Thursday, November 21, 2013

Second Time's the Charm.

"If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act."  --Billy Wilder

I said in my last entry that I'd talk about sequel planning in this one, and I almost didn't, because things were going so badly.  I had this idea of where the next book would go; I even had a good title.  I rewrote the ending and added an epilogue to properly lead into the next book, to wrap up everything with a few more things going bad for Our Heroes, both completing the tale and setting things up for the next one.

Then, whenever I sat down to work on the next book's plot, it was like throwing myself against a brick wall.  Granted, I don't think I've actually run into a brick wall since elementary school, but at least I know it's a valid metaphor.  And as the quote above says, the problem was in the first act: no matter how much I wanted it to be otherwise, for the third act to happen, the entire first act of the book had to be one big training montage.  And that just plain doesn't work.

At least, not unless you can find a way to make the book play cheesy yet inspiring 80s music, and that would get old after a few chapters.

So last night, after yet another session of staring at WordPerfect and grumbling, I decided to scrap it all and come up with something different.  This is something I've been doing more and more with my recent plotting - I'll decide to do a different take on a work in progress, or I'll get frustrated and try to come at it from a different direction.  And so far, what comes second has always been much, much better.

I'm only a day into this new plot, only have a page of notes and plans, just some things to establish the setting and some new characters.  The story happens in a place in this world that I didn't know existed until today, yet it makes perfect sense for this place to exist.  It allows me to expand on all kinds of things from the first book and to keep a part of the story going that my pre-readers seem to think was over.  (Bwa ha ha.)  And most importantly, it'll lead to some absolutely awesome scenes that I can't wait to write.

It kind of amazes me that I almost didn't write this, that I almost kept running into that wall.  But now I have a new tower to build.  And it can still lead perfectly into a third book.

...yes, of course I'm plotting a trilogy.  It's fantasy, what did you expect?  :P

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Too Much Anti-, Not Enough Hero

So!  I was reading during my recent vacation (as one does when stuck at and between airports), and I'd heard a lot of good things about this book.  Very much dark fantasy, not a friendly world, that sort of thing.  I was looking forward to a good anti-hero tale, something where I clearly wasn't reading about the good guy but could root for him anyway.

While the main character was no good guy, there was nothing about him worth rooting for.

Don't get me wrong, I love anti-heroes.  I like characters who work outside the lines.  I like characters who not only do things I wish I could do but can't because I'm not willing to spend the rest of my life in jail, but also get away with them.  I like reading about the wrong person trying to do the right thing.

However, part of what makes an anti-hero is that there's good in them somewhere.  It might be the warm heart behind their gruff exterior.  It might be the tiny spark of light in the darkness inside them.  But it has to be there.  There has to be something to separate an anti-hero from the villains they fight.

This book had none of that.

The protagonist, as he was no hero of any kind, had no redeeming qualities I could see.  Flashbacks show where his life changed, and this isn't someone who edged down the slippery slope toward villainy, or someone who tripped.  This is someone who saw it as a cliff and leaped off.  And yet, it seemed like the reader was supposed to empathize with him because of his tragic past, that he truly was supposed to be an anti-hero.

I don't think so.  Without that core of good, we're left with a protagonist who sees no trouble with torture, murder, and rape.  We have a character who would be the antagonist in most other stories.  And being driven by revenge is fine until he just sort of drops that because it doesn't suit him anymore.

I didn't read the whole story; I got bored with it and was utterly disappointed.  It's possible things could have gotten better, but after 100 pages, I just didn't care enough to find out.  So I wouldn't call this a review, but I wanted to really get into why the character didn't work for me at all.

So, now I'm curious: what do you think makes an anti-hero?  Have you seen characters like this, who shoot for that and miss?  And how would you write an anti-hero to make sure they truly were one?

Next entry: sequel talk. @_@

Monday, November 4, 2013

Name That Flaw

Quick entry tonight, as this just occurred to me as I was editing.  What's your flaw?  What do you always catch yourself doing as you write, what can't you stop yourself from doing no matter how hard you try?  And would you stop if you could?

For me, it's overwriting.  I cut a lot of words while editing, and that's because I tend to write a half-dozen words when two would do.  It's like, if there's a casual way and a formal way to put something, I'll use the formal way, even if it's ridiculously inappropriate.  In TAW, I think some of that is character voice, but still.  Even when I was writing college students, I overwrote, and ended up shortening their dialogue and descriptions a great deal.

On the plus side, I know to look out for this while editing, and I'm used to it.  So I know what I think is a wonderful turn of phrase while writing, I'll roll my eyes at while editing, and cut it out without a second thought.  If nothing else, I'm used to murdering my darlings, because there's so damned many of them.  @_@  Sometimes I write something and think, "Yeah, I'll have to fix that later," and sometimes I try to fix it right away.  But most of the time I just keep writing.  And later, I wince, and cross that passage out.

I also use the word 'all' way too much, though that might be just this book.

Now, I'm not asking for any self-pity parties here.  If insecurities were winning lottery tickets, writers would be the richest people in the world.  I'm just curious - what do you do that you know you'll have to fix later?  Are you okay with this?  Do you even try to stop yourself?  And, best of all, have you ever written something you knew you shouldn't have and kept it anyway, because it actually worked out well?

Next entry: no idea!  I'm off to Blizzcon this weekend, and it's a wonder I can think of anything else right now.  Bwa ha ha!