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Concrit much appreciated. This is chapter 5 of Cliffton book 1, now rewritten and hopefully beta-ready. If you are looking for the older version for comparison purposes, it is here.

If you're reading Cliffton for the first time, here are the previous chapters so you can catch up:
1 | 2 | 3 | 4

When I woke up this morning, I had a mission. Now I've got nothing to my name but the shredded remnants of my clothes. I'm exhausted, covered in black gunk, and pretty sure I can never go home again. It feels like I've been walking for hours, long enough my anger's finally died down, leaving logic in its place. This isn't a good thing, because now I remember how my temper always gets me on trouble. It sure has this time.

I'm a planner. Not a genius like my brother, but I'm usually pretty good at thinking things through.

Only I might have missed a few details when I hatched this whole scheme to start my own War. I spent weeks modifying Kalen's robots. Weeks preparing to use them. Somehow, I never thought about what'd happen after. Where I'd stay. How I'd feel about leaving my family. How they'd feel about losing another son. Not that they've noticed me much since Kalen's been gone, anyway.

Wonder if they've even figured out I'm not coming back.

At least Kalen's found us a place to stay. Guess we might be getting close to it now, because the scenery we're trudging past has shifted. One minute we're in the middle of the desert and the next we're in this residential area with big old houses and scraggly tumblebrush lawns. It's not a fancy neighborhood, but you can tell people take pride in their homes. A lot of them have little rock gardens or other ornaments in front and the buildings themselves seem well-maintained.

I follow Kalen up the pebbled driveway of one of the houses. It's painted a weird dark purple but the ornamental cacti in front are trimmed just so. There's a wind sock tacked up by the front door that looks like some kind of dragon, maybe? I'm not sure what it is, but it's monster-y and has big fangs.

Kalen's barely made it up the front steps when the door bursts open and the tallest, skinniest guy I've ever seen comes flying out. He's got blonde hair and enormous brown eyes that take up half his face. His huge grin covers most of the rest.

"KALEN! YOU'RE BACK!" he screeches. He looks like he might be about to launch himself at my brother and hug him, but then he turns toward the open door instead. "Yeah, Devin. I forgot. I'll be quieter, okay? Yeah, I know. Kalen's a fugitive. I just got excited. Sorry, dude!" Just watching this guy is making me tired. Or maybe it's the whole day catching up with me.

"How'd he know we were here?" I ask Kalen. "You didn't even knock."

"The security system probably alerted him the nanosecond we made it into the neighborhood." Kalen shakes his head. "Devin built it, and it's very... involved. We should be safe here."

"C'mon in, everyone!" The skinny hyper guy still hasn't really lowered his voice. "Oh, I'm Wes, by the way."

"Brendan." I hold my hand out and do my best not to sound grumpy. This guy is letting me stay in his house, even though he doesn't know me from Minister Squell. It's not his fault all I care about right now is a shower and a nap.

Wes pumps my arm up and down enthusiastically. I think it might come out of its socket if he doesn't stop soon. Then he tries to drag me inside, which doesn't really work because I must weigh about the same as three of him. He shoots me an awkward grin and grabs Kalen's arm instead. "I said come in, remember?"

Well, at least our new hosts seem welcoming enough. I step tentatively inside. Ahhhhh, climate control. It's hotter outside than a Reaping bonfire. After tromping around in that weather all day, the cool air's all I can focus on. I close my eyes and breathe a sigh of relief.

"Oh, fuck no." An angry voice breaks into my thoughts, and I open my eyes.

Apparently this is the other owner of the house? He's got black hair pulled back in a ponytail and he looks madder than a bag of wet cats. Also, he's right up in my brother's face, arms crossed over his chest. Doesn't seem to care that Kalen's twice as big around as he is. And it's a good thing Ponytail Guy's eyes don't shoot lasers like CallaBot's because Kalen would be dead if they did.

"Are you fucking serious with this shit?" Ponytail Guy isn't actually yelling but his voice just carries. I bet half the neighbors can hear him dressing down my brother. Grabbing one of CallaBot's many arms, I pull her into the house and shut the front door behind us. Seems like someone needs to. CallaBot's eyes start to glow threateningly, and I let go of her arm in a hurry.

"Does my house look like the fucking Snuggle Inn? Who the fuck are these - " Ponytail Guy shoots CallaBot a withering glance. I almost feel sorry for her, even though she's meaner than a fifty-fanged squid monster. "Who the fuck are these people and why are they fucking here?"

"Uh, Devin?" Wes looks anxious as he grabs Ponytail Guy's arm. "Dude? It's not a big deal. Calm down, okay?"

Devin glares at Wes. "I AM FUCKING CALM."

"What's the problem, Devin?"

Uh oh. I recognize the pitch of Kalen's voice right now. It's the way he talks to me when I lose my temper. The snotty, entitled tone that makes me want to pound him into a bloody pulp. Looks like Devin feels the same way. Guy kind of looks like smoke might come out of his ears at any moment.

"It's just my brother and Calla - oh yeah, she got turned into a robot." Kalen doesn't seem to understand he should probably stop talking now. "They don't have anywhere else to go. I figured since you were letting me stay here anyway - "

"Letting you stay here?" This Devin guy should be a stage performer or something. His vocal range is impressive. Also, I think he might kill my brother. "LETTING YOU FUCKING STAY HERE?"

Kalen's just standing there with his mouth hanging open. Good thing I closed the door or he'd catch flies.

"Devin, dude?" Wes lays a hand on his shoulder. "C'mon, it's okay. We've got plenty of room."

Devin jerks away from Wes and fixes him with his not-laser eyes. "It. Is. Not. Fucking. Okay."

I can actually feel how angry he is. The air around us is charged with his rage. If this is what it's like to be around me when I'm mad, no wonder Kalen avoids me all the time. Right now, I sure as fuck don't want to be anywhere near this guy. Good thing I'll be living with him for the foreseeable future. Maybe.

"You didn't even fucking ask if you could stay with us." Devin grabs my brother by the shoulders and growls at him. "You just fucking showed up."

Kalen just blinks at him, completely mystified. Oh, Kalen. This was your plan for us?

"Now you're bringing more fugitives here?" Devin steps back, crosses his arms again and shakes his head. He's lowered his voice and he almost looks dazed. "I don't fucking get it. What about me and Wes? What about our lives? Did you not even consider how all of this is gonna fucking affect us?

"Devin." Wes puts an arm around his roommate. His voice is soft but firm. "Dude. It's okay. We're fine."

"Fuck it," Devin mumbles. "Wes says you can fucking stay. I don't give a shit what you people do." He turns on his heel and stomps out of the room, Wes following close behind.

Kalen's frozen in place, eyes rounder than dinner plates. Guess he didn't think things through this time, either.

* * * * *

"What do you think they're doing in there?" CallaBot gestures toward the hallway with several of her arms.

Good question. It's been over an hour since our new hosts disappeared down that hall. Over an hour of sitting stiffly on this couch in an otherwise empty living room. Waiting for the owners of the house to return. If there's anything more awkward than this, I'm not sure what it could possibly be.

"What do you mean, what are they doing?" Kalen asks.

"Well, they're obviously not playing Robot Scrabble." CallaBot snorts. "They're a couple, right?"

"Wes and Devin?" Kalen's forehead wrinkles in confusion for a moment. Then he shakes his head. "No way, they're just friends. They've known each other forever. Why'd you even think that, CallaBot?"

Oh, Kalen.

"Seriously?" CallaBot begins, and that's when Wes saunters into the room.

"Sorry Devin and I left you in here so long." He offers an apologetic half-smile. "Want a snack or something?"

"Robots don't eat." CallaBot's eyes glow disdainfully.

"No, thanks, man." I'm actually starving, but it seems rude to impose. Not like we haven't already.

"You sure?" Wes grins at me. "You look like you could eat a lot."

I search his face for any sign of tension, but it's like the whole argument earlier never happened. Like it's no big thing Kalen and CallaBot and I are ruining his life. Then he looks me up and down, and his eyes get impossibly big. Guess he's noticed I'm covered in grime.

"Your couch!" I jump up self-consciously. "I'm so sorry."

