A3Writer: October 2009
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Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Nick of Time

     Well, I did it. I managed to finish Halloween Scourge just under the wire. It is by far my longest work at 145,000 words, and I'm glad to see it done. I feel a little brain-frazzled at the prospect of jumping into The Missing Succubus right away, but I'll plow ahead, anyway. I've got some ideas on what I want to write, but how to go about it is still somewhat iffy.
     It's all about story telling conventions, really. I have an event, which is exceptionally important. Life-altering important for my main character, but it will only have minimal impact in this book. It is in future books that the import of this event will make itself known, yet this event will still require my character's full attention for some time, asking him to fly to another location to deal with it before even dealing with a case. So this can't be a conventional subplot that goes on simultaneously with the main plot. I'm left with the conundrum of how to introduce this event in proper context with the story, and I'm afraid I'm left with the time-honored, and overused, tradition of the flashback, which I am loath to use also because of how it reduces the immediacy of the event. Perhaps, though, that is what I must do, though. I will continue to mull it over as I prepare for NaNoWriMo. I'm planning to attend the regional kick-off party for NaNoWriMo, and maybe bounce some ideas off of my fellows for an opinion. As soon as I get it written, I'll post up the first chapter for enjoyment, as well as updating the chronology.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Two Queries or not Two Queries

     I guess I've got Hamlet on the brain, and it's pertinent because I've come up with two separate, and wholly different query letters to send out to agents. Only, I'm unsure of which one to send off.
     With a book I was able to draft the second one, which I believe far better than the first, only it doesn't have the sound of a typical query letter. This is both good and bad as I'm sure agents are tired of the same types of query letters they get, but there is the matter of formality that has been established for certain purposes. I believe I follow the formalities in form and in function, but not in voice. I've taken the suggestion of the book and put in the voice of my work into the query letter, mainly the clipped, hard-boiled speech so common in the works of Hammett and Chandler. I believe this voice vastly improves the letter, making it immediate engaging and pulling the reader into the mode of the story through the letter itself, making for a good lead in to the chapters in the story.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Originality

     One of the most difficult things about writing is trying to come up with something original. There are only so many stories, after all, and finding something new to say is difficult. My first fantasy novel was one such where I realize now I had failed to be original. The idea of a group of heroes going off on an adventure has been done to death. I didn't have anything to add to the genre with that one. For now I've shelved it, and moved on to better prospects. Perhaps one day I will pull that work off the shores of the Lethe, but now I have others boarding the ferry.
     With Matt I feel I do have an original angle. Many of the specimens in this type of genre have two elements in common. The first is that there is some kind of alternate history, which allows for changes in the world. Usually this change makes it feasible for the existence of the supernatural to be well known. These can be seen in Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, and Charlaine Harris. These seem to be MacGuffin-like in order to propel the world of the plot forward, which is just fine. As a sci-fi geek, I quite enjoy alternate realities.
     The second feature is that the protagonists of the supernatural works all seem to possess supernatural powers themselves. Whether its Anita Blake, Harry Dresden, or Sookie Stackhouse, they've all got some sort of supernatural mojo going for them. Sometimes it's subtle, sometimes it's not, but they've got an edge that helps them when dealing with other elements of the supernatural.
     Matt has neither of these. His world, minus the fictional city, is this world where the public doesn't believe in these things, and Matt has few legitimate clients. The history I deal with is also not malleable. That's not to say I don't make up certain elements---as much of history slips through the cracks of time---but major events cannot be changed. This does limit me in one respect, being forced to comply with the world as it has been recorded---yet another reason why I have control over the city---but I also feel it grounds the work.
     As for mojo, Matt has his wits, what he knows (which generally is small compared to what he needs to know), and what his mentor taught him. A few small weapons that make him slightly dangerous is all he's got to work with, and never uses them for attack, but the last ditch effort to keep from being gruesomely killed. As for the why I've chosen him to be sans powers . . . well, I think I just got tired of everyone with a power. Perhaps I was more taken with the idea of a PI like Spade and Marlowe, doing what they could with what they had. They typically went up against pretty tough odds be they cops, mobsters, or deranged women, and still managed to pull it off. I figured Matt should have the same type of odds. He should be the underdog, but overcome because he's truly human, and not because he's got powers to rely on.
     Don't get me wrong. I respect what others who have come before have done. I might be inclined to do something like that some time, but for now I feel that these two major differences I have, have created an original character dealing with a familiar set of plots and ideas, which is about as close to originality as can be found, anymore.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Character Death

     Like my post on Endings, this one has been rattling in my head for awhile, mostly because it is so controversial. I guess I have to fess up to this one. I believe in character death. I strongly believe in it.
     Now, I qualify this with an extensive background in comic books where death is not a career ending injury. Through the wonders of science or the mystic mumbo jumbo of magic, death can be overcome. Now, while I believe in character death, I strongly believe characters need to stay dead! Death should be poignant, and draw real emotions from the characters and reader. If death can be overcome simply, then the reader will have no emotional attachment to it, and will not truly feel the emotions of the characters.
     But wait, there's more.
     Death should not be for shock value. By this I mean death should not simply happen to garner a reaction. It should be part of the story. The story should demand that such a death happen, and be logical. Death for the sake of death is as wrong, perhaps more, as resurrecting the dead---since it often precipitates such a resurrection.
     A character death should be appropriate. It needs to have context in the story. It needs to be logical, and while it can be somewhat surprising, there should be clues that it can or will happen. It should not simply be a random act of unprecedented violence. This has been done in the past, but has become so cliched as to become annoying. The shock value isn't even there any longer. People have become so inured to violence that they simply shrug off a death as if it was nothing, which is what it now is. The point of a character death should be the emotional impact it has on the characters and audience. The character need not be entirely likable, but there must be some kind of connection that the audience can identify with.
     All too often I have seen shock deaths, and become annoyed. Once, and perhaps once, it is permissible, since tragedies do happen, but more than once, and to layer the shock death along with other kinds of death, is too much.
     I still remember watching Serenity and seeing the spear skewer Wash with no preamble. It's only purpose seemed to be to torture Zoe, and prevent a relationship from continuing. There was no purpose for him to die in the story other than to shock and get a reaction from the audience. Why, then, did he die? I still don't know.
     The death should have meaning. Meaning for the characters, and a meaning which the reader can take with him, too. It need not be obvious, but it should have some kind of meaning.
     What does this mean? Really mean? Well, I'm likely going to kill of a character or two, or maybe even three in the course of these novels. I've long been pondering the what and the why of it, trying to determine if it would be gratuitous or not. I don't think it shall be as I am trying to lay adequate ground work for it, and make it story and character oriented, but I guess, then, to truly know whether or not I break my own rules I will have to do it and see how it is received.

Post every week!

     Well, hopefully. I've been neglecting this place too much, and, as I've been reading, writing the breakthrough novel is only part of the job. The other part is promotion, and authors now are responsible for that even more than the publishers, especially in the long-term, so I'll try and make this my method of promotion for a bit.
     The impetus for this idea is both in book form and a website, which I will probably elaborate later on. Until then, I have a post I would like to make for this inauguration. (not this post, by the by).