Sep 22 2012

Back-Story Rewrite In Progress For Under the Darkened Moon

Posted by Mathias

Well, now I’ve done it! With Under the Darkened Moon’s live read and final edits proceeding nearly side-by-side, I have decided to tear apart part of the back-story and rewrite it. It was really the last thing I was thinking of as I was happily steaming towards producing a final manuscript.

I thought the end was within sight.  After all, the live read edit is in Chapter 36, the FINAL edit is in Chapter 25 and there are 44 Chapters to the story plus and epilogue.

But this rewrite had to be done. This was not something that I chose to undertake on a whim. (more…)

Apr 12 2012

Arrrrgh! Info Dumps! And Complaints About Them!

Posted by Mathias

Every novel has them; the often dreaded info dump. Long paragraphs of backstory crammed in either as uncomfortable, droning dialogue between characters or pages of omnipotent exposition on past events are supposedly frowned upon from the opinions I have been gathering. Yet, surprising, every novel that I have read in recent memory has contained them. For something so universally reviled, it sure does get included quite often as a tool an author to pass information on the reader.

I refer to this as the “And then …. Nothing happened” part of the story. For example, I am reading Theft of Swords right now and I swear that, literally, nothing of great importance has happened in quite some time. I just got done with a passage of the book where there was a long discussion about the various gods of the world just to get the reader informed about who they are. Interesting from a backstory component, but a little uncomfortable and seemingly out of place. That followed what amounted to a lot of travel to the location of a secret prison, which itself followed a lot of information on a monetary that was burned down.

Don’t get me wrong. So far the book is good even if I think some of the recent info dumping currently going on could have been broken up. But I hear it all the time from people who think they know so much about how to write that these sorts of methods for conveying backstory sink a story’s chances of being published. Obviously not!

I am told by people, other writers mostly, that I have too much info dumping in drafts they are critiquing. They tell me how such sequences are too long. They tell me how I must take them out or never be published. Then I show then passages from books where there are info dumps three times as long and make he obvious point that those books were published. I ask them how is their opinion valid in the face of evidence to the contrary. To that question I get a lot of convoluted answers, but never any that really answer the question.

People might complain about info dumps in stories, but the facts are that they exist. And they exist often. And the funniest thing is some of my fellow writers who are critiquing my current works are some of the worst offenders because I have been reading their drafts as well. One lady, for example, complained that a three paragraph sequence (3/4 of a page) putting some backstory forth was “too long” just as a “general rule of thumb”. Yet her most recent work has nearly 4,000 words, some fifteen pages, of backstory dumped in one instance!

I am sure that there are horrendous examples of the info dump that are unreadable. I know, even though I cannot think of them off the top of my head, they exist. I think most people that hate the dumping of backstory remember only the worst of the worst and then proclaim all as bad.

I do not fear using the info dump however. In my own writing I try to keep them small and within the flow of the story and not let the reader get drawn too far away from the here and now and what the characters are currently doing. Hopefully I am succeeding so that my own little info dumps don’t get lumped in with the worst of them.

Feb 08 2012

Adapting On The Fly … The Winds Of Change Blow

Posted by Mathias

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I was almost finished with my rough edit of the first draft for Under The Darkened Moon when I stopped. I mean I was literally on the last chapter when I stopped.

Why did I stop? Because I decided to go all the way back to the beginning … and then some. I was not happy with the way the story started in Chapter 1. So I made it Chapter 2 and added a new Chapter 1 taking place eighteen and also fifteen years previously to add some context to the main character. This context and new chapter I believe will enable me to delete some of the text in later chapters which flushes out the backstory of the main POV character and make things flow better from start to finish.

We will see. A lot of cleanup is going to be needed because of this change.

Feb 05 2012

Free Writing Excercise (Conclusion) – Sheala Backstory

Posted by Mathias

Here is the conclusion to my free writing excercise.  You can read part 1 and part 2 if you like.

[Begin]

Sheala looked over the contraption more fully than she had up until now. Its complexity led her to a conclusion that she was sure was right. “It’s impossible,” she proclaimed. “It cannot be done.” Every wire attached to every trigger was so sensitive that there was no doubt in her mind of that statement.

