Perseverance: The Neverending Battle

Big button issues deserve big buttons. (Photo by me.)
Big button issues deserve big buttons. (Photo by me.)

There is one word that appears in almost all craft books on writing – and especially on making a business and life with your writing: Perseverance.

I have come to both love and loathe the word. And all that it means. Especially that as the years (yes, years) pass, it comes to take on deeper meaning.

When you first start out planning to enter the business, perseverance seems more like “patience.” Have patience for how slow some things in the industry are. With yourself and how long it may take you to finish a draft, improve your craft, settle into your voice, etc. What this means is that while you have to wait, there’s still some guarantee of success in the end.

As you enter into the middle phase, you realize that perseverance isn’t just being patient and waiting, it can become a battle to survive. Beside and around you are fallen comrades, other writers, as talented (perhaps more so) than yourself, and yet they have inexplicably stopped writing. And then it happens to you, and you realize how one day missing writing, then a week, then a month, and suddenly, you haven’t been writing. And easier still, (since writers tend to be a neurotic sort in my experience – personal and otherwise), then the voices start in that suggest if you’re not writing and doing what “real writers” do, then “obviously,” you are not a writer. And this battle lengthens, coming in ebbs and flows of great resistance and high flights of fantasy where you imagine you can see the end of this steady war of attrition.

And then you enter another phase, where you come to realize that perseverance isn’t just a battle to be won or lost. It isn’t patiently waiting for guaranteed success at the end. Because there is no such thing as guaranteed success – and indeed, the odds of some definitions of “success” are rare indeed. And this, then, is the phase where you decide WHY you write. And why you MUST write. And these are the days when you sit down in front of the computer and you steadily add to your word count, rewrite and revise that manuscript, send out the submissions, and start a new book, not because you “know” success is waiting in the next reply, but because that is just what you do. And you write because writing is part of you, and in some ways, there isn’t all that much choice in the matter. Perseverance becomes part of life, a steady waiting game where there is no clock, and where the race is with yourself. Survival depends on inner determination and sometimes sheer stubbornness to keep writing new words, to keep reminding yourself that you’re a writer, and therefore you write.

Been there? Love to hear from you. 🙂

Keep writing out there. Keep adding to those word counts. And thanks for stopping by and reading.

Can Fictional Antagonistic Forces Ever Be “TOO” Bad?

Source: www.fromoldbooks.org  Eat those bad plots, wolfy!!
Source: www.fromoldbooks.org
Eat those bad plots, wolfy!!

I watched a movie over the weekend which led to my question: can you ever have a situation where antagonist forces are too much for the protagonist(s) to overcome?

This movie made me think yes.

I don’t want to spoil your experience, so I don’t want to tell you which movie it was – and it may have just been my subjective experience of the movie that made me feel this way. But at any rate, the set up is a damaged hero trying to be “good” in a world that seems to reward corruption and selfishness. It’s a pretty lousy place to live, life it hard even for the criminals. And then something happens and the guy has a chance to be a hero – but instead of becoming a “reluctant” hero, he actually becomes MORE anti-heroic, and takes the selfish way out, choosing to become worse than he was at the beginning (and he wasn’t exactly likeable to start with.)

At that point, I turned off the movie. I didn’t believe that a) I wanted to watch something where the bad guys always win, so much so that the “hero” becomes a bad guy, and b) there didn’t seem to be any possible path for the hero to take that could possibly improve this world in the long-run. Corruption, greed, and a bitter class system meant any change would, at best, be temporary before overall revolution which might just bring them back to the beginning.

Which made me wonder: can an antagonistic force be TOO strong for a protagonist to overcome?

On the one hand, you must have some kind of antagonistic force because without it, why should the hero change? Where will conflict rise from? By pitting the hero (and ourselves) against a challenge and striving to better ourselves and our world, we grow and improve, and perhaps, even prove our humanity. A weak antagonist often grows out of a weak hero (or potentially a weak writer), and the end “reward” for the hero — and the reader — is diminished since the hero didn’t have much to overcome, and therefore likely didn’t change much, or was changed but not in a believable fashion.

On the other hand, you have a situation like this movie, where the antagonistic forces are SO strong (ie: the forces pitted against our hero) that there doesn’t seem to be any way he can surmount or overcome them. Perhaps what went wrong here was that the hero wasn’t created / written strong enough to overcome these challenges (nor was he exceptionally sympathetic or likeable). Then you had the added challenge of a weak hero who is then MADE WEAKER around the 1/3 or 1/2 way point (yes, that totally ticked me off), so how on earth is he supposed to succeed now when it didn’t seem likely he’d succeed in the first place?

My husband eventually watched the rest of the movie (without me), and he said the hero eventually conquers and there’s a happily ever after. My problem with this is that I don’t think that this ending was believable; the writer(s) compromised the plausibility of such an ending. And in so doing, they cheated the viewer of an enjoyable and plausible experience. AND out of a more satisfying resolution had they created a hero actually strong enough to achieve such an ending.

Perhaps they could have strengthened the hero in the beginning, made him truly exceptional. But, if they wanted to go for the everyday man making a difference, then I think they still needed to improve the likability of the character, and he needed back-up. Even the strongest heroes are stronger when they know they need help.

What do you think? Does a hero have to be equal to their antagonist – or become equal to their antagonist throughout the course of the book / story? Is it possible for an antagonist to be too strong?

