Having finished draft four of Wolf: Sins of the Father, I thought it might be fun to brainstorm in public a bit.
What follows is roughly the shape of the world my next novel will occupy. It may be the world of the Five Nations. It may be something else, but these are roughly the things I am thinking. Of course, anything I write here has a long way to travel before it makes it into a novel I write. And I’m not talking about the story so much as the general feel of it all.
- The Golden Age is in the distant past or never came.
- People are flawed. Some do the right thing for horrible reasons and some do horrible things for what seem to be the right reasons.
- True evil only exists in the supernatural. In the mortal, we get shades of grey.
- True good exists only in the supernatural as well.
- There are supernatural forces of good and evil. And there is magic.
- Magic is difficult and mysterious. It is not science by another name. It is an ineffable ‘black box’ of logic and rules.
- Heroes and villains both come from humble origins.
- Humble origin <> blacksmith’s apprentice. From a certain perspective, just about anything can be of humble origin.
- Evil seeks the destruction or subjugation of all life.
- Good fights this.
- But. For whatever reason, Good chooses to fight through flawed mortals in far more subtle ways than evil.
- People, generally, lack faith in anything but themselves.
- Friendship and camaraderie are important
- and horribly fragile.
- and nigh impossible to reconstruct after breaking.
- Resources are limited. In the Golden Age, they were far less limited than the current age. Remnants of this Golden Age still scatter the landscape in ruins.
- The Golden Age was marked by hope. The death of the age meant the death of hope for the common man.
- The Golden Age cannot be recovered. The best one can hope for is an age less horrible than the current one.
- Cowboys are cool, but I’m still too close to the Dark Tower. So, no cowboys.
- Hobbes was right. Locke was wrong. The state of nature is: “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. Locke would weep.
There is more, but that’s a good broad stroke. The more gets into specific things this list has got me thinking about. No specifics will find their way here, yet.
I had things I wanted to write about today. Instead, I finished my fourth draft. It’s continuing to improve.
It’s a personal story, as the subtitle Sins of the Father implies. I‘ve enjoyed that. It’s somewhat different for a fantasy novel. The armies marching to war are more peripheral than central. It’s a story about a man and his father. And their fathers.
My next novel, I want to write something more epic. World shattering. I don’t know if I’ll shatter the world of the Five Nations or another one, but whichever world grabs my eye next should tremble. It will not fare well. The very foundations will shake.
Some days I have to struggle to come up with a topic to write about her. Other days, a topic hits me in the face. Today was one of the latter.
I highly overused pronouns in my novel. I think it’s only becoming apparent to me because the novel is only beginning to become genuinely readable. As it approaches readability like light approaches the center of a black hole (perhaps never to actually reach), I notice increasingly small details and problems. Today, I spent most of my reading time adding in proper nouns. Because maybe, just maybe, the reader would like to have some idea who is speaking other than ‘she’ or ‘he’. Bah. I’m so horrible at this.
Other than the aforementioned pronoun problem, things are looking pretty decent. I think the voice is smoother, and my foreshadowing is less jarring, which is nice. I read a third of the novel so far today, which means it’s reading faster or I’ve just about got it memorized. Perhaps a bit of both. It does pull me along, though. I had to fight to get through it when I worked on Draft 2. That was many moons ago. My narrator is a different person these days.
This is a story on blogkindle.com about an author who sent out review copies of her self-published book when they weren’t quite ready. A reviewer nailed her for it. She, apparently, considered cussing like a poorly spelling sailor an appropriate escalation. I want to take this as an abject lesson- there will be bad reviews of my books. I will not take it personally. People are entitled to their opinions. Even when they are being dumb-headed.
Today, I put the finishing touches on the third draft of Wolf: Sins of the Father. It is better than it was.
In this process, I’ve discovered that odd drafts are ‘my’ drafts, and even drafts are drafts to be shared. I still have a load of work to do. Draft 4 will be a revision draft, and should take about a week to complete. Draft 4, like draft 2 before it, is about reading through, finding typos, making sure scenes blend nicely, and overall refining things a bit. I may add some words, but I expect to subtract a great many as well.
I am nearing what I can do on my own, and I fear a decision point approaches. Do I try to get this published, or do I self-publish? I vacillate eternally.
