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.

Post NaNoWriMo Challenge Plans

So following NaNoWriMo this year, win or lose, I’ve decided on a challenge to continue writing and build on whatever momentum I have, (or lost during November if it doesn’t go well).

I’ve got dozens of stories in my drafts that I’ve never finished for one reason or another, I’m going to go through them and finish a couple a week during November. Some of them are years old, and the original ideas and goals have faded from my mind, so it will be interesting to see where I go with them.

So Completionist December is going to be a thing. Of course that will be followed by Editing January, where I take a run at a second draft of my NaNoWriMo story, (editing is soul crushing, so usually doesn’t happen, maybe I’ll change it up and redraft and edit last year’s NaNoWriMo instead, for similar reasons as completing all those short stories, it’ll be interesting to see where I take it). I’m not planning further than January, because while at the moment I’ve got the writing, (and blogging bug), who knows where I’ll be come February onwards.

So things to look forward to, in the meantime I’m concentrating on planning and preperations for NaNoWriMo, and Block Breakers (short stories) for practice.

The Tale of the Unreliable Narrator

Recently I’ve watched How I Met Your Mother, it wasn’t something that interested me before,  but I caught some clips on YouTube, and it looked fascinating. Turns out it was a lot more fascinating that I expected, for all it’s flaws, it told stories in a unique way for television, and it might be one of my favourite uses of an unreliable narrator.

Before we begin, let me explain what How I Met Your Mother is, in short it’s an American television sit-com about the lives and loves of a group of friends as they make their way in the world… well New York, it’s told in the style of the main character recounting the adventures from 2030 in a nostalgic fashion to his children.

The wonderful thing is, as he’s explaining it to his kids, there are very obvious obfuscations and biases at play, which telegraph clearly the unreliable nature of the narrator, things like smoking weed suddenly becomes having a sandwich, but because we know he’s editing the story for his audience as he tells it, it’s safe to assume there are less obvious revisions at work.

One of the main characters is Barney, played by Neil Patrick Harris, his a womaniser, a pick up artist, and the stories told like his sexual adventures are true and successful, I think in real life though, the success rate was probably less, and the more insane pick up strategies weren’t as extreme as presented, but it’s an exaggerated portrayal of a character. That’s just one example but you get the idea.

I’ve only once used a narrator in my stories, but it’s something I’d like to try my hand at again, see if I can get it right. Technically speaking every story written in the third person is in a sense narrated, but there’s a big difference between the writer telling the story, and the voice of the narrator character telling the story. It allows you to inject bias and passion into the story, you can paint characters in more extreme and clear lights, or obfuscate certain qualities of a character out of bias. Basically you aren’t trying to describes the facts of situations, you can be more subjective.

In essence the author is always the de facto narrator, but usually we aren’t involved in the story, we’re describing the events from a perspective of the all seeing, all knowing, our biases are choosing what we show, and what we hide for later in the plot. A narrator in essence is a character telling the story, either in the first or third person, they may or may not have been involved in the story being told themselves.

I think my favourite examples are probably noir thrillers, think of your stereotypical detective story with the hard boiled private eye or policeman telling you like it is… with lots of metaphors of course:

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Perfect Planning Prevents P*** Poor Performance

Great title… and really hoping it’s true. Yes, this is another post about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, two months away.

So, it’s now 61 days until NaNoWriMo commences for 2018, and I’m trying for a smarter write, I really want this year to be effortless… it won’t be, but at least it could be a little less difficult.

So… anyway, at the moment I’m putting work into creating the whole world for my novel. Maps and everything. Actually it’s just one of several dimensions within my story, but the bulk of it will take place on one world, I’m kind of thinking this will be the start of a series. This first one is a mysterious stranger story.

And off he goes on a tangent…

Actually, there’s sword and sorcery film kind of like it, now that I think about it, The Sword and the Sorceress (starring David Carradine), I have it on DVD somewhere, weird film, like a Fistful of Dollars, it’s based on Yojimbo. This blog post has gone in a fairly random direction, I was sure my story was original… but there are similar stories out there. However, as I’ve started planning, I know it’s going in a different direction, yes it’s a mysterious stranger story, but it’s not a single town, or two gangs at war with each other, it’s a multi-nation world, with many competing agenda’s – more like Yojimbo meets Game of Thrones maybe.

I’m now trying not psyche myself out, which is something I’ve done in the past. I had a great idea for a sci fi story where people could switch out bodies, in a world that’s like Facebook made real, people earned points for necessary work that couldn’t be done by robots, and got to spend the rest of the time at play, and some of the bodies they used got weird and wacky. Then a while later I learned a film was coming out called Surrogates which had many similarities, and I failed to explore it. Even more annoying Ready Player One then came out a couple of years later, and that had many similarities with what I’d started. No one wants to write someone else’s story, and so you move on.

Here’s the kicker though, I was a moron – it was a perfectly good story, it had a great moral core to it, drama and tension, and the opportunity to have fun and present a dark future. Having seen Surrogates, and read Ready Player One (not got round to watching the film yet), mine would have been different.

So, the plan for my current novel stays, I won’t over-analyse, or deviate from my vision – I have resolution for NaNoWriMo this year… and a blog post that deviated quite a bit, so let’s bring it back.

Back to the point

I’ve been creating maps, and Wikipedia like entries for each of the worlds, countries, and cities (the one’s that are likely to feature in my story anyway), and histories for all these things. I’m aiming to have a deep and rich, feeling inspired by my re-reading of the Dune series. Next up, I’ll start compiling my character lists, and then flesh out their details and backstories. Lastly, I’ll start pulling together timelines, one the history of the main world of my story, a wider history of the dimensions, and then the timeline of my story, of course with plenty of toing and froing along the way as ideas develop. By the time the 1st November rolls around I’ll have a deep guide to lean on.

I wanted to call out some of the tools I’ve been using to pull this world together, primarily Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator which is rich and immensely customisable, with great exports, including spreadsheets (and JL loves himself a spreadsheet or two)

Also Watabou’s Medieval Fantasy City Generator which can generate really detailed random and customisable city views

There’s been a few random name generators on the way so far, but I’ve been using those two a lot and wanted to do a post calling them out, and give other people the opportunity to utilise them.