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FFC #100 - Full Circle

Posted January 27th, 2023 at 02:41 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend
TGRF's Fan Fiction Chronicles - Entry #100

Welcome to the 100th FFC. I wanted to save this number for something special, perhaps the final FFC before I went to my novels. Alas, it was not to be.

Nothing has changed regarding Dilmir 4. The writing is underway, and I anticipate it being finished somewhere around the 20th. There's some edits I might want to make - particularly to some of the early chapters, but they shouldn't take long.

The reason I wanted to write this FFC is because I've had some thoughts about my writing, and I wanted to get them down before they fled from my mind (which has been known to happen).

For the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to Utgar, my first telling of Utgar's tale, as Utgar 1. Valkyrie, my second version of that tale, I'll refer to as Utgar 2.

Stretching from before HiS, all the way to Utgar 2, my writing was in a major slump. I've written about this before. I had no shortage of story ideas, but they were all coming up short and shallow. The characters within them seemed rushed, going through character arcs at the speed of light. The stories were rarely more than twelve or fourteen chapters long, the details were sparse, and things just felt bland or rushed. Utgar 1 exemplifies all these things.

The bad news is that this problem isn't fixed. HiS was the longest thing I've written, Utgar 2 turned out tolerably well, and my Dilmir stories are a respectable length. But there are good reasons for these. Utgar would have been short if the Taelord/Runa subplot hadn't been there, which nearly doubled the story's size. HiS was only long because everyone had a character arc to get through, and the main character had at least three. And because I didn't rewrite the first Dilmir story, I'm operating off of an already-fleshed out cast, with a general idea of where I want the story to go. In short, these are all hiding the fact that my 'short story syndrome' is still there.

Length is merely a symptom of this problem - I'm aware one shouldn't shoot for length when writing, but rather quality.

How do I know this problem still exists? Because - suspecting it did - I tried this morning to get a rough idea of how Dilmir 1 might have turned out had I written it from scratch today.

I didn't like the results. Using the same premise, I got a story which would be twelve chapters at best. Dilmir would rush through it quickly, and his character would be quite different. Ilrin and Aldir would likely not exist. Alfimir and Eltuthar would have small parts. Technically, it would be a perfectly fine story. But it would be sparse and rushed, and not something I would at all be proud to post.

So this is obviously something I want to fix, especially as my novels get closer to being written. I decided to drill down on Dilmir 1 and really try to figure out what the difference was. Why did I get the story I did then, and not the one I came up with now? What was different?

I came to the conclusion that two critical areas have been ignored in my quest for formulas and character arcs. They are premise and story.

Premise is what jump starts the story. It's the intial idea, usually following the pattern of a main character facing a problem in a certain setting. Dilmir 1 had that (elf with super magic faces an archmage who wants to kill him in a world of magic, elves, and vampires). The original idea for Dan had that (prisoner of the soulborgs wants to escape while trapped on Isadora). The list goes on.

But these days, I don't wait for a fully fledged premise. I usually start with a setting or a problem, usually not both, and almost never the character. Now I've honed my writing process so that I can get a story from practically anything... which now I realize was probably a bad idea. While a good practice, it enables me to start stories long before I should, and fill in ideas instead of letting them come together naturally.

Now, instead of working in a setting I've spent time building, with a problem I've spent time thinking about and complicating, with a character I genuinely am interested in writing about, I start with one third of that, extrapolate the rest, and go forward with the resulting weak premise. It means I can pump out fan fictions multiple times a year, but it also means the quality is left behind.

And this brings me to story, the other thing that's been left out. I'm defining story here as how I get the plot.

These days, once I know the main problem, I work out how I want the story to end. I identify the correct character arc, from which I get the basic outline of what happens, shoehorn in a generic character, maybe add some traits, and we're off. Sounds pretty bad when I spell it out like that.

What I used to do was completely different. Obviously I started with a more fleshed out premise, including a character I had actually spent time thinking about. But then I would just consider what would make a good story. When I came up with the plot for Dilmir 1, I literally just paced around in my kitchen for a few days thinking of everything that could happen. I came up with an ending (which was later scrapped), and then worked towards that.

These days, there's more focus on simply getting a character from point A to point B than there is on what would make a fun story. This is why my writing is low on twists, details, and side characters (think about Utgar 1 here, not the Dilmir series).

So what's the solution? Obviously I need to find a way to get back to how I used to write. The problem is that those premises... they don't just appear anymore. I've written the cool stories which I had in my head ten years ago. Nowadays all I usually have are thirds - settings, conflicts, sometimes characters. Usually incompatible with each other.

I've gone full circle. Ten years ago, I didn't know how to write, but I had the ideas. Now I know how to write. I need to rediscover the ideas again, and how to put them to paper like I used to.

~TGRF.

P.S. This will have no effect on Dilmir 4. That story is fine, and will continue to be written.
Posted in FFC
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Old
TheAverageFan's Avatar
I can see your dilemma, as the premise is what usually defines many great ideas and stories. And when you get a good premise in your mind that you know is a good premise you can kind of just explode with ideas for what to do with it, and then cram them all in there and get a nice beefy story out of it (rather than just focusing on one single character arc).

I too have found that fewer premises come to me as I age compared to when I was younger. Perhaps I just need to keep more of an eye out for things that catch my attention. I've had ideas spring out of a single visual in the past, and the spark won't come unless you're striking flint after all.

~TAF
Posted January 30th, 2023 at 06:09 PM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
Old
The Grim Reaper's Friend's Avatar
@TheAverageFan
Quote:
the spark won't come unless you're striking flint after all.
Very true, this. I think part of the change might be that when we were younger, things were more divided simply between school and free time, for me at least. I know I used to come up with all kinds of ideas, both during and between school. Nowadays, with things like jobs and whatnot, attention is divided more, and it takes more to really jumpstart an idea.

Honestly though, I feel like the solution for me is to just spend more time on an idea. Spend the time to really think about it, build it up, consider what would make a good story, rather than simply what will get you from the beginning to the end. This is certainly something I can do, though it will admittedly mean periods without writing while I come up with an idea.

Hmm... sounds like I'll need to pay my personal competition a visit to fill in those gaps. I will write that Venoc/Rambo story eventually.

~TGRF.
Posted January 31st, 2023 at 05:14 PM by The Grim Reaper's Friend The Grim Reaper's Friend is offline
Old
TheAverageFan's Avatar
Yeah if your brain works like mine does then just focus on writing that Venoc story; your mind will be bursting with interest in other stories then

~TAF, always full of ideas when it's time for the actual work to be done
Posted January 31st, 2023 at 05:25 PM by TheAverageFan TheAverageFan is offline
 
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