A seagull on the mantelpiece, and other stuff about our writing

In several brainstorming sessions (or maybe one extremely long and often-interrupted session) over the last few days, my clone and I have been discussing plans for our various WIPs and how they fit together.

“You can’t have a seagull on the mantelpiece in act one…,” he said, and I knew exactly what he meant: because Jon has been mentioned by name more than once in my clone’s novels, we need to give him some “screen time” soon. (Apparently nearly everyone misremembers “Chekhov’s Gun” as being on the mantelpiece instead of on the wall. Or perhaps it was on the mantelpiece in some close alternate universe. Or maybe that was only a squid. *Googles Turkey City Lexicon to find out* Ah, yes… It was a squid.)

Geoffrey (one of the major supporting cast from The Madness Engine) is still experiencing Backstory Revision Syndrome, but at least one glaring issue has been settled once and for all. I very much doubt it will be any comfort to the character, though. Something else we’d sort of planned for him was supposed to be how we got Jon involved in the plot again, but that fell through (I think) due to a proposed truncation of personal timeline (translation: shove ‘im in a stasis pod instead of making him wait it out), so now we’re back to square one with that.

(Movie quote that comes to mind unbidden, but a tangent instead of the non sequitur it appears: “Look, Mother, it’s my life, okay? So if I want to live on a beach and walk around naked…” That’s from Janice, a member of the band Electric Mayhem, in The Great Muppet Caper.)

We spent a great part of yesterday discussing Project Brimstone (his current top-priority WIP). There was one section of that novel that had been bothering him (and me, too), but he’d been unable to put his finger on exactly why it was a problem and how to fix it… Well, he fixed it, and the necessary changes were a lot simpler than either of us expected. So there’s that. We also discussed how to wrap up this book. Although Paul correctly pointed out that Harrison isn’t stupid and would know the risks of going home with new associates in tow, part of me is disappointed at the loss of opportunity for evil plot complications. (As I said, conventional wisdom says writers always try to avoid bad/dangerous situations for their characters, but conventional wisdom is often wrong.) This is probably a sign that I need to write more of the backstory for some of the characters in “that novel,” because it has exactly the sort of evil plot complications that Harrison’s common sense lets his associates avoid.

I guess the mark of a good storyteller is not letting characters do things they wouldn’t do but getting the desired plot out of ’em anyway.

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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 A seagull on the mantelpiece, and other stuff about our writing

  1. M. Oniker says:

    I only ever understand about a tenth of what you say in these posts, and that’s usually with Googling. Chekhov’s gun, eh? So, Chekhov would shoot red herrings? “I ain’t no writer!” I say early and often, but it seems like that is a “rule” meant to be broken, often. Loading a story with extraneous bits would be awful, but honestly, as I read the rule, if everything has an expected action attached to it, then just describe the room in a short story and the reader can suss out the rest of the plot of the full novel because of it has been written by the placement of a gun on a wall, and the sandwich on the plate and…

    Now, your last, original line, sounds like a rule to get behind 100%. See, better than Chekhov!

    Liked by 2 people

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