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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Fragments and Feedback for Books » for another try -- the Heir's Hunt

   
Author Topic: for another try -- the Heir's Hunt
arriki
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Version 1

The window beside Sam showed range after range of snow-covered mountains rushing past far below. He could almost believe he was looking at that range in Utah where he and Susan went skiing last year. Yes, these peaks really could be part of the Rockies, except for the white sun and Jupiter-like planet hanging above in the sky.

Suddenly, the whole cabin around him lurched to one side. The ship began to drop down. Sam’s heart leaped into his throat. He struggled against his restraints, but the seat belting kept his body firmly in place as the ship plunged downward. It was going to crash! The alien seated next to him,reached over and pricked Sam's thigh with his claws. A warning? Certainly not a comforting gesture.


And then here's another, much earlier version --


The window beside Sam showed range after range of snow-covered mountains rushing past far below. High, rugged mountains. It could have been some part of the Rockies except for the white sun and Jupiter-like planet hanging in the sky.

The plane’s cabin lurched to one side, then dropped hundreds of feet into a valley. By the time Sam’s heart stopped pounding, the craft had leveled off. Ahead, he glimpsed a narrow break in a looming wall of mountains.

The aliens aboard sounded as if they were talking themselves past some fright. Sam remembered people huddled together in the hospital basement during a bomb scare. Or afterwards – when the corridors filled with victims. He always took a moment to brace himself before he started the triage.


So, what is the difference, or, IS there any difference in regard to what you've been trying to help me do?

[ March 03, 2014, 10:45 AM: Message edited by: Kathleen Dalton Woodbury ]

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extrinsic
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The first sentence exhibits most of what I feel the whole fragments' shortcomings are. I don't see much difference between the two fragments.

The sentence structure is part of the drawback. Subject? "The window beside Sam." Predicate? "showed." Object? "range after range of snow-covered mountains." Present participle predicate complement? "rushing past" Object complement? "far below."

What are the proper contents of the overweighted sentence? Unpacking the sentence: nouns; the window, Sam, the ranges, snow covered-mountains, below. The verbs; showed, rushing. And other clutter.

A barebones description of what Sam sees from his viewpoint might start with nearer visuals first. He started by looking out the window. "Showed" in that use is no less static than looked, watched, saw, etc., It is also static from Sam not reacting emotionally to what he sees. It is also static from being a narrator viewpoint mediating the sight of Sam and what he sees, rather than what Sam sees all by itself, though connected to Sam.

If the window matters, is the window different from what Sam expects? Is the window important at all? The intent I see is to show Sam rides aboard an aircraft far above a snow-capped mountain range alien to him. "Alien" is the pivot point. That he's not in control of his person and far out of his depth is the implication I see.

//Snow-capped, alien mountains rushed past far below Sam.//

Applying a similar comb to the next sentence: //Except for the too-white sun and the gas giant planet risen above the the mountain peaks, these could be the Utah Rockies he and Susan flew over the year before.//

Does the cabin lurch or does Sam lurch because the plane maneuvers? The second paragraph of the current version comes closer to Sam's viewpoint; however, it's bumpy. If the viewpoint stayed from Sam's perspective, as if his sensory perceptions and reflections of them were through his sensory organs and thoughts, narrative distance would close in.

Though thirteen lines is very little real estate for introductions, it is enough territory to develop closing narrative distance such that a screening reader might read on.

Mechanical style, especially syntax, in both fragments is cluttered, confused, and faulty. That alone would give me, and I expect screening readers, reason to not read on.


Edited to add:

However, the kernel, the very core of a narrative is its dramatic complication; that is, an antagonism, an event at least, that introduces wants and problems wanting satisfaction. What is Sam's wants and problems combined that he wants to satisfy? He flies in the company of aliens across a foreign-to-him mountain range on a foreign planet. He doesn't care and is not curious about what will happen to him. If he doesn't care and isn't curious, why should I or any reader?

Is Sam a willing companion? Or is he an unwitting captive? Is he a refugee compelled to go along for the sake of his survival? Is he coerced to capitulate for the time being? Is he bound or free to move about? I have no idea of the complicated situation he's in nor, most importantly, what he wants and what problems he has in opposition to what he wants.

Interleaving events, settings, and characters and antagonism, causation, and tension, along with plot, theme, and voice in developing opening introductions is essential for thirteen lines. Though that may seem like too much and too hard to introduce for an opening fragment, it's doable, if the kernel introduction of the personal-to-Sam complication is realized and realized on the page.

