Thursday, March 31, 2011

Anatomy of an Idea: First Contact

This story was inspired by the concept of synesthesia - which is experiencing a sensation associated with one sense (ie, sight or hearing) through a different sense. For instance, one might hear color or taste music. It's a genuine clinical condition, but also has broader application.

Back to and their monthly story challenge. This was a prompt I had suggested: first contact. Why should science fiction have all the fun of first encounters? (It doesn't, but that may be a popular perception.) Of course, as the person who came up with the prompt, I wanted to take it one step further, and decided to take the phrase "first contact" literally - the first time a character experiences touch.

This led me into deciding why a character would find themselves in that situation, and I decided this stringent purity had been forced upon the character from infancy. Description and metaphor are generally based in things familiar to us - we don't make comparisons between two foreign objects. Instead, we familiarize the new by comparing it to the known.

So in "First Contact," physical sensations, from passing breezes to fabric against skin, are phrased (back to the first paragraph again! Have faith in me, it's all interconnected) in terms of sight, sound and occasionally smell, the way the narrator would think of them. It was challenging to come up with descriptions in this vein that were evocative, realistic, but seamless enough that they didn't throttle the reader over the head with their cleverness.

I realize that quoting Shakespeare is extra high-falutin', but one line stuck in my head when I started to conceive this story and would not let go, and I finally succumbed to placing it at the beginning:

But then there was a star danced, and under that was I born ...

One ... Two ...

A one-two punch today: First, ParABNormal Digest purchased "The Herd Mentality," the infamous psychic vampire unicorn story. I cannot even write the phrase "psychic vampire unicorn" without grinning like an idiot. It will be in their second issue, September 2011.

Second, Golden Visions' April print issue, with my story "First Contact," is now available
here at the bottom of the page. Note that the print and online versions are different - I'm in the former.

Thursday Thoughts

I finished "Scenting Rain" today - thanks to everyone who contributed a sentence for its sprawling expanse! It finished at a whopping 17,000 (and some change) words. I am more copacetic than I would have expected about being saddled with a bear-to-sell novella. Of course, it will probably shrink 2k or so in the editing, but still no chance of getting it under the 10k mark. I'd have to go through and delete random words.

One of the interesting elements to the story, for me, is an ordinary one: Gerune's not too bright. She means well and she tries hard, but she tends to miss nuances and alternate explanations. She is so fixed on things happening a certain way that she doesn't see different paths. Hopefully, I've made this human and realistic rather than irritating, but I don't think you necessarily see stories where the character is slow on the uptake that often.

As is typical for me, the story is definitely open-ended in its conclusion. The main story problem(s) is / are solved, but there's clearly a lot else to do ...

Finished an insane five chapters editing this week. My observations are that I'm going to need a draft where every time I see a continuity issue, I bookmark my place and skim through the rest of the manuscript to make sure I've adhered to it. I think this is best done as a separate pass through the manuscript. I'm fixing or tweaking too much else in this one.

I'm just starting to edit "Stolen Moments." I read it through yesterday to get an overall sense of it, and while it has some rough edges and needs some tightening, there's a lot of intriguing stuff going on. I have a good feeling about this one, but the cynic in me remembers that last year, I didn't even get a story held by Sword & Sorceress (unlike the first 2-3 years), so I'm not holding my breath.

3/24 - 3/30

Pages edited: 27

Word count: 3,008

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Prequel Pitfalls

I've seen a number of prequels in the past little while, most from television - but I think most of the same factors apply to books, as well. (Except maybe for the fact that their recent popularity may be enhanced by the ease with which an actor can be made to look younger, with little touchups of easy CGI if necessary - which, of course, a book doesn't have to worry about. See "Surrogates," which - whatever you think of the storyline, and of course it's not a prequel - has some of the most amazing-yet-subtle CGI in movie-making.)

