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Archive for February, 2010

Inspiration

This will tie in to my last post on Knowing Where to Start.  Trust me.

The male protagonist for DREAMER’S ROSE is based on the Greek myth of Hercules–the real one, not what Disney did to it–turned completely upside down.  In case you don’t know, Hercules was driven mad by Hera.  In his madness, he killed his wife and children.  The famous Twelve Labors were his punishment for this crime (they didn’t have Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity back then).  In the end, still consumed by guilt, Hercules built his own funeral pyre and burned himself to death.  But, as the son of Zeus, all the fire did was burn away his mortal half and leave him a god. 

This made me wonder, what exactly would you pray to Hercules the god for?  People did, in ancient Greece; he had temples and people made offerings.  What were they asking for?  His entire life was a disaster.  The only thing he was ever good at was killing monsters, so unless you had a Hydra hiding in the back yard, what did you want Hercules to do for you?

I took this story and completely turned it upside down.  My protagonist leads a charmed life with the patronage of the Goddess (who happens to be his mother).  He succeeds in everything he does.  He’s practically invulnerable because the Goddess heals every injury.  That is, until he gets struck by lightning, burns, and becomes a god.  That’s when the Peter Principle kicks in–he’s risen to the level of his incompetence.  He has absolutely no idea how to go about this god business and he fails horribly.  It is his last and greatest failure that causes the conflict in the story and which he ultimately has to rectify, with a little help (from Rose).

Now, I promised that this would tie in to the last post.  Here it is.  I had the hardest time getting this story started.  It’s really hard to write something interesting about a guy that can’t fail and can’t be hurt.  Where’s the conflict?  In the end, I couldn’t do it.  I gave up and started with another character, which morphed the story into something that wasn’t really what I had envisioned.  So, I put it in a drawer (figuratively) for a few months.  Recently, I opened it back up and reread it.  I started making notes for the revisions I wanted to make.  And now I know where the story really starts.  I just needed a little distance from it to see it.  It starts at his height, right before he becomes a god and everything goes to pieces. 

That’s probably obvious to you.  But when you’re in the trenches struggling with a story, sometimes you’re too close to see it.  A little distance is good.

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Knowing Where to Start

First, an update.  On a first pass through THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, I’ve identified and marked approximately 8500 words that I think I can cut.  Some of them will indeed hurt–me, not the story.  I haven’t actually cut anything, yet.  I want to wait a week or two and then read it through, skipping over those parts, to be sure it all still hangs together and makes sense.  It feels like progress, anyway.

Now, as the title says, knowing when to start:

Many stories, like THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, have one right place to start.  That’s with the inciting incident, the accident that turns the shaman into the protagonist’s implacable enemy and drives the conflict for the rest of the story.  I could move the beginning a little bit, either way–backward a little to show more of the protagonist’s world before everything changes for him, or forward a little to start in media res–but not much.

My second novel, THE IGNORED PROPHECY, isn’t so simple, because it’s a different kind of story.  The inciting incident isn’t an event.  It’s a question and there are several different events that could, potentially, cause that question to be asked.  And that, I think, is the problem with this story.  I picked the wrong event and I’ve stuck with it through several revisions out of inertia, I guess.

This book has been through changes.  Some of what happened in the first draft has been pushed off to an eventual sequel, but the beginning was still almost the same.  I think this is the main problem with this book.  In this case, it’s only the first third of the book that seems to take too long, not the first half.  Improvement!  But it still needs to be tightened up and changing the way in which this question gets asked is likely to be what needs to be done.  I have some ideas.  So that’s what I’ll be working on while trying to get a little more distance from THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

Actually, there’s a series of questions, not just one.  Although it starts with the biggest question.  What I want to do is bring all those questions much closer together.  Really rattle my protagonist right at the start and then keep him off balance as much as possible.

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New Look

The photo above was taken in Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia.  This area was the inspiration for the world-building on my fourth novel, DREAMER’S ROSE.

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Rewrites

I actually don’t mind revisions.  I do my best to turn my internal editor off during the first draft, so I expect to have to do a round or two of revisions.  Expecially if I’m writing fast, some things may just get left out or need to be expanded.  I often need to give more depth to my antagonists than they get in the first draft.  There’s its own kind of reward in seeing the writing and the story grow and improve during revisions.  Kind of like gardening, I guess.  Pull the weeds, prune judiciously, plant something new every once in a while, water and fertilize the rest.

But rewriting, where I actually have to discard what I wrote and start over, is more painful.  That’s where I am with two of my novels, though.  I still really believe in these stories, so it’s worth the pain to try to get them right.

This week, I’ve been formulating a plan of attack for my first novel, THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.  (It’s not really my first novel, but we’re not going to talk about that thing under the bed, okay?  It is the first to be good enough to try to get it right and get it published some day.)

I reread it after a about a year.  It wasn’t as good as I remembered.  I still really like the second half or so and that, right there, tells me what the first problem is.  It takes too long to get there.  So, that’s my first task.  I want to cut 10,000 words from the first half–15,000 would be even better.   Then I’ll see how far that goes towards fixing some of the other porblems I saw.  Wish me luck.  This is going to hurt.

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog, which I expect to be primarily about my writing.  Other things, like real life, may crop up from time to time, though.

I write fantasy, mostly novels. I do have a short story or two knocking around, though.  I submitted one just this morning.  Fingers crossed, please.

I have five fantasy novels in various stages of completion.  The first two are in the unfortunate category:  “Complete, needing a rewrite”.  The third, BLOOD WILL TELL is complete, polished, and ready to go out into the world, just as soon as I get that pesky query letter and synopsis done.  The fourth is complete in first draft and ready for revisions.  The fifth is only started.  And the idea for number six is already starting to cook. 

Since this is mostly about writing, some of the interesting stuff will be on added pages, rather than the blog itself.  My plans include pages where you can meet some of my characters or get a glimpse of the worlds they inhabit.

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