Penprints Flash Fiction Dash: Human Error

Penprints Flash Fiction Dash: Human Error

Hey, y’all! Today I’m going to be participating in Rosalie Valentine’s Flash Fiction Dash. The challenge was to write a 1k or less flash fiction from a prompt. We had the option of picking an image prompt or a sentence prompt, but I couldn’t decide which I wanted, so Rosalie gave me both.

I wrote a story with the picture prompt and was quite pleased with it. Wrote it really far in advance, in fact. But it was also half again as long as the limit, and I couldn’t bear to cut out so many words.

And so. In about an hour, edging into the early hours of the morning, I wrote a different story, using the word prompt.

This was the prompt I was given:



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And, I must say, this is worlds away from any type of thing I’ve ever written, but… Well, you know. At least it’s within the word limit. Also note: It’s largely unedited, so if you see any typos, or have any critiques, I would greatly appreciate a comment.

title: HUMAN ERROR

word count: 722



“Of course I’m an android.” I say, motors humming ever so slightly as I tilt my head up to look at him.

The Captain looks down at me. His hand is resting on his gun.

“That was a very… human error.”

I resist the urge to shrug, even though these shoulders have the proper mobility. Too human of a gesture.

“Apologies, Captain.” I say. “Perhaps it’s an error of my programming. Should I have myself checked out?”

He waves his hand dismissively as he turns away. “That won’t be neccesary, 115.”

I follow him, looking at the floor and monitering him out of my peripheral vision. He’s less interesting than the floor. Metal. My feet are metal.

Metal on metal.

Clank. Clank. Clank.

I don’t like this body’s hearing. Everthing is amplified.

“—can have your programming examined after the meeting.” The Captain is saying. I focus on his voice. “For now, wait outside the door.”

“Affirmative.” I say, planting my feet.

The door opens and then closes after he’s gone through.

Swish. Clink.

I look down the corridor, my camera’s focus adjusting to the long passageway.

Click-shh. Click-shh.

Footsteps with a limp. Where are they coming from?

I blink back into a neutral focus as he rounds the corner of a branching hall.

Click-shh.

He looks up at me. Smiles. Brushes back his red hair.

I’m glad he was delayed. The few minutes the Captain and I were paused in the hallway, due to my, ah, distraction, could have gotten him caught.

He limps up to me. “Have you got it?”

I rotate open my arm compartment. Cli-cli-click.

“The Captain is suspicious.” I say, as he delicately removes the computer chip from my arm.

He looks up at me. I can hear the chip slide into his pocket. “What did you do?”

I tilt my head up. Lock my gaze on the ceiling. “I made an un-android noise. As an ambassador’s family went past.”

He glances at his watch. Not much time left out here before another official arrives. “Why?”

I picture it. Tiny. White. Big, moist, black eyes. Yap-yap. Yap-yap.

“No reason.” I say, pulling my face into what I hope passes for a smile in this strange form. “But I’ll disconnect before programming is scanned.”

He nods, and I close my eyes, settling into hibernate mode. Motors slow. Senses shut off one at a time. I can’t see where he goes, after all. Just in case.

A ting-ting pulls me out of low-power as the Captain steps out of the door. I check the time. It’s been an hour and a half.

Polite conversation is too human, so I walk beside him to his chambers. He goes in. The door locks.

Shk.

As an android, I can only obey the last order given, which was to get my programming checked, so I walk that way, imputing the order into my mainframe.

The droid in charge of the unit downloads the clip of the Captain’s order and lets me through, light glinting off her plastic-looking exoskeleton. Primitive model.

Six other androids rest in alcoves, screens flickering with their programming beside them.

I sit. Thunk.

Settle my arms into the ports. Chink.

And disconnect.

Maybe it was a human error, but that puppy was adorable. Could I be blamed if I squealed?

I come back to myself. Sounds fade. Sensations rise.

I can feel my hands on my wheelchair armrests.

My lips are chapped.

Can’t lift these arms, though. I’ll have to wait for a real droid to notice. I’m not a puppy; they’re allowed to notice me.

A doctor notices my eyes squinting open. He holds up the bottle of medication.

I imagine it dripping into the cup. Drip. Drip. Drip.

When he puts it in my mouth, I swallow. One of the few movements I have left.

I can feel my heart rate now. It feels like thump thump thump.

“I don’t need medicine.” I say. “I’m an android.”

