Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Deus Ex machina

For anyone that's familiar with the term, Deus Ex Machina seems a bit inappropriate for a chapter title.  But so does Dramatis Personae for a book title.  Basically, it means "God out of the machine".  It's a device that refers to a solution in a novel that comes out of the blue to solve a plot point.  In this chapter, the main focus is on Amar and Arthur Fourgun.

Amar is the mentor for the Magna Beasts (the title given to leaders of the Mag people).  He's been alive for millenia, sort've a curse thing that's never really explained.  I don't think there really needs to be an explanation.  The curse affects him adversely, and this tragedy is all that needs to be shown.  He trains the Magna Beasts in the physical aspect of their mission, teaching them how to fight and use their inherited skills.  Arthur Fourgun is a former soldier in the Mag army who was blinded by the Howlamega.  Since he was blinded, he became another wise elder figure for the Magna Beasts, teaching them about their history and preparing them for the psychological aspects of murder and warfare. 

These two, in this chapter, find the God from the machine and even create one of their own in order to solve the following problem.  But the excerpt is not from this, because I promised action this time around.  So, the excerpt is from Chapter 9: Capo di tutti Capi.

“Baby?” Lilith’s voice floated down from the stairs.

Tory looked up from his work, “Where’s Sam?” He put a few cushions together in a small pile and walked towards the stairs, letting his hands rest on the opposite posts.

“He’s asleep. I think he had too much fun with your other nephews.” She smiled beautifully and Tory’s eyes again glanced carnally at her body. “Not tonight,” she said quietly, “I wanted to talk to you about this war of yours.”

Tory sighed. “If you disagree, you can go tell it to someone else. I intend to kill him.” He walked away from the stairs and went into the room filled with food. As he entered, Lilith ran down to catch up with him.

Coming through the doors she placed her hands on her hips and tried to get Tory’s attention, “Don’t ignore me. I’m being absolutely serious. I need you to tell me the real reason for why you are doing this.”

“Honestly? The truth?”

Lilith looked up at him with knowing eyes, “Tory, don’t lie to me. I know damn well it isn’t about Howla pride, or some stupid mafia code. You don’t care about any of that. What did Howard do?”

“Well for one thing, he killed my brother.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Who else would have done it?”

“Anyone god damn it! Stop dancing around the question! Answer me!” Lilith banged her fists against Tory’s chest. He looked down at her and slowly lifted her hands away, unfolding the clenched fists and putting them on his face.

“If he’s the only one to own the laser guns, he’ll put me out of business. I’m supposed to be muscle, and if he’s got those guns, well, I don’t really serve a purpose anymore do I? But Lilith,” Tory took her by the shoulders and stared into her dark, pupil-less eyes, “this is about pride. I’ve been under Howard’s shadow for too long. He’s trying to kill me off the way he did with the Thakhans. He’s a rat, a stinking traitor who’ll sell his allies to the Devil Itself if that means he gets power. I’m not letting him do that anymore. I’m going to kill him, and then I’m going after the Howlamega. He’s the cause of all this, with his ridiculous plan, his manipulation, everything. He doesn’t give a shit about us, and I’m going to make him care.”

Lilith shook Tory off, “What are you talking about? You mean the plan to kill the Magna Beast? That’s always been the plan hasn’t it?”

“I don’t give a damn about the Magna Beast! The Mags did terrible things to our ancestors, not us! I’m talking about Kilik’s plan to use us, the mafias, as his army in Atlantis. That’s the plan I’m talking about! He’s using all of us for his war, and I’m not willing to die for that.”

“But Tory, baby, you can’t kill him. He’s too strong, he can do things you can’t even dream of.” She stroked the fur on his neck, “This is too much burden for one person love, you can’t do all this alone.”

“I’m not doing it alone Lilith. I have my people. I have my own generals. And I have you here. Safe and sound. That’s all I need. Don’t worry about me. Besides, I’m not out there fighting him. How can I die? Now if you’re going to be in the kitchen, help me clean the dishes.” Tory turned on the faucet.

Lilith picked up a towel from a drawer and waited to dry. “You’re putting yourself at unnecessary risk, you know that? What if Sam is seen with you, and then they start attacking him? People have already heard about me,” she put her hands to her chest, “I don’t want to die yet!”

Tory looked at her menacingly, “If you think they’re something to be feared, then you really have no idea what I can do.” His words pierced at her and she slowly swallowed.

“You watch your mouth,” her hushed whisper barely traveled across the room. For a time the both of them stood across from each other, staring, waiting. Finally, Lilith spoke, “I wanted this because I thought you were a good person. I believed you could take care of a family, take care of a woman properly.”

