Thursday, February 28, 2013

Returning from a Revisit: WTF was I thinking?

I'm sure we'd all come across that thought a number of times in our writing careers. I know that sometimes I can so monotonous and repetitious in my writing. But I had no idea that I was this bad.

One thing that gets under my skin whenever I read through submission guidelines is when they say they're looking for a certain word count. Or they're looking for this many pages. I've written much less than this in recent years, but the furthest I can get is just over 100. One day I'd love to peak at 200+ pages, and something like 200,000 words... heck, I'd love enough material for 400-500 pages, and it's all concise and stuff.

Recently I'd been reading "Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters" and noted how it's more character-driven. And plot is very slow to come across at some points. Usually the characters are discussing their relationships and such. Of course I know Jane Austen is one for exposition and length and all that.
But I don't necessarily want to be that kind of writer.

Having the comparison just made it easier for me to come to my conclusion:
I have such OCD when I write that I have cover all my bases. If my protagonist experiences something, either physically or mentally, s/he has to tell the other characters everything in her head.
But if the same stuff is repeating over and over, it gets pretty annoying.

I just spent the past couple days re-reading through "White Tiger"... it was my latest draft, which I stopped rewriting about halfway through and kinda, you know, stopped working on.
I loved the direction I was going on in too.

I'm pretty big on prologues and back stories in general and I'd love to keep my lengthy introduction to this story. But the main critique I'd gotten is that my prologues run too long and they should be considered part of the story starting with chapter 1.
That was another weird thing about this story: I never had designated chapters... my increments were always in lengths of time... so technically, I guess I could have Part 1, 2 and 3, but they'd have to be similar lengths.

If I do that, it's pretty obvious to me that the "meat" of the story will be part 2.
Supposing I stretch out my prologue until it can stand alone as its own entity, I'd have to write a bunch of story I never wanted to bother with.
That was my main issue with maintaining continuity and such. Whenever I didn't feel like writing about certain trials and tribulations, I keep the time stamps that range anywhere from a couple days, a week, to two months. Then in a few spots, 10 years and 2 years.

I'm also afraid that if I length my prologue, it's gonna get too dark and stay too dark for too long. And if it does get severely dark, it has to be a smooth transition to the next part. Meaning that it doesn't get too light right away.

It'd severely ironic of me to say I hate writing dark stuff when I actually do dabble in that frequently. I'd written a number of scenes off the record that stand as a testament how much I put Chihiro through over these years.
Doubtful I can use any of that because most of it is rewriting the same scenario repeatedly but the circumstances change.

Geesh... bar none, I can be really shitty to my protagonists and the stuff I put them through. It started with my fanfiction and progressed into original thought... and that was before I started watching "All My Children," my one & only soap.
The first original idea I had started with a session of health class where the question was why teens are driven to suicide.
Throughout my high school career, we received word of at least 5 suicides. We received the print-out in homeroom, where it explains what happens and that there is counseling stuff on site for anyone who needs. There was only one time where I knew the person. She was in my biology class and I had concert choir with her one year. I'd tell the story of what happened, but I'd be inaccurate and it wouldn't do her justice. We weren't particularly close, but a lot of people in the drama and choir programs were close with her.

For the sake of argument, my protagonist, like me, was very conscious about their grades and it was that pressure that they put on themselves that eventually drove them over the edge. But on top of that, I threw in all kinds of crap, whether his parents were going through a divorce, he was physically abused by his mother's new boyfriend... either way, he kept all that hurt inside and that's how it came to pass.
But of course, it was a failed attempt thwarted by his friends, to whom he never confessed anything to but they suspected something was wrong. Then he doubted his self-worth so much that when he got sick, he refused the antibiotics that would have made him better. Until he finally decides that he has something to live for.

The way I write about my characters sometimes makes me believe that I ought to be cited for literary abuse... I need to learn, if I do go down that path, to put as much as is NECESSARY for the plot... there's a point where it just gets excessive.

The one thing a lot of my characters seem to have in common with me is that they suffer from lack of self-confidence. And they sometimes have trouble speaking their mind about things. I have no trouble confessing to a computer screen, but forget it when it's actually asking for help or bringing something up verbally.

Jamie's lack of confidence... and it didn't start out that way... all this crap kept happening to him until he just gave up and cut himself.

Chihiro's lack of confidence eventually results in her giving her life for someone she loves because she believes "he can make a bigger difference in this world than I ever will" even if it means abandoning the duty she'd worked the entire story to get ready for.

Aside from repeating the thoughts I came across in narrative in dialogue to my characters, just to prove a point or make sure they knew everything I did... my biggest issue that I kept coming across was Chihiro tearing herself down, believing she isn't good enough.
Heck, she cried so much throughout this it almost felt like she'd give the protagonist of "Perks of Being a Wallflower" a run for his money... she was constantly apologetic if she didn't do things quite right or, in the case of one plot point, trying to kill the person she's in love with when she was under a spell the entire time.

I think it got to a point where I started to thinking that she's so pessimistic all the time that my readers aren't going to fall in love with her or want to continue reading to see how things are going to end.
Of course I've given away the ending a number of times throughout this that there's really no point.

I gotta find that ultimate ending believable. Taking a romantic rival out of the mix makes the romance a little more plausible, but at the same time, I cannot repeat the notion of sacrificing for love and the happiness of another person. So that's one element I need to eliminate...
this might be a good story to work on analyzing cause and effect.

I've been working with the idea for a different kind of antagonist... to make up for the elimination of the 2nd villain I borrowed from the InuYasha universe... someone from Chihiro's race. Possibly with a vendetta against her family because her mother rejected him and his proposition to merge their clans. The impasse was reached because he doesn't tolerate the human race the way she does.

So I have another way of orchestrating the first crucial plot point: Chihiro was sheltered from the outside world and its distrust/hatred of people like her, who have a half-human heritage... so few exist to begin with because of this predjuice.
Presumably, the humans declared war on her race, and her mother has no choice but to take action... which results in a bloody massacre. So Chihiro has no choice but to navigate this world on her own, an endeavour that proves very difficult.

I guess it could be good to add is that she has to find her only relative, her godfather... something that takes her a little while to figure out... for a time, she is wandering aimlessly in search of another clan to call her own where she might one day rule... although I'm not sure when to bring up that point because whenever it's mentioned, it puts the momentum back into the plot, drives it again.
I'd also considered the possibility of delaying the first time she comes in contact with Lucas. It's deciding the lesser of two evils: if I bring him up too soon, the memory of him might be in the mix too little or too much, if I bring him up too late, there could be issues there too.

The next thing I'll probably do, aside from the cause & effect outline, making sure all the bits and pieces of my storyline have relevance and work towards a goal... I'll go thru track changes and such, take out filler, remove characters and include a few notes to keep in mind.

cuz if I go anywhere further about those things here, this entry's never gonna end :-P

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you have a good plan here. Good luck with the outline and checking to make sure everything has relevance in your manuscript.