Part I: 2008

Part I: 2008

A Chapter by Scorpious Alpha

Part I: 2008 

Samson 

I still can’t believe it. A week ago, I was holding my best friend’s dead body in my arms. Leo hasn’t said much since, he mostly ignores everyone unless it’s necessary for him to interact. I hope he’s going to be ok, I know how he is. I’ve been out here in Iraq for two years fighting a war I don’t totally agree with. I didn’t even want to be here, I didn’t want to do any of this, but now there’s no turning back. I will avenge Johan any way I can. Those fuckers are going to pay. I was relieved when Leo started talking to me again. “I’m going to kill everyone, you in?” He asked. 

“What do you mean, kill everyone?” I asked back. 

“Those towel heads took out our best friend, we should make them pay.” 

“For once, I agree with you.” 

“Good.” 

“How are you doing?” 

“At first I was angry and depressed, but now I’m vengeful. These terrorists won’t know what hit them once I open fire.” 

“Yeah, f**k them.” I was glad to see he perked up a bit, he was starting to look like himself again. At least his hate is in the right place, toward the enemy and not us. I’m a little worried though, without Johan, I might have a little trouble keeping him under control. He doesn’t listen to me and actually turns it around to seem justifiable, whatever devious thing he’s cooking up. I honestly don’t know how he made it in or how he’s still here, he’s very unstable, possibly psychotic. Maybe that’s what makes him the perfect soldier, he kills without question and is good at it. It still worries me how much he enjoys it though. He might have trouble turning it off when we get back home. Tiffany helped me with Johan’s death, she relieved a lot of stress. I know, I know, we’re technically not supposed to fraternize with each other, but she found me irresistible and so we f**k on the down low. We almost got caught a couple of times, but it was more exciting than panicky. 

Eet iz deezgusting out here.” Francios says in his French accent. 

“Hey foreigner, why don’t you kill yourself? We’re already down the other foreigner, you’re not even a real American anyway.” Jon says. 

“I can keel you from miles eway, you better watch what you say.” He takes a drag of his cigarette. 

“Good, kill me. Then you can be court marshalled and out of the military then probably get a needle in your arm. F*****g do it.” He stands up and spreads his arms. 

“You are an eediot.” 

“No, I’m sick of this f*****g bullshit. N****r president, f*****s in the military, foreigners fighting our wars, women in charge, it’s too f*****g fucked up!” 

“That’s it! I’ve had it with you!” Kait, our CO yells. She calls the military police, and next thing I know, Jon’s gone. 

“Good riddance.” I say. “Can- can I say that?” I ask. 

“I agree with you.” 

“It’s quieter already.” I go back to sit with the guys. 

“I am glad he eez gone.” Francios says. 

“Yeah, don’t need bigots like him around. Granted, I don’t blame him for hating these guys, but he was just out of control.” 

“I kind of agreed with him a little bit.” says Leo. 

“What? How could you?” 

“Well, I mean, come on. A black president? That’s suspicious as hell. Who ever heard of a black president?” 

“Countries in Africa have black presidents.” 

“Right, but this is America. Every president has been white so far. Black people have had the chance to be president since the 60’s. Why now? I’ll tell you why, it’s a conspiracy. Things are gonna change with this guy, and we ain’t gonna like it.” 

“Well, duh, his campaign was all about change.” 

“That’s not what I mean. I mean like, big things. Watch, he’s gonna release all the bruthas from jail, make weed legal, change the national anthem to a rap song, and everything’s gonna be pimps and hoes.” 

“That doesn’t even make any sense.” 

“Just you wait and see, this whole country is going to go to hell cause of this guy.” 

“And our last president was so much better? He sent us here.” 

“Look, just cause you don’t wanna be here, doesn’t mean-” 

Of course I don’t wanna be here! It’s hot, there’s people trying to kill us, and we’re watching people die! It’s hell out here, literally.” 

“I just wanna kill Bin Laden and everyone under his command.” 

“Too bad, he was from Afghanistan, we’re in Iraq.” 

“Yeah, so? He could be hiding here somewhere around here.” 

“You could be right, but you could also be wrong. We don’t know where he is, and that’s part of the reason we’re out here.” 

“I wanna be the one that puts a bullet in between his eyes. Watch his brains spill out. Then I’ll dump on him like I did to that guy when we were thirteen.” 

“Excuse me, what?” Harry asks. 

“When we were thirteen, we came across a dead body and Leo pissed on the dude and s**t in his mouth.” I told him. 

“Dude, that’s nasty.” 

“It was pretty funny though.” What happened next was totally unexpected, we were laughing after that story, but we stopped when we heard the gunshot. We all got up and ready with our weapons drawn, but Kait told us to stand down. At first I was confused, but then I looked down, and realized why. There was Tyler, slumped over, with blood just pouring out like a leak out of his head. He shot himself, I still can’t believe it. It was just so sudden, not a word, nothing. Nobody even saw it happen, he just kinda did it and nobody had any idea he was even feeling this way. I knew he wanted to leave and go home, but I had no idea it was this bad. Makes me wonder how many of my other comrades feel the same way he did. I mean, I don’t want to be here, but I don’t want to kill myself either. I guess some people can handle it better than others. 

