Writing: Fixing Clue

This game has a huge plot hole that has always bothered me.  IF I am the murderer, why would I be helping solve the murder?  Theoretically, my “character” knows they committed murder – but I, the player, do not (unless the rare time you get your own card at the beginning and know you’re innocent)

Clue, the board game, was originally conceived in 1949 – so we’re talking a game that’s 69 years old.  The hay-day of board games when manufactures were figuring out how to manufacture those tiny pieces reliably and ship them…. Monopoly was 1935, Scrabble 1948, and Candyland was published in 1949 as well.

In case you’ve never played it, the premise of the game is that six people were invited to a house and the host ended up being murdered by one of 6 possible weapons. The six guests are then trying to solve the murder.  But one of these guests WAS the murderer – they know right??

The players don’t.  So if you’re playing “Miss Scarlet” (the red piece) and she’s the murderer- YOU don’t know and you’re trying to solve the murder YOU committed!!

So, I was watching someone play Clue in Minecraft on YouTube and thought about it – what if.  What IF.  Instead of these rich hoity toity people trying to solve it themselves – what if they hired a bunch of investigators! See, the murderer wouldn’t be able to say “well, not ME” because that would have been obvious.  AND they (of course) couldn’t TELL the investigator they hired.  There, plot hole fixed!

Next time (if ever) I play Clue, I am going to use this alternate storyline – at least in my own head even if the other players won’t join in.

Writing: NaNoWriMo

Le sigh.  I want to do NaNoWriMo but with everything going on in my life…. hell 500 words a day has been challenging much less 1,667.

I am pregnant which is one of the most exhausting experiences of my life.  The only other time(s) in my life I slept this much was when I was SICK – bronchitis, pneumonia, and influenza.  It’s almost scary how exhausted I am so much of the time.  How much a nap every day means I get to stay up until the uber late hour of 9pm….  and even that “staying up” is staying awake watching YouTube or anime – NOT doing something actually mentally stimulating.

My husband and I are embarking on tearing out our kitchen (ok, paying someone else to do it) and master bathroom.  It’s been a thing already and we haven’t even touched anything yet – so far it’s just been the shopping around/comparisons and dealing with an incredibly poor communicator at our bank… (I am going to have quite the bit of feedback once we finish this stupid loan process!)

Work for both myself and my husband has been incredibly busy.  I know he’s sometimes frustrated how exhausted I am and the slack I’m putting out is so much falling on him – but end-of-year is always busy for me and this year is no different.  I easily have 5 significant projects (not massive, but quite diverse) to be working on.  And keeping all these projects in the air when I am exhausted has been…. I occassionally feel like I’m rubbing shoulders with Atlas. So things like “dinner” and “dishes” and “laundry” and “the mail” have been falling more on him than I think they should.  I apologize to him, and he is being a saint about not complaining but I know I’m NOT carrying my weight right now.  And his work is incredibly busy as well and I’m having to interrupt to ask bank-related questions.

So my NaNoWriMo goal (unofficial) will be to write 15,000 words this month.  I hate that this is challenging – but right now…. I am going to give myself grace that there is a lot going on and if I can’t do this dishes I might have to give up 1,000 words in a novel too.

Writing: Novel in Progress Part 3

Chapter 2

Talia looked around the room where she waited while Goodla checked the other rooms for dangers and traps.  She wandered, looking at the furnishings – so unlike anything she was used to.  The multi-legged ogalla rarely bothered with furniture anything like this.  As Goodla checked each room he checked in with her, Safe.  Clear. Weird but not dangerous.

Of course it’s weird. It’s alien.

Once Goodla cleared the rooms and rejoined her she lifted a hand.  He held it against his head and she closed her eyes, an old concentration trick as he connected to the ogalla commander on the ship.  There was the instantaneous bonding between the two ogalla and then Talia was allowed in, but she could not reach the depth they did.  Emotions seeped in, but to be clear she had to use the language, We are in a safe room.  We have been welcomed.

Could you establish any contact with another like you? the question wasn’t entirely words, there was depth of hope and fear and disgust that the commander could never quite remove when he spoke to her.  Talia sent a negative and for a moment the depth between Goodla and the commander was out of her reach.

Disgust. You are only acceptable for this mission to find a suitable alternative.

Talia felt water against her eyelashes, an instinctive reaction she hated.  Goodla was so intertwined with the commander that Talia sensed their sparks of disagreement – even if she couldn’t follow the “conversation” that had in the instant.

I shall send along to the princess. the commander cut Goodla off sharply, sending twinges of pain across the ogalla’s sensative nerve cluster.  Talia was shielded from that abrupt departure.

