Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Story Notes - Miscellaneous Thoughts on Misplaced Hero

In the New Blog Order, the second Tuesday of every month is devoted to "Story Notes" -- that is, talk about the fiction you see here on this blog.  A kind of "behind the scenes" look at it -- what inspired it, trouble I'm having with it, how I wrote it, or what it means to me.

This is the last such Tuesday for the current blog story -- The Misplaced Hero -- which looks like it will run until October 1.  (For a total of 42 episodes, plus a credit cookie.)  So that being the case, here are soe rambling thoughts on what's going on behind the scenes:

Deadlines are Hell

Other people all around me are having problems which I can't do anything about, but it's still managing to eat up all my time. Yesterday was nearly a wash.  I should have had all day to get the next couple of episodes done, but I only just managed to get Monday's episode in because I stayed up until 3am.  And I had to get up early.

But that's the nature of deadline writing.  You've just got to do it.

I would not have posted yesterday's episode if I hadn't been able to move the story along as it should be moved, but it did what I needed.  I am unhappy that I didn't have a chance to make one more pass for Thorny's point of view.  He really should be more present in that episode, but I managed to hit the major points with him, and I don't know that he would be saying much.  But he is now more or less sober and awake and reacting to what is going on around him.  His mind is beginning to function.

Endings Are Hell

Actually, I love to write endings. I get on a roll and things start tumbling out, but they take a lot of shoving and mental work.  There's a lot to tie up and pay off.  There are both big and small revelations -- and frankly, the little, subtle payoffs and revelations, to me, are the best part.  And they are hard when your mind isn't up to it.

But pulling it all together is what storytelling is all about.

And pulling it all together in under 700 words is nearly impossible at this point.  I let this episode run long - more because I didn't have time to tighten it than because it needed more space -- and I may let a couple of subsequent episodes run longer. Oh, not loads longer.  But if they run as long as 1000 words I won't worry. (I expect 800 and some actually.)  Those, however, will be longer because they need to be, not because I don' t have time to edit.

The action finale has got to take two episodes, and I'll bet I could bust it into three, but I'd rather not.  I'll do them long if they need it.  I need two more episodes with Rozinshura to tie off that subplot, and bring both plots together.  And then a final capping episode for Alex.  And then... the credit cookie!

I love credit cookies.  They're a cross between a teaser, an epilogue, and just some silly little treat.  I'm thinking of this as a little more like a Marvel credit cookie, which addresses some unfinished threads which will be handled in the next story, next summer.

So that's six episodes - ending October 1.

When Character Are Smarter Than You Are

Since the pressure is on (and my brain is off) I've been tempted to postpone a number of issues (information, plot lines) to the next story for next summer; stuff in Rozinshura's thread and Lina's thread, in particular.  But I have to bring the surface stuff, at least, to a satisfactory conclusion.

That's what's giving me the most trouble.  I've needed to know Rozinshura's plan... and he doesn't seem to have one!

And that's not like him.  Not like him at all.  It's like he's getting dumber as I get more tired.

So that's a lesson: When you are writing about characters who are smarter than you are, you have to be on your game.

My brain is tired, and I've put him in a situation where it's not clear what to do.  He's surrounded by people he can't trust, who may or may not be prepared to commit mass murder. And it's his job to make sure that trouble doesn't break out in his district. But he has to say something because that's his duty, too.  My instinct as a writer is to hand him a convenient and coincidental opportunity -- have circumstances cut him a break.

We writers do that all the time.  With proper set up, it can be effective -- leave a gun on the mantlepiece in Act 1 so the hero can find it in Act 3.

But here I have the problem of a character who is always thinking and strategizing.  Always.  And my brain is too tired to do what he does, so his main strategy seems to be hoping for the writer to leave a gun on the mantelpiece for him.

I'm thinking like a writer and not like a district facilitator with decades of experience, whose policies are so successful they've written him into the Revolutionary Handbook on Bureaucratic Practices.

While he'll certainly take advantage of any opportunities fate hands him, he's Awarshi: he doesn't believe that fate hands anybody a break when they actually need it.  Fate has a nasty, ironic sense of humor.  Rozinshura is not going to wait for what fate hands him.

Also, as a writer, I try to use what few brain cells I have to be clever, but at this point, I need to be less flashy and more effective.  He knows that.  I don't.


I'm a little behind because I stopped to do some of this decisive and rational thinking.  He told me his plan at last, and we'll see how I can carry it off, especially since I have some not-so-convenient complications to weave into it.

In the meantime, as I look forward to the coming scenes, I was pleased to see that both Alex and Pookiterin are upping their game too.  Pook may be a pompous and incompetent ass, but put a sword in his hand and a chance for promotion in his heart... and he steps up.  I made him up for this story, but I may have to figure out a future for the guy, now that I know he has potential.

But now I've got to get some sleep, because Thursday's episode is still in exploratory pieces, and I really do have to pull this one off right. (If necessary, it will have a really boring illustration.)

See you  in the funny papers.

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