to recognize them at this distance.

All thoughts appreciated. I will post my preference about this next Monday, 7/13/15. 

Update: Click here to read results.