Sunday, 28 February 2010

"Better Bale by Breeding Bale"

Halley's comet betokening bale and war, from the Bayeux Tapestry, c.1077 - public domain.It's done. Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland has completed the chapter of the Comet's Tale and thereby its second plot arc, which by guess puts me about 40% of the way through it. It... hasn't left me where I expected.

Oh, in terms of plot, it's been pretty much on target - smoothed out a few creases and illogicalities, even, when I came to them. It doesn't creak so much as the original outline. But I don't entirely like this chapter. I thought I'd be flying when I brought it doom-booming home. Actually, I feel like crap. As for the coming Wassail arc, it's just opening up into big sinister blank spaces, where most of what I thought I knew about it fears to tread.

Why so? Well, in the most general terms, the problems seem to be these:

1) The Comet's Tale has a much longer tail-off than I expected. Not so much as a page, yet somehow that's messing up the rhythm for me quite badly. On the other hand, not only do those things happen, but the poor reader can't possibly guess what's going on without them, and it would be very fancy and tricksy to cut back to them later. I think perhaps I've brought it to a false ending, and ought to have cut off when the metaphorical cavalry arrives - before Luke even speaks to them, or knows for certain what they are. The trouble with that is that I'll need to know the structure of the first Wassail chapter, before I know whether this belongs there instead. Still... that's progress, I guess. Darn!

2) The antagonist can't shut up and quit arsing about. I mean, it's pretty central to the character of the antagonist that they can't ever shut up and quit arsing about while they're ahead; but I reined them in all I could here, and I'm not sure that was enough. The resulting inefficiency still feels a bit plotty.

3) My protagonists. The whole story is in considerable part about them having worn off about half their dumb preconceptions over the last twenty years, and then having their minds serially blown about the rest... over the next twenty days. (They also do some major blowing back, or it wouldn't be any fun at all.) Kate has just had a number of her biggest remaining worldview-props kicked savagely away. Luke has just discovered - not in a good way - that he's never really known her. They're both pretty close to meltdown during the whole Comet's Tale, and a lot of the time they're acting for reasons they don't wholly understand. I think that's true to life, and I think the things they do feel true to their respective characters. The problem is that I can't wholly articulate why they're doing these things, either!

Like them, I really don't know what they think about a lot of things any more. I'm going to have to let this whole arc cool down and re-read, before I can make total sense of this. Self-deception is something they're both scarily good at; author-deception is letting them take that talent a little bit too far. I need to mess with their heads and then have them mess others' right back during the Wassail, and I just don't have as much data for that as I thought.

4) I wrote the outline of the Wassail section over a year ago, before I bogged down in the Disenchanted Woods. To call it 'scrappy' is gross flattery. I know there's a lot of context I've forgotten, especially for the large central family and its weird dynamics. In particular, there's a tension between Mother and Steady Brother that I now only half understand, and I'm almost sure that Luke was supposed to do something helpful there. I have no tangible idea what or why. To reconstruct, or to write the whole scenario from scratch? Gah, gah, gah!

I'm almost tempted to suspect that this is Kate putting the boot into me again for annoying her. Errr... It's pretty much uphill from here, Ma'am. I really don't know as how you want to mess with it!

This has been a public nuisance posting on behalf of the Flipping Heck, I So Need A Party.

The somewhat anti-social proverb quoted in the chapter, and thence the post title, has been stolen from William Morris, who appears to have invented it in the course of his crowning contribution to early fantasy, The Well at the World's End. This very curious book has influenced me in many equally curious directions, and it is definitely a love-it-or-hate-it proposition. Anybody who feels like a flutter may sample it here at Project Gutenberg. What Morris would have had to say about e-reading, I positively shudder to think.

Tolkien was familiar with the Well, and appears to have drawn some inspiration from it. I don't think we drew the same draught from it, though. Which is, most aptly, the way the Well works in the world where people can go on quest to drink of it.

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