Now, that’s just cheating

Spoiler warning: Skin Game (Jim Butcher), Inferno and The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

A while back, I posted an angst about point of view and the pacing of information reveals in my novel. My novel is, at its core, a mystery. The answers to the mystery gradually unfold for the reader as the protagonists investigate and make discoveries. In the first draft, I set a major “reveal” towards the end of the novel. The challenge was setting up that reveal without giving it away.

Continue reading “Now, that’s just cheating”

NaNoWriMo Day 12

New words: 2,762
Total words: 19,524
Goal: 50,000

19524 / 50000

I finally made it through the entire draft doing the dialog. Of course, I haven’t written all the dialogue. If I wasn’t sure of something, I skipped it. Now I plan to go back through and figure out the parts I like best, and make sure those get supported and expanded before I really dig into adding action and blocking bits.

I am starting to have an image of the ending of the story, one that is both interesting and wraps up the immediate conflict, but leaves enough hanging for there to be plenty of material for the next novel.

I have also been experimenting a bit with writing from an omniscient point of view. Something that would allow me to get in the heads of characters as I choose, or not. It’s REALLY hard.

I’ve always preferred Alternating Third Person Subjective, with a clear delineation in the text (marked by a paragraph change and a symbol, like a centered – or ***) when the point of view changes. Point of view has always been a conscious element of my stories, in which I could show different characters reflecting on the same thing and explore their totally different perspectives on that thing . It is one of the more Artistic elements in my writing.

And my third person has always been as close to first person as you can get without actually writing in the first person. The “voice” in the narrative is the point of view character’s, I write the way they talk when I’m in their head.

Changing that style to a more omniscient POV is going to be a challenge, especially if I want to keep the intimacy of third person subjective.

There is a form of the omniscient view point that is kind of like a screenplay, where you never get into any character’s head. Everything is the “camera-eye” view, but you have the freedom to go anywhere, show any character doing anything.

While I found writing in screenplay format rather freeing while working on the Destroyer, doing it in a regular narrative format lacks intimacy. I think readers want to be with the character, living the story through them, not just observers, and for that, a story needs introspection.

Another form of omniscient viewpoint switches between character’s heads within a single scene, sometimes within a single paragraph. There are so many ways to screw that up and confuse the reader. But I think that’s what I need to figure out how to do.


We interrupt this NaNo…

Agh, this is driving me crazy. I have a story that is essentially an unfolding mystery where clues must dropped, and certain characters must speak and act cryptically so as not to give the answer away to the reader. But I am writing a novel from a third-person subjective point of view, which means every scene is written from inside one character’s head or another.

There are some scenes I need to write to give clues to the reader in which the participants in the scene just know too much.

It makes no sense that you, the reader, are in their head, and they are just conveniently not thinking about certain things I don’t want the reader to know yet. But I either have to write elliptically like that, or I have to write the scene from the POV of some random nobody who is also present. But if I do that, the reader might think this random character and their trivialities are important when they aren’t. The third option is to just leave the scene out, in which case part of the story just isn’t getting told.

Now am I wrong to think it’s the sign of an amateur to write elliptically, scene after scene of characters “just not thinking” things I don’t want the reader to know?

If this were TV, where everything is pretty much done from an external POV, you can have multiple scenes with cryptic characters with secrets. X-Files, for example, thrived on those “mysterious Deep Throat/Mr. X is mysterious” scenes, or the darkened hotel room where the stone-faced Consortium sat around talking about the Conspiracy.

Those sorts of scenes are frustrating for viewers, but they also make them want to piece together the clues and anticipate revelation of the answers.

My Trickster/Guide character has just fizzled into nothing, for example, because I’ve had to chop away at the things he knows one by one until he doesn’t know enough to be a guide at all, just because he is one of the central characters and we have to be in his head once in a while. There was a whole scene that was to take place from his POV where you learned of many of his feelings for the other characters, and I had to rewrite the whole thing from someone else’s POV instead because it made no sense for him to act certain ways and not have the reader privy to why he was acting that way because he was acting on knowledge I don’t want the reader to have yet.

I can’t think of a solution to this, but it is starting to seriously compound, the further I get into the story.

Original fiction project – week of 08/28/2011

Dis/inhibition: Still working on final polish edits of manuscript. I just don’t get time for it as often as I’d like with a new story to write and work being busy. I really want to get this out the door before year end. Still working on the website illustrations with the illustration artist. We are up to illustration 3 of 6.

