Tag Archives: planning

Shifting the Plot (drastically)

If you’ve been following Salon Auteur’s blog for the past couple of years (It’s been around that long???), you might remember when I wrote this. Well… Nearly two years later, I have an update.

See, I was originally hesitant to kill off or otherwise nearly destroy the main character. However, I hit a major block later on down the road, and I just couldn’t seem to add to the story. It just didn’t seem… right. So what did I do? I went back into the Outtakes file (yes, there is an Outtakes file on my computer) and read through the rejected scenes… and I found that they were truer to the plot than what I’d added in. After all, to have the villain die so early seemed a little… too convenient (even if it did reveal a lot about his allies). Yes, there were others to take his place, but it totally wrecked the plot. He was the only convincing bad guy in the whole story, aside from the one who already got killed off. So I took the outtakes, tweaked them until I liked them better, and sifted them back in…. then proceeded to rewrite the scenes following them — and leading up to them. I’m still in that process, and I’m having to remind myself of the history of Marda so that I can get it all straightened out… But there’s still problems.

The story feels dry. Seriously. It has its moments of “greatness,” but in general, it’s lacking. The characters don’t have the same camaraderie (friendly or otherwise) as other generations of characters in the Mardan Tales. The settings are vague, at best. The pirates seem a lot more skilled and dangerous than they should — without explanation. I mean, really. The captains all argue over who’s the top guy, yet they manage to overtake the larger part of the kingdom of Ebenswy? What’s unifying them? Why aren’t there more assassinations or attempts? And why is Ebenswy itself so… blah? Why is it so hard to write a story based hundreds of years before the stories you’ve written before? Why do I just want to scrap this whole thing and forget it ever existed — yet at the same time, I want to save every bit of it that I can? Perhaps I’m just complaining and should just write…

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Is this brilliance or madness?

It’s April. Camp NaNoWriMo is in full swing – or rather, is nearly at an end. The wordcount goal I chose is 10,000 words. Easy, right? Ha! Once again, the obstacles of a busy schedule, random mishaps, and lack of ideas put me behind my goals by about 3,000+ words on a nearly consistent basis this month (which has almost been remedied by now). However, with a little encouragement from the NaNoForums (since I’m taking a break from FaceBook), I’ve pressed on anyway.

In looking at most of my writings, the plot tends to ramble, even when I do plan ahead (which I haven’t been doing). My current project is no exception. [Readers, please forgive the ramble ahead, but it must happen.] I am continuing the story I was working on the last time I posted here. The role of “villain” has already changed hands at least twice, if not more. The races of my made up world have come into view more clearly, and so has the tension between them. It’s much more than, “We’ve been fighting for so long that we’ve forgotten why” (which is often my excuse for longterm conflicts). There are deep-seated Reasons behind these things, and it causes Serious Problems for my protagonist – and this was totally not what I was going to write about…

See, at first, there was just the one villain. His reason for being a villain was that he was acting on instinct, because he was of a predatory race that hunted my protagonist’s kind. The main character’s love interest is of yet another race – more like humanity during European medieval times, and completely lacking in any “magical” (for lack of a better word) abilities. Oh, and did I mention that I still don’t have it figured out how they all met? Yeah… Go, Gwen! [Let the sarcastic cheering ensue!] Anyway…

Love interest was [magically] turned to the Dark Side, and joined the hunter. Protagonist ran off into the woods – her people love trees, and this is a major plot point – and discovered people of her kind who were ancient (really ancient!), and they taught her more about who she really is. Things came to a head, and she ran off to find help from some of the eldest of her kind. She was given a Quest, and during that Quest, push came to shove, and she wound up almost back where she’d started, trapped by her love interest and the villain. And then… a new villain presented himself from her supposed allies, and switched things around again. The original villain freed her love interest, giving up his own life (it’s complicated, I tell ya’!), the new villain was subdued, and protagonist and love interest limped along to where his people live (after much back and forth dialogue – “That’s a bad idea.” “No, it’s not.” “Yes, it is.” “I don’t care.” “Fine!” etc., etc.). Of course, events confirmed that it was a Drastically Bad Idea. Love interest’s people turn on them and considered protagonist something of a Bad Person – especially when yet another person of her race caused issues and made it look like our protagonists were guilty (I have to admit, at this point, that there’s actually two protagonists). They managed to escape, but where to?

