Apr 10 2010

J. Teer’s Review Forum

Published by at 10:48 am under Review Forums

J. Teer says: This review forum is for an “action prose” series that I would like to see published, but where is the market for such writing? I guess it could be easily translated into a comic series, but I prefer prose, and I wouldn’t know where to start to translate it. I don’t know, so I’ll just post the stories here to get feedback.

The story is a spinoff of a novel I had published called Transcendence (available at Amazon).

The series protagonist is Raymond Cervantes, a wereterrier: a zoanthrope with the mystical ability to transform into a humanoid pitbull dubbed the Pit. It follows the exploits of his “day job” as a world-class mixed martial artist, and Pit’s battles against supernatural evil beings such as werewolves, vampires, sorcerers, zombies, etc…

All feedback is welcome, but I would particularly like feedback on the fight scenes.

Enjoy…

15 responses so far

15 Responses to “J. Teer’s Review Forum”

  1. J. Teeron 17 Apr 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Human Dog-fighting

    Broc “The Beast” Beirman, Ultimate Championship Fighting lightweight champion—a fierce competitor, one of the best in the sport. With his aggressive style he sailed to the top of the 155lb division, amassing an impressive record of twenty-seven and one by finishing most of his opponents in the first round with devastating strikes. The intensity he brings into the cage is a testament to his ring name, relentlessly attacking his opponents like an enraged animal. His appearance only adds to his wild-man persona—his stocky, ripped physique, the collage of ominous tattoos, and his trademark spiked Mohawk.
    It all seems a bit gimmicky to me, the tattoos and “cool” hair. I guess some people rely on such things to intimidate their opponents. Not me.
    All I’ve ever had to do to intimidate my opponents is show up in the cage.
    The champ wouldn’t be any different. It’s fight night, and time for my shot at the title. Though my UCF record isn’t as impressive as the champ’s (a modest eleven wins with no losses), I’ve disposed of all of my opponents in devastating fashion, knocking out the first three in under ten seconds, and letting the remainder survive until the second round out of pity and simply to work my technique against an aggressive opponent. It was really wishful thinking. They were never aggressive after feeling my power in the initial clash, retreating and fighting defensively not to lose instead of to win, even though I was taking it easy.
    They were all the best of the best, all looking to make a name in the premier organization of the sport. Big name fighters that I used to admire before stepping on the scene—the Russian Bear, the Spider, the Beast. Funny how so many invoke the animal kingdom to express the savagery of their fighting style. If only they knew.
    If only they new the true nature of my strength and stamina. They won’t. My performance is enhanced by something that drug tests can’t detect, that modern science can’t really explain.

