Monday, February 20, 2012

Killing Darlings

Sometimes, I think being stuck at my day job, unable to write, but thinking about writing, might be the best thing for revision. It has lead me to a solution I had been struggling with, and I believe I have come to the point where I slay my first darling. Her name is Celeste.
"Kill your Darlings" is a writing term (though, I heard if first during a screenwriting class) that describes eliminating or cutting something from a work that the writer is close to for the improvement of the work. There's a debate by who actually coined the term, but a couple of famous people have been quoted about it.
I generally don't have a problem with this removal of an element that I'm close to. I think it's the filmmaker in me (where I'm on set and there's not more time or budget left and it's only the essentials we film). So, when looking at my draft after the first read through, I knew I needed to get rid of my beloved Celeste. I just couldn't figure out how.
I never thought that I had a problem killing my darlings. I always found it easy to drop various elements of my story, even if I was emotionally attached to them. That is, if there was a reason for it. Yet, Celeste, well, she snagged me.
Celeste was one of the characters I wrote the story for. She's the herione (though is she really?) from the Grimm Tale "Sweetheart Roland." That tale has resounded with me since the Third Grade because I always thought that the herione was the stupidest girl on the planet. One of subplots I wanted to include in my Flamingo Princess was a reworking of the end of "Sweetheart Roland." One in which the herione is not totally screwed over and calls out Roland on in his infidelity. So I wrote it; it was a cruitial plot point of the novel.
After my first read through, I realized that Celeste fell to the wayside for a good two thirds of the book, only appearing in the beginning and for her big scene. Her character was a bit boring and whiney, which made her climax seem unnatural. Many of her earlier scenes felt forced - I was pushing her there so she could have her big scene. I mean, really, did she have to go to the Cinderella ball? No! I just needed some reason to keep her around... But something, something crutial happens during her big scene, making cutting her completely quite hard. If I deleted her big scene, well, then the charcters wouldn't reach the end.
If that's the case, then is this a darling I really should kill? The answer: yes.
As I work over my beginning, filling in the holes, I kept trying to figure out how to incorporate Celeste more. If I made the character more prevalent, then I don't have to cut her! Yeah, right.
Then I realized how to solve my problem. With a few tweaks, Celeste's big scene could become another character's big scene - someone who was left unresloved in the book anyway. Someone who kept stealing the scene from Celeste, filling her void anyway. There could be only one. Celeste then vanishes from the pages of my book like a wisp of smoke and none would be the wiser.
And I feel - relieved. I think Celeste was weighing me down. She didn't fit into this story, and someday, I'll revisit her and give her a story of her own. Plus, it solves another plot problem I'd been having.
So why did it take me so long to kill her? I think it was because a part of me didn't want to lose her. Her subplot is something I've wanted to explore since I was in third grade. She was a major inspiration for writing the book. I think a part of me didn't want to figure out how to shift things and eliminate her because if she was so important to me, she had to be that important to the story. Instead of trying to figure out how to work her back in, I should have been trying to figure out how to work her out completely.
We need to trust our guts. If our instinct is whispering "kill that darling" we need to listen. That's not always so easy because often we can rationalize to ourself why we shouldn't.
I think to make up for it, I'll leave Celeste in my special thanks when I get the book published.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Filling in the Holes

Ok, so I'll be honest - I'm terrible at outlining. I have managed to get a real basic outline done. All cruicial plot points are noted and most characters catalouged. I wanted to do something more detailed, but, I can't. It's not in me.
So on to the next step: Filling in the Holes.
As I went back through my piece, I eliminated entire sections (and the entire beginning). Chapters 1-3 ended up in the trash with little notes about what new events chapter 1-3 could be. I didn't think the book could just start with chapter 4, but actually just needed a whole new method for how to get to chapter 4.
This means there's lots of little gaps to fill. Finally something fun.
Why is it fun? Because it means writing freely! (At least, mostly.)
Unlike my original drafting process for this novel (which was make it up as I go), I did outline what my gaps would be filled with. I know that Chapter 2 Scene 2 West climbs a apple tree in an orchard while the Fox he met steals his bow. Of course, while I can describe the entire scene is a sentance, I'll need a few more to make it a whole half of a chapter.
Like my original draft though, I'm just going through and writing the scenes. I'm not fussing with them to make them look sparkley and polished. Because, when I start looking through the book again, maybe these new scenes won't be what I needed. So if I spend all that time making them look sparkely, then that's a lot of time wasted.
So, the next step in the revision process is - write all the new scenes needed to fill in holes. Let's see how it goes!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shannon's Adventures for G4

Sometimes crazy last minute ideas pay off.

So, I wrote a blog recently about how real life sometimes gets in the way of writing. This post is about why.

My husband had the crazy idea to apply for Attack Of The Show's Viewer's Army two weeks before NOLA's Wizard Con while trying to put together an award winning group display for the Hearse Club at the World of Wheels convention that same weekend. I said that probably wasn't best idea, but he said he wanted to try because "what do we have to lose?"