"Oh, dude, don't worry about that." Wes shrugs. "That'll clean right up. No problem! Do you wanna see your room now? I bet what you want more than anything's a shower."

I barely get a chance to nod before Wes seizes my arm and starts pulling. "I'm saving the last room up here for CallaBot. It's got a better bathroom, and she's technically a girl, y'know?" He leads me through a door and down a rickety wooden staircase. "The shower down here's old style, but I didn't think you'd mind. You seem tough."

Do robots even need bathrooms? Guess it doesn't matter. The basement's okay by me. More distance from CallaBot and Devin. Less chance of getting yelled at that way. It's not like I don't understand why they don't like me. Problem is, yelling leads to other things, and it's not right to hit girls, even robot ones. Or scrawny guys, either.

"Here we are!" Wes stops at the end of a hallway lit by a single bare bulb. "Your new quarters!"

I stare inside, bemused. My new room appears to have been a storage area in its previous incarnation. There are piles of stuff everywhere. I can't even really tell if there's a bed. On the bright side, there's a whole bunch of free weights shoved into a back corner. Wonder if they'll let me use them.

"Yeah, um, dude," Wes looks embarrassed. "We kinda didn't get a chance to clean it out."

"It's okay, man." I know he and Devin weren't expecting more company. "I can take care of it."

"You sure, dude?" Wes asks uncertainly.

"Yeah, I'm good." Oh yeah, there was one thing. I fidget uncomfortably, because I'm a little scared to ask for any favors after the way we've barged in on him and Devin. "Um, anyone using those weights?" I gesture toward them nervously. "If not, could I keep them in here for now?"

Wes laughs out loud, and it's an impossibly joyful sound. "Devin and I look like we work out a lot? They came with the house. You might as well keep them. No one else here's gonna use them anyway." He turns to go, calling cheerfully over his shoulder. "See ya later, dude. Hope you have a good shower!"

And I do. It's probably the best shower I've ever had in my life. My bathroom may be old, but it's clean. Turns out hot water's just as effective whether it comes from an old-style shower head or a programmable washing station. Sure, I have to fiddle with the little knob thingy at first, but it's not that hard to figure out.

By the time I'm done, I feel like a new person. Even having to wear Kalen's old sweats doesn't dampen my mood. They're skintight and skimpy, but I'm clean for the first time in forever and I don't care. I'm feeling so great, I decide to venture upstairs. I could really use some human contact that doesn't involve yelling or shooting.

Or not. Wes and Kalen are playing SimFighting when I step out into the living room. It turns out that in this house, the game involves both yelling and shooting. CallaBot's sitting on the couch. Her face is unreadable, but the way she's got her arms all tangled together, I'm pretty sure she's bored. Only as soon as she spots me, her eyes glow balefully. Great.

"Hey, Brendan!" Wes glances up at me, then squeals in frustration as his SimFighter explodes. "Wanna play?"

I suck at video games, and I don't even really like them. It's not like I'm going to say no, though. Wes is the only person who's been nice to me all day. So I take the headset he offers me and give it a shot.

After a few matches, I've had enough. Wes flails all over the place when he plays, knocking into me and screeching and being generally distracting. Of course, that only makes me even more terrible at the game than I already am. On top of that, all the quick simulated movements are making me a little sick to my stomach.

"That was fun!" Wes yells as I take off my headset. "I actually won for a change." Then he does a double-take and his goofy grin gets even bigger. "Dude, we need to find you some new clothes."

Oh, man. Like I didn't feel out of place already. Now Wes is staring at me like I'm something shiny.

"Your arms," he breathes in childlike wonder. "They're huge. And muscly." He's on his feet in a flash, grabbing at me before I can back away. "Can I... can I touch them?"

Guess there's no point in saying no, seeing as he's touching them already anyway.

"Don't worry, bro." It's the first time Kalen's called me that all day. "Wes did the same thing to me the first time we met in person. He doesn't mean anything by it."

"Yeah, dude," Wes agrees, running his fingers over my bicep. "People just don't look like you where I come from."

Wes jumps and looks over my shoulder. Didn't think his eyes could get any bigger, but they do. He drops my arm with a surprised squeak, looking like a kid caught sneaking snacks before dinner. I turn around to see Devin, his own eyes nearly as wide as Wes's. Then he shoots me a glare that could melt UberSteel and stomps off for the second time in the maybe-three-hours I've known him. Wes runs after him without another word.

Good to know I'm making friends here. I sigh and head back downstairs where it's safe.

* * * * *

When I hear the knock on my door, I kind of want to ignore it. It's not like talking to people around here has done me much good so far anyway. But I don't really like being alone, either. At home, I had friends. Here, I've got no one.

More knocking. "Hey, it's Wes."

Great. Wes seems nice enough, but I'm pretty sure his pal Devin doesn't want me talking to him.

"I made pancakes. Wanna come upstairs and have some?"

My stomach grumbles. I really do want some pancakes. Mother used to make them on weekends. I miss Mother, who loved me more than anything even though I wasn't perfect like Kalen. She was the only one who did, and now I'll never see her again.

"Kalen and Devin went out to get robot parts." Wes says. "It's really quiet up there without them."

Not sure if Wes is trying to tell me it's safe to come out of the basement or if he just wants the company. Guess it doesn't matter much. I'm lonely and hungry, so I open the door and follow him upstairs.

"Sit down and relax!" Wes motions toward a chair at the breakfast table. "One order of pancakes, coming right up!" he announces excitedly before he bounces off into the kitchen. I hear banging noises and a whistled tune I don't recognize. Then Wes returns, setting a plate in front of me with a flourish. It's the biggest stack of pancakes I've ever seen, and he's used chocolate chips and whipped cream to make a slightly deranged-looking smiley face on the top one.

"Thanks, man." I dig in enthusiastically. They're delicious.

Wes plops himself into a chair at the other side of the table, bouncing up and down as he sifts through a pile of tiny parts. It looks like he's assembling some kind of device, and he's whistling the same tune as before as he works.

"What's that?" I ask. "Some kind of robot?"

"No, dude, it's the Discovery!" Wes must notice my blank look, because his jaw drops. "Y'know, the ship from NebulaQuest?" Now he's humming the same tune he was whistling before. Maybe it's the theme music for the show?

"Never seen it." For some reason I feel kind of embarrassed. Good thing I'm not a blusher.

"You've... never... seen it?" Wes is thunderstruck. "You have to watch it! It's great. They fly on a ship and meet aliens and go on adventures... And there's fight scenes and jokes and it's the best show ever made!"

Does this guy breathe through his ears or something?

I make short work of my pancakes. It's been at least a day since I've eaten much besides NutriBars. When I'm finished, I flop onto the couch, feeling more content than I have in weeks. Sure, CallaBot's giving me her usually disapproving stare, but I kind of don't blame her. I did turn her into an ugly metal monster. Besides, she doesn't seem to like anyone much.

Case in point, she's looking at Wes like she's going to laser him any minute. Guess that's because he's running around the room like a sugar-drunk child, pretending to fly his now-finished model of the Spaceship Discovery. He's even making loud zooming and whooshing noises as he narrowly avoids crashing into walls and the sparse furnishings.

"Y'know what would make this even better?" Wes comes to a halt, barely even out of breath.

"You not crashing around the house like an idiot?" CallaBot's voice drips with scorn.

Wes's face falls. "Aw, CallaBot. You're almost as grumpy as Devin." He brightens at the mention of his roommate's name. "That's one thing I kinda like about you! Anyway, I was talking about my model of the Discovery. It'd be better if it lit up. Y'know what? I think I'll go buy a lighting kit for it now!" He's grinning broadly as he dashes out the front door.

I can't help shaking my head as he goes.

"Gets on your nerves too, does he?" Is that actually amusement in CallaBot's tone?

"Wes is a good guy. He's the only one here who's been nice to me. And he makes awesome pancakes." I pause, remembering that robots don't eat. "Guess that's not much of a selling point for you, huh?"

"No, and he's a fool." CallaBot snorts. "Though at least he's not actively hostile like his little boyfriend. Ugh."

"So, um, are they together?" The muscle-touching incident yesterday's only made me wonder more.