He smiles at me. It’s a pitying smile. “I believe you, your Highness,” I can imagine him saying, though my hearing is still stored with my current droid.

But he doesn’t believe me. Since most of my systems shut down after the failed editing session, no one does.

After all, I’m not really an android.

I’m just a human error.

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Writing Update: Graphic Novel?

Writing Update: Graphic Novel?

In October of last year, I wrote a post on this blog talking about my most recent story. I talked about how it was a major change for me, genre-wise, because, you know, it’s a historical sci-fi (in other news, I’ve decided it’s in the year 1954 exactly).

But I had no idea how big of a step it would be.

Because…

Well, because I’m writing it as a graphic novel.

I understand this might be disappointing for all y’all who aren’t into graphic novels–to tell you the truth, I don’t really read graphic novels, either, but this story is demanding to be told in a much more visual way than my other stories.

Currently I’m working through sketching out all the characters, outlining, and scripting. Since I’m doing this for Camp this year, I have a lot to do before April.

Which is in nine days.

Start Panicking Aladdin



bullet my process

I’ve been low-key developing this story since… I’d say June last year, on and off, and it’s been a very different experience than any other story I’ve worked on. For one thing, I knew the ending before I knew the beginning. For another thing… I’ve been able to visualize several scenes… but they haven’t come to me in order.

Which is why I’m now using yWriter to organize the scenes, so I can write out descriptions in any order, and then drag them to a different place.

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bullet scripting

I’m new at this. And since it’s not going to be published this way, it’s just to help with drawing the graphic novel, I’m doing it in an odd style.

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Basically I’m roleplaying with myself. 😉 I have yet to really figure out what I’m doing, so maybe when I finish the scripts, I’ll publish another post about my revised process.

bullet sketching

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I’m currently designing all the characters. These are my initial sketches for Lesley… And, yes. I know they don’t look like quite the same person. xP

I’m having trouble sketching Sylvester, so I think I’m going to skip to sketching Chareh. Once I’ve settled on a design, I’ll draw sheets with different angles and expressions, for each of the main characters. Also for a few of the main supporting characters, like Lesley’s dad, and the editor of the New Hasting’s Herald newspaper.

I’ve also sketched out a few pages of the main story. They won’t actually be like I have them (I’ve even changed dialogue in a bunch of places), but it helps me visualize what it’ll look like.

What, you mean you want to see a sample?

… Okay.

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If you click the image, it’ll bring you to a bigger version.

This isn’t how the final draft will look, certainly, but it’s what I drew when I was first trying to decide whether to do the story as a graphic novel. I’m going to have a similar layout, I think, but the style will be much less… Sketchy… 😂

Also, young Sylvester will have a face.

Just sayin’.

And that strange sentence will bring us to a close, but I have a request for y’all. I’m trying to come up with a new title for this story, as I was never really happy with the one I had—and it also sounds too similar to a different story’s title.

If you’re new to this blog and/or story, I still have the back-cover teaser on my “Works In Progress” page, so you can check it out there. But I’d love to hear any suggestions you have for a new title.



What’s your experience with graphic novels? Do you have any suggestions for titles? And last but not least, are you doing Camp NaNoWriMo? Comment below!

Beautiful Books: From Stranger Worlds

Beautiful Books: From Stranger Worlds


Last year, I did this tag with Won’t Feel a Thingand it was pretty cool, so I figured, why not do it again?

For those of you who don’t know, Beautiful Books is a tag hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In.  It’s a NaNoWriMo-themed variation on their normal monthly tag, Beautiful People. Instead of asking questions of your character, Beautiful Books gives you a list of questions to answer about your NaNoWriMo story, or just any WIP. Make sure to click the graphic to read some other participating blogs.

Without any further intro (because I have a tendency to ramble in these…), here’s stuff about my novel, From Stranger Worlds!



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1

Whoo, this question has a long answer. There wasn’t any one thing that gave me the idea for FSW, it was more like a collection of events, so I’ll just go with the first one (that way you won’t be reading this through next week).

I and my siblings were watching one of the old superman movies, where the Kryptonian general, Zod, came in and wreaked havoc, then went to the President of the United States, walked right in, and gave his terms (which, incidentally, were “I’m in charge, na-nanny-boo-boo!”). That was then when I thought, “What if aliens came and quietly approached an Earth world leader to negotiate land for them to settle?” Then I got to thinking what kind of terms there would be if the leader agreed.

