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FFC #31 - Dilmir, themes, and developing rabbit holes

Posted July 23rd, 2019 at 05:29 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend
Updated July 24th, 2019 at 04:55 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend
TGRF's Fan Fiction Chronicles - Entry #31

It is curious how you can seem to be getting nowhere, and yet at the same time actually be unconsciously figuring out exactly what you think you can't solve.

Take BaoP. For a long time, I was banging my head against it, trying to find a theme to base the first installment on. 'I have to find a theme!' I kept telling myself. 'A theme! I need a theme! Everything starts with the theme!' Indeed, I've been telling myself (and anyone who would listen) this ever since I started writing.

As it turns out, I was wrong. Not completely wrong - you DO need a theme to lend your writing impression-leaving weight. But you do not, as I almost religiously believed, need to start with it. And as I suggested above, I discovered this quite by accident.

I had been trying to work with a vampire-centered tale for an iteration or two, but I had been failing to find a good theme. I would think I had one, but it kept getting mixed up in the core parts of the story. The climax wasn't solving the main conflict, the epiphany wasn't there (which of course meant the main conflict wasn't really conflict in the first place), the characters weren't driven. They all seemed like disconnected problems, but they all traced back to the theme.

But, remaining stubborn that I had to start with theme, I gritted my teeth, told myself it would all work out in the end (which it actually has before), and forged ahead. And once I was clear-headed enough to look back at things, I realized something interesting.

There were two themes. One was the one I had planted from the beginning, which was still flopping about the side plots, refusing to get in line. But the other theme had emerged on its own, naturally, straight from the characters. I had discovered character arcs.

Well, not exactly. I discovered character arcs well before this. But I've been lending character change increasing weight in my fan fictions, and it looks like I finally hit upon something.

A character going from point A to point B naturally creates a theme. Was this a good change? Was it for the best? Is the character a better person? Or did they perhaps stand AGAINST a change? With an actual character arc in the story, a theme naturally emerges.

It took me awhile to reconcile that fact, but once I did, I was able to do something I have almost never done (and certainly never with a full sized fiction): start without a theme.

I started with plot instead, and a few details I wanted, like multiple PoVs. I had to drop the vampires and start in a different location more conducive to what I wanted (I also didn't want the previous vampire stories sneaking in, which has happened before with bad results). I also had to revise the opening of my writing process to work from plot instead of theme. And then I just started developing.

And the ease was instant. Sure, there were (and are) a fair share of problems, but they are plot-derived rather than theme-derived, meaning in general, they are a lot easier to solve (just change the plot; harder to do with a theme). And, as I suspected, a theme has (and is) naturally emerged from the characters. The core is in place, the characters are developed, and now it's just a matter of developing the plot, increasing stakes, and ramping up the tension (once I get a few lingering problems squared away). All of which are relatively easy.

-----

And this all brings me, not to the end of this entry, but to the second part. Forgive the length.

While I was banging my head against the many themes of BaoP, I did what I usually do, and scoured both the internet and my bookshelf for miracle-working inspiration. I didn't find any. I did slowly come to see a few things differently though.

One of the 'sources' I looked at was Dilmir. I have a printed and bound copy which I like to peruse from time to time, and I flipped through it, rereading some of the more memorable bits. As I did so, I remembered how I had written Dilmir: casually. A vague plan, very little structure, barely any understanding of the many parts and techniques used in writing. And certainly Dilmir was lacking in some crucial areas because of my newness to writing. But at the same time, it excelled in areas I had no knowledge about.

I only recently (around aCoS) began really working on developing the plot by eliminating options, raising stakes, and deepening the dilemma. I'm still working on the best methods for doing those things. And yet I looked back at Dilmir, and not only are all those parts there, they are incorporated with much more skill than I seem to have today.

The development for Dilmir is so old that it's on paper. I looked at that. Are there lines of complex reasoning and outlines like I create today? Nope. Just a simple two pages where I literally came up with the bulk of the plot on the spur of the moment, while somehow increasing tension and making things increasingly worse and raising the stakes repeatedly. Magic!

In all seriousness though, Dilmir had no right to work out as well as it did. And yet I spent so long developing it and just plain thinking about it, that the story flowed naturally, including everything it needed.

Realizing this has led me to my own epiphany of sorts. I think I've gotten too drawn in to the development, the steps, the processes, the methods. It's now less about creative writing, and more about finding a story from a single idea and then doing exactly what the process says. Which is great. It means I don't have to come up with the abstract and often flawed ideas most other authors seem to rely upon when they start thinking about a new novel. But it also means I have to give my stories time, both to grow in my head and to grow in terms of what development they need. Which until now, I haven't really been doing. I need to force them through the process less, and let them just work themselves out.

So that's what I'm trying with this first installment of BaoP. I've developed the core of the story so that it has all of the essential parts. I know where the characters start and end up, I have a basic outline of who they are, and I know the general idea of what happens in the story. But that's it. I'm going to let this first installment work out its own plot, instead of deciding what the plot needs in terms of development and creating it based off of that. Same goes for fleshing out the characters. I technically know who they are, but I'm going to give myself time to get a good sense of character as they progress with the story.

This doesn't mean the finished product will be taking rabbit holes or not have a sense of direction. I am still developing it. I'm just using a far more open process, which allows for more creativity and trial and error. There might be rabbit holes in the development, but they'll be there to tighten up the actual plot and close off over-looked possibilities. Rest assured, the final product should be as driven as ever. Hopefully far more so.

-----

This only leaves one loose end (yes, I'm still not finished). That loose end is Dilmir.

I realize how unfair it is to talk about Dilmir when most of you reading have probably not read it. Some of you might remember that I considered reposting it, but ultimately decided against it, citing that I no longer agreed with the theme, and therefore could not in good conscience post it.

Well, that's all true. I still don't agree with the theme. But at the same time, this past experience has taught me that theme is not everything (which I definitely believed up to a few days ago).

I believe the theme of Dilmir is flat out wrong. But I also believe there is a lot of Dilmir which is right: character development, plot creation, escalation. It's no fair to the other writers on this site to keep that from them (for breaking down, not because it's an impeccable example of flawless writing). Especially when I keep referencing it in every other post.

So here is the conclusion, which I am even now not entirely sure about (but will follow through anyway):

I am going to repost Dilmir. I am uncertain if I will repost the two sequels.

Stay tuned.

~TGRF.
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The Grim Reaper's Friend's Avatar
When I repost Dilmir, I will NOT be rewriting it or even fixing the problems which I know are there. I'm going to keep it in its original form and not try to tweak it. However, there are a VAST amount of typos, and I'm going to try and get those fixed before posting. There are also a few other cosmetic things I would like to do, like create a better cover. I will post it chapter by chapter, over on my website, as I did with HiS. You should see the first chapter by mid-early August.

~TGRF.

P.S. Fair warning: I do not see cliches or 'cheesiness' easily, and am prone to include them in my writing without knowing. Be warned: Dilmir is based on Eragon/LotR style elves (I made some variations), and there are several tropes in the plot.
P.P.S. A few people received a copy of Dilmir when I deleted it. If those people are reading this, I ask that you do not spoil the plot. For obvious reasons.
Posted July 23rd, 2019 at 05:35 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend The Grim Reaper's Friend is offline
Updated July 23rd, 2019 at 06:00 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend
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William099's Avatar
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Posted September 17th, 2019 at 05:48 AM by William099 William099 is offline
 
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