On deep PoV and internals

I’ve learned so much about deep PoV in the past three years, thanks in no small part to Jeni Chappelle and Maria Tureaud for sharing their wisdom. As it’s something I’ve passed on to my writing group so we’re all constantly poking at each other about it, and as it’s something I noticed when going through WriteMentor submissions, I thought I would write a blog post about it to give my two cents on deep PoV, internals, and how they can elevate your manuscript.

First off, what actually is deep PoV and why should you use it? Or should you even use it? I don’t subscribe to very many “you should always do X” thoughts on writing, because I think so many of the rules of writing are really more like guidelines. (Yes, I know it shocks absolutely nobody that I’m a pirate at heart.)

Deep PoV is popular right now for great reasons–it’s doable in any PoV except omni (and even then we can bring the omni in close with it), and it naturally creates tension and shows change. It creates a scenario that puts the reader in the point-of-view character’s head, riding along with everything they’re thinking, feeling, etc. It just takes a little practice to really get the hang of.

As such, I heartily recommend Rivet Your Readers with Deep Point of View by Jill Elizabeth Nelson especially if you’re struggling with it but even if you have a grasp of the basics and just need another handhold up. I skimmed the beginning because I was familiar with the basics when my critique partner KJ Harrowick recommended this book to me, but then by the end I had so many Aha! moments. It’s really become something that fundamentally changed my writing outlook, and as such, I recommend this book to tons of writers because it has so much knowledge packed in such a short book with exercises that actually make sense and don’t feel like busywork.

So how do we do deep PoV in a nutshell? First, get rid of all that filtering that’s not necessary anyway–you’re gonna need those words for your internals. So all those times your character looks, sees, hears, feels, smells, etc? More than likely they’re unnecessary because you can just describe what the character is sensing, since we’re in their head.

Second (for me–remember, this is deep PoV in a nutshell, not the whole bag of peanuts), pay attention to your internals and use them wisely. Internals are just those responses and reactions that are inside the character–you can’t necessarily see them from outside (though when we use body language we can then infer emotions). So, emotions get put here, especially if you’re naming them, and so do thoughts, viscerals, and body language cues.

When working with emotions, keep in mind the character’s age. It’s not that you get more emotions in younger characters, but their reactions to the emotions change. So a frustrated toddler might faceplant in the middle of the store aisle and wail, while an older child might cross their arms and stomp their feet, and a teenager sigh. An adult might keep that frustration entirely internal, so then you’d use thoughts/emotions/viscerals to show that in deep PoV.

The characters’ reactions should also change as the character develops, so keep in mind where they are in their development arc when you’re adding reactions. You might have the same visceral reactions or reflexes, but the thoughts should change and eventually, their decisions. This was huge when I learned it. There’ll be more about this in a bit.

One thing I did, since I tend to work best when I can see everything at once, is color-coded all my internals so I could weave them in best. The internals are all coded to the PoV character because their perspective is the only one that matters for this. They’re the only one who can give internals in deep PoV.

You can see most of my writing here is green–those are descriptions, other characters, and things that can be seen. If it were a tv show or movie, much of the green would still come through (blue and orange, however, would be lost). Internals naturally slow down the pace of the scene, because much of the pacing comes through from the green. So rather than clump up the internals, I started learning to sprinkle them in like seasoning–or commas! Because everyone knows commas are seasoning, right? XD

Ok but seriously, if you have too big a chunk of blue or orange, it’s going to feel slow and like nothing’s happening. Spicing it up with yellow helps, especially if you can’t do much green due to the scene’s constraints (maybe your character is tied up and can’t move. They can try to move though, giving you some green, even if they don’t succeed, but you’ll still want to break up any thoughts with action or other internals so you don’t have pages of naval-gazing bogging down your plot. This was a bit time-consuming, but once I got a feel for it, I started to just be able to guesstimate where the next internal should be and no longer needed to color code.

I highly recommend taking the time to color code, especially if you’re having trouble balancing emotions and plot! Sometimes it’s true that your writing is feeling too emotional, but other times it might be that your writing’s emotions are simply too repetitive or not expressed in a way that feels age-appropriate.

