Tag Archives: writing process

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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Finish him! – Or, A Writer’s Ethical Challenge

There are moments in writing when I picture a scene from that game, Mortal Kombat, which was so popular in the…. Was it really back in the 90’s? Wow. Anyway, the fighters have been fighting, the player mashing and smashing buttons haphazardly, and one of the combatants is struggling to stay standing. The words, “FINISH HIM!” are emblazoned across the screen in gory red letters, and the player is compelled to throw one final blow…

I am currently at one of those moments. Thing is, I’ve had this scene in mind for weeks –– even months –– but even now, I cannot decide whether I will have someone finish off this foe, or if he will be taken away in chains. The pacifist in me says, “Oh, he’s just misled. Let him repent!” but the fighter in me says, “No! FINISH HIM!”

In reality, my protagonist has a history –– a messy history –– but he and his friends justify it by saying, “That had to be done.” How on earth does this relate?

Well, when I first started writing this note,* my protagonist had a choice to make. Kill off his rival, or let him off the hook? When I couldn’t decide, another character stepped in and decided for both of us, finishing off the villain (Thanks, unnamed deciding character…). I’m always conflicted about this.

See, on the one hand, I want to kill off the villain. Seriously. Get him out of the way! Let the good guy take his vengeance and live happily ever after! On the other hand… I am a bit of a softie, and perhaps a bit sentimental. I find myself thinking, “Oh, he can always change his ways.. It won’t be easy, but it can happen…” Or can it? I usually have to bring my villain to his wit’s end before he even considers regretting his evil tendencies, nudging him by reconnecting him with such things as people he misses or taking the blinders off to the awful things he’s gotten into. Not to mention, there is such a thing as an unrepentant villain…

But this whole scenario begs the question: Am I to be held accountable for the way I portray these situations? What does it say about me as a person? On the one hand, yes, this is fiction. On the other hand, how does this effect the way I look at people in real life –– or how my readers look at life? I ask these questions, not to give myself or anyone else a guilt trip, but because they are very real questions. When I write, I am getting into the heads of my characters, and I not only consider what the character would do, but what I would do. Would I be willing to value a person’s life –– and chance at redemption –– less than I value “justice”? How does one even discern whether the person in question is sincerely willing to make the effort to change?

This is where the shady characters step in and save me from my own debate –– the ones who are on the right side, but whose values that aren’t quite the same as those that I hold. I feel absolutely guilt free when they make these decisions, because I don’t feel like I need to agree with them 100% of the time… So that is my solution.

But is that enough?

*Footnote: This goes to prove that one of my many, many ways of procrastinating from writing is not mere business, Facebook, forums, or general procrastination, but writing about the struggles I’m going through with my writing. It’s both helpful and unhelpful, really. Helpful, in that it helps me process. Unhelpful, in that it takes me away from the actual story I’m writing. I started this note when I was in the middle of writing that scene, and finished it after writing several following scenes (and a few to fill in beforehand). It spans a few days…

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