Tuesday, June 15, 2010

To dragon or not

I have a pet dragon. Not a tangible one, one in my book. She's based on a little pewter dragon a friend gave me years ago. She's portly and naive and unaware of her own strength, but totally aware of her appeal. She eats amber and grows exponentially. Her interactions with my characters provide humour in dire situations. I want to keep her.

The problem is she doesn't seem to have a role to play. In my head she's important and the four main characters can't achieve their goal without her but it's not coming through one way or the other. At the moment she's a little light relief, popping up at unusual moments and then disappearing just as suddenly, only to come back again when all the people seem to be doing is travelling on a long journey. She nearly drowns a couple of them - by accident, of course - and deafens and kills a whole heap of bad guys but mostly she's used to get my characters out of situations they can't get out of themselves and, therefore, probably weakening them. At the end of the book she has a major role to play but none of that is clear until right at the end (which I haven't written yet because I haven't worked it out).

Judging on the feedback, she's not working the way I wanted her to at all. All the critiques so far have said 'get rid of her' and 'she's detracting from the story', 'has no purpose'. So now I have a dilemma. Do I go back and write her out of the story completely so my characters can find their own way forward and save themselves, or do I go back and change her character so she ups the ante, so she makes life just that bit more difficult for everyone and no one knows if she's a good guy or a bad guy until right at the end?

I'll have to spend some time on the weekend plotting out both scenarios to see which one will travel the best.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The way writing works

I've always known my mind works differently when I'm writing but I had a graphic reminder of that today.

Last night I was working on my story - the one I've been trying to finish since Christmas. I'm so close I don't know why I don't just write it and be done with it - until the editing starts, of course. Anyway I had all my characters in a huge cavern, just finished a battle and killed lots of people. Then in an off-hand way, one of the characters says something to the others. Another character spins around and says, "You know the second verse of the Pledge!"

Nothing unusual in that. My response though was to throw my hands in the air and exclaim, "Oh no, there's another verse to the Pledge? I didn't know that. Now I have to write it and find out what it says."

That didn't surprise me - I often have similar sorts of things happen when I'm writing. I don't plan ahead very well; I'm more of a reactor than a proactor, if that makes sense.

The graphic reminder I mentioned before came when I was relating this to a couple of people at work. If the looks on their faces could be translated into actions I would be languishing in a 19th Century mental asylum by now. :)

I've written the second verse of the poem. It's second draft at the moment. I need to do some more work on it but it's good enough for me to continue with the story the way it is. I won't post it here - I have no illusions as to my talent as a poet no matter how much I enjoy playing with rhyming patterns and syllabic rhythms. I write really BAD poetry.


A couple of weeks ago I went on a retreat with one of my writers' groups. It was brilliant. Half of us arrived during the day and the rest in the evening of Friday. When we entered the apartment, it became 2015 and we were in character.

I don't expect a lot to change in my life in just five years. I'll have finished my Grad Cert, hopefully finished my PhD as well and, with a bit of luck and more persistence than I've shown so far, have a book accepted for publication. That's it. I was absolutely fascinated to hear the five year plans of the other writers in the group. They ranged from having two books on the NY Times bestseller list simultaneously, to making a success of a new small business to having multiple books published with local (ie Australian) publishers to becoming totally self-sustaining as far as providing food and energy for the household. Brilliant.

One of the activities we did was a creative collage exercise. A few weeks before we spent a day at a cemetary and chose some people as a focus for a short story. The collage was to help us flesh out those characters and put them in situations that could build into story. It's been a long time since I've spent a couple of hours cutting out pictures and sticking them on cardboard. It's very soothing.

This is the result of my efforts. I didn't use all the pictures I cut out but I've kept them and will use them for other stories.

When I came home, I put the collage on the dining table and left it there for a few days. Every one who came to visit stopped at the table and examined the board. Every one of them came up with their own explanation of who the people were and how they related to each other. The only thing these stories had in commone was the fact that every one of them picked the same person as the villian!