Friday, May 5, 2017

My Path Is In Fact Just a Fault Line

You may notice that's there's now a poll in the sidebar. If you haven't noticed, allow me to direct your attention to it. There it is.

"What a random selection of genres!" you might say, and that it is. I tried to pick a variety that I've never tried before. I pulled them all from this list. And this is just Round One. In the future I'll put up new lists to choose from.

This particular list is a few things I'd like to try, some I'm indifferent to, and one I really don’t want to do, but I think I should in order to be a well-rounded writer and person in general. I'll let you figure out which is which. But I'll try whatever gets the most votes, whether I like it or not. That's democracy.

In the meantime, I'm trying to learn to outline, using a story I wrote last year. There's a lot of things that go into a plot outline, but today I'm just going to talk about one.

Character arcs.

A character arc is the story of who were they, and who will they become by the end of the tale. Did they learn something? Did they grow as a person? Is the person they become better or worse than who they started as?

It's what turns Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader… and then back into Anakin Skywalker (but not necessarily in that order, thanks to prequels). It's how Emmet from The Lego Movie goes from a bland rule-follower to a Master Builder. It's how Walter White goes from mild-mannered chemistry teacher to criminal mastermind.

Why do I keep using movie and TV examples? Well, because I watch a lot of them. And because it's more likely for a lot of people to have seen the same move than to have read the same book. Sign of the times, I guess.

So, as you might have noticed, the character arc doesn't have to lead to a good place. Just so long as it's a different place. They could change, they could grow, or they could fall.

In the case of the story we're looking at now, the character starts out as a convicted murderer rather lacking in the soul department. But some shit's going to happen and he is going to redeem himself. Vague, I know, but I don't know what I'm doing. I'm looking at all these outlines and templates and character arcs mapped out, and it's hard for me to fit what I have in my head into that form. It's like someone asking you to convey a symphony via noodles.

The crazy thing is that I love charts and graphs and spreadsheets and this should be easy. But it's like that old crap they always said about all math and logic being controlled by one side of the brain, and all art and creativity by the other. That's probably bollocks, but that's what it's like. I can do logic and charts, or I can do creativity. But there's a road closure on the neural highway that is the corpus callosum, so I can't seem to do them at the same time.

That's probably why I don't usually outline. I can't get the structure part of my brain to jive with the artistic part. I can look at someone else outline and see how it all fits together. I see how each piece fits into the arc. But I've never been able to do it myself.

But you'd better believe I'm going to try.

Now, I know there's writers out there reading this. And you might say, "Just outline it! Why is that so hard?" And that's a great question, because I don't know the answer. It seems to be a thing that others have mastered. It even comes naturally to some people. People who like to have everything laid out before they even write "Once upon a time." (Hey… I should write a fairy tale…) It's like cooking. Some people like to have all the ingredients out and measured before they start. Me, I grab a few things and then keep going back to the cupboard because I forgot that I need vanilla.

The fact that I can't fit my plots into neat little outlines would seem to imply that they're not good plots. I accept that. Hell, I expect it. So when my characters journey can't be jammed into a character arc template, I would assume that the journey is wrong, not the template. I mean, look at all those people out there, fitting things into templates just fine. The problem must be me.

So we'll start with the bare bones of it. In this story, I have two points: Introduction as an antihero, and Redemption. If I can get those two points into a template, I can fill in the rest in accordance with how the arc should go.

I can do this.

Stay tuned for next Tuesday, when we see if I, in fact, can do this.

1 comment:

  1. I voted. I can't see that it caught my vote, however. Everything still says zero. In reality, I want to read anything you wright.