Monday, January 4, 2010

Big Brave Makeovers

As some of you already noticed, I did some serious restyling to Headdesk. *Spins slowly* What does everyone think? I know it’s a menagerie of colors and textures, but I think they work well together.

This is kind of a brave step for me because A) I designed the whole thing myself with the help of this tutorial B) I spent a lot of time modifying the code to make it work, which is scary, because I know squat about HTML, and C) because redesigning was one of the things I promised myself I’d do if I ever turned Headdesk into my personal writing blog, and I’m trying to decide whether I want to go for it or not.

It’s an ongoing decision. It also has a lot to do where I feel I am in my writing ‘career’ and what kind of personal security risks I’m going to take. Won’t be too much of a different blogwise, because as you all have pointed out so succinctly, they’re pretty much the same. The difference effects me most which is why I’m taking my time deciding. I think that when Mirrorpass is into it’s editing stages then I’ll make the switch.

Something else I’m excited/nervous/surprised by. In the past, I’ve always struggled with how to end my novels. I have some kind of ending cemented in mind before I’m halfway through, and then I always write to meet it. But there are always these weird issues. The ending has too much action, not enough action, the action isn’t believable. The characters won’t come together or have been together too long. Plot points resolve early or not in time. The ending has always been brilliant—except when I try to write it, it falls apart.

It’s been the same way with Mirrorpass, at least in the beginning. I started writing in March. By around May I had the entire ending planned out in almost perfect sequence. This past week as I barreled down toward that last 10k, I made a little error in judgment. Normally my endings involve someone trying to rescue someone else from some big, bad scientist…and well, since that never works out, I thought I’d try and eliminate the fighting bit and just skip to the other parts. No going. My character lost her motivation straight off, so I had to pause and go back, revising so the action stayed.

That pause gave me a chance to reflect on my ending as a whole. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more wrong than just the action. And knowing my past history, I stopped for a few minutes, and tried to evaluate what could be missing.

All along I’d planned this ending around the question, “What is the worst, and then the best, thing that could happen to my characters?” I planned to bring them this close to the very thing they’d been searching for the whole novel, yank it away from them, and then bring them to their very knees. Then when all hope is lost, they get what they want back.

Sounds good, right? Right?

It suddenly occurred to me how dark the ending was. The story is a bit dark overall, because so much tragedy occurs to my main character. I always sort of had it in the back of my head that there would be this fantastic ending that would make up for all the darkness, really give that triumph over evil thing. That was the kind of ending I liked: the action-movie ending, with the big crazy climax, where you’re practically jumping out of your seat with triumph. A Superbowl ending.

But this ending didn’t do that. This was the ending where you clutch onto your seat going fervently hoping everything turns out okay, afraid it won’t, until the movie ends on a good note and you sigh in relief, because it’s over.

I didn’t want people to sigh in relief.

I wanted them to jump up and down and get that crazy buzz because the story was just that good.

So I looked at what was currently my ending, unwritten but already planned, and asked…”What’s the most exciting thing I could do here? What is it everyone is secretly wishing will happen?”

And I’ve been working off that. I don’t know if my ending will make people roar and pump their fists. But nobody’s going to be sighing in relief anymore. Now, I’m more excited about my ending than I’ve been in months—I didn’t even realized I was missing this!

I’m not sure what the lesson is. Maybe that focusing on what readers want can get you out of sticky plot problems. Those readers are smart people; don’t ever forget it.

There’s just one other thing I’m marveling over. My depressing ending, and my new exciting ending, are almost exactly the same plotwise. My action ending is shorter, but all the plot pieces are there. It’s how I’m spinning it that makes the ending different. How far I’m letting the characters go when I take away what they want and give it back.

Because when you think about it, don’t you hate those stories where the person slips into a crippling depression? It makes total sense, but you still wish they hadn’t done it.

A story is what we writers make it.

Maybe, every once in a while, it’s okay to stop ‘pushing’ our story and to just give readers what they want?


About two more chapters left to write! J


Truly and always,

-Creative A

5 comments:

ralfast said...

I said it before but it bears repeating, I like the new look. Great job in making it yourself!

:D

dorkvader said...

Love love LOVE! the new look. It's awesome!

and first off, I applaud you for even getting to your ending. oi. Mine is far off.

and second, that's awesome! I love it when things rap up nicely, even if it's after a few tries.

KUDOS!

beth said...

Love the new look!

And I really like looking at how you think of your writing. Very intuitive and perceptive. It sounds wonderful

Creative A said...

Thank you Ralf! Since I'm a web design student, I decided it was high time to start experimenting on myself.

Dorkvader, you have no idea (well, maybe you do) how glad I am to have reached this ending; ten months is the longest I've ever taken to write a novel, and just plodding on started to get so difficult. It helps to have readers though :) Thanks for all the kudos!

-CA

Creative A said...

Thanks, Beth :) It's really a new way of thinking for me...for some reason, I've just never thought of it this way. Excited to see where it goes.

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