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bioclasm
May 17th, 2013, 08:34 AM
Hey guys,

So I've finally settled on something I wrote for my first story that I was satisfied with. It's a post apocalyptic novel, where the apocalypse happens on Earth in the future after inter-solar space travel. I've another post a while back about the concept I've developed. I've been struggling with a few writing techniques, like how to describe the character/scenery without disrupting the flow of the story. I do have a habit of run on sentences, so I've tried to make each sentence flow smoothly. I've currently settled with Liam as the name for the main character, but am also considering Caleb. I'm also unsure how to tell you he's thirteen without flat out saying he's thirteen, but it feels like it doesn't match the narrative I'm using.

I'm looking for critique/advice on what I've got now before I keep going. I can crank out a few more parts this weekend. Anything helps.


Voidborn: Of Ash and Steel
Liam watched the trees rise around him, ash dancing among their leaves, before landing on his back from three meters, knocking the wind out of him. Pain was tearing at the back of his eyes, and scratching at the inside of his forehead as he rolled onto his side. He could see spheres of matter vanishing around him. Craters appeared in the ground and trees around him, with a crystal material splintering away from the new void. A large portion of a cedar tree's trunk vanished, leaving it to helplessly collapse under its own weight.

Liam slowly picked his thirteen year old self up from the ground, his head reeling, and his body aching. He stood in a shallow, perfectly smooth crater, the inside a purple obsidian with crystal tendrils radiating outward like the others. He took a single step before falling to his knees, overtaken by extreme nausea as he vomited what little was in his stomach onto the smooth glass. Rising, his muscles weak, he strained to take each step forward, lurching between the cedars and firs. At each one he used to support himself, he would glance around to follow a half hazard path where the craters shrunk in size. The anomaly appeared to have ended, yet he wasn't going to take any chances. His vision tunneled into black as yet another wave of nausea overtook him, causing him to trip over a root. He laid there until his vision returned, wiping bile from his mouth. Blood. His nose was bleeding, but he wasn't sure from what.

He continued stumbling around trees until he found a break from the forest, opening into a large plain of waist high, yellow-green grass. The cloudy skies filtered the morning light, casting an empty shadow blue onto the Earth. The greens of leaves and grass were drained to a lesser shade, appearing almost fake, showing life only by proxy of the wind rustling through them. He could see the rolls of dull metal-gray from a shuttle craft further into the grasslands. The sheared metal of the front half curved out of the frozen earth like the bleached ribs of some long dead beast. The grass obscured all but the largest of the fragments spiking out of the ground around its grave.

As Liam drew closer he could see the rear half farther off to his right, crumpled and neglected. An engine, a large thruster emulating a jet turbine, was held away from the body by two wings pinching the engine into a triangle, sticking at sixty degrees in the air. His vision began to tunnel again as he slumped down against the cold steel of the craft. It stole at the warmth of his body through his jacket, the cold seeping into his bones as he waited for the nausea to pass, pain still squeezing on his eyes. Liam crawled around the edge of the craft into the main section. He guessed by what design was evident, it used to be one Boeing's later transobrital shuttles, managing eighty meters in length. He crawled towards the cockpit at the end of what twelve meters were left of this section. He managed to slide under one of the harnessed benches on the side of the craft to escape the cold wind sliding through its corpse. He curled up in a ball just before blacking out.



He woke to the sound of metal grating against metal. The pain in his head had diminished to dull throb. He noticed blood along his arm that must have been from another nosebleed in his sleep. From his place under the bench he could see two men across from him who had pried the metal casing off one of the panels lining the ceiling on either side. They were pulling out bits of circuitry, wires, and rusting microchips and stuffing them into the top pocket of a worn out backpack. Fear seized Liam's heart, forcing it to pump faster, increasing the pressure behind his eyes.

“How much did he say he was going to pay for the electrical stuff?” Liam heard one of them ask.

“I don't know. He only gave me a list for stuff from the research facility. He didn't mention anything about a downed shuttle. He usually only asks for parts from the engines, which are on the other half,” he flung an arm out towards the grasslands.

The attention of the two men was focused intently on the contents of the panels they were cannibalizing. The interior width of the cabin was around eight meters, giving Liam room to slowly slide past them back out into the cold. He started to run, his footsteps fell hard on the frozen earth as he scrambled back towards the treeline. The pain in his head swelled as his vision began to fade. Blind, he stumbled forward until tripping over something and landing on his side. He could hear the footsteps of the other men pursuing him. Liam rolled onto his back as his vision started to return, to look up at the two men approaching, one with a pistol in his right hand. Their frail frames wore very dirty clothes, their unshaven visages smiling down at Liam.