    I am a zoanthrope: the all encompassing term for humans who can morph into animals—different from lycanthropes, which only denotes those who change into wolves.
    As far as I know, zoanthropes have existed since the earliest civilizations, their powers the result of pagan rituals and pacts with demons—the shape shifting abilities being a double edged sword, just as much a curse as a supposed blessing, which is typical of dealings with the devil.
    I am something different, the only one of my kind…as far as I know. The being that bestowed my ability was definitely no demon—he had an aura that somehow conveyed that everything would be alright, that he was good and there to help—though he was angelic, supernatural. He came to me in a vision—in a dream after I’d lost consciousness.
    It was during my deployment in Iraq. We were on patrol in the city of Mosul and my Stryker had been ambushed in a narrow street and hit with a VBIED and then a RPG. Thank God I survived and barely managed to crawl out of the wreckage into a nearby alleyway. I was disoriented. I crawled right into their hands. The insurgents took me to their hideout. I came to in a small, windowless room that was dusty and bare. They had me gagged and bound to a chair with my wrists and ankles tied with rope.
    There were five of them, all standing around me. They were armed with AK-47s but weren’t dressed in fatigues and didn’t look like combatants—they all wore shabby everyday clothes. They were shouting at me in Arabic, but I didn’t understand a damn word they said. I assume it was threats. One of them had a vicious dog leashed with rope, the rope taut as it struggled to get to me.
    One of the insurgents spoke English, though I could barely understand a damn word he was saying either. The gist of it was that they planned on using me as leverage to force the US out of Iraq so that they could wage their civil war unopposed and impose their version of Sharia on the masses. The US would leave, or I would lose my head.
    Terroristas estupidos.
    The U.S. would never cave to such demands. Maybe a good policy for dealing with terrorists, but bad for me keeping my head on my shoulders.
    I told the one who spoke English that he was an idiot if he thought his plan would work. That’s when the beatings began. One would hold the chair steady while the others would work me over with punches in the face. The cowards couldn’t throw a proper punch if their lives depended on it—their technique was really bad.
    After one session of beatings, I passed out. I thought I was hallucinating. It was like I was outside of myself. I could see myself bound in the chair, slumped and unconscious. The insurgents were talking amongst themselves, and the dog was gnawing playfully on a piece of rope.
    That’s when he came. He just appeared in a bright flash. I could make out his face, but he seemed to be clothed in light, as if his body radiated white-hot energy. He was tall and had dark hair, and his face had strong, angular features, though he wore a kind, reassuring smile.
    It had been a while since I’d been to church, but he had to be a guardian angel.
    He knew my name and made light of the situation. “Raymond Cervantes captured without a fight?” he laughed. “I would expect more from a level three combatives instructor.”
    “Oh, believe me,” I responded, “they would get theirs…if I had a chance.”
    He laughed. “Oh really? Then it’s your lucky day, because I’m here to help. If I could grant you one thing right now, what would it be?”
    I didn’t know he was serious. I looked to the dog chewing on the piece of rope. “If I could rip through these ropes like him and get free, these guys wouldn’t stand a chance.”
    He raised an eyebrow, looked to the dog and then back to me. “I will grant this request,” he said. “But, hear my words and remember them with fear: I will give you the ability to defy your enemies, but always will you strive to do what is right, and use your abilities to oppose the workers of evil who would oppress mankind.”
    An idea of his seriousness was conveyed to me and I agreed to his words. Then he began to shine even brighter and there was a blinding flash before everything went black.
    As my eyes slowly opened to reveal the room, I realized that I was back in my body. That’s when I began to burn all over, not like from fire, but like lactic acid after a hard workout, as if every muscle in my body had been worked intensely. I began to shake violently, issuing a guttural growl as I strained.
    The dog bolted to a corner and cowered.
    The five insurgents began to babble hysterically in Arabic. The one who spoke English ran to stand before me, shouting “What are you?!”
    It felt like my joints were all popping at once, creaking and growing somehow.
    The insurgent yelled some gibberish in Arabic—all I could make out was Allah—and began to back away from me.
    I looked down at my hands and they were changing before my eyes—they grew longer and wide with muscle, and began sprouting a covering of short, bluish grey hair…fur! The ropes binding them snapped.
    The insurgent before me raised his AK and let loose a volley right into my chest, knocking me over backward as the rounds impacted my torso with a spray of crimson mist.
    I knew I should have been dying, so what happened next surprised me just as much as it surprised my captors. I rose to my feet, easily snapping free from my restraints. “Payback time!”
    I stalked toward the English speaking insurgent. He appeared insane with fright and sprayed me with another burst of rounds. I felt the bullets impact and burn, but I just walked through them until I was in range to let loose with a left hook to his jaw. The fist that I watched impact his face was bulky and grey, nearly as wide as the man’s entire head. The punch sent him sailing into the far wall, where he impacted leaving a dent in the concrete before slumping to the floor, his head dangling loosely on a broken neck.
    It felt like something tapped me in the back of the head, so I turned around. I found an insurgent gazing with wide eyes at the butt of the AK he was holding, apparently shocked that his butt stroke had no effect on me. I snatched the weapon from him and rent it in two. I sent an uppercut to his chin that lifted him into the ceiling with a sickening smack, and he fell dead in a twisted heap.
    I turned toward the others. One feinted and fell where he stood, and the remaining two bolted out of the room. The dog was still in the corner with its tail between its legs.
    I ran from the room and found that I was in a house. The front door was left wide open by the terrified men, revealing the night. I could have easily hunted the fleeing insurgents down, because their already musty odor was for some reason even more intense, as if my sense of smell was greatly heightened.
    I decided that it would be best for me to get back to base, and made my way into the street. It was a side street in a residential area, but completely barren. It was curfew, so the only ones that would be out were U.S. Stryker patrols.
    I ran through the streets searching for friendlies. I was amazed at how fast I was moving—the buildings were passing by in a blur.
    I spotted a Stryker a few blocks up ahead and took off in its direction. “Help!” I yelled. That’s when the damn rear gunner opened up on me with the .50-caliber, riddling me with rounds and putting me down. The pain was excruciating, but somehow I was able to scramble to my feet. I had no choice but to run. In a matter of seconds I was blocks away and took cover in an alley.
    I took some time to gather my thoughts. For some reason the Stryker gunner had viewed me as a threat. I hadn’t really looked at myself since coming to in that chair except for my hands, so I figured that maybe the changes I’d went through were even more extraordinary.
    I peeked around the corner to make sure the coast was clear, but I had left the Stryker in the dust and I didn’t see any others in the vicinity. There was a storefront window a few feet away so I snuck to get a look in its reflection.
    I scared the crap out of myself.
    I was a monster. The face that gazed back at me was the large, broad head of a giant pit-bull terrier. I had busted out of my ACUs. My tawny skin was gone, replaced with short bluish grey brindle fur. The thing in the reflection stood at least six foot five, standing on the toes like canines do—my normal height was five foot eight. It…I…was huge, with wide shoulders and a frame packed with ripped muscles that showed through the fur.
    At the time, I was nearly driven mad by the sight of myself. I didn’t know that I could control the transformation, and thought I was condemned to remain a humanoid dog. Delirious with sorrow, I ran. Through the alleys and streets and out of the city, into the desert, where eventually I passed out from grief.
    I awoke the next day in the middle of nowhere, naked, but slightly relieved to find that I was normal again. I managed to snag some clothes from a clothesline in a village on the outskirts of the city. I was eventually able to make my way back to base, but that’s a story for another time (Particularly regarding how I had to convince the idiot gate guards that I was Mexican and not Arab!).
    I got a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor for my troubles. Some high-ups in military intelligence learned of my zoanthropy, that I was a wereterrier, and wanted me to form a special team with three others who also had “super powers.” They offered me a promotion from sergeant to captain and a sizable bonus if I’d agree to join their really Special Forces squad. I only took the bonus. I agreed to be a member of the team (my codename being the Pit) and to help when there was a threat that required my special abilities, but I was done with military life. I got them to throw full retirement benefits into the deal, and I was out, free to pursue my dream as a professional MMA fighter.

