Interestingly, quite a few of the short stories I read for this era ended up as full-length feature films, but not until the 1990's.
( Judith MerrilCollapse )
( Harlan EllisonCollapse )
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- Current Mood: engrossed
- Current Mood: chipper
As usual, giving thought to this put it beyond two characters.
It's said one of the hallmarks of urban fantasy (this also obviously applies to contemporary horror) is that all characters are Fair Game. The potential death of any character, no matter how central to the narrative, ups the stakes and lets the reader/viewer know the characters are playing for keeps.
Joss Whedon, of course, isn't just an example of this, he's the King.
Joss sets the tone for his attitude towards character death in the very first episode of BtVS with the death of Jesse. It's well-known that Joss wanted to put Jesse in the main credits of Welcome to the Hellmouth just so he could stun the audience by killing him off. And behind-the-camera troubles aside, I'm pretty convinced that's (the writers' reason) for the death of Doyle in Season 1 of Angel. Both deaths were, IMO, non-gratuitous. Jesse's death occurred to instruct both viewers and the characters (in particular, Xander and Willow) that This Is Serious, Folks. Doyle, on the other hand, chose to die for a noble cause. It was no less shocking than Jesse's death, though, and you can imagine Joss' glee at finally being able to kill off a credits character.
Characters die for all sorts of reasons on BtVS and AtS, but one of the main reasons they die is to signal a change in the character who killed them. For Joss, this is usually a character we've come to trust, but sometimes, it's the rise of the bad guy (or both). Showing a character murder someone is Joss' signal that "something's changed." Examples abound: Jenny Calendar (Angel(us), Deputy mayor Allan Finch (Faith), Maggie Walsh (Adam), Katrina (The Trio), Warren (Willow), the wine cellar W&H lawyers (which Angel allows through inaction), Lilah (Beast-Master!Cordelia). The problem isn't that Joss does this. The problem is, he does this A LOT.
There are lots of other ways you can signal a change in a character and a change in the direction of a season. Wesley's betrayal of Angel in Season 3 was an effective way to change the stakes mid-season and resulted in interesting developments for both characters, without anyone having to die during the act of betrayal.
Joss' over-reliance on this trope lead to a lot of "the devil made me do it" story lines in which trusted friends (e.g., Angel, Cordelia, Spike [season 7 *oy*] must be robbed of their agency in order to make them kill somebody.
The other thing Joss overdid was Beloved Character Has to Die to Enact Change in the Hero or Season. Now, this can be an extremely powerful plot development. The first episode Joss did this in, Passion (Jenny Calendar's death), remains one of my favorites.
But there is a tipping point in keeping the stakes high where you start to lose a viewer or reader's investment, where it becomes so common for characters to die, viewers are no longer willing to invest emotionally in the characters. When a viewer reaches this point, they can either take a more flippant attitude towards the show, or stop watching it all together. I doubt either of these outcomes is something show-runners want.
I think the tipping point for me was Tara in Season 6 of BtVS. I could deal with Joyce dying in Season 5 to mark the transition of Buffy into adulthood. But Tara's death taxed me. Follow up that up with Cordelia's slow fade in AtS, and Fred's gratuitous assault in Season 5 of AtS, and I pretty much held my "giving a shit"-edness together only by sheer force of will to the end of AtS season 5. My issue with each of these deaths went beyond "too much is too much." They were also each out-and-out slaughters. None of these characters had a chance against their killers (Cordelia was effectively killed by Jasmine in Inside Out, despite her coma and brief return in Season 5). They were ruthlessly slaughtered by a Baddie just to shake things up.
For me, when it comes to major characters, the best deaths (1) show a victim dying against their killer after a valiant defense and because no other, alternative plot developments can effectively accomplish what their death can in the story (hence why Jenny Calendar's death works better than Tara's or Fred's); or (2) someone (directly or indirectly) causing their own death because their actions, or deliberate inaction, either heroic or villainous, resulted in it. When this happens to a villain, it's poetic justice. When it happens to a hero, you get Doyle, or Buffy (but she always comes back), or Darla in Lullaby (although there is a Madonna/Whore element to her death that annoys me a little).