“You only believe that because I have money.”

Lilith nodded, “Yes, you do have money and that makes things easier, but it’s the way you act around me and Sam. You lose yourself in us.” She paused for a moment, “You stop being so ambitious and actually become humble. I think, through us, you remember where you came from.”

Tory put down the dish he was washing and stared at the bottom of the sink, his hands resting on the counter. He didn’t move until Lilith walked over and put her hand on his back.
“Do you want us to go away? Do want your peace to just die?” Tory shook his head, not speaking. Lilith caressed his face, putting her hand underneath his chin and pulling his head towards hers. She put her forehead against his and spoke softly, “You don’t have to do this.”

Suddenly, several screams could be heard outside. Tory jumped out of his reverie, pushing Lilith to the side. She screamed out for him as he exited the kitchen, roaring past his awakened guards. He flung himself to the floor as bullets shot past his face, just grazing his ears. Pulling out his laser gun he began firing blindly at the window where the gunshots were coming from. He heard a few yelps, but the bullets just came faster than before. Tory barked and ran towards the front door of the house, just past the living room now destroyed. He opened the door and pressed himself against the wall.

Glancing outside he could see two Hoving-cars, both black and without license plates, holding five or six Howlas each. The bullets fired as if the cars themselves held the guns. Tory took careful aim, letting his guards fall to their deaths as they tried shooting through the windows. He fired, one shot, two shots, finally a third one that killed the driver. Scared, one of the shooters swept into the driver’s seat and sped off. As they drove away, Tory joined his other guards on the street as they jumped down from the roof of the house. They roared and barked, shooting at the cars with their laser guns, some of his younger members even running after them for a distance.

Tory growled deeply underneath his throat and holstered the gun in the back of his slacks. “Where the Hell were you?!” he screamed at a guard walking past him, slapping him upside the head.

“I’m sorry sir,” the young Howla said quietly.

“Sorry? I almost died!” he slapped the kid again, and then took him and five others aside, “Go chase after those cars, I don’t care if it takes all night. I want to know who was in it, where they came from, and where they are going. Go!” Tory turned away from the young mafia members as they ran off into the distance and began giving directions to the other ones who weren’t dead. After several minutes of trying to calm nerves and help with cleaning up, Tory went back to the kitchen.

He found Lilith sitting there, crying. “I have to finish what I’ve started,” he whispered into her ears as he sat beside her. “Howard wants my head. I want his. There’s nothing for it.” Now he took his hand beneath her chin and pressed her forehead against his. “I will not let anything happen to you. I promise.”

He looked through the hinged doors to see his guards busily picking up shattered pieces of window and floorboard. “Now go wake up Sam. You need to move away from here.” He rose and offered his hand to her. She was still crying, but she took it, embracing him when she finally rose up, letting her tears wet his shoulder. “My daughter will take you in. I’ll call Jason right away. Just go upstairs and get your boy. Be back in ten.” She nodded, her nose nuzzling his neck, her mouth slowly making its way to his and they stood there for several seconds, kissing. Tory pulled free and sent her on her way. Turning around, he finished washing the dishes.

So, it's not much action but that's really a big experiment for me.   Violence shouldn't be the crux of any novel.  Rather, it should be the sweet poetry that serves the reader where words cannot.  It's physical prose, and I don't want to overuse it.  As always, comment, critique, suggest.  Until next time then.


  1. Yay violence! I have no idea who these characters are though...I'm guessing I'm not supposed to know quite yet? Either way, it was a very good excerpt for me. And I totally agree with you on the whole "sweet poetry" thing. You use it quite well, and it's what keeps me excited and eager to read more.

  2. Okay, now I'm curious. What's the curse? How'd he get it? What tragedy? And why wouldn't that be relevant information for your readers to know? And another question: Amar is the trainer... what is his relation to Arthur? They share a last name so it makes me think they're related.

    Other thing: when you post an except, it might help if you give a little background to what the excerpt is going to be about...especially since us blog readers have only heard of Briok, his mom, and his mentor in terms of characters. :) I am really interested in Lilith and Tory and who they are. Also, is there a reason behind Lilith's name?

    Your first paragraph... might want to cut 'from'. 'Down the stairs' should suffice, and I have a problem with the word 'floated'. I guess it's because words don't float but I don't really have a definite reason behind why I don't like it.

    The second paragraph: He put cushions together? What cushions? Why? Other than that though, I like the action here. It's very easy to visualize; I know that it's just a sentence but it is clear and precise and doesn't waste words.

