C. G. McGinn


Ramblings about Books and Writing

Filtering by Tag: Haruki Murakami

Finding the Momentum

Writing Books:

The character of Aryel Lessard should have been one to come easy for me. Anyone how has gamed with me, from MMOs to pen&paper RPGs would know that a version of this character has been lurking in the echo chamber of my mind for close to a decade. But maybe since she had been around for so long that I stopped actually thinking about her. By 'thinking' I mean, putting some analytic thought behind who she is, and not staring dreamily into space, occasionally letting out carefree sighs while sucking down chocolate-covered strawberries.

I had to actually do some thinking when it came to creating the Basilisk because up until the start of this project, his formidable presence had not set foot into the hallways of my mind. What he wanted in this life I had thrown him in, and how far he would go to get those things were established, and written down. I had answered the questions that needed answering. By the time I started writing him into the story, I knew what made him tick.

With Ary, I'm still sort of finding that out. Which sucks when you've written an entire first draft and are just realizing one of your principal characters needs to go back to character development school. It feels kinda like a soldier being sent off to war when the commander realizes that he never learned how to shoot. I don't know. Maybe it's different. 

But Ary is a far better character now than she had been a week ago. And, until the beta-readers tell me otherwise, I think she's come a long way sicne the 1st draft of the story. It's not been easy, but it's been an experience I'm glad to have gone through because I've learned a great deal by going through this process. I used to write a 1st draft of a chapter, revise it, and then call it good. But it's not good. There are a lot of questions that need asking. I've written more revisions of just the beginning portion of Chapter 2 than I care to count. But it's important. I need to see what works and what doesn't. Yes, it's discouraging to not have all the answers when I sit down to write. Sometimes sessions feel as though I'm just spinning my wheels, but it's all important. It's all necessary. In the end I think it makes for better characters and hopefully a better story.

And it's important to keep even what you don't use. Because you never know when I scene might come in handy elsewhere. 

Reviewing Books:

Not going to write a review this week because I'm just under the 5-hour mark on finishing 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I want to see how it ends before I put my thoughts into words on the screen.

I used my 2 credits from Audible to get John Dies at the End by David Wong, and The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. Chris Samson recommended John Dies to me. Though I forget if he said to read the book first or see the movie. I remember him saying that the two complemented each other.

The main character of The Rook is a woman who is a high-level operative of a secret clandestine agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. My hope is that she is an example of a strong female character that I can hopeful gain insight from. We'll see. Dan O'Malley's only written one book according to Amazon and he may very well be as bad at writing woman as I am. But he's published and I'm not so he's probably doing something right.


Look alive, Sunshine.

The editing and revision process of the "Dream" story is going very well. Considering the sheer amount of work that is need to turn the 1st Draft into something ready for prime time, my awesome beta readers are more like alpha readers with what they've had to deal with.

They've been kicking my ass though and that's a good thing. When this is all over I think I'm going to have to 'make [them] a cake or something'. Perhaps subscribe them all to Omaha Steaks.

Since I discover while I write the 1st Draft, I basically told myself the story. The  plot comes out in an out-of-order way, characters are either really well thought out or cardboard cutouts, and settings are either over or under developed. But by the end I have a better idea of the story then I did before this all began.

I kinda feel that the revision process is where the most grueling work begins. Writing a story is easy, presenting it in a way that doesn't sound like the ramblings of a lunatic is hard.

To give you an idea of how it's going. In the 1st Draft, Chapter 1 was 2,803 words. In the revision it is just under 4000 words. That was the result of listening to my beta readers and establishing plot points right at the beginning that weren't fully realized until much later in the writing of the 1st Draft.

I always knew this story would be a series. By this point I know that it will probably end up being 3 books. Together the series will resemble a 3 Act play...or the original Star Wars movies. 

Finally, I resubscribed to Audible. I've never been a fast reader but I greatly enjoy books. Might as well listen to them. With my 1st two credits I got "Ready Player One" and "Snow Crash".

RP1 got good about halfway through, after the author stopped 'telling' me what his story is about, instead of showing me scenes and character interactions.

And maybe casting Wil Wheaton as the voice of the novel was ultimately not the best choice. I'd like to think he'd be a pretty cool guy to hang out with, but he's typecast as somewhat of a conceited prick. Again, he's probably cool in real life, but seriously, he 'sounds' like a high and mighty douche-bag. So when he, as the voice of the narrator-protagonist bestows upon me the virtues of the nihilistic mindset of Internet subcultures, popular in the comment section of Gawker, and splattered across the walls of Reddit, it comes across as sounding preachy. And, staying true to form, any opposing viewpoint is instantly dismissed by the hive-mind by labeling it: Bullshit.

To me this flaw in the book relates back to 'show' vs 'tell'. I, the reader was being told how it is. Period. Were I shown the culture of this polluted dystopian society on the edge of annihilation, where a 3D graphically intensive virtual reality version of the Internet is somehow able to run on solar energy, maybe just maybe I wouldn't have felt as though the author had an agenda. (On a side note, I wonder how much electricity is required to run just one of Google's data-centers, and could it run consistently on solar power?).

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Again, it wasn't a lousy book. The story, once it got going was good. By the end I really felt for the characters. Setting the scene needed work. And I feel that I can say this because it's what needs the most work in my owe story.

Snow Crash, on the other hand was awesome for 99% of the book. I felt the ending was too sudden. Where the ending worked was that it was very open-ended. I, the reader had the responsibility to determine what happened next, who lived and who died. This was fine. I don't know how I'd have ended it. But it felt incomplete to me, from the final line of the story to the sound of a different narrator informing me that, "This has been an Audible Production of, Snow Crash, but Neil Stephenson..." I was like, "That's it!" and then after a moment I thought, "well, OK, it works."

And today I began 1Q84 which is over 40 hours long! You would do well to expect another book review from me, 40+ hours from now, staggered between commutes to and from work.