"Not according to Kalen." CallaBot rolls her eyes.

"Oh, Kalen." I have to chuckle at my brother's cluelessness.

"I know, right? Was he even in the room with us?" CallaBot's snickering now, too.

"Why'd you even think that, CallaBot?" I do my best imitation of Kalen's high-pitched voice.

We both dissolve into giggles. Just like that, I'm laughing so hard I can barely catch my breath, and CallaBot's doubled over even though robots don't breathe. Every time I think I'm finished, I look up at CallaBot and it sets me off again, which gets her going again too. It's probably a full five minutes before we both settle down.

"Man, I needed that," I gasp when I'm finally capable of speech.

"Me too." CallaBot isn't smiling. Maybe her face doesn't do that? She does look happier, though, even if I'm not sure how. "I didn't even know I could laugh anymore."

"I wasn't sure I could, either." I stare at my hands. "Haven't had a lot of reasons to lately."

"Brendan, can I ask you something?" For once, CallaBot doesn't sound annoyed. "How'd you know my name before you accidentally turned me into a robot? And what were you doing with all those robots in the first place?"

I open my mouth and close it uselessly a few times before answering. The truth's a little embarrassing.

"Truth is, I followed Kalen when he went to meet you at the tree." So much for not being a blusher. My face feels so hot I kind of want to fan myself with my hands. "And the robots? Well, after Kalen blew up the fence, the military wouldn't let me enlist anymore. I thought I could build my own fighting squad. Guess that didn't work out so well."

If she didn't think I was an idiot before, I'm sure she does now. I wait for her insect-eyes to glare at me. Instead, she reaches over with one of her pincers and pats me on the arm. "You're not so bad, Brendan," she says.

Guess she isn't so bad, either. Maybe making friends here isn't a lost cause after all.

(Next chapter is here)

Date: 2013-02-02 03:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theun4givables.livejournal.com
lol I love this chapter so much. So many little things. So much Kalen being Kalen. Devin's little freak out. The fact that it took Wes over an hour to calm Devin down only to have it immediately undone when Devin sees Wes touching Brendan's musclesssss.

I'm sorry I'm not helpful I just have always loved this one and I love the added stuff. I feel that it definitely makes things stronger over all. :)

Date: 2013-02-02 02:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Awww, yay. I had a lot of fun doing the edits/rewrites for this one. I kind of love Devin's freak out, poor bb. Like, it didn't hit me as hard at the time I wrote it because I was undoubtedly mad at him for something he did after this. But reading it in order, I actually feel bad for him.

Thanks for reading for the millionth time. :D

Date: 2013-02-02 02:23 pm (UTC)
ext_224364: (Hyosung)
From: [identity profile] x-disturbed-x.livejournal.com
I probably won't be much help either, lol. This chapter feels more complete now. I love Wes and his touching Brendon's muscles. I'd do the same thing. ;)

I do enjoy Brendon's POV and I love when he interacts with Calla. :P

Date: 2013-02-02 02:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Thanks! Wes is just... attracted to pretty things. And apparently, he thinks most things are pretty. :D

I'm glad you like Brendan. His POV is one of the harder ones for me to write because sometimes I struggle with his voice. Devin really likes to talk over him. That was less of an issue in this chapter, since Devin's only in it for a few minutes.

Date: 2013-02-02 03:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alien-writings.livejournal.com
I'm always a sucker for Brendan stuff, lol. I know Brendan POV is harder for you, but this was a really good rewrite. Man, so much Kalen being, well, Kalen. And the Mysterious Hour where Wes and Devin were...occupied, lol.

Good job! :)

Date: 2013-02-05 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Brendan POV is only harder for me to write sometimes. Like when I don't know what's going on in every scene or sometimes when he's in a lot of scenes with Devin (because Devin likes to talk over him). This one was easier. :D

They're just friends, okay? Haha.

Date: 2013-02-05 09:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] winters-queen.livejournal.com
Oh Kalen. For being so smart, you really are stupid. Putting your friends in danger because they would automatically welcome you if you showed up.

Poor Brendan. Always getting the short stick.

Devin: *snicker* Jealous much?

As always, CallaBot is pretty awesome even if she doesn't do much right now. I think it's the shooting lasers out of her eyes anyway.

Wes is such a sweety and he seriously needs to cut back on the sugar.

Date: 2013-02-05 11:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
It's really interesting to see your reactions to my characters, reading the stories in order and (I think) not really having much previous exposure to them. I'm trying really hard not to respond to your comments in ways that are going to unduly influence your opinions because I so need to see this. :D

So if my responses seem dumb, that's why. I loveloveLOVE to BS about my writing but I am trying so hard to curb that tendency so I can see what YOU think and not what you think about what I tell you in response to what you think.

This comment is ludicrous, isn't it? Ha.

Date: 2013-02-07 11:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tatdatcm.livejournal.com
This just solidifies Calla and Brendan as my favorites.

I think I've said this before, but man, Wes makes me tired. :)

Date: 2013-02-08 01:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
It's nice that they have actual sense. And Brendan's sweet. Calla's not, exactly, but I really enjoy writing her most of the time.

Wes makes me tired, too. There's a reason he does not have more chapters from his POV. That, and I think too much of his POV might make readers want to stab their own eyeballs out after a while. :D

going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 05:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I think it's going to get harder and harder to critique the chapters you have written already because you're talking about changing quite a bit in the beginning. It's hard to tell what's good or not because the story has changed.

I'm going to have to go over this in the morning when my brain isn't so... blah. I've been out of it all day and every time I try to get my brain to do anything constructive it shuts down. Stupid brain. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.

Just some initial thoughts I had while reading:
Brendan's internal voice sounds pretty good. I like his descriptions of things and the way he thinks. The only thing I'm having trouble with is the tone falls flat when he's thinking about Kalen and the whole robot thing. Like it's an "eh" moment. Nothing to care about or get worked up about. If I hadn't read the last chapter I'd think there's nothing going on between them. Actually I'd think they were best buds having a crappy day. It seems like he should be a little more put-off by his brother. Get mad that he's so clueless he invites himself and 2 friends to stay at Wes & Devin's house. Get disgusted with the cluelessness about Wes & Devin.

Although that was something else that caught my eye. It might be better if you draw out the whole Wes & Devin as a couple. Not make it too obvious at first that the other characters get it right away. It destroys the building tension. I don't know.

I can see it 2 ways: that they are so obvious about it that even after a few minutes Calla and Brendan figure it out. Or it could be one of those things where you think maybe they are, maybe their not. Especially since Devin is in denial and acts like there's nothing going because he doesn't realize it? I like that he got all jealous of Wes and Brendan but it might work better if it wasn't so obvious why. Maybe if the other characters don't immediately interpret his reaction as jealousy. Or Devin tries to play it off that it was something else. My brain is having trouble processing my thoughts on this.

CallaBot: the glowing eyes of doom are cracking me up.
I asked this before but I think you missed it. What exactly does she look like? Because all your descriptions of her are very human like--rolling eyes, doubling over, smirking, snorting, stuff like that. If she doesn't have a human like body I doubt she'd be doing all that stuff namely because it makes no sense to build a fighting robot with those features (rolling eyes, a mouth that could smirk, etc). You need to describe her when she sees her reflection right away so people know what to imagine. Also everyone's reacting to her like it's perfectly normal for her to be a buglike robot. Devin and Wes don't even do a double take. Wes just accepts her like she is without a second thought. Kalen and Brendan also aren't weirded out by her. I would think they would have some kind of uncomfortableness around her. Especially since she has the eyes of doom. One more move and ZAP! I'd think they'd be a little wary (as a reader, that's what I would expect). It would be fun to see them both having to get used to her especially with her emotional issues. She's so cold and robot like until she gets angry then she's all glowy eyes and scary. I'd be stepping lightly around her. She's also pissed at Kalen and he has to pick up on it eventually and try to figure out how to make things better.

I think those attitudes were really distracting me from the rest. A lot of the dialogue seemed off, too. Like kind of choppy and I don't know. Just sounded weird to my ears. I'm thinking about taking long scenes of talking that I've written and break it down to just the dialogue without all the tags and action and details to try and focus on the sound of the words spoken. Not sure if that would help you or not with getting their voices down. I'm going to try when I get to a scene with a lot of talking (probably when Zoe meets Oliver because they like to banter back and forth... and OMG with the flirting).

going to be hard part 2

Date: 2013-03-15 05:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Had a few more thoughts than I expected.