The story has changed a lot since then, but that was where the first idea came from.

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I just happen to have an official (if a little rough) teaser for you.


Sylvester Lee met an alien when he was twelve years old.

The problem was, no one believed him, and the only other witness had a strange lapse of memory.

It’s been nine years since that day, and Sylvester is now an investigative reporter with one goal in mind: the aliens are living among us, and he intends to prove it.

This presents quite a problem for Leslie Hughes, his cheerful, but dreadfully nervous intern. Because what Sylvester doesn’t know is that Leslie is the alien that he met in the alley that night. Half alien, half human, all secrets, she’s monitering Sylvester to prevent him from revealing the aliens’ presence.

And she’ll do just about anything to keep her people safe.

Things are going along smoothly until they encounter Chareh, a young alien living among the humans, the girl who holds the secret that will make both worlds violently collide.

From Stranger Worlds will take you on a thrilling tour through the world of 50’s America—but it may not be the world you know.


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For more, click the picture to visit the Pinterest board where all these came from.4866b85b0a3868fcf495ad08a16aa1d6Aesthetic words

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An ambitious reporter who is nineteen, cheerful, and also half alien.

 


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Another, even more ambitious reporter, who is twenty-two, and is convinced that the aliens are here—and he intends to prove it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A small, relatively weak fifteen-year-old alien who has been studied by humans for two years. She carries a deadly secret, but no one else knows she’s the one who has it.

 

 

 


 

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Well, with my last novel (Until the Stars Fall), I basically brainstormed and wrote out, on paper in a binder, what was going to happen, “and then this person would do this, and this would happen, ect.,” and for the one before that (Won’t Feel a Thing), I did basically the same thing, more erratically, on a smaller scale, and on the computer. But I really don’t know how to prepare for From Stranger Worlds. The story has a very different feel than my previous novels. I’m kind of winging it.

9

I dunno, I’m looking forward to a lot… This is a hard choice. I can only say one thing I’m looking forward to?

Well, I have to say I’m looking forward to the setting the most. I grew up on 50’s stories, from Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and The Adventures of Superman, to Singin’ in the Rain, to The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and The Patty Duke Show.

The 50’s has to be the golden age of stories (and they’re clean!), and I’ve had a partiality to the decade for a while.

Also, I really like designing other cultures and cities, and combining the 50’s with the alien people that I’ve constructed is just really fun. 😀

10

I’m just going to go with random things. xD Because I can.

1

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Welcome to the underwater city Tehsischi! It’s a place little known by humans, but in the story, it’s hidden off the coast of Northern California, far beneath the Ocean. The huge sub-sea structure houses nearly the entire Kehrib (alien) population on Earth, and is a thriving metropolis that’s been there for generations, seen by very few humans.

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It’s a bit like a cat, and a bit like a weasel. The Kehrib brought them here to Earth, and somehow a few got out into New Hastings, the coastal human city. So while they’re cute, and the household pet of many Kehrib families, they’ve also become a great pest.

3

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A segment (albeit a small one) of Kehrib are very superstitious, and to ward against demons and other nasty things that humans carry around, they wear charms made of bronze, clipped to bracelets and belts.

And, yes. She has multicolored hair. Their hair shows their emotions, and she’s got quite a wealth of them at this moment (you can click the picture for more information).

11

In a way, Lesley and Sylvester are in direct opposition. Sylvester wants to prove what he saw all those years ago, and Lesley wants her people to be safe. To do that, she has to keep the secret from being revealed.

Now, Chareh… Well, she’s got a secret that will blast both those goals out of the water and present a much more pressing problem.

What she wants is to not have to bear the secret any more. She wants to not be under constant pressure. And she wants to be strong.

12

Well, now, that would be a spoiler, wouldn’t it?

… Actually, I don’t know. I’m less prepared for this NaNo than I have been in a long time.

13

Themes. Heh. Yeah…

So, I usually don’t figure out the theme until about halfway through the first draft. Sooo… I don’t know. I think it’ll have something to do with identity.

(Note: Last Beautiful books, I made a guess at the theme, and it did come out pretty strongly, so I guess from now on, I should just trust my guesses. 😛 What I guess is usually what a main character is working through.)

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Beautiful Books: Won’t Feel a Thing

Beautiful Books: Won’t Feel a Thing

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Hello!

Yes, NaNoWriMo is coming. We all know it, and, frankly, most of us aren’t sure whether to be excitedly waiting November 1st, or dreading it.