On the face of it, a prequel is a great concept. Any good story, in my opinion, has a sense that it is neither the beginning nor the end of the characters' lives: the things happened to them before the curtain lifted and things will continue to happen after it falls. There's a fine line between a story that lives in this way and a story that doesn't feel like it starts at the right spot ... but to me, I would rather trend towards too much backstory than too little.

Then, of course, there's the unintentional prequel - when you're forced to read book two and then come back to book one. This happens a lot with mysteries: those long-running series, good luck finding all the books, in order, in print. I've pretty much resigned myself to picking up whatever number I can find, and I hate - hate hate hate - reading things out of order. And because the mystery is so important, the mystery novel has an obligation not to spoil previous volumes, while still providing the reader with enough context to operate. Anne Perry's "Callander Square" does a marvelous job of discussing the events in "The Cater Street Hangman" without revealing a key aspect of the murderer in the previous book.

In fact, just to confuse the prequel issue further, I like to read things in chronological order, so I'll tend to start with the prequel ... but we digress.

I think prequels suffer from some potential pitfalls above and beyond regular volumes, and there are two that jump out at me:

1. That's All There Is? The events of the prequel seem too small / cramped to live up to all the foreshadowing and complexity of the hints in the main storyline. This is always going to be a big risk, because the reader (/ viewer's) imagination will probably create scenarios more interesting than what the writer can provide. Often, what we don't see is more powerful than what we do. But more generally, this can apply to situations that don't havethe right proportion of time or immensity. It's like finding out the mysterious vendetta that's been keeping our hero and villain at each other's throats for years is a parking space.

The "White Collar" prequel episode fell into this category for me. I felt that the now-time association between the characters suggested a far longer and deeper connection than could be summarized / presented in a one-hour episode. Even now, I sort of ignore the whole backstory episode and pretend there's more to it.

2. Too Tidy. The prequel takes in / explains every single little event in the present storyline. Sometimes the events even torque unnaturally to make sure that something is covered. Additionally or instead of, there is almost no content in the prequel that doesn't pertain to or lead into the main storyline. Life doesn't work like this. It's too neat, too contrived - even in storytelling. I stop believing in it ... and it loses one of the prime virtues of backstory, to flesh out the world with the unseen but present.

Not a prequel / main story situation per se, but this was part of my problem with "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter:" the whole alternate history was so entirely fixed / predicated on vampires that I had trouble buying into it. Sure, that's your subject matter, but the entire span of a person's life is more varied than that.

These aren't insurmountable problems, but they're definitely a significant concern and an impact upon (my) enjoyment of a prequel. What do you think, folks? Is there another pitfall I've missed?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

So much has happened within the course of the novel pages I've edited this past week, and yet I have little to say. I'm conscious of the fact that I'm not cutting as much as I wanted to and often adding chunks of explanation and emotional insertions - but I am still fixed on the point that whatever the length, it needs to be as strong as it can be. Four more chapters this week. Not going to promise (even to myself) that I'll keep that pace ...

I'm still finishing "Scenting Rain" in between times, but have a lot else I've been tackling, such as reviews and editing a story that I intend to submit to Triangulation: Last Contact. (Everyone who read "Last Requests," by the way - thank you so much. It's a much stronger story now, and all my niggling doubts have been addressed.) I'm down to one last sentence to use in "Scenting Rain," and I just realized I'll need to switch POVs one more time to get it to happen. Curses! But we are looking at a sprawling novella - currently a little over 14k, likely to go over 15k, and probably shrinking back to 13-14k in editing.

That makes my total count of novellas / novelettes (technically it's a novelette, but that term sounds so dainty) written for publication: two. The other is "Shadow Play," and while I'm sure much of the style / feel is similar, the outlook on the world espoused by the characters could not be more different.

3/17 - 3/23
Pages Edited: 19
Word Count: 1,258

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sword & Sorceress 2011

It's that time of year again: I prepare to charge up the submission shores of Sword & Sorceress. This year, submissions are limited to two (assuming the first is rejected within the submissions window) ... and I am breaking my brain trying to figure out which stories best fit the style of the anthology. The combination of trying to categorize and identify my own style versus assessing what I've found in stories by others maddens me. I've never been very good at it. I certainly don't have a gut-level feel for it.

