Sympathetic Antagonists

Is it okay to have an antagonist you can understand?

Those who have been reading the Footsteps of the Prophet story will have noticed that I have made a few unusual storytelling choices. One of them, and the one I want to talk about in this post, is my choice to make a couple of the TDO characters a little more complex than the average side character.

A little bit of backstory. Footsteps of the Prophet is a spinoff or fanfiction of sorts based in and around Poseidon Simons’ Dragon Isle universe. The TDO is the approximate equivalent of the Klan here in the States.

I’d written a couple other stories before this one, all following the same standard theme. Lacking any other strong villain or group, I allowed the TDO to serve as the primary villains, and they were more or less your standard fare. Evil, twisted, and willing to destroy a family. Not a group you wanted to support.

But for this story I did something a little bit different. FotP has some of the same characters as the first two stories, and their backstories and motives have not changed, but many years have passed. Life has become more complicated. The reader is allowed to learn why the characters made the bad choices they did. They don’t have to agree with them, but they are given the opportunity to see the characters as the individuals they are.

Then there is the character Ryan, introduced early on as an acquaintance of Judas. Now, Judas is supposed to be the object of Ryan’s hatred, but he can’t express those feelings, and he begins to question why he’s involved in that organization in the first place. He loses his friends, loses his family, and is taken in by a family he is supposed to dislike (and who does not necessarily trust him), and all this leads to his growth as a person.

And yet, he still does not want to leave the organization, even though it’s obvious he should, because he isn’t sure what to do.

Now, the story is not posted to the end yet, so I will not say how it is resolved. However, readers should have noticed a change in his character from the beginning.

What other examples of sympathetic antagonists have you come across in your reading? Do you write them? I’d like to hear what you have to say.

The Writing Doldrums

I’ve hit that part of the writing process that every author* fears: the doldrums.

This is not a matter of not knowing where the story should go. For the past several weeks, I’ve had the basics of the story outlined. I don’t just know more or less where the story is going; I know exactly where it’s headed and it’s something I’ve been anticipating for months. It’s a very good direction for the novel and all the major storylines are resolved (minus a few that I like to leave open-ended because I’m annoying that way).

But I can’t write it.

For that matter, I can’t write anything. I’ve been trying to keep up the craft with some short stories, but those aren’t working out, either. Sure, I can put words on the page. That’s an easy task. And these words can say something, advance the plot in some way or another, but 150 words in, and I realize they are so vile that there is no point in continuing and I delete the whole thing, so no one else can see and I can forget they ever existed in the first place.

THAT is bad. And oh look, double-emphasis. I’m sure that’s some sort of sin that I should repent of later, but for now, I’ll leave it be. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever done.

But no, nothing is coming. This applies to other creative pursuits, too. The podcast takes up a lot of time, and even that has been sort of autopilot lately. Yes, I enjoy it, and I don’t want to stop any time in the next, oh, five years or so. But it’s become sort of an automatic thing.

And other creative projects I have? Forget it. They’re not happening. I don’t have the energy to do them in the end.

That’s one of the reasons the blog has been silent despite wanting to post something to it.

For the past six to eight weeks, whenever I get back from work, my creative energy is spent. I’ve not been good for a whole lot more than staring blankly at the wall or tablet or the dog or whatever happens to be right in front of my eyes, and I just don’t really want to think.

And right now, I’m not sure how to escape it. A career change is definitely in my future, but it is not in the immediate future for reasons I don’t want to go into right now. It could be the environment here, which as you are undoubtedly aware I am not a fan of. It could be any number of things.

What’s your advice on how to break it? I ask other writers, especially. How have you escaped it?

What can I do? My solution so far has been to force myself to write every day (except for the past three weeks where I can’t bring myself to do anything at all), but usually all that happens is I pull off a few hundred words and can’t keep a consistent tone or style. How might I break out of this?

*I have not spoken with every author, but I have confidence what I say is true.

The Right Writing Software

Those of you who follow this blog (if any of you still do) and who listen to Wagz media productions such as FurTalk and WagzTail, will remember a recent show about preferred writing software. And I am not going to rehash everything said there; you can listen to it just fine I know. Nor is this going to be a lengthy blog post about the perfect software for writers.

The fact is there is no such thing as the perfect software for writers. A writer will find a way to write. It might be with pencil and paper, or a text editor, or a word processor, or some other fancy software that they know of. Which one it is does not really matter, as long as it ends up with words being written.

I prefer a text editor for my initial drafts because that allows me to write without distraction. I don’t have to worry about formatting or anything like that, or wondering how my story will appear when I make it online-friendly. Writing with a word processor tends to take a little more effort to get works ready. However, a word processor is still needed for the polishing and editing stage, once everything is all together. There are several different word processors out there, but for me the best one is whichever supports .docx or .doc format.

At the same time, the oncoming ubiquity of Microsoft products is tempting me to go back to Word entirely, and not bother with text editors anymore. They are working to get their product to as many platforms as possible, and for someone like me who uses multiple platforms, having the same software and experience wherever I go is definitely a plus.

At the moment, I’m not sure what I will decide.

On Writing

Yes, I know six weeks ago I said I would begin writing a few posts relevant to transformation, furry, and how that fits (or doesn’t fit) in the Christian perspective. I have not gotten around to doing that yet and don’t know when I will. I know it will eventually happen, but please don’t demand a timeline.