“Oh-ho-ho, what do you think he'd pay for him, Jason?” the one without a gun asked, his head twitching to the side as he nervously shifted his weight from foot to foot.

The other took a step forward, his arm stretching towards Liam, “I'm sure-”

There was a pitched whine, ending in a soft thud, and the man's shoulder quickly twisted back; shifting all the man's weight back on his heels, followed by a distant crack. The man's grin was now contorted in confusion as he looked down at his chest, blood blooming on his shirt, trailing down towards his stomach. He fell to his left knee, falling forward to put his weight on his left arm as he turned his confused look to Liam. His companion's attention was firmly on the gun that fell from Jason's fingers as he collapsed. His whole body spazzing out more than previously as he couldn't seem to settle on running away or lunging for the 1911 pistol.

Another whine. The head of the twitching man snapped back. He crumbled to the ground as the crack sounded once more, like someone striking two rocks together. The life had left Jason, slumping him over his side. Liam remained lying on the ground for several moments. He was certain the shooter was behind him, and couldn't see Liam in the tall grass if he held still. He hadn't fallen far from the wreckage, and could see the canopy from the treeline some hundred meters away. He could feel the nausea returning, his head screaming for darkness. Yet fear subdued his fatigue, forcing him to crawl forward to grab for the pistol lying in the grass. It took all his strength to drag the heavy weapon to him. He rolled onto his back and tried to bring it up, yet his arms trembled violently as his muscles expelled the rest of their energy to hold it.

There was pure silence, with the seconds counted by the waves in the grass from the winter wind. He simply couldn't hold the pistol up, and let his arms fall to his sides. After several moments he could see the grass moving from more than just the wind. He couldn't see a source, just the parting of grass. Staring at it a moment he could make out something hovering just above the grass. As darkness struggled to seize him he could make out a pale face with black hair, and a rifle floating above the grass. His nose started bleeding again as he started to resolve a strange distortion of light accompanying the floating objects. He blacked out, his last vision that of the strange rail rifle hovering in front of the mirage.


Thanks,
-bioclasm

bioclasm
May 17th, 2013, 09:02 AM
Hmmm... It seems HTML is prejudice towards paragraph indentation and spacing.

Ceremony
May 17th, 2013, 09:43 AM
Liam watched the trees rise around him, ash dancing among their leaves, before landing on his back from three meters, knocking the wind out of him.

I feel like this is hard to picture. You could say "Liam was hit hard enough to send him off his feet. As he fell, he watched the trees grow around him, their trunks spiraling upwards in a brilliant array of unnatural growth. His admiration of their beauty was knocked out of his mind when he slammed against the base of a crater. He weezed for air as he felt the back of his ribs ram into his lungs."

Pain was tearing at the back of his eyes, and scratching at the inside of his forehead as he rolled onto his side. He could see spheres of matter vanishing around him. Craters appeared in the ground and trees around him

again hard to picture, I don't understand how a crater could appear in a tree. I think you see what's going on in your head and it's probably believable, but you need to work on getting it on to paper. I have this same problem, it just take practice and reading novels so you can get idea's on how to better narrate the story. And to be honest the story you're writing will take some effort to describe events that are happening around the protagonist. Since it is almost surreal, unlike a gunfight or a sword duel.

, with a crystal material splintering away from the new void.


I don't know where the new void is coming from, what is it? how did it get there? An example of how to better to describe this: "A black void opened before him, crystals screamed out of the darkness, spraying the world around him with shrapnel. He watched in awe as the crystals slammed into the base of a tree, making the trunk vanish. It was almost as if the void and the crystals were connected to one another. As soon as the crystals slammed into something it was gone, taken to whatever oblivion awaited it.

A large portion of a cedar tree's trunk vanished, leaving it to helplessly collapse under its own weight.

I like this. I can picture this.


just a couple examples. I'd recommend you read more and try to understand how to describe things.

