WatchNon-threaded

Forums » Writing Workshop » Read Thread

Toss around ideas and brainstorm your story.

Salvage Progress

4 months ago

After a month or so of work, I've finally reached the first major checkpoint in my storygame's creation. More specifically, the exposition for the "Hephaestus Arc" is fully written, while the "Typhon Arc" is lacking a little bit. This missing stuff will be mostly the same as what happens in the Hephaestus Arc that I have written already, so I decided to post this anyway. If someone wants me to change something in this section, I won't have to do twice the work.

So, all the necessary exposition is written, but the issue is that the necessary exposition may be too long, or worse, too boring. I really kept this in mind while writing, because I know that writing too much exposition is a cardinal sin, and to try to spread out the information instead of having it all in one place.

At the same time, I thought that this could work in my story, because the your character knows as much as the reader does, and you should really have all the necessary information to make an informed decision between the two jobs you're presented with. While I have not written much past this choice, whichever one you pick will be an entirely separate story with its own epilogues, characters, and etcetera, so I want you to really commit to whichever contract you choose.

If you take the time to read through what I've got (about 10k words), please comment all your feedback, especially that pertaining to my own concerns. This is the longest piece of writing I've ever attempted, and with pacing being an issue in my other writing, I don't want it to be an issue here! Once again, thanks in advance for any feedback you can provide!

Linkypoo

Salvage Progress

4 months ago
I know Nightwatch already gave you a lot of feedback, but just throwing in my two cents. I do like this, assuming we get the full adventures hinted at and a decent amount of branching it seems like a really solid addition to the sci fi section in the making. It does take awhile to find its feet though, it really starts off on the slow side, and I think the infodumps you worked so hard on are part of the problem there. For example do we really need to know how the suits work? Same as the ship drives. It seems like anything plot relevant on either page could've been paraphrased with a paragraph of exposition or dialogue built into the story itself. And even besides that there's just a lot of time spent on technical details that I never really felt were necessary. I don't think it's a problem just that the information exists, it's more of a pacing thing that it's all packed in there so densely. Pages of description of training when we don't have much information on the characters at this point and there hasn't been any plot intrigue other than that we seem to be in the least menacing secret organization that ever existed. Something important to remember with sci fi is that the story and the drama is still the most important thing, the technology stuff is just a vehicle for it, it can often serve a functional plot purpose but isn't supposed to take over. I'd have liked to know a little more about the main character. Honestly I'm not a huge fan of the trope of 'completely ordinary person who's done nothing to prove themselves gets identified as SPECIAL by much cooler people', I'd have liked to see a little more evidence that this was someone who really did stand out in some way that would lead to them being approached. (Unless there's more of an explanation planned for that further down the line.) If you were going to revise any of this, I think the simplest thing to fix the pacing issues and draw readers in more in the beginning would be to start introducing some of the characters that you go on missions with early. Maybe you meet them during your training, establish a dynamic there, set up a little mystery or two, and they could be used at the same time to help explain some details about the setting in a more natural way. I feel like I'm nitpicking a lot though because I did enjoy it overall and I see a ton of potential here. Just I feel like new reader dropoff might be immense in those first few pages, you really want to quickly raise some questions that they'd want to see answered and get some more character interaction going with what does seem to be a pretty interesting cast of NPCs.

Salvage Progress

4 months ago

Thanks for taking the time to read through!

Taking into account what you and Nightwatch said, I'm definitely going to cut out the technical details about the suits and engines. Maybe I'll find a place to slot them in down the line (because I had way too much fun trying to theorize my way through advanced space travel) but for now they'll sit in my planning document. More background for the main character isn't something I considered, so I'll definitely work on that. Introduce the characters earlier, also a good idea. This is probably going to be a little harder, because most of them wouldn't be lounging around the secret base, unless Delta's collapsed in a corner, cross-faded. Actually, I think I just gave myself an idea.

Salvage Progress

4 months ago
Commended by TharaApples on 2/24/2021 7:35:01 PM

Alright, so ordinarily, reading 10k words of exposition doesn't sound fun. However, you've made it clear that you're aware of the potential pitfalls, so I won't get into that, but I will say that I expect you to finish this now, as I need payoff for all the exposition I'm about to read.

Here are my thoughts.

Polish

Water Scarcity

I've solved this problem. What you do is, after reading the protocols, say:

  • "Alright, I'm done reading."

