Category: Jasper

Weekend Writing Warriors: Dex Continued

Back again after a quiet month, and with new Jasper content for Weekend Writing Warriors.  This picks up immediately after this scene with Dex and Lilith in the abandoned park.

It’s simple and fun. Sign the linky list with your name, blog url and email address on Mondays, 8:00 AM EST. Each week, the list remains open until Saturday, 11:59 PM. Then on Sunday, post 8 sentences from a current writing project, published or unpublished. Visit other participants and offer opinions, critiques, support. Writers hanging out with writers, a good time with a great group of people.

Previously, Dex confided in his wife all of the doubts that he had about his new promotion and the case assigned to him.  Mayor Calvin is playing a game with him, he feels, and it wasn’t likely to end well.

“What am I going to do now, Lil?  No matter what, I’m not safe.  And neither are you or Natalie.”

Lilith swung backward, thinking for a moment.  The corroded chain squeaked as she moved.  “The way I see it,” she finally said, “If you’re in danger either way, you might as well do whatever serves your conscience better.  Which option does that for you?”

“I was hoping for an option that saved my life.  I’m no good to anyone dead.”

I’ll continue this scene next week.

WWW: Edward and Cynthia

This Weekend Writing Warriors excerpt comes from Jasper City, about an outlaw bent on revenge and the captain appointed to stop him.

Earlier excerpts revealed a more than casual connection between Cynthia Madden and the outlaw Edward Jasper.  What happened when the two of them met?  Cynthia was full of questions, and Edward had a story to tell.  This is part of it:

(First line is spoken by Edward.)

“[Mayor Jasper] didn’t want me dead. He just wanted to make me into an outcast.” 
“It would have been easier to kill you,” Cynthia said without thinking. “But I’m not saying that he should’ve done it.” 
“I know what you meant. Still, it would have been difficult for him.” 
“And why is that?” 
“Would you be able to kill your own brother?”

Non-human Characters

This draft of Jasper City is all about adding scenes and chapters where the plot had holes to fill.  With the chapter count going from 14 to 35, I’ve got a lot of work to do.  Taking the advice of one beta reader, one plot point I am expanding is the presence of sentient robots in the story.

The robots are probably the most difficult aspect of the story so far.  Their original purpose was to show how far the “old society” (that is, our society) had advanced before war and natural disaster turned North America into a wasteland.  They play an important part in Jasper City, a bigger role in Jasper’s Fall, and an even bigger role in the sequel I’m planning.  So they couldn’t remain as a decoration for worldbuilding purposes for very long.  The question then became:  How does one flesh out a character who doesn’t have flesh?

Enter SAM.  Its name stands for Sentient Android Machine.  SAM is among the oldest of Machine models  considered “people” in this setting.  SAM is solar-powered, though its panels don’t gather as much energy as they used to, and a loose screw in its head has led to a constant, distracting ticking sound.  SAM is one of two Machines who have personal involvement with the main characters, but is the only one to have chapters from its own point of view.

I’m working on SAM’s chapter right now.  The hardest part is making the chapter feel relateable while still portraying a robot effectively.  SAM doesn’t feel the way that humans do, and so it isn’t driven by things like fear or loyalty.  It was created with a specific purpose and destiny as a businessman’s personal assistant.  With the businessman long gone with the rest of the old society, SAM is still driven by his initial programming, aiming to survive long enough to be of service to someone else.  So it gathers what few things it can, mostly data, in hopes of finding employment in the future.

Another smaller challenge is writing SAM as a genderless character.  SAM has no need for a male or female distinction, and so SAM does not have either.  Throughout the chapter SAM will be referred to as an “it” whenever necessary.  But while writing this post my brain tried to refer to SAM as a “he!”  Perhaps this is an effect of our subconscious trying to assign genders to everything and everyone whether it’s relevant or not.  (Hell, some languages give all nouns this treatment.  Four years of high school Spanish taught me that dresses were inherently male, for unknown reasons.)  But that’s another topic.

Many stories are written from the perspective of non-human characters, but most of these species are close enough to humans that it doesn’t feel too alien to us.  It’s when you create something that’s so far removed from humanity that the difficult questions pop up.  Things like emotions and pronouns, which we often take for granted, don’t always apply.

WWW: Cynthia’s Photos

This is another excerpt from Jasper City, about an outlaw seeking revenge against his brother and the man appointed to stop him.

Last week’s excerpt mentioned photographic evidence that Cynthia was in league with Citizen 71/Edward.  Turns out that Dex previously received these photographs courtesy of an informant.  Significant snipping was required here:

Several of the pictures were of a tall, hooded figure who matched the description of citizen 71.  Standing with him was another figure he recognized.

He paused at a photo of the two of them, locked in an embrace that she initiated.  What have you done, Cynthia?

“Have you shown these to anyone else?” Dex asked.

“No, sir.”

“…I’ll take them.  Tell no one about this.”

WWW: Cynthia and Dex

This excerpt is from Jasper City, about an outlaw seeking revenge against the Mayor who overthrew him and the Captain of the Guard sent to stop him.

