Something that makes sense at the time, but when you go to get a snack you open the fridge door and suddenly realize that it didn’t make that much sense after all. (Or it didn’t make sense, and then you realize that it did). I’d link to TV Tropes, but I’d like to go to bed within the hour…
Anyway. So, I’ve gotten some reviews for First Flight; some are great (Serena Yates!) and some are…less so. (Getting the plot that’s outlined in the blurb is apparently not enough for some people.) Some of the other reviews (they liked it, but…) have been nudging at me for the last few days, so I did something about it. I start with a tangent, but stick with it: I promise I have a point.
I like to draw. I’m not all that great at it, but I’ve amused myself and at least one other person – as well as having inspired someone (because, as they said, they could do better than my paltry doodles). This is not a bid for sympathy, but rather the set-up for my next statement, which is this:
If I have to label the parts of the drawing, then it’s a pretty crappy drawing.
I hold a similar attitude toward my own stories: if I have to write a paragraph or more explaining the story, then I’ve pretty much failed and need to start over. That said, what follows is more or less an explanation. It’s most definitely justification, as well, but I’m more comfortable with justifying things. (Friends and family know that they can count on me to justify nearly anything, heh.)
This is in response to a reviewer on Goodreads, who said that there are some big/important issues that are glossed over in First Flight; it’s also something of a response to another that said First Flight was “unrealistic”.
Nota bene: I am not writing this out of anger or a desire to make the reviewers see the errors of their ways – quite the opposite (it’s hard to argue for realism when one of the main characters is a guy who used to be a bird). I know there are some places where I basically painted some vaguely building-like objects on a piece of canvas and nailed it up over a hole in the background, then pointed off into the distance and said ‘Look! Something shiny!’ in hopes people wouldn’t notice.
Short version is: yeah, there are some holes, and here’s why I left ’em instead of trying to explain in-story. Cut for mild spoilers, just in case.
1) Leanna and Desmond accepted Chris awfully fast.
Yes, they did. I have a section written up where Jesse introduces his parents to Chris, and they’re appropriately skeptical, but I cut it – I was able to have Jesse recap the whole hospital/parental acceptance thing, which made for a tighter story.
As for why Jesse’s parents didn’t instantly refuse to let Chris stay: I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that Jesse’s an only child. Desmond mentions a rocky period at the beginning of the Swansons’s marriage; I believe (because I haven’t written it out, yet) that said difficulties are related to Jesse’s status as an only child. They’re somewhat indulgent, not that I did a very good job showing it, because he is their only child. Letting Chris stay with only minor grumbling is something that they would do… Plus, Leanna has pretty good people-instincts, and she could tell that Chris was a good person.
Had I given it some thought, I probably would have made it somewhat more obvious that Jesse’s parents are a little more lenient (in some ways) than other parents.
2) About that whole hospital thing…
Another thing that was entirely too awkward to wedge into First Flight was the fact that Jesse isn’t hurting for money. (A discarded plot-point had him planning a trip to Europe with Kevin, which was then revised to include Chris instead. This opened the door for exploring the amazing world of impossible-to-obtain identification (even though Chris is, technically, a citizen of the US by birth), a small rant on the fact that in most places two men (or women) cannot legally wed, and most importantly the fact that Jesse had something like $10,000 in his bank account. (He’d been saving for the trip for a while.))
So it’s not impossible that he’d be able to afford a fair number of basic tests (drug, STD/HIV, complete blood count, etc), in addition to the usual physical and extremely basic neurological-function exam for Chris. The whole ID hitch is, unfortunately, one of those things that basically has to be ignored, unless you want the story to immediately auger into the ground.
And yeah, I’m pretty sure that Jesse made a copy of his own birth certificate and then forged one for Chris so Chris could get at least a social security card and a state ID. Depending on when and where Jesse was born, this might not be as difficult as it sounds… My own birth certificate wouldn’t be terribly hard to reproduce, particularly not with today’s image-manipulation software.
3) Jesse reeeeeally shouldn’t have gone down on Chris without protection.
Yeah, I know. *Wince* And it didn’t even occur to me to stop and think about it until much, much later. Like, maybe ten days ago.
A quick peek at Google (“birds carry sexually transmitted diseases”) gets me the Wikipedia page on Zoophilia And Health, which leads to a list of zoonotic illnesses. From that list, the three most likely candidates are campylobacter, cryptosporidium, and salmonella.