“My god, ‘e is dead.” Francios says. 

“Just like that.” I said as I snapped my fingers. “Kinda makes me wanna call home, talk to someone, anyone, just to let them know I’m ok.” 

“But you deed not die.” 

“I know, but up until a few minutes ago, as far as Tyler’s parents know, he’s still alive. Once Kait and Tiff report this, their whole world will be shaken. I dunno, I’d just like to give my parents some peace of mind. Let them know that I’m still ok.” 

“I am only here to snipe, if I die? Eh, no one will mees me. I do not care one way or anozer.” 

“What are you doing when you’re done here?” 

“Eh, I dunno, probably look for a contract or two, I do not want to waste my skeels.” 

“Need a partner?” Leo asks. 

“Maybe. How about you, Samson?” 

“I dunno, I haven’t thought that far, I just want to get out of here alive.” I tell him. 

“I’m getting bored again.” Leo says. 

“Don’t do anything stupid.” 

“Seriously.” Kait tells him. Too much paperwork to discipline you. Besides, I’m sure you’ll get your chance soon, it’s been quiet lately. Speaking of which, I need you guys to do your rounds, make sure we’re still secure. Radio me at each checkpoint.” 

“I’ll go with him.” Me and Leo start walking. 

“Thought you hated doing patrol.” Leo says. 

“I’m here for your own safety.” 

“Think I might go AWOL?” 

Ive considered you might.” 

“Not gonna lie, I’ve thought about it.” 

“Look, I know you wanna blow these guys to hell, especially after what happened to Johan, but we gotta wait for them to come to us.” 

“Waiting is taking too long.” 

“Yeah, well, deal with it.” 

“But I could easily take a bazooka and blow up a whole town!” 

“That would make us look bad.” 

“How? It’s that many more terrorists out of the way!” 

“Not everyone is a terrorist, most of these people are just living their everyday lives, like the rest of us. They obviously don’t want involvement or they would have already.” 

“Bullshit they’re not all terrorists, every time I go into town, I freak out that they’re going to kill me when I least expect it. I say just wipe them all out before they can attack us. Preventative measures.” He takes out his radio. “Have reached checkpoint Alpha, all clear, moving to checkpoint Bravo.” 

“Ok, so what if we’re in town, and the terrorists take a kid hostage? You’re going to have to save that kid even though he’s an Arab.” 

No I don’t.” 

Yes you do, it’s your job, to protect civilians and eliminate hostiles. No innocent bloodshed if we can help it.” 

“I don’t have to save him, he could get killed in the crossfire.” 

“But what if he doesn’t?” 

“Trust me, if I was in that situation, and it was up to me, that’s how it would go down. One less future terrorist to worry about.” 

“That’s sick, dude.” 

“No, what’s sick is killing a few thousand people for no reason other than you hate where they live. What’s sick is that we let these same people in our country. What’s sick is we’re allowing them to hurt us over and over again. Well, I’m sick of it! I’m taking all these b******s out.” He takes out his radio again. “Checkpoint Bravo clear, heading toward checkpoint Charlie.” 

“But you can’t judge a whole country based on a handful of people.” 

“A handful? A handful? There’s thousands, possibly millions of these fuckers and I’m going to make sure they all f*****g die.” 

“Look, I have no issue with taking out terrorists, that’s what we’re here for. But to assume civilians are terrorists too is just preposterous. That’s like saying all Italians are mafia and all Columbians are drug lords.” 

“They probably are, like how all Mexicans are illegal.” 

“You’re starting to sound like Jon now.” 

“He had some of the right idea, at least he agreed with me.” 

“Dude, you’re pissing me off right now, I’ve never heard you talk like that until you started talking to that a*****e.” 

“Yeah, well, he was a better friend than you.” 

“How could you say that? I’m here, aren’t I?” 

“F**k you, you don’t even want to be here.” 

“I made a promise to you and Johan.” 

“Oh, I get it. You feel obligated, you don’t really care.” 

“How could you say that? I wanted to be here for you guys.” 

“Checkpoint Charlie reached, heading back to base.” 

“You guys are my friends, and I told you that no matter what, I’d have your backs.” 

“Have our backs?? Are you f*****g kidding me? You went the other way, you cowardly f**k! Me and Johan were fighting them off back to back. When we got some cover, I noticed he was bleeding. I ran off to get Lisa, by that time, the cease fire had been called. Then by the time you found him, he was dead. Wanna know where you were? Buttfucking on the other side, going the wrong way. Kait thought you were deserting us. I told her, there’s no way he’d desert us. Maybe I should have lied so you’d get your a*s shot.” 

