March 18th, 2008



This week, I volunteered to write one of the short stories for our Advanced Fiction class. It felt rather daring, as I had no idea at the time (last Tuesday) what I would write about, but since we all have to write them anyway, it seemed just as well to go ahead and do it during a less-busy week. So, after spending several days actively trying to think of something, I finally got an idea on Saturday and started writing the story in the evening (due Sunday at 8:00 pm). I spent over six hours on Sunday - most of my awake time - finishing it, and had no time to edit; it was two minutes late before I could even run spell check, and the professor isn't big on lateness. (Not that many professors are.)

So anyway, after working for most of my Sunday on this story and then sending it out, I sort of flopped back and thought, "What have I done?" Not with horror, as it might sound, but actual curiosity. My roommate, also a writer, understood: sometimes, after coming up for air from a long session of writing, you realize that you know very little about your story. Is it good? That's the main thing, actually. If, for example, I tried yesterday to remember whether I had done a specific thing - did I resolve that plot issue? - it wasn't hard. But had I done it well? Ye gods, had I done any of it well? I was highly tempted to hang around anxiously as my roommate read the story, and I did ask her later what she thought. I still mean to reread it before class.

The story was pretty fun. (It has no title at the moment, thus my referring to it as "the story.") It's set in my fantasy world; unlike my longer works, which are almost all set in that one world, my short stories are often either modern-day fantasy, set in alternate, less-developed fantasy worlds, or even not fantasy at all. I like having the room a longer work gives me to unfold the complex world I've spent so much time building. Don't get me wrong - I do my best to avoid info dumps, and I think I'm pretty good about it. It's just that I do think the world makes more sense as you see more of it, and you see more of it when there's more story. Still, I enjoyed this one, and think it mostly worked fairly well.

Also atypical for me, the story begins with a body. Obviously, given that, the late character is hardly beloved of the readers; he doesn't even get a name for awhile. However, his death is important to the story; most of it is about how his household reacts (and the kingdom, as this is in fact a king). Although the story doesn't include the king's actual death, it's unusual for me to treat death much at all, and it made an interesting writing experience.

My prediction is that I will catch it in class today for having a passive protagonist: our professor is not a fan of such at all. I don't think my point of view character is all that passive, but he's not all that active, either. Besides that, I didn't have enough time to edit, so there are a few things that come up early and are not all that well-resolved. There are also a few things I wondered about, namely, terms referring to the fantasy world without being explained (in this story, for example, a slang word for "mage," and a day of the Querran week). I'm not going to explain a term my POV character would accept without question (and that no one else would need to have explained), because that would be difficult to do well, at best. My roommate said, and this is what I would hope for above all else, that she finds these bits to hint at a larger and more complex - and thus more real and interesting - world. I think the best fantasy writers can do this. Even people whose writing is set in the real world can do this, just creating the feeling that their characters, cities, etc. go on outside the specific story they're telling. There can be a fine line, of course; sometimes you just confuse people.

So that's my take at the moment, but we'll see; Advanced Fiction class starts in half an hour!
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