- Current Mood: frustrated
For the record, I was equally disinterested in my father's attempts to teach me how to change the oil in my car. I was an intellectual.
When Mom got busy in law school, my dad took over the cooking duties. Before he got married, he was a cook in the National Guard, so you can imagine the sort of stuff he made for us. He didn't bother to teach me to cook, either.
How did I eat once I didn't have the college mess hall to feed me? It helps not being a fussy eater, but lots of ways, really. You wouldn't believe what comes in cans and boxes and takes a couple minutes to nuke in the microwave. Later, there were girlfriends who cooked (I always dated women who could cook). And when I lost twenty pounds a few years back, it was in part because my mom had been on a crockpot cooking kick the year before.
I occasionally ate meals out, although I rarely relied on that. It was fattening. I did learn how to prepare a few things myself, like pasta, and my father's French Toast (which gave me heart palpitations, so I didn't make it very often). But see above re: two-ingredient cooking.
As I get older, though, I am wanting to take more charge of what goes into the food I eat, and that means learning a skill I never learned. "Never learned" is a sweeping generalization, I've found, though. Earlier this month, I decided to try my hand at Actual Cooking with a 17-ingredient beef stew. I actually knew quite a bit more about what I was doing than I imagined I did. You don't get to be [bleep] years old and not pick up a few tricks here and there.
I'm not saying the stew is particularly good, but I think it's more the recipe than me. Next time, I'm leaving out the onions, tomatoes, and oregano. But it was improved with some chopped chili peppers thrown in. And in the effort expended vs. outcome received department, I made a dozen portions to finish up.
My next experiment this past weekend was more successful: a black bean veggie wrap. I still strongly resent the time expenditure. As for Ingredient Overload, I try to concentrate on one line of the recipe at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Next up, baked fish, I think. And then mamculuna's Dharma Shala Soup.
- Current Mood: accomplished
- Current Mood: chipper
As it turns out, I am in fact writing a series of novels with the same central characters (more or less). And what I am struggling with is giving aforementioned central characters any significant others at all. These are healthy young women in their early 30's. By all accounts, they should have love lives or sex lives or something. And yet I am much more interested in the mystery they have to solve than who they are sleeping with or dating.
Trying to squeeze significant others into a story where I haven't made room for them just because it is weird for them not to be there is kind of a pain.
There was a time when the romantic relationships in my stories were front and center, and the sci-fi/fantasy elements were window dressing around them. And when that was true, the significant others could have any of the above qualities. The plots were character-driven, so the traits of the significant others weren't chosen to be helpful to the plot, the plot was chosen because it fit the characters.
My stories are still character-driven, but not by the romantic relationships in them. So Significant Others tend to be more plot-driven than the main characters, who drive the plot. Now, my characters' romantic/love/sex interests must have some other role to play in the story, just so they don't feel tacked on. For example, the story has a police officer character. So what if one of my main character's exes is that cop? The story has a person from a mysterious group spying on my other main character. So what if he's the guy she picked up in a bar and had a one night stand with, and now he's starting to fall for her a little?
Only problem with this approach is you need to follow up on the relationship repercussions of Significant Other's independent connection to the story (as opposed to the regular plot/character repercussions), and sometimes I forget to do that.
Maybe it's not that I'm getting old. Maybe my priorities are just shifting. I've read enough fiction to know a lot of time the Significant Others are just tacked on (especially the wives). But honestly, if your main character goes through Changes, you need to show the person they are intimate with reacting to those changes, which in turn the main character reacts to. The best written stories make SO's an active part of the plot in some shape or form, even if it's peripheral.
- Current Mood: groggy
I am drawn to urban fantasy stories because I like stories that show a secret supernatural world existing in what is ostensibly the mundane, scientifically skeptical world we all live in, and characters who lives are recognizable to the average reader, who are nevertheless part of that supernatural world.
Stories like BtVS, Harry Potter, or Dresden Files, make it easy to imagine that the supernatural exists around me in the world I see everyday. Stories like this allow me to think, "Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic." All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what's hidden all around me.
And that makes the mundane world I see outside my window seem just a little bit more magical.
Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe or anything like that. It's our world, but what most of us don't realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don't run into one.