    So here I am, about to fight for the title on the biggest stage of them all. Compared to what I’ve been through, fighting in a cage with the best mixed martial artists on the planet is a cakewalk. It doesn’t hurt that my zoanthropy also grants me superhuman physiology in my human form, increasing my speed, strength, and stamina—though to nowhere near the levels of my transformed state.
    The poor Beast doesn’t stand a chance. I’ll make it look like a good fight though: Gotta give the fans a show.
    I’ve heard gelatinous political pundits say that MMA is nothing more than “human dog fighting.” I think the self-righteous know-it-alls are pretty out of touch, but when Raymond Cervantes is in the cage, there is a bit of truth to their words.

  2. B. Macon 17 Apr 2010 at 1:59 pm

    “This review forum is for an ‘action prose’ series that I would like to see published, but where is the market for such writing? I guess it could be easily translated into a comic series, but I prefer prose, and I wouldn’t know where to start to translate it. I don’t know, so I’ll just post the stories here to get feedback.”

    Have you thought about making it into a novel? I could sort of see this working as an urban fantasy superhero novel. The market for shorter prose stories (short stories, novellas, etc) is usually pretty bleak.

    Okay, so the character is a wereterrier. I think that raises two main questions. 1: How did that happen? (Because of something he did? Luck/misfortune?) 2: Why does he choose to fight supernatural bad guys? (Presumably not for the money!)

    [UPDATE: I’ve since read the first chapter, but here are some plotting ideas I had after glancing at your synopsis]. One possibility that comes to mind is that he opts to fight supernatural bad guys after one of them screws him in some way. Being turned into a wereterrier strikes me as a possibility. (If so, it would probably help if at least part of the transformation were involuntary rather than something he can do/undo at will). Maybe he’s turned into a wereterrier because somebody chooses him to fight supernatural evil. (That strikes me as a bit cliche, but it’s workable). Another alternative would be that he’s born into a lycanthropic family that, for whatever reason, raises the kids to stick it to bad guys. (Maybe they’re upset about being turned into lycanthropes and they hold all supernatural evil accountable, or maybe they hunted supernatural evil way back when and one of the bad guys cursed the family).

    Looking at the story itself…

    –The first sentence would probably be more interesting with a verb. Right now, it’s just a fragment, and one that’s heavy on telling vs. showing. For example, you tell us that he’s fierce and that he’s a top UFC competitor. You tell us that his style is aggressive. Could you show us those things? For example, you might depict a fight in the ring. Or start with a visual of him doing something aggressive, combined with some hint of urgency/why it matters.

    –“The intensity he brings into the cage is a testament to his ring name, relentlessly attacking his opponents like an enraged animal.” I think this could be replaced with an anecdote about a particular time he went nuts on someone. I think that would be more stylish.

    –“It all seems a bit gimmicky to me, the tattoos and “cool” hair. I guess some people rely on such things to intimidate their opponents. Not me.” It might help to make the narrator more of a presence at the start of the first paragraph. In fact, one concept that comes to mind for an opening sentence would be to establish the contrast right away between the gimmicky Beirman and the narrator. I think the narrator is clearly the more interesting character, and his perspective on what I suspect to be an upcoming fight are probably more useful to setting up the plot than Beirman’s background. (After all, the narrator is the main character, right?)

    “All I’ve ever had to do to intimidate my opponents is show up in the cage.” I like this, but maybe you could come up with a more memorable, macho phrase than “intimidate.” For example, to give him a more distinctive voice, I did… “All I’ve ever had to do to terrify my victims opponents is show up.” (I took out “in the cage” to make it snappier).

    –He’s an intimidating guy, right? His voice doesn’t make him sound very intimidating. “Though my UCF record isn’t as impressive as the champ’s (a modest eleven wins with no losses)…” Would wild confidence fit his character? “The fact is, the only reason this Beirman sucker is champ is because he hasn’t thrown down with me yet.”

    –“They were never aggressive after feeling my power in the initial clash, retreating and fighting defensively not to lose instead of to win, even though I was taking it easy. They were all the best of the best, all looking to make a name in the premier organization of the sport.” He sounds very removed, aloof from the sport. Like a commentator. I think it might be more interesting to zoom in a bit. Maybe give us some details about one of the fighters he tried to test, and how disappointing it was to just put a hurt on a guy that he had once respected (and perhaps even looked up to).

    –“I am a zoanthrope: the all encompassing term for humans who can morph into animals—different from lycanthropes, which only denotes those who change into wolves.” Again, I feel like this is too commentary-ish. He’s expositioning his backstory a bit too bluntly, I think. I think it might help to show him in action and then explain whatever needs explaining, rather than preemptively explain. Alternately, if you keep the sentence, perhaps you could give it a bit more voice. “The term is “zoanthrope.” NOT “wereterrier” [or other funny alternate term].”

    –“If only they new…” I think “new” should be “knew” there.

    –I think the story gets bogged down in the backstory of how he came to be a zoanthrope.

    –I don’t feel like the Iraq tangent fits the story as well as it did in Transcendance. For one thing, I think it comes off as a distraction after you’ve spent quite a bit of time setting up the UFC fight. Could you bring the Iraq tangent– him getting beaten up and saved by the spiritual fellow–into something closer to the UFC? (Maybe a well-connected gambler has him clobbered because he wouldn’t throw a fight). Also, I think that would give you a better chance to bring in a villain/antagonist. (No disrespect to the jihadists, but it doesn’t look like they’ll be a major part of this plot). Alternately, if the character’s military identity is really important to the story, I’d recommend getting rid of the UFC stuff.

    –What’s the spiritual guy’s agenda in this? Right now, he strikes me as 100% helpful, maybe a deus ex machina. For a bit of conflict, maybe he can’t be as helpful as the protagonist wants, which forces the protagonist to improvise.

