Quick Note: Due to a change in my personal life, I am shifting posts to Monday and Thursday, as Friday’s have become almost impossible for me to match. I will still be posting book reviews.
With that in mind, I realize I’ve gotten away from creative writing posts. That was part of my mandate, so let’s get back to that. From now on, Monday’s will be creative writing posts. The subject and length will vary.
I love writing technical scenes. Sometimes, too much. I get lost in the science.
“Like I said, dots. So… anyway, on a hunch, I reviewed the death of every single cadet since we first arrived. Nothing before then.”
“Why didn’t you tell any of us you were working on this?” asked Felicia-Maria. “We would have helped.”
“Some things,” said Henry, “you don’t say till you’re sure.” He glanced at Stein. “Anyway, I catogorized the fatalities, eliminating those that didn’t fit my criteria. Seven and eight died in duels under Elite supervision, three eights died from injuries sustained by training, six and eight have had complete mental collapses…”
“Get to the point, Doctor,” said Felicia-Maria.
“Right. Of all the deaths, these stood out.” He gestured to the wall. “No witnesses, but nothing particularly suspecious either. I clustered the commonalities and used them to attenuate the variables. What remained,” he tapped his display, “suggested premediated randomness. The common demoninator in all suspicious deaths was—is the lack of commonalities. The randomness suggests a pattern, conscious thought to avoid detection. Except, the randomness is too perfect.”
“I don’t understand,” said Jen.
Felicia-Maria concurred. Her life revolved around patterns. How could the randomness be perfect?
Henry shut his eyes, thinking of a better analogy. “It’s an area denial strategy. Induction. Not,” he nodded to Felicia-Maria, “deduction. See the facts, then make the best logical jump, revealing the best possible solution.”
“It’s a guess.” Jen broke into a grin.
“Was a guess.”
“Was…” Stein looked up. “Then you found it? The connection.”
“I found one.”
“And?” said Stein.
“Well, Felicia-Maria isolated a chemical inside the residue I gave her.”
“Right,” Felicia-Maria waved him off. “Heavy metals.”
Henry glanced at her uneasily. “I isolated the biologicial derivative from the inorganic chemical structure. Leaving the remaining organic compound easily identified. Unfold the enzyme and you’ve got…”
He drew a structure on the board. Alpha helixs, beta chains. A and B strains linking together to form a three dimensional structure.
“Translation:” Stein pondered the board. “You just drew the three dimensional molecular structure of a foreign object. A plant.”
“Correct. Specifically,” Henry opened a book and flipped it to a particular page, “this one.”
“Sleeping grass.” Stein read over Henry’s shoulder. “A synaptic enhancer. Reacts the bioelectric field of an animal.”
Felicia-Maria stood. “Wonderful… The presence of the heavy metal element moonstone as the metallic core allows for enhanced, more efficient protein folding. The new folds bind exceedingly well with the biological nature of the sleeping grass, which in turn reacts to the bioelectric field of an organism, generating energy, which feeds back into the moonstone core, amplifying the already inherent effects of moonstone’s magic enhancement.”
“Yes,” agreed Henry. “Chuckles told Stein he’d eaten something. That suggested I could isolate the compound in the liver or blood stream. Since he’d been on dialysis obtaining a sample was easy.
“And you ran his blood as an exemplar against all cadets.” Felicia-Maria nodded.
“Can we even confirm that this happened to everyone?” asked Stein.
“No,” said Henry. “The body breaks down the chemical in death. The calcium released from the bones during rigor mortis break it down, and it leaves without a trace. Something to do with active anions on molecules.”
“Whoever built this is brilliant,” said Felicia.
Thoughts: There’s a beat, a pulse, to writing technobabble. Shows like CSI and Star Trek get it right. Most of the time. There’s definitely a balance. Beware the technobabble doesn’t become a crutch, an excuse to explain things. Getting caught up in it also is a concern. There’s I fairly good idea that the readers might not care. The details, after all, might not matter.
That sounds counter intuitive, since I generally assume the details matter. But, then, that’s the point. It’s a matter of what details you’ve chosen, right? The minutia of the science might not attract any readers. In fact, it may be entirely beside the point.
That’s a determination every author must make. And, honestly, as much as I enjoy the knitty gritty of technical details, they generally work better on a television show where the actors enhance what might otherwise be a simple expository scene. As often as Star Trek and CSI get the technobabble right, they often get it wrong.
Ronald D Moore, one of my favorite television writers for Star Trek, said on a podcast for his show Battlestar Galactica, that he avoided the technobabble. Because, really, when telling the human story, it’s irrelevant, even if the fans think they need it. Just give it enough to move the story along, to have the world make sense.
That’s what this exercise is about. Trying to find that balance. Again, without context, it might not matter. There’s no balance with the rest of the chapter or scene. But it’s a shot, if a bit out of context. So, that’s not going to help it making any sense.
Tell me what you think. Or, you know, don’t. It’s fine. Just an exercise.