The internals will help to really show your characters’ movement along their arc, too. Even if their choices are the same through the first half of the story, if the reasoning changes that can still feel like movement. And then eventually the reasoning no longer matches the choice and you get a new choice made– ta-da! Growth!

MRUs are Motivation-Reaction-Units and I learned about these from both my Writer In Motion friends and from my critique partner R. Lee Fryar. They’re input/output cycles, or external-internal-external cycles, as I think of them, and they were first described by Dwight Swain in 1981 in Techniques of the Selling Writer. It took me a little bit to work them out, but I’m starting to feel like I have a handle on them. KM Weiland’s blog post really helped me make progress in understanding them, so definitely check that out. This blog post also made its way into my resources! And so did this one!

For MRUs, in short, you have an action–something that happens to your character or around them. That action/event sparks a reaction–and often this reaction is really a chain of reactions. If the chain doesn’t occur in the right order, it can feel overdone, like you’re hammering on emotions, or like your character is over-reacting or reacting in a delayed manner. Feelings and visceral reactions (including reflexes) happen first. Then thoughts. Then actions, then speech. So we have internals leading us into rationalizing a course of action, and then carrying it out. If you think back to the last time you were surprised, speech tends to be one of the last things that come back to us (because the speech centers involve the cortex, while the limbic system drives emotion-field reactions). When I’m talking speech here, I don’t mean shouts of surprise or swearing–of course that can happen right away. But here, I mean rational speech (which can be merely rationalizing the decision already made/action already taken).

Sometimes it helps me to write things out multiple times, so here’s three different ways I wrote it for myself:

Motivation – Visceral/Body Language/Feeling – Thought – Physical Action – Speech

Action-Reaction-Processing-Decision-Action

Stimulus (action), reflex reaction, processing (longest, emotions in there), decision making, new action.

So MRUs actually demonstrate the importance of where you put what type of internal. If you put a reaction after reflection, it’s going to feel off to your reader. Maybe it’ll just be confusing, or maybe your character will seem a little unhinged. You don’t want your reader confused because that hinders their emotional involvement, and we really want to capitalize on that in deep PoV. That’ll help us to keep the tension strong and keep the reader turning the page, unable to put the book down.

Hopefully some of this makes some sort of sense and helps you grow your craft!

Categories: Writing Tips

New character quiz!

Have you ever wondered who you most match personality-wise among the characters from Windward and Children of the Nexus (Prelude Cycle, Between Starfalls, and Let Loose the Fallen)?

Now’s your chance to find out!

This character quiz categorizes you as either: Palon, Windward, Aturadin, Kaemada, Ra’ael, Takiyah, Taunos, Answer, Amanah, or Emin. There are 25 questions, so it only takes a few minutes.

Take it multiple times to see who you get, and share with your friends!

Categories: Uncategorized

Cover Reveal – watch out for Bloodflower!

I’m really excited about this new upcoming book because I’ve had a chance to see it in various stages and I can attest to the incredible polish the author has put into it. One of my CP’s is releasing her debut novel upcoming, and it’s titled Bloodflower. It kicks off the start to a series: The Hidden Flames Artifact.

Check out this blurb:

Born into a world of futuristic technology, ecologist Jàden Ravenscraft wields starship fuel like magic but she’s losing control of her power. Marked as a dangerous weapon, she’s trapped in hypersleep for 4000 years and wakes in the backwoods of a terraformed moon. Now she’s determined to find her reincarnated lover and escape back to the stars before her power takes control… or she is found. 

Because one life is not the end. 

The man she loves has lived more than twenty lives without her, and Jàden’s alone in a world of swords and sorcery. When exiled prison guard Captain Jon Ayers shields her from an attack, Jàden seizes the chance for safety and human connection. Using her magic, she ties her energy to Jon, forging a bond to keep him close to her side. 

But Jon is hunted by mercenaries for the pendant he carries, a key to the gateway between worlds, and their bond stirs a desire neither can ignore. Jàden is faced with the hardest choice of her life: between Jon and her reincarnated ex. Saving one lover will destroy the other, and the wrong choice will land her in chains she can never escape.

