I have no idea if any of this is going to work out the way I talk about here because things continue to be in flux, but this is an interesting monologue about the needs of modern storytelling in the context of men developing strong, complex, believable female characters.
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.
I walk out of movies a lot now that I have been seriously developing and writing a novel. But I saw Knives Out last night and loved it. In fact, the third act was a real “ah-ha” moment for me in regards to the novel I’m writing. I spent the entire drive home talking to myself about the “big black void” that you want to hide from the reader for as long as possible after it happens.
In other words, I now know the exact sequence of events that pretty much the basis of the whole novel’s plot. Now that I know that, I can spend a lot of time dropping clues to the reader leading up to that event and then spend the rest of the novel slowly explaining to them what happened. It’s a major step forward in the plot. Though I have to admit the novel is going to be a lot more Knives Out and a lot less Gone Girl for no other reason than I simply am not as twisted and dark as Gillian Flynn is. I’m just too nice. But I still have a time to make things darker than I am naturally inclined to do, I guess.
One thing is clear — this novel is going to fast paced and very easy to film if it ever became that popular. I’m a visual person and love movies and it’s just difficult for me not to essentially write a novel that’s very cinematic in nature from the ground up. In that sense, I am very much like Michael Crichton in the sense that I think he wrote his novel’s with the assumption they would be filmed.
On a side note, I really, really like Daniel Craig. He’s the gold standard for who I imagine my Hero being in my mind. But there are a lot of problems with that relative to who the character is. My Hero is too much like me in ( some respects) for there to be a 1-to-1 correlation. But I am trying to make my female romantic lead a lot like a combination of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Alexa Chung. Sorta. She’s definitely sort of in that spectrum of brunette British woman.
But anyway, I still have a huge amount of work to do. But I am definitely pushing myself to my creative limits in development, if nothing else. This novel is becoming more and more a reflection of my own personal history and personality.
To date, I’ve been very strict with my structure because I really want to stay in the 165,000 to 185,000 word sweet spot. But looking at the macro structure of the story, I realize the time has come not to be so tough on myself.
I need to let the story breathe some structurally. So, things should move a lot faster, hopefully. The structure isn’t going to fit the “rules” absolutely. It’s going to be a little different than it’s “supposed” to be. But it still fits the general rules, just not as strictly.
So over the course of the next few days, I’m going to flesh out scenes on a tactical level. I hope to start writing again no later than early next week, if not sooner. I just have to believe in myself.
The story is strong enough and I know the universe well enough that I should not be absolute in some of my “rules” that I have previously placed on myself. And, yet, I needed to that earlier because it gave me some guidelines. Now that I feel a little bit more comfortable with the story, I think I can simply go where I feel the story needs to go.
As such, the first part of the second act is likely going to be a little longer than the second half. Or, to put another way, I can allow there to be more scenes in the first half knowing the second half can have the same number of scenes but actually fewer words.
I have been deleting a lot of the videos I did about the novel I’m writing because they’ve garnered too much attention. I just don’t feel like having to worry about some Hollywood screenwriter somehow cribbing enough from the videos to write a screenplay inspired by what I’m working on.
Now, I know this is rather paranoid. But only the paranoid survive. All I have is my belief in myself. I would prefer they come out with a hack rip off of my novel’s concept sooner rather than later so I can at least not have wasted a lot of time on it.
But if this were to happen, I’m sure it would come out just about the time I want to sell the book, if not later. That I’m this paranoid is even crazier given that I have spoken in rather vague terms about what exactly I’m working on.
I just can’t handle seeing a lot of people looking the videos in my Webstats. It makes me extremely uneasy because I don’t know _why_ they’re looking at a post, just that they’re looking at it.
Anyway. The last few days I’ve kind of been resting my mind. I think I’m going to finally get back to working on the novel very soon. No later than tomorrow, maybe. It’s just the entire country is on vacation and I think I sense that enough to not feel like doing much work, either.