A TV Question

Guess the character and TV show.

The titular character arrives in a new town at the start of every episode. He tries to keep his head down and fit in but he can’t avoid getting involved. He sees people in trouble, or in need of a friend, and he can’t turn a blind eye to injustice or bullying. He pitches in to help and the town or his new friends are the better for it. By the end of the episode it’s time for him to move on. He simply cannot stay where he is.

Any guesses? I’ll post a pretty picture as a spoiler break to give you a chance for something to suggest itself. Just remember that I am old enough to have watched TV in the 70s and British TV back then had a lot of repeats of American TV from the 60s.

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So. Am I talking about Doctor Richard Kimble in The Fugitive, Dr David Banner (yes it was David on TV, Bruce was his middle name) in The Incredible Hulk, or the unnamed dog in The Littlest Hobo?

I don’t have a point with this. It’s just the when I realised that these three have identical episode structures I couldn’t stop thinking about it and now I’m sharing it with you all.

I don’t mean it as a criticism of this structure or these shows. In many ways it’s the perfect structure for episodic TV, allowing the writers to hit the reset button at the end of the episode and cycle through a lot of guest stars. It made more sense in the days when you couldn’t expect people to keep up with the show and possibly it’s had its day now that we can all stream and record.

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The invisible wall

It feels like there’s an invisible wall between me and my novel. Some part of me doesn’t want to work on it and I’m not sure what it is.

It’s not because I don’t know what to write, or because I’m having plot problems. I know where the story is going and how to write it. It’s not because I don’t like the novel or because I’m tired of the characters. I like it and them as much as I ever have.

It feels like I’m scared of something. Or at least reluctant. Could it be that I’m scared of finishing it because that would mean I’d have to query it and that would mean more rejection?

I’ve invested a lot of hope in this novel. I’m hoping that, because it has a better opening, it will have more chance of attracting an agent. I think the opening is good but it doesn’t solve the problem of writing that doesn’t fit easily into any genre. Agents just don’t seem to be looking for the stories that I write. I’ve been trying to build contacts but so far the contacts that I have don’t link up with the kind of stories that I write.

There’s also the problem of my, apparently, terrible grammar. I say apparently because every grammatical problem that gets pointed out is stuff that I can’t see even after it gets pointed out. I know there are rules to formal english but prose isn’t formal. In prose you’re allowed to break the rules. Unless I’m wrong. Unless I should be following the rules of formal English just so that agents will know that I know what they are. Are agents laughing at my terrible comma usage?

It’s tempting to just give up on the idea of ever getting paid, stick a plain cover on it, self publish and then try to find something else to do with my time. It is just so frustrating to put all this work in on stories that nobody wants to read. I believe in them but I don’t know how to communicate that belief in any useful way.

Filling Potholes and Climbing Hills

For the last week I have been struggling with plot holes. As I wrote before they’re not the novel derailing kind of holes but more like narrative potholes that need to be seamlessly filled so that my readers will not even notice that plot is going on. It’s not the cool or impressive side of writing but it is important.

Fortunately an idea suggested by one of my readers allowed me to make something of the conversation I was writing. I think it’s a funny scene. I think it reveals more about my characters. I hope it hasn’t unbalanced the story because a story isn’t just a sequence of events it’s also a balancing act.

Of course the problem with fixing that one problem is that it reveals the existence of the next thing that needs fixing. It’s like I’m hiking up hill and I’ve reached the summit of the hill only to reveal the next hill that I have to climb and I know that one isn’t the final summit I’m aiming for eather and only God knows how many damn hills are between me and the end of the track.

Having resolved the issue of the conversation that needed to happen I now need to rewrite a sex scene to take into account a change of cast. I think I know what I’m doing with that. Though it’s taken me two days to work it out.

However, on the other side of the sex scene is a scene that marks a major change of direction. My protagonist’s suspicions crystallize, two characters who’ve been passive up to this point begin their own active arcs and it marks the first appearance of the overtly magical/supernatural. This is one of those scenes which will make or break the whole novel. If I cock this up it’ll be the point at which people stop reading. If i get it right people might not even notice it.

Isn’t writing fun?

If you have enjoyed this post you can ensure I remain properly caffeinated by buying me a coffee with Ko-fi.

My personal NaNoWriMo update

The good news is that I’m ahead of where I need to be. The bad news is that my plot isn’t a plot it’s a series of scenes that happen to my characters and which I may, at some point, be able to wrangle into a coherent narrative.

I have finally found this year’s Plot Ninja*. It turned out to be the deeply creepy personal blog written by my killer. So the one thing I can always write about is delusions of an untreated erotomaniac? What does that say about me?

The Fife region that I’m the Municipal Liaison for is doing really well this year. The group are supporting each other both online and in person. Fife is in the global top 50 for average word counts. That can only happen because everyone writing in the region is pushing hard and even when people fall behind they haven’t stopped writing.

Allow me to share my favourite bit of writing so far:

“I wasn’t going to apologise to Archie. He gave night vision goggles to a teenager. Creeping round the house at night is about the least worst thing I could have done with them. He’s just lucky I wasn’t stalking cute boys and girls with them,” said Maggie

Don’t you just love Maggie from that line alone?  No? Maybe it’s just me.

Good luck to all my followers who are writing this month. May your characters be loquacious and co-operative and may your Plot Ninjas be less creepy than mine.