I have read three Sword & Sorceress anthologies: XVII, XXI (the first one edited by someone other than Bradley) and XXIV, edited by the reigning red pen, Elisabeth Waters. So I've encountered a fairly wide range of the stories selected. The most significant feature is that the stories have a strong bias towards female narrators - though not exclusively. A majority, but not a distinct majority, feature warriors and battles. Others involve quests, puzzles, and quieter adventures. Though personal battles rather than global stakes - usually considered a defining feature between sword and sorcery and high fantasy - predominate, some of the stories involve princesses, kingdoms, the fate of the world, etc ... which sort of stretches the point of calling it "Sword & Sorceress," to me. Conclusion: it's not just for swashbucklers and fight scenes (and better for it).

At present, my definite contender is:

Stolen Moments: Mantisia, an unusual child who ages a year in a day, stows away with an adult friend when he goes to pay a mysterious debt. I do have concerns that this story might be a bit experimental (gah, that word!) for Sword & Sorceress: it's in first person POV with each scene narrated "immediately" - so that it starts with a (albiet precocious) seven year old narrator and vocabulary and progresses throughout. However, my favorite stories in XXIV were the ones that tread different paths in regards to setting, and I think (hope!) this would have a similar kind of interest. Seven thousand words. Ouch.

The other three are wrangling around with each other:

Kept Woman: An assassin assigned must pose as one of thirty-some royal brides, but how will she react when she develops feelings for the first among their number? Story also comes in around 7k; I know longer tales are handicapped, and I'm reluctant to submit two in that range. This is one of my older stories, too, though believe me it'll get a thorough polish ...
Note Taking: Among a people where music is language, Ecca is handicapped by her lack of pitch ... but this unassuming servant girl may be the only one who can break the language barrier with a foreign people. I think the feel of this one is on the right track, but - and this is a big but - there is no magic in this setting. At all. I don't think I've seen a secondary world sans magic in any of the anthologies. For me, this is a short story - 5k.
Dancing Day: A group of young teleporters who lose their abilities upon maturity must keep the traditions of their conquered city alive ... but how can one dance the Silver Tree with no instruments to play? (Look, Lindsey is obsessing about music!) I can't put my finger on what makes me uncertain about this one. Well, length, at least - yet another story in the 7k range. Unfortunately, that seems to be my sweet spot for length.

As an aside, I did have this whole problem figured out - but the original story I had intended to set aside for story #2 sold. (Well, good news bad news ...) So back to the drawing board!

Anyone who has experience with Sword & Sorceress and is better at eyeballing, I would love some advice. Currently my plan is to bang my head against a wall until I hurt myself and do some divination with the blood.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

Today is the busiest day of the Celtic musician's year. I only had one job, but it was a marathon: two hours at lunch, then another two and a half hours at dinner, with my trio. I also turned down at least three other jobs that intersected. Might have been more, I lost count. Which is all to say that I apologize in advance if this post is in gibberish. Or Gaelic (same difference).

First week, off to a good start: four chapters edited, and more thoroughly than I had initially intended. What I usually do is take a printed manuscript, read it through once to get the macro sense of the story, then read it through again taking hand notes and creating an outline. The outline contains macro-level corrections I need to make; the hand notes are typically line edits. These steps are already done. Then I address the hand notes in the manuscript. That's the step I'm on. As I finish each chapter, I'm going back over it again to see if I've edited in anything strange, if I skimmed lines I should have read more closely because I didn't mark them on the printed pages, etc.

I had something wise and enlightening I was going to say in this post, which I have forgotten. Oh, well.

