Saturday, February 18, 2017

Writer's Night for February 2017

Writer's Night for our group is held on the 3rd Saturday of every month, and this month it was my turn to host.  I managed to get the house in a relatively clean and presentable manner and I had stuff to make tacos ready.  There were five people that showed up:  Chuck, Kristin, Quinn, Gene, and Mike.  Kristin brought mini scones, Quinn brought some tasty home made bread, Gene brought a snack tray with meat, cheese, crackers, and olives.

Quinn had us read a revised version of his short one-scene play.  The new version has much better defined characters and a more straightforward plot, but I felt like it lost some of the surreal comedy that was in the original.  It was definitely improved, but I think he will revise it again, at least a little bit.

I read my story The Ghost and Miss Bloodraven.  Gene had the most to say about it.  He felt like the second and third scenes dragged, and he especially had a problem with the third scene I think.  But paradoxically I rewrote the second scene substantially and not much of the third scene at all.  The main problem he had was that the external threat of the demon wasn't clearly broadcast earlier, so there was no tension, nothing holding the story together for a couple of scenes.  But I had intended to foreshadow the demon at least a bit in the second scene, and it was easy to fix that.  I don't know, I may have overdone it a little, which they all said I shouldn't do.  But Kristin was also kind of confused by the sidekick showing up at the end, even though she'd been mentioned briefly earlier, and it seemed to me that in the second scene where Annie-Emily awakens from a dream, that perhaps it would be more interesting to have F8Wasp show up and have most of the scene told in conversation rather than the inner thoughts of one person, or the narrator telling you things.  That's usually true, so I rewrote it quite a bit:

Annie-Emily emitted a half-scream.  She sat up in bed, her heart pounding.  It was dark, but this wasn't the total darkness of a deep cave menaced by a demon -- this was the normal darkness of a bedroom in the Anarchy mansion at 3 A.M.  Still, she couldn't calm down for several minutes.  Her mind was flooded with fear -- the sort that grips a child when they are alone in their room with the closet door partway open, and they are certain something hides within.
It was just a dream, she thought, and marveled at the raw emotion and immediacy of it all.  It had seemed so real.  So this is what it meant to dream....
It's not just a dream, said a voice so  softly that it might have been the wind, or just the echo of Annie-Emily's own thoughts.  She shook her head, trying to clear it.
The lights flicked on.  F8Wasp (pronounced Fate Wasp) stood in the doorway.  Grandpa Anarchy's current sidekick was a young computer genius, a girl with long black hair, who normally wore a form-fitted outfit of silver and black but was currently dressed in pajamas featuring Elsa and Anna from Disney's Frozen.  "I heard a scream," she said.  "Emily, are you okay?"
Her name was technically Emily Sheraton -- the same Miss Bloodraven that had faced the demon Hamorai with Kid Anarchy in 1922.  But she was also Annie Two, the computer A.I. whose name simply meant "Anarchy Computer, Mark II".  On that day so long ago, Miss Sheraton had been possessed by the demon Hamorai, and then had been placed in suspended animation for ninety-four years.  Once awoken and the demon driven out, Miss Sheraton had been in a coma for days, to all appearances nothing but a soulless husk -- and then Annie Two and her creator F8Wasp had downloaded Annie's mind -- or at least the A.I.'s data files -- into the waiting body.
"I'm fine," Annie-Emily said.  "It was just a dream."  She paused, hearing a rasping, scratching sound from outside the window.  It was, to her ears, very much like the scrape of Hamorai's hooves against the stone floor of the cave.  Shadows moved against the window sending a shiver down her spine.
"No," Annie-Emily said.  "That doesn't make sense.  It's just the tree outside the window, moving in the wind."
F8Wasp's eyes narrowed.  "I'm sorry?"
"No, I am sorry," said Annie-Emily.  "I am just imagining things."  She paused, then added, "Although I was dreaming about things I could not possibly know...."  She looked into F8Wasp's eyes and asked, "Tell me, do you think it is likely or even possible that the memories of Emily Sheraton are still buried deep inside this mind?"
F8Wasp stared at her a long moment, then shrugged.  "I have no idea," she said.  "Maybe."
But Annie-Emily's eyes had strayed to the nightstand nearby, where lay a sheaf of papers held together with a spring clip.  They sat atop a stack of parchment stationary.  She sighed.
"No, I am again being silly," she said.  "Before going to bed I read that story The Mind Snare From the Pit  by Evron Lempel -- the one which Continuitae left for me."
"Ah," said F8Wasp.  "The pulp story, based on the actual event where Miss Bloodraven was possessed?"
"Yes," said Annie-Emily.  "I am not remembering anything except that which I red before falling to sleep.  Nor is there a seven-foot black-furred demon with six limbs waiting outside my window."
F8Wasp stared at the window and shivered.  "Great," she said.  "Thanks so much for that image.  Now I'm going to have a hard time getting back to sleep...."

I only deleted a few lines from the third scene that Gene disliked so much, to try an tighten it up a bit.  Some of his complaints about the story dragging are, I hope, improved by the rewritten second scene.  His other complaints about the scene being more like an internal monologue than a dialog between two people is something that I don't think I want to fix -- Annie Two and Annie-Emily are nearly the same person, so it should sound like that.  And I found that even the second half of the scene, which I'm sure I could cut to help keep the story from bogging down so much, covers things that I think are pretty important to a part of the story.  The story kind of has two plots, the external one involving the demon and the internal one where Annie-Emily is trying to sort out who she is, and that second plot is what this scene focuses on.

Anyway, if I've successfully kicked the first plot into motion earlier in the story with the rewrite of scene 2, then hopefully it all holds together better.

Chuck read several new scenes from his current Felicia story.  The general feeling was that several of them, save the last one I think, needed more to happen in them, or at least needed to include more jokes and humor in lieu of actual plot -- and that there were several good opportunities for humor that he completely missed on, something unusual for a Chuck story.  I think he got some good feedback.

Gene read a short scene from the middle of his novel (the first novel I think).  This was him rewriting an older scene, and the scene worked very well so although I don't remember how it originally went, I think we could all say that the new one worked.

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