Thursday, April 28, 2011

Traitor, Thy Name is George RR Martin

So, I could lie and say that "Yes! I wrote my 15,000 words the month!" Or, I could wail and sob and claim that it's not my fault! I had to move my husband into a new country, get insurance sorted out, alien registration, teach him how to drive, start a new school year, prepare new classes, assist an exchange student…. (Actually, that sounds pretty good! Good excuses, yes?)


But I'll be a better person than that. I'll be honest. CURSE YOU GAME OF THRONES!!!! I had hours of free time. Hours and hours and days and days of time at work when I COULD have been writing. But nuuuuuu. The evil Raven-monster had to go and get me hooked on Game of Thrones. Welp, there went THAT free time. The first four books of Game of Thrones took me longer to read than any other books in living memory. Three whole weeks of nothing but brain-eating, face-consuming, nail-biting reading. And now, the waiting begins.

Without giving anything away, I'd like to make a few comments about the books. I've heard Martin compared to Robert Jordan in his use of a plethora of characters. First difference. Martin is a good writer.

Okay, so maybe that was a little unfair, The first book of Wheel of Time was good…

Robert Jordan didn't know when to let a character go. As a writer, I can understand that. We get attached, even to the little people. After all, if it's going to be a good book, we've probably invested nearly as much time into those colorful personalities that line the trimmings of our novel as we have into our main characters. That's what makes a world rich, vibrant and teeming with life. Real people, stuffed into all the little crevices. The thing is, once those little people start squeezing out of their nooks and running rampant through the fields of our pages, they trample all the flowers. That's what crowds do.

How was that for analogy? xD

That was Robert Jordan's problem. Character management. The crowd got out of control, and book by book, the story slowly got pulled down until it could barely move at all through the press of characters. Now, looking back at the number of characters that Jordan wrote and the total number of characters that Martin has written, the count probably isn't all that far off. But the difference is in Character Management. All of the characters in Martin's epic work move the story forward, rather than slowing it down. They never cover the same point twice, they add perspective to important, world changing events, and most importantly, they don't all have something to say at once! For every one or two perspectives that Martin adds into his work over the course of the four current books, he takes out one as well. (usually through death. T.T) And I thought *I* was bad about killing off characters! (clearly I need to up my death tally.) The death is never pointless, just to get rid of a character, but it usually happens right when you think. "He'll get through this somehow! Where's the twist that will save him/her?" Oops. About that twist. Didn't happen. So far my favoritest (yes, it's a word!) characters still live, but I'm starting to prepare myself for the possibility that that may not remain true.

Suffice to say, I find Martin's way of dealing with his wealth of characters to be creative, fun, insightful, and most importantly, a dynamic and delightful read. I only hope that I can manage my own characters as well some day, with as much skill.

Now, despite the verbosity of my previous exposition on character management, (say that five times fast) what I learned from the books the most as a writer is actually something different, though related.. Pacing. Pacing can be a very difficult skill to master, and I certainly know that it's one that I still struggle with constantly. What is too fast, what is too slow… Sometimes that description of walking down stair just seems so necessary, and other times those three months are so irrelevant you're tempted to just time travel. I struggle with slowing down my world too much when I want to describe the things around my characters, or feel like I have to get across how my character got where they are. Despite the number of perspectives that Martin juggles his story with, he manages to move his plot along at super speed. Sometimes I'm floored when an event that seems like it should have been of such dire importance that it deserved its own chapter (or five) is given to us only in mention from a perspective across the known world from said event. There is reference, then resulting fallout, and *poof*, I realize that the event really wasn't as important as what it caused. That kind of editing eye is remarkably impressive to me. The story leaps and bounds, cutting itself free of the limitations of step by step storytelling. To some extent, this may only be made possible by the number of character perspectives involved. Told through the eyes of only one or two, a writer would be much more firmly locked into a single time stream.

So this is what I come away asking myself. How can I move my story more dynamically? Do I need to try to pull my characters apart? Look more closely at which events must be witnessed, and which can simply be discovered? Where do I draw the line between an awkward time leap and an effective time leap? Is it enough if it only effects one character? Two? Three? The world? Whose eyes will give me the best image of the event? Not the most accurate, perhaps, but the most dynamic. Reading through Martin's books really made me ask a lot of these questions about my own work. I started to look for places where I could create gaps for the imagination to fill in, while widening, enriching, and speeding my story along. The more I can leave out (skillfully, of course, not in spots of confusion) the more I can add back in in terms of plot, intrigue, and character development. I can wring the most from my 130,000 words, and hopefully leave my reader feeling like they just got 200,000 words worth of story.

So. Not a completely wasted month. In the last few days since finishing my reading, I've completely re-notecarded out from my current point in my story, changing, removing, separating, adding, and generally revitalizing my work. The pages behind me are left in a jumble of ideas and plodding exposition, but hopefully I can rework it into vibrant life on my rewrite, for which I already have so many ideas. Hopefully next month, I'll have 15,000 words of win to ecstatically show to the world! Or at least my faithful readers.

On a much more depressing note, my next post will be a photo gallery of my punishments, all the things I promised you horrible horrible people that I would do if I didn't meet my goals. I want you to know, I hate you all. FML

Friday, April 8, 2011

Flash Friday (From the future!!!)

He watched her moving unaware through the trees beneath him.  She was with friends, and the sounds of their voices carried through the cool night air.  His fingers clenched around the branch upon which he perched, claws tearing through the thin bark like paper.  It was this girl.  It had to be.  He could feel her in his mind.
            Closing his eyes he tasted the air.  Something was different about this night.  For longer than he could remember he had been waiting, moving about this small and primitive planet.  At first it had been curious, amusing.  Then it had become boring.  He had stirred up conflicts to pass the time, hunted on occasion.  They had never told him what it was that he was waiting for, why he was watching.  It had been frustrating, humiliating.  That one of the great Death Captains could be exiled to nothing more than a Watcher on this distant rock made his skin vibrate with anger. 
            Opening his eyes again he focused a golden gaze on the slender form that walked away from him.  He knew that the soft orange glow intended to light the orchard of her small school was not enough to reveal his presence, a dark shadow in a darker night.  For now he would let her walk away, safe in her ignorance.  He smiled slowly.  Perhaps he would toy with her before he sent back communication that he had found what they had been seeking.  Maybe he could even discover what she was, and why she was so important.  Then he would have something to bargain with. 
            His spirits lifted, and his claws hungered for blood.