3/10 - 3/16:
Pages edited (computer manuscript, which is about 750 words / full page): 21
Word count: 2,069

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Eyes Have It

One of the best things about writing fantasy is the ability to create cultures and peoples, and one aspect of that - though far from the most important - is physical appearance. Now, I know racial type is a hot-button topic in fantasy, with some people increasingly concerned about how the genre is white-and-European-centric, and arguably even some characters who are physically different are just western folks "painted" - but I'm going to skirt that issue in this post, just as I skirt it in my writing. Not because I'm afraid or unaware of controversy, but because ...

... why limit yourself to Earth types? Some components of physical appearance are tightly tied to evolution and adaptation to a particular clime, such as skin color and physical type - that is, longer, thinner body types disperse heat better and are more suited to hot climates. Others, however, have no correlation in necessity. Genetics may have a hand in it, dominant traits coming to the fore ... but who says that the same traits have to be dominant or recessive in your world? If magic gets to be a gene (and in some worlds, it really is), why not play further with the rules of inheritance? Why not make a culture / race that has no direct parallel in the real world?

I've done this in several different ways. Mixing up types in a way not usually seen in our world is one. The Alayins, the dominant people in "Journal of the Dead," are dark complected with light hair and eyes. The few dark-eyed characters are treated with some fascination by the cast. Another way is specificity - for instance, a race that only produces blondes. Or capitalizing as a physical or cultural feature something that isn't usually considered part of a distinct type. On Trianor, the Sikan standard of beauty revolves around the feet. A final way is simply to pick something that doesn't exist in the real world - genuinely yellow eyes, dominant polydactylism ... actually, I think I'm going to mark that for future use - and make it racial.

When I do imitate an Earth type, it's either out of laziness (I admit it!), or because I want to evoke a specific parallel. For instance, in the world of the Seventeen Seas, Ilkanae is supposed to be reminiscent of ancient Greece, and the reader should get that feeling quite strongly. And in "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" the parallels were necessary both for the feel of the story and to support some of the real-world cultural / mythological jokes. Destia is basically pre-Revolutionary America if it were a Greek colony instead of an English one ... well, okay, that's not exactly a parallel ...

This all comes up because I've been editing "Scylla and Charybdis" and noticed Gwydion has brown eyes. There was a time, when I was a young writer, when I hated brown-eyed characters. Part of it was because I didn't see any variety in it: you could have brown eyes, hazel eyes or ... brown eyes. Later, obviously, I realized there are a lot more variations. Another part of it, I think, was self-identification. I have grey eyes, which tend to greener or bluer depending on what I'm wearing. Yes, I am this close to being the fantasy cliche of the girl with the mood-ring eyes.

Sidebar about "Scylla and Charybdis:" I very consciously mixed real-world ethnic types (since it's science fiction) with both appearances and names, as a demonstration of how those types had fused over the centuries. To do it to every character would have made it look like a circus, but there's a reason I have a redheaded Upala Manuel. The city of Nissyen has a mostly-assimilated Native American population - but this is never said directly in the text. It's left implied with the names and faces.

Back to the brown-eye controversy, I actually started consciously forcing myself to create characters with dark eyes, and I was all proud of myself when I had a narrator as such. Yes, I was young and silly, but it's a place I came from and a door I used to have shut for no other reason than instinct. Now I like exploring unusual combinations, not as a way of making the characters superficially special or diverse, but as one more way of expressing the possibilities of a secondary world fantasy ... and reminding readers that they're not in Kansas any more.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

GoodReads Review: Water Witch

Water WitchWater Witch by Connie Willis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the planet of Mahali, where the ancient talent for water-witching has been replaced by a computerized system, two characters collide: Deza, daughter of a con artist whose plan has gone horribly awry; and Radi, on a royally appointed mission to deal with the threat of the Tycoon. The story incorporates romance, adventure and intrigue on a river-ride to what seems like a no-win conclusion.

