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Conversations With Myself by Altimexis


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I must admit, I read the introduction, then the prologue, and then chapter one and wondered if I'd have to leave it till the tale was finished and read it all together. It certainly looks complicated. However, I read chapter two this morning and no problems so far - except I'm now itching for chapter three.

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  • 1 month later...

I usually don't respond to posts about my stories until their done, but I have the distinct impression from the lack of posts overall that not many people are reading Conversations, which is a shame. The story took seven years to write and is not like anything I've ever done. The current competition not withstanding, this is a compelling story with a surprise ending that no one will see coming.

I realize that it can take some effort to keep track of things, which is why there is a graphic at the beginning of each chapter to help orient the reader to all that is going on in each timeline. Keep in mind that we are following events in our characters' lives at six different stages in their lives. However, because the timeline keeps changing, events that happen in one period may not carry into the next. There are a lot of clues to keep the reader oriented throught the story. For example, when reading about President Dole, it should be appartent that history has changed. If anything doesn't seem clear or for any questions at all, do not hesitate to contact me.

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Because of the nature of the story, I found Book 1 difficult to comment about — it was hard to follow. I'm not having that problem with Book 2; the relationship between the two boys in chapter 4 is a fun read.

Colin :icon_geek:

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I'm still reading, and enjoying it. I will admit I thought it was too complex to read other than at a single sitting, but so far, I've surprised myself with both my recall and that although the premise is very complicated, Altimesis's approach is to my weird brain, logical.

But, pretty well any chapter could have re-percussions on a later one, it's not the sort of thing that invites comments until all is done.

Very, very few authors can do time travel in the first place, and to do it well is even harder with a much smaller group. So far, Altimexis seems to have joined them. Roll on Wednesday...

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I give you guys a lot of credit for sticking with the story. Most of my writing is done in a single pass with only minor changes. This one wasn't like that. I wrote all of book one and half of book two when I realized that it just wasn't working, so I went back, trashed more than half of it out and started over. Eventually I realized that my time scales were inconsistent from plotline to plotline and so I created a diagram - the one that appears at the beginning of every chapter. It was only after creating the diagram that I was able to keep things consistent across all plotlines. It was David, my editor, however, who made it clear that if I needed a diagram to keep things straight, my readers would need it even more.

Most people can keep track of 2 or 3 simultaneous interrelated plotlines, or maybe 4. I started out with eight, which was definitely too much for anyone to handle. I ended up taking the top-level plot and relegating it to just the prologue and epilogue. That way, it was separate from the rest of the story and didn't need to be remembered. I then eliminated one of the college level plotlines, getting rid of what was originally a second PhD and merging the undergraduate and graduate years into one, and the late graduate and post-doctoral years into another. I tried stretching things out a bit, but the timing didn't work at all. I ended up starting the story seven years later and making Chris and Frank seven years younger throughout the story.

That one change created some real challenges, though, as I had to change every time-sensitive reference I'd used. I went from having Chris and Frank play Pong to playing Donkey Kong. and talking about the newest pocket Casio calculator instead of the HP 35. I had to change songs that were playing, movies that were in theaters and even simple phrases. Instead of Chris seeing Ruby shoot Oswald on live TV, it was Chris' parents who saw it. (I saw it, BTW - it's something I'll never forget.) Still, a few remnants of the oroginal version remain. Kids wouldn't have still used the word "groovy" in 1978, but I left the term in there as a reminder that the story is rooted in the past. Hopefully, it all works.

I realize that keeping track of six plotlines is aksing a lot of my readers. I just couldn't simplify it any more than that without eliminating a lot of things that are critical to the plot. However, by adding each plotline slowly over the course of the entire first book, hopefully that gave the reader a chance to acclimate to each one and to recognize the subtle differences in my characters over time. At one time I'd thought of using a different font for each plotline, but that would have probably been more distracting than helpful. The bottom line is that Chris' use of language changes over time, which makes it easy to clue into the individual periods in his life.

If you have been reading Conversations as it's posted, you're in for a real treat this Wednesday. Let's just say that if you have trouble with cliffhangers, you may want to wait until Saturday and read the next two chapters together.

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  • 3 months later...

I just read this story. A nicely complex science fiction story with some very interesting characters. I can tell a lot of thought and effort was put into the SF plot device and into how this would affect the characters and the plot. Well done and good work.

 

I must admit though, I figured out the surprise ending a chapter or two before the ending, as it was the only thing that seemed to make sense to me in the context of the story. 

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Thanks for your kind words, Gee. You story The Wish has long been a personal favorite.
 
My apologies to those who found the story too complex to follow, I experimented with spreading out the time lines and using fewer periods, but then I just couldn't get all the of the important events to fit where and when they needed to. Perhaps I'll find a way for the movie version! Seriously, though, I had multiple sets of eyes looking at this at various stages and I asked repeatedly about issues of consistency and ability to follow the various plotlines. It probably was harder for me to keep track of everything than it is for the reader, as I took pains to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together seamlessly. I developed that graphic at the beginning of each chapter more for my own benefit, to ensure that the passage of time occurred at the same rate in all time periods. I'm pleased with how things came out and proud of the writing, some of which is my best.
 
The surprise ending turned out to be a surprise to me as well. I usually have a firm idea of where I intend for a story to go at the outset, but often find it veers in unseen directions as the characters take on lives of their own. When I breathe life into a character - when I give them a personality and a history with their own belief system and their own ethics - I give them the freedom to make their own choices and to grow and develop in their own way. Certain things had to happen in the story and were envisioned from the beginning. I knew from the start that there would be a hostage incident, seduction by a spy and that at least one incident of the timeline being disrupted by change. The original Marion Dawson was much more sinister, but he didn't seem real. Instead I imbued  him with contradictions in good and evil suited him well.
 
I did not set out at the beginning to have Andy and Frank play the roles that they did in the end. Frank was invented as an enigmatic soul to create a sense of intrigue that added depth to the plot. He turned out to have a much more central role in the end. Likewise, Andy was always intended to be a genious, but my initial intent was for him to play a much darker role. Given the similarities in the two personalities, however, the role that they eventually played now seems as if it had been planned all along. I threw in some clues along the way, but hoped their true relationship would remain hidden until the big reveal at the end. 
 
Physics itself turned out to be the star of the show, however - I just hope I didn't make it too detailed or boring. I learned something too out of this. I'd always though of the universe as infinite, as I'm sure most people do. Einstein of course knew better. The universe is finite, as it has to be, and that difference - the difference between a huge but finite universe and an infinite one, makes all the difference in the world in terms of the math. I'll never again look at concepts of time and space in quite the same way.
 
Thanks for reading my story and giving me a way to express my creativity in such a personal way.
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