Archive for July, 2015

The question is a simple one. “Why do you write?” Why do you take time out of your day when you could be doing so many other useful things? Why do you feel the need to inflict upon the world your fantasies and fictions?

Because I can. Because I have to. Because sometimes the only way to silence the voices is to write it out, and I’m too damn narcissistic to perhaps do the humble thing of locking away what I write in a drawe, never to see the light of day.

I write because I have stories I want to tell, characters who speak to me that want to speak, that want to act, that want to live. I write because I can and because it is the one artistic talent I have.

I can’t draw. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. I can’t paint, sculpt, or play a musical instrument.

But.

I can string words into sentences into paragraphs into stories. On occasion I can spin a phrase into something beautiful.

I write because I was an awkward, nerdy kid in school who escaped into books, who liked fantasy and science-fiction because it was so very different from everything else I was experiencing at the time. I could disappear into books, and I admired and envied those able to spin stories.

As I got older, I learned to pull stories apart, study the bones and entrails, divine what made the stories tick, how they were put together. What separated good writing from bad. Something that nowhere near enough high school or college classes are good at teaching, at least at any level prior to grad school maybe. By learning how stories work, I learned to put together my own. I learned how to juke left when the predictable thing to do would be go right.

I write because it is still an escape. For me, for others. People get to disappear into my words for a time, and maybe there’s a nerdy, awkward kid out there who needs that. Who connects with what I’m doing. Who finds their own inspiration.

And hell, I write because it’s fun. It’s exciting to write action scenes. It’s fun writing punch-drunk dialogue, the back and forth sniping of two characters. It’s fun making terrible things happen to fictional people, to pull the strings and make them dance.

I write because I can’t stop. I’ve actually gone months without writing a story, and when I do I feel like a piece of me is missing. And then I’m back, blank screen in front of me. Filling it up with words into sentences into paragraphs into stories. Maybe I’m an addict. Maybe I can’t stop. And maybe it’s because I’m getting older and I’m not the type to go out to the bar and bullshit with the regulars. Maybe this is my stool, my space, and I get to tell the stories I want to tell.

Why do I write? Because it is something deep within me, something inextricably a part of me that needs this like a junkie with his fix. And even if it goes no further than this and a couple of stories out there in the world, well, so be it.

But I’m still writing. Still submitting. And I’m not stopping any time soon.

[This week’s Chuck Wendig Challenge]

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Right, so this week’s challenge: click on a link, get a random phrase, incorporate that into a 1000 or so words. This piece could definitely be part of something longer, but I’m already over word count AND in the middle (3.5k words or so) of a longer piece I’m trying to develop. The phrase I was assigned is in bold within the story.

That said, I like Ewan, and, in fact have used him before. He’s the kind of character I really should do more with. Probably didn’t help (or hurt) that I’ve recently finished reading CASINO ROYALE.

As always, comments are welcome.

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The protagonist is the main character of the story. It is the person that, by acting, or in many cases reacting, to events, drives the action of the story.

Protagonist is a Moral Free Designation

The protagonist of the story is the main character, that’s it. They can be good, evil, moral, immoral, or amoral. Patrick Bateman is the protagonist character of AMERICAN PSYCHO, even if he is an unhinged lunatic. Maleficient, even though she is the antagonist in SLEEPING BEAUTY, is the protagonist for her own story. It doesn’t matter what their motivation is, so long as it is their action driving the plot, then that’s your protagonist.

If you were to write a story from Darth Vader’s perspective, Darth Vader would then be your protagonist, with the rebels (and possibly the emperor) being designated the antagonists.

Your Narrator Isn’t Always the Protagonist

It is easy to think that your narrator, especially when writing from a first person perspective, is the protagonist. This, however, is not always the case. The iconic example is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock stories, which are told from the perspective of his friend, Dr. John Watson. Watson, however, is not the driving force behind those stories, even though he does take an active role. Rather, he is the chronicler of Holmes’ exploits.

So when looking at your own story, is your narrator the main character? Or is someone else making the decisions, developing as a character, and driving your story forward?

What If You Have More Than One Protagonist?

So what if you have more than one main character? What if your characters trade off narration duties, especially when perspective flips? Well, then you have the case of the deuteragonist. The deuteragonist may not get the same “screen time” or page count of the protagonist, but their story is as integral to the whole. While the story of Lord of the Rings is very much Frodo’s story, Sam’s story takes up a good deal of the plot as well. And yes, Aragorn ends up being a triagonist in this case, as his story, while important, is sublimed into the background of Frodo and Sam’s quest.

Sometimes the Protagonist Isn’t Who We Think It Is

Sometimes as writer’s we employ a bit of sleight of hand. We start off with a story, lulling you into a sense that the character who is currently front and center is the focus of the story. Surprise! They die a quarter of the way through the book. Wait? What happened? The writer was using the time-honored technique of the Decoy Protagonist. Huh? Why would they do that?

Lots of reasons really.

Maybe the simple answer is that the author never wants you to get comfortable around the characters, never wants you, the reader, to feel safe. If the “main” character dies part way through, well then who is safe at the end of the day? The sense of danger and of suspense is heightened when the reader doesn’t know who is going to survive and who’s just more meat for the grinder.

And Sometimes the Protagonist Lies

Think about stories you might tell about yourself. Do you drag every fact into the light? Are you always objectively telling the exact truth? If you and someone else tell the same story, do all the facts line up precisely? Probably not. Think about that from your perspective as a writer. You, as the author, need to know what happened. The character? Not so much. Their own prejudices and biases color their actions and thoughts, and you need to be aware of that. Sometimes your protagonist will lie, or even simply be mistaken. As the writer you need to be willing to take those chances, while still being true to the story you want to tell.

Now go ahead and watch THE USUAL SUSPECTS. Think about who told the story. Now, what parts of the story hold true? How much of it is a fabrication? How can you use this in your own stories?

Necromancer Awakening
By Nat Russo
Published by Erindor Press

NECROMANCER AWAKENING is a world-class effort in world-building. It is obvious from the amount of narrative detail Nat Russo includes in his novel, that he has devoted an immense amount of time in developing his novel. A good amount of text is devoted to the political landscape, the development of alien (in the sense of other) races, and the mystical trappings surrounding the practice of magic. Even little throw away details (like turkeys having four legs) help give the sense of the alien and otherness the main character is confronted with.

Sadly, all of the narrative detail in the world doesn’t help when the story itself comes off as contrived, tired, and perhaps worst of all, clichéd. Mr. Russo’s primary protagonist, Nicholas, is an archaeology student from out world (and one who is, perhaps surprisingly, discomfited by the presence of dead people. Because whoever heard of an archaeologist needing to deal with dead things, hmmm?). One magic vacuum portal later, he finds himself in a strange, unsettling world that is close to, but quite unlike, our own world. And yes, magic happens to work in this strange, other world, and Nicholas has the potential to tap into this other power. Gods are real too, and take a very active role in the world. Or at least, they used to.

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This week’s challenge was to go to a site, get six random titles, and use one. I ended up with COLD LORDS. Overall, I’m happy with how it came out (even if I went a bit over word count). There aren’t going to be any challenges for the next couple of weeks so I’m going to have to find something to fill this space with, I suppose.

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This week’s challenge is the random song title jamboree. I ended up with Dead Is The New Alive by Emilie Autumn.

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