During my first roundup of current events, I mentioned I like writing the fiction for the blog even though it’s the least read part of it…something that makes quite sad to be honest. And I mentioned I might explain a few things about it, on form & style.
The first thing you might not know is all stories on The Mental Attic serve as beta tests for concepts and ideas I needed to try out first before using them for my novel. In fact, Roberto has helped me improve and look at the pitfalls of 1st person narration, same with Lillian; though in her case, it’s all about 1st person but having TWO voices at the same time. Tiger was my first experiment on that, on having 2 voices describing, but at the time, I did it in 3rd person, because I didn’t know how to do it properly. The Illusionist is all about grandeur, on how far you can take a story and still maintain it within the boundaries of suspension of disbelief, or as I like to call it, the BTT: Bullshit Tolerance Threshold.
The Bone Mage and his cadre of lunatics in Unnatural Investigations Inc. are my experiment in point of view storytelling, similar to Game of Thrones, with multiple characters telling the same story in fragments. So far it’s been all about Weston, setting up the story and building up the cast, but that’ll change in the coming ones.
The style for Urban Arcana is a short story format and as such, each of them has to be a self-contained novel, having its own setup, buildup, climax and denouement. Sure, the setup can come from a previous story and it can have an overarching plot that extends beyond the story, but each of them has to solve or address a particular plot point. If not, it’s a Seinfeld-story, in that nothing happens and that doesn’t really work (for me at least). In a novel, on the other hand, you can have chapters dedicated entirely for non-plot-related events, such as the characters’ personal lives; because you have time for that, and even more, such “filler” will often give the plot time to advance. For example, in a Police story, there’s been a murder but there aren’t any leads for the characters to follow, so the next chapter or two deal with his personal life, and (maybe) his struggling marriage; and then during a romantic dinner he gets the call: a new body has been found, and so you return to the plot and add a bit more tension to his romantic life, 2 birds with one stone. A novel gives you that “space”, but short stories don’t tend to, or it’s harder to do it.
Using Roberto Peralta as an example, his first Act, Curses to Bear, will end after 14-16 stories (counting those already published), while if I wrote them as novels, it’d take 2-4 novels. The first story’s events, the attacks in Caracas and the hunt, could’ve been expanded into a single novel, dealing a bit more with the investigation and taking time to introduce secondary characters.
Conciseness is one of the sacrifices of the (or at least my) short story format. In fact, I’ve been accused of jumping the gun a few times, and on Tiger’s 1st Cycle I admit it, I may have gone too quickly into the end. I was accused of doing the same with Lillian’s partner Collin, turning him “evil”, but on that one, it’s just a case of “You know nothing, Jon Snow”.
That doesn’t mean I don’t develop characters, it’s just secondary ones become less of a priority, because I can’t delve into their psyches for as long as I want or need to, instead just offering glimpses into their minds in the best of cases. Tiger’s parents are the best examples. You know a bit of them from those moments I’ve let you into their heads, but I think you’ll agree they could benefit from some “alone time” with all of you, but most of the time I can’t do that, at least not during a story arc; not without risking derailing the story. Trust me, there are some really awesome stories there, but the chance of delving into them hasn’t come up…yet.
With Star Wars Igniters on the other hand, I can take things with another pace. I can take the time to develop the plot and those little stories in the background, and one chapter doesn’t have to, necessarily, deal with plot points, but instead deal with characters, and their impressions. And with a novel involving Jedi, it’s good that I can do that because it allows me to fully explore all the nuances to the Jedi Order and its members.
Having already written a novel (and writing the 2nd one), it won’t be difficult to write the 1st Igniters novel (and I’m a Star Wars maniac, so that’ll help). I’ve already learned some tips & tricks to make my life easier, and I’m really excited because there are some seriously cool characters there.
If there is one thing about the fiction I still regret, is I don’t have art to go along with it. A friend of mine writes fiction and he scours the web looking for photos and other people’s art that matches the story, but that isn’t my style. I need to have art done specifically for the piece of fiction. For a long time I’ve wanted that, because even if I know I don’t mind giant walls of text, I know some people don’t, and are put-off reading the stories because of it. I’ve understood, in the past year, in an environment like this, you need something visual. In a book on the other hand, you know you’re getting walls of text, so you don’t mind.
And with Star Wars, that desire for art is even greater.
Sadly, even my stick figures come out ugly…
I know my little pieces of fiction might not be everyone’s thing, but give them a shot. I know some of them aren’t that good, especially true for the early ones, but some of them are pretty cool.
I know you might not like the wall of text, but I’m working on it and hopefully soon I’ll deal with it.
- Attic Cleanup – The Last Month…or so… (thementalattic.wordpress.com)
3 thoughts on “On Style & Format”
Times like this I wish I was an artist. It is SO difficult to find a piece that matches even a small bit up to what you have in your mind. And scouring the Internet looking for something is seriously time consuming.
I know, sometimes even looking for those perfect screenshots for reviews takes some time.
I’m talking with a few people I think can help me, even if only for character portraits, to use as featured images for the stories 🙂