Writing Progress: Week Ending November 19, 2011

I’ve struggled these past few weeks to top over 2,000 words.  I got close this week, but still didn’t make it.

Book of M:

  • Background Notes Wordcount: 1,804 words

Grand Total: 1,804 words

On the plus side, however, where last week I had begun writing, at last, the history of the pivotal war responsible for the milieu of the present-day setting, this week I finished writing the war and got about half-way through the aftermath and remaining history before the start of the story itself.  Another week, two at most, and I should have a complete historical account, insofar as can even remotely be considered relevant to the story at hand.  My next steps, after finishing this history, is character briefs and related notes and plot outline/synopsis. 

The character notes and the plot synopsis I’ll probably develop in parallel, because the course of the plot will depend a lot on the characters and the development of the characters will depend a lot on the events of the plot.  In many ways, I guess, I see plot and character as equal in importance and co-dependent: you can’t have one without the other.  Plot grows out of conflict between characters, but characters grow and develop based on circumstances and events of the plot.  Done well, and the two feed on each other in a cycle.

I’ve considered the history important, meanwhile, because it sets the stage for who the characters are before we are introduced to them.

Now, in a semi-related, semi-off-topic line of thinking… bear with me as I switch gears slightly.

Since I first described my current novel project as “Mad Max meets Final Fantasy” (though I’ve since learned not to lean on the “Final Fantasy” description because – I was told this by Robert Jordan‘s widow Harriet McDougal and author Brandon Sanderson – some, perhaps many editors are old and consequently don’t play many video games and therefore may never have heard of “Final Fantasy”; but I digress) I’ve come to think of my novel as, in a very small way, part homage to the Final Fantasy series.  Sufficiently enough that where there is an airship in the story (I do also call it “steampunk-flavored”, ergo airships), I plan to name the captain of said airship some variant of “Sid/Cid” (although altered to fit the linguistic structure of the place he comes from in the story).

But as I was thinking about this, another thought crossed my mind: in Final Fantasy games summoning is always an important part of the magic system, and there are a few monster-characters that are always available for summoning, such as “Ifrit” and “Bahamut” and a few others.  And so I wondered: how far do I take this homage concept?  Do I want to change up the magic system just a little to include summoning?  Do I want large flightless birds to be a common form of transportation?  Or does this sort of thing cross the line from homage to… I don’t know, either plagiarism or stultifying derivativeness? 

Either way, I hadn’t considered the flightless bird issue until just now, writing this, but I had seriously considered adding some sort of “summoning” element to the magic system (however, avoiding the common summon creatures of Final Fantasy history).  But… what do you think, dear reader?  Would these sorts of little touches in a book be like interesting inside jokes to you – something that adds depth and flavor and character to a book, and makes it special – or would it seem like the author was trying to hard?  Do share your thoughts.

And while your sharing your thoughts on that subject, why don’t you let us know how your writing week went, as well?

13 thoughts on “Writing Progress: Week Ending November 19, 2011

  1. I probably wouldn’t do anything other than the names. I wouldn’t add plot elements as part of the homage. Just my opinion. I’ve done more references with chapter titles than anything else, but some with character names as well, as I talked about on my blog: http://u-town.com/collins/?p=190.

    As for my week, I’ve backslid a bit. Unlike everybody else, for me November is make-my-novel-shorter month, but I’ve realized that I need to restore one more story to the book. It’s really short, and I can’t do without it. There’s a character who appears at the end of the last story, and I think she really needs to appear in the book before that. She’s talked about in three different stories, but that’s not the same as the reader actually seeing her. Her appearance will be much more dramatic if she’s already been seen. Oh, well.

    • Yeah, I’m leaning more in that direction, homage-wise: that is, that I’m leaning more toward names and other superficial or cosmetic elements, and shying away from elements that would materially affect the story itself. That would require a more significant reworking of the plan, and could potentially radically alter the story – which I don’t want to do. As for your own: it looks like one more step toward making this collection you’re working on more like a novel and less like a short-story collection. Your project’s development path is kind of interesting to me, in an academic way.

  2. I love Final Fantasy. Specifically, Final Fantasy VII but in general, I love the chocobos, the airships, the way it always seems to start out as a small inconsequential event in a self absorbed character’s life and then becomes a globe trotting quest to save the world!

    I definitely understand your dilemma. However, my understanding of an homage is about as sound as my understanding of interweb etiquette so I looked it up and while I think a slight nod towards the game would be a fun twist, I don’t think you should have to change your whole magic system. I like the idea of having someone named Cid and the traveling on airships or flightless birds. Maybe even having someone attempting to carry a ginormous sword and then realizing the impracticality? But I think having them spread out as Easter eggs would be better because as crazy as it sounds, not everyone has played a Final Fantasy game so they more than likely will miss out on a lot of the things you put in.

