Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Putting the 'Stuck' Back in Process

This blog is about the process of writing a novel. It says so, right up at the top of the page. And I'm writing a novel. Yup, I sure am. Sometimes when I write about writing, it's informative; sometimes it's neurotic; sometimes it's inspirational in intent; sometimes it's a little bit crazy; and sometimes it's just plain stuck.

Yes. I admit it: I'm stuck. I've been bashing my own motto to death and doing major character development as well as runaway research in the hopes of someday, maybe, unearthing a PLOT, but to not much avail.

Or, to no avail.

I'm still in Ancient Greece - Tibet, India, Australia, London, and New York are just gonna have to wait. Here's the set-up of the Greek plot thus far, in a little nutshell:

Boy loves god. God isn't into it. Boy convinces god to be into it. They begin a love affair. 

I'm very happy with this so far. A reluctant god who has sworn off love affairs, plus a smitten and utterly determined (and mildly narcissistic) mortal, makes for good fun conflict.

So the mortal wins, and they get together.... And then what??

I know it's not going to work out (sorry, but it's not). First of all, Greek gods are about as capable of fidelity in love affairs as - as - well, crap, my metaphors are failing me, but let's just say THEY'RE NOT CAPABLE AT ALL. Second, as I've mentioned before, despite their own major failings in the monogamy department, Greek gods don't deal well with lovers who cheat on them. Third, neither one of these people is really emotionally capable of true intimacy.

This is all good, right? Lots of potential conflicts, right? I KNOW! I read that and I think, "so what's the problem?"

The problem is that I can't for the life of me figure out exactly how things get messed up, or why. Does Apollo cheat on his mortal? Does the mortal cheat on him? Why? And if so, with who, and then what? Does Artemis somehow get involved? She keeps popping up in my brainstorming, but won't tell me why. It's annoying.

I was expounding on this on Twitter today - ok, fine, I was complaining - and the wise and very smart L.G. Smith advised me to "Time to take something precious from them [my characters]. If they have nothing to fight against, they're too comfortable."

This tickled something in my head... but I'm not yet sure what it is. I think she's putting me on the right track. Maybe. I hope. Certainly a love affair wouldn't be comfortable for either one of them - in fact, my instinct is that it's the intimacy itself that takes something away from them, even though they both thought it was what they wanted. I just don't quite have it yet. You know - the thing that gets taken away, and what they do in response.

Is this a case of the thing a person wants the most is the thing that frightens them the most? Or a case of the thing a person wants the most is the worst thing for them?

I don't know yet.

I know. I know. I presented an irritating problem, complained about it for a while, and then neglected to resolve it. This is not what I would call satisfying writing.

And yet, it's precisely the kind of grind that constitutes 'daily work' for a writer. You bang your head against your desk; the banging jars loose a brilliant idea; you follow that idea only to find out it's bunk; you bang your head some more and pull your hair, and problem-solve out loud, and write lots and lots of brainstorming ideas that start with "what if" and end in question marks. Rinse, wash, repeat.

I'm not complaining - or, well, I'm complaining only a little. I love this work. I just love it more when I have solutions to my problems, rather than just large stubborn problems that sit on my desk and taunt me.

So, that's where I am today. Not much of a thrilling inside look, perhaps, but a true one. Thanks for sticking with me.

And suggestions, of course, are more than welcome.

Seriously.

46 comments:

  1. You'll find a way to make it work! I had to rewrite a scene in my first book over and over so many times, trying to find a plausible way it could happen.
    And boy loves god? Is Apollo a girl then? That's a nice twist.

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    1. Nope. Apollo is a man. I'm going to have about 6 romantic pairings in this book, and they're not all going to be male/female. It feels important to mix it up for many reasons. I know that may turn some people off, but you can't write worrying too much about that.

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  2. Just think of how AMAZING it's going to feel when that inspiration strikes! And until then...well, you know the relationship won't work because you know these characters well (and they're very interesting, layered characters, btw. You have me intrigued by that alone) so what if you just let them go on for a while in the relationship, even if it's just in your head and not in words yet, and maybe the thing that comes along and ruins everything will present itself along the way???

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    1. Thanks, Nicki!! I so appreciate the encouragement...and the advice is really great, actually. I think I'll try that today. Thank you!!

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  3. I agree with Nicki - it will be such a rush when suddenly the pieces fall into place! And you will get there, I've no doubt. Love LG's advice - she is very wise, isn't she? :D

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    1. It totally will - and it's a good reminder to keep plugging away, because the reward will be so worth it. And yes, LG sort of rocks :)

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  4. Pretty much conflict is the engine that stories run on, so if you can figure out what that thing is, your characters should be off and running after that plot. :))

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    1. Yup. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction!!

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  5. Good Luck! Some times getting stuck makes finding the plot line of the story that much better when you get it right.

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  6. A wise person once told me that people in relationships only really fight about three things, sex, money or the kids. Every other fight is actually about one of those three things. Sorry if that doesn't help.

