Sunday, March 29, 2015

The midpoint...

I'm at the midpoint of the outline I created for the LAX story. Here's the alarming point: I'm at just over 45,000 words. My original goal was to have a 60,000 word manuscript, but it now looks like I may have a 90,000--100,000 word manuscript instead!

Naturally, I've been trimming the hell out of my outline so that I don't end up having to write 120,000+ words to complete. It's amazing the way a novel blossoms like this. And it's even more amazing that I'm putting down so much so fast. Before March is over, I think I can get in another two chapters, which will put my March total at 30,000+ words.

At this pace, I won't finish by the end of April, like I had hoped. But I like that it's because the story is growing more complex. Still, I will be so close to finishing in a month that it will be beside the point.

Continuing to work at the ANA ticket counter motivates me, since I'm right there where the action in the book takes place. I can almost see my protagonist doing the things I describe. The only hiccup is that I also have to see my Josephine there too. Luckily, she's seeing someone else, so that takes my attention away from her.

Good for her. She looks happy too and she deserves it. I need to focus on my work.

In April, since I'm doing so good in March, I will detour a little and work on some other projects to get a head start. This is something I meant to do last year, but just couldn't get around to for whatever reason. It's always pathetic the way that other things get in the way.

But like Mr. Faulkner said, if you have a mind to write, you will do it. I'm paraphrasing, of course; I don't memorize the quotes of dead writers. That is a disservice to them. Instead, enjoy the living works that they left behind.

***

At the midpoint of the story, you begin to wonder how it will end. Here I am, ready to punch through to the last sentence of the book.

I already wrote a draft of the epilogue, which I see now will have to be modified in a number of ways. Hell, I may just delete it.

I want the ending of this story to be unique. I don't want it to just end. I want the reader to reveal themselves to me, the writer, as I revealed myself to them throughout the whole of the story. There has to be a mirror there, so you can tell me who you are.

That's all I want to say about that.



LC/LA

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dude stuff...

I'm currently researching for the LAX story. It seems a little late to do that since I'm also currently writing it. But I can always use the research when I'm revising it. There is never a moment when it is too late to use research to enhance the story.

For example, I've read a few love tales lately that play with this idea:

Never give up on someone you can't go a day without thinking about

Junot Diaz and his short story collection, This is How you Lose Her, is one of those books. Gone With the Wind and Pride and Prejudice are others. These are all excellent books that look at romance in a variety of ways.

I'm leaning more towards Diaz and his short stories. They are about breaking up or when things in a relationship just aren't going to work. It hits home when I think about all the nonsense I am going through with my Josephine. The men in Junot's stories are hard (different versions of a man named Yunior) and painfully realistic. But eventually his protagonists get it. It's time to give up. Despite being unable to stop thinking about them, it's time to give up. I'm ready for that too. I'm done. I threw in my towel this week; my Josephine has moved on to greener pastures already.

Pride and Prejudice is my current reading selection. It's very flippant about its subject matter: Women were dependent on marriage to establish themselves. This starts with a great line that I used in the LAX story already. I wanted to read this because this is where that rascal, Darcy, was born. That he captured the hearts of so many women in the 20th century speaks of his charm. I want to see that charm in action.

Gone with the Wind is coming up on my reading list. This too ends with heartbreak. At least that's what I gathered from the movie version. I'm curious to see how the book ends.

My life, my readings, my observations, all fuel this fictional romance I want to write.

***

It's surprising that I haven't been able to find what I want. I'm basically looking for a dictionary of terms used by men. We have our own vocabulary pamphlet and, gosh darn it, I forgot where I put my copy; maybe it's in between the folds on the couch, but I haven't looked. My nagging suspicion is that my Josephine took it with her when she snagged my balls and ran off with them.

The internet has offered me very little help on the matter. I thought there would be some database out there... Or maybe I'm not using the right search criteria; the amount of trouble I had to find the term Mouthpiece was discouraging.

Mouthpiece: A woman wooed by men who unknowingly speaks positive things on our behalf to more desirable women, thereby making us look like better candidates.

Forget about finding the man-term dummy girlfriend and I got these weird results. None of them had to do with what I wanted; some were for pornographic websites where men and dummies...

Dummy girlfriend: A girlfriend whose purpose is to make the real object of our affection see how great we are at being a boyfriend; later, when the woman we want makes a move on us, we dump the dummy girlfriend.