    –I think the vow to help the innocent masses could be stronger. I feel that his motivation to help (or not help) people should be a significant story item. Right now, it feels kind of like it’s been disposed of in two sentences. He agrees to oppose the workers of evil, but as far as I can tell, it’s not based on any character trait we’ve seen in him so far. If not a character trait, then maybe a major plot development causes him to get into it, like revenge or remorse or something. (For example, Peter Parker becomes Spiderman out of remorse for letting his uncle get murdered).

    –“I didn’t know he was serious.” I think his promise to help people might be more meaningful if he did know the guy was serious.

    –I think it’s pretty funny that the Stryker guy shoots him. 🙂 I gotta say, if I were on patrol in Fallujah or some such shenanigans and a werecreature approaches me, my magazine would be empty SO fast my nickname would be Death Blossom. Perhaps this is why no military unit would trust me with anything more important than a laptop. 😉

    –One thing that I ****ing hate about zombie movies is how the police try arresting the zombies and apparently nowhere in the world do the police think that the epidemic is best contained with bullets rather than handcuffs. **** that ****, I say. This Mosul stuff is proactive policing at its finest.

    “I took some time to gather my thoughts.” This could be shown, I think.

    “I had to convince the idiot gate guards that I was Mexican and not Arab!” Sadly, I think this is plausible, which only makes it more hilarious.

    –How does the military find out? (One plotting possibility: right now, it doesn’t seem to have any bearing on the plot that the military knows. One alternative would be having the military find out later and THEN ask him if he wants to be a special ops wereterrier. At that time, I think his decision would be more meaningful, particularly if he were wavering about something back home– maybe he thinks about ditching the city after things get too rough. Right now, I feel like his decision doesn’t matter much because he just mentions it offhandedly as backstory).

    PS: I can’t vouch for my gelatinousness, but as an amateur political pundit, I know that political punditry is also like human dog-fighting. But without the money.

  3. J. Teeron 17 Apr 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Wow!

    B.Mac, I call myself a writer, but I can’t seem to put into words how much I appreciate your input.

    I already wrote the second installment, but I was thinking of combining the two, perhaps. I just have the first two stories, because I stopped writing after being turned down by a certain ‘Zine. You raised some points that I think are answered in the second piece, and maybe a combination is in order, so is it OK if I post the second one and respond to all of your suggestions later today?

    You raised so many good points that I can not respond to them all right now, because I’m supposed to be monitoring the facility I work at, and not reading and typing online.

  4. Lighting Manon 17 Apr 2010 at 2:33 pm

    I just gave a quick glance over the bit posted, there seems to be a lot of telling vs showing issues, particularly during the part where he is talking about Iraq, but the characterization shown seems a bit iffy. The way he is presented doesn’t really seem to imply that we are supposed to know that he is of dubious character, but his actions certainly imply it, and perhaps it is unintentional. However, in a few short sentences, you establish that he arranged to suck down taxpayer money for the rest of his life, which is perhaps even more extended by his deal, in exchange for an extremely limited amount of work, particularly given his youth and current assignment when he gained his abilities. Not only does he get this unearned stipend, but he does it so he can go essentially cheat and use his unearned abilities to beat people that have actually trained, fought their way and earned their ways, out of their hard-won opportunities and positions in a sport that he doesn’t even really respect?

    If you consider that it wasn’t like he knew what was to happen in Iraq, he has put no work into what he is doing, and he is beating people that have spent their entire lives focused on that one little element, it’s callous, and completely challenges anything that might be remotely likable about the character. I realize that this might be part of your plan, but if I was reading the first page in a store, physical or internet, I’d have run away by the time he was bragging about how awesome his secret-steroids are.

    It also bears mentioning that if your protagonist is this powerful, this early in the work, it is really going to be either difficult or extraordinarily uninteresting to find villains that can fight him physically without bending suspension of disbelief or creating extremely powerful villains that can’t be defeated without contrivances.

    Of course, this is just my opinion and I may be wrong.

  5. J. Teeron 17 Apr 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks Lighting Man. I’ll respond more in depth later, but basically Pit was given his power by an angel, as opposed to werewolves and vampires who get theirs from demons. His character will improve, but now he is kind of self centered. For instance, one of his team members is a black guy called Platinum Man who gets the power to control metal from the same angel, but he is caught up in a “hip-hop playboy” lifestyle that is keeping him from his true potential and he must change after some serious stuff goes down. But, perhaps I should make some changes if these character flaws are enough to cause some to shy away.

    Anyway, I’ll respond to your other suggestions when I get home.

  6. B. Macon 17 Apr 2010 at 3:37 pm

    I agree with LM that it might be a bit problematic if he gets the superpowers before he goes into the UFC. One possibility is that he might be so far beyond the competition that he finds it boring. Sort of like the gambler who goes to hell and finds it’s a casino where he gets a royal flush every hand.

    Alternately, I think it’d be a bit less questionable if he gets the superpowers after joining the UFC. I could sympathize with somebody staying with his job even though he’s (unintentionally) cheating. I mean, umm, what other job options does a UFC guy have? (I think this would be undercut if he has military experience, particularly if the military is excitedly offering him a special ops position).



    The way the narrator describes the negotiations with the military, I thought he sort of sounded like a mercenary*. Personally, I thought that was sort of interesting because it created some conflict between him and the more noble-sounding oath he pledged. Also, there might be conflict between him and his military higher-ups.

    So, yeah, he sort of feels like an asshat right now. His dream is to be a UFC fighter, but that’s like Lebron James dreaming of winning a middle school basketball game. It wouldn’t be very impressive and he probably wouldn’t feel like he had accomplished very much. Also, it might help if we knew more about why he wanted to be a UFC competitor in the first place.