If you love the blend of science fiction and fantasy as much as I do, you’re gonna want to run, not walk, to grab Bloodflower. Better yet, pre-order it, or put it on your Goodreads shelf so you don’t forget. An ecologist protagonist, a steamy romance (for all you romance lovers), amazing worldbuilding with new creatures and plantlife, and horses and technology. Swords and spaceships. I really can’t say enough good things about it.

Ok but you came for the art, yes, I know. Check it out!

Isn’t that absolutely gorgeous? And the details just give me shivers, knowing what’s in the book!

And the author? Also phenomenal.

K. J. Harrowick is a fantasy and science fiction author with a strong passion for blending grimdark worlds and futurist technology with threads of romance and revenge. She is the co-creator of Writer In Motion, contributed to the Science in Sci-Fi series , and was a panelist in the Write Hive online convention. With an unhealthy obsession for dragons, tacos, cheese, and beer, K. J. also works as a freelance web developer and graphic designer on a broad range of client projects before falling down the occasional rabbit hole. 

Grab your own copy today (because you can’t have mine)!

Find on Indie Story Geek: https://indiestorygeek.com/story/1115

Add to your Goodreads Shelf: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58664286-bloodflower

Preorder Links: https://authorkjharrowick.com/k-j-s-linktree/

Sign up for KJ’s Newsletter: https://authorkjharrowick.com/newsletter/

Check out the publishing co-op Portal World: https://portalworldpublishing.com/

Follow KJ Harrowick on Social Media: https://authorkjharrowick.com/k-j-s-linktree/

Categories: Uncategorized

Prelude Cycle!

I can’t wait to send you a free book!

Prelude Cycle is a novella associated with the Children of the Nexus series and it’s the perfect way to get introduced to the world and characters of Children of the Nexus. If you haven’t read one of the books yet and want to see if you like my writing style, this is perfect for you. And if you already have read my books and want to get more insight into the world and beginnings, Prelude Cycle will do that as well.

Prelude Cycle is a series of four vignette short stories each focused on one of the main characters from Children of the Nexus and arranged in a series of seasons, set about three years before the beginning of Between Starfalls. Taunos puts himself on the line for a chance to gain entry into the library of Far Dahutad. Takiyah balances her love of learning with the judgements of her community. Kaemada struggles mind to mind. Ra’ael faces challenges on her path to becoming a priestess.

To get Prelude Cycle, simply sign up for my mailing list. If you enjoy Prelude Cycle, check out Between Starfalls next.

Categories: Uncategorized

Let Loose the Fallen Cover Reveal!

I am so excited to share with you all the second book in the Children of the Nexus series, Let Loose the Fallen! I’m almost done applying the last edits and then just need to go over it one more time for quality control.

In this book, more of the world gets thrown in and it becomes firmly sword-and-planet science fantasy as the characters learn more about what’s been going on in the shadows and put together pieces of the past to form epic stakes. All four main characters have amazing character arcs here that I (though of course biased) simply adore.

Here, let me show you the blurb:

The priestess searches for her faith.

The fire-wielder wrestles with her past.

The psion dreams of peace.

And the hero is torn between his heart and his duty.
While grief scatters the four protectors to the winds, outside forces write history according to their own whims. The fate of the Rinaryns lies twined with that of the boy, Eian, caught in a tug of war the heroes are unaware of.
But the evidence lies waiting for Taunos and the others to see, if only they can move past their betrayal.

Dave Brasgalla is truly amazing to work with. We went back and forth this time getting some background people in the cover to look a little more uniquely fantasy and he did an absolutely phenomenal job. He took a look at the trends in the last year and went bold with the color, really leaning into the surrounding setting while still making Taunos, the main of the four for this book, the focus. And he’s three for three, showing me an image that I knew immediately was how Taunos looks. Capturing his essence and giving him a face.

Check out this cover!

Here’s Taunos, looking a little worse for wear after Book One’s adventures, a little rugged, a little tired. And surrounding him, all sorts of people from all sorts of nations, some of them looking at him with wariness, most just going about their business.