Well, main character had previously said it would be a Really, Really Bad Idea to go to her people. I can’t, of course, hint at something like that without actually going there, so what will happen next? They’ll go there. Obviously. There will be the obligatory challenge against her love interest, and perhaps he’ll prove himself worthy of her hand. I don’t know for sure. However, I know there will certainly be Trouble (which reminds me of a song by Horslips). After that… Well… eventually, I’d like them to settle down somewhere and start a family… if that’s possible.

I will honestly say that this story has has a lot less bloodshed than previous stories I’ve written, which is bizarre. I have had one – count that – ONE set of Red Shirts so far, in the whole of nearly 17,000 words (including pre-Camp words – yes, I am a NaNoRebel!). The Travelling Shovel of Death has not made an appearance, and horses have not been present for most of the story (not that horses have anything to do with the bloodshed). One could easily ask whether my muse has a terrible sickness and has asked another muse to take over for now. Perhaps…

And, randomly, I dearly miss the land of Marda. This isn’t saying that I’ll write more of it, but… Well… You never know…

 

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Character Mortality and Predictable Writers

I guess you could consider this post a double-whammy… But beware: There is much following of bunny trails…

This is going to sound awful –

Twice, I have tried to kill off a certain character in my current work in progress. I had it [kind of] planned out from the beginning stages. I’d kill her off and make her a martyr, then leave her love interest reeling in agony. Both times, I’ve chickened out or found a way around it.

I partly blame this on my writing buddy. Said buddy has a very odd habit of falling in love with the characters that I eventually plan on killing off or maiming. I don’t know how he does it, but it gives me a guilt trip every time. He also loves cliches, which I try like anything to avoid –– then accidentally toss in when I’m not paying attention. And you know what the strangest thing is? I will either send him a chunk of the latest writings, or I’ll hint at what I’m working on, and he somehow already knows what I’m planning… even if I haven’t said anything.

When I told writing buddy I was not going to have things end perfectly happily, he guessed that I was going to kill off one of two characters –– one of which was the one I had targeted. I, being of a contrary nature at times, started to hesitate about going through with the plan.

But I moved on, wrote the terrible betrayal, read it through several times, then decided, “This doesn’t work.” I marked those scenes in red for later removal and pretended something else had happened. I would postpone the character’s death for a later time, in a less horrible way.

Well, that didn’t happen. I trapped her outside during a seige, handed her over to the villain (sort of), and then… her companion/love interest shot the villain with an arrow and chased the bad guys to rescue her, negotiated a cease-fire, and whisked her away to another location –– because he’s awesome like that…

I’m starting to think that this gal has some sort of magical protection on her. At first, I thought, “She’s doomed!” because I named her for a character I killed in another, semi-related story. Oh, wait… Let me explain the paradox:

  1. I originally wrote her years ago in a scrap of writing that never went anywhere.
  2. I wrote another story last year that had a character based on her with the same name –– with one letter’s difference. I killed off the one in the newer story, after putting her through some pretty rough times, and then said to myself, “What just happened?”
  3. I took the scrap of writing that never went anywhere (referred to in #1), and I expanded my favourite part of it –– the part pertaining to her –– which is what I’m working on now… but it takes place hundreds of years before the story I wrote last year….

Confusing, right? Not confusing enough, apparently.

In short, there’s been a huge conflict in me between wanting to preserve this character and wanting to avoid the “happily ever after” cliche ending… and I think that’s what’s held me back the most with this story. Not time constraints, not writer’s block…. this wrestling match with myself over this character’s mortality…

And now for a bunny trail –– This whole conundrum of deciding who lives and who dies (and how) has me looking at stories very differently. When I [finally] watched the Hunger Games, I was thinking with my writer brain, figuring out who was going to die and how. I won’t toss in any spoilers here, but the author definitely took a route with one character that I would have taken if I were in her situation with a story. I wouldn’t say that it ruins how I look at stories, but it does put them into a different light… And I’m not sure whether it’s awesome or scary when I predict where a writer is going with their story. While I tend to prefer surprises, I want to say, “AHA!” every time I do get it right.

So back to the original topic:

What to do when your writing starts getting out of hand? Mark the parts you don’t want in red, decide what you really want, then just… write. But never throw out the unused parts… You might need them for another project.

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