There are more terms that I won't share here.

***

I feel stupid that I didn't know a quarter for the year had only three months. It was disappointing since I wanted to have a draft of the LAX story done by the end of the first quarter.

My pace is pretty good right now and my word count is far ahead than I planned. If I work hard, I can have the second third of the story done by the end of March.

I'm doing so well that I decided to let a couple of library friends have a look at what I have so far. It's the first time that I have sought feedback on a project so early in the writing stage. But I like what I've written so far. Hopefully, they do too.




LC / LA


Friday, February 13, 2015

Plotting...

Okay, so on Sunday, February 8th, 2015, The Wizard of Santa Monica was not complete. However, I was one chapter away from finishing it and the chapter in question was mostly done. Monday passed and on Tuesday I again charged. I didn't finish it, only managed to nibble on the last chapter and add to other chapters. Wednesday came and once again, I faced The Wizard of Santa Monica. I realized then that the work I had done on the last chapter was fair and redid some of it. So, Thursday, today (it's technically Friday, but I'm still awake), I fought the wizard again.

It took me all day to rework the chapter material and add to other chapters. Finally, The Wizard of Santa Monica is complete. That was a challenging story to tackle.

In total, the novella came to about 33,000 words. It has been with me since 2009 and maybe earlier; I finished a number of drafts before it became part of The Wizards in 2013. That led to the problematic draft I wasn't been able to finish until today.

So, why was it so difficult to finish?

The plot.

I could not nail down the plot.

Yes, I want to discuss the elements of fiction again. Now, when I said plot just now there are a number of ideas that usually come to mind. I say a number because, as I said a long, long time ago, writers cannot decide on a definitive list of elements in fiction! Sure, there are the usual suspects like setting and character, but for the most part, every writer has their own list.

And even when the elements are the same on a list, the way they are interpreted are not. Take for instance these two definitions of premise (an element of fiction not usually included in most lists):


1) This premise is the underlying idea of your story--the foundation that supports your entire plot. (from Writer's Digest.com).


2) A story premise, along with its tool, the premise line, is a container that holds the essence of your story’s right, true and natural structure. (from writermag.com)



Similar definitions, right? The difference is in the examples they give. Look at these:


1) For instance, the premise of The Three Little Pigs is “Foolishness leads to death, and wisdom leads to happiness.” (It”s not three little pigs get scared by a wolf and make bad building decisions.) (from writer's digest.com)


2) When a fish-out-of-water, big-city cop moves to a small, coastal town dependent on tourism, he must team with an oceanographer and a crusty sailor to convince the doubting, money-grubbing townsfolk to close their beaches because a giant, man-eating shark is lurking just offshore, until the shark strikes, forcing the townsfolk to allow the cop and his buddies to take on the shark mano-a-mano. (from writermag.com)


*Writer mag gives the premise of the movie "Jaws." I will call that paragraph a premise since it is closer to my preference of the meaning of the word premise.

Those examples are sooo different from one another! They represent opposite ideas, even though the definitions of premise they gave are similar. What this says is that writers view the elements of fiction differently based on their preferences.

What I will say about plot reflects my preferences on the subject.


***

Here are a few definitions of plot as a fiction element:


1) Plot –- the major events that move the action in a narrative. It is the sequence of major events in a story, usually in a cause-effect relation. (from csulb.edu)


2) Plot refers to the series of events that give a story its meaning and effect. (from bedfordstmartins.com)


3) All fiction is based on conflict and this conflict is presented in a structured format called PLOT. There are a number of different elements to a plot. They include: Exposition, foreshadowing, inciting force, conflict, etc. etc. etc. (from nps.gov)


4) Plot is what happens in a work of fiction, and the order that it happens in. (from creative-writing-now.com)


All the definitions deal with events described in a story. There is also some concern with the order in which these events appear in the story. Some definitions even mention other ideas, like conflict and a cause-effect relationship between the events.

And if you're a visual writer, there is Freytag's triangle which is a graphical representation of a plot (by most definitions). Freytag or Freitag, it really doesn't matter.


Look at that thing! It's adorable. Some graphical representations show a hump, a curve, like a roller coaster ride. I liken this type of writing to a sex act because, let's face it, after the male climaxes it's all over. It is no accident I'm comparing this to a male sexual experience; Gustav Freitag was a male novelist and this type of plotting depends on building tension until there is a release at the climax (all sexual talk).

