©2022 Michael Raven
I’ve threatened several times these past few days to go back to a “failed” NaNoWriMo 2020 attempt and rework it to see if it has legs with a little more thought into it. And I might still do just that, but first I’ll do one of the favorite habits of writers worldwide and practice avoidance. Yep, I will write about writing instead of just sitting down and actually get around to the act of — you know — writing.
While I am mocking myself just a bit, there are reasons for why I am not actually writing out the story. I’ve been asking myself several questions like:
- What is it about Gloamfell that made it feel unworkable in the past (aside from the lame excuse that I couldn’t get it done in November, so why bother at all)?
- What parts of it felt “off” in the skeletal outline I had drawn up?
- What elements were too “derivative”, that felt like commonplace tropes, or just seems outright hokey?
- Where could I maybe add some new elements that make it feel less familiar feeling?
- What elements was I hung up on that now seem like silly things to get hung up on?
And so forth. So, I might not be writing the story, but I am rethinking how to go about doing it. Mostly thought experiments so far. But I think they are important ones, because something made the wheels pop off and roll away at some point, and I was really loving some of the concepts up until that point.
What I think was hugely unworkable (for someone like me) was the political angle I had built into the story. I think the general ideas were okay, but then I got too wrapped up in the web of it all and I don’t want to write a GoT-level of court intrigue and betrayal. Those were side elements that started to creep in, becoming foreground elements, and I think it turned me off as I was writing the first 20k or so words. I need to scale that back or mostly out of the story in order to make myself happy. The story is about Winter, a girl and her pet, and greed leading to local disaster that had country-wide implications (and some cosmologic awakening as to WTF was going on).
Additionally, I think there was also a problem with my fixation on “Red”. While she quickly became a secondary character, I kept trying to treat her on the same level as Winter — mostly because she was in the original conceptualization the primary character instead of Winter. I think I flummoxed me a bit as I was writing, that conflict of who is the main character (MC). I needed to change my thinking about “Red” and failed to adjust for a new reality.
“Red” was quirky as a mute wandering girl with a command of nature and a talking feline companion named “Wolf”, but it felt… forced. That’s the best I can do to describe her as a character. And I felt she needed a bit of a tweak to make her more outré without elevating her to the level of MC-strange. As part of my solution here, I want to morph her a bit more into a diminished race of andromorphic and fey people — thought largely to be folklore or myth by people in the urban areas, but very real (albeit rare) parts of the rural landscape. I’m still toying with this concept, but I lean towards “wolf-daughter” kinds of things. Again, because they are so rare, people don’t know what they are all about, and too much is biased guess and folklore with very little factual information about her people. And, as the world becomes more industrialized, they are dying for unknown reasons.
I also felt a bit like I was straining Chekov’s Gun a bit with the mechs/mecha. Sure, they had a place in the world, but I think the Eastern European alt-history elements were too strained. I have never felt terribly connected to 1920s post-war Europe, but they seemed like a good place to put them. And then, I forced things a bit trying to mimic that era and place. I regularly was making them work instead of justifying them. I still want to retain the mech, but maybe pull back a bit and they become less the gun and more backdrop elements. I probably should let go of the post-war 20s and elaborate more on the alternative , but familiar, world. Mechs are starting to be leveraged as workhorses in the rural countryside, but they are still largely weapons of war and oppression. As far as environment, I want to take it out of the 20s and put it closer to railroad expansionist era. Not quite gaslight. Not quite dieselpunk. Something… along those lines. Alternatively: completely overhaul the story and make it modern era with more horror and less fantasy (which has an appeal).
I also think I was too fixated on the cause of the problems being one thing, when I think it could and should be another. Additionally, if I were to re-write this, I think Winter needs more skin in the game and so I have a vague notion of throwing trouble in her direction that is entirely seemingly out of her control.
And some part of me sits backs and wonders: why don’t I just try my hand again at horror? Screw all of these complex moving parts, toss it into the rubbish bin, and do some good old-fashioned modern horror with a “new weird” twist?