I am nearing the home stretch with my third draft. Today I have done much of the work on the ending that I mentioned needed to be done. While I was working on it, I continued in my process of discovering the marvels of foreshadowing.
From a reader’s perspective, foreshadowing is the stuff you read near the beginning of a novel that comes back into play at the end in an interesting way (or, at least, the writer hopes it’s interesting).
From a writer’s perspective, it appears to be almost the exact opposite experience. I write through to the end, and I get to a place where I need events to unfold in a certain way. Then I think about what really works, and what would be satisfying. Usually, this creates a picture of events in my mind that is incomplete and lacking important details. Then I comb over my manuscript looking for a few places to help set the stage for the events as I imagined them. My protagonist needs a certain item in a climactic scene? Great, I’ll just go back and allude to said item a few times when it makes sense. That way when he holds the item aloft, events may surprise the reader, but the reader won’t ask, “Where’d he get that?”. Or if the reader does ask, he can, at least, flip back to see that those events really did take place.
One of the keys with this way of writing is not being too heavy handed. If the lines I insert as foreshadowing stick out, the reader has too good a sense of what’s to come. If the lines I insert are too vague, the reader doesn’t gain any of the benefit of foreshadowing, and my work was wasted.
In some ways, foreshadowing is like the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah. At the time, most of them seemed like they meant one thing, but looking back with a Christian perspective, we see that they mean something completely different.
I know I’m saying nothing magical here; it just was my primary lifting today, and I knew I hadn’t talked about foreshadowing here before.
My primary antagonist in Wolf has his reasons, too. In the first couple of drafts, I just didn’t make those reasons as obvious as I might’ve. Today, I have spent the bulk of my effort explaining his reasons.
This is important work. Unless the primary antagonist in a piece of fiction is supernatural, he should have perfectly good reasons for what he does. He, almost certainly, thinks of himself as the hero of the story and the protagonist as the villain. This helps make a story more true to life (verisimilitude won’t go away). Osama bin Laden, Hitler, or Stalin surely all thought, or think, themselves heroes not monsters.
If I can convey my antagonist’s point of view in such a way as to make my protagonist doubt himself, I think I score a victory. We all want to cheer for the ‘good-guy’ and we all want the ‘good-guy’ to win, but there’s only one, true good-guy. The rest of us are varying percentages of evil. Which means, unless the protagonist is a pure Christ figure, he’s probably done wrong and gotten things wrong himself. Which means he should be forced to doubt the virtue of his actions.
The trick, for my money, is highlighting this without making the protagonist and the antagonist so similar no one cares. I like the idea of the anti-hero, and in some ways that what my protagonist in Wolf is. He has certainly strayed far from the path of the righteous. But I don’t really want a leprous, atheistic, rapist as my protagonist, either. I want the protagonist to be more of a ‘good-guy’ than the antagonist is.
Hopefully, my work today helps shine some light on my villain’s villainy. I hope it does, because he, too, has his reasons.
Looking through my posts, I realize, I haven’t explained ‘Han Soloing’.
I have heard a theory that the original three Star Wars movies (Episodes 4-6) worked, in part, because whenever someone was there to suggest something ridiculous, Han Solo was there. He tore down dumb ideas, and he told the other characters how unbelievable it was that they’d all survive. Then the other characters would tell him he was wrong, or lacked faith, or to just shut up, and they would go on with their plans.
The second trilogy (Episodes 1-3) had no such character. There was no one to laugh at Jar Jar, no one to laugh at the silly kid from Tatooine, and no one to point out how hopeless it is to fight robots with fish people. The second trilogy hurt for the lack.
Han Solo was a voice for the audience. He gave our doubts voice. This way the other characters could refute our logic. Even if their refutation was basic, our doubts and concerns were answered. This helped the audience believe (remember verisimilitude?) the outcome.
So, I try to go through my work and make sure I ‘Han Solo’ as much as I can. When one of my characters has a crazy plan, and there are a few, I try to have someone else point out how things will never, and should never work. Then my other characters can address it. We can all move on together.
Well, today I found a fix for the ‘refugee problem’ I encountered last week. The situation was nowhere near as daunting as it seemed when my head was stuffed with viruses and cold medicine. I figured out the problem and moved on. Along the way, I figured out another problem and I ‘Han Solo’d’ it. The novel will be better for it.