September 7, 2010

Straight Lines

I'm hanging out at Midas while my windows are fixed so my car can pass inspection. I'm posting from my phone, so please pardon the typos. The Pre has a small keyboard and I have fat thumbs.

I tried to begin revision on THE TRIAD SOCIETY today, but I felt compelled to continue with JEHOVAH'S HITLIST. The story is ripe and needs picking. Regardless, I'm still thinking on TTS, trying to find all my errors. Something I knew I was doing as I went (something I hate), I was writing in a straight line. Adventure stories are often like that. A happens, B happens, C happens, the end. Done poorly, you get a movie like Jurrasic Park 3 where one dangerous situation follows the next but never overlaps or spreads out. The entire movie keeps a predictable tempo. Done well and you get Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is similarly linear, but who cares! We're having fun.

TTS falls somewhere in the middle. I have been writing adventure stories so far. I actually prefer intrigue, bit that's much easier to write in a series of D&D adventures, I've found, than in a novel. I really need to get back to that kind of writing. It didn't work in TTS and it's not right for JH (which is definitely an adventure story). I'm hoping to bust oit the intrigue in a major way in THE RED SOCK SOCIETY, but that story's a ways off yet.

Sometimes (like JP3), an adventure is too linear. It eliminates the sense of risk. It suggests that the character's decisions have no impact because he's being swept along with the wave of the plot. The way to break this up is to zigzag, to bend the line without completely turning away from your stort. I call them speedbumps, the interference that happens when going from A to B.

Now it's just as easy to overuse speedbumps. If something always goes wrong along the way, the pattern becomes obvious and the reader questions the protagonist's decision-making process. If things keep going wrong, why do you keep doing what you're doing? We only accept that from Malcolm Feynolds.

For example, in the current ms, Otwald goes home, climbs into his window, meets Princess Klara, chats, climbs out, and sees his father. Too straight. It's like a video game where he went to a quest giver. Quest givers are for video games. Keep them out of your novels.

The obvious speedbump is the guards. A princess is unguarded. That's a bad speedbump. What self-respecting guard wouldn't check on the princess? And what princess would send them away because some stranger just climbed into her window. Hello cliche. Nice to see you again. Instead, don't have the window go into her room. Have the entry elsewhere. Maybe split up what he learns when he sees his father, a little here, a little there. You get to reinforce the setting by showing what life is like there (guards, servants, tc) while avoiding the drive-thru quest giving

3 comments:

  1. Drive through quest giving. That's hilarious!

    The other benefit of creating more speedbumps in the plot is you avoid the fantasy cliche of collecting the plot coupons.

    The good thing about going into revision with a strictly linear plot is it gives you some room to throw some plot twists in the mix. Good luck!

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  2. I'm weighing my options. Things with JEHOVAH'S HITLIST are going great. I'm wondering what it would be like to finish a new ms before going back and revising the other.

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  3. Might be a good time to test that theory, huh? :D
    Especially since J'sHL is going so well.

    I actually PREFER to work on something else for a little while before returning to a ms to edit it. I seem to have more distance and can get a better edit. Keep on trucking!

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