The feel of this story is intriguing: it's either a science fiction story with fantasy trappings, or a fantasy story with science fiction trappings, depending on how you look at it. Because of this, despite the fact the book is almost thirty years old, the science in it wears very well. The only part that made me burst out laughing was a bit about the lack of communications between the Tycoon's compound and the City due to the lack of landlines. Oh really?

However, for me, the emotional dimensions weren't always written fully and convincingly. In particular, I didn't buy into the love story. In a story that was otherwise fairly deep into the character's heads, much of the chemistry was introduced through actions without support of thought or emotion. Now, I hate the romance novel cliche of bashing the reader over the head with the "mysterious feelings," but this book goes too far in the other direction.

In addition, I never got the impression that Radi loved Sheria (the princess he starts the story engaged to) - it read like a marriage of convenience, and I was surprised when he was upset later on. (Contributing to my confusion was the fact that Radi seemed to think nothing of sleeping with another woman. This is somewhat fitting to the time period of the setting the SF millieu mimics, but it was never explained or even mentioned, so I was left with a slightly sour puzzlement.)

I'm not quite sure whether the principle development in the latter half of the story was meant to be a surprise; it was certainly obvious to me from before the character was even introduced, which leads me to believe the reader was meant to know, but who knows.

The character of the father and how he is incorporated into the story as a deceased spirit is great, and his commentary throughout is a delight. This story also has one of the best one-thing-after-another sequences, as character after character barges into Deza's bedroom to speak with her. It's so tight and perfect that I put the book down at the end of the last entrance and howled. The character of Edvar (the Tycoon's son) is also a refreshing surprise.

Overall, this was a solid story with some shining moments, but I felt that it lacked some depth and intensity, and I would have enjoyed the romance better if the setup had been more distinct.

View all my reviews

Thursday Thoughts

My mother is visiting this week - got in Saturday morning - so my word count is not what it might be. I am squeezing in brief writing spurts in between socializing and my regular daily routine. We've been cooking a lot - see my other blog if you're really curious. (Three words for you: homemade ice cream.) We're watching TV and playing chattery commentators. My dog is over the moon with the attention.

However, it was a good week in that I finished my draft of "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" (Hmm ... is the question mark part of the title? I've been writing it without ...) Sometimes I think my most marked improvement over the past few years is that I need more editing: Scylla and Charybdis looks to need tons (and tons of cutting, for sure), and this book is similarly going to need a lot of hammering to get it into shape. Sadly, I will be going back and looking for more opportunities for humor. Sometimes, I just had to let the comedy slide and drive on to the point. The fact that I was trying to contain the humor within a believable, sympathetic framework sometimes hampered me. However, once you get to know the characters, the cross-character banter is (I think!) fantastic.

Editing starts this week. I have tentatively figured I will do three chapters a week for this particular draft. This is the draft where I am translating my handwritten notes from the printed manuscript into the book. If it turns out to be to fast to get decent work in, I will revise / rethink. However, that gives me fifteen weeks for the manuscript, or 3 - 4 months. Hmm. Maybe too slow, considering we're talking about one pass-through. Again, we'll see.

Word count for 3/3 - 3/9: 7,755

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Last Word

Just wrote the ending of "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" - closing with a final line that has a very oh-no-here-we-go-again flavor. First draft word count: 125,429 (including chapter headings). It will lose some weight in editing, but it may gain some as I seek other opportunities to punch up the humor.

I will need some eyes on how the first episode or two flows before I start editing (specifically to discern if I'm on the right track with the POV and the epithets), but right now, I am definitely in cool-down mode.

And conversely, in warm-up mode ... two next-novel ideas fighting it out for mysterious dominance in the back of my head.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

Experimentation and Difficulty

Over the past few years of writing, I've noticed I've become more comfortable experimenting with point of view, technique, style, etc, and that I've been willing to tackle more difficult projects. Throughout it all, however, I haven't lost my focus to start and end with story. To me, experimentation isn't - and should never be - an end in of itself. It should be a byproduct of the requirements of the story ... used when a "weird" perspective is the best, strongest way of telling the story.