But, yes, as I pretty much always do, I am participating this year, with my most recent novel, Won’t Feel a Thing.

So! To get y’all acquainted with my novel (and because it looked cool) I’m participating (as you can see by the header) in Beautiful Books, a link-up which is a spin-off of Beautiful People, hosted by Paper Fury and Further Up and Further In. I don’t have answers for all of the questions, but I’ve answered what I can. xP

I encourage you to check out the other bloggers who are participating: just click the image above ^ and it’ll take you to a blog post with all of them listed.

Without further ado, the post!


covah


capture

Interesting story here. I was actually inspired to write this story in a way that’s odd for me… I dreamed it.

Now, of course, it wasn’t exactly the same as the book (it included zombies?), but it’s where it all started.

The dream fascinated me, and when I mentioned it to my sister Athelas (three cheers for her, eh?), she said, “write it.”

After a lot of thinking, and then a ton of colorful markers and brainstorming… Harper Scott had her own story. Boom.

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Erm… Probably… I dunno, actually… A couple of months or so. I didn’t keep track of the day I had the dream.

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Oooorrrr you could read this handy-dandy blurb/teaser that I have!

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Harper’s job as the doctors’ cyborg assistant is fairly simple.

Deliver and retrieve packages (probably illegal), oversee shipments (definitely illegal), and on the latest mission, escort Dr. Mitchel to his contact (no doubt here).

The simpleness, however, seems to have fled. All systems were supposed to be functioning correctly, but when Harper’s mission goes dangerously wrong… something breaks.

She’s not sure what it is, but these flashes of strange memories can’t be programmed.

As segments of a past life she didn’t know she had unfold in her mind, she becomes wary of the doctors… And they aren’t the only threat. Someone, some group, is out there—and they want her dead.

And the very worst part is this unusual phenomena called “emotions.”

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Neat, huh? I’m not sure I’m happy with it… It’s the best teaser ever. *nods*

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Pictures from Pinterest

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I’m only going to do the two main-est main characters, ’cause I don’t have pictures for anyone else. xP

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Harper is probably a nineteen year old girl. She may, however, be a machine.

In fact, she’s not sure what she is, because Dr. Mitchel gets weird and nervous every time she brings it up, and the splitting headaches, flashes of memory, and gut-twisting emotions are only raising more questions. 

She could be a girl, could be a rebel, or could be a machine designed for illegal activities— but one thing’s for sure: she’s hunted.

Axton Vischer is a twenty year old high-city boy proud to think of himself as a rebel. A rebel rising steadily in the ranks of the resistance.

But in a chance meeting, Axton discovers something his enemies (and perhaps his so-called comrades) don’t want him to know.

Harper Scott is alive, after all this time.

He doesn’t know how, and he doesn’t want to imagine why, but he’s determined to track down his former team leader, with or without help.

And if she’s a prisoner, he’ll risk his life to have her safe, as she once did for him.

But if she’s turned traitor… He’ll kill her himself.

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Okey-dokey. Y’all get to see my “Plantster” method. (And look—NaNo got a Planster badge: thumb)

Okay. So when I get an idea, generally, I’ll let it sit. Usually for a couple of months (Ahem… until a NaNo… Because who writes any other month?).

If I let it sit in my brain for long enough (usually after scribbling down the bare bones), I’ll generally come up with something that makes me want to write it, which is the most important thing here, really.

Then when I decide to write it (do you have any idea how many teeeeny ideas I have that never go anywhere?), I’ll open up a document (recently a notebook, actually…) and write down everything that I know.

By this time I usually have a couple scene ideas, usually a beginning, and barely any plot. So after I write down backstory (why is that so much easier than plot?), I’ll write down, in note-style, the beginning (“She’ll do ‘this’, and when ‘this’ happens,  he’ll do ‘this’.)

And before I know it, I’ve “outlined” the beginning of my novel. I usually run out of the planned portion the first week of NaNo, though. xP

And, of course, Pinterest. Really. I’ve spent more time on Pinterest in the past month than I have in the past three months before that.

And then I wind up pantsing most of the novel, and occasionally re-brainstorming like I did before I started it.

So. Yes. I have no plot. But I have a beginning!

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The same thing that made me want to write it in the first place.

The most interesting past about the dream that I had was the fact that, in the dream, while filling Harper’s position of emotionless cyborg, I thought differently. It fascinated me, which is why the dream stuck with me for so long and mutated into a novel concept.