    *I have a faintly similar situation in SN. The secret agency at the center of the series has a time-traveler on retainer. “Hedge” gets paid a vast sum of money to wait around and undo high-level catastrophes. The problem is that he can only go as far back as his last departure, so they use him on the most epic disasters (nuclear terrorism, say). I’ll probably kill him off and use his murder as a sign that the doomsday clock just struck 11:58.

  7. J. Teeron 17 Apr 2010 at 3:47 pm

    -Here’s the second story. This is all I have so far, but I wanted the first story to be and introduction and the second to get into the supernatural/ superhuman conflicts. Perhaps a combination is needed. I’ll comment on all of your suggestions later. It’s 15:50 in Tacoma, WA and I’m off in 10 minutes!

    Battle of the Beasts

    World-class mixed martial artist is his public persona, but when superhuman evil threatens the peace, Raymond Cervantes becomes…the Pit.

    Cervantes stepped into the Hexagon—Ultimate Championship Fighting’s trademark six-sided cage, the premier proving ground for the world’s best mixed martial artists—fully expecting his first shot at a world title to be a cakewalk. Not out of cockiness, which he despised, but due to the fact that his zoanthropy not only granted him the ability to transform at will into a brawny, humanoid pit-bull terrier, but also heightened his normal physiology to superhuman levels, making him stronger, faster, and more resilient than even the most capable world-class athletes.

    Competing as a lightweight, Cervantes tore through the division, easily dispatching all of his opponents to earn his shot at the champion, Broc “The Beast” Beirman. The match with the champ was to be no different, for no mere human could hope to compete, but the Beast would prove to be something extraordinary as well…

    The two men glared at each other from across the cage, each bouncing on his toes in anticipation of the start of the bout. Five, five minute rounds for the belt. Cervantes was in top condition, standing five feet eight and wiry. There was nothing flashy to his appearance—no tattoos on his tawny frame, a modest high and tight haircut, and simple black compression shorts extending down to mid-thigh. The champ, wearing bright red compression briefs with an assortment of logos of various sponsors, was the antithesis—five feet six and exceptionally bulky, with an array of ominous tattoos and a four inch high spiked Mohawk.

    The ref called for the bell and the two fighters met in the center of the cage. Cervantes struck first, blasting the champ with a left jab, but from that initial clash Cervantes knew that there was something different about the Beast. It wasn’t a stiff jab, but it should have been enough to force a normal man to backpedal. Instead, Cervantes’s arm was jarred as his fist recoiled on contact and the champ barreled forward with a counter hook. Normally Cervantes had to restrain his abilities in order to make his fights seem competitive and entertaining—otherwise he’d dispose of his opponents in seconds and people might start asking questions. Surprised, for the first time in his UCF career Cervantes was forced to give ground to an opponent. He opted to utilize his speed to stay out of harm’s way while contemplating his foe, using footwork to avoid and circle around the stalking champ. Despite the efforts to evade, the champ somehow managed to stay on him, winging blistering flurries of punches that Cervantes caught on his high guard.

    Though stronger and faster than any normal man, Cervantes was still vulnerable to well executed technique. The Beast attacked with high punches, distracting his challenger, and then went low with a double-leg takedown, ending up in his closed guard. Cervantes’s crossed legs had the power to crush a man’s ribs so he always held back, relying on an opponents whimpers to gauge how much force to apply. He applied a bit of pressure, squeezing a bit more than usual. The Beast kept his composure and even managed to work a bit of ground-and-pound, landing a couple of hammer fists to Cervantes’s face, busting his nose. The blows caused Cervantes to lose it for a second, and he unlocked his legs and kicked the champ away. The Beast flew backward a few yards, hit his back and skidded a couple more. That might have been a bit much, Cervantes thought, but adrenaline and lower body plyometrics would explain away the stunning feat.

    Undaunted, the Beast got right back up to reengage. Cervantes kicked up to his feet to meet him head on. Again the champ went high to mask his intentions and went for a shot. He managed to get in on Cervantes’s legs, but the challenger had no intention of going down this time. He bent forward, locking his hands around the champ’s waist, and rose, lifting the Beast to shoulder height before sending him crashing to the mat on the back of his neck. The powerbomb drew a raucous reaction from the crowd, the theatrical and devastating move more common to pro-wrestling than reality fighting due to the exertion it required. Cervantes figured he would cite extensive power lifting to explain it away.

    The champ’s legs and body crumpled backward over his neck, but stunningly he not only remained conscious, but rolled backward to his feet, shook his head, and kept coming.

    The Beast relentlessly pressed at a pace inconceivable for even the most well conditioned athlete, causing Cervantes to push himself to the brink of peak human performance to avoid being overwhelmed. How could the champ maintain such a superhuman level of intensity and resilience? UCF fighters underwent extensive testing for all known performance enhancers. Only the supernatural nature of Cervantes’s abilities allowed him to pass under the radar.

    With the champ showing no signs of slowing, Cervantes considered the ramifications of an extended battle—if they both kept it up at this rate eyebrows would be raised, there would be accusations, and there would be questions with answers that he couldn’t disclose. He decided to end it then and there. He let loose on the pressing champ’s face with a one-two combination that would have left the burliest heavyweight counting sheep. The champ was staggered and his nose bloodied, but he kept coming. Cervantes again went on the defensive, and in his confusion at the champ’s durability he backed into the cage. The Beast pounced, unleashing a furious flurry on his immobilized opponent as the first five minute round came to an end.