Wes still seems WAY over the top to me. Honestly, it's kind of off-putting at this point. I want to like him but I feel like this version of him can't be real it's just too crazy for an adult. It's crazy even for a nine year old on a sugar rush. My kids are never that off the wall. Maybe with some scenes (more like the basement one) where he's a little more "normal" to balance it out. Show that there's more to him then the psycho hummingbird side of him. It makes me wonder what in the hell Devin sees in him because I want to strangle him after reading a few paragraphs about him. I guess, he seems a little one dimensional right now, is what I'm saying. He has no depth and he's not very likeable (even the characters are put off). I don't mean he can't be flighty and childlike but zooming around the room with his toys seems a little much. And the screaming about everything. Oy. Actually, he sounds like he's mentally handicapped. I can see, though, why Devin would want to protect him. Part of me wonders if Devin will be pissed to find out they let Wes leave on his own because I'd be scared to let the guy out of my sight for fear he'd get himself hurt. Touch the wrong bicep and he's going to get pounded.

I really, really like the conversation when they're all in the house and Devin gets so pissed at Kalen and Wes is trying to calm him down.
"Uh, Devin?" Wes looks anxious as he grabs Ponytail Guy's arm. "Dude? It's not a big deal. Calm down, okay?"

Devin glares at Wes. "I AM FUCKING CALM."

This was probably my favorite line of all. I just busted out laughing at that. The whole scene really sold Devin's character. And Wes was much better, actually seemed kind of worried that Devin would blow a gasket or give himself a stroke or something.

There were some other things I wanted to mention but I can't think of them now. I'll find some time tomorrow to go over it section by section. There was a lot of stuff I liked about this chapter, despite all the negative remarks I just made.

Re: going to be hard part 2

Date: 2013-03-15 09:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I'm torn on Wes because I kind of want him to be offputting at this point. The next chapter is from Calla's POV (the one where I mentioned I'm mad at myself because she has like NO thoughts about Kalen, even though two chapters after that she's pulling him aside and telling him they've got to talk) and she is pretty much I HATE YOU ALL. Especially Wes and Devin because Wes is obnoxious and Devin reminds her of Morgan. Which isn't a big spoiler because it's like the third thing she says in that chapter, I think.

Wes has depth but he's also very, very naive. Other than a year and some change at Multiversity, he's only ever lived at home or with Devin. And that's all I will say because you will either understand or be like "okay, that's enough" in the next chapter. He does eventually show more depth. At times. I'm open to the idea of having him show more earlier.

Re: going to be hard part 2

Date: 2013-03-15 08:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
For Wes: I think just some hints that he's not always so obnoxious would help. Like at the end of the video game when Calla kind of tells him off and his spirits drop. That shows he's still a human underneath and not some kind of freak of nature. You kind of want him off-putting to the characters but loveable to the reader so they will want to know more about him, not want to tear their hair out every scene he's in.

Definitely a balance there. I'd probably have to see rewrites before I could come up with logical spots for him to show his "normal" side. Again, just little things here and there. Kind of like random moments in his breathless ramblings where he takes a breath and speaks casually or something. Like in the pancake scene... lots of blabbering then suddenly out of nowhere he asks Brendan something personal (probably inappropriate) but with softness and caring but before he can answer he just starts blabbering again leaving Brendan feeling more off kilter.

For Calla: Love the idea of I hate you all. Good reasons for hating Wes and Devin. She hates Brendan for turning her into a robot and she's pissed at Kalen for all sorts of reasons. I would think including the way he's treating her and calling her CallaBot--she's still human. I'd want to laser him every time he said that. I just picture her snapping eventually and shooting lasers right next to his head and screaming at him to stop calling her that. What a shock that would be to Kalen because he's so clueless.

Re: going to be hard part 2

Date: 2013-03-15 10:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I meant to say I'd be open to showing a more chill scene of Wes in chapter 2 if it would balance things out? I'm not sure what. Will have to think about that. Thanks for pointing this out, because I wonder if Wes is too offputting for other readers too. My very tiny sample size of people who have mentioned him so far has seemed to like him for the most part, so I hadn't thought about it much before now. I wonder if there are any good ways to tone him down a little bit without diluting his basic nature. Or if I just need to show a little more of his depth from the beginning.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 09:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
This is going to be blah on top of blah, then, because I had like no sleep last night and my brain is dead. I have no business trying to communicate with people.

Things I am sure of with this chapter:
The scene with Devin yelling at Kalen stays. I had a clear visual of it which with Brendan is the only way I know wtf Devin is doing because he doesn't "get" Devin at all so I just get a visual and then usually a strong and negative emotion associated with it. Anyway, the scene is relevant to his relationship with Devin but it's also (more importantly at this point in the book, oops) relevant to his relationship with Kalen. Because the way Kalen treated Devin in that scene is apparently a thing he does with Brendan as well because Kalen doesn't handle anger well.

Which brings me to thing two that I know about this chapter. Brendan's reactions/thoughts about Kalen are kind of missing. I think this is because something never really clicked in my head about their relationship until you mentioned their dad but. There's a thing I have failed to explain here, too. In their (ugh, haha) Robot War, Brendan got, like, blackout mad. He doesn't just have an anger problem. He has an Anger Problem. Nobody really sees the extent of it for a while besides him and Kalen (because they've seen it before). But when Kalen and Brendan meet back up in chapter 4 (whatever happens there), Brendan gets blackout mad.

Afterward, he's confused, he doesn't remember exactly what happened, and he's usually kind of down and wants to sleep. Obviously, if he had done something horrible he'd also be consumed by guilt although I think he might have to get through the initial confusion first to feel that. There's no way you would know this, though, is there? Because I haven't explained it. So when they get to the house, he's pretty much dead on his feet (so why he notices all the details about the house I'm not sure). He processes the scene between Devin and Kalen pretty well because it's something that's played out between him and Kalen before.

After that, he's more or less so done mentally and emotionally that all he notices are extreme things, like Wes. Who probably seems even more extreme than usual to him. Which means even though Devin is obviously jealous, Brendan probably shouldn't get that. He's too out of it and really in general (going forward) doesn't get anything Devin does.

Number one, I really need to make that clear -- Brendan's mental state when they get back to the house. For one, I need to make it clear what happens when he gets mad (which is another reason I wonder if Calla isn't even there for their epic battle because she doesn't understand the full extent of Brendan's rage issues for a whiiiile and she's pretty insightful although the whole turning-into-a-robot thing might have been distracting for her).

Number two, even though Kalen's not around the next day, Brendan should probably be having thoughts about Kalen at that point. Although I think he sort of feels like Kalen's been ruining his life all along and he may still just feel tired and resigned at this point. But even so, that ought to be stated.

Wes and Devin -- let me think about that one for a bit. I don't know that Brendan would interpret his reaction as jealousy. Calla would, though. I was questioning Devin's actual reaction earlier though too, while I was trying to rip this chapter apart in my head. I was trying to decide if he'd make some pissy comment about "fuck this, there's no room to sit in my own living room" or something instead of just stomping off without saying anything. But Brendan is pretty much convinced Devin hates him from this point onward, so he definitely does have a reaction.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
For someone who shouldn't communicate these were all really good responses. Things make more sense now and I think a lot was lost because of what will be rewritten in earlier chapters. Once those are filled in this chapter will be much better with some tweaking. It's definitely much better than chapter 4, has more details and some really good parts.

I totally agree about the argument with Devin and Kalen. It was really, really good. And I think Brendan's reactions to it were mostly good. I remember thinking (and I'll be rereading to give more detailed responses... if I can think of anything else at all) I liked Brendan's POV there. His reactions were mostly good and his inner commentary really brought the visual out. I think it was a good choice to not have the argument from Devin or Kalen's POVs. Actually I don't think any other POV would have done the scene justice. Brendan is far enough removed emotionally that he can be more objective in his observation. Calla is just...has no emotion so the whole thing probably would have had her wanting to shoot people with her labels. Or she'd be bored and what's the POV of showing that to the reader? They'd be bored, too.

