Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"I love it when a plan comes together."

So, I've just kind of been sitting on my novel, lately, waiting to put the finishing touches on it. I'm waiting for some additional feedback on my new draft before I make any sweeping changes to it (though I have gone through and done some dusting off based on some more 'generic' editing advice that I found very helpful).

Still, what feedback I have gotten so far has (thankfully enough) jived with a lot of my own thoughts about what flaws still remain in the manuscript. That's definitely a good thing, insofar as it lets me know that I'm probably focusing on the right things; the bad thing, though, is that it mostly centers on the 'wrapup' portion of the story.

Now, I knew from the beginning of writing this novel that I was writing a fairly convoluted story, with a number of characters and plot threads to keep track of; I hope that it's not too confusing by the time one gets to the end, and initial feedback shows that, yes, readers are at least still able to follow and enjoy it. The problem with things are they are now, though, near as I can tell, is that there's still a pretty big mix of key information points that go explained and ones that go unexplained.

The tricky part of storytelling, in that regard, is that all of the 'relevant information' to the mystery behind the plot all exists in my head, and so when I sit down and think of the story, I know how it all goes and how it all ties together. I do not, however, have my manuscript itself 100% memorized, so in turn, I'm not 100% sure what all is and is not explicitly stated or even strongly hinted at. It's for that reason that I know I'm going to need to actually re-read the manuscript itself (it's been a while since I've written my latest draft, thankfully), and really try to look at it from the point of view of someone who doesn't know how it all ends, and see in which ways the ending does or doesn't make sense.

In my first draft, the story went on a big too long after the climax, plodding along clumsily after the story should have been tied up and packed away. For the second draft, I figured that I'd end up overcorrecting for this problem by making the end now too short, and it sounds like that's exactly what I did. Still, knowing that that's where one of my biggest problems lies is very helpful in letting me know where I need to focus my energies first when it comes to finishing this thing up.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Info Dump

When I'm not writing ("You mean you do other things with your spare time, heathen?"), one of the things I like to do is play video games. Lately, the time I get to spend playing them is kind of sparse, though, so when I do play a game, I kind of consider it an investment, and so I like making sure that I get my time's worth.

Usually, this means that I end up playing games that come with a big, enjoyable story.

Well, one of the biggest, most convoluted, most... bewilderingly-complex of stories for a video game in recent history is probably that of the Xenosaga series. After a few months of plodding, I finally finished the third and final installment, and I was doing some reflecting on it (as one tends to do when finishing up a story).

Now, say what you will about pretentious Japanese storytelling (and the general bogged-downedness of Xenosaga in particular): there's still a lot of information, there, and it's clear that the people behind it put a lot of thought into it. The third game goes so far as to include a database (a pretty honkin' huge database), containing just about every bit of encyclopedic detail one could ask to have about the series.

I was thinking about this database after I was done with the game; it contains an awful lot of information that would just be too awkward to shoehorn into the actual storytelling of the game, or which wouldn't ever be relevant enough to warrant mentioning on its own. Even so, it's still there in the database, almost as if to say, "Hey, in case you care or are curious, this is the deal with X." And for some reason, the inclusion of this database resonates with me.

In creating my own worlds for storytelling, I do try to put a lot of thought into them, and how they work. Most notable is probably the world in which my current novel-in-progress is set: I've spent the last several years thinking up more and more details on how the world works, what the political situation is, what different cultures are like, what took place in world history... basically, it's a lot of stuff that is helpful to me in forming a setting that I can write into, but which is a lot more information than I'd ever force a reader to slog through just in order to get through a single story, even a novel-length one.

I guess what it comes down to is that, when all is said and done, only a very small percent of what I think up is ever going to get into something the reader sees, and part of the fun of writing, I guess, is in picking what portions of this world are worth sharing and worth reading about--and, to a different extent, in finding ways to slyly include other bits of information into the story in a way that the reader might not notice until afterwards, because its inclusion was just so subtle and organic that it never drew attention to itself.

Even so, the idea of putting together a big encyclopedic database like the one in Xenosaga does make me smile, just because I'd be flattered by the notion that someone would care enough to want to know that much about that which I'd created.

Then again, I guess the next best thing (or, really, the better thing) to do would just be to keep writing more and more novels in said setting, so that I could make the place as real as possible for the people who wanted to spend time there.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

That Which Fuels the Fires

So, I've learned that the coffee shop that I frequent has its own blog and webpage.

This is where I do a good portion of my quality writing, including my novel writing. I thought that maybe some of you might be interested in seeing where the magic happens.