Why do I have this need? I guess because I'm an agnostic, and an empiricist, but what I feel compelled to believe is not the same thing as what I wish were true. "Urban" fantasy lets me step away from that for an hour or two.
This is the reason I am not drawn much to High Fantasy (e.g., Lord of the Rings). High fantasy stories are set in completely imaginary places that aren't Earth, nor even historical Earth. They often contain humans, dogs, oak trees, and other earthlike things to make them more accessible, but the resemblance to our world is usually a pseudo-resemblance to some historical era I have little connection to. I don't mind fantasy or science fiction set in a historical period on Earth, as long as the historical period is genuinely drawn outside of its supernatural elements.
So the "on Earth" is important to me. As is the "secret." I want a story world where the supernatural is considered debunked and its delights and dangers lurk in the shadows, only known to a select few. For this reason, I also don't care much for urban fantasy where the supernatural elements of the story are out in the open (e.g., Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton). Partly because the supernatural being "secret" makes it easier to pretend all this really is going on all around me. But also, I have always had a kink for "the big secret" that only select characters know and the rest of the world is oblivious to.
- Current Mood: enthralled
I entered the world of online fandom in 1998 shortly after season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I was looking anxiously for spoilers after that season finale, and being new to online fandom, I naturally went to the official WB network BtVS site, buffy.com, and the Bronze Posting Board. I hung out at the Bronze during seasons 3 and 4 of BtVS, and was known for pointing out nods to various philosophical ideas that I found in different episodes. The first one I ever noticed was the contextuality of knowledge, which appeared in a debate between Giles and Jenny Calendar in I Robot, You Jane.
Some of my Bronzer friends encouraged me to create a webpage where I listed all the philosophical references I found. A web PAGE. I sort of suck at brevity. "All Things Philosophical on BtVS/AtS" was born on January 1st, 1999. Hard to believe that was 15(!) years ago. 15! The website soon became more than one page as Joss and company continued to produce deeply intelligent television. From '99 to '04, I lost entire weekends to my website analyses.
I occasionally got emails from visitors to the site. Some of those folks urged me to create a discussion board where they could discuss the show at deeper levels than other discussion boards they frequented. On June 14th, 2000, I set up one of those canned forums. The folks that came to hang out there did the rest.
The ATPo board included folks from all over the world, males and females, teenagers to 60-somethings. Posters wrote essays that brought in philosophy, psychology, politics, critical theory, literary analysis, you name it, somebody did it. The archives are a good read. Discussions were sometimes deep, sometimes shallow, sometimes serious, sometimes silly, sometimes paragraphs, sometimes essays (that were actually (Long) when warned to be so). The board's hey-day was from June of 2000 to Spring of 2004, but a lot of those folks are still my good friends. I was reminded of how important they are to me when we recently lost one of our own, atpolittlebit.
Whenever I stop to think I've accomplished nothing in my life except earning a PhD I've done very little with, someone tells me a story about how ATPo touched their lives. And I take heart in that.
- Current Mood: nostalgic
2ceuponatime is back with "Heart of Darkness"!
January talking meme still open for business:
Masq reviews science fiction short stories through time:
- Current Mood: accomplished
It is interesting that of the three biggies I review here (Clarke, Bradbury, and Asimov), Asimov was always my favorite, but (perhaps due to story choices?) this time around, I was much more impressed with Bradbury.
All of these writers are masters of creating fully-realized portraits of everyday life in the future, or on space stations, or the Moon, in very few words.
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- Current Mood: contemplative
Okay, first off, this question assumes I know what contemporary music sounds like, compared to which earlier music would sound dated. I SO don't. I don't have cable TV or listen to the radio, and most musak in stores is oldies--have you ever noticed?
What contemporary music I have heard doesn't sound all that different to me than stuff I listened to back in the '80's. In fact, I've been surprised by how *not* different it is. If someone is doing ground-breaking new sounds out there, I am not aware of who that is.
That said, there is clearly a "sound" to some music genres in particular decades that us unique to that decade. '50's rock sounds very different from 60's rock, which sounds mildly different from 70's rock. Contemporary Hip Hop has clear roots in 80's Rap, but a different sound at the same time. "My music" was late 70's-early '80's Punk and New Wave, and a LOT of that sounds dated now. Especially the peppy, shallow stuff and anything that used a lot of synthesizers.
