> That Bandom Space AU That Still Resists A Working Title
Miles Vorkosigan Wants To Show You His Weapons
Have Guns, Will Travel
Ask Me About My Mercenary Fleet's Dental Plan!
Do Not Send To Ask For Whom Miles Vorkosigan Fights (Because He's Not Sure, Either)
Space: The Final Frontier
> This is the first draft and there are still a lot of places where I jotted down
> some ideas of where it might go and put [fade to black] into the doc, ignore
> those and pretend it's exciting space battles. I've been doing very intense
> music and concert vid communing to come up with ideas about how to evoke
> the kinds of synchronized explosions and light effects. But that's going to be
> in the second draft. For now, can you look this over and let me know what
> else I should be addressing and adding and fixing in the next draft?
First of all, I completely understand why this thing is resisting a working title. There's a lot here and I think that, once you expand it, it's going to be epic-length.
I think when it comes to considering titles, you should work out the thread of what's holding the story together and tug it until it gives you some ideas. This seems to be action for the sake of action in some places, but in other places, surprisingly touching. You've done a lot of exposition in a very short amount of space, and I think that also needs to be teased out. You don't need to give the reader everything at once, you should let them explore slowly. You don't want them confused, true, but I think once you say SPACE AU!!!!, the reader's going to give you some time to world-build. ;)
As for the world-building, I think the Miles and Elena back stories are impeccable, but the rest of the Dendarii seem to be suffering for it. Where were Bel and Elli and Ky before the story starts? Baz seems to be somewhat in the middle, you only hint about his back story. Is that on your list of things to add in the second draft? If not, him having his own standalone story in this series would be good because it would give him a chance to speak. Right now, he's fading in and out. Some times he's very present, but other times, he's a tertiary character. This is a problem with large casts, it's hard to juggle. I think if you gave Baz and Miles a few more scenes together, that would solve those problems.
Other cast problems: this is very clearly Miles's story, but at the same time, it's saying ensemble to me. That's not necessarily bad, but my expectations didn't know what to expect. At certain moments, I kept expecting the next scene to be from someone else's POV, but it was always Miles's. That's not bad! But some of the characters are shouting their stories in a way that makes me expect they'll be telling them, or the story will be telling them. If this is Miles's story, then I think you need to cut it down to being only Miles's story. It can be Miles's journey with a large cast, or it can be a story about multiple characters's journeys. You don't have to decide now; since you said this is going to be a series, you could give each character their own story, and you can cut and paste between stories in the series to see which scenes work best where.
To keep on Miles and how he relates to people, I loved the fanon joke AKA plot point that Miles can't go fight because he's short, but part of the reason it's so funny is because it's so meta. Storywise, it makes no sense, because they must have short people in the future, and the world-building you've done doesn't preclude people having a large range of heights, in fact, it seems to almost demand it. If you want to keep it, I suggest peppering in some exposition about why they don't have all the equipment you'd think a mercenary force would to make sure their mercenaries can fight. Did it get destroyed? Did someone steal it? Did they have to scrap it for parts for something they desperately needed? Is it an indication of how poor or desperate or simply bad at this that they are? I think this needs to become a plot point or you need to remove it, because it's currently a plot hole that only exists to make fun of people deciding that Miles is teeny because he's the shortest one.
And speaking of playing with expectations...
I know you said you wanted this to be a stone cold beta, so you cut all of the pairing notes, but this is obviously going to be Kyles! I was guessing around, because that's just being a tease, and at first I thought this was blatantly Miles/Elena, but then you brought in Baz and I know how you are about Baz. (More about Baz later, though.) Ky snuck in quietly, which I highly approve, and then BLAM, you give us their first date. And what a gripping first date it is! I love the underplay of the seduction, can't wait to see the sex scene!
Now, about Baz. I know, I know, I know, this is tight Miles POV (see my comments above). But I want to see more build-up there between Baz and Elena. You can show them flirting and singing duets and Miles being baffled or just not registering that it's flirtation. Since Baz and Miles and Elena share a planet in this 'verse, you can use Baz as a foil for Miles and also Baz/Miles interactions as a mirror for the Miles/Elena interactions. You start teasing with Miles/Elena, but then Miles is with Ky and Elena is with Baz, so I think there is a lot you can do with pairings, interactions, and expectations. You can really play Miles vs. Elena vs. Baz off of each other, especially if you keep that Miles can't fight. Baz can fight, which makes him more the hero, and Elena can fight, which must really make Miles jealous, and since Baz and Elena can fight together, and Miles
has to stay home and finish his degree can't, oooooh, my eyes are bigger than my stomach here. I want them all! But, tl;dr, more Baz, please! He's too much in the background for someone who is the reason for much of the plot.
Speaking of characters moving around in the background, I do want to draw your attention to Bel. I think you've minimized Bel here a lot, and the Bel/Miles interactions are suffering for it. I think there should be more than a few jokes about Bel crushing on Miles, especially since it looks like Bel's going to end up with Elli. I know you're playing up the back story with NASA's Children Of Science! and how Miles and Elena have that weird best-friend-occasional-antagonist thing all over the place, but I don't think that should be at the expense of Baz and Bel. Either cut Bel, or have more Bel.