I've spent at least as long and as much effort as you have struggling for publication. Deciphering what works for me and what doesn't from published works and deeply studying writing principles and methods saw me through. The near future looks very bright and successful. Partly, I got through by audience testing, like focus group testing in many, many grueling writing workshops. Plus, from working on developing other artistic expression. My artware has seen a sudden upswing in recognition popularity and success from cross applying writing to sculpture and vice versa. My wares that evoke emotions and express accessible stories are successful.

[ March 01, 2014, 09:28 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Denevius
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I only read version 1.

It seems fine for me except for a couple of awkward phrases. You have some weird interjections that ruin the flow of the prose. I'd cut 'Yes', for instance. And, I also use the word 'suddenly', but tend to hate it when I see it in other people's writing. I understand why it's used, of course, as to show an unexpected drop in altitude. But there's just something overall unattractive about the way the word 'suddenly' props up in prose. That and 'started', like someone 'Started to the car'.

'It was going to crash!' really took me out of the story, as it's kind of implied that Sam is worried about crashing. No need to state it so bluntly.

And you can probably skip, 'After an eternity'. I get what that means also, but it feels unnecessary.

Overall, though, you capture the moment Sam's in pretty well. I can't exactly say I'd be induced to read further, as nothing here is particularly eye-catching, new, or interesting. I understand the problem of getting a "hook" in so soon, which, you know, groovy. But at the same time, what's intriguing in these first lines? Sam's not exactly in any type of danger. The alien beside him could be interesting, but we only see it's claw. The mountains look like they could be in Utah, which doesn't pique reader excitement. The flight sounds like a typical airplane suffering turbulence. Nothing out of the ordinary about that.

Even the name you chose for your main character, Sam, is very normal. Almost like calling him John Doe.

So, on the plus side, the moment is caught well. On the negative side, the moment is a bit too placid.

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arriki
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You say the first sentence exhibits most of what you feel the whole fragments' shortcomings are. You say that you don't see much difference between the two fragments.

I guess I'm being dense. Please explain in simple terms your problem with the first sentence.

Thank you.

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extrinsic
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The first sentence is cluttered, confused, faulty grammar, has an uneccesary remote distance, and a lack of complication introduction development, as do the fragments.
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arriki
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using the elements of that first sentence, how would you write the sentence more correctly?
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extrinsic
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//Snow-capped, alien mountains rushed past far below Sam.//

I leave out the window, because it's inferrable and realized later as a natural part of the aircraft, because it's an intermediate between Sam and the view Sam doesn't logically perceive at the moment of visualizing the scenery, because I infer it's not a proper subject of Sam's sensory perception, because it's not dramatically significant.

The clutter and confusion and faulty grammar are eliminated by clarifying the meaning through conventional syntax and robust diction: subject, robust voice predicate, object. Though not an overly emotional attitude, the natural feel of the visual sensation connected to Sam is an authentic one.

Putting Sam in object position to the landscape rushed past far below introduces him and orients immediately upon him as the scene's viewpoint character perceiving the landscape fom a height at the same time.

An emotional reaction of Sam's being in an alien land is warranted soon. What it emotionally means to him at the scene's moment.

Possibly--connecting the mountains as cold--snow-capped--and alien and far below has symbolism potentials, specifically imagery. The single distinction between symbolism and imagery is imagery is expressly visual sensation. Symbolism may be any concrete motif that expresses intangible, abstract, immaterial meaning. Imagery likewise is visual sensation that expresses intangible, abstract, immaterial meaning. Cold and alien and far away potentially portray an emotion of utter desolation and isolation. Repeating the motif in other parallel imagery or symbolism a few times in short order or developing a tangible emotional attitude clarify, strengthen, and open access to the implications so readers may authentically infer the intended emotional attitude.

[ March 02, 2014, 01:07 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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arriki
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I am having trouble with introducing the mountains as "alien" as the second idea.

High, snow-capped mountains rushed past far below. Sam could almost believe he was looking down on that range in Utah where he and Susan skied last year. Yes, these peaks really could be part of the Rockies, except for the white sun and Jupiter-like planet hanging above them in the sky.


Is this any better? By telling that they are "alien" in the first paragraph the whole point of that first paragraph is blown.

Is the phrase "far below" now unneeded? As in -- High, snow-capped mountains rushed past. Sam could almost believe he was looking down on that range in Utah where he and Susan skied last year.

What would you prefer the paragraph build up to? Added later --
start with this?

Sam Abernathy could almost believe he was looking at those mountains in Utah where he and Susan went skiing last year. Yes, these peaks really could be part of the Rockies, except for the white sun and Jupiter-like planet hanging above in the sky.

