Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wednesday Writer's Report

If you want to write about outdoor adventures, it's important to actually get away from the desk and experience it a little. This is where my roommate and I went yesterday afternoon.

On the trail at Lake Norman State Park, photo by Joey the C.

The ivy covered the trees, like above, in one little section of the trail. Curious phenomenon, really.

The surreal part of the this, for me, is that I'm writing about "springtime", so the nuances of my observations help me to pretend that I'm making things more "real". For instance, there was a lot of detritus, moisture on the ground. Dead pine leaves. Not alot of animals, so we had to stalk the birds and listen to the squeaking of the baby avians.

One of the 6 or so Turkey Vultures we attempted to stalk, who caught onto us a bit too easily.

Lesson of the day: March isn't April. The childhood phrase, "April showers bring May flowers." comes to mind. I'm wanting to write about plush fields and vibrant flowers, and my recent hiking sojourns have impressed upon me that I'm not being accurate. Plant and animal life are struggling to be born, are coming out of winter's slumber, and are just now beginning to show the very first signs of what will be "plush and vibrant".

Aside, I envision a great many ivy covered trees (silver ivy, not green) in the forest where the story begins. Like the photo above. My revision will need to accomodate more for the dead stuff on the ground, methinks.

Last week's entry dealt with pacing, and this is mildly related. I mentioned last week of a "global event" that will adhere the pacing and character POV's, and the story is approaching this point.

In terms of overall progress I spent most of the last week revising the POV chapters to match the new pacing structure. Maybe 5,000 new words, of which 2/3 of them were filling in gaps and transitioning previously written (but incomplete) chapters. That will be one half of the writing tasks for the week ahead.

After that, the story will progress into new material that mostly is just lingering in my head, and follows a couple of rough outlines I've drawn up.

This week's question/concern is "Story within a story". I have two "Global Event" POV chapters to go along with the current (4-5 main characters) storyline.

The overall story does not require more than a chapter for the events in question, so I felt that deriving a separate arc(s) would deaden the relatively brisk pace of the novel as it is.

Why include them? Good question. One is to broaden the scope of the reader to the world, to impress upon them that other tribes and elements are indeed at work. Yes, this lays a groundwork for more complicated storylines in the future, but that's the point of this story, "Catalyst".

I also cover something in the Prologue that is potentially unresolved without these two chapters. There are 6 ugly fellas mentioned in the beginning, and the main story only covers 4 of them. The short stories cover the question that might come up, "Hey what about those other ugly fellas?"

I am of the opinion that a short story within the scope of the novel isn't a bad thing, and will break up what is essentially two broad perspectives at this moment in the novel.

One of the short stories (which I started yesterday, and then alas, got interrupted), involves a main character of the early chapters and is a follow up to actions he suggested that he would take. Otherwise, his POV isn't really worth following where concerns the overall tale.

The second one, however, introduces new tribes, new cultures and new POV's and is really the one that shows the vastness of the world. It needs to be written with a strong hook, arc, climax and resolution so that it stands alone. It will answer questions arising from the prologue - and - due to their cultural perspective, will provide a very detailed understanding of and response to the global event.

But, the resolution involves actions which will take time to put into place, and are otherwise uninteresting and unrelated to the main storyline. Thus, one chapter.

I don't expect to bang out both shorts and the other chapters leading up to the global event in one week, but stranger things have happened. My goal is to finish one main chapter revision and to finish the story I started yesterday. Beyond that, all bonus.

Discussion point for today's (lengthy) post: How disturbing - or not - is a story within a story?


  1. Personally I love a 'story within a story' however this has to be approached (to me ) in a way that makes it clear that is what it is.

    Otherwise I get a little frustrated at not knowing what happens to those characters and I feel that sometimes these mini-stories can lead the reader to think a writer is introducing new characters which will be seen later on, and this can be a little irksome if you are then waiting in vain for them to show up.

    But you know how you get little fables (Stormbringer comes to mind here) within a tale? That can really work especially in this genre.


  2. Interesting. As if, the resolution has to be crisp and clear about where the short story ends.

    That seems obvious now, huh? But that's why these blogs are so important to me and this process, because I'm pretty sure I would have left the story-within-a-story with a more open ending, only to go along further with the overall nature of the tale, that it's a catalyst for future events.

    But, you make a good point, and in one line I could segue the completion of that chapter back into the mainframe of the novel and still give that chapter closure.

    Thanks, Raine.

  3. I prefer crisp and clear resolutions myself, but leaving things open-ended and left to reader interpretation is a route that some authors pursue with success as well.

    Stories within a story can take many forms as well. A diary or journal. A lay sung to express the feelings of a primary character (Aragorn and the Story of Luthien and Beren from 'Lord of the Rings' come to mind). This is up to the discretion of the author.

    Good luck, Bill.

  4. Thanks, Brian.

    I do like the form of a ballad to tell a story. It may not go in this piece, but I have a future character as an outlet for exactly that sort of thing.

    I also like the idea of a journal. Some of my earlier protagonist material actually did take journal form; I hadn't really considered it for use in a novel, but I don't see why it wouldn't work.

    Come to think of it, I do have a POV that is introduced later in the tale, who would be the sort to keep a journal - I may have to tinker with that, see if it works.


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