Today, I will write like Shakespeare.
I claim the author title but have not
yet the fruits of my labor to
proclaim it so.
What, then, portends
this labor of words that shall lie
‘pon that broad thoroughfare of the
Amazon so thickly?
manuscript, e’en so, that cast
in words passes thousands and more
yesterday, and thousands and more
today, and thousands and more for
Arcst thou, character;
arcst thou, story.
‘Tis three acts and
your part be done, passeth then thy
words unto “Remove from device”
and thy fame unto the stars for
I hope you may get five.
“So what gives,” you ask. “You’re not a poet. I can tell by your writing. Up there. What is that doggerel?”
Amidst a response to a commentator, I was struck by the passage from Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, which is the beautiful commendation and blessing of Bertram by the Countess. She says to him in Act 1, scene 1,
Be thou blest, Bertram, and succeed thy father
In manners, as in shape! thy blood and virtue
Contend for empire in thee, and thy goodness
Share with thy birthright! Love all, trust a few,
Do wrong to none: be able for thine enemy
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend
Under thy own life’s key: be cheque’d for silence,
But never tax’d for speech. What heaven more will,
That thee may furnish and my prayers pluck down,
Fall on thy head! Farewell, my lord;
‘Tis an unseason’d courtier; good my lord,
Those are some great words of advice: Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none. And I strive for the last, and struggle with the first.
I considered the idea that I’ve laid claim to the title author. It’s a faint perception. I write. Sure, it’s not published yet. Every time I get a few hundred words ahead, I tramp back to revise, and revisions are death for finishing a work. Say what you will; I quail from the mess my writing is. I’ll not have it so. Thus, I revise.
Claiming the title announces my intent. I have no wish to be proven a liar, so I will do whatever is necessary to publish this book. Think of it as incentive, for me. Then, Tara, I can fill your Twitter feed with a dozen requests a day to “buy my book!”
penned typed 1,738 words in the last twenty-four hours, with fewer necessary revisions and more progress. The protagonist has returned to the place she grew up, and is about to have the conversation with the him I’ve been beating about the bush for the last five chapters. This is the guy she wants to shoot. And you’re all sitting there, expectantly–er.
What are you guys all doing? You’re reading your Reader feed? You’re not waiting for chapter 6? You haven’t read the first five chapters? You mean, you’ve been doing other stuff like checking your email and your twitter feed and so on? What, you think this is a blog and you can’t be bothered?!
It’s okay, I love you guys, too. I understand no one is going to camp overnight on a cold sidewalk waiting for the book to be published. (But you would do that for a well-priced microwave.)
As I was saying, there’s this guy she wants to shoot. I’ve danced around why she wants to shoot him. She needs good motive, and you probably guessed from the subject material that there’s some sort of sexual shenanigans in the past. After all, I’ve got the elements lined up: Attractive under-age girl, priest, New Roman Catholic Church, she’s mad about something, what could it possibly be?
It’s too easy. It’s easy to take shots at the Roman Catholics with the scandals involving priests. Interestingly, those scandals seem as if they were confined to the United States. The rest of the world blinks sleepily and says, “what seems to be the problem here? Boys will be boys.” So there’s something about Americans that gets them outraged at pedophilia but doesn’t outrage everyone else? I don’t get that.
Back to the motivation for shooting the priest. What sort of heinous act could he do that wasn’t the obvious, raping the protagonist? Emily Russel, over at Piss, Coffee, and Vinegar writes in her post on Writing: 5 Things I Want More of In Fantasy Romance Subplots,
I understand that it’s a very tragic happening, and it’s ruined many a life, but that doesn’t mean you should resort to it every time you need to come up with something negative to happen to a female character.
She had a good point. I was driving down that road. Simple, right? Priest rapes girl. Girl is mad and wants revenge. Yawn. Boring. Not in a “rape is boring” kind of way. It’s a “rape is a trope” kind of thing. So this put me off of that, and I started trying to come up with alternate scenarios that made some sort of sense. What did this priest do that she wants to murder him and cannot face him?
The reader can see this coming, too. My subtle little hints are nothing of the kind. You read the hints and if you’re the typical intelligent reader (and most of you are; however, based on some Amazon reviews, there are some unintelligent readers who have access to the internet and a keyboard), these hints are huge lit up Las Vegas billboard signs saying that there’s some messed up Catholic stuff coming up. As I said, too easy. It’s a trope.
To write this part and understand it, I wrote an external story about the event in question. Plot points emerged. I established some characters, and then put them in motion. I don’t want to put this part in the book because it’s not germane to the plot, and I don’t want to use flashbacks. I want to stay in the timeline and push through the story. As for the event, it’s not rape. It’s not even something that happens to *her*, it happens to someone else, but she blames herself. So, now it’s no longer victim with a gun, it’s self-blaming soldier with a gun in the middle of something where she needs to confront all the pent-up crap she’s been failing to deal with for seven years. It won’t be therapeutic; it won’t be nice. It needs to happen for the story to move forward.
I also wanted to respect the Roman Catholic Church. Writing them as villains who locked up pregnant Irish girls in asylums or slaughtered the Huguenots on St. Bartholomew’s Day isn’t treating this branch of religion with any respect. What is so compelling about it that millions of people across the globe worship in this tradition? What will it look like in the future? A thousand years hence? People who serve God, who serve Christ, what does that look like in the religionless future? Oh. You thought the future will have no religion? Take a look around you. People ALWAYS have a religion. It’s just some are considered more okay than others. So, yes, the future will not be some sort of Isaac Asimov religionless future. It’s going to have an eclectic mix of the same sort of stuff we see today. Polytheism, atheism, monotheism, and all sorts of other interesting things.
But the story also needs to stay in the genre. Space marines. Show us some combat, dude. That’s what people are buying. You put a girl in a transformer suit with a gun on the cover, it darn well better have Starship Troopers and Denise Richards in a shower scene. (I’m probably the only one who was shocked at that scene. They already had all the nerds in the world slavering over the movie: It’s STARSHIP TROOPERS, man, only the best space combat book evar, and now in a movie, and there’s .56 seconds of Denise in the nude, so now we have to see it. Or something. There was no point to showing DR’s chest, unless it was the titillation value.) Do you go with the genre (combat!) or do you have a touchy-feeling psych session to deal with past hurts?
I suppose that one way to overcome that is to blow something up every time the plot calms down. For instance, there’s a meeting in a kitchen with Sister Mary Angela.These are dull, talking heads, and there is no tension. I’ll re-write that. It’s better if the stove explodes and the orphanage catches fire. This is your fault, Alfred Hitchcock, and your dumb quote:
Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it.