I’m really excited to write that. Yeah, it’s a weird thing to look forward to, but… It works!

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bullet  Back alleys

Ah, the city. Glowing bright on the outside, with a whole network underground.

bullet  Cyborgs

bullet  Space

Actually, space travel is not a huge part of the story, since it takes place largely on one planet, but it is a part of the setting. There is a great deal of interplanetary trade that goes on through the city Krey.

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Really? Really? You think I would tell you that even if I knew? 😛

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I… Still haven’t been able to figure out how to intentionally work themes into a story? Loyalty might end up being one, though.

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So! Readers! What do you think? Is this book worth being written? (I hope so…)

Speaking of writing, NaNoWriMo is in TWO HOURS! Are you ready? (Me: Nooooo!)

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Kid

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Kid

The Kid

Shalom, mellons! Today I’m participating in Rachelle O’Neil‘s 4th Flash Fiction Challenge.

Anna Jolene gave me this prompt:

A child or young teen is being chased through a building by government officials. Write how the chase ends.”

This is what I came up with. I edited out about 300 words from it, and it ended up (according to Google Doc’s word counter) at exactly 999 words… The limit is 1,000 words. 😛

Anyways. Without further ado, I present my Flash Fiction story, The Kid.



Short, pounding footsteps made Maxwell’s hand drift to his gun. An instant later, his training kicked in, and he recognized the length of the footsteps. A child, who limped.

The kid ducked through the door and skidded to a stop, her gaze darting between the doors, likely looking for an escape route. Her hand was clenched into a fist against her chest.

Maxwell shifted, his hand moving away from his gun holster to steady himself on the thin rafter.

The steadily growing presence of the two agents following her kept his senses peaked, but they were far enough away that he would not need his gun as of yet.

She took a small step forward, rubbing a slightly dirty hand along a scar which curved around her face.

Nervous habits.

Maxwell scanned the kid. She was around ten, obviously at least poor, if not homeless. The scar looked as if her skin had been scraped off at some point and healed poorly.

She evidently heard the agents behind her, because she started and limped toward a door.

Light from the dusty window glinted on the edge of the object she held in her clenched fist.

Maxwell glanced up at the hallway where she had come from, quickly estimating how long it would take for Wilson and Sutherland to arrive. Too soon, but it seemed he had to risk it.

Nuts.

He dropped out of the rafters, landing lightly on his feet a foot away from where the kid stood.

She jerked back, letting out a small yelp.

Maxwell grabbed her wrists. “Shh. Quiet, kid. I’m not with them. I won’t hurt you.”

Her small hands trembled. For a moment, he almost felt sorry for her.

Only almost, of course.

“What is it you took from them?”

Her fists tightened. “I-I didn’t know they were—I thought they were police after they saw me, but then they shot something at me, and I just took a—” She stopped, her voice cracking. Her voice came out as a trembling whisper. “Please don’t let them shoot me, mister.”

Maxwell slid one hand down to her clenched fist. “I’ll try not to, kid. What’s your name?”

Tears glimmered in her eyes. “D-Debbie Marcel.”

“Okay, Debbie. I’ll try to keep you from them. Let me see what you have, mm?”

Her hand slowly relaxed. Maxwell took the coin carefully. It was split in half down the middle, with a crumpled paper lodged inside one end.

His gaze snapped up to her eyes, which were wide and blue. “You read it?”

She hesitated, then nodded, trembling. “I thought it was a coin, so I just took it out of his pocket, and then it came open, and there was a paper, so I read it…” She shook her head, “And the man saw me and tried to get it, and when I ran, he tried to shoot me.” She shook her head sharply. “Th-they were going to sh-shoot—”

Maxwell scowled. “Stop it. Calm down, or I won’t be able to get you out of here.”

Debbie bit her lip and stood a little bit straighter, meeting his gaze.

The agents would be here any second.

He shoved the coin halves into his pocket, pulling Debbie through a doorway to a stairwell.

There was no way she could get down the stairs at a reasonable rate with that limp of hers. He crouched and pulled her onto his back. Her hands latched around his neck, and her legs around his waist. He pulled himself up to his feet and frowned, creeping quickly toward the iron stairs.

“What did the paper say, Debbie?” he murmured, starting down.

“A ship number.” Her grip tightened around him. “I know because D-dad was a ship pilot.”

“And the number?”