Queen: hardly sound dated at all, but that's either because their music was purposefully vintage even for the time (e.g., Bohemian Rhapsody), or has become so ubiquitous it can't get dated (e.g., We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions).
Depeche Mode: Early DP *does* sound dated, but see above re: peppy, shallow stuff. Later (late '80's) Depeche Mode doesn't, to my ear.
Ultravox: Okay, yeah, big synthesizer band. But you know, stuff you listened to, like, a MILLION times is so familiar, it's hard to judge.
Roxy Music: Not so much, but they did a lot of deliberately vintage sounds.
Echo and the Bunnymen: They don't to me, but my ear, not the best judge. These guys might fall into the "Extended life via the Goth movement" category.
Elton John: KindOfYeah. But some bands/musicians are so closely equated with a particular decade, they're going to sound dated whether they are or they're not.
Japan: These psuedo-punkers were not mainstream enough to have a trendy sound, and also did a lot of deliberately vintage work. But some songs do sound punky-dated.
New Order: Dance music always sounds dated after ten or fifteen years. It's a thing.
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: Early OMD falls in the same category as early Depeche Mode. Too trendy for its own good. Later OMD less so, but still.
Peter Gabriel: Most early PG has become classics, too ubiquitous to sound dated (to me). His later pop stuff sounds more dated. Word to the wise: being trendy means being forgotten in five years.
Siouxsie and the Banshees: God, I just can't tell. Maybe?
The Smiths: See above re: too closely associated with their era to ever sound anything *but* dated.
Music I associate with the era and so inevitably sounds dated: Devo, Oingo Boingo, Tears for Fears, U2, X, Yaz, Visage, Thomas Dolby, Spandau Ballet, PIL, Eurhythmics, The Cure, The Clash, Adam and the Ants
Other artists who have continued to be played and so don't sound as dated: Joan Jett, Sisters of Mercy (saved by the Goth movement!)
- Current Mood: amused
My initial reaction to this topic was, "What do these characters have in common besides being the brats of their respective story universes? Not much!" But this turns out to be untrue.
As characters, both Connor and Henry are the children of the primary protagonist/hero of their respective shows (you can disagree with me that Emma is the primary protagonist/hero of OUAT, but there is a strong case to be made for this). Both were raised by their parent's enemies. And both are presented as relatively passive characters who are manipulated and that things happen to rather than characters who make choices and act on them.
Let's look at their respective arcs. Warning: as astrogirl2 would say, the deer got a bit teal here. Spoilers for all five seasons of Angel, and up to episode 3.11 of OUAT.
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Transcripts courtesy of http://onceuponatime.wikia.com/wiki/Cat
- Current Mood: quixotic
It helps living in Tempe. This is a college town with a residential population that skews rather liberal for the area. During recent election years, for example, I saw more Obama/Biden signs in yards and windows in my immediate neighborhood than the Other Guys. During a recent mayoral election, the son of our ex Democratic Congressman Harry Mitchell won over the Republican candidate strong in old business ties to the city. Also, the way electoral districts are carved up puts me in a district that tends to vote Democratic. We elected the outspokenly liberal openly bisexual Kyrsten Sinema as our congresswoman in 2012.
The other thing that helps is my family lives here. I would not be living in this state at all if my parents had not retired here. My mother and brother are both very liberal. I have to avoid my brother's Facebook page sometimes, though, as he likes to post and rant a little about the right-wing nuts in this state.
In fact, I have to confess that my primary method of coping is just to avoid the media: local news (heck, national news as well), local television in general, newspapers, magazines, etc.
And of course, the Biggie: don't read the bumper stickers. It's almost a reflex, when you are sitting at a traffic light and a little bored, to look at the bumper of the car ahead of you. Tip: Just. Don't.
Avoidance is not always possible, of course. The worst time for the avoidance strategy is during even-number election years, when all the placards go up on street corners. Some countries and states have laws that limit the number of weeks those signs are allowed to be up. Not here. In an election year, they go up in the early Spring and often are still there weeks after the election is over in November. And they can be really, really nasty. Coping strategy: just drive, and keep your eyes ahead. But not on the bumper of the car in front of you.
