I’ve realized that I need to learn more about structure. What I have been doing — using Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire” as my textbook on structure simply doesn’t work with my novel for a number reasons on a number of different levels. I have an actual text book on scene and structure and I’m going to at least attempt to sit down and read that now. This has happened for a number of reasons. I can’t keep trying to do a one-to-one copy of The Girl Who Played With Fire’s structure. It just doesn’t work. I have to understand structure independent of that book.
I had an interesting conversation with an elderly woman who definitely had a very low opinion of my efforts to write a novel. But, ultimately, the chief take away was — I need to go faster and I need to realize I probably have a limited amount of time to get this done. I’ve been moving forward with development, yes, but this ideal situation isn’t going to last forever. I am going to at least try to re-double my efforts and be more focused on the task at hand. Hopefully.
Any normal human being would shut up about what he’s working on, but I’m not normal. I’m 100% extroverted and usually — unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise — I pretty much just talk about whatever’s on my mind in as conspicuous a manner as possible.
Regardless, I’ve entered yet another new — if subtle — phase in development. I have a better understanding of how badly I miscalculated at the beginning of this process on more than one level. I thought this was going to be simple of a matter of casually studying The Girl Who Played With Fire and could happen all within maybe two years.
What happened was the whole thing was very poorly thought out at the beginning and as my storytelling ability has gotten better, my personal demands on myself have also gotten higher. And so there you go.
Barring, like, a global pandemic, I am going to officially jump back into the development of my novel immediately with an eye to wrapping it up in a few months. Things are going really well and as such I’m going to give myself until April.
Then, I’m going to throw myself into writing a really, really good first draft.
Mama always told me I was different. As such, when I think up character names, I struggle, really really struggle to come up with names I feel evoke the emotion I want people to feel when they see their name on the page. I have a lot of very arbitrary rules on the matter and as such for the last year names for the characters in the novel I’m attempting to develop have been one of the most difficult things to figure out.
But today, I may have figured out the name of my heroine. Maybe. I like my current given name for her because it’s unique and yet feels familiar. The instant you read her name, you feel like you know her, like you’ve at least encountered someone like her at some point in your life. And, in a sense, her name is a tip off to her native personality — she’s a manic pixie dream girl at heart. But something happened that simply made that lifestyle impossible for her as the story opens.
And, really, that’s a key difference between my heroine and, say, the gold standard for these types of novels — Lisbeth Salander. Salander is just not a very likable person. Men love her because she’s a bad ass, but they probably wouldn’t want to, like, date her. Women like her because she’s strong, complex and dark, but they, too, probably wouldn’t want to be her friend — even if she was interested in such a friendly relationship.
But my Heroine is far different. She’s constructed such that she’s actually rather affable. She’s very focused, yes, and she can easily kick any man’s ass, but she doesn’t have Asperger’s. She’s just a normal young woman who’s had something very surreal happen to her and the story opens with us seeing how that’s warped an otherwise pleasant personality into something much darker and menacing.
I would like to stress, however, that this is all conceit. My writing generally is looked down upon and many people to date have thought it sucked so bad that I shouldn’t even do it to begin with. That’s why development has been so difficult and yet so important. Add to this situation that it’s happening completely in a vacuum and, well, you can begin to understand why it’s taken a year to get to even this point.
I am fully prepared to die of consumption — or a Stieg Larsson-style heart attack — just as the novel I’m developing is sold — if it ever is. But there’s a little part of me that thinks maybe I’ll at least get to be Tom Clancy in the end. He was a bit older when he sold his first novel and lived long enough to enjoy some of the success generated by it. But it’s Larsson to whom I feel a real kindship on a number of different levels and maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to live the dream he was never able to.
I have been developing this concept for about a year now and it’s time to put up or shut up. So, I’m giving myself until Jan. 1st, 2020. I have to accept that whatever I draft I finish by my deadline of about April 2020 is NOT going to be a second draft. It’s a first draft and, as such, something I can’t really share with a lot of people.