"I've been struggling with a few writing techniques, like how to describe the character/scenery without disrupting the flow of the story"

You know you need to work on it, so do it. Just read novels and practice. Go back and edit this. You have some good parts in the writing so that means you're capable, all it takes is some elbow grease and headlight fluid (lul) to get your writing to sound better.

bioclasm
May 17th, 2013, 10:02 AM
Yeah, I understand how that can be confusing. I don't want to info dump on the reader in order to explain the phenomena. The apocalypse would have been the result of wormhole research, which ended up proliferating secondary, and tertiary events across the globe. These events are instantaneous displacement of matter. So, a sphere in one area is instantly displaced to another. So the craters that are appearing are literally just appearing, and he had been displaced himself, appearing in midair and falling the three meters. I realize now I wasn't clear on that at all. I was considering just having the story start without him falling, but I want the reader to realize he materialized, since it's really important later. The crystal substance would be a transmutation of matter due to the high energies at the event horizon of the wormhole. Again, something I don't want to dump on the reader since Liam wouldn't understand how it works either.

I have class in the morning, so I'll work on this when I get home. After I see the new Star Trek, of course. And, was that a reference to RoosterTeeth?

Thanks,
bioclasm

Ceremony
May 17th, 2013, 11:10 AM
lol I'm glad you caught that, been watching it all day haha

Higurro
May 18th, 2013, 01:16 PM
I really like where this is going, although I feel that Ceremony's comments are correct. (At least, I felt exactly the same problems when I was reading it.) You mention not knowing how to say he's thirteen. Unless it matters that he is exactly thirteen, rather than simply somewhere between about eleven and fifteen, then you don't need to say it at all. Certainly the way you've got it at the moment is horribly clunky. I wouldn't worry about it. If it is necessary you might try tying it in with something that being thirteen would affect like "Even/already at thirteen Liam was on the short/tall side" or "'No thirteen year old should face this,' he muttered angrily. 'No one of any age should.'" Those are only super-quick examples but hopefully they illustrate the point.

Also, for what it's worth, I like the name Liam better than Caleb.

bioclasm
May 19th, 2013, 10:38 AM
I'm not entirely sure, for the future, if I should edit the original post's writing, or post corrected versions separately. I've opted for the latter. I've tried explaining things better, and I changed a few things around to one of the earlier drafts I had which I thought explained things better, and allowed me to slow it down some. I would also like to avoid cheesy/cliche description, so please call me on it if you see it.

Alright, Voidborn Part 1 take 2

Liam reentered realspace nearly three meters from the ground. The trees grew up around him as he fell, landing on his back. The shock of the impact evacuated all the air from his lungs, and his head rebounded off the frozen earth. There's no warning before a displacement anomaly. Spheres of matter instantly vanish from sight leaving a crater of glass behind. Any area could suddenly appear the victim of an invisible meteor storm, with moments of unreality replacing impacts in a fraction of a second.


Liam rolled onto his side in time to see a cedar tree, minus a rather large piece of its trunk, collapsing helplessly under its own weight. Pain was tearing at the back of his eyes, and scratching at the inside of his head like no other migraine he's had before. He slowly picked himself up from the ground, his vision fuzzy as his temples were ready to burst with pain. Around him, he could see shallow craters of varying depths in the ground, and the trees had varying spherical bites missing from them. A few craters reached diameters nearly thrice his height. At just under five feet, he hadn't yet hit the growth spurt he was promised. The destruction of such anomalies were undermined by the beautiful purple-blue glass lining the craters, with crystal tendrils radiating from the edges. Like contained nuclear blasts, the energy from the anomaly would transmute matter at the event horizon to an exceptionally durable obsidian.


Only a single step had been taken before Liam fell to his knees, overtaken by extreme nausea as he vomited what little was in his stomach. Rising again, his muscles strained to take each step forward, lurching between the cedars and firs. He followed a haphazard path where the craters diminished in size. His vision tunneled into black as yet another wave of nausea overtook him, causing him to trip over a root. He laid there until his vision return, wiping bile from his mouth. He saw blood on his hand, and realized his nose was bleeding. He lay there a moment, staring up through the canopy as he fruitlessly attempted to massage the pain out of his head. The cloudy skies filtered the morning light, casting an empty blue gray onto the Earth. The greens of the leaves and grass were drained to a lesser shade, appearing almost fake, showing life only by proxy as the wind rustled through them.


He picked himself up again, supporting himself against the solid trunk of a sequoia until his vision cleared. He continued stumbling around the trees until he found a break in the forest, opening into a large plain of waist high, yellow-green grass. Liam could see the rolls of a dull metal-gray from a shuttle craft further into the grasslands. The rusting, sheared metal of the front half curved out of the frozen earth like the bleached ribs of some long dead beast. The grass obscured all but the largest of its shattered skeleton spiking out of the ground around its grave. The long, spaced petals of steel framing an intake drive at the very front of the craft were now bent and contorted like the limbs a limp squid. A large thruster emulating a naked jet engine was built directly into the sides of the craft, just before the frame of the intake drive.

