Hi, My Name is “Epic Plot Hook”

31 07 2011

You know what drives me nuts? Well, its a big list actually… but here is a quick, one-topic piece from my early AM thoughts.

But the thing that I’m talking about right now is the wear a neon sign, punch you in the face plot hook. Picture it, you’re all alone in a bar when all of the sudden a man walks in, dressed in black, a cloak over his head, thick fur lining the shoulders of a clearly rich velvet garment. On his belt is a sword of silver and gold inlaid with jewels that hums softly as it bounces against his heavy plate armor leggings. He sits in a table far off in a corner, the normal peasant folk around him scatter quietly like rats. He looks at you, and smiles.

OH MY GOD, did you see that? A plot hook just walked into the bar. He is far too extravagant, had far too much description devoted to him when the only other thing we know about the scene is that there is a bar and we appear to be in it. The appearance of that bar is left entirely up to guess. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing mind you I actually enjoy building very small bits of description up to the point where the major components can be forged by the readers imagination. That’s a lot more fun for me.

The fact that a big behemoth of a line just lumbered in makes me a little sad and I start to cringe. Yes plots are meant to be followed closely, at least to where you are going to be able to pick up on the major elements and perhaps the smaller ones with a second or third read or thoughtful discussion. They are not intended to be so linear as to create a box, undefinably rigid and narrow in its ability to let you build images of your own.

I will concede that there are times when this works, on occasion it is acceptable and the emergence of “Commander I’m clearly a Bad Guy” is okay. But to achieve such frequency as to join the ranks of the Head Manager in Charge of Leading and Directing at the Department of Redundancy Department is not a good thing. If you have to do it, keep it to a minimum. The villains that truly succeed and in a memorable manner are those that remain subtle, that take a measure of the backstage when plotting their plots. They don’t always have to be entirely unrecognizable as that does nothing to progress plot but, lets not swing to far in the other direction either shall we?

It’s all about balance, limits, trying to find something between “still living” and “fit for the gods” as it were.

Sound, Length and Beyond!

16 07 2011

 Volume:  The magnitude of the three-dimensional space enclosed within or occupied by an object.

Volume:  A collection of written or printed sheets bound together and constituting a book.

Volume:  Fullness or intensity of tone or sound

Guess which one I’m going to talk about. The third one, exactly! My neighbors play their Bob Marley waaaaaay too loud at 3 A.M. I can hardly hear myself drafting books over here!

HA! No, I’m not talking about that one (Though my neighbors do actually play there Bob Marley at way too loud at all points of the day.) I’m talking about the second one. And not just volume as it pertains to encyclopedias. More specifically, the volume of writing in just one work.

There are no set standards telling us how long a novel must be to be considered a novel. Actually, that’s a lie – there are but there are no universally accepted guidelines. Different genres accept different lengths, which makes sense. I don’t think that Tom Clancy will be releasing any children’s books as his tend to look suspiciously like dictionaries from afar.

Young Adult differs in length from your standard sci-fi/fantasy novels with certain exceptions – the later books in J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter series actually look like she may have taken pointers from Clancy. And those omnipresent “Lust in the Dust” novels(a market guaranteed to never die) run just over Young Adult lengths.

So I’m stuck. I’m writing things that slide into an eerie space in between genre averages. The rule should be write enough to tell your story and not make it feel forced right? It seems the answer is yes, it just that it becomes potentially restricting to your target markets when you don’t play by the guidelines. That’s not to say its impossible but with “unknowns” its certainly more likely.  That’s part of my volume issues anyways. The second part is is length of segments, those silly little things we call chapters.

Rules for chapter length, like the overall length of the work, fall under a similar rule. Each chapter should be long enough to effectively advance the action in a manner that makes sense and provides enough detail to keep the reader interested. Some say, it depends on the pacing that you’re trying to establish. Seriously! Vague, vague, VAGUE.

On one hand, I suppose I should be greatful for such openendedness. The freedom to write whatever, at any length and still be able to find a platform for publication. So how much does it really matter that the epic, adult fantasy novel that you might be working on ends up being too short and falling instead into something more along the lines of Young Adult in length? Well it might not neccesarily matter. Publication is publication and just because something may be falling short of the typical minimum length for a genre doesn’t mean it will miss out on the category anyways.

So here I am, trying to figure out if I should beef up the length of my chapters. They’re falling within the ‘average’ for chapter length in the genre in which I’m writing but, at the same time, they seem light sitting there staring at me in Open Office. I’m guessing it’ll work out alright. Especially since edits usually trim content, not add to it. Maybe I’m just being paranoid…

Either way, if I can figure out why it looks so goofy, I’ll let you know. Oh and don’t forget, post tomorrow, there were hints!