Tag Archives: Writing

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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A Ramble about Writing

I write my stories in third person almost omniscient by habit. It’s just how the words hit the page. I like knowing everything that’s going on, and I don’t like having to write extensive notes just to remember what actually happened in a scene (which, believe me, I have done). I also love writing from multiple perspectives within a story (but never in the same scene –– too confusing).

At any rate, I will occasionally scribble down something in first person limited –– just a random scrap, nothing significant. Usually, it doesn’t go anywhere and remains an intriguing but stagnant slip of writing. In the past, I’ve managed to stretch one out to 10,000 words, but it was writing that started off strong and fizzled out by the end.

Not so with my current work, however. I’m baffled and delighted that I’ve kept it going. No, it doesn’t have a title yet. I haven’t learned enough about it to name it. Hopefully, I won’t have this same attitude towards naming my children in the future (if I have any). And what has kept me writing it? I’ll give you a few details…

1. The villain. I like writing a villain who is cruel to the nth degree, yet somehow appealing. Cold and calculating (the smarter the better), filled with malice, and rarely losing his/her temper (but burning with the very flames of hell when he/she does). Even better if he/she is strangely attractive to the protagonist. Whether or not we know much about the villain, he/she should put a chill in our very bones –– or at the least, into the bones of the protagonist. I like a well-written villain. In fact, in some cases, it could sometimes be argued that I favor the villain over the protagonist.

In this particular tale: The villain is a redheaded man with deep blue eyes, dressed in forest colors. The eyes are important, as my protagonist is obsessed with them. However, the villain terrifies her. Whenever she sees him, she freezes up and barely knows what to do with herself. This is a far cry from my usual main characters, who tend to be strong-willed and bolder than most, but I digress. Most of what makes him scary is what he might do, not necessarily what he has done.

2. The collision of worlds. Whether it be two entirely different cultures, worlds, universes, or time periods, this interaction fascinates me, no matter what my characters know or don’t know about the other culture/world/universe/time period. Perhaps I’ve watched too much Doctor Who…

In this particular tale: We start off in the modern world, where there are highways, cars, policemen, and speeding tickets. It shifts from here to woodlands in a medieval type of world. Most of my readers will tell you that I have more than a slight obsession with writing about the medieval. I may not be an expert, per say, but I do love the stuff… Given a choice, I may never have these characters shift back to the “real” world. After all, they might even be in the “real” world already. Interestingly enough, while my protagonist and her protector shift with the change in environment, the villain does not.

3. The idea of an established world that I’m still learning about (as an author). It’s kind of like when you have a dream, and you know more than you should, as if “it’s always been this way,” yet you’ve only been asleep for however long, so how could you possibly know? There is so much backstory that is not told, but an excellent writer will write as if the reader knows everything [within reason], only dropping hints here and there. To out and out explain it can spoil the effect. This is why prequels are not always a good idea.

In this particular tale: I know bits and pieces about this world. It’s still forming in my head, but there are a few established things –– two very distinctive cultures that interact but don’t necessarily mix well, a third party that’s still ambiguous, and a few landmarks scattered here and there. Some of it still doesn’t make sense, but it’s getting somewhere, and I have a feel for it.

4. I have limited this to one character’s perspective. I’ve tried this in the past, but I usually reach the point where I start to get bored with the character and open up the possibilities with other characters. However, this is in first person, so limiting it to one makes more sense. This presents a few simultaneously wonderful and terrible obstacles to overcome: I can’t “see” the protagonist unless she sees herself in a reflection. I can only “see” or “hear” what the protagonist sees or hears. The reader knows nothing that the protagonist does not know. I like giving the reader endless questions about what’s going on, but this takes it to a whole new level.

In fact, in the first part, I picture the protagonist driving in my car –– yes, my red Subaru station wagon, with the cup-holder that isn’t quite big enough for a travel mug, and the beaded necklace and feathers hanging from the rearview mirror. It’s very weird, because I almost feel like I’m writing about myself, yet I’m not. This is a different person, though she has some of the same reactions I would. Writing in first person, in this case, feels like driving the character around like a car. What would I do in this situation? What would I say? What would I think? If I were to take this approach with more characters in this story, it could become a mix of characters who are all too similar.

5. The protagonist’s potential love interest is already in danger of being completely lost. This may not sound like a typical writer’s source of inspiration, but when the odds are stacked against my protagonists, I write better. It forces me to think of creative ways out of whatever situation they’re in. It also shows me what my characters are really made of. When held captive by the villain, do they submit meekly and panic, or do they exhibit snarkiness and refuse to comply past a certain point? How do they interact with one another? When presented with a challenge, do they complain loudly, forge ahead, or sit and sulk? What is their pain threshold? What is their sanity threshold?

One might say I have reached this test of character too soon. How am I to “up the ante” later on in the story if this is how bad it is after merely 5,000 words? Folks, never forget the laws of Fictional Bad Circumstances. If things are really bad, they can always get worse. I plan to play on my protagonist’s fears, for sure, but also to surprise her with more than she expects.

And so, this is me processing the birth of a new story –– something that has never been written before (at least, not by me). It is probably the most exciting thing I experience as an author, aside from finding the voices of my characters and watching them blossom into their individual personalities. I may read back in later years and say, “Well, that was a load of crap,” but for the moment, I don’t care about that. I care about getting this written.

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