n3m3sis43: ((FMAB) Huuuughes and Winryyyy)
[personal profile] n3m3sis43
Concrit much appreciated. This is chapter 4 of Cliffton book 1, now rewritten and hopefully beta-ready. It's heavily based on my older stories Second Thoughts and Barefoot, Uphill, Both Ways. Poor Kalen is losing most of his POV pieces, but I think it's for the better.

If you're reading Cliffton for the first time, here are the previous chapters so you can catch up:
1 | 2 | 3

My mind races and my ears ring as I get to my feet. Questions swirl inside my head with dizzying speed, and I feel strangely faint. What happened? Where's Kalen? Why didn't he stick to the plan? What are we supposed to do now?

What if Kalen didn't even make it out alive?

Except all my questions won't matter one bit if I don't get out of here, and fast. The urge to run's overpowering, but I force myself to ignore it. Instead, I edge slowly away from the crowd, doing my best not to attract any attention. If anyone recognizes me, I'll be arrested and undoubtedly executed for treason.

When I'm out of sight, I sprint desperately toward the hiding spot I share with Kalen. Even though it's fall now, it's still hotter than blazes and I might as well be breathing soup instead of air. Still, running's almost a relief. There's nothing to think about besides the slap of my shoes against the parched ground. I don't have to worry about what to do next or whether I'll ever see my ma and pa and brothers again. Whether my best friend's -

I pump my arms and legs harder and force myself not to think about that.

If I squint, I can see a tiny patch of green ahead. I know I'm getting closer, because the stand of trees I'm headed for is the only cover for miles. Everything else is dry, cracked plains where even grass and tumblebrush will barely grow. I feel horribly exposed, but if I can make it to the hiding spot, I'll be safe.

By the time I reach the trees, I'm gasping for breath and there's a stabbing pain in my side. I want to fall down and kiss the ground, but I force myself to keep moving. There's no telling how far Kalen's military will go to look for us. When I finally make it to the cover of our tree, I collapse onto the dirt and clutch at my ribs. For a moment, the glorious sensation of not having to move is all I can think about. Then the other thoughts creep in.

Why in the flourishing fields did Kalen set off that bomb?

The bomb was only a backup plan, a way to make the people take us seriously. We were only supposed to detonate it if our lives were in danger. As far as I could tell, they weren't. The soliders had their weapons trained on us, but when they saw Kalen's finger on that button, they let him speak. The people might have listened - we might have stopped the War.

Now we're marked for life as terrorists and I'm sure we've only fanned the flames. Why, Kalen?

* * * * *

Eight days gone, and still no sign of Kalen. Every morning when I wake, I scratch a mark on the wall of my hideout. And each night when I lie down to sleep, I offer a prayer to the Gods I've never believed in.

"Please keep Kalen safe," I whisper, "Please help us both find a way out of this mess."

The hours in between are the hardest. My mind replays the explosion over and over, as if this time I'll find some clue I missed before. Something to tell me why, or at least to assure me Kalen's still out there somewhere, alive and well. There's not much here to distract me from the endless stream of thoughts - all I've got for entertaiment's a single deck of cards. NeoSolitaire doesn't do much to take my mind off my fears.

Too bad I'm not allowed to turn on my neurovision implant. Neurovision's not even my thing, but right now I'd welcome the distraction. How my friends would laugh if they could see me now - wishing to watch the "mindless drivel" I always scoffed at. On the farm, there was no time for such foolish indulgences.

Surely there'd be no harm in watching just one show? Except Kalen warned me repeatedly not to turn on my neurovision implant at all. According to his insurgent friends, the government can use it to find me. Truth be told, I'm not convinced these friends of his are entirely right in the head. Still, I'd be a fool to run the risk just for entertainment's sake.

How do I even know anyone's looking for me at all? Maybe they never got a good look at my face. What if I'm hiding out here for nothing? I'm sure it's wishful thinking, but I've got to know for sure. Even marrying Morgan's preferable to starving to death inside a tree - though only slightly. If I can make it back to my side of the fence and get my hands on a NewsVid, I can find out whether it's safe to go home.

It doesn't take long to reach the fence, but it's clear I won't be climbing it today. The area's crawling with troops, their blue eyes cold as UberSteel. Grey-suited and grim, they all carry evil-looking canons or small iridescent metallic pistols. Their faces are hard, and none of them look like they'd hesitate to shoot me on sight. I know I should get away from them immediately, but I can't take my eyes off the devastation Kalen and I have caused. For miles in every direction, the earth is scorched and dead. The sight of it makes my stomach churn.

Finally, I turn and head back for the tree. I've nearly reached what passes for woods on this side of the fence when glowing blue spheres fly out of nowhere with a loud "Bzzzzzzt!" I barely restrain myself from screaming as they hit a nearby tree. Before I can dive for cover, I hear the sound again, followed by a sizzle as burning pain erupts in my right leg. My leg gives way, spilling me onto the ground. More blue spheres zoom over my head as I crawl out of their range as fast as I can.

My heart's pounding as I scan the horizon. I don't dare stay here for long, because the soldiers must have seen me. They'll be coming to find me any minute, so I force myself to stand. Though my injured leg feels like it's on fire, it does support my weight. Hobbling with as much speed as I can muster, I concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. By the time I crawl inside the tree trunk, the whole right side of my body's throbbing, but at least I'm alive.

Without any medical supplies, though, I'm not sure how long that'll last.

* * * * *

The world's spinning like a child's top as I cautiously make my way back to the fence. A pulse beats crazily in my hurt leg as I go. I'm no doctor, but I recognize the smell and sick heat radiating from the wound. Back on the farm, we'd shoot any animal injured this badly - and if security at the border's still tight, I may well suffer the same fate.

When I hear the sound of marching feet, I know it's over. I don't even have the strength to run, so I sink to the ground dejectedly and wait for the end. I wonder idly if they'll shoot me on sight or take me prisoner. What if they torture me in hopes of obtaining information about Kalen? I don't have any, but it's not like they know that.

Then I look up, and I nearly jump for joy - or I would if my leg could handle it. Arrayed before me is an impressive robot army, and it must be Kalen's. The robots' torsos are decorated in glowing blue flames, Kalen's signature design. I'm new to this side of the fence, but my understanding is that most people don't have robot armies at all. Surely there can't be two robot enthusiasts who favor such a gaudy motif?