      • Yes, for the most part, yes I am. There are occassions in which I default to something more akin to a pantser style (shorter stories, for example, I do little to no prep-work for, and longer short stories have more but still relatively little prep-work, compared to novel-length work) – but even then I still usually have some idea of the ending I’m writing toward even before I start, so I’m almost never discovering the whole story as I write – just the parts in between. But for novels and other longer works: yes, I’m very much the planner.

    • Yeah I think you’re right. Although, I feel compelled now to offer a confession: I’ve never actually played more than a few minutes of FF VII. I’m somewhat familiar with its storyline – but I first played FF games back when they were on the SNES, and then went on a long videogame hiatus that lasted until I picked up a PS2 and with it FF VIII. I keep meaning to go back and play FF VII… I just don’t have as much free video-game time as I’d like (and what free time I do have I usually tend to try to put toward writing, although often it gets absorbed by other, less fun things). Interestingly, I didn’t even consider the “flightless bird” scenario until writing this post – but the idea is growing on me. The world I’m creating is populated with a number of unique, non-standard, and invented species (i.e. as much as it pains me, no dragons or other common fantasy species or creatures). A large and unusual (and occassionally domesticated) flightless bird might actually make sense in that milieu.

      • “i.e. as much as it pains me, no dragons or other common fantasy species or creatures”

        Originality pains you? 🙂

        I like it when writers actually create their own, as opposed to relying on dragons (or vampires, werewolves, etc.).

      • Ah, see, I don’t see the use of a trope as being mutually exclusive with originality. There are a lot of very creative things you can do by including a familar trope or idea that you can’t do by using something that is wholly invented. Invented creatures, for instance, can be interesting in a book, but they carry no emotional cachet nor mythological weight. They’re ex nihilo and as such they have no immediate meaning to the reader and no expectations. You have to create that meaning for the reader, and that involves a lot of additional backstory that using something more familiar doesn’t necessarily require. You also can’t twist expectations if the reader comes with no expectations to something wholly invented. For instance, if I say that a character has been delving into a deep cave, and then discovers a “Glarm” in a large cavern – what does that tell you? The character knows what a Glarm is, and is familiar with it, but the reader is not. Of course I’ll go on to describe the Glarm – just as I would if I said the character encountered a dragon, or a cyclops, or a dire wolf, or a troll, or whatever. But by saying one of those latter things, the reader can immediately form an emotional judgment of the situation based on my use of a familiar mythological creature. And that’s a potentially useful thing. And besides all that, I said “as much as it pains me, no dragons” specifically because as a fantasy and mythology afficianado I have a particular fondness for dragons, because of positive qualities they possess, as a trope, too numerous to list.

      • I have nothing against tropes — I write about a detective who says “gather all the suspects,” after all — but I stay away from the ones that are currently popular. (Are dragons big — I mean popular — these days? They were when I read more fantasy, but that was a while ago.) I’m glad I wrote my vampire story when I did; I wouldn’t do one now.

        I use a lot of detective story tropes, but mostly they were popular fifty to a hundred years ago. People still know them, though, as you say, and I can use that.

        On the other hand, to play devil’s advocate, wouldn’t it have been cool to have thought up hobbits? Ot Tom Bombadil? Or the balrog, which was plenty scary even though I’d never heard one and had no idea what one looked like.

      • Insofar as I can tell: no, Dragons are not particularly popular, right now, outside of the Eragon fanbase. Very little of the new epic fantasy of which I am aware features dragons or dragon-like beings. Myself, I don’t actively avoid, eschew, or embrace trends one way or the other. I just write what interests me, and what I think I can do well. But yes, I think it would be cool to be the inventor or originator of something that enters the general lexicon of my genre. But I think that happens less and less these days. You have to be not just popular but universal to have that kind of genre-changing effect. Like Lord of the Rings. Or Harry Potter, for a more contemporary example. Which is not an argument against inventing new things: done well it can be great. I was just arguing that effective storytelling, originality and creativity are not mutually exclusive with either using time-tested and time-trusted tropes or inventing new things whole-cloth. To be sure, over the course of my writing career (such as it may be), I intend to invent many new things.

  3. Hmm I’ve got to admit I’ve only played one FF game, and it was one with midi music and sprites for graphics LOL. I get what you’re trying to do, but hrm, a slight nod is definitely better. Would hate for people to read your novel and think it’s FF fan fiction.

    • Indeed. Although, the beauty of the FF series, as far as Fan Fiction is concerned, is that each game is an original world and original story (mostly), so FF Fan Fiction would theoretically follow the same pattern. But still… I’m not writing Fan Fiction, and don’t intend to… just giving it a nod as part of the source of inspiration for the story. Finding the balance-point at which the nod is meaningful (and noticeable to fans/readers looking for easter eggs) but not over-the-top of pushing fan fiction territory, that’s what I’m looking for. Which FF game was it that you played?

  4. Pingback: Writing Progress: Week Ending January 21, 2012 « The Undiscovered Author

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