Don’t let him discourage you. The king and the princess ordered this mission for a peace treaty.

But if I can’t prove others are capabable of intelligence…

Goodla smacked his minor arms down to become a six-footed ogalla and made a noise through the cavaties along his spine.  It was a rude gesture and noise, but made Talia smile.  Yes, Goodla was right.  There was a change since the science teams had learned that the noises Talia made watching human vids correlated to her thoughts.  It took a long time to figure out the language in a way that was natural, and the ogalla were still trying to figure out ways to communicate without Talia’s talent for hearing them.

You will be fine.

Talia nodded with false confidence. She knew she was leaking her doubts all over the cabin, but she still did not have the individualism that an orgalla child could manage.  Goodla settled on the floor in the main room on several cushions and soon his thoughts faded into dream mutters.

In the room clearly designated for her own sleep, Talia looked around curiously.  She had been able to see some things like this in the vids the orgalla had on humans, but this was her first time exploring them herself.  Slowly she explored the drawers, pulling them out and watching them slide back and click closed.  It took her a few tries to figure out how to use the waste disposal, and it wasn’t worse than what the orgalla had figured out based on the few vids they found where it was referenced.

The desk was plain and simple.  Talia tapped its top like she watched humans in vids and it sprang to life.  Even knowing that was supposed to happen, she jumped back from it.  So many human vids were false, she had wondered which of these things might be real and which were the falsehoods.  The orgalla were fascinated and horrified by the human ability to tell lies.  Apparently, when she was very, very small Talia had tried it, but her thought process always gave her away.  She didn’t remember it, but her mother loved to tell the story to new acquaintences.

The rotating image was speaking aloud, “Welcome to the galaxy starship Sunburst’s entertainment and studies library.  As an ambassadorial guest you will have limited information on the layout or operations of the ship at this time.  We certainly hope as our friendship grows, we will be permitted to grant you greater access.  Please input or speak for preferences.  Welcome to the galaxy starship….”

When it had repeated twice, Talia tapped the top of the desk twice and it vanished.  She looked around with a surprising guilt at the curiosity she felt to learn more about human culture.  The orgalla had given her access the thousands of educational, ambassadorial, and even military classified documents, vids, and programs to help her learn more about her own species.  As she had learned more about the audible language, the orgalla had been fascinated.  As a child she had sometimes been seated in front of vids and as she watched and listened, the orgalla rode intrusively on her mind.  The benefit was that when she grew petulant and wanted something fun her mother knew instantly and could demand they allow her one of the recreational vids instead of military.

Sitting down in front of the desk, Talia tentatively tapped it’s surface again.  It sprang up and she asked her first question for humanity, “Who are my parents?”

Writing: Agency

I was trolling through YouTube and stumbled across this video about Phantom Menance and because I love burning buildings, I watched it:

Here’s the thing, it does a GREAT job of breaking down the plot issue that plagues this disaster of a movie.  My mind (ever narcissistic) went “whew, glad don’t do that!”

And then I realized I did.

I have a novel I finished and I like the world and the characters- but I hated my plot.  Oh, it’s not the shit-show Lucas put out.  But I also never put it out.

But my main character sucks at agency.  She does have her own dreams and ambitions, and she is constantly having to balance her personal desires with the needs of her role as a Duchess and a political creature.  But I rarely allow her to drive the plot- the plot kind of manipulates her.

And rewriting the plot is going to be hard.  It might require some pretty significant tweaks to the character, her family, and even the world itself. I can’t just have her suddenly say, “I want to be the ambassador!” when that hasn’t been her dream.  I’m going to have to do some test scenes to figure out who she needs to be to drive her own choices instead of being driven by them.

Even in the 2 days since I watched, chewing on this thought, I’ve got some ideas I’m going to try out.

This is going to be a huge rewrite.  I was planning on doing it anyway because I just knew something was wrong, but since I didn’t know what was bothering me – I’ve just had it sitting in the back of my head festering with all the other half-finished or finished novels I knew had glaring issues.  Granted, most of the plot issues I have are “shit, I just tried to redeem my villain and now I don’t have a villain. Well… shit.”

Now I have at least something I feel like I can fix and just playing with it in my own my mind I can’t help but go, “Yeah, I think this IS the plot wound I’ve been sniffing in this particular book. YAY.”

Because honestly, I do think this is one of the better stories I wrote world-wise, character-wise, and there are definitely big elements of the plot I like – but Faline really needs to drive her own story instead of just reacting to people telling her what she needs to do.  I mean, hell – she has the option of becoming Queen and she just huffs and puffs about how that wouldn’t let her go into the underbelly of the capital and heal poor people. She’s a damn duchess. Yeah, even I think she’s whining.  I can fix that!