As Liam drew closer he could see the rear half farther off to his right, crumpled and neglected. It was twisted onto its side with an engine, identical to the forwards, held away from the body by two wings pinching the engine into a triangle. The other wing pair must have been torn off in the crash, yet wasn't visible from where Liam was observing. His vision began to tunnel again as he slumped down against the cold steel of the craft. It stole at the warmth of his body through his jacket, the cold seeping into his bones as he waited for the nausea to pass, pain still squeezing on his eyes. The hull curved up nearly five times Liam's height to its peak. Liam crawled around the shredded edge of the craft into the main section. He guessed by what design was evident, it used to be one of Boeing's later transorbital shuttles, managing seventy meters in length. The nearly eight meter wide middle was empty, with large harnesses hooked into the floor. The torn harnesses implying it was a cargo transport, yet he didn't see any payload. He crawled towards the sealed off compartment that led to the cockpit above at the end of what twelve meters were left of this section. He managed to slide under one of the harnessed passenger benches on the side of the craft to escape the cold wind whistling through the gashes in its corpse.


He wasn't sure, but Liam thought he could hear voices arguing in the distance. It wasn't discernible, and blended neatly into the wind. Fear seized Liam's heart, forcing it to pump faster, which only increased the pressure behind his eyes. With no idea where he was he didn't know of any safe places to hide in the area, or routes to run in order to lose someone. Even though fatigue threatened to seize consciousness at any moment, fear flooded his veins with borrowed strength as he drug himself to the gaping wound he crawled in from at the end of the craft. He could see two men at the rear half of the craft sixty meters away, standing under the thruster that was slightly bigger than an average car. They seemed to be struggling to open panel to expose the painstakingly precise electronics inside.


Outside, the cold air carried the voices clearly. “How much is he going to pay for all the electrical stuff?” Liam heard one of them ask excitedly.


The second man forced out his words, clearly annoyed with his companion, “I don't know. He only gave me the list for stuff from that research facility. He didn't mention anything about this.” He took a defeated step back from the engine before retrieving a portable plasma cutter from a bag. “He usually just wants the parts from these engines. Go check the other half to see if they're salvageable.”


The first man had turned to begin walking towards Liam's section. Liam was frozen with uncertainty. The man had walked half the distance before he stopped, staring directly at Liam. He shouted something to his friend, but Liam had already taken off running back toward the treeline. The pain in his head swelled as his vision began to face. Blind, he stumbled forward until tripping over something and landing on his side, driving his shoulder into the rock hard ground. He could hear the footsteps of the other men pursuing after him. Liam rolled onto his back as his vision started to return, to look up at the two men approaching, the one who had the plasma cutter earlier was now wielding a pistol in his right hand. Their frail frames wore clothes so dirty you could hardly tell what color they used to be. Their greasy, unshaven visages smiled down at Liam.


“Oh-ho-ho, what do you think he'd pay for him, Jason?” the one without a gun asked, his head twitching to the side as he nervously shifted his weight from foot to foot.


The other took a step forward, his left arm stretching towards Liam, “I'm sure-”


There was a pitched whine, ending in a soft thud, and the man's shoulder quickly twisted back; shifting all the man's weight back on his heels, followed by a distant crack half a second later. The man's grin was now contorted in confusion as he looked down at his chest, blood blooming on his shirt, trailing down towards his stomach. He fell to his left knee, falling forward to put his weight on his left arm as he turned his confused look to Liam. His companion's attention was firmly on the gun that fell from Jason's fingers as he collapsed. His whole body spazzing out more than previously as he couldn't seem to settle on running away or lunging for the 1911 pistol.
Another whine. The head of the twitching man snapped back. He crumpled to the ground as the crack sounded once more, like someone striking two rocks together. The life had left Jason, slumping him over on his side. Liam remained lying on the ground for several moments. He was certain the shooter was behind him, and wouldn't be able to see Liam in the tall grass if he held still. He hadn't gotten far from the wreckage, and could see the canopy from the treeline some hundred meters away. He could feel the nausea returning, his head screaming for darkness. Yet fear subdued his fatigue, forcing him to crawl forward to grab for the pistol lying in the grass. It took all his strength to drag the heavy weapon to him. He rolled onto his back and tried to bring it up, yet his arms trembled violently as his muscles expelled the rest of their energy to hold it.