- Current Mood: pensive
- Current Mood: recumbent
The ability to watch entire seasons of a show in one fell swoop can make the actual "start date" of viewing a blur, so some of the below I'm not 100% sure about starting in 2013:
Which TV shows did you start watching in 2013?
The Americans, Orphan Black, Orange is the New Black, Continuum, The Vampire Diaries, Weeds, Sleepy Hollow, Eureka, Sherlock. Probably a few others I can't remember.
Which TV show did you let go of in 2013?
Revolution. I watched until the final ep of season 1, but post-apocalyptic gung-ho paramilitary hijinks, just not my thing.
Dexter, but that was over anyway.
I keep threatening to stop watching Criminal Minds, just because the show has become a parody of itself. I couldn't quite get a finger on why, until I started a recent rewatch of the early seasons. In seasons 1-7, you could always count on the team being wrong about something in their profile, and having to refine it, and even then getting a twist on each classic psychosis. And not a twist at the end, but a twist in the entire episode. It wasn't predictable. Now? Seasons 8 and 9 have just become paint-by-numbers stories, where you can predict the outcome, and the perp's "signature" right off the initial crime scene.
For me, the show ended perfectly at the end of season 7. But I still watch.
Which TV show did you mean to get into but didn't in 2013? Why?
My Netflix queue is full of shows I may or may not get around to: Alphas, Breaking Bad, Doctor Who, Elementary, Fringe, Fullmetal Alchemist, Skins, Supernatural, Torchwood. I donno. Lately, I've been on an Investigation Discovery True Crime series kick. Totally disturbing, and yet the stand-alone episode tabloid histrionics doesn't require brain cells to watch.
Which TV show do you intend to check out in 2014?
The potential new post-Voyager web Star Trek series, Star Trek Renegades, looks interesting. At least it's not JJ Abrams pseudo-Trek.
Which TV show impressed you least in 2013?
Sleepy Hollow. I still see a lot of my flist gushing over it, apparently because it's insane crack to them. But I think enjoyable insane crack is taste-specific. My idea of enjoyable insane crack was season 2 of Lost.
Which TV show did you enjoy the most in 2013?
Once Upon A Time became my first real TV fandom since Angel was cancelled (I liked Lost, but didn't start really posting about it until season 6, and those were mostly chirping cricket posts). I was a "Yeah, sure, I try to catch it each week" OUAT fan until the episode Manhattan. Then they totally got me hook, line, and sinker.
- Current Mood: sleepy
Looked at from a purely 21st century perspective, your gut reaction to such paintings (or such short stories) is "So what? Lots of stuff looks like that." Yes. These days. But then you glance at the year the painting or the story came out and contrast it with what passed as popular design or entertainment in its day, and the work is friggin' revolutionary. Indeed, any one of these stories can be classed as a primordial example of what is now a common sci-fi trope. If H. G. Wells is the grandfather of modern science fiction, these writers are his sons:
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- Current Mood: hopeful
- Current Music:Xmas instrumental light jazz
Originally posted by abebooksblog at Lisbeth Salander to return in Millennium Trilogy sequel
Fans of Lisbeth Salander probably weren’t expecting to meet her again, considering Stieg Larsson‘s best-selling Millennium Trilogy was published posthumously. The widely popular series was originally intended to include 10 parts, but it ended with just three titles due to Larsson’s death in 2004. Norstedts, the Swedish publisher of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, has signed up ghostwriter David Lagercrantz to produce a fourth book, expected to be released next summer. The yet-to-be-titled novel is said to have a different plot from the unfinished fourth book Larsson was penning before he passed away, but it will include the characters Lisbeth and Mikael Blomqvist.
- Current Mood: conflicted
Back in January, I made a New Year's resolution to declutter one item a day for the entire year of 2013, and I am pleased to say I've kept that resolution. A lot of it was finding ten things to tie me over for the next ten days, then ignoring the resolution for a week and half. And sometimes, I would count four identical items as one day's item, while other times, I'd put the multiple identical items I wanted to ditch on different days, depending on how likely it was I'd fall behind in my resolution.
