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Author Topic: Beginning of Chapter 24
Member # 10202

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The following excerpt describes the actions of Jackie, who had already been introduced and described in previous chapters. She'd been tasked by her supervisor to perform analyses on a piece of metal from a UFO. I'd like to know if the following is overly "tight" and "shortened" (writing must not be too wordy, right?), or if it flows okay.


Jackie’s plan included eight inspection tests, five of which were ordinarily considered redundant. It wasn’t standard practice, for example, to perform dye-penetrant, magnetic, and radiographic testing on the same part. But because the tests were nondestructive, she decided to err on the side of more-is-better.
Fatigue testing predicts how many cycles of repeated loading a part can withstand without cracking or showing unacceptable wear. Such testing required mechanical rigging that loaded the component thousands of times to cause the part to fail at microscopic levels. The process showed how the material began to fail under stress via crystalline micro-crack formation and growth. This gave Jackie great pleasure because she would require the help of Ian Rayner.

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This to me has characteristics of hard science fiction but is entirely a podium-lecture-like narrator summary and explantion.

That this is chapter 24 gives me pause. That's a lot of chapters in any regard. That number of chapters if chapter divisions signal an episodic structure might work for me. Otherwise, I infer the divisions have no clearly inferrable basis for their breaks. Also, that division transition setups, lead-ins, and follow-throughs may be incomplete, short-shrifted, or missing.

A chapter division signals a break much the way a sentence, parargraph, subsection, or change in viewpoint does. Where a chapter break varies is a complete chapter opens with a minor dramatic complication introduction related to the overall major central dramatic complication wanting satisfaction. The chapter contains a response to the minor complication that results in a satisfaction setback and progress, a discovery and a reversal related to the main complication, and an ending transition that sets up and leads into the following chapter's complication portrayal.

For example, the so-called cliffhanger ending that is widely deprecated. Timmy falls over a cliff. He grabs onto a tree root growing from the cliff face. He yells to Lassie to go get help. A matching cut shows Lassie looking down the cliff at Timmy. Lassie whimpers. Lassie runs away from the cliff. Chapter break ends on a literal cliffhanger with a setup and lead-in to the next chapter's opening scene. For example, that Lassie has found help but can't easily get anyone to understand that Timmy is in trouble.

Taking this chapter 24 opening and making it show, which portrays an illusion of the scene's reality in the now moment of the persons, place, time, situation, and events, especially events, would portray Jackie actually performing the inspection tests. For tension's sake, there must be a prepositioned larger-than-life conflict at stake and at risk, though. Say that the part failure caused a machine to kill its operators and many of the machines are in use.

Near as I can determine, Jackie's love interest in Ian Rayner is what's at stake here. For the inspection tests to arouse empathy and curiosity, they must matter as stakes with outcome consequences: life or death, for example.

I recently read a civil litigation case involving crystaline microcrack formation failure of a machine part that resulted in a serious injury of a child. The manufacturer substituted inferior parts for engineer-approved parts suitable to the component load factors. That kind of conflict arouses reader empathy and curiosity; in other words, creates tension. The causal antagonism is the outcome of the litigation. Did the claimaint prove the manufacturer was negligent, or did the respondent manufacturer prevail and the claimant's negligence was the cause? Success or failure of the litigation is the conflict, the risks, the stakes, the possible outcomes.

Dramatic conflict defined: diametrically opposite stakes, risks, and outcomes; life or death, safety or danger, liberty or restriction, success or failure, riches or rags, acceptance or rejection, subsistence or starvation, salvation or damnation, etc., ad infinitum.

Hard science fiction grounded in real-world situations enjoys popular desire and appeal. Writing hard science fiction, though, challenges even masterful writers. Find the strongest appoach to the subject matter in a way that creates a close illusion of reality and most of the hard work is won. Michael Crichton comes to mind as a master of the genre.

[ February 01, 2014, 02:56 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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This works for me as a piece of writing and as an opening of this chapter. It is a bit lecturish, and if there was a lot of writing in the novel like this, it'd give me pause.

Otherwise, yeah, it seems fine.

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I like the mix of engineering geekishness with luuuuuuv interest.

This works for me as hard sci-fi voice but the expository lecture could be trimmed back a bit. With a piece like this one has to think carefully about the breadth of audience and what is required to bring the less technical people along without boring the engineers.

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