NaNoWriMo 2018 Prep : Perspective

I tend not to like stories that are told from a single view point. It’s not universal by any means, there are great stories out there that solely follow a protagonist, and I’ve probably enjoyed many of them, but generally I don’t like it.

I hunger to see things from other points of view, including the villains and antagonists. You get more character depth, plans and plots are grander and more intriguing when you can see what goes into them, and the stakes are a little higher because the story doesn’t have to be reliant on one person to tell it, which means characters can die, no one is safe.

This is entirely a personal thing, it’s an authors choice, and audience considerations, etc…

And it can go wrong too, in A Song Of Ice and Fire, clearly the multiple perspectives gets out of control when you have to read the same scene three or four times from different characters perspectives across a couple of books. Yeah that becomes difficult for the reader.

It also leads to things like “There’s not enough Aardvark-man in this Aardvark-man story”, because you spend too long away from your protagonist setting up an exciting their act. Though in fairness, that could just be a sign of weak or stupid villains or plans, because maybe if Aardvark-man stepped in act at two, he should be able to sniff out the plan and fix it before it escalates, so you just had to keep him away.

Anyway, so going through the major events of my NaNoWriMo novel for this November, I’ve marked on what perspective each one will be from.

Not only that I’ve decided any that my protagonist will be in, it will always be from their perspective, almost like they’re powerful enough to take control whether they’re around. Other perspectives in the story will come from the companions of the perspective, the Hero, (not the protagonist, but the one they must find to save the day and all that jazz), the antagonists, (big bad and henchmen), and because I want my story to have impact and stakes I’d like a few scenes from ancillary character’s perspectives – you know voice of the local people, common soldiers – people who pay the price for grand big important people’s ambitions.

Not worked out where or what the ancillary characters scenes will be, but I can’t help feeling they’ll be important to the aesthetic I want. I also don’t want them taking over the story, they should still drive the plot, or provide very specific context, rather than being there for the sake of it.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Prep : Plotting

So I’ve redone the plot I was working on. It’s still on the same world, but I’ve made the story more focused, more character driven, hopefully with compelling characters in the heroes and villains. The over arcing plot of the series I’m anticipating is still the same, a multi world conquest story, but we’re starting off small, and building out.

Going through a standard three act set up, with a major point in the middle of the novel, and a climatic battle at the end, so everything builds becomes bigger from start to finish, as there’s a couple of smaller conflicts earlier on. Nothing really innovative there, but I’m not going for innovative, I’m going for character moments.

Five talkie bits are planned, which hopefully I can keep quite snappy and not exposition heavy, (something I’m quite prone to), outside of those moments dialogue will be functional “Go here,” “Go there,” “Phew! that was close”, with actions and behaviours used to tell those parts of the stories. By no means is this the best way to write, it’s more if I do it, I can avoid a lot of pitfalls I fall into, (like circular dialogue that fails to end at a natural point).

So character wise on the good guy side (nominally the overall plot blurs who’s good and bad, but for the first novel it’ll be quite clear), we have a young character, an innocent caught up in something greater, and destined for something massive, then there’s the wise mentor, and a roguish mentor and defender, alongside a cast of supporting roles like military leaders, politicians, traders, and general people. A goal will be to have more dynamic and engaging secondary and tertiary characters.

On the bad guys, there’ll be a couple of military leaders who have the same goal, but sit in opposition to each other on methods, with one aiming for a domination victory, and the other a very targeted crafty plot.  I want them to be compelling, and to sew the seeds that they are the villains of the piece, but there’s a broader ethics involved which would allow for that obfuscation of heroes and villains later in the over arcing plot.

So –  a lot of work to do to make all that a reality, but at least most of the planning I’d done to this point is still valid and very useful. The history of the world still applies, though I’ve realised if I want to rely less on exposition, I might struggle to get some of it in, there’s only really one point in my plot where I can, (and must), show the history of the world. So, some block breakers are going to be experiments in historical exposition, and exposition generally.

Block breakers are now definitely going to be part of my prep after the recent trouble of number three, I might also do an out right short story as world setup for the NaNoWriMo novel, focusing on one character’s earlier life before the planned story takes place.

Well this makes me uncomfortable

So, let’s talk women, but that’s not going to get me in trouble at all. Actually, it really does, I’m terrible at writing women to the point I’ve written stories that featured one female character, because I know I don’t do it well.

First of all, let me explain, I’m not sexist, or at least I don’t think of myself as sexist. I just struggle with the perspective, even though intellectually I know we all see the same world, and reactions and motivations are the same – when I write a female character it just doesn’t read back well. Anyway, that’s my problem, it’s something I’m working on, my protagonist is a female badass type, and a mother.

All that being said, over the years I’ve read many bad portrayals of female characters, most are bad because of the stereotypes, perceptions, behaviours and sidelining which belongs in decades ago, if it belonged at all.

I recently came across a  blog post that tackled this in a really clever way, it’s by a woman called Meg Elison and was on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, link here and at the end: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/if-women-wrote-men-the-way-men-write-women 

It’s entitled, If Women Write Men the Way Men Write Women, which makes as uncomfortable reading as you can imagine. Some of them would make uncomfortable reading whatever the gender of the character, others if it was a man that was the focus, you would accept with few questions, after all lads are just lads, you switch the roles though and you can see why it would feel demeaning. Cads are a fact of life, but a female cad does feel wrong – and yet the behaviours, and the results are the same.

It’s a great thought provoking article, and I highly recommend you read it, it’s definitely worth five minutes of your time. I’m suddenly conscious of all the times the murderess in murder mysteries is somehow always more wicked and evil than their female counterparts, whether or not their crimes were less or more.

As I continue to write male and female characters I’m going to try and keep it in mind. Terrible behaviour is terrible no matter who does it, and if other characters are going to react differently, I’d still like the story to treat them the same.

What if Women Wrote Men the Way They Write Women

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My Top 5 Evil Protagonists

I love morally good hero, I also love flawed but good heroes, obviously the anti hero love is strong and am so so about mostly neutral heroes… But every so often I love a villainous protagonist.

I’m a good guy by nature, I shy away from doing wrong, so there’s something a little titillating about seeing life from the other side of the moral line, to see a bank heist come together, to follow an assassin about his business. I don’t want to be them, and in real life most of them would belong in prison.

You won’t find the truly evil here, I’ve got my limits, and nothing based on real events, this isn’t the most evil protagonists of all time, just my favourites.

Enough said bring in the list:

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