I struggle to my feet, lurching forward gracelessly as I wave my arms and shout Kalen's name. Except I'm too dizzy to move very quickly without falling over, and I have to stop every few steps to catch my breath. A figure in a bulky silver suit lumbers toward me - surely it's Kalen, wearing some sort of protective armor. I'd run up and hug him in a heartbeat if it weren't for my injury. That's not really and option, so I focusing on remaining upright instead.

"Calla?" a distorted voice asks from inside the armor.

A purple laser streaks across the sky. Before I can react, a penetrating warmth spreads from my forehead through my sinuses, making its way through my whole body in a matter of seconds. For a moment, I'm floating. My skin's tingling and I feel like I'm on fire. Then my legs give way and everything goes black.

* * * * *

I open my eyes. Where in the wandering waves am I?

The light here's dim and everything's outlined in an eerie purple glow. Wherever I am, it's nowhere I've been before. Could I be hallucinating due to fever? Given my injury, it's a distinct possibility. Except my leg doesn't hurt at all anymore and my head feels clearer than it has in days.

This can't be real, though, can it? My vision's definitely not normal - I can see behind me and there are numbers and readouts suspended in the air before my eyes. Panic rises up inside me, but it feels muted, like it's wrapped in gauze. My stomach ought to be jumping around all over the place, but I can't feel that very well, either.

Nothing feels normal. I don't feel like me.

Kalen's crouched silently a few feet away, his back to me. Suddenly, it all makes sense - I passed out, and Kalen used one of his machines to save me. Except then what's he doing right now? I approach him as quietly as I can, wondering why my footsteps seem to make so much noise. That's when I notice he's hunched over what looks like a body - my body.

"Calla, I'm so sorry." Kalen hangs his head, obscured by his odd protective getup. "I never meant to shoot you."

This can't be. I can't be dead, can I? And Kalen - why would he -

"You... shot me?" I narrow my eyes at Kalen, trying to understand what's going on. There's a low humming noise, and my eyes feel strangely... warm. The words "LASERS POWERING" display on a readout near the edge of my forward vision.

"Don't hurt me!" Kalen shouts as he turns toward me, his distorted voice filled with fear.

How in the hovering heavens do I turn off these lasers? Why in the world do I even have lasers?

I glare at the spot directly to the right of Kalen's helmet. A purple laser fires, making him screech and jump. For a moment, I'm filled with a temptation to shout "DANCE, PUPPET!" and fire toward his feet, but I squash the impulse. Someone could get killed if I'm not careful, and that someone might be me - if I'm not dead already.

"What's going on here?" My voice is feminine but electronic - not really mine anymore.

"You - " Kalen seems to be fumbling for words. "You can talk?"

Of course I can talk. Why wouldn't I be able to? Except if that really is my lifeless body lying on the ground before me, I'm not sure who in the sweltering suns I am anymore.

"Who do you think I am, Kalen?" I finally manage.

"Uh, magical talking bugbot?" Kalen pulls off his helmet and... he isn't Kalen at all. He's a brown-skinned boy with close-cropped dark hair and an extremely confused expression on his face. "I'm not Kalen."

Well, yes - I see that now. Also, did he call me a magical talking bugbot?

"I'm... a robot?" I gasp, but the sound's weird and metallic, not breathy at all. "This is going to sound crazy, not-Kalen, but... I'm Calla, and I think you turned me into a robot somehow. The last thing I remember is being shot, and then - "

"It was an accident, I swear!" not-Kalen shouts. "I didn't mean to turn you into a robot. Didn't even know people could be turned into robots. And I didn't even mean to fire at you. Something's wrong with these stupid weapons. Please don't hurt me, CallaBot! I don't know what happened, but Kalen certainly wouldn't want you to shoot his own brother."

His... brother? Kalen's told me a few things about his older brother. Most of them weren't very complimentary.

"Brendan?" I ask, but he's already turned away from me. He puts his helmet back on, staring off into the distance.

I follow his gaze and spot another team of blue-flamed robots advancing toward us. Kalen.


Seriously? He doesn't recognize these robots? No wonder Kalen says he's not too bright. Although it's possible my augmented eyes can see better than his normal ones. When Kalen doesn't respond, Brendan fires a purple laser toward his brother's head. It misses by a significant margin. At least his aim doesn't seem to be any better than his critical thinking skills.

"You idiot!" I hiss at Brendan. "Haven't you done enough damage with your substandard weapons? If you don't stop shooting, you're likely to kill your own brother by accident. And anyway, your aim really sucks."

"Hey!" Even with his voice garbled by his protective outerwear, Brendan sounds indignant. "I'll have you know I scored top marks in shooting. It's not my aim that's the problem. There's something wrong with these weapons."

"All the more reason not to fire them, genius," I snort.

"Brendan?" Kalen's presumably near enough to us now to recognize the robot army his brother's leading.

"KALEN? I CAN'T FUCKING BELIEVE IT!" Brendan's scream echoes across the barren land, creepy and inhuman. "YOU RUINED MY LIFE, AND YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE THE DECENCY TO DIE!"

This certainly isn't the happy reunion I've been envisioning for the past two weeks. Kalen and Brendan fall upon each other like a pack of hungry wolves. They're too busy trying to obliterate each other to notice my presence at all. Not that Kalen would recognize me now, if Brendan's babble about turning me into a robot is true. Why am I even here? I want no part of this, and I need some time to think. What in the world have I gotten myself into?

As I turn and walk away, a single thought fills my mind. Maybe the people on the Other Side really are barbaric.

* * * * *

By the time I return, there's no sight of Kalen, Brendan, or their mechanical minions. In their place is a smoking pit so deep I can't see the bottom. For a moment, I question whether I should turn and walk away again. Except I managed to get as far as my side of the fence before I caught sight of my reflection in a stagnant stream.

Brendan was right - I'm a robot. And not just a robot, but an insectile thing with segmented legs and vicious pincers. I'm absolutely terrifying, and there's no way I can go home looking like this. There's no way I can go anywhere unless Kalen and his friends can modify me to look at least a little more human. Barbaric or not, I'm stuck with them for now. If I still had a heart, though, it'd sink when I reach the the bottom of the pit. They're still arguing?

"You're the one who shot first." Kalen's sulky tone makes me want to fire up my laser eyes.

"You told your entire robot army to attack me!" Brendan shoots back.