Then you will use gravity to extract some more water droplets (flavoured water? This is clearly drug juice made from people). Now you will be questioned on if you memorised the protocols. Say:

  • "Hypothetically, what if I didn't?"

You will be told to, obviously, read the protocols again. You might see where I am going with this.

Simply state:

  • "Alright, I'm done reading."

Boom, more water droplets. As the joker that you are, repeat your previous question.

  • "Hypothetically, what if I didn't?"

As far as I can tell, this loop never breaks.

This reminds me of an early choice in a physical CYOA book that would also loop. Obviously you don't need to change this, but I do find loops like this to be a bit odd, as while removing them can be difficult, modifying them to not loop in as strange a manner seems relatively easy.

It is like when using the 'look at tree' command in an IF game has you see a bird land on that tree, no matter how often you look at the tree. It is a small thing, unlikely to ruin the experience, but still not ideal.

This obviously depends on how much you care about such things, but having the protagonist not drink the droplets on repeated loops using on page scripting wouldn't be that difficult to implement, but this depends on how much you're willing to do that.

Personally, I'd avoid infinite loops by having the option to keep looping eventually terminate (for example, you can say you haven't memorised them 3 times, and not anymore after that, or maybe even not get the job if you keep repeating yourself, but such an ending might not be good to have).

However, if you keep the loop, I think having the actions that loop not be as strange as extracting infinite water from the bottle would be a good compromise. But ultimately this is a very small thing, but I think it ties in with overall polish.

Numbers

where people grow up in almost 0 gravity conditions

Notice how you used 0 instead of typing zero? Nothing wrong with that, but do be consistent with what way you decide to handle numbers (so that your writing style is consistent in that manner). I know some type the numbers numerically only if they are not at or below ten, for example.

Can't say I noticed you being inconsistent, but figured I'd mention this anyway. Much easier if you don't have to change something like this later, after all (at a certain stage, changing it would probably not be worthwhile, aha).

Ellipses

I am obligated to mention: you must be careful to not overuse this tool. Also:

4. Either do this...with no spaces at all, or do this . . . with a space before and after each period. Different publishers want different one or the other. Remember to also consider using an em-dash to create a different pause as well — like this. Both are pretty casual, but they are great for representing dialogue and natural-sounding prose.

I used to do ellipses in dialogue like you do:

Anyways, just fill out this paperwork, I'll process it, and training will start... Unless you have any more questions?

But this is wrong. I guess you can just have it be your style and stay consistent.

Here is the thread where I got Gower's response regarding ellipses, lots of other useful things there too: http://chooseyourstory.com/help/articles/article.aspx?ArticleId=4309

Actually, Gower has other useful articles as well.

Anyway, for dialogue punctuation, the gist of it is that the spoken part in quotations and the tacked on [person said] are part of the same sentence. This is because 'They said' is not a complete sentence, so you connect it to the dialogue.

"But, how?" You ask, even more confused.

Should be: "But, how?" you ask, even more confused.

Notice the 'you' is not capitalised, because you don't capitalise a letter mid sentence for no reason. The question mark is treated as a comma (which is why it might look a little weird).

Here is a (made up) example that should be clearer: "Give me the paper, please," you say.

Instead of (this wrong version): "Give me the paper, please." You say.

Anyway, going through 10k words to fix this might not be worthwhile--I think it is--but up to you. At least worth being aware of. Being consistent even if wrong could also be considered a better outcome than being half-and-half.

Vague vs. Precise

When describing things, you can be more or less precise. Something like, 'you enter the room, there are barrels here' vs 'you enter the room, there are fifteen barrels here'. Giving exacts can be more impactful, but this can impact the tone and stuff, so there is no right and wrong.

Looking here on the Spacewalk page:

You arrive at a gigantic pool, full of water of an unusual blue-ish color. It's hard to eyeball the exact size and depth of this pool, but it's at least deep enough to fit a small airplane, and at least long and wide enough to fit a large airplane.

Using small/large airplanes as your unit of measurement is...a bit funny to me? This is how a Mar's college graduate views the world. Anyway, while keeping the depth more vague, being more precise about the size from the surface might be a way to make this comparison not feel so humorous (assuming that isn't the intent).

Here are some plane facts:

The shortest is 1.68 meters (5 feet, 6 inches) of the Starr Bumble Bee II. The Boeing 777, a rather large comercial airplane, has a 60 meter (197 feet) wingspan. Similarly, the Boeing 367-80, or the Dash 80, has a wingspan of 40 meters (130 feet).