It’s perfect!

Let Loose the Fallen is the second book of the Children of the Nexus series, and will be released on January 22nd!

Check it out on Goodreads!

Remember, Book One of the series, Between Starfalls, is free in KU.

Check out Let Loose the Fallen on Amazon!

Categories: Uncategorized

Writer In Motion Season 3 Wrap-up

I adore Writer In Motion and that’s really no secret by now. Every time I participate, even when I’m all over the place like this time, I learn something new.

This time, I tried something a little different, with a new protagonist and a sassy voice and really enjoyed the result.

The best part for me was being more involved behind the scenes with all the goings on that make Writer In Motion run smoothly. I really enjoyed working with the team, even though it hardly felt like I did anything some daysI It’s hard to find better people to work with!

I also very much enjoyed working with my CPs this round, as usual. I like to mix it up to work with different people, and this time I had the chance to work with Melissa (who I’ve beta read for before, and is an amazing writer) and Erin Fulmer. It was great to give them thoughts on their fantastic stories too. I also ran that round past the wonderful Lauren, and my critique group!

Then for round two, I had the chance to read for Kim B and Dan Koboldt, who were each incredible, along with SM Roffey. It’s so fun to get to work with people in the writing community who I haven’t had the chance to work with before.

Next time I plan on participating (of course!) and would love to help out behind the scenes again too!

Categories: Uncategorized

Space Cows 3: Final Draft

2 Comments

I had some great help on this round too! My CPs gave me wonderful things to think about. Dan Koboldt had a great point about strengthening the overall arc, but I ran out of words. While technically I can go over 1000 words now that this is the final draft, I try to stick to it anyway in the spirit of the challenge. I could have altered some of the thoughts of Goat in the beginning, but I felt like that would give a different tone and character to Goat than what I was going for.

SM Roffey gave me some of those words though, pointing out a sentence I could cut, and Kim B wanted more detail of the inside of the building, so I used my 9 extra words there instead with some worldbuilding.

Beyond those changes though, it was mostly necessary nitpicks. People still suggested changes to “Not following orders” so I finally fixed that, but I kept my “full with leaves” because “full of leaves” doesn’t work for me and I couldn’t come up with something better. The hazards of editing power-sessions: now my worder needs a break.

But I really enjoy my little Space Goats, and I am pleased to present my final draft, complete at 996 words:

You sproing through the scraggly bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains.

It’s rather disappointing. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien?  

And there’s a blocky, artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they? Otherwise what’s the point? It’s all dreadfully boring, so you stretch your neck out, rising on the tips of your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, excited energy thrums through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space, and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, and to finish your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he stood in front of you, a scowl on his long face. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your head to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matter Transportation Device. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building

Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust in your eyes makes them water. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first spacewalk, and you scramble to your hooves. 

Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Disregarding orders again, Goat?”

What’s he doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. Cougar will outrun you. 

He prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws. 

You flick your tail. You won’t bow to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it onto the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head, dropping to all fours. A flicker of surprise lights Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. You crash horns-first into his side, the same way he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air. 

Where’s the door? Where’s the door? Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the entrance to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It lurches open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around, gaping. The interior is an enormous cavern. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space, while ramps of bustling Geckos, Mice, and Tamarins spiral deeper into the mountain beneath you. A Bat whisks past you toward the ceiling, carrying a basket. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors amidst the shadowy grays accent the interior. This is more like it.

One floor below you, Cow waits, tapping her hoof. “How’d the Goat do?”

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. Who was she talking to?

Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’”

 Your eyes flick from Cougar to Cow and back again. This was all a setup?

Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak.  Normally you’re much wittier, you swear.

Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.” 

Categories: Uncategorized

Space Cows 3: First CP Round

Wow, this week has been full! I got some great feedback from my CPs though, and am working on my edits on Space Goats!

Both my CPs had great suggestions, and it was a matter of selecting which I could pull off in 1,000 words while keeping the voice I had going!

