I’m not doing a lot of writing but I am doing a lot of reading. When I say a lot, I mean it. Yesterday I read two novels and a bit of a writing book that I started reading the day before. As of this moment I’m 116 pages into another book that I began reading around two hours ago.
The novels are the Dragonlance series. Even with all their flaws, I love them.The book on writing is Screenwriting Tricks For Authors. With my back issues I can’t sit at the computer for long so I haven’t done any real writing, unless you include making lists and notes for my characters.
The Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragonlance Legends, and the War of Souls series are great research and fun reading for me. They all include a group of people who are nothing alike, who don’t always get along but have to work together to save the world/stop a great evil/etc. Since my novel is along similar lines I get to use this down time in a way that I can enjoy and learn from.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is not to make things happen too quickly in a story. Again, I love these series but over and over it moves too fast. Every time someone falls in love, it’s immediately. When disaster is going to strike, it happens right away, with no real build up. As I read along, I feel like I’m intently watching a ping-pong match.
Someone needs to sober up after two years of nonstop drinking? Okay, hit him in the face with a mug, take his dwarf spirits and BAM, he’s cured. A bad guy needs to use a certain woman for his own ends. Okay, he only needs one dinner to make her fall deeply in love with him. Bah! Now I truly understand why I love so many of the newer, amazing epic fantasy series that are over 700 pages per book, with four to thirteen books in all.
I want the build up. I like it more drawn out and believable. I crave the detail. So as weird as it sounds, I’m so glad I’m rereading these older books and learning what not to do, while at the same time seeing what it is about them that is so good. Even though there are things I don’t like, they are still appealing. This is probably the 6th or 7th time I’ve reread them, although the first time with such a critical eye.
What I really like is the characters. They are either really likeable, or easy to despise. I like to write characters that are more ambiguous but there is something to be said for old-fashioned, black and white values in an adventure story. If most of the story is a little obvious, well, you can still come away satisfied when you’re finished reading.
It fascinates me in novels this old with a large cast of characters how everyone has their place, their established niche in the group. One guy always leads, another is always the tough one. There is the overly honorable guy who does the heavy lifting, the guy who bitches and moans all the time but everyone looks up to and the thief who doesn’t see himself as a thief. Of course there needs to be the most beautiful woman (with white blonde hair) anyone has ever seen that stops traffic and conversations everywhere she goes. Her beauty alone is enough to get the rest of the group in trouble. She has to either be practically perfect or a pain in the ass.
I have some characters with a few of those characteristics but nothing so cut and dried. What is so interesting is Dragonlance and others like it are the things I read for all those formative years when I was figuring out that I want to be a writer. Shouldn’t I be making characters just like that? Once upon a time I did. Then I outgrew the desire to imitate. I equate it to when my daughters were learning to draw. They would find pictures on the internet and copy them as closely as they could. This happened for years, all the while both girls claiming they weren’t good artists. Then one day they each graduated up to drawing something original, something they wouldn’t have been able to draw if they hadn’t been “copying” for so long.
Another thing I like about Dragonlance in particular is hope. Hope is something lacking in a lot of today’s books. A lot of authors are so intent on writing ‘grim’ and hope gets forgotten. Bad stuff happens but without the idea that it can get better, well, I would lose interest without some promise of life getting better.
Well that was a massive tangent I went off on. Now you see why the word ramblings is in my blog title!
Hopefully by the time I write another update I will finally have my series re-pre-plotting finished. I will probably have read 17 more books (if only that was an exaggeration) and maybe my back will be better. Next Tuesday is the cutoff day for my physical therapy. If I’m lucky it will be my only step instead of the first step into fixing the problem.
Sidenote for those who have asked: I am pretty sure I can see a difference with the thyroid medication. It’s only a been a week but I feel less foggy already.
That’s a lot of reading and a good thing too. Sorry about your bad back by the way. I did chuckle though for a second or two when you mentioned back issues because I thought you meant back issues of magazines … Sorry! 😁 All the best. Kris.
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HA! Thanks 🙂
Wow, that’s a lot of reading. Thanks for all your insights. It is hard when there’s no hope in a story or no redeeming qualities to a character. I agree. Grim is one thing, but without some sense of light with the darkness, it gets really heavy and sad.
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I also love Dragonlance for the characters and hope. Hope in general is very important to me in writing. (Which is why I am so picky about my sci-fi ^-^) I can’t imagine myself writing something super grim. gritty, and without the hope of things getting better. As much as I always loved Raistlin, I could never agree with his carrot analogy. haha
Have you read the series of in-between books called, The Lost Chronicles? They are stories that fall into those places in Chronicles where they skip ahead in the story. They are quite good! And they do a better job of drawing out the plot development I think. Probably because they were written much later than the original set? ^-^ The first one is called, Dragons of the Dwarven Depths.
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I haven’t read those but I’ll look for them. I would be very interested in filling in those spots!
Isn’t that amazing, how older books seem so clear in their tropes and archtypes? I was rewatching Justice League the other day (yes, nerd here), and it’s like watching specific tropes bounce around on screen. I think it’s great fun, and is great for teaching the simple elegance of certain characters.
But you’re very right: the build up is what makes things great. It’s something I’ve mostly gotten the hang of in my writing (or, at least, I’m much improved from my previous information-dump-oh-look-everyone-is-friends-immediately style), and I’ve found it is very fun to write, too. The suspense is the great part, and it allows for great depth and richness of character, plot, world, etc.
It occurs to me that too much build up and suspense might be a danger, because then when the reader gets what s/he wants (or doesn’t want, hey!) then the thing that had you tied to your chair is gone (for example, tv shows that finally put the two characters in a relationship, and then the whole show practically dies). But maybe that simply means there needs to be more depth than that. 😉
Great post! Thank you for sharing.
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