Posts Tagged ‘changeling story’

Characters, Characters, and Not a Drop to Drink

We continue working through the dreaded middle of the changeling story. And it goes okay! Not amazingly, not like the words are pouring out of my fingers, but not where I’m staring at the screen wondering what I’m doing with my life and where I’ve gone wrong.

I spent some time yesterday drawing the main characters for the book, Ivy and Birch. (Everyone gets nature-related names, cuz Faeries.) Ivy’s on her third name and Birch is on his second, but I think this batch will stick. Anyway, I drew them because I feel like they’re kind of weirdly nebulous, personality wise.

Which is annoying and frustrating. Character is normally my strong point. The other characters in the book are fine! There’s Iris, Ivy’s twin, who is foul-mouthed and slightly selfish and vain and an absolute joy to write. Even minor characters are good. It’s just my two mains which feel…off.

I don’t know that drawing them has helped anything. (The drawing, like how the writing goes, is okay! Not bad–except for Birch’s arm, which I tried three times to fix and then gave up on–but not amazing.)

I did more character work up front than normal for this story too, which makes it even more frustrating. If you recall, I’m using a story-writing course I bought forever ago, How to Think Sideways by Holly Lisle, as I work on this novel. (Or, well, I’m working on this novel because I’m taking this course. Something.) So there was one class that was about character motivations and whatnot, so I can tell you all the tragic backstory that has led the characters to being the people they are today, as well as their values, but that’s not helping anything.

And maybe they’re not even bad! Maybe they’re fine and I’m just stuck in the doldrums of Act 2, and once everything is on fire everything will be fine.

I guess I add it to my list of things to fix in revision (if it turns out to be an actual problem and not just me second-guessing everything).

I also find myself wanting to get on to the revision, which I can’t do because I need the draft to be done first, and also is just kind of weird. I burned out on revision–that’s why I switched over to writing new work, cuz I spent like, five years straight revising things.

Maybe revision sounds comforting though. Writing itself is sometimes like stumbling through the woods at night without a flashlight, but revision has a path and a light and normally gets to someplace safe and warm at the end.

Eh, who knows? Not me! You’d think by now I’d have some semblence of an idea–this is my 10th first draft (only counting stories that were finished in the end)–but apparently each time you still have to stumble through the woods.

Is it fall yet? I would very much like it to be fall. How are you doing, squiders? Been up to anything fun? Any cool projects you’ve been working on?

Berries and Elephants

Information comes from the weirdest places sometimes, doesn’t it?

Holly Lisle, who is one of my favorite writing teachers (and if you’re looking for writing classes, feel free to check hers out in my affiliate link above), has a saying about berries and elephants. I’m going to massacre it here, but the gist is that how much a writer should know about their world is the size of an elephant, but you don’t stick that elephant in the story, oh no. You only put in a berry here, and a berry here, and only what’s applicable to the story at hand.

(I think it was Holly Lisle. My memory is shoddy.)

I’m working on my changeling story again this month, though admittedly not going anywhere fast due to the same issues as last month, as well as, you know, having construction done on my house and not actually being there most of the time. (It is running twice as long as predicted. But soon, hopefully.) And while the story itself is moving okay, I can already tell that the worldbuilding is going to need some streamlining and fleshing out in revision.

Faerie lore is vast and contradictory, so I’m making do the best I can. Also, you know, trying not to have it feel like a generic faerie story. As such, I’m spending more time actively researching during writing, which is not my favorite thing to do. And I’m not sure it’s helping, since the Internet sources I tend to turn up are about the tiny little winged fairies you can attract to your gardens and whatnot and not the Faerie of mythology.

Now, because I’m doing a lot more driving (due to not being as close to my normal haunts as usual) I’ve been catching up on my podcasts, or attempting to, anyway. First I caught up on Limetown, which only has twelve episodes or something like that. One of my creepy mystery ones. I guess they wrote a novel, but I read the excerpt and Lord, it was awful. I couldn’t even get through it. I suspect it’s because the sort of telling you do in a fake investigative podcast doesn’t cross over so well.

(Which is the reason I always listen to the Welcome to Night Vale novels rather than read them. Maybe they’re fine to be read. But they sound like Night Vale episodes, so it makes the most sense to me to just listen to them.)

Then I caught up with Tanis, which I like but which also frustrates me. It’s designed to draw you in, but there are so many plot points that seem important that then just disappear. I’m not sure there’s an actual planned story arc so much as just throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the plot and seeing what sticks. I guess a new season is coming out soon, but it hasn’t yet, so huzzah, I’ll take it while I can.

Night Vale I’m not listening to because I’m most of the way through It Devours! which is their second novel. (Audiobook version, as discussed above.) That seems like it would be confusing.

So the podcast I am listening to while I’m driving about is Myths and Legends. (Sometimes I listen to It Devours! but there’s also a lot of cussing and the small, mobile ones are often with me, so sometimes it’s best to…not.) I like it because it draws on numerous mythologies and also because I like the guy telling the stories. Anyway, the last episode I listened to was the original version of Beauty and the Beast, which, as opposed to being an oral folktale, was a story written in 1740.

Apparently the original is much longer and stranger than the condensed version (which came out in 1756). I’ve been scanning through it because Myths and Legends guy said that there were 20 pages (out of a 100-page story) about Faerie politics.

Said narrator was obviously not into said 20 pages of Faerie politics, but it sounds like it might be a good resource for me. I have found the Faerie politics, but thus far haven’t learned much. But hey! Still have ten pages to go.

I just thought it was funny that potentially-helpful Faerie politics showed up, in all things, in a podcast about the original version of Beauty and the Beast.

I also saw a neat thing on Writer Unboxed about using a setting mindmap to drive potential plot points. Might give that a try too.

How are you, squider? I hope to back in my house by the end of the week at the latest (but then, you know, I have to put the house back together, so it’ll probably be Monday before things are functional again).

Stupid Middles

Well, squiders, if you’d asked me yesterday, I would have said my changeling story was going great! I figured out a potential title, writing was going good, I’d gotten my main characters into the same place. Things were lovely.

Today everything is awful.

It’s like when I was working on World’s Edge for Nano, actually. Now that I think about it, I had issues in the exact same spot then. The beginning is fine–there are things that need to happen to get the plot rolling, and then there are other things. And there are things that need to happen in the middle, and then things that need to happen at the end.

But that section between the beginning events and the midpoint is a sink hole.

In structural terms, I’ve heard this section of Act II referred to as the “reaction” phase. (Act II is often broken into two halves, one before the midpoint and one after.) Basically, the idea is that the main character is reacting to whatever the turning point between Acts I and II, and that goes on to the midpoint, when things pivot in some manner, and then in the second half the character makes a decision and starts to act on it.

It’s an easy place to get lost, unfortunately.

I don’t necessarily remember having middle issues in general, but it’s been a while since I’ve written a full novel draft from scratch and maybe I always have. Or maybe, because my pacing and structure used to have issues, I had different issues. Who knows? Besides, each book is different, and there are different problems each time.

But, anyway, my Act II Part 1 section has 20,000 words assigned to it, and I’m 10K in, and I’m a little lost. Each scene needs to progress the plot and the character arcs, so I can’t throw in a lot of random stuff, but I’m not quite sure what to do instead.

The good news is that, hooray, revision is a thing. And I know from experience that it is easier to tweak arcs and make sure theme and tone are consistent if the story is already written and you generally know where you’re going.

So I just need to get through this, and it can all be fixed later.

So that’s where I am. Aside from today being like pulling teeth, I’m on track and making fairly good progress, and I should be done with the draft by the end of July.

How are your projects going?