Sunday, May 12, 2013

Update - a Reboot, Experiment, and Story Notes

It took a bit to extricate myself from the Tsunami of Kerfuffle that swept me away recently.  We shall not speak of it.

Instead, we shall look forward to a good old-fashioned reboot:  power down, sweep the decks, unplug everything, count to ten, and start back up again. Brrrrring! (That's a Mac start up chime.)

The very best way to effect a reboot, imho, is to find a barrier and kick it down.  To do something which, a polite English bobby would tell you, is "not recommended."  (Or as Will Rogers might say, it's time to pee on the electric fence for yourself.)

Therefore, for the next four weeks I am going to indulge an experiment:

Writing As A Get Rich Quick Scheme
("Rich" and "quick" being relative terms....)

I was inspired, directly and indirectly, by Dean Wesley Smith's talk a year or two ago about the income you could potentially get by writing short story after short story.  That interested me, intellectually, but the fact is, the idea of writing short story after short story doesn't fill my soul with glee.  I enjoy writing them once in a while, but it tends to be slow going.

But the idea of writing novelettes?  That actually does interest me.  Novelettes and novellas are different than either shorts or novels.  They are, in fact, screenplay lengths, with similar structure and pacing.  I use a whole different part of my brain for that.  It's more like, well, hack work.   Screenplays and especially TV shows have strict criteria -- length, act structure, budget, locations, cast size, sometimes weird things like you need to put in a role for producer's girlfriend.

(Irony time -- DWS recommends that you not use the cold logical "inner editor" part of your brain for writing. But for me, the cold logical part of my brain loves that kind of writing, and is surprisingly good at it.  If my inner editor had a human form, it would probably look like Jack Warner or Louis B. Mayer.)

Writing this way is not something I would want to do all the time, but it is a great way to reboot. It is easy on the imagination (while still giving it a nice workout) so it's a great way to meet the first goal of this experiment: to build new and better habits.  At some point my creative side will get sick of it and kick Mr. Warner out, but I'll have a new more focused work pattern set.

The other goal of this experiment is a "proof of concept" for things we believe about writing:  Is a book really the best promotion for another book? Does the author's name have to be known at all?  Is 2.99 too high of a price for a novelette?  Do people even read novelettes?  KDP Selects - good idea or bad idea?  Etc.

I'll be writing these under a pseudonym, both to help unleash my inner shameless movie mogul, AND because of those marketing questions.  I will not tell anyone the name.  But I will talk about how it's going, and the issues involved, each Sunday in an update post.

In the meantime, those who like what I do under my own name will have to make do with The Serial for a while (which will continue every Monday and Thursday).  In some ways, The Serial has also been a kind of "reboot."  I write it for fun, off the cuff.

And speaking of The Serial.....

Story Notes for Episode 2

Yeah, I admit it.  Episode 2 is a lump of exposition.

As I stumbled beyond the end of the first episode, I realized that I really don't want to spend episode after episode with Plink thinking through everything she knows.  She knows lots of things that could be relevant, and can't remember or doesn't know a lot of things which are actually relevant.

Furthermore, as I mulled over the 49 episodes and 20 characters it would take to illuminate the events of the party in flash back, I thought: this story isn't a fair-play whodunnit, and it won't be solved by parsing out exactly where the butler really was when the kumquats disappeared. This is a bounce-and-go adventure.  Future events will resolve it, and very few of the party characters will enter the story again, because we're going to get out of town and head across the continent soon.

So, since neither Plink nor her party guests can tell us efficiently the few relevant facts, I guess I should bring in the professionals whose job it is to gather those facts and sort them:

Meet Pfaffle and MacGreevey of Thronden C.I.D. (Special Greek Chorus Branch)

One method of exposition is the "Greek chorus" method.  You interject scenes of someone outside the story who comments on what's going on.  This is a common trope in spy stories.  The hero is running around blowing things up and stealing things, and meanwhile back at the CIA, the suits are scowling at the trail of evidence he leaves behind, while they explain and comment on what it means.  And it's a particularly fun trope in comedies, where outsiders are perplexed by what the audience knows first hand.

So that's what I decided to try here.  It isn't quite what I wanted. (I wrote it at the last second before posting, and I'll certainly rewrite it for the ebook.)  But I can see that I could really have fun with this.

Will I?  I don't know.  The story will eventually leave the jurisdiction of Pfaffle and MacGreevey, and I doubt it will come back to them within this particular story.

In the meantime, I think I'll make Pfaffle's first name "Robert".  Then MacGreevey can say: "As you (should) know, Bob, (if you had bothered to pay attention)...."

(For the uninitiated, this is a writer joke.  Bad dialog that just exists to give information to the reader is sometimes called "As you know, Bob..." dialog.)

As for the characters: MacGreevey actually has a bigger part to play in later stories. He's Plink's nemesis. (In kind of the same way Sylvester Puddytat is Tweety Bird's nemesis.)  He's bad tempered and arrogant which means he will always be destined for a pie in the face, no matter how diligent he is.  (However, he is destined for his own story too.  He's not really the sort of person you can stop with a pie in the face, and he has honor.)

Inspector Pfaffle is more secondary, but there is more to him than it seems.  He has a certain amount of wisdom and an instinct about people.  He can see their hearts, you could say.  This makes me wonder if he too has a bigger part in the future.

But for tomorrow, we shall return to Plink (a.k.a. Lady Pauline) who is treading barefoot through a bad part of town in the wee hours of the morning, and she's just about to do her impression of The Grim Reaper's Goose.   Stay tuned.  (You can start at the beginning with the introduction to The Case of hte Misplaced Baroness.)

See you in the funny papers.

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