But yeah, December is a third over, and I'm finished for the year. You wouldn't know it to look at my place. I kept all my crap tucked away where no one could see it, so visually it hasn't changed all that much. But if you were to walk into the Good Will down the street from my place? It would be, like, House of Masq.
What really has changed is my feeling about "stuff." I don't want "stuff" for Christmas. The thought of it just viscerally turns me off. I want tickets to a show, or a gift card to a spa, or something else experiential. Enrich my life, don't clutter my house. My sister-in-law, bless her heart, got me some random stuff for my birthday that sad to say is going to end up in the Good Will box. I just have no use for it whatsoever, but I don't want to insult her by saying so. If I must have stuff, the annual trading-of-the-Amazon-gift-cards is A-Okay with me. I will purchase eBooks.
This may suck some of the fun out of Christmas. The Sculptor and I always play Santa for each other and fill each others' stockings. How many of her stocking stuffers ended up in the GW box after last Christimas and/or on the kitchen counter at work for other people to eat so I could maintain my girlish figure? Yeah, I'm kind of Scroogey that way now.
Not sure I will play 365 things next year. I was actually stunned I could always find stuff if I looked hard enough this year. I probably could find 365 more things if I put my mind to it, but it can be exhausting at times. What it did do was change the way I look at the importance of "gotta keep this in case I need it" and "gotta buy this!" And it makes me value the stuff I hung on to all that much more. So I'll carry one thing into 2014: a new attitude.
- Current Mood: frustrated
The first two stories have been dubbed 'proto science fiction' in that they were written well before there was any such genre as science fiction, and were labeled in hindsight as "science fiction-like." H. G. Wells is the first of this batch to be truly a "science fiction" writer, although he would not have used that term, since it was not invented until the mid-twentieth century.
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- Current Mood: dorky
Poe, Edgar Allen. "The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall", 1835
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, 1844
Wells, H.G. “The Star”, 1897
Hamilton, Edmond. “The Man Who Evolved”, 1931
Robert Heinlein. "--All You Zombies--" 1959
I actually started with the Heinlein story, which was just bizarre and rubbed me wrong. That's when I decided I could use the benefit of historical context with the chronological approach.
The first two on the list have the characteristic overwriting typical of a lot 19th century romanticism (why use two words when twenty will do?)
The H.G. Wells story was gorgeously written, despite being a doomsday tale.
I am now into the 1930's pulp fiction, which is about as melodramatic as you'd expect.
A few quotable quotes:
It was not love, although her rich beauty was a madness to him; nor horror, even while he fancied her spirit to be imbued with the same baneful essence that seemed to pervade her physical frame; but a wild offspring of both love and horror that had each parent in it, and burned like one and shivered like the other. - Nathaniel Hawthorne
Few people without a training in science can realise the huge isolation of the solar system. The sun with its specks of planets, its dust of planetoids, and its impalpable comets, swims in a vacant immensity that almost defeats the imagination. - H G Wells
Here's my Friday poem, from back in my college days:
A woman's hands
Her hands were smooth, gentle, and able
One rested on her thigh
the other moved across the table
It made me feel secure, seeing her hands
They had a soft-spoken grace unlike a man’s
I could sit and wonder at all they’d done
When they were strong
When they were creative
When they were playful
When they were still
I could sit and wonder what it would be like
to hold one of those hands in mine.
- Current Mood: relaxed
The ending is also very important if one of the goals of this novel is to make it the first novel in a series. The ending sets up whatever comes next, and my interest in what comes next determines my interest in writing a series instead of a stand-alone novel.
I had an ending of my novel all figured out, but just could not get it written. And I think I realized Sunday that I don't like the ending. The planned ending was not a place I felt inclined to build future stories on. It was all politics of the story world and I think I really want to tell a story about one individual and her personal struggle with all that world-building as backdrop. Right now, the beginning and middle contain arcs supporting both of those endings/emphases--politics of the story-world and her personal struggle. It's a little chaotic, representing two competing visions for the novel simultaneously.
Next step: nail down how I want the ending to play out, then decide what stays and what goes in everything I've written.
This may or may not mean that NaNo 2013 is officially over. Not that I was keeping a word count or anything.
- Current Mood: determined
- Current Mood: busy