Authorguy's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘HEA

I was talking to a librarian just yesterday, and I gave myself the idea of a story with no hero. The more I considered the idea, the more I wondered if I was not already writing such stories, even the short ones, where you’d think there wasn’t enough room for tangled skeins of story lines.
I started out writing fantasy novels, with the premise of a man who was an incarnation of the Holy Will being called on by the Gods to do the work they needed to have done. That first story, Unbinding the Stone, was mostly about him, my Hero, but even in that book he had companions who played a significant role in how the story played out, although they tried not to do everything. I think that first book was the last book where I had a hero.
I traded that role for a host of MCs, all of whom were necessary to the resolution of the story, none of whom were sufficient to the resolution of the story. While Tarkas, hero of the first book, played a dominant role in the sequel, A Warrior Made, I can’t say that the story would have been resolved without the efforts of all the other MCs, each on their own arcs that all came together at the end. I think that book was the last where I had a villain.
Instead I have situations, often fantastical or supernatural in nature, as in St. Martin’s Moon, in which people act according to their natures. Some, with a bad nature, act badly, but the main characteristic of the villain is lacking. They are not plotting, nor are any of my other MCs planning their reactions to what he does. They aren’t necessarily reacting to him at all. It’s the situation that matters. Simply defeating the bad-natured MCs won’t resolve the situation, which is what needs resolving if the story is to have a satisfactory conclusion.
I don’t know if there is a technical term for this type of story. Do you? Most genre fiction I’ve read has a villain, with henchmen and a plan, and a hero who works to stop that plan with the assistance of any number of lesser characters. I’ve never heard of a genre novel without a hero. Have you?

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I don’t usually write fanfics. I get all hung up sometimes about using someone else’s characters and making sure the voices sound right and all that stuff that applies to anyone monkeying around in someone else’s back yard. It’s possible they may like what you did with their flower beds, but then again…

I do take inspiration from other people’s work, usually negative.

  • ‘Why did they do that?’
  • ‘I could have done this better.’
  • ‘I’d rather the story went this way…’

Many times I take these ideas and use them to enhance my own stories. Not in any way that violates copyright, of course, but there’s no need to say where the idea came from or use names anyway. It’s the scenario that matters.

A fanfic is a different beast, and there are different types of fanfic. Many are enhancements of something, a story written to add corroborative detail to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative. Or it could be hairy and convincing, but not enough for the guy writing the fanfic. Some TV shows try to mirror their weekly schedule in the script, and fanfics are written to fill in the gaps. One fanfic author I especially like blithely ignores the romantic tension plot of our mutual favorite series and has the characters expressing their affection openly, if not explicitly.

What makes a fanfic work for me is whether or not the storyline of the original story needs to be changed to accommodate it, a technique known as retcon, for retroactive continuity. (I’ve read some novels that try to do the same thing, which to me is a sign of bad writing. We won’t even mention Highlander 2.) The less ‘retconning’ there is, the better the fanfic, at least to me. My respect for the logic flow of the original story sort of requires me to try to carry it forward into any fanfics I read, or write. A story that at least doesn’t contradict the original is minimally OK. If the logic flows into the fanfic, if the fanfic explains something in the original story using the story’s own logic (which I’ll call explanatory power), so much the better. (Of course the author of the fanfic may have a different idea of what that logic flow is than I do, in which case he’s wrong.) Clearly multiple fanfics can be written to extend or embellish any story at any point, and as long as they satisfy my criteria I’d say they were all equally good, qua fanfic. The actual writing may still suck.

I have so far written all of two fanfics, not counting the scenes in my books which were inspired by other stories. Those were scenes, not complete stories, and the characters were my own. I’ll give you points if you can tell me what the scenes are and what the inspirations were. Points are cheap.

My only reason so far for writing a fanfic is that I felt a complete or partial lack of closure to a story arc, i.e., the logic is incomplete. Incomplete logic annoys me in and of itself, which often means that the story itself bothers me, given how tied together the two are. My first fanfic was written solely to scratch an itch inflicted upon me by the TV series Chuck, back in season three, when a story arc that stretched for four episodes ended abruptly, without a happy resolution, or even a sad one. I suppose I could have lived with a sad one, but since I prefer happy endings that’s what my fanfic gave her, sort of. It’s on this site as Free Story #2, above. It was a short exercise for a minor character. No retcon involved, nor any explanatory power.

