While I’ve been working on writing a sequel to Bury’em Deep (yes, I changed the name), I started working my way through some background material that seemed important. This is all rough draft material, only partial, and subject to change… but I thought you might enjoy some of the details! Read on for tidbits of Rhea’s history and its place in the politics of Saturn-space. Continue reading
I had a frustrating but informative (and helpful) experience this afternoon while attempting to fix my plotting problems for the sequel to Barium Deep. After I had resolved multiple problems with my plot arcs, charting them out for my own clarity and future reference, I couldn’t plot one of the emotional character arcs that I wanted for Cesium (the POV character for the second book).
I wasn’t doing anything very complicated, just tracking some of the beats for the specific section of storyline that I wanted to follow. That made my struggles all the more obvious.
Minutes before, I’d plotted out a parallel series of arcs for a totally different story; they’d flowed easily, and made good sense. They were simple, straightforward, and very formulaic—which felt fine for the first pass on an idea that came to me last night. I’m sure that they’ll change and become more interesting once I’ve worked more with that story. If they don’t, I might discard the story or put it on ice.
But those arcs, with their clear points of conflict, transformation, and growth, had come so easily that my difficulty with Cesium was glaring.
A brief aside: the idea that came to me last night dealt with using magic (or something similar) as a manifold metaphor for anger, and perhaps war and military service, with weaker connections to violence and abuse.
The physical plot for Cesium felt simple and straightforward. It fit neatly within the expected bounds of adventure fiction and other upper middle grade stories. Even though I know I’ll change it in a heartbeat if I find something else more emotionally and thematically compelling, it feels good to have laid it out. The problem with Cesium’s emotional arc was that I was (and still am) unsure of what approach I want to take, or how to zero in on Cesi’s changes in ways that will feel rewarding without feeling too neat or pat.
I think it comes down to disliking the pattern of total character transformation that I’ve seen in some middle grade stories. I find incomplete transformation more rewarding, because of how it allows individuals to face their struggles as slightly modified versions of themselves rather than as different people. This fractional shift of self is less important when a story covers a long period of time, as more shift can occur without seeming too abrupt. But when I want a reader to follow a character’s emotional shift from A to B, I feel it helps to highlight the ways the character is still uncomfortable / unfamiliar with their new experience at B. At some point they’ll feel comfortable in the new experience, and that will be cool, but if the story is about them facing that experience I want facing it to be dramatic, tense, uncertain.
The upside of all this is that I think I’m closer to a working draft of Cesium’s story. But I clearly still have more work to do.
Hey folks, sorry for the silence. Between my other obligations and stressing out about politics and the news, I’ve been pretty thoroughly distracted from Fistful. I expect that this will continue for another week or so, but I plan to change it.
Some of the things keeping me busy might also be things that excite you: I’ve submitted the first chapter of Barium Deep for consideration for PEN New England’s Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award, and I’m about to give a (totally rewritten) outline of Miska to my mentor as the beginning of this semester’s mentorship project. There are more cool things I’m doing too, but I’ll tell you about them later.
Wish me luck. I’ll be back here soon.
This is more of a stump than a full post, but it’s late and I’ve been distracted all day. I’ve been finishing my current draft of Barium Deep, hoping to have it done before the end of January.
I want to submit it.
Hell, I want to change the world. Sometimes, very, very occasionally, I’m confident enough to think that I might have a chance to do that with the stories I share.
But I was set to thinking, earlier, when I spoke with someone about the news that we’d each seen that day. She’d seen news footage cutting back and forth between the inauguration parade and protestors, news about people breaking windows and even (apparently) setting a car on fire in front of the Washington Post offices. I saw a video of police pepper spraying an elderly woman and a disabled man, along with the people who were trying to shield them and move them away from the police.
What are the narratives our news sources are giving us? Why?
And I keep coming back to this: what the fuck were those officers thinking, spraying people who obviously are mobility impaired, spraying the people who are trying to help them move, spraying fucking everyone in that group?
I’ve never worked as a police officer. But I have worked security, dealing with people who didn’t really want to do what I wanted them to do (leave a place, quietly, by following me through a crowded area). I got more cooperation, nearly 100% cooperation, with calm requests and occasional assistance than I ever could have gotten by enforcing, imposing my will on the people I was dealing with. There was never a scene. I was, to the best of my ability, helpful.
My experience is not their experience. The situation I was dealing with was not the situation that they were dealing with. And I can’t help but think that maybe, if they’d treated their situation a little differently, it would have *been* different. Fundamentally different. Those police officers might have had a chance to serve and protect people, instead of punish, harm, and endanger them.
I’m not sure what it takes to make someone think that pepper spraying the mobility impaired is a good way to make them move. I’m not sure what it takes to convince them to do that instead of anything more sane. Fear, maybe. A deep and abiding unawareness of other options. Maybe (I always hope not, and always fear it is so) pleasure in the exercise of power over others. Especially the state-legitimated non-consensual exercise of power over others.
We’ve had enough of that.
On a semi-related note, read Mattias’ piece MLK Is Not Your Black Friend. It’s good. It deserves your attention.
Sorry, I’ve been a little busy. I just submitted another three chapters of Barium Deep to my mentor for review (she’s awesome, by the way) and getting that material out the door has kept me occupied.
Another thing stealing my time, creeping in around the edges of my schedule? Tales of Maj’Eyal (ToME). It’s a roguelike (but actually like the game Rogue, not just part of the modern fad of calling your game roguelike because it’s cool), and I’ve been enjoying it a great deal. I grew up playing the significantly less noob-friendly ADOM, aka Ancient Domains of Mystery, so ToME feels a good deal more forgiving. At least, it’s forgiving when you can hide behind your magical golem while hurling explosive gems at your foes.
Oddly enough, like ToME, ADOM now sports optional fancy tiled graphics that look nothing like my memories. It may sound like I’m grumping, but I’m actually quite happy to see ADOM continue development. I should admit, I’m okay with the new tiles mostly because they’re optional. I just wish we could see more progress on JADE (which I guess is now called ADOM II), another roguelike by the creator of ADOM. I liked the open world with randomly generated stories more than ADOM’s (by now) familiar quests.
Oh, I guess this is the new site for ADOM? Whatever. It’s a cool game, worth checking out.
At some point soon I might start giving you material from the second draft instead of continuing this. There are so many changes being made! A lot of them are small, but they add up. And, of course, there are a few big ones. Regardless, this rough material follows from the last post just like usual. Enjoy!