Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Joy of Plot Element Labels

The chest of potions that appears early on in my first novel, Dark Elf's Warrior, has been a bit of a problematic device to myself and to some readers. I never really wanted said chest to draw a lot of focus, but of course it does, because it affects the actions and decisions of certain characters. For instance, Ronav is the one who bought the potions and needs them to carry out his ultimate scheme, but when they fall into Kyer's hands after she kills Simon, Ronav decides he wants his men to capture Kyer, and not bother with the chest. This is partly because he wishes to downplay their significance to his men. Kyer takes the chest of potions to an expert in Shael, hoping to learn what they are. That's it for book one. The chest appears again at the beginning of book two, but only plays a minor role there.

I don't want the chest of potions to become a loose end, a "plot hole" that leaves the reader dissatisfied. It has always been my intention to make them useful later on, but I haven't figured out how yet.

Now, this morning I read an e-mail from Ron in which he describes his intriguing plotline for his novel. He referred to the MacGuffin  I had heard this term but wasn't familiar enough with it to truly understand what he meant by it. This called for Online Research. Now, with a new understanding of the MacGuffin, as well as other terms such as Chekhov's Gun, I am mulling over how to solve the potion problem.

The potions in my novel are NOT the MacGuffin ("a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction.": Princeton University, Wordnet 3.0; from wikipedia) If anything, that term could be applied to Kyer's medallion, and maybe even to Kyer herself. I think the chest of potions is Chekhov's Gun, which refers to an object which appears early on, but whose purpose is not clear until later. Without even knowing this term I've always believed that if there's an item on stage that draws my attention, the characters had better use it at some point, or it's just a distraction. And that's annoying. That is where the term Chekhov's Gun comes from (Anton Chekhov, who insisted that if a loaded gun is on stage a character had better try to shoot somebody with it eventually).

In order to not leave the reader hanging with regards to the potions, I need to clarify (for myself at this point) how they will be used later. I don't write with an outline, I make stuff up as I go. Somehow, labelling the potions as a particular plot element has helped me to focus on what I need to do to avoid a terrible plot hole problem.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Satire over the head

We are quickly discovering that if we are going to show satirical movies to our kids, they need to understand what is being satirized. They didn't really "get" Spinal Tap, and though we started watching For Your Consideration, I think we won't finish that one with them. Similarly the Girl didn't quite "get" The Life of Brian last night. I think we will show them Jesus Christ Superstar. Matt suggested Godspell, but I think that just might confuse them more.

On another note, thanks to Mel Buenaventura for taking some photos of FAT Jazz at Golden Spike Days. Here's a cool couple of shots of my shoes and me spliced together.

Ok, this is interesting. That was my first time posting a photo, and I discovered that Blogger doesn't want me to put the photo in the middle of the post, only at the top. So when I move it, it does some weird stuff: It underlined the first paragraph, turned it blue (which I managed to fix) and it has taken away my power to change fonts, so as you can see my font is now different. This has redirected focus away from the photo itself, and the fact that I wished to credit Mel and tell you where you can see more of his work. He has some pretty neat stuff: check him out at Ok, there, I've put Mel's link up next to the photo. What a pain this is! I suppose there must be a way to fix it, but I don't have time to muck about with it now. See? We've changed fonts again. I can change the size, you see, but not the font itself. Isn't technology fun?

Ok, so those shoes are Wallace tartan, for those of you unfamiliar with it. The hat belongs to the Boy, but he figured I ought to wear it for this event. Thanks Boy! In the shot on the right you can see Ray Faoro, our bari sax player, and Laurie is sorta visible. Check out FAT Jazz's new work-in-progress website at Look at me go, I just figured out how to insert a link.

That is enough new computer stuff for me today. I need a lie-down.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Family and Friends. Oh, and POV. Part 2

Like I said, summer is always a difficult time for me to write.... Little to no structure to the day, the kids are around, other committments, etc. I've had no fewer than four family dinners in the last week! Not that I'm complaining about that, anyone who knows me is well aware of my love of good food, good music and my family (not prioritizing, there), but one needs a good deal of discipline to stay on track with writing with all these other things going on. I got in some ukulele practise, doing more uke/mandolin duets with Kev, which is always good for a laugh. 

Good FAT Jazz gig yesterday, (we were able to start on time, thank goodness) and then raced home to have 15 people over for lobster (sponsored by Helen, thanks Helen!) and much fun and food was had by all. I love hosting, coz it means we get the leftovers. Again, no complaints. It's a grey day today, and perhaps that means some progress.

I've been pondering point of view, and how to introduce some of the story of what's going on in the village of Nennia earlier, to lighten the "info dump" near the end. I've also gone through that section and identified some nasty examples of "telling", which should be no trick to eliminate, as well as a couple of bits I can more effectively bring out by showing the actual scene in real time. Stephanie's comments have been helpful for all this, too. She's the one who suggested I write some earlier scenes from Shawn Carver's pov. I don't think I'll do that exactly, but that gave me the idea of writing them from his daughter Sasha's pov: the Unreliable Narrator will allow me to show the reader what I want them to know, without the character understanding it, which would give away too much.

And now I must get on it.