clarentine: (cavalier)
A friend once observed, while critiquing one of my novels, that I appeared to be using one of the pair of main characters as a whipping boy. Bad stuff always fell worse on the one character, not the other, though the other is the one who instigated the situation. The other, in fact, often was being forced to watch as a punishment; the bad guys explicitly damaged the one to hurt the other. Which called into question why the whipping boy was there at all - what was their purpose, aside from soaking up punishment I subconsciously did not want to inflict on my chosen character? A very good question.

(An excellent critique overall, and a good friend for being willing to pull no punches. I needed to hear that.)

In revising the current novel, Switchback, it occurs to me that I'm still exploring the dynamic between two main characters, one of which inevitably becomes my favorite by the end of the first draft. I'll probably always be re-learning the lesson of that earlier critique, I'm afraid - I've done it again here, trapping the secondary protagonist and leaving the primary character to dig him out - but I am at least aware of what I've set up (and why robbing that character of agency is not a good thing for either character or story).

So here I am, on rewrite, considering that secondary protag. I can't do the obvious thing and combine the two characters, not in this story; it needs to remain a story about two brothers. What I can do, though, is build in goals for that secondary character. What is being trapped doing to him and his goals?

What I can't do is consider the scene solely from the standpoint of how it affects my primary character.

I'm going to go make some pound cake and think on that.
clarentine: (cavalier)
Don't forget your safety goggles. >:-)

Okay. I've now got a first draft of both Switchback and Lynch, so it's time to work on the rewrites for both...before the third in the series gets up enough steam to force me to pay attention to it.

First step (for me) in the rewrite process: prepare a synopsis. Nothing lets me locate plot holes better than a tightly-written short synopsis; synopses are geared to focus strictly on the plot and to step outside the sorts of point-of-view-related blinders that can keep me from seeing where I've left something out.

And, in order to prepare a synopsis, I need to know where the various important parts of the story are. I use Alexandra Sokoloff's story elements list as a jumping-off point. Last night, that meant I was sorting out Act 1 and 2 turning points, story midpoint, themes, and a bunch of other stuff. I know what the story is, sure, but for purposes of condensing all those pages of text down into a two-page synopsis it can be helpful to have to put things down on paper.

This will be the first time I've tried to write a synopsis for a series, on top of the synops for the first two books. I doubt much of what I write now about my expectations for the series's third book is going to survive the actual first draft, but I do have some idea where the first two books' events are pointing, so it'll be good to have that down as well.

Then, with refined synopses in hand, I should theoretically know where the first drafts are weak and where they need smoothing out. I know better than to set firm dates as goals, but I think I'm going to aim for a week or two to wrap up the synopses--and do my best not to let this become an exercise in avoidance, despite how much I both dread and dislike rewriting. It has to happen if I want to share the stories.

So: onward.
clarentine: (Canum)
I’ve been wrestling with a rewrite I want to start on a novel I wrote several years ago, working title Break, third in the Canum series in which I’ve also recently rewritten books one (Shape) and two (Kith). I’m working out (again) who the antag is and how his goals clash with Canum's and what theme(s) I’m exploring and how those things all fit in with the plot.

Ah, yes, the plot.

The thing about plot is that I’m tired of Protag Saves the World fantasy plots. I want my stories to be about the small sacrifices, the little disasters that are the protag’s whole world but don’t risk the collapse of nations. I want a more personal level of conflict.

So [livejournal.com profile] corrinalaw says to me, offhand, in discussing the antag, that X is the antag because the external plot is that X wants to take the throne. I balked - though, of course, she was right, both about who the antag currently is set to be and what his goal is. There had to be a way to get the smaller external plot I wanted, to make it more personal. I knew it had been done before – that *I* had done it before. Bells of Leon y Cantara has a protagonist with a very personal goal on which no nation's fate hangs and, in a lot of respects, I think is the one novel I've written in which I came close to writing a coherent external plot on my first attempt.

And then, in thinking about Bells and how I had gotten that smaller, more personal level of conflict right, I realized where I’d gone wrong in Break. It wasn’t that I lacked an antag (I have a veritable crop of potential antags, all with their own goals that intersect at right angles with the protag). It was that my protag lacked an external goal.

Bingo! To bring the external plot down to the personal level, what I needed was a personal-level external goal. I still need to figure out what that goal is, and then match it up with the appropriate antag, but I’m one step closer to making this rewrite work.

Thus endeth the lesson. *g* Hopefully, it will prove helpful to someone other than me.

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