In previous excerpts I’ve alluded to a relationship between Dex, Captain of the Guard (his title in earlier drafts was General.  That has changed.) and Richard Madden’s daughter Cynthia.  Cynthia’s escape from the Guard following the bombing of the Madden residence, and her future involvement with outlaw Edward Jasper/Citizen 71, further complicates relations between the two of them.  But what happens when the two of them are reunited?

“You think too little of me,” he told her as he [handcuffed her.]  “We broke up, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have cared whether you were hurt.  I worried for days for your sake.  I made it a priority to find you.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered not only that you were with Citizen 71, but romantically involved with him.”

“You can’t know that.”

“What, you don’t think we have eyes around the city?  I’ve seen pictures of you two.”

WWW: Citizen 71

This comes from Jasper City. Tag line: An outlaw seeks revenge against a city’s tyrant Mayor, while the man appointed to stop him begins to doubt the merits of his cause.

Throughout the story, Edward is often referred to as Citizen 71.  But why is he considered an outlaw?  This excerpt explains it:

The Mayor handed Dex a file, which he opened. Dex was greeted by the mug shot of former Mayor Edward Jasper and a list of charges: 

• Multiple counts of murder, including his wife Michelle Jasper, children Julie and Thomas Jasper, and several Generals over the past six years; 
• Three counts of kidnapping in the abductions of street children known as “Philip,” “Timmy,” and “Dot;” 
• Several counts of arson and vandalism; 
• Two recently added charges of arson in the bombing of Officer B-39’s home and the kidnapping of his daughter Cynthia Madden. 

Upon reading the final charges, Dex’s blood ran cold. 

“You can see why I needed to recruit someone immediately,” Mayor Calvin said.

Plot Dot Test

I found this in a recent post on the Adventures in Agentland blog.  A plot dot test is supposed to be a way of determining where in your plot action is lagging.

To start, you either need a finished manuscript or detailed outline.
It goes like this:  Take a sheet of paper, and all along the top write a line of numbers corresponding with the number of chapters in your story.  For each chapter, place a dot somewhere below that number.  The idea is to make a bar graph for your story, with the x axis being your story chapters and the y axis being the amount of action in a given chapter.

If my math-heavy explanation is too confusing, here is an example.  This is the plot line I created from Jasper City:

There were a few errors when graphing, hence the crossed-out dots.  Other than that, that’s how I feel the plot flows.

Judging by this graph there are areas where I could probably ramp up the action.  It does look rather slow, but looking at the outline itself I would disagree.  It’s an interesting test but I feel there is a wide margin of error to take into account as we’re measuring something that can’t really be quantified.

What do you think?

WWW: Mystery letter

This comes from Jasper City.  Tag line:  An outlaw seeks revenge against a city’s tyrant Mayor, while the man appointed to stop him begins to doubt the merits of his cause.

Here is part of a letter, written by one character to his brother.  For mystery’s sake I’m not going to give names here, but both characters have been introduced before.
I can’t do it anymore, Brother.  You’re a stronger man than I.  It’s time to face the fact that our attempts have been fruitless, and we’ve been doing more harm than good all along.

It’s time that we put this experiment to an end once and for all.  Believe me, Brother.  If there were any other way to go about this, I would jump at the chance.  I have given this much thought, and there exists no other option.

Know that I have always loved you, and I always will.

WWW: Thomas Quinn

This comes from Jasper City.  Tag line:  An outlaw seeks revenge against a city’s tyrant Mayor, while the man appointed to stop him begins to doubt the merits of his cause.

I’m introducing some new characters today:  Thomas Quinn or Citizen C-214 works as an informant for Dex, collecting information regarding Citizen 71 without alerting the Mayor.  Mary is one of his sources.

Mary began with a disclaimer:  “I don’t know how much of this you’ll be able to use.  But it could be big.”

“Talk to me,” Thomas said, patting the seat next to him.

Mary claimed her seat.  “B-39 had an argument with Mayor Jasper before the bombing, and it was heated enough that the Mayor sent him home.”

“What was it about?”

“The new General,” she said.  “B-39 didn’t think McMahon was a a good choice.”

WWW: Richard Madden

(No relation to the Game of Thrones actor.  The name is purely coincidental.)

This comes from Jasper City.  Tag line:  An outlaw seeks revenge against a city’s tyrant Mayor, while the man appointed to stop him begins to doubt the merits of his cause.

In this installment of Weekend Writing Warriors, Cynthia’s father has been hospitalized.  A nurse comes to check on his condition, but apparently she has other motives.

“You’re locked down.  Mayor’s orders… Officially, Citizen 71’s bombing put you in such critical condition that having a visitor would be dangerous.  You’re also in a coma, post-surgery, and because f that your immune system’s been compromised.”

“And unofficially?” Richard asked.  “What’s so important about me that the Mayor had to tell that fairy tale?”

The nurse frowned.  “I was hoping you could tell me.”