Anyway, I have been working on the first major revision to the coyote novel I began last spring. It is going well (about 22,000 words into it) and there have been no plot absurdities as there were in the first attempt. The story from its current point onward has been mapped out, giving ample room for future creative freedom, so it should be easy going from now on. Many story elements have remained the same, much to my surprise, but a few major changes have helped the novel along. I don’t want to go into detail, but I did want to share one of them.

The most notable change has been consciously making the novel more theistic. While not a religious story by any means, the primary characters reflect a more theistic mindset, rather than the attempted agnostic approach from the earlier draft. I am simply unable to replicate a believable agnostic attitude, so for the sake of the story I abandoned it.

There’s something else I have found. Two earlier novels which I enjoyed, and which I consider to be my strongest, had this in common: both were written around a particular theological question. I would not call them “preachy;” I was not trying to insert and promote a given doctrine by adding it to the text, but a theological controversy formed the backbone of both stories, which were written to explore the problem and develop a possible solution. The stories had meaning beyond pure entertainment value.

Naturally, I don’t want to state what the questions were. :)

The coyote novel lacked this at first. This, I think, was a large part of why it failed. There was no compelling reason to finish the story, nothing to share with the reader. It still isn’t there, although it is exploring a concept that arose through writing that initial draft. It has meaning again.

Two future stories will return to the model of constructing a story around a question, and I am excited to see where they will go when I am finally able to write them. Meanwhile, I’d like to hear from you. If you are a writer, what drives you to write? What made one story better than another?

Re-revising a novel

I have been working on a novel for the past year, almost, and am on the second version of the story. (No, I won’t tell you what it’s about. If you know, good. If you don’t know, or think you might know, then you’ll have to wait.) Originally I wanted to experiment with some things. For example, the story has only one POV character, and as a first for me, none are believers.

The story is not working.

Once this current round of revising is completed, aside from tweaking the plot a little more, I will be adding a second POV character and doing what I can to make the characters a little less faithless, even if they are not believers. I am not ready to have only one POV character for longer works, but it is more possible in short stories.

We’ll have to see.

Untitled Poem

This poem was written a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until another poem was written and the two were consolidated that it was presentable. It’s not titled yet, so I’ll welcome any suggestions.

They dwell in shadow, gloom and dusk,
Find shelter in the night,
And burrow in the deepest pits,
Embracing darkness, shunning light.

While dressed in soiled robes they sing,
Ignoring scarlet stains.
Deceived by demons’ soothing words
They do not see their iron chains.

These squatters in the house of God
Have learned the phrase to sell.
With poisoned words they tickle ears
And coax the seekers into hell.

“God will forgive,” the oft-used cry
Recited by each man.
“I know I stumble, but I try!
God loves me just the way I am.”

“I’m covered by His blood,” they say,
But will God hide His face
From wicked deeds of faithless men?
Will He spare “sinners saved by grace”?

The Lord in Heaven sends His saints
To walk upon the earth
Instructing them to light the way
Escaping darkness, a new birth.

Declaring holiness they come,
“Repent!” is their decree.
The sinners screech, prepare to fight
A battle ‘twixt the slave and free.

“You heretic!” The rally cry.
“Liar! Fraud! Apostate!”
The saints stand firm, their Lord protects
From cornered sinners’ deeds of hate.

We will press on; the time is short,
Unless the Lord delay
And choose to rescue one last soul
Before that blessed eternal Day.

Midterms are Nearing – Update

It seems as though the semester just started, but we’re already halfway through it, give or take a week. Classes have been going well, for the most part. Mass Transfer/Separations and Biochem are the most challenging, for sure.

My World Religions project topic is the creation myths of three different religious traditions (Norse, Cherokee, Shinto). Not entirely sure what information is going to be presented, but I have an idea of what I want.

Also need to work on reviews for Last of the Nephilim, Beyond the Reflection’s Edge, and Eternity’s Edge. Probably the review for BtRE will be based on the short review I wrote over a year ago. We’ll see. They might not be quite as detailed as the one for Enoch’s Ghost, as well.

Furry Weekend Atlanta is in three weeks. It will be my first convention. Looking forward to that and meeting people I’ve talked to on various forums.

The Song of the Saints

This came to mind mind yesterday. I’m still pondering some of the verses.

We warn you, but you do not listen.
We pray for you, that you may be free.
We cry to you, who grope in darkness.
We show you what is life, you slay us.

A call to live, a call to die,
Sends evil ones to flight.
A call to weep, a call to laugh,
Reflects God’s holy light.

We shall serve Him, our Adonai
The Maker of all things,
While those who hide their rotten hearts
Deny the King of Kings.

The Lord declares, the saints repeat
The way that sets man free.
And one by one they come to Him,
These blind who now can see.

At last! Our Maker who reigns on high
Who brings the wandering children home
Calls out to us, bearers of His name,
And declares to us eternal joy!

 

Stories

Today I finished Resolutions, which was the follow-up to Repercussions. Combined (since they tell one story), it’s just over 100,000 words long! That makes it my largest project to date, easily. Of course, DC and its storyline will surpass even that.

Here’s a list of my projects so far. Complete works are in italics, bold works are future projects, and current ones have no special designation. :P

The Dragon Conspirators
Dragon’s Return
Unnamed Book Three (?)
Repercussions
Resolutions
Footsteps of the Prophet (possible title)
Special Project (March/April 2008)

And a few other ideas that I’m thinking about. This should be enough to last me for a while, though.