"You turned my best friend into a robot!" Kalen steps forward, bringing his face too close to Brendan's.

"It's not my fault your robot malfunctioned and shot her." Brendan's face is red and his jaw's clenched.

"It malfunctioned because you modified it... badly!"

"ARE YOU CALLING ME INCOMPETENT?" Brendan screeches, lunging at Kalen with his fists.

Kalen grabs his brother by the hair and elbows him in the gut. Brendan doubles over, making an oof sound. And there they are, rolling around in the dirt like rowdy schoolboys. Ugh. If they're going to start fighting again, I'm not sticking around to watch.

"Are you fools still fighting?" I snap my metallic pincers at them menacingly. "You'd better stop it, or I'm leaving again. And this time, I'm not coming back to save your sorry asses, either."

The two brothers fall silent, slumped shamefacedly on the floor of the crater they've created with their fighting. And they deserve to be mortified by what they've done. They're both covered in soot and grime, their heads hanging in shame. Scattered about are the melted remains of their mechanical allies. Their protective suits and the clothes underneath are in tatters.

"Thanks for coming back for us." Kalen's voice is that of a child who knows he's going to bed without supper.

Truth be told, I'm embarrassed to know him. Kalen's supposed to be different from the rest of his people, but he certainly had no qualms about attempting to murder his own brother.

"Believe me," I snort, "I was tempted to leave you two idiots for the troops. Except I can't really go too far on my own like this." I use my monstrous appendages to gesture at my equally hideous body.

The brothers both stare at me, but at least they have the sense to look embarrassed.

"So here's what we're going to do." I make my eyes glow just in case they're not paying attention. "None of us can go home anymore, so we're going to stick together. We need to find a place to stay, and a way to get me out of this metallic nightmare of a body. Kalen, you said your insurgent friends are good with robots, right? Maybe we should pay them a visit."

"Stick with Kalen? But he ruined my life with his terrorist attack!" Brendan shouts, his face still flushed.

"I know he did, Brendan." My voice has the forced patience of an Instructor speaking to a dull student, but I actually feel a little sorry for Brendan. Kalen ruined my life, too. I turn my laser eyes on him. "Speaking of ruined lives, Kalen. Why did you set off the explosion? I thought the plan was not to push the button unless we were in mortal danger."

"Um, about that." Kalen stares at the ravaged ground. "That was... it was kind of an accident."

"What?" both Brendan and I say with simultaneous incredulity.

"I was backing away from the fence, keeping an eye on the Enforcers to make sure they weren't going to open fire. Just as I was getting ready to give you the signal to run, I-" Kalen pauses, apparently too embarrassed to continue.

I have the feeling this is going to be completely brilliant.

"Um, I sneezed." Kalen looks up, his face nearly purple. "I sneezed, and I squeezed the button by accident."

"Oh, Kalen." Brendan sighs and stares at his hands - the biggest hands I've ever seen.

I'm struck dumb for a moment. He sneezed? Our act of terrorism was nothing but an accident? My throat would close up with rage if it weren't made of metal. As it is, I've got to restrain myself from grabbing Kalen and shaking him. It's not like that's going to do any good now anyway.

"Everyone makes mistakes." My robotic voice holds more conviction than I feel. "What we've got to do now is move on. We need to find Kalen's insurgent friends and see if they can help us. Since we're probably all marked as terrorists anyway, we might as well try to help them with their cause. Whatever we do from here on out, we're going to work together. Is that clear?"

"But... he turned you into a robot," Kalen says.

For a minute, I remember why I used to like him. He's sweet. Funny how I never noticed his complete lack of sense until now. I guess that weird glow and those readouts aren't the only new things my robotic eyes allow me to see.

(Next chapter is here)

Date: 2013-01-31 01:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
I gotta say, the last two sections of this fit way better here than the whole Kalen piece that originally contained them. Poor Calla bb, having to go through all of that only to end up as a robot because of Brendan. But at least Brendan saved her? Kinda? lol

Date: 2013-01-31 01:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alien-writings.livejournal.com
Lol I feel bad about Calla getting turned into a robot too, except I don't feel THAT bad because it was my idea. I'm like "yay, look at my idea!"

And she likely would have died if she wasn't turned into a robot?

And I think the story fits together well. :)

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From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com - Date: 2013-01-31 08:13 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2013-01-31 08:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yay! Thank you. :D

I think Calla might have died from her infection if she hadn't been turned into a robot. It's not like she could just show up at any hospital, being a known terrorist and all. So Brendan really did kind of save her.

Date: 2013-01-31 05:12 pm (UTC)
ext_224364: (Hyosung)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
How does one turn another into a robot? I feel stupid for asking but I was always confused on that part. ;)

Still I feel bad about Calla becoming a robot. :( At least she is still alive.

Date: 2013-01-31 08:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Don't worry - I think my characters are confused by that, too. This is where it's very apparent that I'm really not writing a sci-fi novel at all. Because I have no clue how that happened. Brendan modified Kalen's robots to add weapons. One of the robots malfunctioned and shot Calla. Somehow, this accidentally resulted in her consciousness being transferred into the robot's body.

I wonder if Devin has a theory on how that could happen. He's the neural interface guy. Brendan's not really so good with technical stuff. :\

Calla was pretty far gone, so turning her into a robot might actually have saved her life. But it's a lot to adjust to.

Edited to add: Do you think the story as a whole would benefit from someone trying to explain/hypothesize how Calla turned into a robot? It wouldn't be in this chapter, but maybe Kalen and/or Devin could come up with a theory if you think it would be helpful plotwise.
Edited Date: 2013-01-31 08:12 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2013-02-05 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] winters-queen.livejournal.com
Oh, Poor Calla. You're a CallaBot and stuck with two idiots of a brothers, even if one of them is really smart and has...or had his own robot army.

I was a bit confused about whose perspective this was until I read further down about her running from the area because the first paragraph or two is vague enough that it could have been an observer or someone who had heard what happened.

Date: 2013-02-05 09:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thank you for the feedback. This is a chapter I've struggled with quite a bit. I'm going to think about how to make it more obvious who's speaking from the beginning (voice is obviously REALLY important when switching POVs a million times).

Date: 2013-02-07 10:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
Calla's worry and fear comes across really well. The comparison of her leg injury and what would happen on the farm say a lot. We know she's doomed unless something happens.