“I’m- I’m sorry, Leo.” 

“Shove your sorry up your a*s, you piece of s**t.” 

“Woah, calm down with the hostility, I’m still here, and I promise that I’ve got your back next time. I’m sorry, I got disoriented, it was a lot for me to take in, it was so sudden.” 

“Lame a*s excuse, but I guess I’m going to have to live with it.” 

“How about tomorrow, when we go for supplies, we can have a celebratory toast in Johan’s and Tyler’s honor.” 

“Tyler? F**k that coward man, you don’t quit the game halfway through.” 

“Whatever, man, I’m not trying to piss you off anymore.” 

“I guess I’m sorry too, I’m so f*****g frustrated that I haven’t been able to kill anything.” 

“Hey, look at it this way, you can rack up your kill count when you release all that pent-up rage you’ve got inside of you. Just don’t try to get any of our boys in the way.” 

“Yeah, I don’t need any more bitching about my behavior.” They reach the base. 

“All good?” Kait asks. 

“For now.” I tell her. 

“Good. Francios and Harry say it’s all clear up top too.” 

“Despite what Leo says, I’m glad it’s quiet.” 

“Me too, Alpha, me too.”  

“Is that all?” 

“That’s all, Alpha.” Once I was dismissed, I found Tiffany and we snuck into one of the tents for a little romp. Once we were done, all my stresses were gone. I met up with the rest of the guys and we just spent the rest of the day bullshitting. 

Luxor  

Salutations, the name is Luxor Alpha, and I am the crime scene investigator for the SFPD. I may be young, but I’m good at what I do. I graduated high school at fourteen, so I was able to go to college earlier than everyone else. My father tells me I am wasting my potential. He thinks I should be working in astrophysics or something complicated. He would even be okay with me being a doctor. I may consider it in the future, humans have always been a particular interest of mine, even though I can understand literally anything I am taught; so in all seriousness, I can do anything I want, and I really do mean anything. One summer, I was so bored, I decided to learn every instrument. Was not that hard at all, I even wrote my own songs, too. I was but a teenager then, and have no interest in such things anymore. I can honestly say that I enjoy what I do, but all I can do is tell you the how. I never got past that, and I want to know the who and why as well. Sure, the human body is fascinating, but the human mind is even more so. Unfortunately, I lack the physical aspects of being an officer of the law, I practiced the training in my spare time, and I just cannot do it so it’s not like I can get the chance to answer those questions. Speaking of which, I have a job to do. 

“Ok, so you see the blood splatters on the walls and ceiling? See the direction they are going? In order for that to happen, where is the murder weapon?” I ask, and they hand it to my gloved hand. “He or she would have to slash in an upward motion starting with, yep.” I check the body of the dead man. “His stomach, and going up. The only reason it hit the ceiling was because it is so low. When the killer hit his throat, he cut the jugular and the initial spurt hit the ceiling. The blood on the wall is from the knife and the killer’s hand from the motion they made. The intestines as a noose was probably just for shock value because I doubt he lived after the evisceration, the cut to the throat should have done if his torso being open did not do it.” I explained to the homicide detective, Stanley Jones, an old, weathered cop with a gray beard and a mostly bald head 

“I still can’t believe this is happening. Who did he piss off? He never told me anything. I just had a few beers with him just last night. We were gonna go golfing on Saturday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his divorce.” Officer Jones tells me.” 

“I would love nothing more than to help you figure this case out, but I am not qualified.” 

“He was my partner for twenty years, I never thought I’d end up catching his case one day.” Just then, two more men in suits come in. “Mickey? Joey? What’re you two doin’ here?” 

“Boss is taking you off the case.” one of the men responds 

“Bullshit, he was my partner.” 

“Yeah, that’s why we’re here. We’ve taken over this investigation, and, uh, we need to talk to you since you were the last one to see him alive.” 

“It was that b***h of an ex of his!” 

“Yeah, we’re going to check into that but we still need to talk to you. We don’t think you did it, it’s just-” 

“Yeah, procedure. Let’s go.” The detectives left, and I collected my evidence and went back to the lab. Ex-wife definitely did it, her fingerprints were all over the knife. M.E puts TOD around midnight, we discovered him at around nine. Actually, Jones discovered him since he noticed he did not show up for work today or answer his phone. Usually, that is because he has a hangover, not this time obviously. I had overheard some arguing out on the floor. “-mean her alibi checked out? I’m telling you, that b***h is guilty!” Jones was shouting to (Mickey) Valez and (Joey) McDillon.” 

“Look, I’ll show you the security footage myself. See? 7:00 pm she enters her apartment building. She didn’t leave again until 8:00 this morning.” Valez says as he fast forwards through the security footage. 

“It had to have been her.” I interject. “Her fingerprints were all over the knife.” 

“Yeah, we asked her about that, she said she had dinner with him earlier in the week.” 

