I love it when that happens, don’t you?

Last Saturday, I was in a quandary.  A pickle, as Shakespeare would say.  I’ve lately been thinking a lot about the novel I’m supposed to be editing.  For me, a lot of the beginning editing process is brainstorming– finding characters and scenes to combine, filling in plot holes and errant storylines, and eliminating infodumps.  Most of my recent posts have been about things I’ve just realized, such as the Behold! character, the clumsiness of beginning chapters and scenes with blocks of dialogue, and regularly scheduled plot twists.  All these things are factoring into my editing process as I try to get scenes to perfection.

But sometimes you just do it wrong.  On Wednesday, I rewrote the very first scene that I was actually going to keep from the original manuscript.  I tried to write it without all the big words and out-of-body experiences I used during the first draft, but the way the scene was set up prevented me from making any enormous changes.  If anything, the scene got more choked up.  I didn’t like it any more than the first version.  Over the next few days, I finally discovered my problem: I wasn’t eating the right colored bananas.  That, and my character was forced to stay silent for an entire scene.  In third-person limited, I like to keep thoughts out of the description; unfortunately, without any dialogue, my character was just a person walking through a house.  I described things, but there was nothing to show what the character was thinking.  One way to show thoughts is to show speech.  I decided I needed more dialogue in the scene– but it’s one character, walking through an empty house, and he doesn’t start talking to thin air until the last half of the book! (Well, not entirely thin air even then.  He talks to cold patches.  And they talk back, which is creepy.)

So, I thought, I need another character.  A foil character.  A Robin to my Batman, a Chewbacca to my Han Solo, a Will Turner to my Captain Jack Sparrow.  I needed someone to be next to my main character when he wasn’t in the crowd.

I went through a couple ideas.  The guy who isn’t affiliated with my main character at this point, but gets acquainted on the other end of a whip?  Nah.  A fluffy fantasy creature that rides on his shoulder?  No; it wouldn’t have any other place in the story. Thin air?  That comes later.  But I needed something.

I put that question on the shelf for a few days and thought about another question.  I wanted two characters to actually know each other so that when one of them dies, the other, the main character, will be sad.  What’s the point of dying if nobody’s sad?  (Unless you’re able to saddle someone with your man-eating poodle as an inheritance.  That would be worth dying for.)  I wanted these two characters to know each other, and with them both conscious at the same time for only five minutes in the first draft, that would be difficult.

Then, as often happens with my novel ideas, the two problems came together in a glorious concoction.  They would solve their own problems!  I just stick the two characters together early (which is entirely plausible, due to a kidnapping and a mutual employer), and Bob’s your uncle.  One gets someone to talk to, and the other gets someone to cry after they die.  (Heartless, I know.  This is what you should expect for the future of YA.)

I love it when that happens, don’t you?  I love aha moments.  And plot twists.  And cats (because they’re evil– post on that soon).

Oh, and the Thursday night, I wrote the first real chapter (after the prologue) of the story on a legal pad, with a nameless character I temporarily called ____.  It sounds like the first scene of a movie (after the prologue), because I used the Behold! character idea a lot.

And as the last aside of the post, I recently watched both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.  I was surprised to find that I could quote so much of the movie a few seconds before the characters said their lines.  I’m less surprised at how many times Legolas says something stupid, or looks ponderously at the horizon, inviting us to admire his hair.  I shall leave you with a few of the most useless Legolas quotes I could think of from the movies.  Legolas, just so you know, is the hypothetical father of all Behold! characters. (Also, notice that every scene held only in Elvish is done that way because it would only sound cheesy in the Common Tongue.  Put it in Elvish, and the love scenes become original, the acting good, and the writing excellent.  Put it in English, and you’re bored already.  But when they need vocal inflection, they slip into English.  Because subtitles just don’t cut it.  Anyway, your Legolas lines.)

“A diversion!”  (That’s what Aragorn was saying for the last five minutes.)

“This forest is old.”  (Yes, thank you, Legolas.  We can tell by the size of the trees.)

“You look terrible.”  (Yes, Aragorn pales in comparison to the immaculately groomed elves.  And his stringy, sweaty hair– how could it ever match your long, flowing braid?  Perhaps you would like to loan him your shampoo, Legolas.)

And the one thing he ever says that isn’t obviously true: “You lie!”


93 thoughts on “Eureka!

  1. Not going to say anything about Legolas. And cats are not evil! …Well, not all of them.
    So, these two charries know each other. One is for the other to speak to and so nameless can cry over other once other is dead. Maybe I misunderstood, but are you planning to kill your MC? Or are you killing the Samwise Gamgee of your story?

    1. Am I correct in assuming that you wrote a whole scene where you did nothing except describe the way the inside of the house looked? I think Les Mis has been influencing you… or was it a different book you were reading when you wrote that scene?
      And second, the man-eating poodle scenario. Irony, if you left that poodle in your will, then died shortly after because the poodle got you. 🙂
      Third, I hope YA turns over a new leaf. Some young writer out there needs to be the next Madeliene L’Engle or (insert brilliant YA author).