I was a little confused when the robot army comes and Brendan knows it's Calla. There's been no set-up that Kalen ever mentioned her, let alone her name. How would Brendan know that? It may work better to remove that line and just have the purple laser shoot her. Or have her positively identify the armor as Kalen's. (Nevermind. Just read chapter 5. All cleared up now.)

The portion where she is watching "Kalen" apologize to her body and her realization that something is wrong is awesome. I do think that you'll need to explain exactly (or theorize at least) how her consciousness was transferred to the robot. Git ur syfy on! It's an advanced society, so you could almost make any thing up even if it's ridiculous. Maybe the robots are set up to "harvest" consciousness to search for information as they kill the enemy...or something.
Edited Date: 2013-02-07 11:04 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-02-08 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks. I was worried about getting Calla's voice right in these earlier chapters because I am so used to writing her as a robot. It's a good thing I wrote that backstory for her a while ago (that shows up waaaay later in the book) or else I think I'd have had a lot harder time.

I struggled a little with the continuity in this chapter. Okay, a lot. Plot's not really my strong suit - I think you've noticed. Do you think it's okay to leave that hanging until chapter 5, or is it too confusing and offputting?

Oh, I'm glad you liked the scene with her body. This chapter has been hard for me and I still don't feel like I have it quite right overall. That was one of the parts I was happy with, though. :D

So... as far of the explanation, I was thinking of having it be pretty hand-wavy and also having it be a few chapters after this one. Do you think it's okay to make the reader wait for it? Kalen and Brendan don't really understand neural interfaces that well and I think it was a complete accident that no one would have expected to happen. Which means it's easier if I can wait until a point where I'm writing a scene where it feels natural for Devin to explain (or "explain", because he doesn't really know the answer, either) it. And I think that's a few chapters away.

At the same time, I don't want it to be annoying to the reader - like, "you expect me to care about this book and you're never going to explain that?" and have the reader put the book down before I explain it.

Date: 2013-02-13 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] castion.livejournal.com
I'm assuming Neurovision is something like an entertainment implant? So they can watch TV in ther heads, so to speak?

The theory that the government could track you via the implant could easily springboard into how Calla's consciousness is transferred into the robot. Because I imagine an implant like that would contain a host of neurological information. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to have these implants manufactured with the additional purpose of recording psychometric data for the purpose of tracking potentially problematic behavior in youngsters, under the guise that it catches criminal behavior (or budding terrorists) before it starts. A routine visit to the doctor, for example, could download this information into a computer without the patient even knowing, and then psychological "symptoms" and patterns can be tracked over time.

Of course, it wouldn't account for all aspects of a personality, just core ones, which would explain Calla's more "clinical" observations of her surroundings and the change in her personality (more aggression, less compassion, etc). Or the implant could have been damaged by the fever that resulted from the infection, or whatever.

If the implants have an external port, it would be nothing to transfer that information from the implant into a device that is manufactured for that use. Like, say, a robot that relies on third-party interaction to program its artificial intelligence. Though if Brendan isn't really the neuro-genius (doesn't seem like he's a much-of-anything genius, really) that would fall on Devin. And Devin seems the sort to design something just because he's batshit insane.

ANYWAY. I'm babbling. Loved the section, though.

Date: 2013-02-13 05:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Neurovision is an entertainment implant. They can watch TV in their heads, and they can communicate over it as well. Well, Wes and Devin communicate over it all the time. And there's a scene near the end where Devin and Brendan communicate over it, too. I kind of always assumed everyone communicates over neurovision like that but the only canon examples I have of people doing it involve people whose brains Devin has messed around with, so now I'm not positive. I should probably figure that out. What do you think makes more sense?

Wow, it totally never occurred to me to use the neurovision implant! That actually makes total sense. I did come up with an explanation of sorts but it's not until chapter... 6? 7? I'm losing track now. And I could add this in either there or later (probably later) because, well... you'll see when you get there.

My theory is that Calla's all there somewhere but it's harder for her to access some of her "softer" emotions. I'm not sure if it's because of the physical constraints of her neural interface or just not being used to her situation or a little of both. She does still have the softer stuff in her, though, and I also think part of her issue is she's fucking pissed about the situation she ends up in.

Brendan's more or less average intelligence. Poor guy has kind of a complex about it because Kalen's supposed to be super-smart and he's always been compared to him.

Devin regularly mucks around in Calla's neural interface and also in the other characters' brains to reprogram their neurovision implants with various information and functionality. I've never really explained exactly how he does this because I'm not positive. It's kind of a Mary Sue skill for him to have, because he's not highly educated or anything. But yeah, he would design things because he's bored or insane or for whatever reason, really. Because he can?

Date: 2013-02-13 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tai823.livejournal.com
I remember why I used to like him. Oh man. That line kills me.

Wow. This was a really busy chapter!

I think the only thing that feels awkward is the conversation between Calla and Brendan when she wakes up in her new "body". I can't really put my finger on it, but I think it's chiefly this piece:

"I'm... a robot?" I gasp, but the sound's weird and metallic, not breathy at all. "This is going to sound crazy, not-Kalen, but... I'm Calla, and I think you turned me into a robot somehow. The last thing I remember is being shot, and then - "

I think it's because she says I think you turned me into a robot somehow and while yes, he's there and he's the only person around, it would seem more reasonable with her aggression for her to demand why he turned her into a robot, I think? Especially since Brendan is already acting guilty and whatnot.

I likes!

Date: 2013-02-13 05:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yay, you found some reading time! Thanks. :D

Hahaha... is "busy" a good or a bad thing? I struggle with the whole plot thing at times, so chapters that are more plot-driven are sometimes harder for me. The other thing that's hard is that the idea for Calla to become a robot was originally someone else's and I've never fully figured how/why it happens.

But it's not something I think I can/should change now because I'm pretty invested in Calla as a robot. She's just... mean and badass and most of her stuff wouldn't work if she weren't physically capable of overpowering all the dudes in the story.

I definitely see what you're saying about that bit of dialogue. I felt really awkward writing it, too. I like your idea way better. Thank you!

lots of thoughts

Date: 2013-03-12 06:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
This is just a short note to let you know that it might take me awhile to get all my thoughts straight on this chapter. I'm sure there will be lots of notes. In fact I might find my notebook and start actually making notes so I don't forget things that come to my mind while I'm reading.