There was pure silence, with the seconds counted by the waves in the grass from the winter wind. He simply couldn't hold the pistol up, and let his numb arms fall to his sides. After several moments he could see the grass moving from more than just the wind. He couldn't see a source, just the parting of grass. Staring at it a moment he could make out something hovering just above the grass. As darkness struggled to seize him he could make out a pale face with black hair, and a rifle floating above the grass. His nose started bleeding again as he started to resolve a strange, blurred distortion of light accompanying the floating objects. Liam could only see the man's head and hands, his body a complete blur of the scenery behind him. As he approached, he reached over to his right wrist, followed by the rest of him immediately appearing. Liam had only ever heard of active camo whispered among nervous theorists at the academy. As he blacked out, he stared at the stranger's face. He looked very young, yet his face was gaunt with the shadowed, sunken eyes of a very tired man. His eyes were a dark, almost bruised blue, like sapphires stained with ash.



Thanks,
bioclasm

Higurro
May 19th, 2013, 11:39 AM
I've not got too much time so I'll just focus on the first paragraph if I may. I'll try to be as harsh as I can to compensate ;)


Liam reentered realspace nearly three meters from the ground.
You want us to feel what Liam is feeling, so the fact that he is almost three metres from the ground is almost irrelevant. What Liam is presumably thinking is "Aaargh, I'm falling!" Obviously you might not want to literally write that, but I can't help feeling that the experience of falling is more important that the number of centimetres. Think of the flu powder or the portkey from Harry Potter: It's all about the subjective experience of those things, which then serves to let the reader know what's happening when it happens again. The reader will becoming involved in your events by feeling them, even before they've happened. If you put the ideas of spinning, rushing and ducking into a fireplace in a reader's head then they will be ready to take the flu network with your character. I think the same applies here, particularly as it's quite an abstract event.


The trees grew up around him as he fell, landing on his back.
I would suggest that grew is the wrong verb to use here as we all know how trees grow and it's very slow. Erupted, exploded, soared upwards etc. might be better here. Eve something slightly oblique like unfolded, swept or reached might work if treated carefully. Also, the trees are the subject of this sentence, which means that "landing on his back" refers to them, not Liam, which of course makes it not sound right. Possibly try something like "The trees seemed to erupt all around him as he plummeted onto his back."


The shock of the impact evacuated all the air from his lungs, and his head rebounded off the frozen earth.
Here I think the word "all" should be removed, as it's both very specific and clearly untrue. If all the air were gone his lunges would collapse and that would be the end of him before the story had even got going. Also there's just something about the word rebounded that makes me think of a cartoon, with his head bouncing repeatedly and very fast, which I'm positive is not what you're going for. And it possibly has the same problem as above too, in that it's more field-notes than a capturing of the feeling of hitting one's head. Maybe try something like "He met the frozen earth with a sickening impact and lay still for several seconds, dazed and gasping for breath."


There's no warning before a displacement anomaly.
The sudden change to present tense exposition is very distracting here. As I read it I found myself wondering who's voice this was, narrating over the scene. Again, this probably ought to be communicated by Liam's thoughts. If, while lying on the ground, he were to curse the suddenness of displacement anomalies then it wouldn't break the reader's empathy with him, which, considering this is only the fourth sentence, you are naturally focussed on cultivating.


Spheres of matter instantly vanish from sight leaving a crater of glass behind. Any area could suddenly appear the victim of an invisible meteor storm, with moments of unreality replacing impacts in a fraction of a second.
I like the mental image this conjures but again feel that the reader ought to learn this by lying there at Liam's side and seeing it happen.

I should also add that it's best, as you have, to post revisions as new posts because then people can compare new with old. Hope that helps!

bioclasm
May 19th, 2013, 11:11 PM
I didn't notice I switched tenses, that wasn't intentional. I was trying to add things to make it more clear what was happening since it was confusing. I'll work more on it, and post something tomorrow evening.

Thanks for the feedback.

shinyford
June 11th, 2013, 04:47 PM
Hi Bioclasm

I think the improvement between draft one and draft two is palpable - it's very much better. Apart from anything else, what's going on is clearer (although I'd agree with Higurro that you should avoid the verb 'grow' for the trees; it has a specific meaning in that context, and I think it's not the meaning you want).

Personally, the 'three metres from the ground' line worked for me. Partly, I think, because it's the opening line, and immediately and succinctly says we're not somewhere normal or terrestrial; or at least, at a time and place where normal terrestrial things aren't happening. For me, that's a very strong opening. I would say, however, that such exposition should be avoided further into the piece.

But generally this looks good, especially the rewrite. I look forward to more.