Friday, March 2, 2018

Today's writing notes:

Working on: Revising "Worth Searching For" for FFN (how in the world did I get something this crazy long into the Times)

Okay, I ended up altering Terra's interactions with Isengrim quite a bit, and drastically changing her entire character arc. Part of me is a little wary of making such large changes to the story like this, but as proud as I am of this story, as time goes by its weaknesses become more and more apparent to me. I figure if I'm going to put it on FFN, I want to make it stronger, more enjoyable, and contain more powerful lessons. One of those lessons, of course, is to not give in to anger and vengefulness like Pharazon did, but one of the most important lessons I want to impart is that compassion and forgiveness toward one's enemies is not only possible, but the best course of action--and really, life's a lot better if you don't consider anyone your enemy in the first place, like Terra's way of thinking.

I guess one of my problems with the version that got published in the NT is that I realize now that I didn't have a good enough handle on Terra's character. I knew she was smart, and nice, and a little off-kilter, but I did not really have a firm idea of how she would respond in a crisis, and I think I was so concerned about not having her come across as unrealistically strong that I erred too far in the other direction and made her depressingly weak. It didn't help that the only other severe situation she'd been in so far - the events of "Worth Fighting For" - was told through Hyren's point of view, so I did not have much opportunity before that to explore Terra's thought processes. I think I was also trying too hard to make Terra into something she wasn't, because I was worried, once again, that she would come across as too strong if I let her be level-headed, sweet-natured, and mature beyond her years.

So I've done some major retooling and let Terra be as strong as she wants to be. This Terra doesn't get scared easily; she keeps her head in a dire situation, even when faced with something that scared her in the past; she is calm and diplomatic with her family's antagonist; she takes life by the horns, doesn't give up hope, and has faith that everything will work out as long as she keeps working toward making things better; and, most importantly, her immediate response to being wronged is to try to help the other person, because clearly they are struggling and suffering and need kindness and compassion. And yeah, this does make her stronger, but she is a strong person and I'm tired of trying to hide that out of fear of what others will think. I believe the world needs more stories about people who are strong by being kind, understanding, and forgiving.

The lesson to take away here is to never, ever let concerns about a character's perceived strength dictate how you write them. Some characters and some people in real life are just awesomely strong, and that's okay. There's nothing unrealistic about that, especially when you take care to write them well. Many of Hayao Miyazaki's heroes and heroines are extremely strong people, but do people criticize them? No--on the contrary, they're beloved icons of animation and their films are lauded as masterpieces. Aragorn from Lord of the Rings has pretty much no personality flaws except for his self-doubt, but I don't see people walking around criticizing his immense character strength--I think he serves as a role model for a lot of people, an example of courage and perseverance and nobility under fire.

In my opinion, the tired old idea of the "Mary Sue" is bogus and needs to die. Writers need to stop shaming other writers and nitpicking at characters, because that just makes writers afraid to write stories the way they want to. Writers should focus on kindly, constructively helping other writers learn general writing skills, so that other writers can tell their own stories well, not try to mold their stories into what they think their beta readers want.

I'm just kind of sad that I can't change the version that's in the Times--I think it's an okay story on a technical level, but the edits I'm making now make it so much better. Well, at least the better version will be up on FFN.

Anyway, the word count has jumped to over 93,000 words. The sad part is that most of it is adding dialogue tags.

I'm also heavily reworking Isengrim's character arc, because I'm much, much more familiar with his character now. Overall his actions and motivations in the story now make much more sense, and I think his conflict is more interesting because now, it's an internal struggle between his natural desire to be kind and caring and his anger and bitterness manifesting as distrust and control issues. He wants to trust Terra but he doesn't think he can, because his previous owner betrayed him, but Terra's unflagging kindness and patience finally convince him to let her into his heart so she can help him heal. I think this also helps make him a more sympathetic and likable character. It does make his personality read differently, but if anything, I think it helps him fall more in line with how he's portrayed in future stories.

Also, I'm at 11 chapters already, and I'm not even halfway through the manuscript yet. Chapters for days!

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