Wow, I'm just making the ensemble case again and again, aren't I? I hope you didn't write this for a Miles-centric fest; that would make this whole reaction very awkward.
Beyond Miles vs. Ensemble, have you considered opening up the POV, in general? This could limit the WRITE ALL THE CHARACTERS ensemble temptation. You could alternate POV sections with Miles and then either Bel or Elli. You can then contrast how the two groups see each other when they're coming together. You already have all of the Miles/Elena stuff, so you could fill in some of the gaps where "and then stuff happens!" with Bel and Elli's backstories together. I was thinking of suggesting that the other POV character be Ky, but on second thought, I like the way we see Ky through Miles's eyes. Miles from Ky's eyes can wait for the next one in the series. I think that if the two POVs here were Miles and Ky and it's their ship, this fic would be consumed by that ship and I think you'd lose a lot of the other stuff that's great here.
On the other hand, let me not be the person who convinces you to tone down the Kyles in favor of the gen action plot! This is definitely going to end up long enough for you to do both, and if that's something you'd like to tackle, you should definitely do it.
Now, for thoughts on the action for the next draft: I like how the Dendarii in-fighting is being presented, and I think the action scenes should flow naturally out of them. You could even have them mimic the tone of them, or have them drive the tone. You can use the war to create the tension that you'll need for the climax, but you can also use the war to create opportunities for drama/sexiness, like you've already done with Miles and Ky's dinner-and-a-fire-fight. If you want to keep the POV the same, how about a Miles intensive scene after each, he could be thinking or plotting or dating Ky, or thinking and plotting about dating Ky. If you want to open up the POV, you could have different h/c dynamics after each other. We could see Baz and Elena after the first time Elena kills someone, we could have that Bel and Miles scene I was just bugging you about, we could even see Bel and Ky deal with their backstories together.
I think I'm going to stop pestering you to make this ensemble and switch instead to: this is two fics, not one. There is a lot of backstory to pack into a small space, and if this remains Miles's story, it's going to be very hard to do justice to Elli and Bel and Ky. I'm fascinated by their relationships in this AU and I think they'd be best served if they got their own chance to breathe. Miles drops out of the sky onto these mercenaries, and he brings with him Elena and Baz, and then we rush through with Miles's POV and what he sees. But because of that, we don't know what brought the original mercenaries together in the first place. How did they meet? What are their histories with each other? They have very charged reactions, but we've jumped into it in medias res, so we don't have the context.
Could you leave it context-less? Sure. But there's no need to do that, because you've already sprinkled in some fascinating glimpses at what happened before. I think it would be a shame to tell the wrong story here: the story about Miles turning this mercenary fleet into the Dendarii is not just a story about Miles. It's a story about Bel and Elli and Ky, maybe even more so than Miles. The act of creation belongs to all of them. It's Miles's journey, but your Miles is doing this for reasons that amount to "I'm bored". It's the Dendarii themselves, including Elena and Baz, who are really affected by what happens and by Miles's actions. Miles could walk away at any time, you don't tie him down until he decides to go a-courting. Bel and Elli and Ky are committed from act 1, scene 1. This is their lives. This is their reality. They have their own reasons for being there and, not to take anything away from the story you've written, but you could reverse POV and make this all about Ky, and the story would only be stronger for it.
But that's not to say that it's not Miles's story, too. There are two grand stories being told here. Which is why I'm suggesting splitting this. Miles and Elena and Baz should have their own story, and that's 60-80% of what's in this draft. But Bel and Ky and Elli should have their own story, and that's already mixed in with the other 20-40%. It could be separate times (prequel/sequel) or you could overlap and show the same event in both of the fics, or really do a POV split and tell both stories in one fic and move the timeline actually shown in the fic backwards (Mercenary backstory scene, Barrayar backstory scene, mercenary, Barrayar, beginning of action Miles, beginning of action mercenary, etc).
I think that would really strengthen this, because you wouldn't be trying to satisfy two different, and occasional cross-purpose, urges at the same time. You can give the Barrayaran planet backstory and you can give the mercenary fleet backstory, and you can give the both of them the attention they deserve and all the opportunity to breathe that they need.
It might also help solidify what the fics are about and help you figure out what you want to call this thing.
Another idea might be to completely swap the premise and see what that reveals: Miles and Elena and Baz are mercenaries from a family of mercenaries. But along comes this motley crew of Bel, Elli, and Ky to turn them from BLAND into BAND!
So, tl;dr: I really like what you're doing here and this is a really great, really fascinating premise. I definitely want to read an epic series about these characters! I recommend taking out all of the Bel and Elli and Ky backstory and specific scenes dealing with that and put it into a different file for now. Read over this draft again and see how it flows and see if you like how it works without it, and then read over that file and see if you could rework the backstory into being the story instead. If you're willing to play with POV, there's no reason this couldn't stay one fic with multiple POVs and focuses, of course. But I think it would help to first focus on if splitting it would work for you in the first place. There's a lot of story here, so there are a lot of possibilities and a lot of awesome things to show and play with.
Let me know what you think. I look forward to the next draft and seeing where you take our daring Dendarii heroes!