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Setting Up Your Antagonist

As I mentioned in the previous post, I believe that the seeds for all supporting characters should be planted in the first act. Call it foreshadowing, call it whatever you like, but when that character appears it has to feel both organic and inevitable. The same applies to setting up your antagonist.

For Cold Sunset — I may as well start using the working title, with the caveat that I’m not married to it — my antagonist isn’t a person but an abstract concept. For my main character, it’s an oppressive culture that she can’t escape from. I have two characters that embody the concept, that act as sort of proxy antagonists. The first is her father, and the second is her ex-boyfriend.

Because I’m also using the form of Gothic fiction, I’ve made both of them figurative ghosts. They don’t appear in the story as active antagonists. They’re in her head. She’s conditioned to respond to what they’d say, what they’d think, if they were there. She’s haunted by them, and they affect her decisions.

Setting Up Your Antagonist

My inciting incident, which we’ll get to shortly, happens because the main character is seeking to start her life over in a new place. The reason she’s doing that is to get away from these men who have severely messed her up. Without having either of them appear, or explaining, my opening act implies that things happened in the past. This implies the existence of the antagonist, and teases who and what they might be.

Progress Report: Day 9

  • Today is day 9 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Over the weekend I wrote 2,201 words, bringing the total to 7,457.
  • That puts me 2,657 words ahead of my target goal, based on writing 600 words per day.
  • I’m currently working on the “inciting incident” scene of the first act, and getting ready to move into some theme reinforcement scenes.

Notes

  • I have now used up 10% of the days allotted to the first draft. Yikes!
  • Seth Godin argues that the difference between short-form and long-form is one of an endorphin rush versus the communication of complex ideas. This has haunted me since I read his blog post last week. It’s not just the concept that “people don’t read” (books or blogs), is the placement of emotions over facts and ideas.

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Do You Have Any Short-Term Writing Goals for 2020?

Short-term goals are anything that will take under a year to accomplish. I’ve centered my short-term writing goals for 2020 on completing the first draft of this novel by February 29th. I would like to have it edited by the end of the summer and in shape to begin querying by next December’s PitMad. To the degree that I know what I’m doing, I realize this could be is undoubtedly a stretch. I’d rather my reach exceed my grasp than sit back and do nothing, though.

I include this blog in my writing goals as well. The topics here on this iteration of the site are all about writing, and it is itself a form or written expression. As I’ve said before, I’m not certain what specific problem I’m solving for in this space, but I recognize that it is necessary. For now I want to take until the end of February to settle in and get comfortable with a regular posting schedule. After that I’ll look at growing readership, and what’s realistic. I would like to have a larger readership, and an active, engaged comments section, buy the end of 2020.

Short-Term Writing Goals for 2020

Okay reader, don’t hold back. What short-term writing goals have you set for yourself in 2020? You don’t have to be a participant in The Merry Writer game to play along here!


The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.

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Introducing Your Supporting Cast

This is where I get technical and “plotty”. Introducing the supporting cast can’t be an info dump. Within the first act, though, every major supporting character has to make an appearance or at least be alluded to. It’s a Chekhov’s Gun thing with me. If the main character is going to visit their grandmother in the third act, they should talk to them on the phone in the first act.

Introducing Your Supporting Cast

It shouldn’t be completely on the nose. The first scene doesn’t have to establish that there is a character named Roger, who will appear around the middle of the book. It can be as simple as a throwaway conversation where a main character mentions she likes redheads, and later on she meets a character who is a redhead. Yes, it has to be subtle and not heavy-handed.

I’m not closing off the possibility that characters I haven’t even conceived of will begin to appear as I’m writing. Their foreshadowing or overt insertion into the earlier part of the story will be added in revision. To facilitate this, I’m cheating. I stuck in a party scene where I will add characters , or mention them in conversation, when I revise. Don’t look at me like that. I’m being proactive here.


Progress Report: Day 6

  • Today is day 6 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Yesterday I wrote 679 words, bringing the total to 5,256.
  • That puts me 2,256 words ahead my target goal, based on writing 600 words per day.
  • I’m currently working on the setup scenes of the first act, and closing in on the inciting incident. I think I’ve established the main character and the key points of the setting enough that I can now throw everything into disarray.