[ March 02, 2014, 08:45 AM: Message edited by: arriki ]

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extrinsic
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Events have the strongest initial tension appeals, settings second, characters third. Events first because people--readers are able to emotionally connect with events first. Events because they start plot movement sooner than settings or characters, especially since setings tend to be static. Though active characters are less static, Sam here is static, seated on an aircraft.

Also, directly addressing readers is a feature of first-person typically. Close third-person's strength is reflective narrative. A third-person narration's central character's sensory perceptions and responses are thought-like, as if nonvolitional thoughts arise unbidden from awareness.

Starting with a character's name as subject of a first sentence places the character in first position. A more open narrative distance, a narrator then tells directly what the character experiences, does, thinks, etc. The narrator mediates the scene instead of the character reflectively experiencing the immediate scene.

This close third-person narrative technique is a bit of writing magic. The narrator viewpoint is estranged by character viewpoint, to the point the narrator is nonexistent.

A method for estranging narrator viewpoint builds up to event introductions first, though related to and developing settings and a central character at the same time. Events develop settings and events and settings develop character. The other way around makes characters too self-involved to be effective reflector characters that estrange a narrator.

Include Sam's name as sentence object rather than sentence subject whenever possible. When necessary, use a pronoun as sentence subject as often as possible instead of his name.

Linguists label this writing magic de re, meaning of the thing. Your suggested rewrites are de dicto, meaning of the word. De re transcends its of-the-word direct address meaning implication and becomes a self-reflective portal. De re portraits persuade readers to feel as if they are bystanders at least, if not participants along with a viewpoint character. The closer narrative distance is, the closer they feel to the viewpoint character's immediate reality.

Thus: //Snow-capped mountains rushed past far below Sam Abernathy.//

Kind of lackluster though, no emotional meaning accessible. The rhetorical scheme repetition, substitution, and amplification may serve. Triplets serve an emotional emphasis scheme function.

//Jagged, scarred, snow-capped mountains rushed past far below Sam Abernathy.//

Note that the mountain modifiers are robust verbs, adverbs used as adjectives. They express events. They are robust process statements.

"Could" in all the sentences is problematic. That auxilliary verb is often part of to be stasis statements, static voice. Stasis statements express an ongoing state of being. Robust past tense verbs like capped, jagged, scarred, and rushed are part of process statements that express definitive and firm events.

Also, "could" is an irrealis mood auxilliary verb, unreal, not actually the case, specifically the conditional mood. Note the last example has two instances of "could." I understand Sam speculates about where he is. Issues though are matters of syntax, tense, and wordiness.

"Sam Abernathy could almost believe he was looking at those mountains in Utah where he and Susan went skiing last year."

"was looking" and "skiing" are present participle verbs inconsistent with past tense "rushed."

//The mountains resembled the Utah slopes Susan and he skied last year.//

Placing the pronoun "he" last, refering to Sam, puts him in proper perspective as reflector. He includes himself last, he thinks of himself last, as natural thought processes naturally unfold, as decorum dictates. The mountains are the proper sentence subject. "Resembled" is a little too weak, though. Looked like is no stronger. My writing voice anyway.

"Yes, these peaks really could be part of the Rockies, except for the white sun and Jupiter-like planet hanging above in the sky."

Cluttered and confused sentence and faulty grammar.

"Yes." If Sam thinks that word to himself, set it apart as a sentence fragment interjection, an exclamation. Fragments express thoughts, their unconventional though suitable grammar makes them obvious thoughts: thought grammar, similar to speech grammar. Otherwise, "Yes" comes across as a narrator intrusion. Also, it is an effect of a cause and out of position causally. The cause being Sam's conclusion the mountains could be the Rockies.

A subordination conjunction word like "except" and its clause prescriptively preface a main clause so that the main clause's idea is emphasized.

//Except for the white sun and the Jupiter-like planet hanging in the sky, these peaks really could be part of the Rockies.//

Though "hanging" and "really could be" are problematic, respectively, from present participle tense inconsistency and static adverb and stasis statement.

I'm also not too thrilled by "white sun" and "Jupiter-like planet." I think they are too vague and could do with stronger expression so that they feel as real to readers as they do to Sam.

[ March 02, 2014, 03:22 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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arriki
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So, you say --

Events have the strongest initial tension appeals, settings second, characters third. Events first because people--readers are able to emotionally connect with events first. Events because they start plot movement sooner than settings or characters, especially since settings tend to be static. Though active characters are less static, Sam here is static, seated on an aircraft.


