Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You Don't Have to Save the World.

I tend to think big in my writing.  A glance at last week's entry can confirm that - my first genuine attempt at a novel resulted in nearly 302,000 words of what can charitably be called epic fantasy.  I like to create stories in worlds that have real history, tales that go to interesting places and have big things happening and end with something major going on.

But it's easy to go too far.

Looking back at last week's list, I can count which books revolved around saving the entire world.  Hell, book #7 happened because the world had been destroyed, and the entire story was about the gods' failsafe making her way to where she needed to be (which meant traveling through the internal layers of a moon until she reached the surface; long story) so she could put the world back together.  And it was only after I finished it that I realized, holy shit, how am I supposed to follow that?

Part of my problem with this comes up in world-building.  I tend to make worlds where seriously bad things have happened in the past, so having those things rear their collective ugly heads makes for a good story.  In theory.  It leads to the problem of facing down a major threat again and, of course, saving the world.

It's an exciting thing, to be sure.  But it's also limiting.  When the world's at stake, there's only so much room for personal issues, so it's easy for characterization and development to get swept aside.  There's also the need to show why it's a world worth saving.  I mean, if the reader decides that the world would be better off burnt to a cinder or erupting into tentacles, it'll be hard to get them to cheer for your characters.  And as I said above, there's always the question of what to do next, for the inevitable sequel.  :P

I'm not sure when I realized this was an issue, but it's something I still deal with when I'm in the plotting phase.  My ideas tend to start with a character doing a thing, so I've had to learn to focus on who the person is and why that leads to them doing that thing, instead of immediately jumping to what the thing is and why it needs to be done.  Because what's more interesting - the reasons behind a character dropping a bomb on a city, or why this character is riding on the bomb as it falls?

(Yes, that's what I'm working on now, and yes, I know the answer.  It's the result of a decision that's going to piss off a lot of people.)

It is comforting to know that I'm getting better about this.  For all the times I tried to make an interplanar story work, it wasn't until I got the first ideas for STARWIND and came up with the race that it actually came together.  And for all the tales I've told about Shiloh and Alexi, the better ones have come from their personal issues, not the world's problems.  So for all the plotting problems I've been having lately, it feels good to say I've largely fixed one of my issues.

Until I get another idea, and I have to make sure not to do this all over again.  >_<

Next week: IWSG.


  1. Heh. It's like the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie (I've only seen the trailer at this point), but the line is "You only get one chance to save the galaxy twice!"

    The tagline for Isto is "He saved his wife and condemned his world." :) I plead guilty to the world ending usage. But the primary focus isn't that the world comes very close to getting destroyed. It's the characters must figure out how to master their issues, pull strength from it, and then use that strength to save the ones they are desperately fighting for. It's the people on the world that make the world worth saving. :)

    1. It's called "Guardians of the Galaxy". If I go to see it and the galaxy *isn't* being threatened, I'll feel misled. :P

      And I think it's different to have someone choose not to save the world. The issue I was talking about wasn't the world being in danger, but my problem with defaulting to the world being in danger when I plotted.

  2. I write MG, so it's different kind of animal. But in the first book of the series, the protag has to save the world. In the second book, the stakes are personal. Very personal. Which is why, I think I was able to draft that book in only 6 weeks. A record for me. But I knew, going into #3, that I had to return to world stakes to round out the series.

    1. Well, it does make sense to deal with a big threat in the first book. But I think making sure it's personal is a good way to follow that up, especially to keep a series from becoming formulaic.