“I doubt he still had the same knife she used with all of her fingerprints still on it.” 

“Bob wasn’t the cleanest guy in the world, so it’s possible.” Jones says. 

“Then there may be a third person, or it is a frame job.” I say. 

“Don’t worry, me and Joey are on the case.” Valez says. 

“Enjoy figuring it out.” I tell them as I walk away and back to my lab. A few minutes later, Jones approaches me. 

“Listen, uh, Luzor-” 

“It is Luxor, or you may call me Alpha, Jones.” 

“Right, Luxor. Listen, you’re a bright kid, you examined the crime scene, do you think she did it?” 

“I know she did it. I found a shoe print outside his window that was that of a woman’s shoe. Granted, he has a lot of foot traffic by his house, but this one looked fresh. Now, according to the security cameras, she never left.” 

“I want to investigate, but I need your help, I don’t want to miss anything.” 

“But I cannot, and you’re not authorized to investigate your own partner’s death.” 

“Yeah, I know. This is going to be on an unofficial basis. We’ll go to the captain with our information, and as long as we don’t talk to anyone, I think we’ll be good.” 

“This is a bit of a risk, you know.” 

“I know what I’m doing, he was my damn partner, and I’m not about to let those two bumbling idiots f**k it up.” 

“Why do you call them idiots?” 

“Because I’ve had to correct their cases at the last minute a few times. Well, more than a few, it’s quite frequent.” 

“Why do you review their cases?” 

“I’m the sergeant, cases get reviewed by me before going to the captain. It prevents us from putting the wrong person in jail.” 

“How do you know they are wrong?” 

“I compare statements, alibis, whatever is pertinent to the case, and I look for inconsistencies.” 

“No way they make that many mistakes in their investigations.” 

“They’ve been disciplined for it.” 

“Why are they still around?” 

“We’re shorthanded, especially now that Bob’s gone. Come on, let’s go check out her building.” So, we took a ride to the apartment building of the ex wife. 

“So, what now, Jones?” 

“We can’t talk to anyone, so let’s try to figure this out. Let’s scope out the building.” We decided to walk around the building, until I noticed something. 

“There’s no cameras in this alley.” 

“And a fire escape. How did they miss this?” 

“Like you said, they are imbeciles.” 

“We should double check anyway.” So, we climbed the fire escape up the building. “She lived on the fourth floor...” We reach the fourth level and he opens the window. He climbs in. “It’s a good thing I’m on the right side of the law, or this would be very easy to rob. Come on, let’s go see the super of the building.” We take the elevator up to the eighth floor and he knocks on the first door. A Mexican man with a thick accent answers the door. 

“Chess?” 

“Sorry to bother you Mr. Vazquez, but I was wondering if you could hand over your security footage.” He flashes his badge. 

“I already gave the cops my footage.” 

“Not from last night, from, I’m going to say, about 30 minutes until now. If you want, we don’t even need to take it, we just need to see it.”  

“Fine.” He grabs his keys and leaves the apartment. We get into the elevator and head down to the basement. We enter a small office with a few television screens. “Which one you need?” 

“Wait, you have a camera in the alley?” 

“Chess, got to have eyes everywhere mang.” 

“I didn’t notice a camera, did you, Alpha?” 

“No, I did not.”  I admitted. My goodness, I hope I am not slipping in my perspective skills. 

Heeden. You like?” 

“Where may I ask is it located?” Jones asks. 

“Brick.” He grins. 

“Very clever. About that footage?” 

“Ah, si.” He rewinds the video of the alley and we see ourselves.  

“Do you mind rewinding to last night?” He goes even further and that is when we see her climbing out and down. “Can I have a copy of that?” 

“Sure. Had you fooled, dawg. Betchu don’t know whish brick.” 

“The orange one.” I told him. 

“You knew it was there?” Jones asks me. 

“I just did not know it was a camera.” 

Ees that all?” Vasquez asks. 

“Yes. Thank you, you’ve been very helpful.” Jones says. 

“Ok, see you later, mang.” We leave the office and he takes the elevator and we leave the building. 

“I knew it, I f*****g knew she killed him.” 

“I had a feeling it had to be plausible. Her prints were the only ones on the knife.” 

“She’s had a vendetta against him for years, I just didn’t think she’d take it this far.” We head back to the station, and I go back to the lab. I immediately get a call to the captain’s office, like I already don’t know what it’s about. 

“Yes sir?” I ask him. 

“What’s a CSI guy going around doing a detective’s work?” He says. 

“I was asked if I could take a look at a crime scene at the request of detective Jones.” 

“Yeah, so I heard.” 

So you must have been informed as to what happened.” 

“I am very well aware of it, and since this isn’t the first case he’s had to amend for Dumbass and Dumbasser, I’ve decided to allow the evidence. He told me how you handled it. I know you’re just a scientist, and I’ve seen your academy test scores. Sorry about your physical inability to catch a criminal.” 

