Monday, October 10, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 8 Thought and Exercise

I'll post more of the other exercises later, but normally I've been posting these inside at Scribophile, which limits the audience and the feedback.

I finished Chapter Eight just as I finished Virginia Woolf's The Voyage Out. I confess that the multiple points of view, gliding from one to the other was challenging, as was the use of names as a formal surname, then switching to a more informal first name. I blame that on my initial laziness and started keeping track of names -- I'm bad with names, so perhaps this is a literary manifestation of my real life. Shocking, I know.

What I did notice was that Woolf isn't casual about how she used her names, and it rapidly became a tell regarding who was speaking and what their relationship was to the subject. Hewet remains Hewet in Rachel's mind until she becomes more familiar, and refers to him as Terence.

So when I started the exercise for eight, the idea of labelling each section by the PoV seemed strange and artificial to me. It still does, but I know that this is a technique used by George RR Martin in his series "Song of Fire and Ice." I think it didn't feel unnatural there because it was at a chapter level. As an exercise, it did help to help me focus on the voice of each character, and try to make each of them distinct. I've written about the crew of the Oppenheimer before, who are a collection of personalities that don't exactly get along.

The second part flowed more naturally for me, though I found making each switch clear was a bit of a challenge, and I rewrote several sections and suspect that I need further practice in this area. Along with making clear transitions, it forced me to tease out the differences I felt between involved author and moving a limited third from one character to the next. The distinction is subtle, in that I could only reveal details that a particular character was aware of, and present it in that characters perspective.

Anyway, exercise eight!

Part I:

Juliette Sri

Juliette tossed the plan about in her mind. Was Sar too hotheaded? He looked the part of the ruffian -- too green to be a henchman, but skilled enough to require exactly the type of haven that Nimbus provided. HIs excitement at the prospect simmered off him -- threatening to boil -- and that was the problem, his relish could cloud his judgment. Still, there was her role in things to consider -- could she appear the jaded dilettante? Oh yes, the rest of the staff said with all speed and certainty. Smirks all around and amused glances she didn’t want to meet. She fussed with her PADD and waited for the staff’s attention to turn to other things.

Sar Tran

Sar forced his jaw to relax, and let the whine in his ears fade into the crosstalk around the table. Hiding his annoyance was useless. Pylkau knew him too well and Juliette -- well Juliette just knew, and she had her tells. Her face became soft as melting snow, unable to hold an expression. Permanently neutral as she stabbed at her PADD with her fingers. Out of her comfort zone, she became less officer and more vulnerable. Her gaze snapped toward him; he jerked his head away, focusing on Captain Tilmana, his seat tilted back, his palpus undulating as he waves his breather around them. Damn things were nearly hypnotic.


Lieutenant Commander Juliette Sri clearly didn’t like her role in the plan -- an emotional reaction, no doubt. If she can get her feelings under control, she’d appreciate the simplicity, and even her emotions could not deny his plan was better than the casualties they’d sustain with a full-on assault. Lieutenant Tran was eager to get started when he should be working out the finer details of his backstory. No matter, he would assist the Lieutenant with something plausible once Captain Tilmana approved.


Captain Tilmana sat back when the crosstalk began and reviewed the plan Syvok had provided, savoring the fragrance from his breather. The numbers were encouraging. Less muscle; more guile. Unusual for a warship, he thought with a chuckle, though the Orions were well known for their subterfuge. He cleared his throat and the table became quiet. They would proceed; everyone was to work out their details and provide them in the next two hours. He looked around the table and saw compliance, resignation, and excitement, but he'd given his expectation and was certain they'd follow.

Part II

From the moment the hood was ripped from his head to when his eyes adjusted to the anemic gaslight, Sar focused his other senses to get a sense of his situation. Like any slave, he was for sale. That was obvious. Nearby, he heard the clack of hooves on cobblestones and the mutter of a sparse crowd finding new interest in off-world wares.The splash of a puddle, a long string of curses. More than a whiff of sewage even after the rain had pelted the top of his wagon for over an hour. So, this was a city, such as their technology would allow. The metal of his collar dug into his neck, as cold as the mist against his skin. He took a deep breath through his nose. Was that Sulphur? Yes. Where was Juliette? he thought with a growing sense of irritation. It was so like her to be late.

Sar’s eyes adjusted. Light became shapes. Cloaks and capes, wrapped tight against a chill Sar found invigorating. Many of the buyers tapped canes and cudgels impatiently on the cobblestones as a few jostled forward to get a better look at the demon. But for Sar, further details were obscured by the glare of foot lamps along the platform on which he was observed. Even though he squinted outward, as any slave -- confused, captured, and with an uncertain future -- would do, he failed to see Juliette, huddled in a thick mantlet, among the third row of buyers, cursing the fact that between her mantlet, hood, and gloves, she looked quite unlike Sar, her fellow officer, expected her to, and she was struck with the concern -- almost the premonition -- that if she were to reach out to him telepathically, surprise would overtake him and he would look right at her, and in that moment she would no longer be a wealthy, if mysterious, client, but a co-conspirator. She kept her face sullen and forward, even as she felt more than a little attention from those on her sides focusing on her. Among the crowd, there seemed to be little difference between buyer and bought, and with a gentle nudge, she focused their attention to the platform. Surely Sar would recognize her voice when the bidding began, and maintain his cover so that Pylkau’s plan, such as it was, would not become just another brawl.

But even the creator of that plan, high above the smog of the city, in orbit -- a situation the natural inhabitants of the planet would not discover for at least a half-century -- had his doubts, though he found no reason to share those doubts with his fellow officers. What was the point of what-if scenarios to a group of people who could not quickly process and dismiss them? It was his job as first officer to analyze and reveal if such scenarios were concerning, and how to best act on them. As of such, none were. Yet, Lieutenant Sar Tran was brazen and foolhardy when forced to improvise. His first and only tactic was violence. Lieutenant Commander Juliette Sri was another matter entirely. She called it ‘out of the box’ thinking when it was more ‘break the box’ thinking. But even they and their peculiarities were nothing more than additional factors to include in the calculations, which remained at an over eighty percent chance of success, even though the crew of the Oppenheimer was well-known for beating the odds. Still, there was enough reason to give a confident nod to Captain Tilmana as he passed, which only served to increase the Captain’s good mood, and give him pause to stop, look about the bridge of busy officers, carefully monitoring the operation down below, and feel a sense of pride well up in him that his crew -- perhaps considered by some not to be the pick of the fleet -- worked so well together.

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