New story: I think asking the Sculptor to read the chapters of the first draft as I write them was a good plan. I have noticed that things I might have gone ahead and “just done” if I’d been writing it on my own I think twice about with an audience. Chapter 5, which I finished this week, is a good example. This chapter brought in two new characters who know a LOT more about the unfolding mystery than other characters I have featured, and for a while now, I have been angsting about how much of their point of view to bring in, because it would spoil the mystery.

As I mentioned last week, I threw out about 2,000 words written in the point of view of one of them, because he knows too much. Most of what he “knows” is guess work, but he’s too much of an insider for his guesses to be all wrong. The other new character, though, is supposed to be the third in a trio of main characters who solve the mystery. His POV is unavoidable. But he had this one “close encounter” in his past, that if recounted too soon, gives too much away.

I went ahead and wrote that encounter anyway as part of chapter 5, then set aside what I assumed was the final version of that chapter I would give to the sculptor. That has been my practice up to now: finish a chapter, but don’t send it off to the Sculptor before I look ahead a little and see if there is anything else I need to establish in the current chapter. It didn’t take me too long to realize that the gradual mystery that’s unfolding in future chapters would be ruined by what’s revealed in this guy’s “close encounter.” So I could either have him just conveniently not think about an encounter that changed his whole worldview, or decide it didn’t happen to him after all. And I didn’t want to do either of those.

Then it occurred to me to fall back on a(n albeit rather tired) storytelling device that could make it so the close encounter happened, but he doesn’t have to think about it in the chapter: amnesia!!1!1 Which sounds lame, but then I realized that was what most likely would have happened to him. He had this amazing experience, but see, there’s this faction of characters who I’ve already decided go around covering up proof of their existence. And since they have supernatural abilities, they can cloak human memories. And if, as I had already written, my character runs into one of these guys towards the end of his close encounter, that is most likely what the guy would have done to him anyway.

So the problem I angsted over for a year during planning/outlining was solved in a day because I actually started writing the damned thing. It’s like I’m always saying: You can outline ahead of time until the cows come home, but when you start writing? It all changes. Your story becomes the story it was meant to be.

And now I can have my character gradually “remember” his experience, providing Yet More Clues to the Mystery.

Original fiction project – week of 08/21/2011

Dis/inhibition: Still working through the final read-through. The artist has finished the first of six character portraits for the webpage. Now that we’ve worked out what information she needs to complete each of these, hopefully, the rest will go quicker. The plan after that is to design a small promotional website, and a Facebook page for the novel.

New story: Finishing up chapter five. It has been a bear. I introduced two new characters and wrote from both their points of view, then realized one of them just knew too damned much to let the reader into his head this soon. Cutting his bits didn’t take anything from the chapter, and kept it from being one and a half times longer than the other chapters so far.

As it is, the remaining character’s POV reveals quite a bit as well, information that maybe it’s too soon to reveal, but that’s just one of the tightropes you walk in a first draft–figuring out the pace at which you should offer up clues to an unfolding mystery.

Original fiction project – week of 08/14/2011

Dis/inhibition: Started my final read-through of the manuscript for typos and hired the cover artist runner-up to make the character illustrations for the promotional website. Things are moving along.

New story: Working on chapter 5. It is proving to be a big challenge, because I am introducing a new character and fleshing out another character who has so far has only been seen in passing. Not only do I have a lot of ground to cover introducing them to the reader, but they both possess a lot more knowledge than the other two characters I have featured, and I have to decide how much it is they know right now, because it’s bad form to have a character aware of something you don’t want the reader to know and deliberately have them “just not think about it” for chapter after chapter until you’re ready to reveal it. On the other hand, an info dump to the reader doesn’t make for the most entertaining chapter. So tippy-toes.

Too many stories

One thing I’ve realized this week is that there are too many stories I want to tell all at once, and I am trying to tell them all in one novel. Now, the simple reply to that is, “Concentrate on one character, one story, and write a book series for the others.” Except that all of the stories occur simultaneously and are interconnected. Gee…just like my last novel. Now one idea I had was to write a series that tells the same story, each time from a separate point of view. Or, write one long story in such a way that it has convenient stopping points in mid-stream, so that book one is part one, and then the story continues in the next novel.

Then I smack myself and say, “You haven’t even scratched the surface of the first one, and you’re planning a series? Get back to writing.”

It’s just…I can’t stop myself from writing all of them at once. I can’t.