Are you suggesting that all stories should/could begin with events? If not, what do you see as the determining factor(s)? When to open with an event and when to open with setting, and, finally, descend to the last option of character?

What would you propose to have a stronger expression of the white sun and the Jovian planet? And not ruin the effect that he is not on Earth? He IS tired. Exhausted at the moment. The plane's dive shocks him out of the daze.

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extrinsic
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I suggest events are a strong way to open a story, not the only way, maybe a simple majority way, perhaps more than half of all stories. Consider event as one emphasis from Orson Scott Card's MICE quotient.

A determining factor for how to open a story, milieu (setting), idea, character, or event emphasis has to do in my estimation with the basic kernel foundation of the story type's dramatic complication. The dramatic complication overall I infer from the ample sampling I've had of this novel is an infection raging through the alien society.

Hence, I infer an idea is at the core of this novel, that of an epidemic infection carried by Sam. The epidemic is an event, the milieu is one alien to Sam, Sam is the carrier character, the idea tangibly is a first contact tableau that spreads disease, be the disease a physical or social sickness or both.

The white sun I infer is to imply that the sun is another color than the one Sam is familiar with. I expect it is painful and disorienting to him. Stellar classifications range across a visible spectral spectrum from black dwarf to blue and white giants, brown, red, orange, and yellow between, not to mention invisible ultraviolet, infrared, X-ray, and radioactive emissions.

The giants are the hottest and brightest and fall in the blueish and white ranges. Giants also emit more of the more hazardous to life invisible radiations. After black holes, they also have the highest gravitational attraction. They often have companion stars, and many giants are catastropic parasites, pulling matter from their companions. The territory around a giant star is highly chaotic.

A slightly larger; therefore, hotter and brighter and whiter class G yellow star, or a K or F Class II star, than Sol is indicated. This is why I suggested a "too-white sun." Once and done, over with without getting bogged down for the moment in the minutia details, unless they matter later in the novel. Only emphasize by giving greater details what matters in the moment. What I infer matters is the sun is alien to Sam, perhaps painful to his eyes and disorienting for its oddness and painfulness.

A Jupiter-like planet nearby whatever planet or moon Sam flies above to me suggests a too vague and at the same time too specific detail. A nearby moon; closer than our own, could conceivably appear from Sam's perspective as a large disk, comparable to a Jovian planet. Likewise Jovian planets range in size across a broad gamut, some nearly large enough to become suns, others comparatively small. The Solar System has an assortment of comparatively small ones, Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Charon, and a numerous variety of Oort Cloud planetesimals made up of frozen gases.

What does Sam see in the sky? A disproportionately larger disc than the Moon he's accustomed to seeing. The Moon appeared larger in the sky billions of years ago soon after it first coalesced from a collision between its ancestor planetesimal and the primordial Earth.

Does Sam know astrophysics specifically enough to know exactly what he sees of the sun and the other disc in the sky? I don't know; his character development hasn't begun yet. Nor do I recommend going there. The opening would bog down in unnecessary at the moment minutia.

I visualize the disc as a sunlit ball in the sky, one side in shaded darkness, one side directly lit, whether a full disc with a dark limb sliver, or a new phase with a lit crescent sliver, or a gibous waxing or waning phase, or larger crescent portion. Maybe it has a visible ring system; maybe it has a visible necklace of natural or artificial satellites. Simpler is clearer for the opening; a mostly full disc or crescent is easiest to visualize and describe. What do you see Sam seeing? Look at the moon and reinvent its appearance to suit your intent, which I assume is Sam sees the Jove as a large, disorienting, and unsettling disc in the sky.

And consider lingering in the moment of Sam's reactions to the sun and Jove, the stark peaks, and what they emotionally mean to him in the moment, before moving on to the aircraft occupants and interior. Consider tying them into at least a portion of the overall idea of first contact, if that is the central idea.

[ March 03, 2014, 01:16 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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arriki
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This is a second novel in a set of three. Some readers already know a lot about Sam's situation. A few may not.

I am attempting to orient anyone who picked up with this book to the fact of Sam as captive of aliens on a satellite in another solar system. First paragraph.

Sam is tired at this point. Probably a bit numb mentally as well as physically. Hence his recalling some place pleasant as he waits for what is going to happen to him.

I am starting with him near the plane's destination. With the second paragraph action begins as the plane dives to reach its destination. Having experienced such myself, I know what an adrenalin rush that is.

Are you saying that this is not a place to begin? Right before the action starts? A set up for the reader?