She looked at Arias for approval. He pointed at the dummy. “It is a good lesson to learn,” he said, “that sometimes some prizes are not attainable. A good thief knows this and how to recognize that a risk is greater than the reward before getting caught. But, this is not an impossible task.” Arias stepped around her, pushing her gently to one side. With his hand he smoothly removed the purse without a single trap being sprung. “See?”

He put the pouch back onto the hooks as Sheala started to ask, “But how?”

“Practice. Now, you will try this again and you will keep trying again until you get it right. And just incase you feel that the risk is greater than the reward – ” Arias again retrieved the purse from the hooks without setting them off. He dumped the contents into his hand. Six Gold Imperials that fell out. “Get it off, without springing a single trap and you can keep these.” He returned the money to the pouch and placed it back into the mechanism.

Six Gold Imperials? That was more than a month’s pay for even a full member of the guild. And it was certainly more money than Sheala had ever seen at one time. Sheala immediately decided that she definitely wanted those coins. She collected herself and tried again. She tried to be careful, lifting the pouch slightly up and to the left, then a little more and then a little more still without any of the traps triggering. She had this she thought. It was a piece of cake as long as she paid attention. But with her next move one of the trips was set loose. Her confidence caught up with her as the metal strip cracked off her arm.

Arias was unfazed as Sheala screamed in pain, her arm hanging limply at her side. He just reset the dummy one more time and again told her the same as before, “Again.”

Sheala could not protest. She tried again. Again she set off the trigger that sent the metal whip into her leg for the second time.

“Again.” Arias set the device back to the ready.

Sheala went again for the trophy. Her fingers were light, lighter than they had been on her previous attempts. But they moved faster than before too. In a second she was holding the liberated purse in her hand and stopped. Stunned she anticipated the strength of the blow she had expected from a trap she felt certainly she should had sprung. But there was none. She had done it. Pleased with herself she quickly opened the bag and poured the contents into her hands.

But instead of six Gold Imperials there were just six simple, steel bits. Worthless. She looked up as Arias was heading out the door of the storeroom and back out into the hallway. He stopped and gave her an admonition. “And that child is your second lesson. Never, ever, trust a thief.”

Sheala was just too stunned to answer. Arias left the room.

[END]

Time: 36 minutes 13 seconds

Jul 25 2011

Writing a prologue

Posted by Mathias

I have written a couple thousand more words to my story over the weekend. I’ve started to get into the meat of things at this point where the main character is well on his journey.

While I have at times thrown in some backstory as conversations between characters allow I am left wondering if the entire setting of the story and the overarching world conflict is well enough defined to someone who might be reading this story. To me things are well understood, but I am the writer and not a typical reader. I understand that this is just a first, rough draft but I want to be sure everything makes sense to the reader. I have gone back through much of what I have written looking for places to expound but do not see many if any.

Thus I have opted to go back and write a prologue to the story. Since my setting is a robust world and the story is being told from a limited third person POV (as of right now) prejudices and perceptions of the main character simply prevent major knowledge of the world’s past from being known or seen through untainted opinions.

This prologue may not work out but I am going to try it. It may even get looped into the main body of the story later on. I don’t have an aversion to prologues but I know some authors and readers do for their own reasons. I have seen prologues that work and ones that do no.

I plan on using a standard prologue which is to give background and knowledge to the reader about things that happened before the main story and before the characters of the story were even born. I do not plan on using it to introduce the main or sub characters of the story as a sort of Chapter 1.

Still looking for the short story I set out to write though. Until that crops up I plan on plugging ahead with this longer work.

Jul 19 2011

I’ve Got A Basic Story Forming

Posted by Mathias

I have been sitting down the past few nights scribbling on paper. Many of the notes are about the world I am creating. I was pretty amazed at how organically the world has sprung up. And right there in the overall world history an idea for a story popped out. Actually it is a variant of the backstory I wrote for one of my favorite characters in the MMORPG Everquest years ago. But it seems to fit this new world with a few tweaks to it. So I am heading down that path.

I wrote the first page just about an hour ago just to see how things worked and to put something onto paper. No name for the project yet. That will hopefully come.