    Cervantes took no real damage but went to his corner in a stupor, shocked that despite his powers he’d probably lost his first round in his UCF career. His trainer poked a q-tip in his nostrils, but the bleeding had ceased, his heightened physiology already mending the injury. He didn’t pay attention to his corner-men as they gave advice, instead focusing on the Beast sitting across the cage, the latter showing no signs of fatigue and looking no worse for wear except for two trickles of crimson from his nostrils.

    The second round began and the Beast literally ran across the cage, pressing Cervantes with an onslaught of strikes. The blows were powerful and painful, but for Cervantes pain was just an inconvenience—for though he is not invulnerable, a supernatural healing ability allows him to quickly recover from even life threatening wounds inflicted by weapons of war, making mere punches and kicks just an annoyance. Cervantes didn’t know how the champ could perform at such a level, but always the showman, he decided to use the Beast’s durability to give the fans a slug-fest they wouldn’t soon forget.

    They stood toe to toe, trading clean shots in the center of the cage. Cervantes was still performing short of his capabilities, but both men were exerting at superhuman levels. The crowd was loving the action, roaring in approval. Defense was out the window as both men peppered each other with blistering combinations incorporating fists, elbows, knees, and feet. The Beast was taking tremendous shots but refused to go down. Cervantes was having the time of his life, but pressed to the brink, he wondered how much of this punishment the champ could endure. It was obvious that the champ was extraordinary, but Cervantes doubted that his durability matched his own—Cervantes never being in any real danger, regardless of the punishment he sustained. He knew that repeated blows could have devastating long term effects on an ordinary person, so he decided to end the spectacle and end the fight via submission.

    The champ was head hunting, looking to end the fight with one big shot. Cervantes kept his hands low in anticipation of a mighty blow, and when it came he dropped to the champ’s legs, taking him down and ending up in side control. The champ struggled on the bottom and Cervantes admired his great strength and persistence, but this fight had gone on long enough. He isolated the champ’s far arm first with a two-on-one and pinned his right wrist with his right hand. Cervantes then forced his left hand under the champ’s bent arm and secured his own right wrist and began to torque. The champ’s arm twisted to an unnatural angle as he gritted his teeth…but refused to tap. On occasion a tough and determined individual could survive such an armlock, enduring the pain while risking injury to the joint in the hope that the attacker would tire and release the hold. And against an ordinary person that strategy might have worked.

    Snap, crackle, pop.

    The champ refused to tap, but the disturbing audible sound of his shoulder being torn apart forced the ref to intervene and stop the fight at two minutes and twenty-six seconds of the second round, declaring the winner by keylock, and new UCF lightweight champion of the world: Raymond Cervantes!

    The Beast was irate, furious that the fight was stopped although he had not tapped or verbally submitted. He pushed away the ringside physicians and stormed out of the cage to his private dressing room in the back.

    In the cage Cervantes was ecstatic. The tough guy was nearly in tears, living his dream as the UCF president secured the belt around his waist. The color commentator approached the new champ to get his thoughts, “How does it feel to be the new UCF lightweight champion?”
    “This is a dream come true!” Cervantes yelled, showing no signs of being winded after a grueling fight that would have left any normal person exhausted. “First of all, I want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ. Mom, dad, my coaches and training partners…man, I’m stoked!”
    “That match was absolutely insane!” the commentator chimed in. “I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it. At one point you actually threw an up-kick from your back that threw Broc like ten feet. I mean, wow!”
    “Well, what can I say, you know. My strength and conditioning coach is one of the best in the game. The lower body plyometrics really pay off.”

    In his dressing room, the Beast wasn’t in much of a thankful mood. “God damn it!” He locked himself in, throwing out even his coach and corner-men. His arm was better now, but his attitude was not. After tossing the room in his rage, he cleared a space of the debris in its center on the floor and kneeled. He brought his right hand up to his nose and squeezed it, re-aggravating the injury that was somehow healing at an accelerated rate. Blood trickled down to his fingers and he leaned forward, using the crimson tips to draw first a circle one foot in diameter on the floor, and then the Japanese kanji for supreme in its center. A chilly breeze entered the room and the lights flickered and went out. The arcane symbol began to glow red in the darkness and then suddenly burst into flames. As the Beast remained prostrate, the flames began to gust in spurts upward, coalescing into a fireball a bit larger than a head’s width, hovering about four feet in the air.

    The flaming orb took on the visage of a man, only his eyes visible, Asian in ethnicity, with a hood and mask concealing his face—the garb of the shinobi.

    The apparition spoke, its voice deep and resonant as if spoken from a great void. “Why have you summoned me?”
    “You lied to me!” the Beast yelled, looking up at the entity but still kneeling. “I trusted you and your magic tricks, your magic serum. You said that no man would be able to defeat me. You owe me…”
    The entity cut him off. “I owe you? Have you forgotten to whom you speak? Hold your tongue, for those who anger me I owe only destruction. I told you that no mere human would be able to defeat you if you used the serum. I watched the fight. This Raymond Cervantes is no mere human.”
    “I apologize. I’m just upset. My title…I lost my belt. I…I want him to pay. Can you help me?”
    “There is little that I cannot do—for a price. Although, this upstart has piqued my interest as well. Compose yourself, and behave like a warrior. Carry on as if this loss was just a bump in the road. I will deal with this…Cervantes. The eyes of the Phantom Clan are upon him.”