I read some of the comments so I assume Calla being a robot is somehow important to the plot later on. I think I'm going to have trouble with this chapter because I don't yet know how a rewrite of the first 3 will affect the flow of time and I need to know more of what is going to happen later to really know how to fix things or make it flow/fit better.

Right now I'm just going to look at it from the reader's eyes with no foreknowledge of the rest of the book except that Calla needs to be a robot.

Re: lots of thoughts

Date: 2013-03-12 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Oh man, I'm so sorry. I warned you about this chapter. Like, it has literally never worked for me in that it's never felt 100% "right" to me. The other problem is from here on out stuff starts being mostly (ish) linear in terms of time. Like, chapter 5 picks up later in the same day as the end of this one. Chapter 6 is... *checks* 2 weeks after chapter 5, etc.

Here is the deal with Calla being a robot. It was an idea originally suggested to me by a friend of mine back when Cliffton was a bunch random one-off stories (and by the way, they were terrible and I should probably take them down or make them private or oh god). At the time, it was because I think I was going to kill her and she didn't want me to. So, um, the original decision to make her a robot was random and not plot-relevant and I suspect that somehow that's come through in this chapter.

With all that said, the fact that she is a robot is relevant to her character and plotlines. And I'm going to try not to say any more or qualify things because I want to preserve your state of being a new reader as much as possible.

*slaps own hands to make self stop typing*

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scene 1

Date: 2013-03-12 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Oh boy, here we go. I actually did get a notebook out and make notes.

I think I'll start by going over each scene then my overall thoughts and suggestions.

This was the best scene out of the bunch. In fact it was pretty good. The 1st paragraph sets up exactly when this takes place, what's happened and the POV. I didn't need the little name at the top--I instantly knew it was Calla just after the bombing. The descriptions of the landscape are really good and help with world building but now I'm not sure if all the deadness is because that's the natural state of their land or because of the bombing (more on that later).

Overall the scene is really good and works well in relation to the scenes from other chapters--it has the same feel. The voice was good. It sounded like Calla from the 1st chapter, like a 17yo girl. She had a proper response to the situation--confusion and fear for herself and her friend.

Originally I only had a few critical comments but then I got to the end and suddenly a million questions popped into my head about the scene. They took up almost an entire page in themselves.

My original comments: Her sneaking away at the beginning kind of ruins the pace of the scene. I'm good with action/adventure type stories/scenes. This qualifies as action in my book. There's something important and monumental going on. Calla's in danger, afraid, has to get away. But then she creeps. In itself it sounds like a good response, to not draw attention to herself. Maybe it's because the description is too long. That can slow stuff up. Maybe she could just inch backwards until she's at the edge of the crowd and then bolt. The key to writing action scenes is to make the sentences short and punchy. Everything happens quick, quick, quick, one two three. Not that you shouldn't use longer sentences but to emphasize the urgency of the scene short sentences and fragments work best (and I figured that out on my own before I read something "professional" that explained it).

The Flourishing Field thing. It seems really random. I think because there isn't a lot of world building so we don't know what or why flourishing fields are important in context. I thought of some ways to make it fit. The one I liked the best (but have no idea if it fits the rest of the story) is that her parents were kind of throw backs who still believed in the old gods and taught Calla this stuff even if she doesn't believe (although her actually believing to a point but in denial is an interesting twist--especially with her new state as a robot). Maybe she grew up in a farming community that still believed, on the outside of regular society. Kind of like the Amish of today. (I'll probably make more comments about this later because I made other notes about it for a different scene).

Now on to the bajillion questions that came to mind as I was trying to sum up my feelings for the scene. A lot of these are general to the plot. A lot about world building.

The big one I had was how close was she to this bomb? The way ch. 1 is set up she was standing right next to Kalen. It sounded like Kalen had the bomb with him. There's no way either of them survived if it went off. All the soldiers would have been killed and most of the people that stopped to watch. Obviously that didn't happen. She fears Kalen was killed though so it must have been close. So why didn't Calla even get hurt?
Were there other injuries to bystanders? If so why didn't Calla stop to help? Was she too scared, too selfish, too shocked? Was there internal conflict about the damage they created? This would play into my suggestion that you have a scene focusing on Calla the night before, being nervous about what could happen. Did her worse nightmares come true? How devastated is she at the thought of losing Kalen? They both mention they are best friends but you said their friendship isn't important to the rest of the story (and from the looks of the end they aren't even friends any more--I'll talk about that later). She seems concerned and I would say in shock at first but otherwise there isn't a whole lot of emotion.

scene 1 continued

Date: 2013-03-12 08:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
This could be explained if that's her natural state. Maybe a character flaw? Maybe from the way she was raised, a coping mechanism to protect her from the crappy society/life she lives in. This all just spirals into more and more questions.

Some others I had were about the scene of the bombing. Was it chaotic with people running everywhere, soldiers trying to maintain order, people screaming? Or did the community just stand there, like they are so desensitized to the violence of war it barely registers? Do they help each other or run for their lives or just walk away with a shrug? If they stay calm is it because of being used to this sort of stuff or something more nefarious--programming by their governments, drugs in their food, something else?

How do the different sides react?

From the tidbits of information in other chapters the societies are pretty different. The people from either side would react differently based on their upbringing. I would think Kalen's side (which I'm going to call SIDEA or Sidea), being so focused on war and military preparedness would stay calmer because of training. Calla's side (SIDEB) sounds more focused on internal human stuff--the institutionalized misogyny. That would affect their reactions. They obviously must have a good standing army, probably filled with draftees because they can hold off the military might of Sidea.

That all led to a slew of other questions about their societies that are really more about world building then the scene so I'll talk about them later.

The scene was good but needs more details to make it great. And WORLD BUILDING. I'm going to have to have you sit down and start describing this entire universe to me so you can figure it all out. Action and dialogue are great but they don't tell the full story. You need settings and details to make it the whole picture.
Edited Date: 2013-03-12 08:30 pm (UTC)

Re: scene 1

Date: 2013-03-12 08:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Okay, I am so mad at myself right now because really, self? I never explained in chapter 1 Calla's from a farm? Anyway, that's why the flourishing fields and all the other kind of random expressions. I am going to hold off on responding to the rest of your comments until you're finished (and maybe until I respond to chapter 3 comments first).