Writing: Novel In Progress Part 2

Click here for Part 1

So I’m not 100% happy on the conversations or introductions of characters.  But I barely know them yet.  All I know right now… well before I wrote this all I knew was it was in space and there were ambassadors.  I still don’t actually know where the plot is going to go… or who the “villain” will be.  We’ll find out!

Part 2:

Now they assembled in the docking bay to await the first orgalla ambassador in history.  Communication itself had proved nigh-impossible with the species; the war had never been officially ended.  The orgalla had withdrawn when the combined human, kikital, and devallo forces which created a barrier of fighting to a stand-still.  The orgalla had simply stopped attacking and after much argument the joint forces had agreed not to pursue the powerful race.

Twenty years passed and then the silence was broken with the first radio signal from orgalla space in history.  They requested – in Standard no less – a meeting with their ambassador to work out a peace treaty.  It took two years to establish a secure place and the appropriate team who would attend.  The orgalla communication had assured them that there were no special considerations required for their ambassador, who would arrive with only one guard.

The shuttle landed and Captain Chou straightened, surprised at how nervous he was to meet the strange creature.  He had only ever seen dead orgalla or vids of them during combat.  He had only just been drafted when the fighting ceased. Now was going to be his first in-person encounter with a species that had threatened not just humanity but three species.

The shuttle did not dock in the bay but abutted the side of the bay and clung with leg-like appendages to the end.  A ramp unfurled like a monkey’s tail into the space and opened into the shuttle bay.  There was a shift as the darkness within was lit with light and then the orgalla stepped down.

Orgalla were thin, reminding most humans of insects like a preying mantis but were a single body part – not having separate heads, thorax and abdomen.  They had a variety of long appendages, two on their top-most piece being eye stalks with a third near their tail-region being another eye stalk, but the third usually remained closed unless they were standing still.  Generally they had between four and six “leg” and to or four “arms” which they could adjust as needed.  Their skin was actually very soft and supple the vids claimed, and alive they looked irridescent.  Many kids thought that was a production value, because in death they faded to a dull grey.  Their “uniform” consisted of a similar material which was vaccum-sealed.

Behind the orgalla a young woman stepped down from the orgalla ship.  The entire delegation burst into a buzz of talking except the three ambassadors and Captain Chou.  The woman was probably in her mid-twenties, brown hair braided back from her face in a very simple military-style braid. Her clothing was a similar to the orgalla’s military uniform as well, clearly vaccum sealed around her throat.  A small blinking light along the collar was the mechanism that could allow the material to snap like a venus fly trap around the head and face.  The orgalla in front of her wore its “face” covered.

The three ambassadors slowly moved forward with Captain Chou, watching the young woman cross with confidence towards them.  She held out her hand and spoke in standard, “My name is Talia Lost.  I am here to represent those you call orgalla.”

Captain Chou took her hand and found her grip to be just slightly tight for polite company, he slowly spoke, “I am Captain Chou.  On behalf of the Earth-human alliance, welcome to the Sunburst.”

“Is this a proper noun or the scientific term? Should I have concern of electromagnetic pulses?” the young woman asked.  He blinked in surprise.

“No, the ship is just named Sunburst.”

“But it is not alive.”

“No.”

Her face showed no expression, but after a bare moment she nodded and said, “Like the Santa Maria or HMS Beagle.”

“Yes,” again the captain was surprised.  She looked him in the eye and said, “An honor to meet you Captain Chou of Earth alliance.”

Ambassador Poul had pushed himself forward despite his rather junior stance so he was introduced immediately after Ambassador Irvine.  The kikital were next and lastly the two devallo ambassadors.  To each the young woman listened intently and then had a minute pause as though translating this information.  She then would nod and tell them it was an honor before going to greet the next.

The captain led the young woman to an ambassadorial cabin they had situated near the shuttle bay, a six-room suite larger than the captain’s own quarters.  The orgalla held up two appendages and moved into the rooms first while the young woman waited.  She didn’t seem impatient while the guard pulled out a small mechanical object and went over the rooms.  The guard disappeared into a second room and then Talia stepped into the main room.

“Thank you very much captain.”

The captain led the ambassadors to the meeting room and they all sat down.  Ambassador Irvine spoke first and said, “Well, I see why we were told their ambassador didn’t need any special considerations.  How the hell did she…”

“Are we sure she is human?” one of the devallo asked sharply.

Captain Chou blinked and asked, “Do you think she’s a shapeshifter or something?”

