Writing Report, July 25, 2016
Not as productive a week as I’d hoped. I did quite a bit of writing but mostly for the blog. Actually, it ended up a lot more productive than when I uploaded the first draft of this post. Over the last two nights I managed to write the last 3,500 words of the barbarian story, bringing the total word count to about 15,500. The final draft may be a little longer, may be a little shorter: There are a few things I know I'll have to flesh out, there are doubtlessly plenty of places where I can trim and tighten things up.
On the whole I'm happy with it.
I am facing a couple of minor problems, though. The first is a matter of staging: I have seven characters in a room and four of them have to leave in a precise sequence in order for the rest of the climax to work.
They can’t just saunter out, either; there’s some pretty grim urgency to this, like being trapped in a burning building (only what’s facing them is infinitely worse that a mere burning building).
But my original staging of this part of the climax is coming across rather clunky and clumsy; I’m going to need to redo it significantly in the next draft. I’ve opted to complete this scene based on how I’ve started it because once they are out of this particular area they head off in separate directions, each to fulfill a specific function for the story’s climax; however, I’m going to have to go back and plot out the moves on paper so the staging makes sense in the final draft.
The second problem is easier to solve and will be solved in the next draft though for consistency’s sake I stuck with what I started using in this draft: My protagonist’s name reflects the ultimate origin of the story idea, a joke based on another well established character.
Since that character is not public domain, I couldn’t use that name, but I did find a real name that was suitable for my protagonist and fairly close to the original well established character’s name as well.
Thing is, I think that name would work if I’d kept the story down to 2,800-3,500 words. In it’s original conception the story, while not a parody, would have been recognized as a pastiche of the original character and so the new name would have been excusable.
But a 15,000+ word story carries a different kind of weight, and if I’m going to expand it with not one but three sequels to bring it to novel length, then what was excusable as a short story becomes too coy and works against the book.
So my protagonist will acquire a new name when I move into the next draft, but one that I think will work even better: Somewhat more exotic sounding, and less obviously connected to the original well established character.
And speaking of names, a rough writing rule of thumb I’ve stumbled across while doing this story:
- If a character appears in only one scene to fulfill a single specific function, you may refer to them just by their occupation or general description(a courier who delivers an info dump message, a cop who writes a parking ticket to make the protagonist’s day worse, etc.)
- If that character appears two or three times but always in the same function they can still be identified just by generic description though giving them a hint of individuality doesn’t hurt (say the cop writing a ticket is a running gag)
- But if they’re in two or more scenes with at least two different functions they need a name and some sort of personality; they’re full fledged albeit minor characters now(the courier delivers a message then fights a duel unrelated to the message)
Samuel R. Delaney, in his book of essays The Jewel-Hinged Jaw (IIRC), referred to a method of creating characters that another writer had devised (alas, that writer’s name I cannot recall!). I’ll share that with you in the next writing report.