“It is the only reason I am not a detective.” 

“What if you did both?” 

“Excuse me?” 

“Your crime scene investigation skills are amazing, I’ve noticed. You can recreate the crime scene exactly as it happened. As long as your reports were in capable detectives’ hands, your results have had a perfect rate with convictions. Your reports have even included details only the killer could have witnessed, you should see their faces in court when we read your reports almost verbatim out loud and we hear them say or mouth ‘no way’. Someone even said, out loud, on accident of course, ‘it’s like he was there.’ I’ll make you a deal. I can’t pay you twice as much, but I can give you a raise and pay you mainly for CSI, it’ll just be for a larger amount, with the addendum, Homicide so nobody can say I’m not paying you to be a detective. Look, I’ll get the paperwork organized, but in a nutshell, you’ll figure out the crime, and then investigate the ones you’re on rotation for.” 

“What about my physical inabilities?” 

“You’re smart, you’ll figure it out.” 

“That I will. I thank you so much for the opportunity, I have been waiting on this for a long time.” 

“Please don’t make me regret it.” 

“You shall not, I promise you, I plan to be the best.” 

“Alright, cool. Training starts Monday.” 

“Who is my new partner?” 

“Jones specifically requested you, it was his idea.” 

“And you’re going along with it?” 

“You may not notice, but I do.” 

“Elaborate.” 

“You don’t think anyone sees your progress, the work you do, you see it as routine. But trust me, we’re always watching; Valez and McDillion are on their way out, they just don’t know it yet. You my friend, are a genius and we could really use someone like that in our division and it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, everyone wins.” 

“Does this mean I get a gun and badge.” 

“Looking forward to it?” 

“Badge, yes. Gun, no.” 

“Why aren’t you looking forward to the gun?” 

“Because as much as I know I am going to need to defend myself, I don’t want to be in a shootout.” 

“If you don’t want the job-” 

“No, no, I want the job. I sincerely do, it is just that, I am more about the mental aspect of the job, I look forward to the puzzle. It is getting wounded or killed that concerns me.” 

“If it helps you feel better at all, Jones has only gotten into a gunfight a total of nine times in his twenty years.” 

“Somewhat.” I left the office and finished my shift. I can honestly say I have never been so pleased in my life. Finally looking forward to life as I know it. I just hope it is not misplaced. 



© 2019 Scorpious Alpha


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I see that this was published several years ago, so my comments are a bit late, but since your bio says you intend to write and publish more, some issues that jumped out at me might be worth discussing, because they’re the reason your sales weren’t as good as you might like.

As a BTW: Your book is still up on Amazon, though unavailable, with the name you use here as the listed author. And while you may have purchased book from people who are using pen-names, have you EVER bought one from someone with only a screen-name on the cover? That's both unprofessional—and sales-killer

The problem that hit me in the first paragraph, and it’s a killer: From start to finish this is a transcription of you telling the story aloud, and that has so many inherent problems that I can’t list them all in a single post.

1. The reader can neither see nor hear the narrator. So, while you hear a voice rich with emotion as you read your own words, the reader gets only what you’ll hear if you have your computer read this to you—something that should be part of your editing process in any case. Then, there's your performance: the way your voice changes intensity and cadence; the emotion you place in your voice; the meaningful eye movements; the changes in expression that demonstrate emotion; the gestures that visually punctuate; and the body language—which provides the emotional part of your performance—none of which make it to the page.

So what does the reader get? A voice that carries only the emotion your punctuation suggests, speaking words whose meaning isn’t what you intend because only you know that. Instead, they get what the words suggest to a given reader, based on THEIR background and experience, not yours.

That is the kiss of death, and a cause for immediate rejection, by both acquiring editors and readers in the bookstore because of the dispassionate, outside observer presentation.

When you stand before an audience, you cannot act the part of someone shooting a gun and, the one being shot, plus onlookers, without looking silly. So on the stage you talk ABOUT the story in overview. To give it life there’s your performance, plus the interjection of authorial explanation as to the meaning of what’s happening, and any background detail needed. Done well, you can mesmerize the audience into feeling as if they’re living the story. On the page, though, with the narrator's voice lacking emotion and no images to help—as they do in a graphic novel—it reads like a report or history book. And no one ever called a history book a page-turner.

In short: You’re using the techniques of verbal storytelling in a medium that reproduces neither sound nor vision. The narrator is talking ABOUT a story the reader expected to be made to live, in real-time, as-the-protagonist, and in real-time.

Bottom line: It can’t work and it can’t be fixed. But…it’s NOT a matter of talent, or even how well you write, so…

But more on that later. First I have to show you the wider effects of trying to use those techniques, so you fully understand the problems, yourself, and see what needs to be fixed:

2. One of the primary effects of telling the story the way you are is that your foreknowledge of the situation gets in the way. Because you already know the characters, the situation and location, plus all the background data, whatever seems obvious to you won’t be mentioned because you see no need to do so. But let’s look at a few lines from the opening as a reader, who knows only what the words suggest to them.