“Perhaps.” Ambassador Risyk was almost certainly the one doing the speaking although devallo could be difficult for humans to tell apart.  “Or a clone injected with inhuman dna.  We all know orgalla do not communicate like us.  Their ships have few radio-based devices and it has long been assumed there is some kind of telepathy or something. A trait which is not known in humanity.”

“At least not that has ever been proven,” Ambassador Irvine said calmly.

The young man Poul scoffed and said, “And just what are you implying.  This girl is some kind of gypsy?”

“Earth still uses such offensive terms?” Irvine replied with apparently curiousity, but there was an undertone which silenced the earth-man.  Captain Chou ground his teeth silently, embarrassed that Earth had sent this stupid boy.  Irvine continued as if the comment was not worth more, “No, what I mean is that there have been centuries of odd skills within humanity- the ability to remember detailed events or count all the objects dropped in nanoseconds.  Perhaps this girl has a similar odd genetic trait which the orgalla were able to exploit.”

“So you think she was an experiment?” Ambassador Yewoul  asked.

“I don’t know,” Ambassador Irvine said.  “But I think we shouldn’t assume anything yet.”

Writing: Dream last night

I have vivid dreams sometimes. Last night was especially interesting and honestly, I kind of want to write it out because it WAS so interesting.

So the dream is in third person, like I’m watching a tv show or reading a book with a good imagination (ahem).  The setting is a weird mix of classical Indian and Japanese.  And there are things that call out that it is a weird mix.  Most of the people in the room think nothing of it, but there are 2 men dressed as Middle Easterns but clearly fake beards (I mean, pretty good – but in modern terms “clearly fake”) who make comments about stuff being unusual.

The room is set for a party.  And there are several young women who are considered to be psychic who will be “summoning the dead to speak” tonight.  Of course my foreign men scoff at this witchcraft nonsense, but the two young women most involved are quite serious.  One is considered one of the greatest beauties in the land as well as an extremely powerful psychic.  The other is also beautiful, but not AS beautiful and much more demur about her power.  They had names in the dream and they are already fading.  So we’re going to call them Haughty and Demur.

So Haughty is bragging that she is going to bring back some powerful general or king or demi-god  (the language is such that it kind of means all three?).  Demur doesn’t think it’s a good idea, but doesn’t argue enough and sets up for the ritual lighting the candles the six psychics are going to use as shields or something.

The two foreigners are wandering around trying to find the trick at this point and pointedly being told by onlookers not to interrupt or disturb the ceremony.  It begins and it’s as weird and lovely as anything on TV.  A doorway hovers in the center of their circle – golden gilt edges that move and twist and roll.  Like snakes or vines on moment and then rolling waves of water the next – it was a cool effect my brain made.

AND – this is where the dream got weird and special.  One of the walls in the room turned clear – and on the other side of the glass – ALIENS.  The two foreigners swear, the onlookers all start talking.  Haughty yells at her acolytes to concentrate but several FREAK OUT.

And then the mystical door opened and a demon came through.  Not as cool as some of the other stuff my brain made up – this was like a minotaur kind of thing with lots of green slobber.  All hell breaks loose.  The two foreigners pull six-shooters and open fire.  Haughty is grabbed by the head and something sucked out of her (soul? I dunno).

Demur is the one who saves her, stepping in and using weird language to drive it back.  As it steps back through the door though – it becomes a GORGEOUS man and winks at her.  It/he (Demon) blows her a kiss of yellow flame and it emblazens on her shoulder (uncovered – I wish I could draw so I could recreate the mixture Indian sarong and Japanese kimono outfits)

So Demur collapses and her father (no idea her dad was in the room!) comes over yelling and hollering – turns out HE’S kind big and powerful…. anywho.  Everyone is freaking out. Demur gets put on a couch alone in a room and the two foreign dudes come in – one of them has his beard kind of sagging on one side right now.  Demur confronts them about not being “arabs from the west” and they finally admit they’re not.  She offers to help get them out of the palace through some secret tunnels she knows of.

Turns out these are the passages the ALIENS use to “tend” their “zoo” (these people).  The foreigners are space-men.  The dream moves to the alien environment there and gets way more confusing (and it’s already fading!! noooo!)

The demon now can cross because of the mark he left on Demur.  He offers her powers to save the 2 dudes (she might have a crush on one of them).  They pick up a red-headed chick.  Demur ends up having these awesome psychic golden chain-things she can lash people/aliens with.  One of the space-men was more techy, the other more the weapons/sharp-shooter/sneaky dude…..

And too much of that second half has faded but it was COOL.  To me.  I’m not saying my imagination is a healthy place all the time – but dreams like this…. damn they’re just fun.