4 September 2010 - 9:16 pm

In the captain’s head

The end of the current section of Starwalker is proving tricky to handle. I’m trying to work it around to a place where I can neatly tie off one story arc and move towards the next. My characters are fighting me a bit, and balancing all the plot elements is a challenge.

Let me say now – I’m loving it. This is part of what I love about writing in this serial write-and-post format. I can’t go back and change things, so I have to surge forward with what I’ve got. I have to juggle characters, plot points, foreshadowing, continuity, and future plans, and make it all make sense. It is hard work sometimes, but it’s also the best fun.

Most of the time, I let the characters lead the action. Their backgrounds, personalities and purposes push them forward in their own (occasionally annoying!) direction. Sometimes, the hardest work is getting them to come around to the position they need to be in to make a section of the plot work (I can’t have any of them blowing up the ship, after all – not yet, at least). I’ve had to rewrite several posts because one character or other has gone off on a tangent that isn’t maintainable, or is just plain awkward. But I’m careful about trying to make them all behave true to themselves – my aim is to have my hand in guiding them be as invisible as possible.

When I got to the end of last week’s post (Last Ditch), I was disgruntled with how things had turned out. Not with the plotting – we were in exactly the position that I wanted us to be in. Poor Elliott, he finally got the guts to go stand up for Starry and confronted the captain. Awesome for Elliott, but I thought the captain came across very closed. So far, the leader of this crew has been in the background, almost invisible, and sometimes passive. That didn’t feel right to me.

That’s not to say that it’s out of character – it’s not. John has his reasons for being the way he is. Part of it is his style of captaining – he sits back and listens to people, lets them talk, weighs up the options and then tells them what his orders are.

Part of it is that he’s not entirely in charge on the Star walker – there’s the mission and the demands of the experiment pulling strings, dictated by Cirilli and her people. I don’t honestly know who would win in a throw-down power-struggle between Cirilli and John.

Part of it is also the weight of recent and past events in his life. It’s this latter part that I don’t think the reader has had a chance to see or understand yet. John hasn’t really made himself known yet, not even in his own log posts.

When I finished editing and posting Last Ditch, I sat and pondered how best to tackle this. The solution was startlingly simple: the next post had to come from him. How he deals with this crisis and the decision that he makes about Starry’s fate is going to define a lot about him. It’s also a good kick in the pants that should pull him out of his passivity.

So that has been this week’s task – delving into John’s head and watching him come around to his decision about Starry. Glimpses of his pain and an inability to deal with it. Seeing the rest of the crew through his eyes (and, curiously, who came to speak up for Starry and who didn‘t). It’s been fun!

I’m pleased with how it came out, overall. I think (and hope) he will be more sympathetic from now on, and a more proactive character in the scheme of things.

This section isn’t going to finish too soon, I think – the idea is to identify all the ‘players’ in the story of Starry’s short life, and there’s one or two more still to be revealed. We’re one step closer now. Onwards and outwards, I guess!

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  1. Andrew says:

    As somebody else who’s trying serial fiction I have to agree with your assessment. Can’t go back and edit once it’s posted. Sure i edit for errors after (and when possible before) for errors and such. However between posting and collection for the inevitable collected works version there’s no appreciable changes 9only a few grammatical/sentence wording changes for clarity.) Therefor I can’t sit and edit and pick and spend forever on a scene twenty pages ago and thus get behind in my updates.

    Have to say my focus is different in that I almost have to go through three or four different pieces in a week otherwise once I get stuck the rest of the week is shot. Work with what you’ve got and I’m convinced your comfort and confidence will show in your work.

    Oh, you’re now on my reading list.

    September 16th, 2010 at 8:13 am

  2. Mel says:

    Hi Andrew! Thanks for the comment.

    I would love to be able to do three or four pieces in a week. At the moment, I’m pushed to get time to do my one post for Starwalker, though I’m also trying to get in a piece for my writing group once a month too. I miss the days of the Apocalypse Blog, when I was doing a post a day! That was crazy, and yet loads of fun.

    Serial fiction is fantastic for getting you to write and not worry overmuch about editing. I’ve never got so far through stories before!

    Good luck with yours. Hope to see more of you here!

    September 16th, 2010 at 4:32 pm