For the sake of a backstory, the story was lost 2


John McClane + Space Travel = Die Hard VI - Dying in the Final Frontier?

John McClane + Space Travel = Die Hard VI – Dying in the Final Frontier?

So I’m writing this scene in my novel and I’m thinking ‘This has John McClane throwing cars because he is out of bullets’ written all over it. Then I thought ‘Hell Yeah!’

I’m not sure why the Die Hard franchise had such a name. Was it because John McClane just refused to bloody die? Or because he kept making a meal of killing others, thus making the dying ‘hard’?

Regardless The concept of die hard was awesome and held dear to the heart of many in my generation.

I do think that there are many elements of Die Hard that only work on the big screen, when the explosions and the noise numbs your brain so the suspension of disbelief is rammed into your head. In a book you can’t really do the same. Suspensions of disbelief has to be earned.

Still, the idea of a ‘set piece’ in a novel being bigger and badder and more intense and more crazy than anything else seen before, is a good goal. You don’t want a novel overflowing with Die Hard moments, but there is value in reliving SOME of that John McClane magic.

Incidentally, Die Hard was actually based on a novel called Nothing Lasts Forever. The same kind of things happen but the characters are different and its not actually a heist movie, which would be kind of weird.

So this is week 4 of editing and I was haunted by two questions: 1) Could I match my age in pages edited, and 2) Where exactly was the thin line between too much and too little backstory?.

Let’s start with the metrics:

Page Count For The Week: 29.

Still stuck in the twenties, which unfortunately means I didn’t hit my age worth of pages. (Unfortunate because it means I’m getting old). Another week of opportunities lost. Started with a hiss and a roar, then died away due to travelling for work and my wedding anniversary. You could argue that that takes precedence over the novel however, so I won’t get too upset about it. Recovered to a respectable page count but it could have been so much more.

Never mind.

Total Editing Page Count: 101.

Feels good to be into the triple digits. My plan has July 31st as the milestone for completing this edit. I really want to make this milestone as its a special day for me, but it’s starting to look a little out of reach. With the total page count up to 250 now I have 149 pages to complete in 4.5 weeks. This is a touch over 33 pages per week or just under five a day.

I haven’t been able to accomplish this so far, and quite frankly it’s not looking likely it will. Obviously I will keep striving for it. Goals are there to drive you, not be convenient. 🙂

Updated Total Page Count: 250

And 120,899 words. I should probably mention that the increase of five pages from last week isn’t necessarily five full pages. I am formatting the manuscript as I go (such as new pages for the start of a chapter, etc), so it isn’t as bad as it looks 🙂

This weeks has seen two scenes receive large rewrites and additions. The rest received just minor tweaks, as well as fixing the issues I had raised in my first pass edit through the story.

So here is this week’s progress chart for “EDITING – PHASE 2:”

 

101/ 250 (40.4%)

 

Repaired Faux-Pas of the Week:

The conclusion of the car chase scene, fitting it into the Frontier vision. Some adjustment of ship choices. No real big ‘whoopsies’.

Edititation of the Week

I’m doing something a bit different this week. I’m not going to show you the evolution of an excerpt. Instead I will show you three versions of the excerpt and YOU can tell me which one you think is the final version, or at least which is the best version and why.

Why am I asking you this?

It comes down to the question number 2) from right up at the top. What is the correct level of backstory? I’ll go into backstory a bit more in another progress report but when I was working on this scene I had to stop and ask myself “Am I sharing too much here?” When it comes to backstory there is really only one question you need to ask yourself:

“Does the reader absolutely, positively, one hundred percent need to know this detail right here, right now?”

If the answer is yes, leave it in. If the answer is no, cut it out.

The ‘why’ of the backstory being needed is what makes an author pull their hair out and spend a lot of time going around in circles. Is it needed for context? Is it appropriate for the character to think about that backstory at that point? Is it just a suitable point to add a slither of backstory, a slice of verisimilutude? Whatever the reason you have to make sure it is bullet proof.

So I tinkered with the backstory in the examples below as well as doing a general tidy up.

Ready? Here we go:

Version 1

“I know Tranquille reasonably well,” Gunn said. “I’ve been here a few times with the _____.”

“That right?” Robert knew it well too. He’d been paraded around it enough times, saw the devastation up close and personal.

“The _____ helped out during the unrest a few years back. Now the locals climb over each other to help the _____.”

“Unrest huh?” It had gone by much grander names at the time. The Battle of Villist, the Bombardment of Villist and the Villist Treachery
had all been bandied about the different media outlets. Now it was just an ‘Unrest’. Like calling Earth’s World War III a simple skirmish.