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Re: scene 1

Date: 2013-03-13 02:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
As far as landscape goes, sidea is mostly a desert climate and side b is much greener. This does come up in later chapters but may need to come up sooner. This seems to be a recurring theme, doesn't it? I really had no clue what I was doing with this rewrite when I did the first few chapters. It took a while to start to take shape for me and I'm going to have to figure out how to make the beginning follow suit.

I think I answered a lot of these questions elsewhere, but if I missed any, let me know. The main thing is, I think it needs to be made clearer that the bomb was more flash than substance, and too far away to hurt the people gathered at the fence. So if there's visible devastation, the distance it spans should be quite a bit smaller.

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scene 2

Date: 2013-03-12 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Most of my notes for scene 2 are questions, mostly pertaining to world building.

The descriptions in the first paragraph are really good, actually the first few paragraphs although I liked the first one the best. Also the description of the soldiers at the fence was fantastic--those are the kind of details that give information about the world and pull you into the story. I now have an image in my head of what Sidea's army looks like.

The questions:
Neurovision: it's mentioned briefly in ch. 2 with Devin and Wes using it for their movie night. But there's no sense of what it really is. From the name I assume it's some kind of neuro implant to deliver information and entertainment (it's seen a lot in dystopian/sci-fi books). My questions are why do both sides have them? Are they exactly the same? I keep picturing the two sides having developed differently over time since the war started with Sidea having advanced in tech in the name of their war machine. I would assume Sideb would also have to have tech to combat their enemies but I see it as being more reactionary. Or behind Sidea.

Having both sides have identical tech is confusing to me and makes me think there's something more going on (gov't conspiracies or something). If the tech is something modern than it makes little sense that they would have the exact same stuff because I doubt Sidea would share with Sideb (or vice versa). I could see there having be a base technology before the war that each side used to build their own versions of neurovision. Especially if there were like corporate spies or some other espionage going on. But, still, they wouldn't be exactly the same. Things to keep in mind while writing.

Calla mentions her family's farm again and how time consuming the work is so that she doesn't do frivolous things like watch movies. If her friends do have time then obviously they have the tech. If they are advanced enough to have robots then why is farming so time consuming for Calla's family. Is there a lack of farming tech because resources are used for the war or because family farming is considered old fashioned? This is where I got the idea of her family being religious in some way where her father wants to live a little backwards. It doesn't even have to be devout religiosity, just some perceived notion to do things the old way. I like the idea of him believing in the old gods to some extent and having passed that down to Calla even if she doesn't believe. As an atheist raised party Christian (went to Catholic school and my mom was religious but my dad is agnostic) I see first hand how that works. I don't believe in the doctrine I was taught in school but I still hold on to traditions passed down like Christmas and Easter. They become cultural. But in a society so enamored with tech it could be everyone else has forgotten the gods and the traditions but they were in Calla's life. It would explain prayer to the gods she doesn't believe in and the flourishing fields--that could be significant to their religion and has just become habit for her to say even if it means nothing to her (like me saying, OH MY GOD! all the time when I don't believe in a god).

More confusion about the bombing. Again where was this bomb and how big was it? Because Calla describes miles of devestation. If that's the case there is no way in hell anyone survived the blast.

scene 2 continued

Date: 2013-03-12 08:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
When she's shot at the end...
Was she out in the open when she first saw the soldiers guarding the fence? Because she says she's "nearly reached what passes for woods" right before she gets shot. If she was out in the open why did it take them so long to see her? Why didn't they chase after her? How did she manage to get away with a leg wound that slowed her down? The whole sequence makes Sidea's army sound incompetent which flys in the face of the setup in chapter 1 when Kalen confirms Calla's teachers that they train for war their entire lives. No way their army lets a 17 injured girl get away.

A lot of these questions could be answered with more details in the scene/story. In fact, in my notes, I wrote MORE DETAILS in big block letters and underlined it. There's the mention of Morgan again but we know nothing about him. I want to know what's so bad that Calla doesn't want to marry him (despite just being forced to) or is he a nice guy and it is just the being forced thing that makes him so unappealing. All goes back to world building, and now I'm thinking, plot development. You really don't have a plot do you?

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some rambling about my book

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scene 3

Date: 2013-03-12 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
My notes for scene 3 are really short. Like 1/3 of a page compared to 1 1/2 for sc. 1.

My first thoughts were WHY is she going back to the fence? (and why do I keep typing fense?!?!?!?!?!) Is she giving up because the wound is so bad? Has she lost all hope about Kalen and her life? Does she just want to get it over with? This needs a whole lot more showing. Details again. I think that will be the theme of my comments this chapter--DETAILS!!!!

I did like her thought about how they'd put down an animal as injured as she was. That connects her back to her world, gives us another glimpse into her life and the world at large. Good start.

And then...
You totally lost me at this point. Where the fuck did the robots come from? There is no mention of them or build up. And then we're told Kalen as his own robot army. Da fuck? It took me like three read-throughs to comprehend the entire thing because I was so taken aback by the damn robot army. *note* I'm not being mean here, I'm trying to be funny and probably failing miserably--but seriously... robot army?*/note*

Okay, so there's a robot army. Why the hell does Kalen have one? When did he have time to build it? WHY WHY WHY? This totally needs some kind of set up. And more details. What does this army look like? I pictures humanoid looking robots. Not androids (that presumes intelligence and self-awareness) but bulky metal people with some kind of AI along with taking commands. But later I learned they look like giant bugs? This needs a description in this section before Calla realizes what she looks like.

Also, if she was that injured, especially in her leg, I doubt she could walk at this point.

That was the extent of my notes. But robot army was written two lines high. That just really threw me. The scene starts out okay but then kind of takes a sudden turn into left field and just keeps going right out of the stadium and across three counties. :)

Re: scene 3

Date: 2013-03-13 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
She was going back to the fence because she started to despair of ever finding Kalen and was hoping maybe no one knew she was responsible for the explosion and she could just go home. She basically got desperate.

I think we covered ROBOT ARMY. It's dumb. :D

You're right about her leg. I don't know what I was thinking and I normally research better. Like I said, I got to this chapter in the rewrite and was like "this is a fucking mess and I don't know what to do with it at all and SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME". And you are, so that is awesome.

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onto the robot armies

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scene 4

Date: 2013-03-12 09:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
My feelings for the rest of the scenes are kind of an extension of scene 3. By now I'm just shaking my head going what the hell is going on? The 2nd half of this chapter sounded like a completely different story with completely different characters that was just plopped into this kind of good start to a dystopian novel.