*Side Note: Imagine what a plot would look like if writers used the female sexual experience instead! 

Here is the exact same structure but drawn in a circle (attributed to Joseph Campbell):



You can see the similarities.

Most genre fiction books use the triangle plot diagram. It is often said that genre books are plot heavy, but if you look at the diagram, what that means is that genre books use a very noticeable plot strategy. Each event in the plot leads towards that climax; action heavy books will have major sequences at the climax--including the showdown between the protagonist and the antagonist.

Not all books are written like this. And yes, I know, I know, your Creative Writing teacher said all books build towards some kind of climax (even if it's a small one). I'm never sure what they mean by that.

However, it is a serviceable tool for simple novels. Complex novels (like War and Peace) use other strategies.

What I find in the stories that fall under the "Literary" category are revelations that develop the main character(s), not climaxes in action. The reason is that this type of story tries to retain a level of realism that makes it (in appearances) closer to life.

If I had to plot someone's life, it would look like this:



The beginning would be the birth of the person and the end point would be that person's death. The arrow points to a high point in that person's life. Maybe it was their marriage or a new job. What is the cliche? Life is full of ups and downs?

Plotting in fiction attempts to mimic what this graph shows. It artificially looks at particular points in a fictional person's life, the ones that contribute to the overall effect the writer desires. It is not a "singular effect," like Poe said was a characteristic of short stories, but it is a desired effect.

*Side Note: that is actually the graph of an irregular heartbeat, which I thought would make an excellent graphical representation of a person's life*

***

A rough premise of The Wizard of Santa Monica is: Danny Nash is a homeless thief who lives in his beat up Firebird and dreams of becoming like Robin Hood. When he saves the life of another homeless man, he nearly loses his. Unbeknownst to him, the man he saves is a self-proclaimed wizard who takes him to a lonesome mansion to heal. There, Danny meets Esmeralda, Karen and the man who saved him, Quique. Together, they tell him the tragic history of the group of children that once lived there, learned there; these were boys and girls who called their power magic and themselves wizards.

I used Wuthering Heights as inspiration for the structure of the novel. If you don't know, in Wuthering Heights, a number of characters tell another character stories from the past. The narrative switches from Third Person to First Person (when a character shares his/her recollections).

There is an overarching plot to Wuthering Heights: Lockwood rents a place in the moors owned by Heathcliff, doesn't like it, goes back to London for a while, comes back to the moors for a bit and then returns back to London. It is such a mundane plot that it's amazing that it coats one of my favorite love stories. The sub-plot is more important and deals with the history of Heathcliff in the moors and his failed love for Catherine Earnshaw.

It is not uncommon for a novel to have a number of plots. Sometimes, like in Wuthering Heights, there is a main plot and an overarching plot. For this reason, it is difficult for me to see how a novel is supposed to build to a point called a climax, when each plot is its own separate entity.

In The Wizard of Santa Monica, the premise changed often as I wrote and rewrote it over the years, but the overarching plot always dealt with the homeless man, Danny Nash, and the sub-plot dealt with the wizard children.

I see now that it was problematic for me to keep changing the premise. Once you change a premise, it more or less throws your plot into chaos.

An earlier premise of The Wizard of Santa Monica was: Danny Nash is a homeless thief who lives in his beat up Firebird and dreams of becoming like Robin Hood. When he saves the life of another homeless man, he nearly loses his. Unbeknownst to him, the man he saves is a self-proclaimed wizard who uses his power to heal him. The wizard leaves and Danny becomes obsessed with finding him again. He embarks on a journey across Southern California's homeless communities, always one step behind the wizard. The only evidence of the wizard's presence are the number of stories he tells those he comes across; they tell the tragic story of a group of children under the care of a man named Wendell the Great, who could wield unimaginable power they called magic.

Another obstacle came  from the overall plot of The Wizards, which is the entire collection of wizard short stories/novellas. The Wizard of Santa Monica is only one story in The Wizards.

It helps me now to talk about this.

***

And what's next for me, you ask? I am looking to start the LAX story as early as next week. I'm giving up my Valentine's day fun (no love parties for me!). Even now, I'm going over the material I have for it.

I'm very excited to finally be here.


LC / LA