Cryptosporidium, which can survive out of water, probably isn’t as much of a concern based on the fact that by the time Chris and Jesse start getting physical, Chris has been washing on a nearly daily basis for months. Any of the spores on his body would have been removed; any inside would probably have been eliminated. (It’s a theory, anyway. I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again, so it ain’t like it’d be a surprise or nothin’, to quote Phil Delaney.)
Campylobacter, like cryptosporidium, is transmitted through feces; Christopher, being inclined to cleanliness, isn’t likely to have much in the way of contact with contaminated waste. As a result, neither is Jesse. (And yes, this is based solely on his time as a human; I’m working from the assumption* that as a scavenger he’d be immune to them.)
* Yes, I know.
Salmonella, on the other hand… Salmonella presents a rather more likely infection scenario. This being a somewhat magical story, I think it’s pretty safe to say that we can just pretend that none of the three diseases is present in or on Chris, and go on our merry ways.
As for human-borne pathogens… Well, since Chris started life as a bird, and HIV is primate-specific, that’s safely out of the picture. He’s never had sexual contact with anyone else, so there’s that. Plus I’m pretty sure that Jesse asked for a STD screening as part of the visit to the doctor, which means that Jesse would know Chris was free of anything unpleasant.
However, none of this excuses me from having failed to consider what leaving out all of the foregoing would look like. (At the very least I could have thrown in a line about Jesse knowing Chris was safe or something… Or made Jesse’s line about it being okay, this time, a little more specific as to why it was okay.)
4) That restraining order came through awfully fast.
Actually, it didn’t. Since I never really pinned down a particular state for the unnamed city in which the Swansons live, I never got around to looking up average lengths of time for restraining orders to be issued. Leanna called about it, but she didn’t give any specifics about the whole thing.
She may have been told that unless there was an open investigation/file on Kevin’s harassment, she wouldn’t be able to get one – that conversation takes place before the garage-painting episode.
5) And related to that, the police took the whole thing pretty seriously from the beginning.
Well, yeah, that’s a little bit of fudging on my part. I know how I would feel if I went to the cops for help and they basically shrugged me off as hysterical or overreacting, and writing that kind of thing is incredibly draining for me, so I made a conscious decision to have the police be willing to pay attention. Note that they did not immediately go arrest Kevin, though, so it’s still within the realm of possibility.
6) So why didn’t the people at the hospital want Jesse to turn Chris over to the police?
What could the police do with him, outside of citing him for indecency for being naked in public? I mean, I suppose Jesse could have argued that Chris was trespassing, but then again, Jesse put him in the car in the first place. And they could have locked him up, but that would be a violation of his human rights, because they had nothing to charge him with (except indecency, but he wasn’t naked on purpose, so…)
7) What about the trial?
Yeah, about that: if YOU want to do the ridiculous amount of research that goes in to a story about a trial, please go right ahead. Me, I wanted to get the story done sometime before the end of the 21st century.
8) Chris and his bird-family sure didn’t seem too worried about Jesse-the-human being around them.
Family Corvidae tend to find humanity at least as interesting as we find them – probably because corvids are ridiculously intelligent. In fact, the reason that crows and pigeons have the run of Seattle, WA, is that ravens were harrassed enough that they decided to leave the city. The crows, being as clever as their cousins, have moved in to exploit the niche left to them.
In Alaska, some scientists were doing a study of ravens in Anchorage. They used Cheetos as bait, which worked well… Until the ravens connected the bright orange things in the snow to getting caught. Suddenly, the scientists couldn’t catch a raven to save their lives, at least not with Cheetos.
One of my favorite books on corvids is Bird Brains, which has beautiful photography and great writing, all about the intelligence of the members of Corvidae.
One of my proof-readers sent me a link to a New York Times article about crows, ravens, and humans, which is a neat read as well.
9) I hate you so, so much for Chapter 23.
I will never, ever make that mistake again. Trust me, I didn’t enjoy it any more than you did.
10) Speaking of Chapter 23, what’s with Bright-tail’s speech patterns?
Pica hudsonia being more or less a cousin to Corvus corax, I decided that they probably were more likely to have dialects than accents.
Leave any other concerns or questions in the comments and I’ll address them.