I'm also wondering if Mar's planes would need to be designed differently for the atmosphere, or if the large/small are more precise measurements than as what I'm interpreting them as. Perhaps our protagonist only knows planes from history books? Otherwise planes are a common thing on Mars?

Anyway, point is, being precise with the size of the pool shows the narrator's confidence, and when your narrator is omniscient that is good. I mention this since keeping clearer precision in mind as a tool is a good way to help control the tone when describing things. I think being less vague about the pool would be good, but that might just be me. I don't expect perfect precision either, since that paragraph seems to be more from the protagonist's point of view than some omniscient narrator, and Abe does mention the actual dimensions later.

I guess I just don't like seeing small/big plane used back-to-back, maybe.

Contracts

I don't know why a college-graduate is thinking that the contracts he has been presented could 'even be a trap', but maybe life on Mars is tough, or maybe I'm just too trusting of contracts. In fact, personally, I'd say the most suspect thing is the lack of detail, rather than deleting logs on a ship you're scavenging (and thinking the logs are secret rather than potentially confidential is another framing thing I disagree with). The second contract is more sus, but that's because I thought of the Black Hoods as a professional scavenging group.

Anyway, regarding contract one, I don't know enough about Saturn to question his questioning of the ships location, but I will say that I wonder how long ago the ship had come to get into its current state. Either they sent out the contract right away, or it is a derelict thing that has drifted for who knows how long. If it has drifted for too long, it does become more suspect to only go retrieve parts now.

But the reason I have this under polish is that I wanted to say that the choice ordering seems off. Why not have contract one be the first option, and contract two the second? (Not counting the side options). They aren't even alphabetical like this. This is a tiny thing, but choice order is something I've been thinking a bit about, so figured I'd mention it.

Errors?

The Next Day

I might just be making a mistake, but I think that: 'You [snip] fold the protocols up, and hide them in your sock' is supposed to show up only if I have a copy of the protocols. I think this shows up even if I just said I memorised them.

Training

End of Paragraph 2: Now the fun part,,.
Should be '...' instead of ',,.'.

The look of this just really irks me, but I'm not here to proofread, so don't expect more of this type of error catching! I will add that the writing does look solid, apart from the issues with it I have already mentioned.

Extra Thoughts

Guns and Suspension of Disbelief

I remember seeing a character describe a pistol as heavy in a book once, also hot (this may have been from sweaty hands). I'm not an American, so my access to guns is limited and I've never used one, so I can't confirm nor deny this.

I just think that, if true, it is an interesting descriptor, and makes me wonder if a total gun newbie would have his hands get tired after firing for 15 minutes. Maybe cramp a bit? I've never held a gun, but I did use a mouse to try and draw, and boy do I not hold the mouse well when doing it, and start cramping shockingly quick.

Mind you, I'm sure Abe wouldn't let you hold a gun badly, but that's not my main point. Something like weight, recoil, etc are elements of guns I haven't truly experienced, but such feel factors are useful things to consider when describing stuff.

Would firing the rifle have more recoil than the pistol? Would it be worth mentioning? Small things like that, especially when in a scenario that isn't uncommon (i.e. being to a fire range for the first time), are worth considering as this'll help with suspension of disbelief, as if readers who do have experience with this find it relatable, they may be more inclined to accept the more fantastical elements that come later. I doubt many people have been to space, or experienced reduced gravity, for example.

Also, if you describe something in a way that is wrong when you are the omniscient narrator, that can really kill the immersion for people who are more familiar with it than you are. It is why suspension of disbelief can be trickier in sci-fi than fantasy. It is more real, which means it is judged more harshly (basically).

But don't worry about this too much. It is just worth keeping in mind, since you might find that researching some element might help you make a scene a lot more impactful, but it really depends. Just don't be afraid of research I guess. For example, researching how people actually scavenge derelict stuff could help inform your ideas on how to do it in space.

Very Well-trained

Why call in expensive and very well-trained contractors if the issue could be a simple communication outage.

There should be a question mark at the end, btw. Anyway, I wanted to mention this nitpick: our Protagonist is not 'very well-trained', he's been trained in a day! Or does that constitute 'very well-trained' on Mars? Regardless, he is either special, or everyone gets a day of training.

