22 Jan 2015

Beaver Flight Commentary - Chapter 12

Welcome to the commentary.  As always, please read the chapter first.

Last week, I had a cryptic note at the end of the short chapter.  Chapter 12 was the last one written.  I mentioned throughout the commentary that the more I wrote, the more I realized that a novel was the completely wrong format for Beaver Flight.  Once I passed the 50 000th word, I ran out of steam.  Beaver Flight was a far more visual story in my head than what appeared in text, and would've worked better as a serial.  Chapter 11 came about sooner than I wanted, but getting to it would result in a slower pace than I would've liked.

That said, I did have a few events occur.  With the Beavers down to half strength - Tori missing and Darcy's mecha Swiss-cheesed - the other flights took up the slack.  India's Tiger Flight finally gets shown, albeit briefly.  Very underused, Tiger Flight.  Lt. Barb Finnegan makes another appearance.  Finnegan turned out to be the diametric opposite of Tori without me planning.  Barb needs structure in her life; Tori creates chaos.

Dr. Kayla Asselin provides Darkside One with the first real knowledge of the invaders.  Note that the aliens didn't understand her, or, at least, communicate with her.  Tori managed to badger one into talking.  Again, I never planned the difference, but it works out here.  Kayla went missing before Yulya's team did, so in between when they had her and when they returned her, the aliens did learn English.  They probably learned Russian.  How long was Kayla in suspended animation?

I'll go through the ideas I had for the rest of the story tomorrow.  The lessons I learned, though, are far more useful than I expected.  The first was to trust my instinct about what sort of format a story needs.  Beaver Flight should have been a serial, possibly even a webcomic*.  NaNoWriMo 2014's project, Unruly, went through a few permutations, from webcomic to series of short stories. before I started writing it as a serial.  The result, which will appear here soon enough, worked out far better than expected and let me focus on individual elements without worrying about a novel-length story that could lose some of the ideas I had.  The second lesson was that I should have done more work with the core cast before starting.  While By the Numbers taught me that writing a pre-story bit helped discover the characters, not doing so meant that I really didn't know the Beavers.  Renée and Dom didn't shine as much as I wanted.

Thank you for reading the shortened Beaver Flight.  Tomorrow, what I post the story arcs I had in mind, and a week later, the first chapter of Unruly should appear.  Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, fixing Battleship.  Saturday, over at MuseHack, the January remake news round up .  Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

* Too bad I can't draw.

1 comment:

  1. Again, you mention a webcomic, and visuals - I think this is your strength. And your weakness. You seem to get very clear pictures in your mind, I think you've even said you can hear characters... and because these scenes are so clear to you, sometimes you forget to describe parts of them to the readers. If you do end up pairing up with an artist and going a webcomic route, I think you might be rather surprised by what pieces get filled into the background that you didn't anticipate. Even here you say Kayla was in "suspended animation" - I thought she'd aged normally, was just in a coma.

    I know you're not keen on character sketches, but I wonder what would happen if you tried sketching out a setting? What might you be taking for granted in that room? Something that might be usable as a weapon? As a listening device? I never even got a good sense of the base itself - there was a caf, and gym, and lounge, but how far apart? In Part 12, Darcy talks about "leaving the command section and entering the labs area", and I'm not sure if that's the first indication that they're adjacent. Are there any international boundaries? Do the support staff sleep in the same area as the pilots? If the focus is on the external battle, these things don't matter quite as much, but if we shift the focus, as seemed to be the desire, they do - and I think you did have a personal sense of this, what with Hue's hidden alcove. But it never came up. And it could have. (The other thing with a serial is I feel like you need to keep reiterating some of these minor points which might be otherwise forgotten, but I could be wrong in that.)

    Back to the story. It makes sense that Darcy would help out in command, giving us a nice window into their operations (which, again, might have been better sooner rather than later). There's a certain nice symmetry of Kayla being brought in by the very team who lost a member. It doesn't sound like she'll be able to provide much intel, but it's reassuring to the others that she wasn't mistreated. Part of me wonders if Yulya will be furious that Darcy got to speak with her first (and if that's why she was pulled out of command).

    I also don't think Dom and Renee's characters suffered as much as you think. Renee actually had a bit of an arc going, as she began freaked out by the experience, and almost as insufferable as Tori, but was starting to learn to do things for herself (like painting) and accept her role in the group. Seeing more of the transition might have been nice - in particular, I think it needed some external nudge we didn't see - but it was there. She was showing concern for Tori before the abduction. Dom pulled the shorter straw, but as more of an introvert, her best scene was probably the one with herself and the mail; when she's around others, she tends to default to 'older sister'. In a way, she's like Darcy, if you strip away the command and the occasional romantic notions of the moon... I could see her consoling Darcy after the loss of their teammate.

    Basically, in the end, you did have a novel here. But that story wasn't the one you wanted to tell. IMHO.