  8. J. Teeron 17 Apr 2010 at 5:58 pm

    “I just gave a quick glance over the bit posted, there seems to be a lot of telling vs showing issues, particularly during the part where he is talking about Iraq, but the characterization shown seems a bit iffy. The way he is presented doesn’t really seem to imply that we are supposed to know that he is of dubious character, but his actions certainly imply it, and perhaps it is unintentional. However, in a few short sentences, you establish that he arranged to suck down taxpayer money for the rest of his life, which is perhaps even more extended by his deal, in exchange for an extremely limited amount of work, particularly given his youth and current assignment when he gained his abilities. Not only does he get this unearned stipend, but he does it so he can go essentially cheat and use his unearned abilities to beat people that have actually trained, fought their way and earned their ways, out of their hard-won opportunities and positions in a sport that he doesn’t even really respect?”

    I think it will be OK. I’ll just explain that he had to do some heavy stuff for the government. Also, his teammates got blown to pieces and he was severely beaten and about to be killed.

    “If you consider that it wasn’t like he knew what was to happen in Iraq, he has put no work into what he is doing, and he is beating people that have spent their entire lives focused on that one little element, it’s callous, and completely challenges anything that might be remotely likable about the character. I realize that this might be part of your plan, but if I was reading the first page in a store, physical or internet, I’d have run away by the time he was bragging about how awesome his secret-steroids are.”

    Is it his fault that the guys suck? LOL

    “It also bears mentioning that if your protagonist is this powerful, this early in the work, it is really going to be either difficult or extraordinarily uninteresting to find villains that can fight him physically without bending suspension of disbelief or creating extremely powerful villains that can’t be defeated without contrivances.”

    I’m already on top of that one. Again, the concept of a series. LOL

  9. J. Teeron 17 Apr 2010 at 6:00 pm

    “Have you thought about making it into a novel? I could sort of see this working as an urban fantasy superhero novel. The market for shorter prose stories (short stories, novellas, etc) is usually pretty bleak.”

    I intended to write it as a series, but I also thought about alternating with first person and third person narrative: If poets can do it, why can’t action/comic writers? I went to school with some pretty good poets though.

    Okay, so the character is a wereterrier. I think that raises two main questions. 1: How did that happen? (Because of something he did? Luck/misfortune?) 2: Why does he choose to fight supernatural bad guys? (Presumably not for the money!)

    “[UPDATE: I’ve since read the first chapter, but here are some plotting ideas I had after glancing at your synopsis]. One possibility that comes to mind is that he opts to fight supernatural bad guys after one of them screws him in some way. Being turned into a wereterrier strikes me as a possibility. (If so, it would probably help if at least part of the transformation were involuntary rather than something he can do/undo at will).”
    That’s a good idea. It would allow me to write a more elaborate fight scene. Thanks.

    “Maybe he’s turned into a wereterrier because somebody chooses him to fight supernatural evil. (That strikes me as a bit cliche, but it’s workable).”

    Somebody has to turn somebody into something. LOL

    “Another alternative would be that he’s born into a lycanthropic family that, for whatever reason, raises the kids to stick it to bad guys. (Maybe they’re upset about being turned into lycanthropes and they hold all supernatural evil accountable, or maybe they hunted supernatural evil way back when and one of the bad guys cursed the family).”

    Like Lucien from Underworld. What did you think about that second movie?

    “Looking at the story itself…

    –The first sentence would probably be more interesting with a verb. Right now, it’s just a fragment, and one that’s heavy on telling vs. showing. For example, you tell us that he’s fierce and that he’s a top UFC competitor. You tell us that his style is aggressive. Could you show us those things? For example, you might depict a fight in the ring. Or start with a visual of him doing something aggressive, combined with some hint of urgency/why it matters.”

    It’s a little too early in the story for me to do that. But, I like to introduce action early in the story too.

    ”“All I’ve ever had to do to intimidate my opponents is show up in the cage.” I like this, but maybe you could come up with a more memorable, macho phrase than “intimidate.” For example, to give him a more distinctive voice, I did… “All I’ve ever had to do to terrify my victims opponents is show up.” (I took out “in the cage” to make it snappier).”

    Right, I should show his character more. Yeah, he’s still in the development phase.

    Basically, you’re saying more action and character development. Got it. Yeah, but that’s the point of a series. If it doesn’t have nice drawings these days nobody will read it, I guess.

  10. B. Macon 17 Apr 2010 at 10:15 pm

    “If it doesn’t have nice drawings these days nobody will read it, I guess.” Possibly. But I think good writing can survive bad art. For example, Invincible got published despite having art that’s kind of awful. For example…



    This next one was a splash panel. (Splash panels take up so much space that they need to be reserved for the best art your team can do).

    Invincible usually sells in the 15,000-20,000 range now, placing it among Image’s top five bestsellers. And, shortly into the run, the team picked up dramatically superior artists. If the writing is promising (and sells well) enough, your editors will probably make sure that you have the artistic support you need.

  11. B. Macon 18 Apr 2010 at 12:02 am

    “I also thought about alternating with first person and third person narrative: If poets can do it, why can’t action/comic writers?” I’d recommend consistency in the narration. I think novels that mix first and third person are rare, which suggests to me that publishers don’t smile upon it. (Personally, I feel it’s intrusive and disorienting. You can see part of a literary agent’s take on it here or an author’s take on it here, for example).

    “Like Lucien from Underworld. What did you think about that second movie?” I haven’t seen either. My exposure to urban fantasy is mainly limited to pieces of The Dresden Files, Hellboy and Buffy.