She repeated what sounded like a valid ship ID number.

So she was a liability. Fabulous.

Something clicked above him. He spun around, pulling his gun out with one hand.

Debbie cried out and slumped against him, slipping a bit without the support of his other arm.

He sensed the presence of both agents crouched behind the door frame.

This kid was way too distracting.

He adjusted his grip on Debbie and sprinted downward, firing a warning shot upward when he was halfway down.

Maxwell reached the base of the stairs and set Debbie against the wall beside the door, outside the stairwell.

He pulled the dart from the back of her collarbone and leaned out of the doorway enough to see Sutherland leaning out enough to fire. He aimed and fired in a moment, then jerked back at a sharp pain in his forearm.

He yanked out the dart and dropped it on the floor.

Despite his training, Maxwell would be unconscious within fifteen minutes, and their Interrogators would be worse than a bullet to the head. Not only for Maxwell.

He growled under his breath and scooped Debbie into his arms. No Interrogator would get the information out of either of them.

Unfortunately, with Debbie unconscious, Maxwell couldn’t reach his gun.

Maxwell tightened his hold on the street kid and sprinted out of the building.

Cole met him with a car in one of the city’s many dirty alleys. Maxwell put Debbie on the car floor and crouched beside her, below window level.

Cole drove out into the stream of traffic, chuckling under his breath. “Found a new friend, or is she ID codes in disguise?”

“A liability.” Maxwell muttered, pulling the coin out of his pocket. The paper did, indeed, have a ship ID identical to the one Debbie had recited.

The kid had a memory like an elephant.

“She saw the codes, then?”

Maxwell grunted an affirmation. “Picked their pocket.” he muttered.

“You alright, Victor?”

His mind was growing foggy. He leaned his head against the car door. “Mmmhm. Keep driving.”

“And the kid?”

Maxwell clenched his jaw against a headache. “She’ll stick around until the ship takes off.”

“Is that wise…?”

Maxwell smiled grimly. “Of course not.”



So, what do you think of the story?

Have you ever tried Flash Fiction?

Manipulating Your Reader

Manipulating Your Reader

Manipulating Your Reader Okay, so you might have seen the title of this post and said, “Wait, what? Manipulating?” (Although, I think most of you have done it, so… :-P) And, yes. Manipulating. Authors do it quite a bit, you know. Have you ever had a character that “gave you the creeps”, even though they never technically said anything, or, really, did anything, creepy? If so, that’s because you were being manipulated.

“But…” You say, “Manipulated by what?”(Pretend you said it, mm?) And the answer is: Manipulated by word choices.

In the past few months, while SCCing,* I’ve noticed that I can make it so that other authors either dislike or like a character at will (It doesn’t work every time… Especially if the other author knows you well… Or has read this post.). It’s partially how they act and look, yes, but it’s also the way you say how they act, and how you say how they look, and the names that you pick. And the emotions of your readers is one thing that will largely effect the success of your novels.

Allow me to give you an example. I’m going to write a short snippet, right here in the post, and show you the differences.


A timid knock at the door jerked Lucas out of a light sleep. He glanced around the room, then ran his fingers through his unruly hair, and stood, walking over to the door.

He was there before he realized he could have just told them to ‘come in’. Shrugging one shoulder, he pulled the door open.

A pretty young woman stood there, her coal-black hair pulled into a mostly-neat bun, though a few strands escaped. Her hands were folded neatly in front of her, and her calm grey eyes looked at him, expectant.

“Um.” Lucas said. “What? I mean, what do you want?”

She glanced behind her quickly. “My name is Annie. May I come in?”

Lucas shrugged again. “Sure. Office is a bit of a mess, but you can come in.”

“Thank you.” She said, and stepped into the room. When she caught sight of his less-than-neat desk, she raised her eyebrows, a tiny smile lifting the corner of her mouth, which before had been dead serious.

Lucas closed the door and scanned the girl skeptically. She looked a bit young to work in the building. Must be an intern of some kind. Her clothing, straight and starched to perfection, made Lucas second guess his assumption.

Annie glanced around the room quickly, and then looked at Lucas. “I have a message for you, Mr. Smith.” She said, softly. Her shoes tapped on the tile floor as she walked over to him, and her hand was cold when she pressed the note into his hand. Lucas wondered if she was scared.

Annie fled the room without another word. Lucas did not turn around, but waited until her footsteps died off.


