The Meaningful Bits

Sometimes writing is a slow process. I’ll get one or two ideas stuck in my head, and decide that THOSE are the ideas that deserve my time, at the expense of everything else I’m working on. I’ve been doing bits and pieces for this month’s challenge, and have read the book that I’ll be doing the write-up about, but I’m very preoccupied at the moment. Two things are doing it.

One ties back to what I wrote two posts ago – the serendipity one. I started reading through my 2010 NaNo to pick out the character and place names I’d forgotten, that’d be relevant to this – since the story I generally refer to as ‘Sky’ is chronologically after the one I refer to as ‘Trail’. I wasn’t really prepared for what happened next. As I read through bits and pieces of Trail, the whole story started coming back to me – and since it was left in a state of being around 80% completed, started to think that I should tackle that particular story first.

Instead of a clear edit, I started rewriting Trail. Didn’t get very far, but the feel of it seems better this time around. Perhaps it’s just the closeness to the material, and it’s not the first time I’ve started a rewrite of it and thought I was immensely better. Some of it’s a bit… ugh, but I know I can make things feel less contrived and self-indulgent.

The other thing that’s been stealing brain time is NEXT month’s challenge. I’m keen for April to begin because that’s when I write something I’ve wanted to do for about a year, though never really had the right approach with it. If you have read through of the page with all the challenges, you’ll see it’s about fanfic. No prizes for guessing mine’s going to be about Mass Effect, and will be my own head-canon for an alternate ending to the third game. I know it may seem silly to want to write something different to what happened in the game, but it’s for my own sense of closure. I don’t claim it will be better, or that it should be the definitive answer to how it should have ended – just that I need something more.

Little snippets of imagined dialogue and sequences have already been popping into my head, tossing my emotions around as though I’d lost a loved one. Also feels a bit silly to have that sort of idea thrown into fanfic, instead of using it in my own setting, but that’s where it belongs.

So in summation, instead of working on the challenge, I’m a) planning bits and pieces plus rewriting one story, and b) obsessing about next month’s challenge. Both of these things are happening because of emotions, and that’s where the idea for this comes from.

I read through the final conflict of Trail, and remembered how great a character WS was, and how much I loved the antagonist LN in that moment. None of it’s as clear cut as what happens with Sky. In Sky, you know the main villain – right from the very start. It’s clear that a bad guy is on the way. Trail isn’t like that, and instead focuses more on what a messed-up world it takes place in. The FD that are the bad guys in Sky are there, but they’re just a footnote. Trail also has FS, TE’s group, pretty much all of City3 (not the actual name), and LN – plus the nature of the MC’s that works against them both repeatedly. All of these becoming situations for the characters that can break them emotionally, and often do – they all have their flaws, and they get thrown into them.

An example would be the character DG, a recovering alcoholic whose teenage son gets kidnapped by a cult (FS), seeks out help of a local merc AN. AN won’t help until he trusts DG, and he won’t trust anybody that doesn’t drink. There’s no happy ending for DG here. Not one.

I don’t believe it’s enough for a character to be flawed unless those flaws are pushed, and I think characters work best when they’re pushed to their edge. It can be about a single character, being saved or sunk in their darkest moment. It doesn’t need to be about the universal scale or scope, about saving an entire city and it still needs a character to make an impact – in Star Wars, we care about the destruction of Alderaan because of Leia – if she wasn’t there, nobody would give a shit.Writers are often told they have to raise the stakes, but it shouldn’t always be taken to mean scale.

In terms of next month’s challenge, there’s definitely a massive scale to it (well, if you can refer to an entire galaxy as ‘massive’), but it’s not that which repeats in my mind. It’s the characters; their pain and their losses and their trials that make the story sing. If the calamities in your story aren’t affecting a character (as opposed to numbers), then what is the point of it?

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