I think the scene just needs some minor fixes and will be perfect.

The black out thing is really interesting and really needs to be sold in the previous chapter. I'm not sure how if Calla doesn't stay at the scene of the fight unless you break up the scenes and do the fight through Brendan's eyes but that might break up your flow if you don't having switching like that in other chapters (because the chapters are long and then having them switch quick for a couple will feel odd). It's a thought, though. I think one I suggested before.

I was just thinking--you could, to show Brendan's exhaustion (physically and mentally) have him just kind of collapse inside the house during the fight. Like, I mean, go sit down with the bored, uninterested CallaBot. He could be all like--this is intense, I'm tired, going to sit now because I just can't keep this up--kind of thing. Then Devin could even glare at him for making himself at home which would sell his idea that Devin hates him. Of course for Brendan it was either sit or fall over which isn't very manly. Then Wes could fuss over him later. Ooh, maybe Devin could hear that fussing and be all pissed that Wes is doing his hyper-excited thing with Brendan when he feels that is their thing and not know why he feels that way. That would make an interesting scene from Devin's POV but would need to come in the middle of this chapter like when him and Kalen go out. He'd be thinking back to what he heard after Wes left his room (after that hour of calming him down). Not sure how that would work, though, again with the timing and flow of the chapters.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 04:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, at first I was like "fuck, how did I not see this chapter was so weak?" And there really is context that needs to be added to it, but it's also the fact that there is a whole bunch of stuff missing from the previous chapters.

I like your idea of Brendan collapsing on the couch and Wes fussing over him. I was thinking of cutting the SimFighting part since I established what a spaz Wes was at that game in chapter 2 already. Although I really do think Wes would be all "ooh, shiny" about Brendan's muscles. So it might end up being both. :D

Also, I think I'm going to replace the final section with a group scene but I blabbed about that already elsewhere.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 08:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
CONTEXT--that's a good word. I think there's a whole lot of context missing from all the chapters but I know you're working that out in your head and will add it later. My book is probably the same because I would forget what happened earlier (I never went back and read what I previously wrote except the last paragraph of each chapter before I started writing for the day). I'm sure I forgot a whole lot of stuff.

The muscle scene was just so very random and funny. Like, dude, people don't do that. But he does it and Brendan lets him (like he could stop him). Maybe he kind of liked the attention since he seems kind of lonely and his brother is being a total douche towards him all the time. Maybe he misses that kind of connection he used to have with his brother when they were kids.

Re: going to be hard--more

Date: 2013-03-15 03:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com

Number two, even though Kalen's not around the next day, Brendan should probably be having thoughts about Kalen at that point. Although I think he sort of feels like Kalen's been ruining his life all along and he may still just feel tired and resigned at this point. But even so, that ought to be stated.

Good observation. Definitely do this. It will help round out the scene. Now that he's had some rest he should start to analyze and process everything that happened since the fight or since his rage started. Maybe back to the recruiting thing. Like his rage started building then and finally exploded when he fought Kalen and now it's all gone and at the moment there's nothing left so his mind is free to see things more clearly. That would be a good point about his character--that when he's angry it builds to a blind fury until he HAS to unleash it. Then after he's free to realize what a horrible person he (thinks he) is. Maybe he thinks he's too much like his father--if their father had a quick temper with Brendan (like would easily backhand him for a snide comment or punish him for little things) but was soft with Kalen (well, softer because he doesn't strike me as a man that would be tender) that would divide the brothers more.

(going to make another comment about Wes & Devin's relationship)

Re: going to be hard--more

Date: 2013-03-15 03:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, I forget if I told you this or not but my theory is basically that Brendan took the abuse so Kalen didn't have to (which Kalen doesn't get). This is actually REALLY significant to a thing later in the book that I have never fully understood and I cannot freaking believe I didn't make the connection until I was responding to your comments for chapter 3.

So having him have some thoughts about that here would be good, and I think there's also going to be some flashback scenes related to that closer to the end of the book near the relevant plot point.

Re: going to be hard--more

Date: 2013-03-15 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I think you mentioned it.

That would really effect Brendan. Here, he spent all his childhood being abused to protect his little brother that he loved only to be ignored/tossed to the side and unappreciated as an adult. That's got to hurt.

I think the scenes you showed earlier do imply this scenario. It's how I was picturing things after reading them.

Devin & Wes

Date: 2013-03-15 04:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
some thoughts on Devin & Wes' relationship and how to reveal it.

"fuck this, there's no room to sit in my own living room"
I like that idea. Sounds totally like Devin. It would be his cover story if he kind of realizes he's jealous Wes is giving attention to another guy. Or he might not really understand his own emotions over the situation and covers the confusion with his usual bark.

Maybe tone down Wes' response to the situation. Instead of having him squeak and pull away all guilty just have him stare with a surprised look at Devin until he storms away then have him calmly let go and follow Devin. It would be a little OOC for Wes (at least to the characters based on what they've seen so far) but show this is serious.

I think if you decide to go with a slower reveal of their relationship you might think about toning down Wes and Devin's reactions to each other just a bit. It doesn't have to be a lot. In chapter 2 maybe take out some of the times Devin thinks Wes' (very odd) behavior is cute or make some counter points that they've been best friends for awhile and he's gotten used to it. Maybe even that it annoys him sometimes (like when Wes is being crazy when it's a serious situation) but he's so used to him by now he can't imagine not having the crazy in his life. But make it a little less obvious that he likes the guy and is in denial

That could come later. At the beginning sell their friendship. Show them talking about more personal stuff (maybe Wes is the only person ever to get Devin to open up). Or at least just talking like two normal adults. They kind of do balance each other out. Wes is about to flutter away on the rainbow wings of hummingbirds but Devin is there to hold him down. Meanwhile Devin is about to fall off an emotional cliff into nothingness but Wes is there to keep him from falling. It's a good dichotomy but I think it works better if it's shown slowly over the course of the first half of the book.

It's a story arc and a good character arc for Devin for him to slowly realize his protectiveness and caring for Wes goes beyond simple friendship. Then, maybe, he doesn't know what to do about it so starts acting weird around Wes (maybe lashing out and hurting him for no reason).

Those are just some things to think about. As a reader I'd like to get to know them better throughout the book. I'd have my suspicions about them (from little hints) but they wouldn't be confirmed until later. I'd find that more fun. At least for me. Other readers might now especially with it being a same-sex relationship which squicks so many people out but screw them anyway. :)

I have to go run errands now. I'll get to your other comments when I get back (whenever that is).

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 09:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Calla was originally in a bug body at the time of her transformation. This is dumb and I don't have any idea why I haven't changed it already. In the next story, she's in a six foot tall shiny humanlike metal body, because Kalen and Devin build her a new one that looks more human. So she shouldn't be able to act human in this scene but on the rewrite I think I am going to simplify it and have her already in the body I plan for her to stay in (shiny and humanoid).

The way I pictured it is Kalen is constantly building these big, ugly, scary robots. The guys don't bat an eyelash at her most of the time because she's just another one of Kalen's robots to her. They also don't necessarily always remember she's human, but they're only scared of her when she does scary things. Which she hasn't done as much in this rewrite as she did in the original version but plot-relevantly isn't opposed to doing.

Wes accepts everyone as the way they are, so it felt wrong for him to be super shocked by a robot in human form. I mean, I'm not positive he even gets that things that happen on neurovision aren't real. Okay, he does, but I question it sometimes. Although he also does tend to get scared of things, so maybe he should be scared at first.

Devin is too agitated by the whole situation to care that Calla's a robot. Also, he's very used to seeing Kalen with robots and would be more annoyed by another person he has to support/take care of/house.

Wes and Devin do not have sane-people reactions. Although maybe Wes should be afraid at first.

Brendan is supposed to be scared of her, initially, but I guess I don't make that clear enough. He's also very used to being around Kalen's robots, but he's not a big technology person and Calla is mean. Kalen is more... baffled, which is kind of his reaction to everything at this point.