As usual, I read through the feedback right away and let it sit, though this time life conspired to pull me away for most of the week, so hopefully my subconscious got in some good mulling over!

After compiling the comments I wanted to act on (none of the compliments, though they are so kind and good to know!) into Scrivener, I had a clear plan.

Most of the comments were smaller things, though I also received some great notes about characterization and continuity. I threw out comments that would alter the voice too much or turn things that were reflexive into active things (and vice versa), even though they were great comments as general advice. Melissa had great thoughts on changing line breaks for emphasis, which was cool, and it’s always fun to see where people agree on comments (no one disagreed this time, though that’s also fun!).

I decided to stubbornly keep some things, like my “full with leaves” even though it’s a bit archaic. I like my archaic phrasings, lol. If my next round of CPs also marks it though, I might cave.

I did get caught with muddiness regarding four legs or two, and when the Goat switches and why, so I tried to clear that up. Was the Goat normally on four legs and rose up to nibble the branch, or normally on two legs? Was it the rising up on two legs that was against the Code, or nibbling an alien plant?

The other thing I had to think hard about was the line “Are all planets going to be like this one?”. It is a bit clunky, and it’s not strictly necessary. I didn’t like the ideas I had for smoothing it though, so I considered just cutting it. In the end, that’s exactly what I did.

Figuring out the legs issue was a little more involved, but I found I had some extra room so I was able to give more description of the space and Goat’s reactions to the back and forth.

So with no further ado, here is Space Goats, this time with a word count of 985.

You sproing through the scraggly bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains.

It’s rather disappointing. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien?  

And there’s a blocky, artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they? Otherwise what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, that you stretch your neck out, rising on the tips of your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, thrums of energy race through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space, and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, and to finish your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he was standing in front of you, a scowl on his long face. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your wits to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matt. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building

Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust makes your eyes tear up. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first spacewalk, and you scramble to your hooves. 

Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Not following orders again, Goat?”

What’s he doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. Cougar will outrun you. 

He prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws. 

You flick your tail. You won’t cave to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head, dropping to all fours. A flicker of surprise lights Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side, just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air. 

Where’s the door? Where’s the door? Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. Cougar would likely have an easier time with it. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It lurches open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around, gaping. The interior is an enormous cavern. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space, while ramps of bustling workers spiral deeper into the mountain beneath you. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors amidst the shadowy grays accent the interior. This is more like it.

One floor below you, Cow waits idly. “How’d the Goat do?”

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. 

Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’”

 Your eye flick from Cougar to Cow and back again. This was all a setup?

Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak.  Normally you’re much more witty, you swear.

Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Space Cows 3: Self-edit

2 Comments

The first thing I did was let it sit. I always let stuff sit before editing. My subconscious is able to work on it that way. For this, obviously, there’s not as much marinating time available. Then I did a read through and made note of what I wanted to change:

  • Really get into and sophisticate Goat’s voice. I don’t want Goat to sound like a kid, while preserving Goat’s excitement, spunk, and sass.
  • I want to make sure there are no pronouns associated with Goat. I want Goat to be able to be anyone who feels like Goat. 
  • I also want to smooth out the whole reason to be here on this planet, as it got a bit muddy while I was discovering it. 
  • See if I can strengthen the arc I have in here. 
  • Then line edits, to make sure everything’s as polished as I can make it. Obviously typos, cutting word count, and tightening sentences. Oh, and read aloud!

Once I had everything as good as I could make it, I ran it through AutoCrit. As usual for me, it found some repetitions and I got to think about alternate ways to say things. I love how this word map summarizes my story so well!

I’m pretty happy with Space Goats right now! It clocks in at 991 according to Scrivener, so I came in comfortably under the word count limit. Have a look:

You sproing through the short bushes that cling to the hill, muzzle raised to the cool breeze. Alien scents wash over you, so much different from the ship’s sterile, recycled air. The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue above the darker bruising of the distant mountains. Are all planets going to be like this one? 

