As I stated when this blog first began, my aim has been to revitalize my creativity that’s been for so long. So I dabbled in different things including making a fan vid and rediscovering drawing. But writing fan fiction has been interesting.
I’ve written a few stories in other fandoms, most of them dark psychological snapshots, but all of them, short, taking no more than a few hours to create a first draft. The Chest is the longest piece I’ve ever done, created for NaNoWriMo in November. It took the better part of a week with 70% fantasizing/woolgathering and 30% actually pounding out the story. In the process, I learned several things.
I’m terrible with plots. My friend ElsaF helped me create the framework. She can spin a yarn off the top of her head in two minutes flat without even breaking a sweat. When I asked how she did it, she replied to stick to several basic tenets:
- Character faces a challenge/conflict or something the character wants to stop.
- Create obstacles for the character to overcome in facing the challenge.
- Character must find a way to overcome the challenge/conflict.
- Character must deal with the consequences/resolution of the conflict.
She assured me formulating the plot was the easy part. Well, once she pointed out a plot, sure, it was blindingly obvious. Finding that spark of an idea is key. I would love to spin yarns as simply as she does, on my own.
I apparently get a kick out of doing things the hard way. The Chest did not have an outline. It didn’t have a character study aside from the one already provided by the series. All I had initially was the sexy waterfall excerpt I’d written as a dare to myself. I wrote the story around that chapter. Yes, Dear Reader, I started with the sex first.
Writing the sexy part wasn’t as difficult in the way I anticipated. Having read many very good erotic fiction stories, I didn’t think I could titillate. The first hurdle required getting past my inhibitions (I’m writing sex! HEE!) After that, erotic writing could be frustrating because it’s like putting together a puzzle. Personally, I don’t care for purple prose (“her pearly gates of delight”) or cold clinical terms, and neither fit the sensual tone I wanted to convey. But after awhile, how many ways can one describe the same sex act without being repetitive and dull? Really, it’s not all that exciting. Writing erotica becomes just as labor intensive as any other part of the story: how many times can I use that noun, that verb? How can I make it different from the last time? That sort of thing.
My beta readers (thanks so much Servetus and ElsaF!) inform me I dislike commas and am too enamored of all forms of the verb “to be.” This comes from legal writing (“easy with the comma shaker!” and the flagrant use of passive tense (is, was, were). Government only recently has started pushing for pithy action verbs and simple language, but it’s a hard habit to break. It’s lazy writing. Try writing a paragraph without “to be.” Worse yet, once Servetus pointed out the affliction, I felt almost wedded to the verb. I can’t seem to divorce it but I’m working on it.
A protracted short story is quite labor intensive. Even when I finally had a loose plot, I had difficulty keeping the momentum going, finding more obstacles for Marian to overcome. Once that ball started rolling, I had to figure out where to end the story. Then it became about pace: Did it move along? Was it consistent? Was it believable? Was the ending too hokey? I also learned there is a downside to not having a tighter plot and character study – The Fatal Flaw. The flaw is a problem so ingrained in the story, that there’s no way to get out of it, save starting from scratch. As my beta pointed out, the dark side of Guy’s personality never really came through, as in the series. However bringing that forward might have defeated the Nice Guy premise that enabled him to help the villagers in the first place. I added a few surly bits here and there, but there was nothing I could to fix it, alas. But it was a valuable lesson I’ll remember for any subsequent stories.
After thinking, eating and dreaming story for days on end, and the initial euphoria of completion abates, I should never re-read a story until the beta readers edit it. Without that distance, it all becomes garbage. The story suddenly became the worst thing I’d ever written as my inner judge put it through the meat grinder. I’ve heard about writers feeling depressed because they felt too connected to their characters; I felt depressed because I worried the writing wasn’t good enough. It’s all totally subconscious, of course, and has nothing to do with reality. Thanks goodness for beta readers slapping sense into me.
Aside from reactions of “more porn, more porn!” (you know who you are), readers asked why there wasn’t more Guy. I wanted the challenge of writing from Marian’s point of view, partly because I disliked her character in the series. This necessarily excluded Guy’s side of the story. Also it’s easier as an initial venture to stick to one POV than switching back and forth. I wanted to have a developed single POV than risk writing two underdeveloped POVs.
So, where to go from here? I don’t have a clue. A year ago, I never imagined myself writing a long story, but there it is. I don’t imagine writing a sequel because that’s not my thing – unless something really grabs my attention. Actually, my mind is a complete blank (need more coffee). I’m open to suggestions about where to venture next. Thanks so much, Dear Reader, for you feedback and encouraging replies.