I think the biggest thing is the voices are all wrong. Nobody sounds right. Calla is way too accepting of her predicament. She realizes she's a robot and just goes about her life. Huh? Her voice is flat and boring. I could accept this if it's some after effect of being a robot, like she's lost some of her human emotions or they're muted. She just feels nothing which would explain her behavior in the rest of the chapter. But it's not set up like that. It could with some more details and tweaking.

Brendan--who I really liked in chapter 3--sounds like a fucking scaredy-cat 14yo. And how the hell does he know Calla? And why does he care? It took me until my 2nd read-through to realize this scene is right after Brendan realizes he won't be allowed to join the military. He should be beyond pissed at his brother and anything related to him, including Calla. And even if he did recognize her (maybe from seeing Kalen sneak out to meet her) why such familiarity? He should be much colder towards her. He could care on a human level that she died but not because she's Calla which would have little meaning to him.

Brendan is also way too jumpy for someone who has presumably trained and envisioned himself as a soldier his entire life. He's a fighter by nature. One with anger management issues. He should not cower or stumble over his words like a scared little kid. He was more brave at 7 in the previous chapter. Okay, it's a hulking metal bug standing over him (or however big this thing is), he can be a little freaked but he should almost instantly get control of that otherwise his grades and his brother's treason would be the least of his worries getting enlisted.

The character we met in ch. 3 doesn't show his face until the end of the scene when Kalen shows up. He is PISSED which is perfect.

But how did Calla know that this guy in the armor was definitely Kalen? She guess wrong with Brendan but she just KNOWS with Kalen. Does it have to do with her being a robot? Do her sensors detect him or register him as her master or something?

There's a lot of potential to the idea of Calla being some kind of robot. There are implications to her humanity that could cause conflict and tension as she tries to work through them (like the loss of feelings) and how she's perceived by others.

I can see why you were having troubles with this chapter. The last scenes don't even sound like they belong in the same book. The writing is completely different and the voices are so far off they aren't recognizable as the character introduced in the other chapters.

The one thing I liked about this scene was the opening paragraphs where it sets up her being a robot. That was good. It gives enough pertinent information without spoiling the twist. It could be read as she's just in some kind of armor for her own protection (for what reason the reader wouldn't know yet) or she could be a robot or something entirely different could have happened to her. She could be a computer for all we know or be melded with someone else's consciousness. Oh, the possibilities of sci-fi. But the set up is good. Something is obviously wrong with her... now let's find out what.

Re: scene 4

Date: 2013-03-13 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I think I addressed a lot of the issues you mentioned here in other comments, but as far as Brendan's behavior, you're completely right. I really want to rethink how Brendan comes to meet back up with Kalen and Calla because I don't like the way I've handled it here at all.

The reason he knows who Calla is does get addressed in a later chapter, but (a) I think that's not really good enough and (b) it's probably going to end up getting taken out anyway because I think the whole way the three of them end up in one place will get rewritten.

Calla thought it was Kalen because he had Kalen's robots with the tacky blue flames on it, but since the Robot Wars are going to be written out, I guess that's going to be irrelevant. :D

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scene 5

Date: 2013-03-12 09:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
These notes are mostly a continuation of the ones for sc. 4. Just more of OOCness from the characters and unrealistic actions.

Brendan and Kalen both sound like little kids during their fight. And at the end Kalen comes off as a whiny bitch. There's none of his cocky arrogance from when he first met Calla in ch. 1. That was the Kalen I liked.

Although Brendan's anger came out here I felt there should have been more... before the fight. There should have been a stand-off, some posturing. Brendan airing his grievances against Kalen for ruining his life. The Kalen from ch. 1 would have tried to negotiate or talk his brother down first. Or try to stop from fighting. He seemed too much like a pacifist to just jump into a battle like that.

The fact that Calla walks away, on the surface was good, but the I kind of felt cheated out of seeing the epic battle between brothers. It must have been spectacular to leave such a crater. How did Calla not hear that? Or other people? Now the entire robot army is destroyed? Oh, yeah, how did Brendan get a hold on some of Kalen's robots? Why? He needs some motives.

After the fight they all seemed way too calm and accepting. Like some comical fight where afterwards all the combatants (after nearly annihilating each other) just plop down on the couch for a beer and some reality TV. Unrealistic. Even if they just collapsed from exhaustion there should still be a ton of tension. Especially considering how mad Brendan was and how his life was turning out. This would be a great conflict generator for the rest of the book with Kalen having to dodge his brother's attempts at murder or screwing with him. With, possibly, them eventually having to put aside their difference to work together. Everything was resolved too easily in this scene, tied up in a tattered little bow.

And Calla was just... I don't know what. Now if my theory of her emotions being screwed up because she's a robot are true then it makes a lot more sense but that would need to be highlighted earlier so people would get that there was something wrong with her internally. Otherwise she sounds cold and flat and uncaring about anything. She also seems very self-centered. At no time do any of the characters worry about what happened to the people after the bombing or what kind of effect their actions are having. After Kalen's speech about Calla's people mattering he's awfully uncaring. Calla was always a little hollow in that department which I got was part of her character but now she just sounds callous and... not very nice. Which could be a great character flaw to build up if that's the way you want to go. But these things need to be brought up, built up, set up in previous chapters/scenes so it doesn't come off as just poor writing/characterization.

And then, also, all of a sudden Calla doesn't consider Kalen a friend anymore. At the beginning of the chapter he was her best friend. One little fight with his brother and now he's nothing to her? Again, if it's a side effect of the robot thing it would make sense but would need more explanation. Like Calla musing that it's weird she doesn't feel anything towards him anymore, not even friendship. He's just... Kalen, some guy she knows. Or, worse, her master (as the builder of the robot she's in).

Re: scene 5

Date: 2013-03-13 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Kalen kind of comes off as a whiny bitch a lot post-explosion. I guess that was a spoiler. It's something that does eventually get addressed but I'm not sure it gets addressed well or quickly enough and it's one of the things that I think needs the most work. All of my other characters have pretty distinct arcs over the course of the book -- Kalen's "arc" seems to be mostly regressing and eventually shaping up some, but not for a while. I'm the least confident with his "arc" of all the characters', largely because he seems to mostly want to be left alone and that ends up with him left out of a lot of scenes in some parts of the book.