Sam's reaction to the sun and planet? He's SEEN those both for a couple of months! He is tired and hurting and scared. But he's been sitting there for over an hour with nothing changing. Just looking out the window. Helpless to do anything.

This first paragraph is just to orient a reader briefly to the situation without telling the reader that Sam is despairing, numb, and scared.

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extrinsic
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My misinterpretation is a clue to why the opening doesn't work for me. That Sam is despaired, numb, and scared, and reminisces about a happier time, and setting up the scene's overall situation, the plane flight's imminent arrival at its destination, the alienness of the scene, the aliens I believe can all be simultaneously developed through Sam's viewpoint in brief imitation.

Maybe the moment of the opening is a mite too early. Perhaps all the context and texture of the scene could be developed from the plane's descent maneuvers.

Opening's functions are setup, outset, introductions, but they are static when no dramatic action takes place.

Sam looking out a window gives a sense of the landscape outside the plane, but no drama--no emotional complication, no sense of what this means to Sam. Sam sitting still and looking at the outside and reflecting on a ski trip with his wife is a false interiorization akin to a character sitting in a bathtub contemplating his navel, oblivious to his external surroundings. Dynamic characters interact with events, settings, and characters, themselves too, through emotional reactions to external stimuli.

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arriki
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You say -- My misinterpretation is a clue to why the opening doesn't work for me. That Sam is despaired, numb, and scared, and reminisces about a happier time, and setting up the scene's overall situation, the plane flight's imminent arrival at its destination, the alienness of the scene, the aliens I believe can all be simultaneously developed through Sam's viewpoint in brief imitation.


Okay, so give it a try. Take the first paragraph and show all of that.

hmmm...if I really think you've nailed it, I'll give you credit for the paragraph when I sell the novel.

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extrinsic
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I am at a loss. I've recast the fragment multiple times and come up short, unless I invent a dramatic complication for Sam. I considered Sam's complication relevant at the moment of the scene, relevant to the novel, and, since the novel is second of three, relevant to the whole. The infection complication Sam poses seems to me to compass each and all.

However, at this point in the timeline, I'm not clear about a relevant one that is also personal to Sam. My strongest invention is Sam is on his way to a lab where he will be poked and prodded and abused. Does he know?

He must have some immediate, personal complication that relates to the parts and whole. It's not my story to impose my creative vision upon. A strong, personal-to-Sam, immediate, and relevant complication I feel is warranted if I'm to illustrate closer distance methods for the opening fragment. What do you have in mind?

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arriki
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Been sick.

A) Sam is not the cause but actually the solution to their problem but they do not realze that yet.

He does not know what's going to happen to him. He's really being put in cold storage while the Heir decides what to do about him. Book two she is forced to decide to mate with Sam but keeps hedging on that while she brings the attack on the Ennismahi to happen on her schdule and not her her enemies.

so B) war breaks out while she and her riell are out hunting Sam with Kei along in case she changes her mind.
Sick -- listening to Jack Campell's The Lost Fleet cd's
Oh shoot! Gotta go throw up some more!

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arriki
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Imagine a world similar to ours but in which penicillin does not exist. Other things do. The humanoids there will develop other strategies for dealing with disease. Some drugs some...other things. The oriental medicines of our own planet for instance.

Anyway, yeah, uh, still sick.

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extrinsic
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Then I'm conflicted. I see the Heir as the viewpoint character of this scene, not Sam Abernathy. Hence, what I'd suggest becomes too much an imposition of my creative vision on yours. The Heir has the dramatic complication of the scene, not Sam. Hence the Heir should be the viewpoint character. Yet the fragment is from Sam's viewpoint.

Get well soon.

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arriki
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Cough, cough, sniffle.

The Heir is not the vp character of this scene. In fact, many of my beta readers do not seem to realize that Mranth/the Heir is never a viewpoint character. It didn't seem to bother them.

Kei, Sam, Hros, Godath, Thwelin, are the main vp characters but never Mranth. Mranth is the central most character whom we see from all these external viewpoints. Sam comes the closest to being important also.

Ummm, Mranth isn't even IN the scene, so I cannot see why you believe her to be the vp.

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extrinsic
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If Sam is the viewpoint character, then his dramatic complication is the pivot of the scene. Yet the summary of Sam's importance given above is he's meaningless to the action. He's along for whatever ride the milieu sends him on and has no wants or problems to satisfy.

Look closely into who, when, where, what, why, and how a dramatic complication for the whole and all its parts and pieces arises and ties together. Like if Sam is the complication for the milieu, how does he personally see his complication role, stake, and outcome? Then his viewpoint is the perspective for the scenes at which he is the center.

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