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Monthly Archives: March 2012

For every writer, much like fans, when they complete a work there is always the bittersweet moment of saying goodbye.  We’ve spent months and sometimes years building worlds, creating characters, and becoming intimately involved with them.  And as part of the writing process, we know their histories and their futures – sometimes better than they do themselves.  They have become our friends.

And then we think, “maybe I can write another story about X”.  It’s easier to write a sequel than to start something new.  You have a stock of characters, places and histories.  And for those of us in speculative fiction, we don’t have to reinvent the rules of science or magic or monsters.  And this is only complicated further when the story is a commercial success.  Fans will be looking forward to a new story about these characters, too.

Suddenly we are on a slippery slope.  Are we writing just because it’s easier and more comfortable?  Because we think we’ll make more money (for most professional writers, this can be an unfortunately important consideration).

I certainly can’t claim to know what has been going through George Lucas’ mind since the late 90’s.  But I do wonder if he has done more harm to his legacy than help.  I have a kinder view of the Star Wars prequel trilogy than most of my generation – who grew up watching the original series.  But there aren’t many who will argue that the newer entries live up to that gold standard.  Did he make money?  Certainly.  He even made money off the most recent Indiana ones movie (again failing to live up to its predecessors).

This is what writers need to be wary of.  When we write a sequel, are we writing “the Empire Strikes Back” or are we writing “the Phantom Menace?”

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I’m waiting for my editor to review the draft of my next (still to be titled) book.  While I do, I’ve turned my attention to one of the other works that I’ve been puttering with.  This is how I typically do my writing – I have one main project and a few that I’m still putting my hands around.  I poke and prod, writing a few pages or a few dozen, until I can decide where it’s going and whether it’s ready to have any real effort put into it.

This particular work had come from a rather simple idea.  And it wasn’t a plot-driving one, just an intriguing bit of how magic should work for this particular world.  That’s a hurdle not to be underestimated in fantasy writing – there has to be a logical system, but it’s too easy to be derivative.  In any case, I’d thrown some cliché elements in (powerful monster/villain, a main character who isn’t ready to face real “adventure”, a more mundane but dangerous and plentiful monster).  As per my post “The Problem with Potter”, he doesn’t have any special powers.  He isn’t a “Chosen One”.  But there was no depth to the story.

Then I had an epiphany.  I’ll be honest that it isn’t anything groundbreaking in fantasy literature, but it let me connect the dots I’d placed together in the story.  The history of this world was suddenly stretched out before me.  It was like one minute I was staring at a painting, and the next I looked up to see the reality in all its splendor.  Most of the details are still foggy, but I know that they are out there to be found. 

By the way, I’m adding a link to my editor’s blog.  I encourage you to visit!

Thanks to everyone who took advantage of the “Read an e-book week” promotion at Smashwords.  If you enjoyed Disenchanted, I’d appreciate any ratings or reviews!

I want to start with a caveat:  I actually did enjoy the Harry Potter series, though I liked the earlier books better.  It simply happens to exemplify some of the easy pitfalls that I try to avoid as a writer.  There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with them, but for me, they take something away from what could have been.

The Chosen One:  Harry Potter was marked as an infant to be the one who must defeat the villain.  He’s special, not like even run of the mill wizards.  Even though he’s not as smart as Hermione, he’s somehow more talented . . . And that seems like a problem to me.  The valor required for someone who is “special” to save the day is undeniably less than a normal person bravely reaching the same goal.  Who is more heroic, Superman stopping an armed robbery, or the man who’s just there to buy a jug of milk?  I’m not saying there can’t be wonderfully powerful “good guys”, I just don’t think they should be the central character.  There’s more drama elsewhere.  An example of getting it right: Tolkien’s main characters are hobbits . . .

I’m Not Dead Yet:  J K Rowling was quoted (when questioned regarding sequels beyond the 7 prescribed books of HP) as suggesting that Harry may not survive the series.  This I applaud.  What sort of conflict is there if you’re hero can’t die?  But let’s face it,  every book was titled “Harry Potter and . . .”  How was he going to die before book 7?  Would it have been “Hermione Granger and the Deathly Hallows?”  And whatever she thought, I was never convinced that Harry could or would die.  Convincing your reader that heroes can die isn’t easy without actually killing them, of course.  Rowling massacred second tier characters to convince us she was serious, but I never believed.

The Series that Doesn’t End:  I wonder, though I suppose I’ll never know, if Rowling found herself trapped by the 7-year format of the Harry Potter series.  No matter how well planned the series was (and I have my doubts), forcing it into a school career has to have taken a toll on the story.  Would it have been better as 4 books? 8?  We’ll never know.  The other part of the series’ length that has always made me wonder is the shift in tone somewhere around the midpoint.  The first books are light-hearted romps through a world of magic – with a little action thrown in.  The latter books are serious fantasy- action.   It almost feels like two different series.  The flip side of this, of course, is ending up writing endless installments (Xanth, for instance), instead of moving on to new worlds and ideas.

In the infancy (perhaps toddlerhood) of my own writing, I can’t say that I’ll never fall into these traps.  For the time being, though, they are in the forefront of my mind as I envision each new idea.

Smashwords is sponsoring “Read an e-book Week”, March 4-10.  As part of the promotion, my book, Disenchanted, will be available for free.  If you’re interested, please take a look.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/103946

And, of course, check out all the other books being promoted.  There are lots of great undiscovered authors there!