With "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" I've dabbled in multiple kinds of points of view - a combination of camera-POV third person (no internal narration), deep third person, and first person - and what you might call metafiction. It walks a delicate line between making the parallels to reality competition television evident and breaking the fourth wall ... and I wanted, first and foremost, to create an internally consistent story. There's also some metahumor, jokes and call-outs the characters wouldn't recognize as humorous, but the reader hopefully finds so. I've made fun of creationism, the American Revolution and various aspects of technology. But these weren't elements I consciously started out with: they grew from my figuring out how to handle the storyline.

Another story finished recently is "Of Two Minds," in which there is no narrative / description, simply dialogue - two characters trapped in the same head, arguing with each other. The action and setting are conveyed by the characters' comments within the dialogue. But the starting point for this was not a conscious challenge ... rather, these two people popped into my head (would that make three people in the same head?) in response to a free-write prompt, and what I "heard" very clearly was their sniping, rapid-fire argument.

Occasionally, I do choose between projects due to technical merit. "Scylla and Charybdis" edged to the top of my list of next-projects (back when I wrote it, in ye olde days) because it was science fiction, and I thought attempting to write it with thought for rotation and revolution, light-distances and technological incorporation - even if none of that appeared obviously in the text - would be good for my skills as a writer.

My point here, I think, is there's room for experimentation and works that require walking a difficult technical line ... but for me, it has to be a necessity, an outgrowth of the story. If you could take the same story and tell it just as effectively without the experimental technique, it shouldn't be there. Obviously, whether or not an individual story requires its whacky elements is a judgment wherein reader and writer may not see eye to eye. But to simply try it on at random, without fusion with the content and feel of the story, seems disgenuous and show-offy. Experimentation is not an end in of itself.

Your mileage may vary, of course ... but this is the reason why I, personally, bristle when a reviewer comments on my use of experimental elements.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Saplings accepted!

My short story "Saplings" was just accepted by MindFlights! ... well, actually it was accepted almost two weeks ago, and my email system very kindly decided not to deliver it. Grr.

The sale more than makes up for Earthlink being obnoxious, though.

The best way I can describe "Saplings" is to call it an action(ish) fantasy story about an herbalist with nanny powers and the abduction of one of her charges. And evil trees.

GoodReads Author

I now am officially a GoodReads author! I noticed that some of my friends had their blogs up on GoodReads, wondered how that happened ... and followed the trail to realize it was their author flag and that I was eligible for one, as well. I sent a message to the crew, asking to be set up (and requesting they remove one non-valid book in my list) and ... voila!

Even more fun, Taming The Weald is on GoodReads. I am tickled pink by this.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Thursday Thoughts

So I've finished my meanderings over the past week about my ideas for the next novel, and I think just talking about it, I've narrowed it down to the last three. The first two allow me to explore the mystery-fantasy fusion I'm fascinated with; the last has a weird, magnetic appeal, though I wonder about making it manageable ... and if the fun is in pondering it, not producing it.

For those curious about my sentences story, I'm still working on it. Strange thing: when I began to write, I looked at the amount of ground I intended to cover and gave it permission to be a novella. When I hit the 5-6k ranges, the point where I usually start to freak out and angst about a story's length ... I felt calm. Focused. I was on track. It's the same problem, but I had decided at the outset that I was going for a different product, and that made all the difference.

4 of 6 sentences used thus far. Got a long span to reach the fifth, which is just before the climax, and the sixth, which is just after.

Just reached the decision scene in "Who Wants To Be A Hero?" and did not put the final result from the winner's POV. Not sure that's the right choice. It comes down to whose story it is ... and when you look at these shows, even though there's a winner, there's not really a through narrative. (Otherwise, you'd know who was winning from the beginning.) I chose to tell it from the point of view of Ioweyn, my main character outside of the competition. Since her life is deeply affected as well, I think - I hope! - it works.