Okay, now before you continue, think about these two characters. Do you think they are trustworthy? Do you like them? Now. After you decide whether you like them, continue on to read the next snippet.


A quiet knock jerked Lucas out of his sleep. He glanced around the room, then ran his fingers through his unruly hair, and stood, walking over to the door.

He was there before he realized he could have just told them to ‘come in’. Shrugging one shoulder, he pulled the door open.

A young woman stood there, her sleek raven hair pulled into a bun, though a few strands escaped and were blown about by the air conditioner. Her hands, folded neatly in front of her, made Lucas think she was a business-like woman, but very… in control. Her cold grey eyes looked him straight in the face, waiting for him to make a move. Lucas suddenly realized how beautiful she was, in a cold, unfeeling way.

“Um.” Lucas said. “What? I mean, what do you want?”

She threw a glance over her shoulder. “My name is Genevieve Ethans.” She said. “May I come in?”

Lucas shrugged again. “Sure. Office is a bit of a mess, but you can come in.”

“Thank you.” She stepped into the room, scanning it coolly. When her eyes fell on his less-than-neat desk, she looked over at him, arching her brows with a tiny smile. Lucas wondered if she was mocking him.

He closed the door and scanned the girl skeptically. She looked a bit young to work in the building. Must be an intern of some kind. Her clothing, straight and starched to perfection, made Lucas second guess his assumption.

Ethans scanned the room once more, then met Lucas’ gaze. “I have a message for you, Mr. Smith.” She said, her voice low. Her heels clicked against the floor as she walked over to him, and when she pressed the note into his hand, her hand was cold.

Ethans walked out quickly, and a silence descended on the room interrupted only by the click of her heels against tile. Lucas did not turn around, but instead waited until the constant click, click, click of her shoes faded to silence.


Okay, now what do you think? (Not sure it works when you’re given both examples, but…)

The words “Cold” “calm” “cool” and those such words change the actions very little, but it changes the readers’ view of the character dramatically. The impression from the first one was of a nervous intern carrying an important message. But of the second one, more of an in-control, cool secret-agent-y type. Names also change the perception quite a bit. If they speak “Softly” instead of “in a low voice”, they’re more likely to be liked. (Or if they’re slightly messy, slightly loud people… but that’s a whole different type of character.)

So, look through your favorite books. Find the characters you like, and look at the phrases that the author uses for that type of character. You may just learn something.

What about you? Have you ever been “manipulated” in a story? Have you ever done it to a reader?


 *Story Character Chatting. It’s a Roleplaying thing where you play your own characters, and they interact with other writer’s characters by going into a room between the worlds sort of place (called a half-way room. ‘Cause it’s half-way in every world, and half-way in none).

Flash Fiction Challenge, March 2015 (Pain, Hope).

Flash Fiction Challenge, March 2015 (Pain, Hope).

Hey, everybody! Today I’m participating in Rachelle O-Neil‘s flash-fiction challenge. After two failed stories, I finally (yesterday) wrote a story that would work (I came up with the idea for it the day before yesterday). After grueling edits (okay, maybe not grueling), in which I edited out 206 of my precious words to come down to 1,000 words, I came up with what I have now. Critiques are welcomed. Enjoy!

This is the prompt I got for it:

Okay! Without further ado, I present my flash fiction.


Pain, Hope.

Asma tightened the scarf around her lower face, sure it would disguise her as a wealthy religious woman.

Walking on foot effectively destroyed that image.

Squinting to see in the half-light, Asma lifted the parchment closer to her face.

Her surroundings were not on the map.

    “Stay safe, Asma Fariq.”

She was doing a fine job of that.

Growling under her breath, Asma scanned the narrow street.

I’m lost.

“You need a guide?”

Asma pivoted.

It was a boy. Probably only six or seven, his shaggy blond hair nearly covered his grey eyes.

“Wh-why do you ask?”

“You look like you’re lost.” The boy shrugged, dropping from his perch on the dirty windowsill. “I know my way around the city.”

Asma slowly spoke. “Who are you? You’re not from around here.”

The boy gave a lopsided grin. “Why do you say that?”

“You’re pale.”

He nodded. “Well, yeah.”

Asma crumpled the map in one fist. “So who are you?”

“Tell me who you are first.”

Asma narrowed her eyes. “Asma.”

“No second name?”

“No second name.”

The boy shrugged. “Okay. Then I’m Asad.”

Asma turned away. “A pleasure.”

