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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Short Works » Chrysalis - 1st 13, Kick in the pants needed.

   
Author Topic: Chrysalis - 1st 13, Kick in the pants needed.
MaryRobinette
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This is SF. I'm struggling. I've got some questions, but I'll post them below this section, so you can read it with a clearish mind.

---
Vanessa studied the scar on the back of her hand so she could pretend she was not listening to the argument beside her. She remembered burning her hand on the old-fashioned oven that her grandmother had used. Grandma had owned a conventional cooker, but preferred to make cookies the old way. "From scratch," she had said.

The couple beside her would probably never notice the pale scar that shown in her skin like a crescent moon. Iliath and Geroth were Hoistis. To her eyes, they were ugly, lumpy creatures with skin like mealworms. Hundreds of tiny fingers bristled from their underbellies, expressing their moods and giving them traction when they inched through their underground cities.

She rubbed the scar idly. Geroth had asked her to turn off her cameras almost as soon as the argument had started.

---

I think I've picked the wrong POV character. Here's the scenario. Earth is vastly overcrowded. Vanessa chooses to go to Hoista for work, even though that means a 200-year cryo journey. So, her grandmother is dead, but Vanessa continues to get "mail" sent from home. Meanwhile, Geroth doesn't want to undergo Chrysalis because the enzyme action that will transform him to an adult Hoistis will also scramble his memories making it impossible for him to continue working on his mathmatical treatsie.

I want to deal with issues of memory and self identity. I thought that juxtaposing these two people was a good idea, am wondering if I should just tell the story from Geroth's POV.

Or alternate POV's instead of using Vanessa as my point of entry into the story. Please give me a swift kick in the pants to help me get over this hump. I have 1600 words written and am struggling to get past that point.


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mikemunsil
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Of the two, Geroth is the more interesting to me, and more suited to what you want to do.
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Dude
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Don't really see enough to tell if Vanessa is the right POV character. It really depends on Hoistis cultural norms. With Vanessa being an outsider, it seems unlikely that she would be privy to Geroth's desires. Of course if one of your goals is to show Hoistis culture from a human's perspective then Vanessa will work.

I think Geroth would be a more interesting POV character. You can dig deeper into Hoista culture. It seems his desire to not undergo Chrysalis may be more central to the story than Vanessa's letters. Also, he can puzzle upon Vanessa's reactions to the letters she receives (trying to understand human culture/emotions). Either way, the two characters will have to build some type of relationship outside the norm to make the story work.


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Jeraliey
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I think Vanessa is just fine as a POV character. She'll notice things about Hoistis culture that Geroth wouldn't even think to comment on, because it's so ordinary to him. In my opinion, it's better to take the human's point of view when describing an alien culture.

Also, it might be difficult to avoid over-anthropomorphizing the Hoistis if you're describing their culture ostensibly from Geroth's POV, but really with a human's voice.

Does that make sense?

(Edited because I apparently can't spell! Like REALLY can't spell!!!)

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited February 28, 2005).]


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TaShaJaRo
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Mary – it is possible to have two POV characters and switch between them as long as you have a clear scene or chapter break each transition. However, you still need a clear lead character. Your current opening makes it look like Vanessa is the lead character. Whose story are you telling? Is there one character that interests you more than the other? Which one has the best opportunity to give the most information and conflict? It is possible that Vanessa’s story could be a sub-plot.

I hope that helps.


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rickfisher
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My dear Mrs. Kowal,

It appears to me that this is Geroth's story. I believe you can successfully tell it from Vanessa's POV if you give Vanessa a strong investment in the result of Geroth's choice. I don't know what that would be, but it needs to be there. Alternating POVs would also work for me, and wouldn't require such a strong investment on Vanessa's part.

Jeraliey's point about the possibility of over-anthropomorphizing aliens is a good one.

Sincerely,
Mr. Fisher

[This message has been edited by rickfisher (edited February 27, 2005).]


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Survivor
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Vanessa does seem like the logical character to be the POV in a story like this. Geroth would take too many things about this situation for granted, as would any other Hoistis (hmmm Twinkies ). You show this already in your description of Geroth and Iliath.

Vanessa also gives you better control over how you bring the reader to feel an investment in Geroth's story. Ordinarily, the selection of the protagonist as the POV assumes that the protagonist is human, and thus the audience naturally understands the concerns and aspirations the protagonist confronts and can feel sympathy for the character without needing a lot of background information. That assumption simply doesn't hold true in this case, not only does Geroth look different, he belongs to a species that effectively undergoes a form of dementia as a necessary part of becoming an adult. He only shares our notion that this dementia is a bad thing because it interferes with a specific thing he want's to accomplish, his entire cultural milieu considers it a normal part of growing up.

So you almost certainly need to use the human character's journey towards caring about what happens to Geroth to get the readers to care. She is our guide from indifference about the personal affairs of big mealworms to friendship and concern for Geroth, who is facing the loss of an important aspiration.

But this is all theoretical. Let me see what you have so far.


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MaryRobinette
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Thank you all. I forgot to mention that Vanessa is a documentarian. Geroth hired her to create a documentary of his life so he can hope to remember things after his Chrysalis. (Journaling is an obsessive activity amoung the larvae. I'm going for a 60 year larval period.)

The idea that I had was to juxatapose the two stories is to put someone who has a complete set of memories about things that no longer exist against someone who has incomplete memories about their continuing life.

This is a result of the Concussion discussion and a bug exhibit.

The point that several of you made about using a human POV to highlight the differences in the two cultures is one of the main reasons I created Vanessa as a character. Survivor, I'll send what I've got over as soon as I spell-check it.


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Jeraliey
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I'd be interested in reading a draft! I didn't know you were offering
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Rocklover
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I am intrigued by this post. There are so many posibilities. I was thinking as I read it, that thre two sentences about grandma and Vanessa burning herself threw me off. It seemed a distration from the more interesting hook of these two very different species interacting. I like the scar itself being mentioned (it is an interesting detail), but it's the reference to cooking and the vague "from scratch" that divert me from getting into the gist of the scene. The reason for the scar could easily be explained at some later point when it wouldn't interfer or divert attention.
I'd rather see those two sentences used to give me more information about the three characters or what is going on.

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MaryRobinette
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Jeraliey, I wasn't offering to let people read because it's not a draft yet. It's 1600 words of a story that I think will come in around 5000. But Survivor volunteered spontaneously and I know from past experience that he's good at seeing the structure I want but can't find.

Rocklover, I've been wondering about the scar issue. I might be hanging on to it too much. although your reaction is close to what I wanted. Sadly, I think you're right that it's the wrong choice at this stage in the game.


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Jeraliey
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Fair enough...let me know when it's ready for readers!
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