Version 2

“I know Tranquille reasonably well,” Gunn said. “I’ve been here a few times with the _____.”

“That right?” Robert knew it well too. He’d been paraded around it enough times, saw the devastation up close and personal.

“The _____ helped out during the unrest a few years back. Now the locals climb over each other to help the _____.”

“Unrest huh?” The media reports of the time had given it far grander titles.

The Battle of Villist.

The Bombardment of Villist.

The Villist Treachery.

Unrest? The bloodiest chapter of his life glossed over by history, watered down to the wail of a hungry baby.

Version 3

“I know Tranquille reasonably well,” Gunn said. “I’ve been here a few times with the ______. They helped out during the unrest a few years back. Now the locals climb over each other to help the _____.”

“Unrest huh?” It had gone by much grander names at the time. The Battle of Villist, the Bombardment of Villist and the Villist Treachery had all been bandied about the different media outlets. Now it was just an ‘Unrest’. Like calling Earth’s World War III a simple skirmish.

——

What do you think? For extra credit: Leave a comment and see if you can put the paragraphs in order of evolution.

Writer’s Forum

Not much going on. A few questions here and there. I asked Michael Brookes what the ECM effect would look like in the game.

His response?

“Awesome.”

Well played MB, well played.

The biggest discussion was around units of measurement. Most of you will be (intimately) familiar with the ol’ kilometre. Naturally all the authors want their stories to use the correct terminology but we wondered what else would be used for distance in-game, as a kilometre doesn’t get you very far in space. There are a few obvious contenders:

    Astronomical Unit

This one is a great contender. Its a reasonable distance (149,597,870,700 metres if you want to be precise, the average distance between the Sun and Earth) and a solar system will be comprised of tens to hundreds of these units. The AU would be great for talking distances that you want to travel (from here to there) but it’s not so useful for combat or situations were you are close to ‘areas of interest’.

    Mega-meter

Or a ‘Meg’. This is one thousand kilometres. This number could be more useful for combat sequences or mining or planetary missions, etc, but is really limited to action around a way-point. It isn’t terribly useful as a guide for distance across a whole solar system.

    Light-Second

Defined as the distance that light travels in free space in one second, it is equal to exactly 299,792,458 metres. This is a good middle ground between the mega-metre and the astronomical unit. I think it is my favourite for a few reasons. Firstly, an astronomical unit, isn’t actually a SI unit. (although it is mentioned in SI as it has a high level of importance). Secondly, as its name suggests, its part of the Astronomical system of units. It’s a number used by those sitting behind telescopes and looking up at the skies. We’re not doing that. We are not looking up at the sky. We ARE the sky. Well . . . we are in the sky anyway. So we need a unit of measurement relevant to being up in space, and what is more appropriate than a unit of measurement defined as the distance travelled by light in space?

Plus it isn’t really used in too many other places so it is unique and has a sort of rugged feel to it. Like Parsec (next in the list) the mere word sets my imagination off in wild directions.

    Parsec

This equates to 3.26 lightyears and is really too big a unit to be useful to the game. I wanted to mention it though because it is a cool unit. Check out its description:

“A parsec is the distance from the Sun to an astronomical object which has a parallax angle of one arcsecond (1⁄3,600 of a degree)”

Crazy complicated, but crazy cool as well. And, well, to be honest, ever since Han Solo told us all he’d done the Kessel Run in less that twelve parsecs, I’ve been in love with the word.

And for the record, I am firmly in the camp that believes that Han Solo was not being a boasting blaggard with that comment. In the context of the expanded universe what he says does make sense and really does show how fast his ship is. So there.

—–

Ok team, thanks for coming back for another weeks update. Hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know your thoughts about the Edittation. I’m really interested to see what people come up with.

And while you are in the business of pressing buttons and typing in stuff, why not sign up to the blog by typing in your email into the text box in the top right hand corner? Go on. You can do it. I believe in you.

Catch you next time,

John


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2 thoughts on “For the sake of a backstory, the story was lost

  • John Harper

    Thanks Andrew. As I alluded to a bit I indecisive about how much I reveal at this point of the story about the protagonist’s background. I have a few slithers hinting at this event in his life as it is a major one. I think I have found a nice balance with one of these options. (No I won’t reveal yet in case someone else wants to play)

  • John Harper

    Thanks Rory, I appreciate the comments and your analysis. Perhaps I will reveal the answer on the next progress update. Been mentally gearing up for the next podcast too 🙂