The writing daemon has earned his chocolate! Turns out that PAR’s antagonist was up to no good for a good reason, but that’s what was missing – her motivation!!
Okay that’s enough excited exclamation marks for one post… but I am pleased. I’d been worried my brain had identified some larger problem and I’d end up reworking this last section. I’m so close to finishing the edit (7 chapters left!) that a major issue was going to turn it into a slog.
Motivations sometimes sink below the action when I’m writing the initial draft. (Not for the protag, but for other players.) I think it’s the fact it all seems logical that throws me, because I don’t expect to write something that is logical and in keeping with their character without an explicit motivation. But you can! That’s what happened here, probably because there’s a lot going on in this section and many threads converging.
Of course I might find other problems with these few last chapters, but I’m not so worried now. And, I’ve got to say, my mind is already working out how I’ll tackle the next edit. I know what I want to work on, because there is a real weakness in my dialogue through-out this draft. It’s been bugging me during this edit, but I like to do dialogue all in one hit to keep consistency. For now I just need to finish this draft!
The observant reader of my blog will have noticed a suspicious absence of PAR, or other writing, chat recently… even after I’d said I was planning on doing some during my week off… and that came and went…
This is because I’ve hit resistance!
Other than enjoying a break, I realised that writing daemon isn’t happy with the 6th, 7th and 8th last chapters of PAR. The major antagonist is doing things which are logical – daemon and I agree on that – but he’s not convinced by them. I’m willing to consider he might be right. There’s just something a bit under-baked about what the antagonist is up to. Note the very technical term there – a sure sign that I have no idea why it’s not working.
The solution I’ve come up with is to avoid the question entirely (!) and keep working by starting with the last chapter and going backwards.
Trust me it’s not as weird as it sounds. I already know what needs fixing in the two last chapters (emotional tone) and they’re quite divorced from the earlier crisis caused by my antagonist. By the time I’m back into the problem zone, I reckon daemon will have figured it all out (I’ve promised him chocolate).
Can’t say I’ve tried working backwards before though…
A friend who is currently teaching script-writing asked me the other day if I use diagrams when plotting, or in any other way in my writing. It was an interesting question to be asked because I do, but not as a planner would. (Being a pure pantser, I don’t map stuff out at all before I write.)
Where I often find diagrams useful is in the process of editing a draft – particularly a scratch draft or a first draft – and I use them to examine logic. It might be that I know there’s a logic problem, or – as with PAR in recent weeks – I’ve got multiple sets of motivations feeding into movements and interactions, so I have to explore each set independently to check they hold up on their own and aren’t just serving the plot.
I also sometimes diagram to check how much time has passed over a sequence of chapters, as I lose track of how many days have gone by about as easily as my characters do!
Credit to my brain, it does a good job of getting logic and the passage of time right in the pantser chaos it prefers. I rarely find any big things wrong when I do my diagrams. They do, however, get me thinking about other things – probably because they get me looking at the story from different angles – and I find that interesting and often very valuable in itself.
Sometimes I laugh at the application of the “scene must have conflict” idea. Sometimes I weep! Particularly in TV shows where excellent writing can be ruined by someone ramping the conflict up to ridiculous levels.
Exhibit A from my recent watching was the penultimate season of a legal show, in which every scene in every episode was either a break-up or make-up. To achieve this, characters who were on the same side of the greater narrative conflict kept suddenly turning on each other. They then, of course, had to make up the breach so a few scenes later they could have another fight!
I found this absolutely exhausting. It was just such ‘shouty’ writing.
Also, you quickly realised that none of these conflicts were real conflicts and none of them would influence the narrative in any way. They were conflict for the sake of having conflict in the scene, so why was I watching them?
Possibly this would have been less annoying if I’d watched it weekly on traditional TV, instead of episodes back-to-back, but even then I can imagine the result being the same – I’m never getting to the final season.
Sometimes a scene needs to be there for a reason other than conflict.
I know I’ve talked about this before, but it’s been on my mind again after some of my bookclubbers asked me where the idea for the PAR came from. Considering my recent wordage was my excuse for not having read the book this time (!) I felt like I owed them a good answer. Luckily when it comes to the PAR the answer is easy…
I was watching a movie with a martial arts instructor who was a really interesting character, in love with a student, and I thought “that’s the kind of relationship I’d like to write”. This was partly his character in the movie, partly the idea of a relationship between two fighters and partly the extreme coolness of martial arts (I’m a teeny bit of a fan).
So my instructor became a sword fighter (because swords = cool). Then he needed something to be using the swords for (to fight beasties). Then he needed people to train (people surviving in a somewhat post-apocalyptic future earth). Then he needed a love interest I felt he’d fall crazy in love with (a highly experienced beastie fighter). Then I had to decide what kind of beasties and where they’d come from (accidental side effect of some research). Then I had to decide what the research was in aid of (finding a cure for a disease). Then I had to pick a disease and work out if it had caused the apocalypse or the beasties had (50/50). And then – the most fun part – I had to build an entire version of our Earth around the idea of an apocalypse with beasties.
Sounds simple when you lay it out like that, huh?
Funny thing is, Blurty had a similar start – a movie I was watching – but a totally different path and now it’s hard to see the origin point at all!
In the past two months I’ve had a similar conversation with a couple of writers I know and the topic has been “characters who do unexpected things”. It seems a lot of people are have had to break out the whip and chair, circus lion tamer style, to get their characters back in line.
Or not. If we’re honest, we sometimes have to let them wander off and do those unexpected and frustrating things, because strangely they seem to know more about their story than we do! Just to prove that our conscious minds are not as in control of things as we’d like to pretend.
Of course this isn’t limited to characters. A friend complained recently that she’d put a ring in a story, just so a character would have something to fiddle with in a scene, and now the ring is looking for its own series! Oh yeah, it happens.
My characters have been doing a bit of this in the PAR (mostly they’ve been a bit more amorous than expected), but they had been pretty well behaved until yesterday. Then it turned out one of them had been married previously. This I did not know! But I’ve forgiven them for up-ending a subplot. Well, mostly forgiven…still harbouring a little resentment.