Monday, July 24, 2017

Advancement by Addition.

Someone said about "Game of Thrones" that George R.R. Martin's plots consist of advancement by addition. He doesn't really resolve things so much as add a new wrinkle. (One of the reasons the latter seasons of the show are so startling. Things happen.)

Anyway, for the first third of "Takeover" I was doing something similar. I was going into multiple character's heads, first person, giving each of them a little slice of the story. No real plot, just development of the situation and characters.

At that point, I realized I could keep doing that, but it would be difficult to resolve anything. Similar to real life, which is more a jumbled mess of conflicting viewpoints and events.

Or I could transition into a good old-fashioned plot. Trying to keep it real, but fictionalizing events for maximum dramatic effect.

I sent my writer friend, Dave, one of these later chapters and he instantly noticed the change in tone.

I don't think he liked it.

It did remind me to keep up the 'witness statements.' Wrote three right away and they were refreshing and real. So yeah, for every standard Jon narrative chapter, I think I need two or three of the WS's.

But I'm damned if I can see how to have a plot with that method alone. As evocative as the WS's are, they are sideways or additions or character development, but not advancement in plot.

I'm now 27K words into the story, and it's good enough that I'm worried about blowing it. I have to remind myself that no one really cares that much if I write another book. It's my thing and I need to do it the way I think it needs to be done.

So I'm just writing it one day at a time. I have the book plotted, pretty much, at least to the final third. I'd thought the "murder" was going to happen around 25K words, but it will be closer to 30K words. I thought the murder would be resolved by 30K words, but it will be more like 40K words. That's all to the good.

This book can be as long as I want it to be. Adding witness statements is a pretty flexible device. I seem to be really good at these short little inserts.

I did the same thing with Tuskers IV, putting in a little insert with each chapter, sort of like "Dune." Easy to write, usually very nice stylistically, a great way to include flavor and info outside the narrative. 

In this book, it's a great way to develop character.

But like I said, the subtlety of doing an entire plot that way is beyond me, I think.


Dave Cline said...

Per your erudite POV lesson I dug up my Nancy Kress Great Writer's set and in there she gets into POV.

I'd read that sometime in the past, but I must have never understood it. I re-read it. Now, per your cue, I have a better handle on POV.

That said. What about a non-character POV, a narrator god, coming it who is not Jon McCarthy, who takes up the gauntlet and leads the story's structure.

As soon as Jon started to "write" his piece, the tone changed. Not for the worse, just for the less immediate. He needs to stay up front and in the hot seat. Not someone who's going to spread his business over the table so we the reader can get the big picture. No, I don't see that being his job.

What other POV entity could be the weaver of the story? A judge? Or just an impartial omniscient party?

Thanks for the lesson by the way. It was perfectly timed.

Duncan McGeary said...

Hey, it's a perfect example of why a writer shouldn't stay in a vacuum, but actually expose what he or she is doing. Easy fixes, sometimes, but can't be fixed without it being pointed out.

Duncan McGeary said...

I'm going to surround Jon McCarthy entries with two to three other witness statements. And hopefully, still try to keep his immediacy.

I'm not sure how to accomplish what you're suggesting. An example?

One of my problems is that I have only two characters from the establishment as POV characters, Kristen and Perry. I brought in an outside reporter to get Garth's viewpoint.

So most of the POV's are the takeover'ers, and that is slanting the book toward their political view, which certainly isn't intentional. So I have to make the main narrator be a doubter, slowly swing against the whole takeover idea, so that we can see what damage it's doing.

By the end of the book, it will be pretty clear who the bad guys are, but for the first 2/3rds of the book I have to tread carefully in the politics. I'm trying to make it more about character than politics, but it is an intrinsically political scenario. (So much so that I almost didn't start the book.)

Dave Cline said...

What Nancy suggested as an exercise was to write openings in the various POVs and juggled them until they felt right, their count and their voice.

As the Takeover God: Possession, they say, is nine-tenths of the law. But would this apply to an occupation? During the summer of 2020, the John Day National Monument became the target of a band of libertarian occupiers.

Jon: I don't really know why I got caught up in this whole thing. Well, maybe I do. I'd lost my wife and my ranch...

God: News of the occupation spread across the West, eventually settling into the ears and mind of a gang of malcontents. Neo-nazis bent on causing as much hell and chaos as they could. Ben, their leader, had the bright idea that they could use this freedom oriented occupation to their own benefit. "Mount up boys, we're going to Oregon," he said, half drunk on cheap tequila.

Jon: When the skinheads showed up, I knew we were fucked. I knew someone was going to get killed. Maybe more than just one.


Duncan McGeary said...

I'm not sure that solves the advancing the plot problem. Plus it seems a little author intrusive.

I think I just need to try harder to make Jon's narration sound more authentic.