Word count for 2/24 - 3/2: 10,237

Idea #5: Insanity

I find something ironic about the fact that when I finally get to this last idea, it's late, I'm stressed, and I want to kill things. Or maybe it would be better said that it's a trifle too appropriate ...

This idea comes from my fandom life ages ago - I am ninety percent sure that the game / community responsible started at the end of 1996. (Author's world, original characters / no canon characters, in a shared writing type of format.) Over the course of years, I explored a sprawling series of plotlines through a lot of characters, dragging other people and theirs with me. Conspiracy, skulduggery, backstabbing - figurative and literal - and action ... some really good ideas backed up with some really poor writing, and some hare-brained ideas similarly backed up with really poor writing.

I think I have now been mulling over this project for over a year - and my brain returns to it possibly more than any other idea. Been working on how to create my own setting so the plot can remain roughly in place, without it feeling as if I've filed off the numbers or plagiarized. If I didn't think I was working solely with my own elements, I wouldn't even be considering writing this. What I've ended up with is a very dark world, influenced by fairy legends. Considering how the character interrelationships both change and stay the same excites me. It's like visiting with old friends.

I know I've got the fantasy writer's stock in trade here, a trilogy - and the backbone of the arc that connects the three is a love story, but it's the villain's love story. (I've kind of tentatively thought there are two central questions to the romantic subplots in the project: "Does love conquer all?" and "Should it?" ... and different characters demonstrate a different permutation of answers.) I'm confident the first book would be standalone, and I'm not going to write any sequels (to anything!) until / if / ever that sells.

But the weight of my concerns with this is far heavier than with any of the other ideas. Will this simply be too complex? My ideas tend to turn out more detailed than I intend, even when I've planned simple. On the other hand, I have to outline this one - and I already have a pretty firm idea where most of it is going - so that may restrain the exponential explosion of pieces. The amount of prep-work would be immense, though I don't really mind that. And I have concerns that the parts I'm really looking forward to are in the later books.

It also has occurred to me that I have built this up so thoroughly in my head there's no way it's not going to be a disappointment in writing ... but how else am I going to excise it?

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Idea #4: Always A Bridesmaid

One of my goals as a writer has been to write a fantasy mystery novel ... not in the sense that has become so popular and even hackneyed, where magic enters an otherwise contemporary detective story, but in the opposite sense: a fantastic secondary world setting gains itself a detective. (The previous idea would follow in a similar vein.)

This was my first concept for a novel-length project. It's (very) loosely based on a roleplaying scenario I ran and a short story I followed it up with, but the specifics and even the general elements have evolved so much that I'm comfortable calling it a new concept ... at least, new in the sense that I've never written it before, because it's been sitting in my next projects lists for a while.

The basic plot is that a mage who champions the rights of familiars is murdered ... leaving her familiar and apprentice to solve the crime. In mystery parlance, the familiar is the detective, the apprentice is the sidekick. I have an underdeveloped idea that the familiars have a society of their own. I have not firmly decided whether they are summoned or created, which is going to have a huge impact on the detective ... and whether I decide to tell it from her POV or the apprentice's, ala Watson.

(It's a huge decision: the familiar is going to be somewhat inhuman. Do I want to "distract" from the mystery by getting into her head? On the other hand, the idea of looking at human society as an outsider really excites me. On the third hand, I did have a romantic subplot in mind for the apprentice, which would be difficult without showing her perspective. For some reason, I am instinctively reluctant to consider a dual-POV story. Rather than giving me the best of both worlds, I think it would just dilute either effect. Do I do the classic detective "outside the brilliant mind" scenario or the "inside a weird outsider's head" scenario? ... I guess one is a mystery slant, one is a fantasy slant.)

I'm very confident in this setting and elements, but all those unanswered questions above ... and I'm concerned that I will end up retreading old ground, with my love of conspiracy and politics. On the other hand, that's what I love and (I hope) do well. So it's a conundrum.