I don't like Brendan's reasoning for showing up in chapter 4 being explained here in the dialogue at the end. That feels off and expository to me. If you want to point me to other areas where the dialogue feels off, I'd like that.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I this on my phone in the car and had all sorts of thoughts but I can't remember half of them so my comments are probably going to be all over the place.

See, that's more how I pictured her--big, shiny, humanoid. And scary looking. Menacing red lights for eyes kind of thing.
Question, though: How humanoid are they? Like I said before it seems pointless to make a robot have the ability to make facial expressions if they aren't capable of feelings. So all the smirking, smiling, eye rolling would have to go. I like that her eyes glow brighter when she's angry--very intimidating, especially to those who know what she's capable of (like Brendan). Also the snorting is such a human sound. It should probably come out as some kind of squelch or something. You said her voice sounds electronic but feminine.

Which lead me to another thought: When you do chapters from others POV they wouldn't be able to see any emotions except maybe anger when she flashes her eyes. They wouldn't know if she was happy or sad or anything because we get a lot of cues from people's faces and hers would show nothing. But when you do chapters from Calla's POV you could add some of that in because in her mind she's smiling/smirking, snorting whatever. But then mention something like, at least she thought she was smirking. Or make a comment after she snorts that it comes out more like a squelching sound. Her laughing could be like hisses of short static. To maker her more robot like on the outside. She seems way too human otherwise and you forget she's a robot.

As for their reactions--I get now why they reacted the way they did but since his robot building was never brought up it made no sense the first read through. I think we already addressed adding that in somehow, somewhere. If not... that needs to be added in. :)

My thoughts about this were that when they first answer the door neither Wes nor Devin would blink an eye about the robot. Since they know about his building (and probably Devin has helped him already) it would be a non issue. But I think they'd react when they found out that's Calla.

Your comments in another thread were more like what I was thinking about. That they're kind of shocked at first to find out. Nothing big but like a gasp or a pause. I was totally going to suggest that Wes go over and start kind poking around her all excited until she got all glowy eyes. And the idea that later he'd be hassling her with a million questions and wanting to find out how to make her comfortable or try to get to know her was perfect. Exactly how I would picture his reaction. Poor Calla.

Devin I see continue to scream at Kalen but there's a moment of pause as his mind processes the information and he thinks, "that's so interesting," but he's too furious to stop his tirade. Later, he'd totally want to try and figure out how it happened and would maybe then talk to her but very business like. He's curious but it doesn't totally click that there's a human consciousness in there.

I like also your idea that Kalen really isn't making the connection that his best friend is a robot from now on. That he treats her like a robot. That would probably piss her off. Then it would make sense for him to call her CallaBot all the time while I see Wes and probably Brendan just calling her Calla and Devin just referring to her as, "the bot". Like she's just a thing of interest to him. But to show that with Kalen you'd probably need a chapter from his POV. Or at least from someone who mentions that Kalen acts like she's just another robot. From Calla's POV you'd see how angry it makes her. Then she could shout that she's still her, still Calla inside. Although be totally conflicted because is she really her if she has no emotions?

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 08:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com

I agree about their conversation at the end. Besides being too... telly, not showy it sounds unnatural and too friendly between them since they don't really know each other and he's kind of intimidated by her. It doesn't seem right for Calla to come out and ask a bunch of questions of him either since it's his fault she's a robot. I'd be too pissed, Brendan would know that and not want to be around her. He could maybe start to apologize but Calla cuts him off with the glowing eyes because she doesn't want to hear it yet.

Maybe the conversation would work better later on in another chapter. Maybe during a lull in their chaos they'd have a quiet moment and she'd ask him then. When she's not so "I'm going to blow your head off."

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 11:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I've been thinking some more about everyone's reactions to Calla. First of all, since I'm questioning how much reaction Wes and Devin would have to the immediate situation of Kalen and Brendan showing up with a scary robot (I don't think they'd find it that odd), I think I really need to make sure Kalen's and Brendan's reactions to her are really solid. Kalen's reaction would be shown more in the previous chapter, I think -- but he'd be horrified that Calla was dead, but then probably just generally dumbstruck by her transformation. And also shocked and hurt that she's mad at him, if she already is.

I still think Brendan might be too confused in general after fighting with Kalen to show much reaction to things. But I do think his general fear of her should be shown better in this chapter, especially the following day.

The other thing I was thinking is that Devin's actual initial reaction to finding out Calla was a person inside a robot's body would actually be "whoa, cool -- how?!" I kind of assumed that reaction would happen later because he's so mad/anxious about Kalen just moving everyone and his brother (literally) to move in with them. But now I almost want to edit that scene so he gets distracted for a minute when Kalen says Calla get turned into a robot, is like "You're a person? Inside a robot? How?" and just be all mystified. She'd probably glare at him or be otherwise unpleasant and he'd kind of jump and then remember he was mad and be like "Never mind, not the fucking point." I'm thinking he'd resume yelling at Kalen after that, especially if Kalen were to think it was a good time to continue "explaining", which he probably would.

Also, I think you mentioned wanting to see more of how they adjust to her being a robot, which I like, because I don't think it's really handled enough as I'd like it to be. Given some of the stuff that happens later (both that Calla's body doesn't get replaced right after this and that Kalen and Devin kind of don't put aside their differences right away), I kind of want to replace the last scene in this chapter with an awkward group scene where everyone's home. Maybe Brendan's hungry enough Wes convinces him to come out of the basement anyway.

That allows me to show everyone's initial adjustment to Calla and the situation a little more, because the next chapter is two weeks later and the focus is more on "omg too many people in this house" although it does come up now and then that people forget Calla's around because she's a robot. I think a smoother period of adjustment/acceptance would be a good idea, because even though they're all used to seeing robots, they're not used to them being people.

Brendan would probably be scared/wary, Wes would be asking her a million questions about what it's like and did it hurt and can she fly and ridiculous shit like that. Devin would be wanting to do tests on her to see how this even happened because he'd be fascinated (which she would definitely not appreciate) and Kalen would just be... I don't know. I feel like he totally doesn't get that she's still a person for a while. That's how I've always felt. Which might explain another reason Calla's so pissy toward him later.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-15 08:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
OMG, that would be one tense scene with all of them in there. Especially with Devin there. Between him and Calla they'd all be waiting for someone to explode (maybe literally in Calla's case).

Can you picture all of them sitting around a too small living room eating pancakes and trying not to stare at each other?

The rest I commented on up above.

Re: going to be hard

Date: 2013-03-27 06:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
So I'm outlining and I just remembered -- Kalen's original robots (the ones Brendan has) were not originally designed for fighting. That was one of the things Brendan always thought was weird about Kalen -- that he spent all that time building robots and never made them fight.

Kalen's robots just existed because he liked to make robots. He might have even sort of thought of them as friends in a way, because although he was popular at school, he was really lonely since he knew that popularity was based on his pretending to be someone he wasn't. So having his robots be capable of doing rudimentarily human things isn't unlikely. He probably made them as human as he was capable of doing.

(The "thinks of them as friends in a way" may be part of why he doesn't get that Calla is really still Calla after she gets robotified, too. Also, he's clueless overall but I think that is part of it.)

Brendan's got Kalen's robots with him when they run into each other and start fighting (he found them in Kalen's closet and modified them with weapons the best he could, which probably wasn't very well, because he knew there would be troops near the hideout when he went there to look for evidence of what happened to Kalen. So if it's one of Kalen's robots that Calla ends up in, stuff like eyerolling and snorting really isn't super out of the question.

Sorry for the random comment on something you said ages ago, but I've gotten through outlining the 9 chapters I've made out of my original four and now I'm working on the outline for what I want to change in this one (which was chapter 5). Go me?!

scene 1 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 06:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Then he tries to drag me inside, which doesn't really work because I must weigh about the same as three of him. He shoots me an awkward grin and grabs Kalen's arm instead.

Wes should totally be able to pull Brendan inside with that super strength he keeps crushing Devin with. That would totally throw Brendan off. Sorry, that image just came to mind and cracked me up.

Ponytail Guy isn't actually yelling but his voice just carries
Love this line. Really adds to the scene unfolding in my head. There's a total difference between yelling, being loud and having your voice carry.

