The reasons for this blog: 1. To provide basic author information for students, teachers, librarians, etc. (Please see sidebar) 2. I think out loud a lot as I work through writing projects, and I'm trying to dump most of those thoughts here rather than on my friends.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I've been thinking a lot about process, and the difference between this new WIP and the swordfighting WIP. As I get into this new WIP I'm keeping an eye peeled for anything I'm doing that might help me with the latter.

There are clear differences in the way each has developed (so far). The sf ms started as more of an experiment in plotting my way through a book. I started with an "inciting incident" (I hate that phrase) and went from there. I figured out who the people were, why they were there, what happened next, then in my head took them step by step through a story using a combination of reason (what would logically happen next?) and plotting (what stumbling blocks can I throw in the way? What would make a good hook?). That failed. When I wrote it all out into book form, it didn't work.

In this new ms, I begin with the same kind of incident (somebody meets somebody and more or less carries them off), but before that I already have an idea of the thematic problems I want to think about (mercy/empathy/compassion in a world where those qualities are liabilities). And instead of moving forward through the story step by chronological step, I'm more in my usual comfort zone--buried in a massive tangle of story threads that I'll have to comb out and sort into the best chronological order.

Because I know the MC and his problem (he's a naturally compassionate guy), I automatically know what kinds of things will torture him and put him in conflict. I can throw those things at him. So I've got five or six storylines, or chains of scenes, already that need to be written.* I don't know how they fit together to make the story. Somehow they'll have to be woven into each other to rise and build. When I get that done (years from now, probably), I'll have a book.

So I was thinking about the s-f WIP. I know the MC, and I know his problem: he's too impulsive; he doesn't think things through, but he's so stubborn he can't let go of an idea once it's in his head. He won't quit. What's the difference between the way I'm handling him and the way I'm handling this new MC? Well, I took a firmer hand when I put him into the situation (into the "inciting incident") that starts the book. I kind of have to work to get that inciting situation going.

Then I thought, so what? I'm a writer, and I know this guy inside and out; I can easily change things to where he's in that situation and does the exact same thing all by himself. So what difference does it make?

Then I thought, well, maybe it does make a difference. Maybe it would make the story unfold on its own. The MC would have a slightly different attitude. The story would be founded more on his impulsiveness in the beginning than his bullheadedness.

And now that I'm thinking about it some more, that would mean that he hadn't planned for all the stuff that happens afterward. There would be no plan. This would totally blow all the other stuff I like about the story out of the water. I have no idea what would happen after that first scene.

Maybe that's what I need to do, is start over and rethink from that "inciting incident." Except I don't think it'll be that simple; there's a big difference between this s-f story and the new one. No time to think about it now, but I know the s-f MC starts off at a low point in his life, and the MC of the new story has stability and order until the first scene of the book. The s-f MC's world is already in a kind of chaos, and he's at the end of his rope by the time of the first scene. The new story's MC's life is threatened by his taking in the person he meets in scene 1.

Anyway, like I said, no time to think about it now. Oh well.

*Example: the MC's girlfriend sleeps with this other guy. That means I have to show the MC finding this out and reacting to it. Then I need a scene (or scenelet) where he sleeps alone (they all live in the same place) and how awful that is for him. Probably I need a scene where he keeps fuming. Probably some confrontations between the MC and his girl, and between the MC and the other guy, to show how everybody's processing the situation, and to build up tension. Then--because the story's about mercy and compassion--I need to have a situation where the MC has an opportunity to kill the other guy. But he doesn't do it. Perhaps he even saves him instead. And I'll need to think what that shows to the MC and to the reader, and what it can do in service to the story overall.

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