The major problem I’ve faced for a year is I came up with the plot really fast and was so ill prepared to give it the structure necessary to support. I spent a year pretty much just running in place as I came across existential problem after existential problem. If I had a wife or a girlfriend — or, hell, just a friend — they would have either told me the whole thing was way beyond my ambition or would have at least been my “reader” to speed up the process. But as it was, I had no one to tell me “no.” I dove full steam ahead into a project that I simply was not prepared to complete with the skillset that I had at the time.
Now, a year later, I finally understand some pretty basic elements of the story. That it’s taken so long to get to this point is really, really embarrassing. Now, at least, if I do manage to finish this novel, I’m not going to embarrass myself. The only difference between this novel and Gone Girl, or maybe Sharp Objects, to be more realistic, is my native writing ability. And Gillian Flynn’s background is such that Verified Liberals on Twitter instantly give her a lot more credit than they ever will me, the middle aged white man hayseed rube crackpot failure dreamer loser in the rural part of a purple flyover state.
Anyway, I can only hold this particular pity party for so long. If nothing else, relative my native writing ability this specific debut novel might be seen as my Reservoir Dogs-Sharp Objects to my second novel’s Pulp Fiction-Gone Girl. Or, maybe, just maybe, it’ll enjoy the I’ll get to enjoy its success. Maybe I’ll, for once, get to enter the promise land of commercial and artistic success, a place that not even Larsson lived to see.
I try to be empathetic to the liberal-progressive agenda. I really, really, do. But when “woke” people come after some pretty basic elements of storytelling I get really, really mad. I have been aware of the “fridging” trope for some time, but I was unaware that essentially now ANY use of anything related to it is “canceled” in woke culture.
Or maybe only women can use it now? Is that it? No matter how great the story is, if women are put in danger for any reason for the sake of a plot it’s “fridging” and looked down upon? Fuck that. What makes it all the worse is how broad and convoluted the arguments against using the threat of violence against women as a storytelling technique are. I mean, really, people. Has anyone looked out the window? The real world is a harsh, brutal place. There are elements of my story should mitigate the “fridging” accusation for a least some of the woke media observers on Twitter who would harp and bitch about the story in the extremely unlikely event this story is actually a success in any way.
The only thing I can do is be extremely aware of that criticism going forward. That’s all I got. I’m not changing my story to fit anyone’s “woke” political agenda. This story is meant to be a great story that *I* enjoy. I just don’t want to embarrass myself.
There comes a point when you just have to accept that you can’t please everyone — especially woke media observers — and simply embrace the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I guess Star Trek, that is a utopia and barely has any conflict, is the only thing we should be shown from now on or something.
I think I have my ages figured out. But it took me a lot longer than I thought it would. The issue is the older my Hero is, the more gravitas he is accrued. But at the same time, if I have a fixed age for my Heroine, then the older he gets, the creepier any romantic connection between the two of them will be.
So, I have split the difference in a sense. He’s just old enough to benefit from being just about middle-aged, but young enough that the average person wouldn’t wince that he’s 20 years older than the Heroine. I keep thinking about basing my Hero on Daniel Craig, but he’s just too old. I can’t help that men at 50 are white hot career-wise when it comes to leading man roles. That says more about how men are given more power as their careers mature in Hollywood than anything else. It really warps storytelling.
But anyway, I have come up with men who are about the age of my Hero to use as a reference point. The real struggle at this point is my natural inclination to make my Hero a “proxy me” and as such far more of a doofus than maybe the audience would like. I need this to be a dark story with a strong Hero, not some Protestant Alvie Singer character who just is nervous and gets beat up. So, that’s a real issue right now. How to make my Hero, well, a Hero.
But, in general, the story is moving a long quite well. The real task at this point is making the second act — which covers a much longer span of time — interesting enough for the readers to spend the time necessary to finish the story.