Anyway, I mention this nitpick because it stood out slightly more to me. The thing is, this is from his perspective, so him thinking of himself as 'very well-trained' can actually be an interesting piece of character.

Zeus

Personally, I wonder if copyright has changed, or if a corporation literally calls themselves a copyright free thing, and I wonder if that would cause issues. Actually, never mind, I googled it and found Zeus Inc, so that answers my stupid question. It's not like you sell your name, anyway.

Conclusion

I've read up to the contract selection, which seems to be the main exposition build up (?) and I can say that it is well handled. Stuff happens, it isn't just a long dry wall of worldbuilding. Characters do stuff. It's good. The writing also seems to be well broken up as well, so reading it, despite the longer pages, is enjoyable. Don't get me wrong, longer pages can be great, it is only when they're badly written that they become extra annoying.

I will add that I like the options at the beginning, as I was initially worried that there would be a much longer purely linear section (leading up to the contract choice), but the way this is handled is good. Kept me engaged and felt like a good opening.

I'll (hopefully) look past the contract choice too when I find some more time.

Anyway, let me know if anything here didn't make sense, and I'll see if I can explain it better (or fix it if I messed up writing it in the first place).

Good work with this, openings that require a decent amount of exposition can be difficult to pull off well. I'll leave you with my final encouragement to keep writing! (But I get the feeling you don't need that.)

Salvage Progress

4 months ago

Thanks for the thorough feedback! You caught a number of errors, and I'll probably have to learn some scripting to make the "fold up and hide paper" line only appear if you actually got a copy of the protocols. The loop with the water is pretty funny, I'm probably just going to move that line to the next page instead of one where you can loop it.

Good catch on the pool thing, and the dialogue. I'll probably go through and revise all the dialogue when I have nothing better to do, and make sure all my single digit numbers are spelled out.

About the "well-trained" thing, mizal also mentioned that the character doesn't have anything special about them, so I want to point out that the character worked as an intern in a very successful engineering firm and invented something that made them more or less famous. They also only needed training for the things that they didn't know, because they are definitely a very good engineer.

On the topic of guns, I've shot a dozen or so different guns, and they're definitely not heavy, or hot (unless you fire 200 rounds and then decide to wrap your hand around the barrel). The character would also have experience with heavy power tools, which means that they wouldn't struggle at all. Otherwise, everything that I don't have personal experience with/knowledge of is something I've done some research on, like the engine and the spacesuits, to try and make it as realistic as humanly possible.

Salvage Progress

4 months ago
Ah, good to hear!

Given that the protagonist is more or less famous, I can't imagine others wouldn't have offered them some jobs, which does help put into perspective just how good the Black Hoods pay must be.

My last guess regarding guns is that toy guns are considerably lighter? I've certainly held those!

Also, keep in mind that spelling out digits is a style thing (from what I recall), so the main thing is just being consistent.


Finally, regarding scripting, it is only really as complicated as you make it, but starting out is generally the hardest part since you wouldn't know anything. Plenty of people are happy to help in the appropriate forum tho.

I know some people dislike scripting, so if that's the case, my advice is that, if you find more situations (as you write) where some small text variations would be useful, then consider figuring out how to do it. Otherwise don't worry about it.



However, the small text variation would be pretty simple, so I will outline how I would go about doing it! Mind you, my track record for good scripting explanations isn't the best, so hopefully this'll make sense...


First, create a variable under variables. I'll call it PAPERS.

Then, on the link that takes you to the Protocol Item, I would click the plus icon and have it increase PAPERS by 1.

Now, on the Next Day page, just modify the text a little with on-page scripting.


You realize that you weren't told to bring anything, so you just dress up in work clothes, %%PAPERS%=%0%and go.%%%%PAPERS%=%1%fold the protocols up, and hide them in your sock.%%


NOTE - If you are using the RTE, you will want to put the %%PAPERS%% stuff in the source box.

EXTRA NOTE - The on-page scripting is basically [if this variable has this value, show this text]. Sorta ignore the %'s since they look messy. %%PAPERS%=%1%You have the papers.%%

These can be stacked (as in the example) where you put them right next to each other, if they are checking the same variable, so you don't get blank space when the condition is not met.


Anyway, my previous point of figure this out later still stands. The actual story being finished will matter a lot more than if one line shows up in both paths, lol.

Getting distracted with scripting is also risky, as you might realise its unimaginable power and start making the branching much more convoluted.