• I still can’t believe it.

Someone we know nothing about can’t believe something we know nothing about?. Were someone to say that to you, your immediate response would be, “Can't believe what.” And that is what the reader is thinking after seeing this. And since you raised the question, it should have been deliberate, and you should be addressing it next. But because you know what you mean by the statement you don’t, which was the rejection point if you queried this novel to an agent or publisher.

• A week ago, I was holding my best friend’s dead body in my arms.

What can this mean to someone who doesn’t know here we are in time and space, who’s speaking and why, what’s going on, and…why? If the death matters to the story so much that it must be included, shouldn’t we begin with this unknown person’s death? To the reader this might have happened in ancient Rome, today, or on another planet. But which it is matters a great deal to the reader. So at this point they have zero context to make sense of what you’re telling them. And while you might say to read on and it will become clear, people won’t because you cannot retroactively remove the confusion they feel at-this-point. And if the reader closes the cover here, you wasted the time to write the rest, right?

Think about it. When you pick up a book do you want story or history?

• Leo hasn’t said much since, he mostly ignores everyone unless it’s necessary for him to interact.

Because you hold the scene in your mind, you missed a critical point: Only you now who Leo is. You just said the protagonist’s best friend died. So the antecedent for this line is the best friend, which to the reader means that after dying, Leo doesn’t talk much. And that would seem obvious. It’s not what you mean, of course, but it is what you said because, visualizing the scene with Leo in it you saw no need to make it clear.

Remember what I said about your knowledge making you forget to include necessary information? This was a good example of why you cannot approach the act of writing fiction in the way you are at present.

Starting to make sense? I know this is NOT what you either expected or hoped for, but it is something you need to know if you’re going to write fiction.

So the question is: why didn’t you see this for yourself? The answer to that lies in a misunderstanding we all make, plus something critical that we miss. In fact, it’s the reason for the 99.9% rejection rate. And as Mark Twain so wisely observed, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Think back to your school years, where, from the time you entered school, you were assigned almost exclusively, reports and essays.

When you graduated, you were pretty good at such nonfiction writing, where the goal is to inform the reader clearly and dispassionately. And since you spent so much time learning those techniques, and practiced them so often, they’re effortless to use, and feel intuitive. As a result of that, look at this story and you can see that approach at work. You, the narrator, are explaining the events to the reader, in report-fashion—just as we all do when we turn to writing, because we assume that we learned to write and that writing-is-writing.

But…In all your years of schooling did even one teacher discuss the nuances of writing dialog and how to manage tag usage? Did they explain why scenes end in disaster for the protagonist, the purpose of the short-term scene-goal, how and why to rubber-band time, how to end the beginning and begin the ending? Did they even explain why a scene on the page is so different from on stage and screen, and why it must be?

My point? How can we write a scene if we don’t know what it is?

Think of your own reading. Assume you’re reading a horror story. At some point the protagonist will feel terror. Do you want the author to tell you when that happens, or to make the event so real that it terrorizes you and makes you afraid to turn off the lights? Do you want information, or to have your emotions evoked?

Obviously you want them to place you into the story on an emotional level. But nothing in your training even made you know you should. And because you assumed that you already knew writing technique, and that the name of the profession is Fiction—Writer, that the common word between the two said that they're related, and so you're okay.

If only… But nonfiction, the only skill we’re given in school, provides an informational experience, while fiction provides an emotional experience. And as always, different goals require different methods. In this case, the methodology is found in a body of craft they never make you aware existed.

And why didn’t you see it for yourself? Because of the thing we all miss: all professions are learned IN ADDITION to our schooldays skills. And of course, Fiction-Writer is a profession, and not an easy one to master, either. And as far as reading being a teacher, it teaches us to write as well as eating teaches us to cook.

So, as I’ve said, it's neither your fault, nor a matter of talent. It’s that “just ain’t so” business Mark Twain talked about that you need to fix.

At this point, if you’re like me, learning this is unexpected, and an emotional blow—especially after all that time spent writing, editing, and falling in love with your characters. But since it’s not due to a failing within you, and is something shared with pretty much all hopeful writers, it’s more a rite-of-passage than a disaster. And now you’ve learned a secret that shouldn’t be a secret, that over 90% of hopeful writers never learn.

So, how do you fix it without going back to the university for a four year major in commercial fiction writing? You hit the books. The library’s fiction writing section is loaded with the views of successful pros in publishing, writing, and teaching.

I won’t kid you. It’s not going to be easy. You'll be not only learning the skills of a profession, you’ll be fighting the urge to “fix” the writing with your nonfiction skills till the skills of fiction become automatic. And from experience, I can tell you that it’s a b***h to do that. But on the other hand, if you are meant to be a writer, the learning will be fun. And if it’s not, you’ve learned something important. So it’s win/win.

