today’s thoughts on plots, characters, and “fun” with backstory

Sometimes I like to blog about how I think through my own writing process, and the things I am doing or intend to do with a story, and the problems that arise when the things I know need to happen in the plot are not falling into place the way I want them to for whatever reason.

So.  I’m going to blog about that now.  I’m not actually nonlinear so much as prone to chasing every relevant tangent that occurs while I’m brainstorming.  Nevertheless, you’ve been warned…

I did mention a few times that my clone-sibling and I did another round of Backstory Revision not long ago, right?  Well, we stopped working at the point where the immediate crisis (for some characters) was past, and everyone could get back to their regular lives for a while.  But… the plot was only moving along nicely because all the snags had been pushed further downstream.  Ever since the revisions, I have been trying to figure out how to fix some timeline problems that must be resolved before I can do any real work on, y’know, the novel(s) to which all this backstory belongs.  (My clone has done what he can to help, but it’s not easy to switch between writing about Tsiping’uinge and writing about Jellico, and the academic stuff is more important right now.)

In a few cases, it’s a matter of there not being enough time between events.  In others, it’s a matter of too much time, or a misaligned overlap.  The problems with plot that arise from some of this… I think it may have been a mistake to have GM get a job interning at that company.  Even if it did tie later events together rather neatly.  Convenience is no excuse!  🙂  It just, y’know, explained so well how said company managed to develop the technology it needed for stuff with the ship that’s actually mentioned as backstory in the novel:  DD bribed KG with nifty gizmos — or at least the information needed to build same — in exchange for KG giving GM a job at his company… Said nifty gizmos including functional coldsleep pods, which we are not gonna have by 2017, unless the tech gets imported from somewhere else.  (And don’t ask me what I mean by somewhere else.  To warp-quote an obscure line and then twist it into a Mobius strip of a joke, “Lots of multiverses have a south.”)

I should probably draw this, make a sort of diagram that shows the various events or strings of events and how they overlap or run sequentially or whatever.  Maybe use different colors for different universes… Just kidding.  Mostly.  At any rate, drawing it out should make it easier to show my clone-sibling where the problems in timing are, so we can discuss it and figure out solutions.

I like the backstory as it currently stands, even the parts that were not good for the characters.  (GM stole something from the antagonists as trophy when he got DD out of an Extremely Bad Situation, but DD took it away from him.  I don’t think that’s fair.  Do you think that’s fair?)  Well, okay, I’m not loving the latest fictitious background JG made up for himself (yes, sometimes characters lie!), according to my clone-sibling.  It… doesn’t feel right.  Other than that, it’s good.  We even got JL’s significant other into the story, and I never expected that, since JL himself is only a backstory character (at least for a long time).  But seeing her and JL together may be what gives JG the courage to actually have a relationship with EM.  (Not the same thing,  I know — JL is, after all, mostly human, and certainly capable of passing for such, since even he didn’t know otherwise until recently.   And if you listen closely — sorry, pun not intended — you can probably hear Loyal Reader thinking, “Arrrrghhh!  Write the damn thing, damnit!”  Or something to that effect.  🙂  )  Well, okay, now that I think about it (again), I don’t feel comfortable with some of the things that happened as a result of our heroes trying to find out who was/is behind the attempts to kill JL, and, y’know, make them stop.  But comfort is no excuse, either!  And I think that my clone would tell me that DD needed to go through the Extremely Bad Situation before he went off to storm that citadel (notice that I said citadel, not castle — that’s something completely different) and… Well, it’s a very good thing he dealt with his issues before doing that, is all.

Speaking of that citadel… “I had no intention of this becoming a family business,” said my clone, referring to characters who do stuff like storming those citadels, or at least fighting the sorts of things that lair there.  But when he started telling me about where he thought the citadel was, and who was going to… Well, “mongoose” is the word we use between ourselves for it, referring to the line from “Rikki Tikki Tavi” about how even a mongoose won’t follow a cobra into its lair, because some of our people will, metaphorically speaking.  Anyway.  My clone wants the place where DM used to be to be the place that DD is going to attack singlehandedly — successfully or not depends on your definition of the word — and since it all fits together perfectly in a way that will make life… interesting for certain characters later — yes, I’m looking at you, JB — when certain facts come out… Oh, yeah.  JB’s gonna be worried, JL’s gonna be pissed off, and DD is just gonna laugh at the irony.  As will his authors.  Because life is like that.

I’m rather glad we decided that the (novel’s setting) world isn’t going to end in March of 2015, after all; it wouldn’t leave enough time to fit in all the story happening before that.  🙂

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About Thomas Weaver

I’m a writer and editor who got into professional editing almost by accident years ago when a friend from university needed someone to copyedit his screenplay about giant stompy robots (mecha). Having discovered that I greatly enjoy this kind of work, I’ve been putting my uncanny knack for grammar and punctuation, along with an eclectic mental collection of facts, to good use ever since as a Wielder of the Red Pen of Doom. I'm physically disabled, and for the past several years, I’ve lived with my smugly good-looking twin Paul, who writes military science fiction and refuses to talk about his military service because he can’t. Sometimes Paul and I collaborate on stories, and sometimes I just edit whatever he writes. It's worked out rather well so far. My list of non-writing-related jobs from the past includes librarian, art model, high school teacher, science lab gofer… Although I have no spouse or offspring to tell you about, I do have six cats. (The preferred term is "Insane Cat Gentleman.") I currently spend my time blogging, reading, editing, and fending off cats who like my desk better than my twin’s.
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One Response to today’s thoughts on plots, characters, and “fun” with backstory

  1. Jessica S says:

    ” I’m not actually nonlinear so much as prone to chasing every relevant tangent that occurs while I’m brainstorming.” << Oh my goodness! That had me rolling with laughter. I'm pretty sure you just described me, too. LMBO!

    Like

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