Frankly, part of you is disappointed. Shouldn’t alien planets be more, well, alien? For another thing, there’s an odd artificial structure right at the top of the hill, not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they, or what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, you rise up on your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s gonna tell on you? Cow? Cow’s not here. She’ll be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! Simmering underneath the disappointment, thrums of energy race through your bones. The grass isn’t made of crystal, and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away from you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, also and to finish your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as distinctly as you did when he was standing in front of you, his long face scowling in your memory. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet. First, use your wits to find your assigned mentor, who will have the Matt. They’ll brief you on a short excursion, and upon your return, you’ll both Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, of course. Like the glaringly obvious building

Your hooves squish in the springy turf, and the mountains rise and fall behind the apex of the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

A breeze whips past and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a whiff, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side. Dust makes your eyes tear up. Your heart hammers faster than it did during your first space walk, and you scramble to your hooves. 

A Cougar stands a meter away, his fangs a flash of white as he smiles. “Not following orders, again, Goat?”

What’s a Cougar doing out here? You glance at the building, where Cow would be waiting. It’s too far. The Cougar will outrun you. 

The Cougar prowls a step closer. “This is a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you had followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises.” He sits, inspecting his claws. 

You flick your tail. You won’t cave to the threats he’s tossing about. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it’s your very first alien planet! You’re not about to let the chance to explore end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the ground and lower your head. A flicker of surprise lights the Cougar’s eyes as you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side, just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. Spinning around, you charge for the top of the hill, for safety. The Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy hoof-holds as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks urges you to move faster, so you abandon decorum and go to all fours. Twice as many hooves to propel you to the hilltop does wonders, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for air. 

Where’s the door? Where’s the door? The Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming building, and on your very first mission. That’d be mortifying. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was obviously not made for hoofed-species. Ironically, Cougar would likely have an easier time with it. He’s coming and you don’t have time to wrestle with a space-junked door! You kick it, then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It springs open and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord. You stare around yourself, gaping. A cool grey banister stands two meters in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space. An enormous cavern of bustling workers spirals deeper into the mountain beneath you. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors accent the interior. This is more like it.

One floor below you, Cow waits idly. “How’d the Goat do?”

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. 

Behind you, a velvet voice has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for ‘using your head.’” 

Cougar grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak. 

Cow shakes her head. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” Her bovine face turns serious. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”

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Writer In Motion: Space Cows 3: The First Draft

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You sproing through the short bushes that cling to the grassy hill, muzzle raised to the cool air. Odd scents wash over you—this planet sure is stinky! The trees are full with leaves, and the sky is blue, lighter than the grey-blue of the distant mountains. Are all planets going to be like this one? 

Frankly, part of you is disappointed. Aren’t alien plantes supposed to be more, well, alien? For another thing, there’s a odd artificial structure right at the top of the hill, clearly not even trying to hide. Training exercises are supposed to be hard, aren’t they, or what’s the point? It’s all so dreadfully boring, you rise up on your back hooves to reach a long-hanging branch and nibble at the twigs there. It’s against the Code, but who’s donna tell on you? Cow? It’s not like Cow’s every here. They’d be in the building that’s clearly where you’re meant to go, waiting for you to show up for your briefing. 

But you’re on an alien planet! It should be even more exciting, but still thrums of energy race through your bones, simmering beneath the vague disappointment. The grass isn’t made of crystal and the sky’s not green, but it’s still a completely new ball of rock hurtling through space and you’ve actually done it. You’re a Space Goat and nothing can take that away form you. 

All you need to complete the day is a nice glass of wine, the fruitier the better. 

Oh, also and to complete your mission, you suppose. 

You can hear the Whale as clearly as you did when he was standing in front of you, his long face scowling in your memory. “This mission is simple. You’ll be Dropped on an alien planet and will have to find your assigned rendezvous partner, who will have the Matt. Once you find your partner, you’ll be briefed on a short mission, and upon your return, Matt back up to the ship.”

Look for clues, for anything out of place, obviously. Like the glaringly obvious building

You sproing along, your hooves squishing in springy turf. The mountains rise and fall behind the hill with each bouncing leap. Going directly toward the building would be boring. You’ll go around it first—scouting. That’s right. Totally being responsible. 