Two specific suggestions: First, to give you a better feel for the issues involved, and how meaningful they are, I suggest you dig around a bit in the articles in my writing blog. They’re meant to give an overview of the issues, and most were written for one of my publisher’s newsletters.

Next, pick up a personal copy of Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Selling Writer. It’s an older book, but has about 200 five-star reviews on Amazon, and is the best book on the nuts-and-bolts of fiction I’ve found. It won’t make a pro of you. That’s your job. But it will give you the tools and the knowledge of what they can do, and help you towards what E. L. Doctorow meant when he said, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”


Soo dig in. And while you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/the-grumpy-old-writing-coach/

Posted 7 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Scorpious Alpha

7 Months Ago

You're right, it is a bit of a blow, but I understand. Thank you for paying it forward, and I will d.. read more
JayG

7 Months Ago

• Only reason the formatting sucks is because word doesn't translate well onto this site, and try.. read more



Reviews

I see that this was published several years ago, so my comments are a bit late, but since your bio says you intend to write and publish more, some issues that jumped out at me might be worth discussing, because they’re the reason your sales weren’t as good as you might like.

As a BTW: Your book is still up on Amazon, though unavailable, with the name you use here as the listed author. And while you may have purchased book from people who are using pen-names, have you EVER bought one from someone with only a screen-name on the cover? That's both unprofessional—and sales-killer

The problem that hit me in the first paragraph, and it’s a killer: From start to finish this is a transcription of you telling the story aloud, and that has so many inherent problems that I can’t list them all in a single post.

1. The reader can neither see nor hear the narrator. So, while you hear a voice rich with emotion as you read your own words, the reader gets only what you’ll hear if you have your computer read this to you—something that should be part of your editing process in any case. Then, there's your performance: the way your voice changes intensity and cadence; the emotion you place in your voice; the meaningful eye movements; the changes in expression that demonstrate emotion; the gestures that visually punctuate; and the body language—which provides the emotional part of your performance—none of which make it to the page.

So what does the reader get? A voice that carries only the emotion your punctuation suggests, speaking words whose meaning isn’t what you intend because only you know that. Instead, they get what the words suggest to a given reader, based on THEIR background and experience, not yours.

That is the kiss of death, and a cause for immediate rejection, by both acquiring editors and readers in the bookstore because of the dispassionate, outside observer presentation.

When you stand before an audience, you cannot act the part of someone shooting a gun and, the one being shot, plus onlookers, without looking silly. So on the stage you talk ABOUT the story in overview. To give it life there’s your performance, plus the interjection of authorial explanation as to the meaning of what’s happening, and any background detail needed. Done well, you can mesmerize the audience into feeling as if they’re living the story. On the page, though, with the narrator's voice lacking emotion and no images to help—as they do in a graphic novel—it reads like a report or history book. And no one ever called a history book a page-turner.

In short: You’re using the techniques of verbal storytelling in a medium that reproduces neither sound nor vision. The narrator is talking ABOUT a story the reader expected to be made to live, in real-time, as-the-protagonist, and in real-time.

Bottom line: It can’t work and it can’t be fixed. But…it’s NOT a matter of talent, or even how well you write, so…

But more on that later. First I have to show you the wider effects of trying to use those techniques, so you fully understand the problems, yourself, and see what needs to be fixed:

2. One of the primary effects of telling the story the way you are is that your foreknowledge of the situation gets in the way. Because you already know the characters, the situation and location, plus all the background data, whatever seems obvious to you won’t be mentioned because you see no need to do so. But let’s look at a few lines from the opening as a reader, who knows only what the words suggest to them.

• I still can’t believe it.

Someone we know nothing about can’t believe something we know nothing about?. Were someone to say that to you, your immediate response would be, “Can't believe what.” And that is what the reader is thinking after seeing this. And since you raised the question, it should have been deliberate, and you should be addressing it next. But because you know what you mean by the statement you don’t, which was the rejection point if you queried this novel to an agent or publisher.

• A week ago, I was holding my best friend’s dead body in my arms.

What can this mean to someone who doesn’t know here we are in time and space, who’s speaking and why, what’s going on, and…why? If the death matters to the story so much that it must be included, shouldn’t we begin with this unknown person’s death? To the reader this might have happened in ancient Rome, today, or on another planet. But which it is matters a great deal to the reader. So at this point they have zero context to make sense of what you’re telling them. And while you might say to read on and it will become clear, people won’t because you cannot retroactively remove the confusion they feel at-this-point. And if the reader closes the cover here, you wasted the time to write the rest, right?

Think about it. When you pick up a book do you want story or history?

• Leo hasn’t said much since, he mostly ignores everyone unless it’s necessary for him to interact.