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re all having a great week out there. 🙂

Learn Something New: Pastiche Genre

So today I learned something new. And frankly, I haven’t been learning as much as I should. I blame winter, ’cause at this point, winter better get the blame for lots of stuff (like being winter).

Anyway, today I met an author via Twitter who writes in the Pastiche Genre … which I had to do a quick search on, since it was one I wasn’t familiar with.

Wikipedia suggests:

A pastiche is a work of visual art, literature, or music that imitates the style or character of the work of one or more other artists.

Then I found this definition over at Television Tropes & Idioms
Pastiche

A pastiche is a work done in the style of another artist. It may reflect a single work by a single artist, or a body of work by one or more artists, or even an entire genre. The difference between a Fan Fic, which reuses characters or settings from another work, and a pastiche, is that the pastiche copies the tone and flavor of its original. A work can, of course, be both a Fan Fic and a pastiche, but pastiche is all about the style. A pastiche may be created as an homage to the original artist, or it may be intended as a gentle parody. The distinction is not important—although an exaggerated parody that did not actually reflect the style of the original would not be a pastiche. A pastiche which doesn’t show some respect for the original would be a very difficult thing to pull off. Most pastiches are created in a spirit of fun, which can often make it hard to determine whether the creator intended parody or homage—or even, possibly, both. (An exception to the just-for-fun rule is in Academia, where a pastiche may be created as a Deconstruction of the original, but such works rarely reach—or are intended for—a broad audience.) A good pastiche can be a hard thing to pull off, and many an excellent artist has crashed and burned in the attempt. Using someone else’s style is simply not an easy thing. Nevertheless, a decent pastiche is enjoyable enough for both artist and audience that there is no shortage of artists willing to give it a try.

It does sound like a lot of fun, doesn’t it? I particularly like the idea that even if it’s a satire, the work still needs to show some amount of respect for the original art. A curious thing, though, to consider writing using someone else’s style. What can you learn from the style through emulation? How do you inject your own personality into the work while staying true to the style?

Also interesting how many new genres and sub-genres and so forth the world of writing is now open to – which is a remarkable and rather amazing thing. We continue to move forward, continue to keep writing, keep learning, keep pushing. A metaphor for how writers’ today are able to make the industry fit themselves? The same way writers continue to be interested in learning as much weird stuff as we can (though it usually doesn’t start out that way … just the needs of the work), so we push our limits in our craft, our imagination, our creativity.

Actually, quite a wondrous thing, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading, and hope you’re having a great week. 🙂

First Love and the First Pages

Source: www.fromoldbooks.com
Source: www.fromoldbooks.com

Since I write romance, guess it’s not much surprise that I have love on the brain. But I was thinking today, especially as I look back at an older work, about the flush of first love we feel in the early pages of a new book.

I’m in love with my new story. Probably partially because I’m only about 12k in. It’s usually like that.

The first 20k are marvelous. First there’s the charming and those early “dates” between the writer, the freshness of the ideas, the characters, the rosy possibility of unexplored words. Ah! What a marvelous character who’s eager to tell you everything. Oh! The mighty possibilities of where the story might go, where it will take the writer before it ever has a chance to transport a reader.

By about 30k, you’ve started to settle into a steady routine of dates. The writer and the story are getting to know each other. And yes, they may still be in love, but, well, things aren’t perfect. Who is? There’s those plot holes back in chapter 5, and the revision notes written before the book is even complete. But, hey, it’s still fun. It’s still good.

By midway and around the 50k mark, things have settled into a bit of a rut. Is this the one? Or was it just a clever trickster out to seduce and leave you, like a horrible one-night stand? Does the writer have any talent? Does the story have any worth? The story might hit the rocks here, along with the relationship between writer and story, and “I hate you” might be slung around ruthlessly. Around about this mark, as the rut starts to wear on both story and writer is usually when a bright sexy young story spark comes to mind, seductive and tempting as this story once was, before that paunch around the middle. But, if you’ve made it this far, stuck together so long, there must be something worthwhile, and besides, the promise of ’til “the end” do we part is still a promise worth keeping.

The 80k mark. Yes, everything up to this point may suck, probably does. But that’s okay. You’ve reached 80k! You’re almost there. And suddenly … wait! What is that … just ahead … it’s the glimmer of light at the end, and you’re going to make it, and everything will get better, and the story is worth it, and maybe this will turn into the best thing you’ve ever written! And yes, for me, it’s a swift sprint to the end (100K) as I see where everything is coming together, and how it’s all worked out for the best. The story is a glorious, beautiful thing, warts and all. Because, hey, rewrites are to get rid of those warts, right?

Ah, the first draft is done. And you’ve accomplished something … until you open up those first pages, and good gracious! What the heck is that? Okay, so it’s uglier than you thought, but this baby is worth the effort of getting the rewrites done. The first 20k are especially awful, but they can be fixed. And then comes the next draft. And possibly another one after that. Then a good spit and polish, and voila! Done. It is a beautiful thing. And yet, it is also somehow apart from the writer, the sheer madness of the push to finish each draft like a distant memory. Because when it’s done, when the story and the writer have completed their journey, their time together is over.

It’s time to give the story the boot. Because what is that just around the corner? Hello, it’s that seductive new story, just waiting for the writer to lay hands to the keyboard … and start the whole cycle of madness all over again.

I’ve just his 12k on new baby story. Oh, but ain’t love grand? Surely I’ve never written anything better. 😉 (Just don’t ask me in another 20k or so.)

What about you? Ever had a very unusual “relationship” with something so ephemeral as a story?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. 🙂