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    1. Hmmm. That's definitely worth pondering. Thanks!

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  7. You will figure it out, but maybe throwing in a family complication outside of their relationship that forces one or both of the characters' priorities to shift, that would do it, right?

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    1. Maybe THAT'S why Artemis is hanging around. My sub-conscious might be onto something. Thank you for nudging it!!!

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  8. It goes like this: Boy wins over Apollo. Apollo is finally able to love again after swearing off love affairs. But then Artemis sees boy with someone else one night . . . Maybe she misinterprets what she's seeing, but when she tells her brother . . .

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    1. Yup. I'm right there with you :) Thanks!!

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  9. Love affairs can be tricky, but I'm sure you'll figure it out. Looks like you have some ideas from other bloggers.

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    1. I do! There are great tips here today :)

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  10. I do my best to know how everything ends before I begin (because it makes everything a lot easier!) but when I haven't, I usually find my muse will show me the way, albeit not without going down some dead ends first. After all, the muse does have a sense of humor ;)

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    1. Yep, that she does. Julie Flanders has a great pic up on her blog about a highly effective muse... :)

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  11. You know, these things usually come to me when I've had it UPTOHERE with it and feel like throwing it out the window. I'm not suggesting that you move to the brink of giving up but...it works for me :D

    Hopefully you'll be unstuck soon. At any rate, it seems like you're on the right track!

    Writing Through College

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  12. LOL. UPTOHERE sounds familiar, yeah ;) Thank you!!

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  13. Funny, I was banging my head against plots and made an entire blog entry about it just a few days ago. Two people pointed me to beat sheets - a simple listing of plot points, in order, to help figure out how the story's supposed to go. I don't know if it'll help you, but it's helped me a ton already.

    Take a look here for what it's all about: http://timstout.wordpress.com/story-structure/blake-snyders-beat-sheet/
    And I've been using this image, though I ignore the word count: http://jamigold.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Beat-Sheet1.jpg

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    1. Thanks so much, Mason, these are great! How funny we were on the same page... I'm sorry I haven't been to your blog yet! I'm on my way over soon, I promise :)

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  14. As a total pantser, I would say just write it and see what happens. Your characters will tell you. You could even just write a snippet about them together and see how they interact. It might tell you something.

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    1. LOL, spoken like a total pantser! You know that makes us plotters pull our hair out in panic, right? But... it's a good idea, and worth a try!!

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  15. Very interesting start. I like the fantasy you are going after. I cannot wait to see the direction you are going in.

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  16. Sometimes, it helps to have a verbal conversation with someone who has a creative mind, but knows absolutely nothing about your world and story. They might question parts that you didn't think of, or throw out crazy ideas that absolutely don't work, but spurs a flurry of thought.

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    1. This - yes. This is also a good idea. One I've talked about on this blog, and promptly forgotten ;) Thank you for reminding me!

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  17. Figure out what each of them truly wants and make those two things conflict. And if that doesn't work, throw in a murder, lol.

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    1. Hard to make their desires conflict in a love story, but the murder I can do!! ;)

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  18. I guess that's the fun of fiction writing. I sometimes find that if I'm stuck, stopping to write the synopsis can really help. It gives me an overall view of where I've been and where I'm going. But synopses suck, so I only do that when necessary!

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  19. I never know what my characters are going to do next. You need a conflict, a twist. One character's love is epic, and loves the other--- literally to death. You can't see the twist yet, but keep writing and let your protagonist take off.

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    1. "One character's love is epic, and loves the other--- literally to death." I love this. Love love love it. Great idea. Thank you!!

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  20. Sounds like you're in processing mode -- doesn't mean you're stuck. I always advise my creative writing students to stalk their characters, follow their hearts' desires, and the plot will unfold around them. It might be messy, and you may end up in a dead end or two, but you can always backtrack and see where things started to go wrong. LG's advice is spot-on. Always be cruel to your characters -- to an extent -- and give the reader a reason to root for them amidst all the turmoil.

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    1. This is actually really comforting and good to hear. Thank you!! And thank you for the excellent advice.

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  21. It will all come together. I write character journal entries when I'm stuck like this. Figure out more of who they are, where they were before the story started, and what they want.

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    1. Yup. I hear you - back to freewriting. Sometimes it just takes longer than it feels like it should! ;)

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  22. I'm afraid I have no advice, other than to kick that story can around a while longer and see what comes to mind. The confrontation scene with the villain in my current WIP eluded me from the early plotting until nearly the time I finally wrote it, but it worked out. (That'll be up to the betas to say, of course, but I like it.) Anyhow, don't give up. Try asking yourself 'what if...' about different possible scenarios and see where the logical conclusions lead. Good luck. ;)

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    1. Thanks, Melissa :) That sounds like good advice to me.

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  23. The truth is always best. Sometimes a little bit of time is all that is needed.

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  24. Good luck! Sometimes it just takes time to find what's right for you.

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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