I’m traveling today to the Moonlight & Magnolia’s conference in Atlanta. My book is done (yeah!) and I’ll be starting revisions tomorrow on the plane (and no, I don’t have revision grief, I live for revisions.)
Because I won’t be able to check in until tonight, I’m posting an assignment my 14-year-old daughter Kelly, a freshman in honors English and reviewer for RT Book Reviews, wrote for her summer reading assignment.
Intense is the word for Ender’s Game. Aliens have attacked Earth twice and almost destroyed the human species. To make sure humans win the next encounter, the world government has taken to breeding military geniuses — and then training them in the arts of war… The early training, not surprisingly, takes the form of ‘games’… Ender Wiggin is a genius among geniuses; he wins all the games… He is smart enough to know that time is running out. But is he smart enough to save the planet?
Kelly had to write several papers, but one stood out because it’s also an exercise that authors use: write a scene from another character’s point-of-view. This skill is important because sometimes when we have a scene that just isn’t working, it’s not that the scene itself is bad, it’s that we’re using the wrong character to tell it. I’ve often changed POV in revisions because either the pacing was off, or the characters were put under the wrong light. WHO tells the scene is almost as important as the scene itself.
Kelly chose to write from Bonzo’s POV right before Ender kills him. (Bonzo is Ender’s primary rival — he won all the games before Ender arrived at the Battle School.)
How dare that arrogant little SOB! Who the hell does he think he is? Waltzing right into Battle School, doesn’t even need to go through what the rest of us went through—the groveling, vying for the highest position, praise from teachers, clawing our way to the top just for a lousy position in an army of snot-nosed rats who think they know better? Who’s he to prance right on through the games with his drone of an army, to be picked out of all the rest of us to be given new games, every day—nothing is too big or challenging for Ender, oh no, he can do it, he can defeat two armies at once, most likely cheating his way through everything. And at the end of the day, he probably goes home and whines that he’s tired, it was a long, hard day for him and his soldiers.
I’ll show him a hard day. I am the one who deserves everything they’re throwing at this kid. He didn’t go through half of what I went through to get here today! He’s not the one who must prove to everyone at home, especially Father, that he can defeat the buggers. I’m the third who was cast out, who had to show everyone that I deserve to be at this school, to be the historical Commander who defeats the Buggers. To get out of that hell of a home where I had to prove I was worthy of anything. If that shit for brains kid gets into Command school before he’s ten like everyone says he is…he won’t because I’m going to kill him. Rip those tiny limbs apart so he won’t be controlling an army any time soon because he’s dead. I’m going to get him, when his snot faced army isn’t huddling around trying to protect their leader, their master.
I’ve been hunting for every opportunity, and finally found it when his whole army was walking to the mess hall. When Bernard told me our comrade saw Ender leaving for the showers alone, he was as good as gone. It would be hopelessly easy, seven older, larger, soldiers, against a scrawny little puke. His brains could not help him this time, not in the art of classic war.
We entered the showers quietly, but he heard us. He should.
Anticipate it, Ender, because there’s nothing you can do about it.
Bernard snatches his towel from the rack and shares a quiet chuckle with the others. Clever, he has more brains than I gave him credit for.
Ender opened the curtain and looked at us, calling out a delightful, “Ho!”
I almost smacked him in that little puny face of his right then and there but I knew it had to wait. Let him fear us, savor the fact that he was about to die, and nothing, no one could help him now. I almost didn’t hear him say, “Your move,” until Bernard replied, “This is no game. We’re tired of you, Ender. You graduate today. On ice.”
The brains I’d given Bernard credit for lost all points. But Ender wasn’t afraid of them, I could tell. His gaze was locked on mine. He knew why I was here, knew his fate. Let him. My feet fought to stay where they were planted while I desperately wanted to knock his skull into the tiles so his blood pours down the drain, to be filtered and consumed by the whole school tomorrow.
But then—then the little bastard brings up my father, how he would be proud of me, for fighting a naked boy in a shower with six friends. How dare he bring up my father! How the hell does he know anything? He doesn’t. He’s trying to make me back down because he’s afraid.
Well I’m not scared, Ender. And my honor? Trust me, it will be restored when your blood is poured.
Bernard makes a joke, but I don’t hear it. Everyone laughs, except Ender and I. I’m contemplating how to get this done as clean and efficiently as possible, when he brings up my father again. How I’ll go home and tell him how I managed to kill a defenseless boy and how terrifying he was. That drew the line. He’s trying to save himself, he’s afraid, he knows he’ll die. I’m not taking any of that shit.
I tell the boys to shut up and stand back. He wants to do this naked, wet, and alone? Fine. We will, I tell him as I take off my uniform. You’re such a genius, you figure out how to defeat me. Then I order the others to watch the door. After that, he just stands there, sizing me up. Yup, that’s right, I’m bigger, stronger. I can’t help that, but it sure does come to my advantage. I’ll let him have the first move. Let that arrogant little brain think he has a chance.
Then, then he doesn’t say anything, the only move he makes is to turn on all the faucets. What the hell is he trying to do? I’m not afraid of hot water, I tell him. Then, just as I’m about to lunge and grab his arms, there was a voice at the door.
“Stop it!” If that was a teacher, he was in for a shit load of hell. But then the boys drag in Dink Meeker. “Stop it!” he cries, “Don’t hurt him!”
I should have expected that. He was part of Ender’s little posse—no, cult—of followers. He was bound to notice our absence from the mess hall. Well, Dink Meeker can’t save his little leader this time, no one can. I have him, right here, and no one is about to stop me.
“Why not?” I ask him. “Why shouldn’t I kill the little snot who’s humiliated all of us, one time or another?”
I hated him for what he said next. I’m a bugger lover if I let him die, because Ender’s the one to defeat him. I’m a traitor, and I deserve to die if I kill him. Then my boys knock him out.
Damn it, Ender’s the traitor! He’s the one who took everything from me and made it his own, turned everything he touched into gold! I was next in line for Command school, I was that Commander! I will defeat the buggers after he’s gone. He’s not the only one with a brain in this place I’ll kill him for saying that, just like I’ll kill those damn buggers!
After they leave, Ender shows he’s afraid. He pleads for me not to hurt him. Yes, finally, he submits, realizes he’s got nothing left. This is how I will restore my honor.
I leap for him, but the rest goes by in a blur. I try to grab him, but he’s too slippery, and I fall. He’s about to make his move when I shift to lunge for him, our heads in line…then there’s pain coursing through my head, I stagger, and see blood on my hands, and fall. Somehow, he’s made me weaker. Excruciating pain, I can’t see…I’ll get you later, just let me lie here…
Another jab, a kick, so much pain…and then a sharp, horrific pain.
I can’t think. I don’t feel anything. The steam, it’s so hot. Can’t breathe, can’t feel … no more pain …
Father I tried. I tried to be the best. I’m sorry.
Well that’s just too bad. You should have done better, Bonito.
# # #
Pretty amazing, don’t you agree? Even if you haven’t read the book, you can get a strong sense of both the story and the conflict.
Comment below — on the story, on point-of-view, on writing exercises, on the weather — on whatever you want! And one commenter will receive a copy of my new anthology of humorous horror stories, BLOOD LITE II: OVERBITE, by the Horror Writers Association and edited by the talented Kevin J. Anderson –with stories by yours truly, Heather Graham, Kelley Armstrong, and many more! I’ve read a couple of the stories when I got my copy, and they are fun. It was just released this week!