Also, I think he might kill my brother.
OMG, this line cracks me up every time. It's just tossed in there while describing Devin and it's perfect. It really gives you an idea of how mad Devin is and how precarious Kalen's position is. Also, it's fucking hilarious.

I can actually feel how angry he is. The air around us is charged with his rage. If this is what it's like to be around me when I'm mad, no wonder Kalen avoids me all the time.
Good description that connects Brendan with the scene. You get an idea of how volatile Brendan could be and that he's starting to maybe recognize that.

"Fuck it," Devin mumbles. "Wes says you can fucking stay. I don't give a shit what you people do." He turns on his heel and stomps out of the room, Wes following close behind.

This is good. I love how Devin suddenly shifts gears from "I'm so angry I'm going to fucking kick your ass," to, "whatever Wes wants." I take it Wes can pretty much talk him into doing anything. And it shows that there's a softer side of Devin in there somewhere. Just loved it.

And again: can I just mention how much I fucking love this whole scene, especially the fight. Devin is perfect and Kalen is utterly clueless. There's a few things that could be tweaked later but otherwise it's fantastic.

Brendan's voice is really good. The descriptions he gives are just right. Not too much info but you see the kinds of things he notices. And the way he notices them makes his voice sound unique.

Re: scene 1 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
About Wes pulling Brendan inside: it's funny, because when I rewrote this chapter I still wasn't positive if Wes really had super strength or if Devin was just (a) kinda wussy or (b) really uncomfortable with all the hugging and exaggerating. I have since decided that Wes really does have super strength, so maybe I'll change this. Or at the very least, have Brendan get moved more than he expects.

Brendan notices a lot of actions and expressions and stuff. He does not always interpret them correctly (or at all, in some cases). He's interpreting stuff well here because he relates Devin's rage to his own. In general, he does not get Devin at all and it sometimes makes Brendan POV scenes where they interact kind of frustrating to write.

The fact that Brendan even thinks Devin can kill Kalen here speaks to how mad he is. Kalen's almost as tall as him and probably weighs twice as much. Devin's not always super bright about not getting in the faces of people who could easily kick his ass, but it depends on his mood and/or general level of mental stability.

Re: scene 1 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I'm still chuckling over that line about killing Kalen. It's been one of my favorites so far. I don't know why but it just stuck out to me.

I totally love the idea of Wes having super strength (like did they do an experiment on him or something because that sounds super cool?)

At the very least have Brendan move a little and be totally surprised. It would be funny.

Re: scene 1 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 09:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
The super strength was an accidental thing, so I'm not sure yet if it's plot-relevant or one of those random things (do you watch anime?) where an anime character is just randomly weirdly strong in some way. It's usually a girl in anime, though -- but Wes is girly, sort of.

Experimentation is a thing, though. I should probably figure out (soon!) if it relates to Wes at all.

There are a couple things like that where I know stuff about my characters but I'm not sure if/how it's plot-relevant. Still working on that. :)

Re: scene 1 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 05:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Hmmm. I could actually believe it's a random thing (I once saw a show on Discovery Channel that was about some condition that made people super strong, like this 3yo was able to lift things that were 4 times his own weight... kids can be pretty strong but none of my kids could life more than like 20lbs at 3). It was weird.

But I think if it's going to be in the book it should be relevant to the plot (as in it comes in really handy later on) AND it should be explained by something interesting. Because it's a sci-fi book. And it's an interesting little thing. It would add depth to the story. Could be as simple as they start to realize Wes isn't just strong... he's STRONG and find out in book 2 that he had been experimented on by friends of his parents or something--which would really fuel Devin's paranoia. Could be something natural, some kind of mutation. But then it would be good to add other characters with their own mutations to battle with. Brendan's nemesis/love interest could have one that gave her a real advantage over him which he didn't know about. Just some suggestions that popped into my head first thing this morning.

The book I'm reading right now, Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (it's book 2 in a series) has the characters have super powers. In book one you meet the main character, Juliette, who is in an insane asylum because nobody wants to deal with her and she's dangerous. If she touches someone's skin it can kill them (kind of like Rogue in X-Men). She accidentally killed a little boy at 14 and has been locked up for 3 years. She's completely insane when the story starts.

You just accept that she has this power even if she has no idea why. It's not really explained except that the book takes place in some distant dystopian future where anything could happen. In book two she's found out she's not the only one with powers. Now she's in a group where just about everyone has them and everyone's is different. She just happens to be the most powerful one (she has other powers that manifest throughout book 1 and she learns to harness in book 2).

Normally I wouldn't read those kind of stories but I've read a few like this and I end up liking them for the way the powers are explained. So far they haven't actually been explained in this book because no one has a clue how they are possible. They just know they have them and intend to use them to overthrow the corrupt, oppressive regime that controls the country.

Re: scene 1 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, see the thing is there are already plots I've planned that involve genetic engineering and experimentation and stuff. And Wes was not originally supposed to be a part of that. But don't worry -- I've already got stuff about Wes and his family for book 2 that should fuel Devin's paranoia nicely. ;-)

Have to think on this one some more.

scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Turns out hot water's just as effective whether it comes from an old-style shower head or a programmable washing station.
Another fantastic line.

You're writing in this chapter is much better than the others. I can tell you got more into the characters and your style and voices. Like you relaxed into things. I know how that works. At some point things just click and seem to spill out without having to put a ton of awkward effort into it. It really shows here.

Most of Brendan's descriptions are terrific. This is the way all the characters should impart clues to the reader. But each should do it in their voice. Like Devin would notice stuff but the way he would think about it would be gruffer. Because he doesn't really give a fuck. He probably wouldn't notice all the details except if it was something he was interested in (like robots or something like that).

Wes jumps and looks over my shoulder. Didn't think his eyes could get any bigger, but they do.
That second sentence should definitely start with "I". Skipping that is totally Devin's thing and sounded really out of place coming from someone else.

A couple thoughts (that I think I mentioned before).
-It sounds really weird having them think/say CallaBot. It might be funny in the right context but it just sounds rude to call a person that. I think they'd totally have to be joking with her but since she doesn't have emotions I don't think she'd get it (which could work as a scene in itself as long as they learn not to call her that).

-I think (and this is just personal opinion) you should hold off talking about Devin and Wes' relationship. What you've shown so far hints at what's between them but you too quickly have someone blurt it out. Let it linger longer. Show them being closer. Give more clue so that when it is revealed the reader is like, "well, duh, what took Devin so long to realize that, I got it in chapter 2." But that's just me.

-Also, it seemed a little OOC for Brendan to ask permission to use the weights. I think it'd work better if he just used them. Or have him mention it off hand later on. Like, "hey, hope you don't mind I put those weights to good use." Then Wes could explain how they came with the house (which was really good).

Something to think about for a later rewrite:
Precision. In regards to words. This is something I'm trying to work on right now with my writing. I noticed when writing in 1st person I tend to get kind of passive in my word usage. Like everything is: He looked, he seemed, he etc. Instead of showing what the other person is doing I have the POV character tell the reader. Not good to do all the time.

This paragraph grabbed my attention and I could see a more compact, precise way to write it.
Wes jumps and looks over my shoulder. Didn't think his eyes could get any bigger, but they do. He drops my arm with a surprised squeak, looking like a kid caught sneaking snacks before dinner. I turn around to see Devin, his own eyes nearly as wide as Wes's. Then he shoots me a glare that could melt UberSteel and stomps off for the second time in the maybe-three-hours I've known him. Wes runs after him without another word.

My version:
Wes jumps, eyes bulging at something behind me. He drops his arm looking like a kid caught sneaking snacks before dinner. I turn to see Devin. His eyes go from wide to dangerously narrow in a flash. He shoots me a glare that could melt UberSteel then stomps off for the second time in the three hours I've known him. West follows.

Not saying you have to do anything with the exchange you have written (although I would leave off the surprised squeak maybe but that's me, and I keep wanting to tone Wes down, lol).

But I hope you can see how what I mean about being more precise with word choices. I keep going back through what I have written and editing for this stuff. It takes me several passes before I get most of them out and I'm sure I'll find more later on.

