Friday 21st April 2017
If there’s been a theme to today it’s been about character arcs. That and feeling totally exhausted.
The main reason they’ve been on my mind is that I was thinking back to the greatest swordfight ever written that I drafted yesterday. Overall, I don’t think it’s bad but something was bothering me about it. It’s not enough to want to rewrite it but I still felt that something was missing.
They say that every book presents its own challenges. I’m not sure whether that’s true or whether you level up with each book and it’s the process itself that provides the challenge. But after giving it a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that the chapter was really missing some character arcs.
I believe I’m not too bad at giving characters arcs within books. Indeed, I have some huge arcs mapped out for some of the major characters in the series. And indeed in the swordfighting chapter, I made sure some characters had their moment of growth, redemption or conclusion. I think this is why it wasn’t immediately obvious.
But I think the secret – if there is one – is to ensure that every chapter moves every character present along. I’ve been guilty for a lot of this book of neglecting secondary characters. My big task in the next draft is to really look at some of these characters and ensure that they have an arc.
But in the swordfighting scene, ironically I think I was guilty of paying so much attention to the secondary characters, that the main character never made any progress. And given that the next chapter – the one I’m about to write – is their redemption, it really needs the swordfighting chapter to contain that moment when they realise their error, or at least lay the groundwork.
A year or two ago, a realisation like this would have me stressed out. I’d feel like the novel was a mess and that I should throw it out and start again. But if the two major rewrites have taught me anything, it’s been how to pull a novel apart and put it back together.
What would have been absolutely daunting even a year ago, feels doable and that feels great. It’s helped give me a lot of perspective on my growth as an author. I already know what I’ve got to do, and I think book 2 could be a stronger book than the first one as a result.
But it’s meant that proceeding into the final chapters, I really need to think how I pull all the threads together. There’s a BIG cast over the next three or so chapters before things go crazy for the epic ending. As a result I need to bring a lot of secondary character arcs to conclusion.
As a result, I’ve spent most of the night trying to plot out, not just the next chapter but the next 3. It’s also meant looking at the last chapter and working out what’s missing and should be included in the next draft.
This would have been such a big task a year ago.
I’ve also been procrastinating a lot. I’ve been watching a ton of vlogs on Youtube recently and I thought my reasons were about trying to get ideas for my own (if I ever get round to starting it!). However, I think it’s something much more fundamental.
Writing The Climb, it forces me to look over my day and try and extract the story. Everyday life is messy. You don’t wake up and say that today is going to be about character arcs and then make it that.
Instead, you go about your day and see what threads of story appear. If you are doing something major, then it can often be a good thing to build around, but given that the day job just ate so much of my day that I had to do the photo for today’s The Climb in my living room late this evening, there’s not been a lot of material to work with.
So today could have been about being tired. I could have blogged how I’m shattered from the office trips, or it could have been about my health and how the constant office visits are causing my legs to scab up. Or it could have been about watching vlogs (because I was so tired) and talking about how I want to do more film making and how maybe it’s about finding a creative hobby now the one I had is becoming a career.
But it was watching Youtube this evening that made me decide today would be about character.
You see, just as with The Climb, Youtube creators (and especially daily vloggers) are looking at their day and trying to make a story out of it. They’ll focus on certain bits of content more than others to accentuate it. But just like I’m trying to do in the overarcing plot of book 2, they’re trying to build a personal story.
I think seeing these individuals, seeing their character and the way they emphasise some stuff over other bits, has made me think about character, and specifically the characters in my novel.
Vlogs are interesting as in most cases they are self-produced and they give you an insight into how someone sees themselves. It’s interesting to watch how they over-emphasise some things over others, to see their own insecurities play out in the films they make. I’m sure the same could be said about The Climb, although The Climb isn’t making me want to go out and buy a drone. PS: I now want a drone.
But as a result of watching all these vlogs, it really has got me thinking about my secondary characters, their motivations and their individual arcs. I’ve been watching character based videos, and so naturally that has fed into how I think about my own characters.
I’ve still not finished planning out these 3 chapters. At the end of it the villain and his plan will be unveiled and our hero will have to decide on a course of action. But far more importantly, I need to ensure that all the secondary characters also have had their moment as well.
I think it could end up pretty epic (although in a different way to the first book). I am happy to spend the time planning and procrastinating to ensure that the climax end of book 2 is more character driven than action-driven (although there will be a LOT of action).
But I’ve still not finished all the plans as there are a lot of moving parts, so my intention is to sleep on it and then start writing it in the morning. Given that the editorial comments are due soon, I’m having to fight the urgency to rush these last few chapters. Perhaps it’s good then, that the character issues are making me want to fix it all before I finish this draft. Those two extremes seem to be balancing me out.
But I’m shattered after a busy week in the day job so I still need to sleep on it. An early night tonight.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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