(Our sanity was the answer.)

Our award winning club display

For those of you who don't know, I'm constantly struggling to decide if I want to be a writer or a
filmmaker (and in my head, I would be both). Any time I get to film, especially something professional, I jump at the chance. I love working a camera as much as I love pumping out 50,000 words in the month of November.

Kirk and I filmed little short videos about shooting Wizard Con. Well, he beat me out (which I understand because I'm painfully akward on camera) to host, and G4 sent us this awesome looking microphone and some crappy flip cams and press passes. (OMG! I got to be press! It was amazing!)

Well, I worked my butt off getting the hearse club set up, so I could spend my weekend filming.
So we get to the Con early, staring at the lines of people outside, and how we get to cut the lines cause we're press. Then 10 o'clock rolls around, the doors open and we begin filming.

And it was exciting! We were like mini-celebs. Everyone kept whispering "Look! It's G4!" and the very friendly and helpful Jerry, Wizard Con's publicity guy, came over and introduced himself. Said he'd arrange all the interviews for us.

So we got to work. We filmed lots of B-roll of cool con stuff and started pratice interviews with unimportant people. Some of the organizations like Krewe of the Living Dead and the awesome Krewe of Chebaccus.

Then, with the help of Jerry, we went after the celebrites. We got to meet awesome celebs like Kevin Sorbo (my fav!), Adrianne Curry, the guy in the Chewbacca suit from the original Star Wars, and Micheal Beihn. We got the chance to interview the super smart kids from the Walking Dead, Paul McGillan, and even Adam Baldwin, but they didn't make the segment. (Probably because two of them refused to sign release forms and the minors might have just been tricky.) It was entertaining to see how many of them didn't know who G4 was, but those who did were very friendly and chatted with us while the camera wasn't rolling. Adrianne Curry and Kevin Sorbo were the most chatty. (And I think Kirk has a new celebrity crush.)

Then there was all the cool non-celeb peeps we got to meet, like the 501st (a non-profit raising money for lukemia), the very awesome Daz 3D (who lent us a USB cord so we could dump footage), and the very friendly Star Trek band - Five Year Mission. We chatted with the best of the best for costumes and dropped in on some exclusive panels. Unfortuately, due to time, many of these awesome people didn't make the cut.

We scored some awesome free swag, and then ended up spending plenty of dough on various cool con things, like a signed copy of Chew. And my new parading bag.

As fun as this sounds, it was a lot of work. By the end of the day, we were so wiped, we came home and just crashed. But not before we called G4 to let them know we filled the cameras (a little bit of a stunner from what we gathered).

Then on Wedesday, Feb 8, our segment aired. I did not get to see it live because, well, I don't have G4 (unfortunately) and no one in my immeadate vacinity has it either. But when I did get to see the segment, I couldn't help but dance around the house going "Look it's me! Behind the camera!"

Plus, The ZBBC and Krewe of the Living Dead's Zombie Waldo Takedown publcity stunt totally made the cut.

So, anyway, if you want to see what I did, not just listen to me babble about it, check it out!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Back to Basics - an Ephinony

I have been struggling with getting my plot in order. I have it sort of mapped out, but, as much as I love structure, outlining is something I'm terrible at.

I understand where beats go, and what's suppose to happen when. I really do, but when trying to apply that to my work, it's like herding cats. Difficult and full of little claws.

A book about plot passed by me at work, so I stopped to read the first chapter. I didn't think I was going to learn anything new from reading the first few pages of this book, but I'm always willing to learn something new so I gave it a shot.

Or maybe just get inspiration.

As I was reading the book, I realized that I had forgotten the basics. Years and years of study of the craft and I forget my foundations because I'm so worried about alliteration. Step one of writing a book: Who's your main character and what's their motivation. How could I have forgotten that?

Halfway through writing my first draft I realized that my original MC (The Flamingo Princess - a spunky girl who'd been a flamingo for quite some time, and had become comfortable in her skin) wasn't actually the MC. It was West, originally a side character who acted as the catalyst for change in my flamingo's life. He undergoes the most character change throughout the piece, and I knew then, that this was actually his story. So, when I went to rewrite, I knew I was going to drop some scenes to focus more on him.

But when looking at my plot, I kept feeling overwhelmed and dazed. I didn't know what scenes were missing, and which ones to cut. Who to cut out and who to leave. How to change this to West's story. Because I never thought of it in terms of my MC's motivation.

West wants to go home. Why can't West go home? Because his father kicked him out, and he has to return with a knight's reputation. So, if West wants to get home, now I can look at every conflict as "How is this preventing West from getting home?"

Bingo. I feel like I found the missing link.

As much as we write and rewrite, it's important to always remember the basics. This is perhaps the easiest thing to forget.

So, early in the revision process (before going back and outlining) we need to state: who is this story about and what does he/she want? Then we can look at every scene and say "How is this scene helping/hindering that goal?"