Because you hold the scene in your mind, you missed a critical point: Only you now who Leo is. You just said the protagonist’s best friend died. So the antecedent for this line is the best friend, which to the reader means that after dying, Leo doesn’t talk much. And that would seem obvious. It’s not what you mean, of course, but it is what you said because, visualizing the scene with Leo in it you saw no need to make it clear.

Remember what I said about your knowledge making you forget to include necessary information? This was a good example of why you cannot approach the act of writing fiction in the way you are at present.

Starting to make sense? I know this is NOT what you either expected or hoped for, but it is something you need to know if you’re going to write fiction.

So the question is: why didn’t you see this for yourself? The answer to that lies in a misunderstanding we all make, plus something critical that we miss. In fact, it’s the reason for the 99.9% rejection rate. And as Mark Twain so wisely observed, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Think back to your school years, where, from the time you entered school, you were assigned almost exclusively, reports and essays.

When you graduated, you were pretty good at such nonfiction writing, where the goal is to inform the reader clearly and dispassionately. And since you spent so much time learning those techniques, and practiced them so often, they’re effortless to use, and feel intuitive. As a result of that, look at this story and you can see that approach at work. You, the narrator, are explaining the events to the reader, in report-fashion—just as we all do when we turn to writing, because we assume that we learned to write and that writing-is-writing.

But…In all your years of schooling did even one teacher discuss the nuances of writing dialog and how to manage tag usage? Did they explain why scenes end in disaster for the protagonist, the purpose of the short-term scene-goal, how and why to rubber-band time, how to end the beginning and begin the ending? Did they even explain why a scene on the page is so different from on stage and screen, and why it must be?

My point? How can we write a scene if we don’t know what it is?

Think of your own reading. Assume you’re reading a horror story. At some point the protagonist will feel terror. Do you want the author to tell you when that happens, or to make the event so real that it terrorizes you and makes you afraid to turn off the lights? Do you want information, or to have your emotions evoked?

Obviously you want them to place you into the story on an emotional level. But nothing in your training even made you know you should. And because you assumed that you already knew writing technique, and that the name of the profession is Fiction—Writer, that the common word between the two said that they're related, and so you're okay.

If only… But nonfiction, the only skill we’re given in school, provides an informational experience, while fiction provides an emotional experience. And as always, different goals require different methods. In this case, the methodology is found in a body of craft they never make you aware existed.

And why didn’t you see it for yourself? Because of the thing we all miss: all professions are learned IN ADDITION to our schooldays skills. And of course, Fiction-Writer is a profession, and not an easy one to master, either. And as far as reading being a teacher, it teaches us to write as well as eating teaches us to cook.

So, as I’ve said, it's neither your fault, nor a matter of talent. It’s that “just ain’t so” business Mark Twain talked about that you need to fix.

At this point, if you’re like me, learning this is unexpected, and an emotional blow—especially after all that time spent writing, editing, and falling in love with your characters. But since it’s not due to a failing within you, and is something shared with pretty much all hopeful writers, it’s more a rite-of-passage than a disaster. And now you’ve learned a secret that shouldn’t be a secret, that over 90% of hopeful writers never learn.

So, how do you fix it without going back to the university for a four year major in commercial fiction writing? You hit the books. The library’s fiction writing section is loaded with the views of successful pros in publishing, writing, and teaching.

I won’t kid you. It’s not going to be easy. You'll be not only learning the skills of a profession, you’ll be fighting the urge to “fix” the writing with your nonfiction skills till the skills of fiction become automatic. And from experience, I can tell you that it’s a b***h to do that. But on the other hand, if you are meant to be a writer, the learning will be fun. And if it’s not, you’ve learned something important. So it’s win/win.

Two specific suggestions: First, to give you a better feel for the issues involved, and how meaningful they are, I suggest you dig around a bit in the articles in my writing blog. They’re meant to give an overview of the issues, and most were written for one of my publisher’s newsletters.

Next, pick up a personal copy of Dwight Swain’s, Techniques of the Selling Writer. It’s an older book, but has about 200 five-star reviews on Amazon, and is the best book on the nuts-and-bolts of fiction I’ve found. It won’t make a pro of you. That’s your job. But it will give you the tools and the knowledge of what they can do, and help you towards what E. L. Doctorow meant when he said, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.”


Soo dig in. And while you do, hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/the-grumpy-old-writing-coach/

Posted 7 Months Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Scorpious Alpha

7 Months Ago

You're right, it is a bit of a blow, but I understand. Thank you for paying it forward, and I will d.. read more
JayG

7 Months Ago

• Only reason the formatting sucks is because word doesn't translate well onto this site, and try.. read more

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Scorpious Alpha
Scorpious Alpha

Somewherein, PA



About
I'm a drama writer (who doesn't love drama?) I'm currently working on a series, Imperfect Perfection, have another two series, Parasitic Psychosis, and Unbalanced Electrical Storm finished. Hope you l.. more..

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