I want to see Kalen and Brendan fighting like little kids in this chapter still, I think, but I may need to provide more background in the chapters before it to show it is in character. Also, I'm pretty sure I'd want it to be more brawling in the dirt like kids than a robot war, since I already went into great deal about how stupid I think the robot war is in retrospect.

I think Brendan is more... tired and resigned than really okay with things between him and Kalen. It seems like I may need to show that more. I think he, Kalen, and Calla are all pretty "now what"? about the whole thing because their lives as they knew them are over, and none of them really accomplished what they wanted to do. This is another thing like Calla's discomfort with her robot body, where it does come up but probably needs to be addressed more here, too.

Although to be honest, I'm wondering if Brendan needs more angst in his next chapter. I think for him, the progression is rage, tired resignation, frustration/loneliness (stuff that happens in chapter 5) and eventually hope. For a while. Things get kind of hairy for everyone later in the book.

I think if I get a decent handle on the plot for this chapter, I'll be able to get the emotions to come through more clearly for each character. Because at this point I know them all a lot more intimately than I did the first time I wrote this and ugh, I really should have scrapped it on the rewrite.


Date: 2013-03-12 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Overall there's potential for some interesting plot twists and developments. Of course I have no idea what you've already written and no idea where the story is going.

This chapter was a big mess. It felt way too jumpy going from scene to scene and the events were kind of unrealistic. Even for a sci-fi story (which this is--if you've got a dystopian world in the future it's by definition sci-fi, add robots and tech and there's no turning back).

It also felt like a big, giant infodump. There was so much going on in the story with very few details that it was just a lot of information that I could barely process.

Too much crammed into a few scenes in one chapter. I'm thinking that these scenes should be chapter in and of themselves and expanded and built up. And split up. I could probably think of a better way to integrate them with the chapters I've read.

I've been hesitant to say anything about the skipping around in time but after reading this and knowing that things will progress more linearly from here on out I think you should take apart all these chapters, expand and fill in and then put them back together in order of time.

Are there other characters/POVs that will be introduced later? If there are fill in the beginning with some scenes before the bombing just to introduce them. Or add them somehow to the other chapters.

I think a good timeline would be a prologue or 1st chapter with an expanded scene of the bombing maybe starting with Calla at home (a chance to describe her world more) then her moving to the square to meet Kalen. Maybe a brief conversation stating why their doing this (like reaffirming everything they spoke of in the past) and then end it with them making their announcement that they know why the war started and that they want to stop it.

Then the next chapter could open with Devin and Wes a week or so before the bombing to establish a baseline of their lives before. But combine the scenes with some filler so they don't feel so jumpy. Maybe even better to just do 1 or 2 of the scenes then start a new chapter from Calla or Kalen's POV as they are on their adventure to the library. But don't reveal too much, mostly just a set up. Then change again to maybe Wes (something completely different) or another character that turns up later. Build up each different set of lives leading up to the bombing. You could save Brendan's introduction until near the end of the build up when he can catch Kalen and Calla after they get back from the library but before she returns to her side. He can then confront Kalen (using a version of the scene already written). Then you could maybe have a scene of Wes and Devin having the most normal night they've ever had. Or Calla preparing for the bomb scene and the consequences that might come. That would be good because she would be at home and you could introduce the farm and her parents and what her life is like.

Through it all you could use some of the other scenes already written as flashbacks of stuff that has happened already. Like how Calla and Kalen met and the relationship between Brendan and Kalen. Maybe put in some stuff about Devin's history that he randomly thinks about. Maybe he sort of realizes his brain is frazzled because there's a memory he can't quite wrap his mind around but he remembers this much then describe it. Or have Wes remember some stuff about his life.

The point is to build up tension and conflict. This would also lengthen the book considerably but give you a chance to establish the world, their societies, how they live, who they are before delving into the real part (I'm interested in finding out what that is).

Then skip the actual bomb scene. Start up from Calla's POV as she escapes (that was a very, very good idea and a great start for a chapter). But don't go all the way to the robot thing. Those scenes were too choppy to stay together plus the end needs a lot of work.

It might work better to break them up and rewrite them from different POVs. Or have scenes with Wes and Devin being activated or whatever it is that happens to them (which reminds me--they are mentioned as insurgents several times but it's never explained what that means, whose side are they on? Why did they move to Sidea?).

overall continued

Date: 2013-03-12 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com

The bombing sequence needs a much better set up otherwise it sounds like two stupid teenagers doing something royally idiotic (and nearly getting themselves killed). It actually takes away from their character and makes me dislike them for not considering the danger they put themselves and everyone else into. This could be explained in a build up scene after the library in the timeline I sort of set up. There has to be a sound reason someone as smart as Kalen would jump to blowing himself up as a last resort. That's real terrorist territory there and do you want him portrayed that way? If you do then I can help you work it into the story better.

Calla needs to be shown adapting as a robot. She too easily accepts her new body and understands it. Unless you want that. But then you need to show it better. Have her thinking how easy it is to just become the robot. The emotion thing is an interesting angle that could be developed. Either have her emotions slowly slip away or have her fighting to keep them so she retains her humanity. If she doesn't fight losing them it bring on more dynamics and show something of her character (like she's given up or is relieved she no longer has to marry Morgan or live her life). But then later on realizes she needs her emotions and wants them back.

The whole becoming a robot bug thing reminded me of Kafka's story, The Metamorphosis which I read in 10th grade honors English. It's a really disturbing, graphic, introspective story.

There's also the obvious missing HOW does Calla become the robot. I saw some interesting ideas in the comments that could be developed. You can always start with Kalen having no idea. Then have it revealed later on. Or make it a non-issue, with the real issue being they can't put her back in her body (it's dead) and that she has to learn to deal with things so she doesn't care about the how or why and the rest are too busy dealing with the fallout of the bombing.

Some other things: I like the idea of Brendan being a "bad" guy. And being against Kalen. Maybe even the kind of bad guy with the good, gooey center that can be directed towards people that don't ruin his life (aka Kalen) or other people that make his life hell. He definitely needs more development.

And finally--Kalen and Calla. Are they still friends? Is Kalen just going to accept Calla not wanting to be his friend anymore? Will the robot thing come between them? Is it at all important to the rest of the story.

Also: PLOT
There's the beginning of some here and I see so much potential. Especially now that I'm over my initial shock at the robot armies, lol.

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