    Third paragraph: This might seem random, but I have the problem with the word 'beautiful'. It's incredibly vague and doesn't really SHOW anything. Also, how can he eye here again if you haven't mentioned it a first time? And I imagine he cant because she was upstairs. As usual, your dialogue is excellent and real.

    Fourth paragraph: I feel like the description here could be refined. It's a little clunky. Also, is Tory angry or defeated? As in, does he like push himself away from the stairs or like, fall away?

    Fifth paragraph: Is Tory facing her or away from her? I mean to say that I haven't really gotten an indication that he IS ignoring her. He's avoiding her but it's not the same as ignoring... another example of the opening sentence could be: "She came through the doors and placed her hands on her hips, "Don't ignore me [..]" I do like how you characterize females and female voices. You do an excellent job.

    Seventh paragraph: Knowing eyes seems like an 'off' word in this part.

    Eleventh paragraph: Love the action here, but feel like the paragraph can be more streamline.

    Twelfth paragraph: Who/what are the Thakhans and what happened to them? Other than that, great realistic justification. Very cool. Their religion allows for a devil?

    Fifteenth paragraph: Whoa? He has fur? TOTALLY not what I had imagined.

    Wow. You really are good at dialogue. I lose myself in it. Going back a little, there was one bit of dialogue that seemed out of character: “Well for one thing, he killed my brother.” I don't know why, but this doesn't seem to flow with the way he talks every other time.

  3. Starting from "suddenly, several screams could be heard outside." This paragraph is good in idea and is mostly good in execution but some places are awkward. First, in the screams sentence: 'were heard' or 'came from' would probably be better than 'could be'. Could be implies that you might not hear them, but it's kind of hard to not hear screams. I also feel like the two sentences of 'Tory jumped' and 'she screamed' could lose some words and could be combined for more fluidity. Also, how does one 'roar past' someone? Why were the guards asleep, anyways? Kind of bad guards if they are sleeping. In the bullets sentence, maybe cut the 'just' or 'grazing' as the two together are kind of redundant. The sentence after example: "He pulled out his laser gun and began firing blindly at the window where the gunshots were coming from; though he heard a few yelps, the bullets came faster than before." Also, does Tory actually bark? Even if he is barking, that's kind of a weird thing to do at this part. This whole paragraph just needs a bit of reworking.

    This next paragraph, while good in terms of streamlining, also needs refining. In the first sentence you use 'could see'; change it to just 'saw'. The second sentence could probably be cut or reworked; it just sounds strange. The dependent clause of the third sentence can be reworked slightly, though I love the visual here. Why is the driver being killed scare them off? They're being shot at, and surely someone has taken damage? Also, how does the passenger take over the driver's seat if the dead driver is there? Does he push him off or what? Last two sentences are good. I see now that the roaring and barking are part of them... a description of this alien race would be awesome.

    Next paragraph: how do you growl UNDERNEATH your throat? 'Tory growled deep in his throat"? in the next few paragraphs, you again show an excellent grasp of awesome dialogue and good descriptions within the dialogue.

    In the paragraph after Tory goes into the kitchen: I think you normally whisper into one ear (as opposed to ears). Also, cut the now because you aren't in present tense.

    Last paragraph: Hinged doors? What? A little better description here would be cool. The broken doors, maybe? Good conclusion to this though, I like it.

    Let's see, in conclusion: your dialogue is VERY strong and you do a good job of having fluid and clear descriptions. Mostly you just need to fine tune the descriptive parts. I think if you read it over, you'd find the trouble areas on your own and if you want actual suggestions as to reworkings of certain sentences, I can do that. I get the impression that you just need to be pointed in the right direction, not necessarily told HOW to fix it.

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  5. Sorry, made a mistake on my previous comment. Here it is:

    Well, if you can give me a super convincing argument that letting the reader know what exactly happened to Amar will further his characterization in the novel, I'm all for letting the curtain up. But insofar as Amar is a person, with feelings and emotions, then I don't think he'd be willing to talk about it. If he isn't, then I won't have any other character tell the story (mainly because it'd be a pretty big plot hole for them to know). All I want the curse to be involved in is the shaping of Amar and Briok's intertwined paths. :)

    And you're absolutely right about the excerpt suggestion. I didn't do it for this post, which was a mistake on my part. And yes, Lilith's name is deliberate. Every name in the story has a significant meaning, except for a select few. Thanks for asking!

    Also, I want to thank you for these detailed critiques. You're so dead-on about everything, and it's amazing to see my work be deconstructed like this. I can't thank you enough.