Novel progress sidetracked by game inventing

I’m about 12K words into the writing of my novel. The next scene I write will introduce a new character who is gambling away some money on a game of Twenty Wizards. I definitely wanted to introduce him playing a game; gaming just goes with the personality of the character. And he’s gambling; he takes risks. Anyway, since my novel takes place in a fantasy world, I didn’t want him to be playing any game that would exist here on Earth, so I invented a pretty simple card game, calling it (for now) Twenty Wizards (of the 120 cards used in the game 20 are wizards, and they are the most powerful cards you can draw). I nerdishly printed out the cards on green construction paper and cut ’em up and somehow managed to get my sister to play so that we could test out different variations on the rules. Winning takes a combination of luck and strategy, but it’s simple enough that once you get used to it, you can play through each round quite quickly. I’ve only tried playing it one-on-one so far; I’d like to try it with three or more players at some point, but I think it will work for the purposes of my book.

My testing version is a card game, but in the novel the game will be played with game pieces, the size of chess pieces, on specialized tables. Should be fun to write. I’ll probably stay away from going into a detailed explanation of the game’s rules in the novel, but the info will exist somewhere for interested readers… if this thing ever gets finished and published.

In Time trailer

I am looking forward to seeing this film In Time (formally called Now); looks like a really fun idea for a sci-fi. Although most of those actors definitely look older than 25.

By the way, wouldn’t it be better to stop aging even before 25?

Refusal of the call…

I’m 10K words into the writing of my fantasy novel, and I’m at the “refusal of the call” scene; the scene in which the hero is presented with the quest and refuses it. Or, as Blake Snyder calls it in Save The Cat!, it’s the debate beat, where the hero questions if he should set out to seek his goal or not.

Of course, not every story needs this, especially sequels, but I’d argue that most stories do. It helps frame the conflict of the story, and it makes it quite apparent that the character is struggling with something. If the main character just got what he wanted all the time, audiences wouldn’t be very interested in his plight. Because there’d be no plight, and thus no story. In fact, I’d say everything before the debate is the “set-up” and the debate is the true beginning of the story. In some stories, especially in movies, the debate can be very small and subtle; just a glance backwards or a hesitation. But it’s still an important moment, and tells us, the audience, that the character really does not want to have to do this, even if we, the audience, would, and even if we know what he’ll end up choosing. Just think about any movie and you’ll find that there’s almost always at least a small hesitation before the hero takes his journey.

Of course, it’s not like you have to know all this consciously to understand it or find it showing up naturally in your daydreams or stories. I think most writers will do it without thinking about it, just as most musicians use rhythm without thinking about it; it’s just natural.

That said, I don’t think it hurts to be conscious of it either, just as it doesn’t hurt a musician to be conscious of rhythm.

Anyway, for better or worse, the debate scene in my novel is more than just a glance backwards. And it’s not really an action scene; it’s an inward debate. It’s probably the hardest scene to write, equalled in difficulty only by the “dark night of the soul” scene which comes before the climax, and of course the climax itself. These are moments in which the audience knows what’s going to happen, but you still have to make it believable and relatable.

In Star Wars, Luke first refuses the call, to which Obi-Wan replies something like: “You must do what you think is right, of course.” And then Luke goes home to find it destroyed and his aunt and uncle murdered, forcing Luke to have no choice but to accept the call. That seems like a bit of a cheat to me, to force Luke into the journey like that, but I think that sort of thing is much easier to get away with in movies, where pacing and visuals are more important, and an inward debate is much harder to communicate.

The original Planet of the Apes ending – a twist?

I just read a blog that said that the original Planet of the Apes film had a “phenomenal twist ending.” What? No it didn’t. When I first watched the original Planet of the Apes, the ending did not surprise me. Maybe it had somehow already been revealed to me (it must’ve been 20-something years old by the time I first saw it). But the crew crashes on a planet with an earth-like atmosphere (the air isn’t toxic or anything, and is just the right temperature), the animals are just like animals on earth, except the apes are the ones who can talk (albeit using many less facials muscles), they all speak English, and, as if that wasn’t enough, they dig up some old human relics. It should be plainly obvious where they are. I never thought the ending was meant to be a “twist” as if the audience was supposed to realize anything new; it was just a powerful way for the main character to at long last face the painful truth.

I do, however, remember Darth Vader revealing his fathership to Luke being a genuine surprise to me, even though the film must’ve been out for almost 20 years by the time I first saw it. I thought that was the coolest twist ever; I never saw it coming.

Novel progress…

I’m about 8,600 words into my new middle-grade / YA fantasy novel, or novella, whatever. I have no idea what the final wordcount might be. But writing is remaining quite exciting. Following a brief outline (and years of daydreaming), I have yet to hit any walls or plot problems, which I usually do at this wordcount, even for short fiction. So that everything has been going so smoothly for 8,600 words I think is a good sign.

Working on yet another new book

I know, I have yet to finish writing a novel; I keep starting new stories instead of finishing old ones. But I don’t care; when the feeling of I-must-write-this is strong enough, I must obey.

I started writing a new fantasy book last week. I’m not going to call it a novel, because it will more likely be novella length, probably between 35,000 and 50,000 words. It’s a middle grade or YA book (the main character is currently twelve years old, though I’m not sure if that will change or not). The story is completely planned out, but rather simple compared to the previous story I was working on, Atarius Destory This World. The story is based on a bunch of elements from a bunch of other stories I’ve been plotting in the back of my mind for quite a few years. All the elements just sort of collapsed together in my mind, like gravity forming a star in a nebula. (What a great simile!)

The story is about the last sorcerer in the world, a twelve year old who hardly understands how to use his powers, who must save a kingdom from an ugly invasion. It will hopefully be the beginning of a series, which is thinly planned out.

Right now my wordcount is at around 5,500 words. Though I’m still a slow writer, I will say that this is so far the easiest story I’ve worked on, perhaps because so many of the elements have been floating around in my mind for so long. We’ll see how long it lasts… but for now it’s quite exciting.