    “Is it his fault that the guys suck? LOL” Although having supernatural powers does sort of undermine the point of athletic competition, I’d be less concerned about his sportsmanship/integrity than whether interesting fights/stories will come out of the UFC. What’s his goal? What are we rooting for him to achieve? Maybe it’s just about money or fame. (For example, Peter Parker briefly goes into wrestling for desperately needed money). Under different circumstances, maybe he could do it out of some competitive streak, but I think it would help then if (he has some good reason to suspect that) there are other magically-enhanced fighters in the UFC besides the champ.

    Another possibility that comes to mind is that he loses his battle to the champ because he’s unprepared for somebody that’s magically enhanced and a hard-working professional fighter. That would propel the plot in a few ways. First, he’d have revenge motives to step up his game and beat the champ. Second, he’d have some reason to look closer into what sort of stuff the champ was using to get ahead. (I figure this is as good a way as any to introduce him to the magical underworld… he has to come across them at some point, right?) Third, I think it would make him a bit less of a chosen one if his superpowers alone weren’t good enough to win it for him. (If I could make a military comparison… I doubt we won in Iraq because we had Predators and the red team didn’t, and we damn sure didn’t win because M-16s are better than AKs).

  12. J. Teeron 20 Apr 2010 at 3:54 pm

    “I just gave a quick glance over the bit posted, there seems to be a lot of telling vs showing issues,”

    Dude, it’s a story, not a comic book. I can’t show anything. I have to tell.

    “particularly during the part where he is talking about Iraq, but the characterization shown seems a bit iffy. The way he is presented doesn’t really seem to imply that we are supposed to know that he is of dubious character,”
    How so? He’s a soldier putting his life on the line. He should be getting paid an NBA players salary.

    “but his actions certainly imply it, and perhaps it is unintentional. However, in a few short sentences, you establish that he arranged to suck down taxpayer money for the rest of his life, which is perhaps even more extended by his deal, in exchange for an extremely limited amount of work, particularly given his youth and current assignment when he gained his abilities.”

    How do you know how young he is? I never mention age. He could be a 35 year old squad leader.

    “Not only does he get this unearned stipend, but he does it so he can go essentially cheat and use his unearned abilities to beat people that have actually trained, fought their way and earned their ways, out of their hard-won opportunities and positions in a sport that he doesn’t even really respect?”

    How could the verge of death in a foreign land on a mission from your government not be the perfect time to get a superpower?

    “If you consider that it wasn’t like he knew what was to happen in Iraq, he has put no work into what he is doing, and he is beating people that have spent their entire lives focused on that one little element, it’s callous, and completely challenges anything that might be remotely likable about the character. I realize that this might be part of your plan, but if I was reading the first page in a store, physical or internet, I’d have run away by the time he was bragging about how awesome his secret-steroids are.”

    You would like more character development. He’s a level three combatives instructor in the US Army. I guess I expected too many people to know what that meant. Let’s just say he has an extensive background in martial arts as well.

    “It also bears mentioning that if your protagonist is this powerful, this early in the work, it is really going to be either difficult or extraordinarily uninteresting to find villains that can fight him physically without bending suspension of disbelief or creating extremely powerful villains that can’t be defeated without contrivances.”
    Of course. I don’t want a bunch of weaklings for bad guys.

  13. B. Macon 20 Apr 2010 at 6:08 pm

    “You would like more character development. He’s a level three combatives instructor in the US Army. I guess I expected too many people to know what that meant. Let’s just say he has an extensive background in martial arts as well.”

    I think you’ve developed his capabilities fine. I have a pretty good idea of the combat skills at his disposal. However, I think what LM was referring to was some combination of personality, voice and motivation. (At least, that’s what I usually mean when I’m talking about character development).

    As for “show, don’t tell,” that’s general advice that applies to novelists, too. (You can see my take on it here). Applying to your work, maybe there are ways to show us that Beirman is a fierce and intense fighter rather than explicitly say so. (For example, you could spend a sentence describing some signature feat or maybe start with the protag watching footage of his past fights).

  14. J. Teeron 06 Sep 2011 at 3:01 pm

    This wouldn’t post in the questions area for some reason, so I’ll post it here…

    B. Mac,
    I’m working on a story in which certain characters speak Spanish, or would be speaking Spanish in reality. I mean, we’ve all seen the movies in which non-English speaking people speak perfect English, but I’m wondering what to do for writing.
    Should I have the Spanish speaking characters speak English, put certain words in Spanish, or have the dialogue be in English but add a caveat that explains that they are really speaking Spanish?

  15. B. McKenzieon 06 Sep 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Oh, sure. Did you receive my response to your email?

    If all of the characters are speaking Spanish, one way to let them know would be to work Spanish terms into the conversation. For example, Tom Clancy sometimes ends sentences with hombre or jefe or uses Spanish phrases that English-speakers could probably understand in Spanish conversations. If you’re particularly daring, maybe the characters use idioms that are not English in origin. For example, maybe a Spaniard refers to a VIP as a “fat fish” (the literal translation of “pez gordo“) instead of a “fat cat.” If you’re interested in that, I recommend Street Spanish I for more basic idioms. I’d be sparing there, though–it could get disorienting for readers that aren’t familiar with the idioms.

    Alternately, if some characters are speaking in Spanish and some other character isn’t that good at Spanish, he might ask them to slow down because his Spanish isn’t so good.

    However, if linguistic barriers aren’t a part of the story, I think it’ll be pretty easy for readers to figure that “Hey, these guys are Mexicans/Spaniards/Colombians/whatever–of course they’re talking in Spanish.”

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