Saturday, June 1, 2013

Running myself in circles

I'm stuck on the story I'm working on. I've been trying like hell to get it off the ground after it's been too long in the drawer, and it's just not working.

Last night, I figured out why.

I do this thing where I have mysterious things happen to my main character. And she spends a lot of time being all what the shit is happening?! until she finally runs into a character who can enlighten her. And then there's this massive conversational info dump. And then I stall out, because I don't actually like massive conversational info dumps. They're no fun to write, and usually they're no fun to read. And my MC is usually demanding answers from this dude who's being kind of smirky and withholding, so half her questions don't get answers anyway, and she's just asking and asking and asking and it's really no wonder I can't write these scenes, because they're horrible. I've done this to myself with the last three books I've worked on.

HELLO PATTERN, I'VE SPOTTED YOU! It's pathetic it's taken me so long to realize what I keep doing to myself, but whatever. I'm there. The question is, how do I break out of this self-defeating rut?

I think about authors who get it right, that's how.

In Stephen King's It, the kids figure out what's happening to the kids in their town because they experience it for themselves, barely escape, and draw their own conclusions. There are conversations, sure, but there's never the dynamic where one character knows everything and the others know nothing. So the talking actually gets somewhere. (This might be key.)

In Harry Potter (a series which contains some of the greatest plots ever), Harry often gets hints from other characters about what's going on, but then he has to figure it out for himself.

In Neverwhere, nobody explains much of anything to Richard Mayhew. He has to figure it out as he goes along, and adapt to London Below by experiencing it.

I think my mistake is trying to make my main character a stand in for the reader, and then not giving either of them enough credit. My MCs wind up being too passive--things happen to them, other people need to explain it all to them. I write myself into this inevitable corner and these unwriteable scenes.

I'm not sure if my current project is salvageable. It might be, but I'm feeling so frustrated with it right now, I'm not sure it wouldn't be better for me to stick it back in the drawer and try something else for awhile. Make use of this new batch of self-knowledge, try to break my pattern.

At least I see the pattern now. Finally.

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