Writing progress

Saturday, October 22, 2005

”In exchange for her freedom, a captured beauty and a disfigured warrior become incendiary lovers in the wastelands of The Lost; but it will take a kiss given in love to break an ancient curse and release The Beast from his nightmare existence.”

For awhile there, assuming available time and energy to write, it went smoothly. All except for the heroine, she’s been problemic from the get go.

When this work-in-progress was an erotic/romance novella, I realized, at some point in chapter 3, that she wasn't strong enough to drive forward her part of the plot. She was an empty vessel that no matter how I tried to pour motivation into her, it would just sieved out. Really it wasn’t for me to ‘put’ motivation there, I had to ‘discover’ it.

You hear about plotters vs pantsers. Writers who plot/outline their stories, etc, vs. writers who wing it—-get an idea and go. But there are other ways to look at writer types, one being: builder vs. discoverer.

A builder will take certain elements and construct a story. Almost sounds like a plotter, but not necessarily, I think you can be a builder/pantser. The discoverer type of writer, does just that: discovers a story and characters already there. (a mystical alternate reality kind of ‘there’)

This writer type is sort of an archeologist, dusting and scraping away layers of their own preconceptions to find the story structure; digging down to reveal character and life histories, etc. Sometimes the writer can posit theories—-spin out goal, motivation, conflict—-so the bits uncovered make sense, ie make a story. Other times they have to keep scraping away, because whatever they’ve tried to assemble isn’t right. They know this; simply because the writing stops, or becomes a hard slog. I’m a discoverer type of writer.

When the writing gets hard, something is wrong, or there’s something I’m not totally anchored in. In this case, the heroine wasn’t working in the novella. Her motivation/goal was weak.

First thing to do was review the conflict and make it stronger by making her the one who’d cursed hero; so now the story takes place, years later, when she needs something from him. Change of conflict=change of story. There was too much going on to address in a novella, and the focus had to shift from the story type (erotic) to the characters.

And that’s when the serious world-building happened. It helped that I was reading Kushiel’s Dart at the time, which gave me good exposure of world-building done in depth and complexity and done well.

Fast forward, now I had heroine version #2 (stronger motivation, more complexity) to go with the new story/new world; except there was still a vague dissatisfaction with her, which I chalked it up to tackling a genre I’d never written in before, much less read to any extent.

Then I read a snarky (what else) review that Mrs Giggles posted, and her snarky (what else) comments regarding the subject heroine hit a little too close to home. I could see those oh-so-clichéd attributes shaded in my heroine version #2 and no amount of telling myself that ‘it’s all in the execution’ or ‘the character traits in question are only vaguely similar’ could make me go forward. Here was what I’d been avoiding, but knew all along deep down inside, hence my dissatisfaction: heroine version 2, was close, but no cigar.


Back to the drawing board.

So I dug a little deeper and, eventually, hit pay dirt. Her profession revealed itself, and then a thousand bits of information came at me: all to do with her character, her history, her motivations. She knows I see *who* she really is, and she's showing and telling me all sorts of things. I can’t budge her now. She solid. I can’t shape her into something I’d like; nor do I have to continually prod and poke for answers that I only end up guessing at. She speaks. She’s real. I’ve discovered her.
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Amie Stuart said...

So does this mean you'll have something for me to read soon? *ggg*

I've been a good patient girl

Jaye said...

yeah, I know. :-P I'm not pushing to get this one done, just get it right, sort of experimenting with something new. As soon as I have something worth reading, you'll be one of the first to see it. ;-)

Sela Carsen said...

I love reading about other people's processes. Mine is too messed up to catalogue. Enjoy your discoveries!

Amie Stuart said...

I love watching your whole thought process but at the same time, it scares the hell out of me =)

Jaye said...

What is your process, Sela? I got the impression you got an idea for story and characters and started to write. I think you're mostly a 'builder'. Same with you Cece. But I do know both of you have stalled a bit while you tried to figure out a certain aspect of your story/characters motivation, and you know how frustrating that is, right? Well imagine if the whole process went that way. :-P I don't blog about my writing stuff alot because I'm sure it's all boring as hell. Glad you guys found some nuggets of interest.

Sela Carsen said...

Well, I think my process is crap. I really do. It's the least effective method of writing I've ever seen anywhere. And it doesn't actually work that well. It's entirely dependent on whether I know what the next word is. It's that immediate. And it sucks. Because when you get stuck on that next word, that next sentence, that next idea for a scene, you're totally screwed.

As far as your builder/discoverer model goes, I think you nailed it. I just start slapping words together. When something new -- a bit of backstory or characterization -- comes along, I shove it in where it belongs as a support, but it's shoddy and shaky. The crafting doesn't come until revisions, if I ever get that far.

That said, I'm still cranking along on Daughter of Privilege (the excerpt I posted a week or so back). I even have one of those nifty word count thingies now and it IS motivating to watch the line grow.

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