I just finished my second fanfic yesterday. Again it is for the series Chuck, one of the few TV shows to have characters that involved me enough that I would care enough about them to write a fanfic. The series just ended, and the final episode ends with a major plotline unresolved. The producers say this is to allow viewers to make up their own endings, but the more likely explanation is that they wanted a hook to hang a new series or movie possibility onto. Innocent that I am, this rather cynical second possibility did not even occur to me until after I’d plotted out the fanfic I wanted to tell, to resolve the plotline as I felt it ought to be resolved, i.e., no retconning, maximum explanatory power, and an HEA.

This was the fastest writing I’ve ever done, 7K words in three days, or about 9 pages a day. The characters were there and I knew them all and loved them. I believe they all act in character and sound right. I knew the story intimately, and even though the logic isn’t exactly the tightest in the world, there were certain conventions to be observed and standards to be upheld, and I think I did. It’s one of the few I’ve ever plotted out from beginning to end, or was able to. This story wanted to be written and it wanted to be written right now! (Plus I’m in the middle of another novel and job-hunting so I really don’t have a lot of time.)

I sent it out to a few beta-readers already, and I’m hoping to post it either tonight or tomorrow. If you like the show Chuck I hope you’ll check out my story and tell me what you think.  For other fanfics about all sorts of stories, not just TV, check out fanfiction.net. I’m sure there are others.

Remember, all authors love feedback. If you have a favorite author, write and tell him so. Tell his publisher so. The only way to keep the stuff you love available is to spread the love and spread the word.

I may have mentioned this once or twice on this blog, and elsewhere, but I like characters.  I read books to see the characters grow, to be there as they stumble into danger and rise to the occasion, discover new capacities within themselves, or new uses for capacities they already knew about.  I want to be there as they remake themselves because I’m trying to do the same thing and could really use some input.  Remaking ourselves is what life’s all about.

So I must confess myself somewhat confused by stories that feature characters who start at the top.  Usually bad things happen to them, or should.  The character of Cyclops in the X-Men movies had this problem; he started at the top and had no place to go, so he was ultimately killed off .  I’m told that the producer’s decision may also have been influenced by the fact that the actor who played the character took a part in a movie for rival DC Comics, but that’s just hearsay. No book should feature an fully developed alpha male as the star, simply because they’re useless from the story’s point of view, however sexy and titillating they may be for the reader.  Becoming an alpha male is good, being an alpha male is not.  I can think of only two books where the main character started and stayed at the top, yet maintained my interest as a character-based reader.

I was taking a class on Saints and Fools in Russian Literature, and we saw the movie Andrei Rublev, which is really good, BTW.  In the course of the movie Rublev, a monk and Russia’s greatest iconographer, is involved in an attack by some Mongol soldiers, and kills one in defense of a girl.  He considers this a sin and imposes upon himself a vow of silence that lasts for 12 years, at which point he witnesses a miracle which releases him from his vow.  The professor in the class drew particular attention to the killing of the soldier.  A saint starts out a sinner, and must include an epiphany, when God reveals himself to the the unknowing.  This is hard to do when the man in question is already a holy man.  He had to fall before he could rise.

Similarly, a hero in a novel, if he starts out at the top, should fall so that we can get to be witnesses to his rise.  The Curse of Chalion is an excellent example of this.  My own upcoming novel, St. Martin’s Moon, features a man at his lowest point, his recovery just beginning.  I don’t think he would have been nearly as interesting, to me at least, if the story had started out with him on top and been merely a story of one of his adventures while on top.  I’ve read such books and seen such movies, and while they may be exciting they’re not the sort of things I would read or view a second time.  The best part, the becoming, is missing.

This is one of my concerns about sequels.  The previous book ended with the hero on top.  Where, then, do we start with a sequel?  This is an argument for ensemble novels, where the hero of the first book can enjoy his HEA, and some lesser character can take center stage, like Bujold’s Paladin of Souls, for example.  Or for a sudden expansion of the universe in which the hero operates (i.e., make the pond bigger so the fish is suddenly smaller).  Otherwise the only other option is to bring the hero down again, and that’s depressing.  I hate reading sequels where the HEA gets disrupted simply to have a second book.

What do you think?


Unbinding the Stone

A Warrior Made

A Warrior Made

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St. Martin’s Moon

St. Martin's Moon

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Ghostkiller

Chasing His Own Tale

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Struck By Inspiration

Struck By Inspiration

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Steampunk Santa

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Bite Deep

Christmas among the vampires!

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Cyber-pirates. Sort of.

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Off the Map

Reality TV...without the Reality!

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