One thing about creativity, it can haunt you and save you at the same time.
Tonight I put in 1400 words on Bunny Trouble and it was pure Hell. That is, until I added a helpful and completely unnecessary old gentleman who just was as nice and honorable as a weary old man could be. The scene, without him, was this lifeless bit of muck, my dislike for the writing growing by the minute.
This nice older gentleman, one of those random people in my world who do the right thing simply because the right thing needs to be done, saved me from simply going to bed in disgust. Suddenly I was able to break my dour and advance.
Thank you, Sir!
Being the sixth reader of my blog has it’s perks!
In refeence to this post:
Terrance leaned back in his chair. “This case needs to go by the book and we need a conviction. Because this case will piss off my guy. I’m not sure a death sentence is necessary—there is suffering in rotting away as a living reminder of the Dendel family failure. Nevertheless, if we don’t get a conviction, then I will turn Mr. Fallujah II loose and he will be the Hammer of God. I will then let free my own honest fury.”
Bill opened his mouth to say something but Terrance continued.
“No fuckups Bill. Consider this. You’ll be hard pressed to find two other living people on this planet with more experience in raw, righteous killing. I need your help Bill.”
Terrance looked out at the ocean.
“I need you to remind me to be a member of society.”
Stephen King takes an interesting (or soon to become interesting) character and sticks him in situations that run from the absurd to the horrifically fatal, and sees what happens as he is writing the story. He does this without an outline in mind. Sometimes they die, sometimes they triumph. Sometimes they die triumphantly.
If it works for King, I thought I would try it. I put one of the main characters in an absurd situation. As the story progressed and this poor fellow overcame his hardships, he went from war-weary mild-mannered coastal citizen to a man of firm convictions and outstanding moral character.
Granted these problems were not horrific in nature, rather social and tactical. Now, he is able to apply his former Army experience to his social situations.
Well, damn. That was unintended. He is overcoming problems with such acumen that he might become uninteresting to read about.
Dude, stop that. You’re smudging my plot. I’ve got my eye on you.
Last night one of my pretend people in Bunny Trouble solved a crime. And now, he is righteously pissed. As an upright and moral man, he wants to bring the bastard to justice and watch him squirm in court. As the warrior champion against evil, however, he wants to hunt the murderer down and rip out his heart.
It’s a moral quandary. Terrance lives in a sick society where the wicked go unpunished and there is no justice, only the illusion of justice (much like the difference between being safe and feeling safe). He has decided to take matters into his own hands, but I think he might get talked out of it. Convinced, if you will, to use The System to his own ends.
It was a great bit of writing, and I will take unholy delight in turning this cliché inside out after running it through a blender. For in my world, the victim has the final say. The world belongs to the living, but the dead sometimes have their revenge.
All this over a nice big glass of Little Bear Creek from Woodinville Wine Cellars. Damn I love being me.
Inadvertently I have setup a situation where two characters in Bunny Trouble are going to get into a row and that was unintended. It is not obvious, I did consciously go down this path, but the undercurrents of their incompatibility stand out when one reads the story: tension.
Why did I do that?
I do not know. Perhaps something personal at home or work caused me to be more disputable than normal.
Now I have a choice. Either I can go for it, which causes me to rethink a rather large portion of the character interaction that itself has consequences and adds to my word count: I am approaching 120,000 already! Alternately I can backtrack and do a rewrite that I would rather avoid. There are many other places needing work, I do not want to add to that list, God forbid.
What I cannot do is the middle road, just pretending that these two are not going to get into it. There are already enough weird tension-filled things happening in my plot. The middle road is just lazy. Readers do not like lazy authors.
This is a situation where I could see a writer’s support group would be handy. I could present the problem without explaining a large amount of context.
My wife and I were big Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans. Before it was moved to a different channel that DirecTV would pick up with our DirecTiVo, you should have seen the convoluted workflow for me to get an episode and display it on our TV. I learned more about video formats and the underground world of fandom then I have ever wanted to know in my life.
It did not hurt that Buffy was all hotness and ready to kick butt at a moment’s notice, but my true appreciation for the show was its sheer grimness. Stabbing your only true love after his epic moment of redemption to close a Portal to Hell™, well it just does not get better for me. And that was in the early seasons. The dialog was snappy and witty. And people died.
Nothing says “conflict” than a good old-fashioned body count.
Buffy did one more thing for me other then entertain. I realized my tolerance for insipid little mousy-twerp protagonists was low and in Buffy, insipid little mousy-twerp people just died. There is enough conflict in this world to entertain with without reducing people you want to identify with to passive-aggressive dorks. In other words, do you want to read about the victims of bad upbringing or do you want to read about the people with the heroic mettle of the Americans on Flight 93?
Of course, the Action Hero rallying against the System of Passive Sheep is also a contemporary cliché stretching into middle-age. On the other hand, being a literary witness to watching Passive Sheep get what they so richly deserve can be a vicarious thrill.
Which brings me back to Buffy. Buffy’s rally against the Apocalypse(s) might have been a new look at an old idea, but at least the people fighting were more than just caricatures of heroes you would rather see tossed into a wood chipper for their ineptitude and lack of common sense.
Only 1600 words today on Bunny Trouble, but major progress in a difficult part of the book. I had to move along some stagnating characters and connect some plot points. At the same time, I set the stage for some major conflict with some obvious, and not so obvious plot work. It’s not exactly foreshadowing. More like foreslinkingshadowing. Foreshadowing along the edges, if you will.
All in under 2000 words. Funny how a multi-directional plot can start to become interconnected without even consciously drawing the points. It is a complicated style, but that’s what I like to read, so there you go.
Work starts early. Must pass out now. Brian hurts.
On Writing is an autobiographical look on the art of writing stories. There are many fascinating gems in this book. The brightest one for me was his plotting technique. King does not outline so much as he stuffs characters into a situation and sees how they come out. Some make it, some don’t.
His free-flowing method of writing is pure storytelling goodness. For me, there is a price to be paid. Brevity goes out the window, and one must circle back or bloat ensues.
I tired this and the result was a book of 150,000 words in the first draft. My outlines, I realized, were confining me. Confining my characters. They were wooden, characters forced into a role because The Plot demanded it.
A prime example is my protagonist in Bunny Trouble. She started out as a little fluffy piece of blonde, set to give “the main character” trouble because she is young and sexy and determined to get her way with whatever man she chooses.
Ha! She sure showed me. She decided that she was too cliché. That, instead of being a bit of sexy filler, she would dominate every setting she was in by the sheer force of her amazing will. She owes her very existence, her ability to be smarter then everyone else, to Mr. King. Without his little book on writing she would have merely served to annoy The Wife Unit, and get me into trouble. I think of the protagonist now looking at me with her sky-blue eyes and waving a feminine finger at me saying “Shame on you for stereotyping me so. You owe me an apology, Mister!”
Stephen King, I thank you for such a helpful little book.