      1. No idea. Got a different example? You aren’t talking about that new, terrible book Seraphina, are you?
        I’m not sure whether I’m appalled or impressed. I haven’t tried to get rid of a charrie in a while and in the end, I couldn’t do it. Does that make me a bad author or a good one?

      2. Ah! A certain crimson-gated abbey. 🙂 Thank you, Google!
        And unforutnately, I haven’t read that specific one.

  2. Blah blah blah characters too confusing *sees Legolas bit* He has a braid? Where does he have a braid? When I read the books I knew he would be Captain Obvious from what people had said but I didn’t realize how obvious. *throws self off cliff*

    *realizes that may have made Liam happy* *isn’t dead, just fell off cliff, a la Aragorn*

  3. I love it when writing-problems solve themselves. I’m less-than-pleased, however, when characters I invent for a one-scene-random-moment become a huge part of the plot and steal the show. Ticks me off every time.

    I can’t sit through LOTR anymore. I start laughing in the sad scenes and crying in the happy ones. Poor Legolas, he was too perfect. But he did have a good line! “Would you like me to describe it to you? Or shall I get you a box?”

    1. I like minor characters stealing the show, because I don’t usually spend time on them. Since I discover the characters and story as I go, I learn about the character as the reader would, which is great fun. For instance, I had tentatively plotted this current manuscript before I wrote it. When I did write it, however, the minor character I hadn’t even thought about became the main character because my main character was useless.

      I’m glad he got that line, since all his other ones are stating the obvious: “They run as though the whips of their masters were behind them!” He makes up for most of those lines with interesting battle tactics and ways to mount a horse.

      1. And introducing Middle Earth to skateboarding. A redeeming quality to be sure.

        Useless main characters are truly the worst. Ugh. I really don’t like picking up a book and having the mc be a totally flop while the secondary characters are awesome. I usually just rewrite when it happens to me, but that’s a good idea! Just throw the mc altogether. Going to keep that in mind…

      2. Yes, he’s right up there with Bullroarer Took.

        My main character was pathetic. He didn’t do anything. Nor did the other supposedly most important character. At least the third and fourth guys were inextricably part of the plot. So, one day as I was bemoaning the fact, I realized that there was a shipwreck going on, and who would notice if someone accidentally pitched over the side as they lowered the jollyboat? The rest of the crew were doing it too.

  4. I love those moments when inspiration suddenly strikes me and I suddenly know what to do with the story. Problem is, they usually appear during math class, when I really should be getting a eureka moment for the quadratic equation on the board. 😛

  5. Finally, somebody else who thinks Legolas is dumb and exists only for his hair. If he were not such a fantabulous archer, I would possibly murder him.

  6. *Nods in agreement.* I love those moments, too. My characters often take me on adventures that I was NOT planning for. They both drive me insane and help my book get better. I’ve learned to listen to my characters’ ideas, because I usually end up liking them later. (Even if my brain is spinning with information at first).

    I have a good reason to believe that some cats are associated with the Mafia and will destroy us all.

      1. Cats are better fro minions or evil sidekicks… not that I would know anything about that…

  7. Oh, yes. Now if only my writing problems did that more often…

    And glad the editing seems to be moving along at a…well, uh…turtle’s pace? But the turtle beat the hare, right?

      1. It’s fun to write, too.

        If the snail was rolling down a hill toward the east, at night, it would be moving faster than the hill itself. That should make more sense.

      1. Of course not. I made it up. If someone is going really slow, I tell them that the dead snail is going to get them.

      2. The point is not that a dead snail will get them. The point is for them to go faster, a dead snail could get them. Sarcasm, Liam.

      3. “Silly” is my middle name! Actually, it’s Elizabeth, so “Silly” is probably more like my… nature. I’m good at wit.

      4. No, not offended.
        It’s just fun to tell a slow sibling that a dead snail will get them. Snails are slow. Dead snails are just about as slow as you can get… unless it’s one of my sibs.

  8. I have to say, for all he’s blatantly obvious, I prefer the movie Legolas to the book one. Why? Becaues the book Legolas combined his career as Captain Obvious with nonstop singing. I seriously wonder that nobody threw their shoes at him when he sang all night. HE and Mr-Awesomesauce-Dunedain may not need sleep, but I’m pretty sure the hobbits, the dwarf, and that incredibly grouchy steward’s son do.

    I like to entertain ideas that, one night, Boromir picked up Gimli’s axe and flung it at Legolas’ head, only to be foiled when Legolas was distracted by a sudden need to stare into the middle distance, and the movement meant that the axe missed its mark by less than a whisper.

    Perhaps he would have succeeded at a second attempt, if he had survived beyond the first book.

    Anyway, enough of my tangents – I wish you all the best with your editing, and also many congratulations with your Eureka moment! I, like you, am a great lover these moments of but seldom granted any.

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