“Wait!” Asad grabbed her arm. She jerked back.

“Don’t touch me.”

“Where do you need to go? I can get you there for a copper.”

Asma looked him over. It can’t hurt anything. I can’t possibly be any more lost than I am.

“I need to get to the execution yard at the palace.”

He looked at her wide-eyed. “Ma’am! You don’t want to go there! They’re having an execution today.”

Asma’s eyes narrowed. “I know where I want to go, Asad-ali.”

He chewed on the edge of his lip, looking at her skeptically, then turned. “Keep up.” He dashed down the street. Asma had to run to keep up.

Surprisingly, they made it there in a few minutes.

Great sandstone walls towered above, but the gate was open, people and carriages streaming in.

Asad looked at the crowd briefly, then turned to her, eyes grave and breath slightly quick. “You’re sure you want to go there, Asma-ali?”

Asma nodded, breathing through her nose to hide her exertion. “I’m sure.”

He sighed. “I know a way to get in faster.”

He led her around the wall for several minutes, then crouched, gripping a cloth-wrapped iron handle half-buried in sand. Bracing his feet against the wall, he pulled.

A section of sandstone slid from the wall, leaving an opening barely big enough for Asma to crawl through.

Asad glanced up at her. “Follow me.”

He disappeared into the opening.

Asma crouched, then crawled in after him, the hot sand stinging her hands.

She reached the end after a few feet of crawling, and adjusted her scarf as she stood in the dim light.

Asad leaned down, pulling on a thick rope. The sound of rock against rock was followed by total darkness.

Asad’s work-rough hand slid into hers. Though she pulled away, he did not let go. After a second, she allowed him to lead her through the inky blackness.

After a few minutes, Asad stopped. “Close your eyes.”

Bright daylight nearly blinded her.

When Asma’s eyes adjusted, she saw they stood by a doorway in the rock.

Asad pulled her through, then closed the wooden door.

They stood behind a shed of some kind.

As Asad lead her through the outer courtyard, Asma briefly wondered how often he snuck into the palace.

They soon reached the execution sight. The smell of death made Asma’s stomach churn, even through the scarf.

The crowd stood, gathered in a circle. Asma started to shove through, but stopped at cheers from the mob.

Asad hissed. For a second, Asma saw pointed teeth. “The monsters.”

Her words came as a whisper; it was a wonder that Asad heard. “Who is being executed today?”

Asad grimaced. “Just one man. A war prisoner from Andirkh.”

Asma’s stomach twisted into a knot. “The name?”

“Fariq Akeem.”

Asma felt the blood leave her face. She stumbled a few steps backward.

She turned around, her vision blurring, though her eyes were dry. She sank to her knees.

So she was too late.

“Death to Andirkh!” The crowd called.

Too late.

Asma pulled in a shuddering breath. “No.” She whispered.

“Asma!” Her collar tightened, and she was yanked from the street, landing flat on her back. Her scarf fell from her face. A carriage rattled by.

Asad dropped to his knees beside her, hastily replacing the scarf over her scars. “I won’t tell.” He whispered, gripping her shoulders and heaving her into a sitting position. “We have to get out. I don’t think anyone saw, but…”

A murmur passed through the crowd. They froze in their departure.

“Death to the Andirkh!” Someone called, and several people stepped forward.

Asad snarled, shoving her toward the shed. “Get out, Asma-ali.”

He stood, facing the crowd. Asma stumbled toward the shed, her feet pounding in time with her heart.

She pulled the door open and fell into the passage, slamming the door behind her.

Too late.

It was several moments before Asad slipped in. His pupils were narrowed to slits, but they returned to normal almost instantly; Asma doubted she had even seen them.

Asad shut the door. It was once again dark. He slipped his hands into hers. “It’ll get better, Asma-ali.”

***

Asma pressed her back against the wall.

Asad sat beside her, but said nothing. She was grateful.

He slipped his small hand into hers, nodding toward the sky. “Look.”

Asma looked at the dull grey skyline, silent.

And then, slowly but surely, the sun rose, sending gold and pink auras across the sky.

“There is pain, Asma-ali.” Asad said, softly. “But there is still hope.”

Asma kept her eyes on the sunrise.

“Don’t pay me.” He whispered, then pulled his hands from hers. The next moment, he was gone. Probably back to the streets where he came from.

Asma rose, watching the sunrise. “There is pain.” She whispered. “But there is hope.”