Tags: novel

Thoughts on Rebellion

Last week an ebook reviewer made the following observation about two of the stories in "Dead Men Don't Cry":

Both were gripping, but I also found them to be interesting for a different reason. I felt that the reader was being shown something about why people make the decision to rebel, and it wasn’t so much about recognition of injustice, but more how our attachments and relationships colour our decisions; how we make dangerous and sometimes futile stances for those we love because we love them.

This observation fascinates me, especially because rebellion plays a major role in my current Work-In-Progress. Jyle and Mikaena are each rebelling against the established values of their cultures, with predictably abrasive results. Mikaena's reasons for doing so are right in line with the pattern Caleb identified. She cares about people, and she can't bear to see the needs of others being trodden down by the calcified traditions of her clan.

Jyle, however, is the classic example of rebelling for intellectual reasons. He grew up in a sheltered environment, with little opportunity to know or care about the people his family were hurting. And yet he was willing to risk his own life, and his own family's survival, in order to create the possibility of a better world. It's like he can't stand the fact that the world is imperfect. He feels compelled to fix things, or at least compelled to try.

All of this is tangential to the surface plot, and doesn't play a large role in the events of the story, per se. And yet it's all there, running beneath the surface, shaping the characters and their responses to the crises that beset them.

This is why I love getting thoughtful, well-written reviews. Because they make me view my stories in new ways, and I become a better writer in the process.

Elevator Pitches

First -- THANK YOU EVERYONE who commented on the cover quiz. Left to my own devices, I probably would have gone for the one on the right, and that clearly is not the best choice in this case. You guys rock, and I'm glad I have you.

Second -- Since you've all listened to me ramble about Ye Aggravating Novel on so many occassions, I thought you might like to hear the elevator pitch we pounded out at the Villa Diodati workshop. (An elevator pitch, for those who may not know, is a brief, tantalizing description of one's book. There's an excellent Writing Excuses podcast that describes pitching in more detail.)

So here's the informal answer to "What's your book about?":

It's about a girl on a planet where night is deadly. And it’s also got giant lizards.

And the more formal description (kudos to Stephen Gaskell for this one):

What if you lived where night never fell? And if it did you would die. That's the situation for Mikaena, a young girl in an nomadic caravan that is always on the move to escape the deadly, encroaching night. The conflict begins when Mikaena rescues an injured foreigner even though clan law forbids it.

The book is reminiscent of Frank Herbert’s Dune novels in that it combines advanced technology with a regressive society in a highly inhospitable environment.


Now, these may not be perfect, but they're WORLDS better than what I had before. And I've been trying for about two years. My conclusion is that elevator pitches are a group brainstorm type of project. I mean, if you come up with something awesome all by yourself, that's great. But if not, my recommendation is to corral a group of your friends, bribe them with good food, and refuse to let them out of the room until you have a working pitch premise.

Foiled Again

I'm beginning to suspect that some cosmic force is conspiring to keep me from finishing A New Kind of Sunrise. I had the second half of October blocked off for novel writing, dang it! As soon as I got back from my trip to Frankfurt, I was going to dig straight into the beautiful process of story creation.

But no. Somehow two social events and a child's birthday party have slipped onto the schedule. Also a book edit, several web site updates, and a massive re-organization of the house.

Clearly, the virtual gargoyles I attached to my calendar are not earning their keep.

Good Writing Day

Finally making progress on the WIP. Clan tensions and a storm brewing. Mikaena's uncle gets called out for keeping secrets, and a new clue explaining the mysterious ailment affecting the burden lizards.

Fan Letters

They are life's blood. They are glowing rays of sunshine on dreary days. They come from nowhere, and leave you smiling.

They convince you that you might, possibly, be capable of writing something that isn't utter drivel.

Thank you, everyone who has ever sent me one. You keep me going.

I'm concerned about the subtext of my WIP

Over the course of the book, Mikaena must abandon tradition, conformity, and the teachings of her ancestors. She embraces technology, a taboo more sacred to her people than premarital sex was to Puritans.

How do I make it clear that Mikaena's choice is right and proper without seeming to advocate the blatant violation of everything one's culture holds dear?

I get it I get it I get it!

I get what's wrong with the second half of my novel: Mikaena stopped growing.

She spends Part I pushing against barriers, craving a bigger, more wondrous world than the one permitted by tradition. She eventually gets it, and then -- nothing. She's dragged into a slew of gun fights and save-the-world action that leave her... utterly unchanged.

Bo-ring.

New plan. Mikaena needs to spend Part II coping with that new life she was wishing for. She wanted freedom? Adventure? Forbidden knowledge? Well, she's got it, and it's not all sunshine and roses. She'd better realize that going back is impossible; innocence is gone forever, and she's got to push forward to find the peace that comes from understanding the universe and where she fits in it.

While Saving the World, of course.

I Covet This Cover

PrincessCurse type

Unfortunately, it's already taken. By Merrie Haskell, no less, who is an excellent author and probably wrote a much better book than I'll ever manage.

But.

When my novel is finished, and I sell it... I want a cover kind of like that.

Plodding Along.

Whew. Several hundred words later, I'm thinking my novel might be worth something after all.

You know, I used to be unable to read when I was working on a story. I was concerned that I might contaminate the comfy cloud of the story world and lose myself in someone else's world instead.

I'm not quite sure when that changed. But this week I've been reading Peter V. Brett's Demon Trilogy, and I find that it is helping me to notice areas where my own story is weak. I see how Brett manipulates the situation to maximize tension; I see the way he places his characters in jeapordy and lets them rise above the common man; I see the way he keeps the action moving on every page -- and I see the ways in which my own work does not measure up, and how I can make it better.

Looking forward to reading another few chapters once the kids are in bed tonight.