The Old In The New And The Gnu In The Hold

18 Mar

I was going through old journal entires and I found myself reading this one, and thought I’d repost it here. I always like reading old things I’ve written, quite often I find myself nodding and going, “Mm, mm, mm, you speak the truth, young man!”. Although just as often I catch myself thinking, “Just what on earth are you waffling on about?”.

Dated May 4th 2010 (May the Fourth be with you … always):

(I’m talking about Miya Black V/VI here, incidentally)

Other writing is maybe, finally starting to go well again. There were a few weeks where I felt like nothing was going anywhere, I wrote pages of pages of notes and outlines and scenes and scenes and scenes but it was just the same thing, over and over, too boring, too slow, SO self-indulgent, where’s the story? Where’s the plot, even?

In the end I fell back on a piece of advice my wife gave me. She’s not a writer, but somehow she always knows what to tell me to get me through tough patches. This time it was ‘Just write everything’. Everything? EVERYTHING. Just keep writing–you think this scene’s no good? Who cares! Write it anyway. Write EVERYTHING. Just write it, the next scene might be good, you might get a decent line of dialogue from it, one of the characters might surprise you, you might even (as happened to me) get the sudden, sparking, fizzing, explosive idea for a plotline that gives the whole thing an enormous, DESPERATELY needed jumpstart.

And then you can just delete it all! I’m on my thirteenth draft for this one. Currently the book’s at around 140,000 words. It’s not nearly done. It ends one myth arc and begins another. There’s too much faffing, but it’s all faffing with a point, with a payoff that will come, perhaps not for another three books, but it will come. Also in the book’s defence it has some absolute hum-dingers of revelations and chapter endings and hooks and the foreshadowing, my goodness, the foreshadowing. (I have a rule, a ratio, “1 faffy necessary bit : 1 wow moment”. So far I’m keeping up.) Also several decent jokes and a bit that came out of absolutely nowhere and which is totally mental and awesome. Sometimes I think the only reason I write is ‘awesome things’. The feeling you get when you watch or read or whatever an amazing plot-twist or resolution is multiplied by at least seven when you’re the one actually creating it. It’s amazing how a simple line like ‘I control pain’ or ‘Let go of my friend’ can send you dancing around the room.

Other plotting things. First part of Miya Black V is like a game, at least as far as plotting was concerned. This choice leads to this consequence. You didn’t help her here, so now SHE won’t be around to help you HERE. Little changes that have big effects later. I could practically feel the flags being switched as I wrote. There are several different versions of it. The one I eventually decided to use is … good. Perhaps the best, it terms of story. If it WERE a game, it wouldn’t be the A Ending, not the best possible outcome, certain choices could have been made to achieve a better overall result. It could have gone so many different ways, and for the first time I actually felt restricted by the medium I was working in. I wanted to show these different choices, these different paths. (This conflict is actually a minor theme of the book, and, in fact, the series; that you can never know what would have happened.) It’s claimed by some that interactivity has no place in a narrative, but I have to disagree. Mass Effect is a good example. Bioware have created one of my favourite characters ever in Commander Shepard, but MY Shepard is different to everyone else’s Shepard. For a start, a lot of people think Shepard is a man. Crazy. Some people’s Shepards never said the amazing, character-defining line “I won’t let fear compromise who I am”. Some people’s Shepards killed when they could have saved; my Shepard would never do that, not if she could possibly help it. It could be said that the games are linear, and they are, to an extent. But the paths taken to reach a goal matter too, and the person that arrives at said goal will be different depending on what they did to reach it. Bioware’s genius lies in recognising the importance of character.

Meanwhile, New New NuWho! And … and Matt Smith! Who I unexpectedly like! (Although he comes across as just a little bit of a prat in interviews.) Also, Amy! Somehow catapulted herself to becoming my second-favourite companion ever after just two episodes? Wha? (Donna Noble will likely never be usurped.) Although the episode with Winston Churchill and the Smarties MerchiDaleks was rubbish and made no sense. (Except for Spitfires in space, obv.) (Also the Doctor getting all ‘KILL IT! KILL IT!’ and attacking a Dalek with a wrench while everyone stared at him like he was mental was good, and Daleks offering cups of tea actually managed to restore a little of their menace, something that NuWho seems to have been attempting to systematically wipe out). The one before it wasn’t that great either, although I cried in an embarassingly wibbly fashion at “because he couldn’t stand to see children cry”, and the bit at the start where they’re looking at the monitor together and the Doctor’s all ‘we must never interfere’ and then Amy looks at the screen again and he’s RIGHT THERE INTERFERING had me laughing for about a minute. The first episode … also … wasn’t spectacular (aside from ‘Basically … run’, natch) (but then I’ve never met an ‘I’m the Doctor, bugger off’ bit I haven’t liked) (actually the first episode had a lot of really nice little bits, it was just as a whole that it kind of fell down) (“I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everyone’s aunt” stands out), but never mind! Plenty to go!

I also found a link to this amazing YouTube video:

Complete History Of The Soviet Union Set To The Tetris Theme.
(It’s as good as it sounds. Possibly even a little better.)

While I’m posting YouTube videos:

Ukraine’s Got Talent 2009 Winner
(Sand animation artist. The moment when you realise what it’s about is literally breathtaking.)

And, oh, why not, eh? Why not indeed:

Embrace Life
(Seatbelt safety ad. Absolutely no gore or shock tactics, and yet has about fifty billion times more impact than any of those ‘splatter them all over the road’ types.)

BJK Factoid #423: I often find myself befuddled. Once I tried to brush my teeth by squeezing toothpaste onto another tube of toothpaste.

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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in Of Writing


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