Notes

  • Today is Finnish Independence Day. It’s almost a combination of American Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, the Kennedy Center Honors, and the Oscars. A televised military parade, held in a different city each year, happens in the morning. People go to cemeteries to lay flowers on the graves of veterans. Otherwise you stay home, light blue and white candles, and eat Christmas-type foods. In the evening everyone watches Linnan juhlat (the Castle Ball), a red carpet event where the President greets politicians, celebrities, artists, teachers, scientists, and other accomplished Finns.

Thanks for Visiting

Comments? I want to hear them! Questions? I want to answer them! Leave a message below and let’s chat about writing!

Come along on this journey with me, as I fumble around and figure out what I’m doing. Go to the bottom of the page and subscribe to the site, if you haven’t already! Never miss a new post!

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Introducing Your Protagonist: A Mystery to Be Solved

For the book I’m writing, and forgive me if I’m short on details, because I’m still discovering them for myself, I wanted my main character to have a low-key introduction. It wasn’t going to be a dramatic reveal. There are a group of characters having a conversation, with the protagonist being one of them. I want it to be a slow burn as the reader gets to like this person, and realizes they’re the focus of the book. By that point the reader should want to keep following them around through the story. I know that’s an incredibly difficult way of introducing your protagonist, but I’m determined to make it work.

Introducing Your Protagonist

Like the opening scene, the first appearance of the protagonist should draw the reader in. As with my opinion on opening scenes, that has to be the beginning and not the end. I don’t want the reader to drop out after 50 or 100 pages. You need to draw them in deeper with every scene. I think that my main character’s first appearance has to set an expectation. The character is a mystery to be solved, and people will want to keep reading as they learn more about them.


Progress Report: Day 5

  • Today is day 5 of 90 on my journey to write the first draft of a novel.
  • Yesterday I wrote 793 words, bringing the total to 4,577.
  • That puts me 2,177 words ahead of my target goal, based on writing 600 word per day.
  • I’m currently working on the second scene of the first act, establishing the setting and introducing an important supporting character.

Notes

  • I am starting to get a comfort level with both this online journal and the novel. This is why I didn’t do this as a NaNoWriMo project. As with my day job, deadline-driven work, it goes by so quickly. I don’t feel like I have the time to build an attachment. I have to be able to process things on a deeper level.
  • Long-range goals: Today is #PitMad. I am putting a stick in the ground and setting a soft goal to have a complete, polished manuscript and a solid 280-character pitch ready for next December’s event.

Thanks for Visiting

Comments? I want to hear them! Questions? I want to answer them! Leave a message below and let’s chat about writing!

Come along on this journey with me, as I fumble around and figure out what I’m doing. Go to the bottom of the page and subscribe to the site, if you haven’t already! Never miss a new post!

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Approaching Life as a Writer’s Retreat

Ever since we moved to Finland I’ve talked about approaching this time as a writer’s retreat. Of course, that’s when I expected that we’d be here for two years. By the time our current residence permit expires we’ll have been here for six, and we have every intention of staying forever if we can, so that original plan has been out the window for a long time.

If I had my way, I would do nothing but write, read, and drink coffee. As it works out, that’s still a significant portion of my day. I can deal with having to do marketing and accounting as part of the job. Household chores don’t both me. What keeps coming back around, though, is this idea that I have to interact with the world in a certain way in order to sell books. It’s the opposite of being the kind of quasi-monastic hermit I desire to be.

My role model in this has been Warren Ellis. Now, granted, he can get away with a certain lifestyle because he’s Warren- fncking-Ellis.  He has declared himself to be retired from the internet, save for his own website and newsletter and times when he’s contractually obligated to promote something. In a recent post he talks about how all of the moving parts stress him out, and how the only thing that brings him joy is creating things. So he’s only going to do that, as much as the world allows him to.

Treating Life as a Writer’s Retreat

Ellis talks about taking time to figure things out. That’s why I did during this internet hiatus. I’m making sure that I have time built into my ongoing schedule so that I can continue to figure it out, and make adjustments. It’s about the journey.

Because it’s not about having a writer’s retreat. It’s not even about having a writer’s life. It’s just about having the life that you want. I hit upon the notion that I needed to write a novel to write a novel, with no care for commercial concerns of the opinions of other people. The reason I went back to Twitter and will begin blogging again is because I enjoy creating, regardless of whether people enjoy the things I put out into the world. I can do those things on my own terms, within my own comfort level, and ignore people who say that I’m doing it wrong.

Regular blogging begins 2 December 2019. Until then, you’ll get interludes like this. So subscribe already! And please, leave comments below. I want your feedback and your questions.