Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Writing That Fantasy Novel, Part 3

A lot went on since last week. Well, writing-wise, not much happened, unfortunately. Life will do that, won't it? Between being sick and my mother in the hospital again, all I felt like doing was to read. It gave me a chance to cast a more critical eye on what I already had written and I had to be honest, I did not like where it was going. Also, I think my readership would have been very narrow as far as who would enjoy reading about the main character as he was.

So, yes, I changed it all around. Hey, like my blog says, I'm the Troubled Writer.

I like my new line of thinking for the story and a lot of the basic plot is the same. The main character, Marek, is still part of a team to escort a mage to a dangerous location. He falls for the mage, thinking she is someone else, they reach the destination and sort of succeed.

There have been a few very significant changes, however. I had touched on the Mastery system of the society before, where everyone's goal in life is to choose a profession and become considered a Master at it. This becomes more important now. Families almost always followed in the same jobs and when they did not it often resulted in a scandal and relocation. But what to do with orphans who have no family at all? That is where Marek fell into. I dealt with that by turning his best friend into his mentor. I was finding his friend character did not play much of a part in the story except as a sounding board and it was getting old. This way works much better and I can still have Marek develop a friendship with another character as they travel.

I also feel like I have a better reason for why all of this is going on and I was able to raise the stakes without making it cliché. A lot of the epic fantasies I've read have one thing in common: an invading force is on the way. I'm trying to avoid that and I think I've done it by making the crisis involve more of an impending doom that involves everyone and everything. Basically, if the main character and his party fail, every living thing in the realm will be affected. Kind of like a man-made disaster that can be stopped by repairing something natural, if that makes sense.

So, my goal this week is to plot out my scene cards and start writing all over again. At least I can take comfort in how I was only a few scenes into the story before I realized it's flaws. Thanks for reading, and keep on writing.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Writing That Fantasy Novel, part 2

Well, week one did not go off very well. It started perfect with three days and over three thousand words, just like planned. But then two straight days of headaches stopped me cold and I spent the sixth day reviewing what I had written. I ended up adding a few hundred more words on Sunday and then played catch-up on Monday to get as close to seven thousand words as I could manage. I'm still way off but not so far that it is unmanagable.

As usual, my carefully laid out plot was trampled on by my characters as I wrote. That may sound like a bad thing but I believe it is the best thing that could happen. It means your characters are realized enough to dictate what they need to say to move the story along and how they want to say it. I've had to make some adjustments to accommodate this. I took out two scenes that became either unecessary or bloat that I was able to condense into a previous scene. 

The first scene I had trouble with was my first scene featuring the antagonist. Everything he does is based on magic, even just walking around since he has to keep up a glamour to hide his appearance. Until this scene, which is the fourth in the story, I did not touch on magic at all except to allude to the fact that my protagonist was opposed to it in every way. The eternal struggle for every writer of show versus tell had reared its ugly head. I had to alter my original idea for the scene to work in a way to describe how magic works and in particular how he used magic which differs from how it is normally used. I decided to have him too weak to continue what he was doing and need to restore his magic's potency. It made sense since he had drained himself the day before. I'll still leave how he became different for another chapter but this will give a decent introduction to my magic system which will become essential in the next chapter.

This past week has reinforced my opinion that plotting is much more useful than pantsing, or in other words, creating as you go. If I did not have my story already mapped out I probably would have abandoned what I had already done and wasted time starting all over. But because I already know where I'm going, I can easily pick up where I left off. All of this brings up a point I don't think I've seen touched upon before. Although I consider myself a plotter, I am still at the mercy of my characters, all of whom have distinctly pantsy personalities. They never want to do what I have laid out for them, like petulant children who refuse to wear what you picked for them. Because of this, I get the same experience of discovery that a pantser gets, but I still know where I'm going and how to get there due to my outline. So don't be afraid of killing your ideas with an outline. With the right characters, you'll never be bored and like frisky puppies, they'll always find something of yours to tear up. But you can never stay mad at them. You just shake your finger at them, give them a hug, and move on.