The wind brings you further brand new scents, and you pause, your eyes half closing as you filter the new smells out and try to guess what they are. Plants. Air. Smoke. Smoke’s a little concerning, but it’s only a little bit, so it’s probably pretty far aw—

Something slams into you, lifting you off your hooves. You skid across the rocky ground on your side, dust making your eyes tear up. Your heart beats faster than it did during your first space walk, and you scramble to your hooves. Before you stands a Cougar, fangs a flash of white as he smiles at you. 

“Not following orders, again, Goat?” he asks. 

What was a Cougar doing out here? You glance at the building, so obviously where Cow would be waiting. It was too far. The Cougar would outrun you. 

Another flash of white as the Cougar smiles again. “It’s supposed to be a training exercise. You and I weren’t supposed to meet like this. If you’d followed orders, we wouldn’t have.”

“You wouldn’t hurt me. Not really.” Too bad fear makes your voice high-pitched and bleaty.

“Accidents sometimes happen in training exercises,” he responds, inspecting his claws. 

You’re not about to cave to the threats he’s tossing about like the trees shedding pollen in the air. You’re the first Goat to make it on the Whale’s Space Teams. And even if this planet seemed boring at first, it was the very first alien planet you’ve been on and you’re not about to lt the chance to explore more end here in the cruel claws of a Cougar bully. 

You dig your small hooves into the arid ground and lower your head. A flicker of surprise lights the Cougar’s eyes, but then you spring forward. Your horns crash into his side just as he’d knocked you over just a few moments ago. And then, you spin and charge for the building, for safety. The Cougar won’t be happy you hit him, but all you have to do is make it to the tiny, square-sided building before he does. 

The soft dirt slows you, giving no easy platform as you scramble up the hillside. Hot breath on your flanks motivates you to move faster, so you abandon decorum and go to all fours. Twice as many hooves to propel you to the top of the hill does wonders, and you skid around the side of the building, panting for breath. Where’s the door? Where’s the door? The Cougar’s gonna get you before you can find the door to this dirty, unassuming, tiny building, and on your very first mission. That’d be embarrassing. 

The door gleams, white metal in the sunlight, and you lunge for it, scrabbling with the knob. It was clearly not made for hooved-species. Ironically, Cougar would likely have an easier time with it, but you don’t have time to wrestle with a space junked door! You kick it, and then lower your head and head-butt it. 

It springs open, and you stumble inside. Your hooves slow of their own accord, leaving you gaping. A cool grey banister stands one meter in front of you, separating you from the rest of the colossal space. An enormous cavern of bustling workers spirals below you, along with Cow, waiting just one floor down. Everything is lit with warm yellow bulbs, and flashes of colorful doors accent the space. 

“How’d the Goat do?” the Cow asks. 

Your mouth works, but nothing comes out. 

Behind you, someone else has no trouble finding words. “Off-script, and with a literal meaning for “using your head”.” 

He grins at you. “What, cat got your tongue?”

“What?” you squeak. 

Cow smiles. “I needed to teach you an important lesson before we get to our primary objective.” The bovine face turns serious, brown eyes boring into you. “Never judge a planet by its drop site.”


Coming in at 1031 words, it’s rough, but I love it. I’m really excited to dig deeper into Goat and let their snark and attitude out further, even though I need to trim some words!

I definitely wanted to do something fresh, to turn it on its head a bit, so using a new point of view and vaguely recognizable situations, then flipping it on its head felt like the right move to me. Plus, Goat’s voice was just so spunky and kept me laughing internally. 

I forgot my terminology so had to look it up. And that delete button kept calling for little typos, but I tried to avoid it, as I do normally fast draft. This draft was a lot slower than many of my drafts have been, but I have slowed down a little this year (last year my fingers were on fire I was drafting so fast!). Autocorrect still caught some of my typos while others I’m hoping I can figure out later!

The last words just popped into my head, and I rushed to write them down right away, because I felt they were a perfect end to my story, giving me the anchor to tie together the vague shape of the story that had come to mind. Don’t judge a planet by its drop site. 

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