 

*A Plot Ninja is the thing you write about when you’re completely out of ideas but you need to keep writing to keep your momentum up. So named because in one of the early years of NaNoWriMo one of the participants would just have their characters attacked by ninjas whenever they ran out of plot.

How do I do this again?

I’ve accepted a challenge to try and write a straight* mystery novel. Something with none of the usual weirdness that I like. Something a bit more vanilla. I thought it would be an interesting challenge, like limiting myself to the form of a haiku or a sonnet. I thought it would be fun.

I have a starting point and I have some characters and I have a premise but I don’t know where to go from there. The more I try to find my plot it the more my self-doubt screams at me that I don’t know how to do this.

But I do know how to do this. I know how a plot works. I know how to put one together. A plot is a plot and the supernatural and the fantastic and the weird are just trappings. It’s people and the things they do to each other that drives the plot. That remains the same whether the story takes place in the imagined past, in the alternative present and in all possible futures.

It’s like my self-doubt has latched onto the one thing I’m doing differently this time and is waving it like a fucking flag. Look at this. This is the reason you can’t do this. You should give up. You can’t be a ‘proper’ writer so you should just stop trying.

To my self-doubt I say this, “Shut up, bitch. I am a proper writer. A writer writes. I write. Therefore I am a writer. Sticking the word ‘proper’ in front of it is just a bullshit excuse for gatekeeping. Whatever I do as a writer you’re just going to claim that it doesn’t make me a ‘proper’ writer or a ‘real’ writer. I will write whatever I damn well please.”

Which is all very nice and assertive but I still don’t have a plot.

 

*Only straight in the sense of not having any of my usual magical or weird science shenanigans. It will definitely still be queer in every other sense.

Semi-useful displacement activity

Right now I should be sending queries out to agents. Or working on one of the two potential follow ups to the novel that I should be querying. Or I should be cleaning the kitchen. What I’m actually doing is making notes on yet another attempt to write something that my kids will be able to read.

This will be my fourth attempt to write something suitable for the YA (young adult) market. Two failed because I wasn’t ready to write the story. The notes and the first drafts are still there and I will probably come back to them. These stories are probably only temporary YA fails.

The third one failed because I was writing across two time periods and the grown up version of my heroine decided she wanted to jump into bed with of her best friends. I can’t really blame her – he’s gorgeous and available and she thought she was going to die the next day – but explicit post 40 extra-marital sex doesn’t really work for in a YA book. I will probably come back to it and it might work as an adult novel but it’s probably a permanent YA fail.

It is deeply annoying to me that I find it so hard to write stuff that my kids could read. I think a big part of the problem is that I find it very hard to think about my own childhood and teen years. My childhood sucked. My teen years were a nightmare and I’m constantly surprised that I survived. All the advice that I can find about writing for teens says that you should try to remember what it was like to be a teen and my reaction to that is, “Hell no! It sucked enough the first time.”

Of course there’s nothing stopping my kids from reading my other novels. They probably will at some point but I’m putting it off as long as possible. Sorry kids. Your mother has a sick, sick mind and I’d prefer that you didn’t know about it.

The Annual October Panic Begins

In November I write a novel. Well, I write a first draft of a novel. I’ve done it every  November since 2004. It’s all because of NaNoWriMo.

If, for some reason, you don’t want to follow the link I shall explain. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual event where writers get together to write a first draft of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. There are local groups. Meeting other writers is encouraged. It’s how I met a lot of my friends. It’s a lot of fun when it’s not driving us all crazy.

All this means that it is now time for the Annual October Panic. It’s a lot easier to write a novel in a month if you have some kind of plan. So I should be using this month for outlining. But I’m also trying to finish the current draft of a novel (the sexy super-spy one). And I don’t want to get too into the new novel because then I’ll be bored of it by the end of week one. But I do want to have most of the plot sorted before I start. But if I spend too much time on it I wont finish the spy novel.

This is all pretty normal for me in October. What’s new is that this year my NaNo novel will be young adult horror. And I feel completely unprepared. I’m not sure about writing YA. It’s been a while since I was a young adult and I don’t think my experience is going to be useful. I love horror but I haven’t written straight horror before. My plot requires subtle which is not a thing I do well.

So, my loyal readers, here’s where you can help. Do any of you have any tales of real life things that scared the living daylight out of you. They don’t have to be supernatural, just creepy or scary. Do you have any unusual fears that you’re willing to share? Any family superstitions that you’ve never heard of outside your family? Any advice on writing YA? Stick it in the comments, or you could tell me via Facebook or Twitter.

Day 24 of emergency editing

Current total 74,491.  The penultimate day was spent in beginning to deal with another plot problem.  Spoiler warning for Beta readers – you guys might want to skip this blog post, particularly if you’ve already read anything I’ve sent you.  The rest of you should be fine because by the time you read the book these vague hints will have been forgotten.

The previous plot problem is mainly a practical one.  I need to get some of my characters to leave the building they’re in and go somewhere else and it needs to make sense.  I need to decide who is doing what.  I need to loose some characters before the final push.  They don’t necessarily need to die but the need to be somewhere else , partly because it wouldn’t make sense to take them into battle and partly because having so many characters in the scene would make it too unwieldy.

This new one is one of motivation.  I know that my villain is going to do something which will cross the line between well intentioned meddling with a horrific outcome to acts of pure selfishness.  This has to make sense to my villain even while the reader is internally screaming “Don’t do the thing!”