Re: scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I'm still trying to figure out the best times for people to stop calling Calla "CallaBot". Brendan, Wes and Devin all stop fairly early. Kalen takes a little longer just because he really does not get it. But I agree -- she's a person and probably doesn't want to be called that.

So maybe the way to go is for her to have a pissy reaction to being called that (maybe in the awkward hanging-out scene I plan on writing for this chapter). After that, Brendan (who, believe it or not, is the most polite of the bunch when he's not enraged) would call her Calla. Wes would slip up and call her CallaBot once or twice and either catch himself or notice her glaring (making the scary glowing eyes) and correct himself then. Devin, I'm not sure about. He's not particularly well-mannered or socially adept, but he does get that she's a person.

Kalen probably keeps calling her CallaBot until chapter 8 (that's how I have it now). I should have her reacting to that in the next chapter, probably, because it probably pisses her off. It might not make her angry coming from anyone but him -- but she feels like he of all of them should know better, because they were friends before all of this happened.

Thanks for the ideas on word precision. It's such a delicate balance, staying in voice and also making my words precise. Feel free to make suggestions about this whenever. I might ask questions in return when my brain is in the right mode. :D

Re: scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
Her getting pissed over the name in the big awkward group thing would be perfect. She's scare the crap out of them.

I can totally picture Devin picking it back up just to piss her off when she keeps calling him princess.

The word precision came up because I really am trying to work on it in my own writing. I'm pretty sure I read an article amongst all the ones I was looking at over the weekend about choosing words. I might have sent you the link but I looked at so much I can't remember now.

It's a good exercise to try even if you don't keep the changes. I looked at it kind of like the Back to Basics challenge at writerverse where you have to reduce the # of words from 500 to 250 and then to 100. You have to be very precise about the words you use to get the meaning across in as few as possible. Sometimes when I'm stuck on a passage I'll ask myself if there's some other way this could be stated, are there other words I could use. I did that a lot with the last chapter I was editing because sections of it were too blah. Needed sprucing up. It's getting there.

Re: scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 04:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
OMG, the Back to Basics challenge. I used one of the sections from chapter 2 for it. Big mistake, because Devin voice is the worst for a challenge like that. He rambles on about whatever, doesn't use many adverbs, and for someone who speaks mostly in sentence fragments, he's really wordy. It was a good exercise, but I couldn't make myself do the final phase of it. It did lead to my cleaning up that chapter some, though.

Re: scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 04:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
That's one of my all time favorite challenges we've done.

The last time I did it I wrote this really poignant scene between Jack and Daniel (from Stargate SG-1) and then I had to cut all of the good out of it to get it down to 100 words. It was like torture. The original was so good. The 250 word one was okay but most of the scene was lost in the 100 word version. Definitely have to think ahead when I do that challenge, lol.

Re: scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
Yeah, cutting from 500 to 250 was hard (because Devin is like 99% bullshit, so knowing which bullshit to cut was hard). I gave up and didn't do the third part because cutting to 100 would have lost the voice. Although I probably should have tried to do it just to see if I could preserve the "action".

I think it was the part where Wes falls asleep and starts cuddling Devin. :D

Re: scene 2 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 04:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I ended up losing the entire feel of the story. It was mostly introspective with Daniel thinking about how much he wants to talk to Jack, things he wanted to tell him (a pretty long list of important things) but knew he couldn't because Jack would never agree to talk about anything. There is like 1 spoken line (from Jack), the rest is in Daniel's head.

Cutting to 100 words meant I had to lost some of the list and the description of what they were doing and my ending (because I so wanted to keep Jack's line because it was so perfect). Ugh.

It's still a good exercise because it makes you think of exactly what is important in the scene. How much NEEDS to be said versus how much you WANT to say, you know. I still suck at it.

I think it's going to be important later on for me because I have a feeling this book will be long. I was aiming at 80k words but with everything I have added so far it's 103k words. A bunch of what is written will be taken out but then I'm adding other stuff. I'm going to have to cut more at the end probably to get it to fit in a 300 page book.

Sci-fi/fantasy books are usually longer. The one I'm reading is 460 pages and I've read longer--and they were written for teens.

scene 3 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-19 06:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
"Y'know what would make this even better?" Wes comes to a halt, barely even out of breath.

"You not crashing around the house like an idiot?" CallaBot's voice drips with scorn.

Wes's face falls. "Aw, CallaBot. You're almost as grumpy as Devin."

This is funny. I love what Call says and Wes' reaction. And his use of "CallaBot" works because he's Wes and he's gooffy like that. Plus, he strikes me as the kind of person that would be considerate of her feelings and never ever call her that again.

We already talked about a different ending so I won't get into that.

Some major thoughts (and I'm pretty sure I mentioned these before):
CallaBot. She's made of metal and doesn't have a moveable face. Therefore she can't show emotion. Therefore Brendan would not be able to read her "expression" or feel her disapproving stare or get anything like that. He can imagine that's what she's doing but if her face can't move she can't actually do those things. I doubt, also, that her voice can drip with scorn (an expression I really love). If it's a robotic droning voice I doubt it has a full range of inflections to convey things like scorn. It probably comes out flat/monotone.

The spaceship thing still seems a little overboard to me. Not him putting it together and gushing over it but the flying it around like a nut case. I could see him walking back and forth really fast as he blabbers on about--his pace mimicking the rush of thoughts that must be in his head.

But otherwise, after rereading this, I think Wes' character sounds good in this chapter. He's a little psycho at the beginning but up until the toy at the end he's pretty balanced out. I like the way he tried to handle Devin during the fight. And the bicep scene really grew on me. I keep snickering about it. I think that was just the right amount of Wes exuberance to make a point and contrast with the seriousness of his other encounters in the scenes.

I think Wes is growing on me in general because I started writing a character kind of like him. I mentioned it in one of my posts that I had Wes in mind when I came up with the character, Dover, in my novel. Colby describes him as a, "Chihuahua on speed." And that he's, "always eager to make an ass out of himself." Colby and their other friend Dillon are both very overprotective of him. I kinda think I might make him gay, too. An image of Dover suddenly kissing Colby shot through my head earlier when I considered it. Colby reacting all WTF and freaking Dover out but not really being upset with him (just caught off guard). Not sure I could fit that into the book, though. I've already lost a ton of subplots as I've rewrote the beginning. For the better. I could maybe slip the Dover thing in--it could be used as a jumping off point for Colby to consider his own feelings in relation to Zoe.

I've totally fallen for Dover's character, though. Makes me want to write him a story where he does get the guy. Especially since he's a junior so both his best friends (who are decidedly straight) are leaving for college so he'll be on his own. I've already decided that if I keep the Kayden arc in that he's going to beat the crap out of Dover (for being dover, and probably for being gay). His friends will avenge him but Dover will finally stand up for himself at the end and crash his car into Kayden's to keep him from hurting anyone else (it will be justified). I'd like to see him on his own, with a new found self-confidence in who he is, finding love and all that.

Re: scene 3 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 03:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] n3m3sis43.livejournal.com
I think I want Wes to be kind of obnoxious and eventually grow on the reader. I'll think about the spaceship thing. It's in character for Wes, but maybe I can find a way to tone it down just a bit without losing the essence of it.

You mentioned Dover before, and I'm really interested to read your character study of him. I like your ideas about him and Colby and also just him finding his path in general and coming into his own. :D

Re: scene 3 thoughts

Date: 2013-03-20 04:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jennickels.livejournal.com
I totally need to get a character study for him. Since him and Dillon are such new characters I haven't gotten bead on him just yet. He's been in two scenes so far. And then I had that little scene of him and Colby pop up (not sure if it will get used). I think I need to write a few more scenes with him before I can get into his head (my backwards way of doing stuff strikes again). The few little pictures of him that I get in my head I like. He reminds me so much of Wes (or at least how I picture Wes).

It's getting kind of weird how I'm falling in love with all my supporting characters and kind of like, eh, towards the main characters, lol. I want to write their stories.

I was even hesitant to add Dover once I started to picture his character because I could use him in another book where he'd get more of a storyline. But I love him as one of the best friends, too. It's very frustrating. Which is why I'll probably be writing short stories about the ones I like the best.


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