caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: A running problem with the revision has been trying to make Evil Lord Evil's behaviour make consistent sense that doesn't boil down, on closer analysis, to "Everything I do, I do it cos I'm Stupid Evil!"   Yes, he is what at least in parlour-psychological terms would be called a high-functioning sociopath; but, hello, high-functioning!

But I've finally worked out what he's about, and why he's always slipped out of my grasp like a greased pig up till now.  I've been thinking of the less-evil antagonists as the cautious, canny, reluctant modernizers, and Lord Evil as the defender of the worst of the bad old ways - he is, after all, pretty much the poster boy for viciously irresponsible aristocratic privilege.

Actually, everything he does starts making a hell of a lot more sense now I understand him as the modernizer - the improver - the guy who's really good at figuring out how to make oppression pay and look shiny, instead of cost and smell stinky.  His rivals are rationalists, but they're conservative mediaeval rationalists: not his kind at all.  But Lord Evil's found the hole in their law-web, and - for all his early mistakes - he's found a 'progressive' way to mine money out of it, at the peasants' expense, without destroying them.   And it's an exploit that only a certain sort of... focused... mind could have thought of.

In a way it's the inverse of Our Heroes' existential challenge to the old manorial regime.  Our lad might be really at home today, in the ministries and boardrooms of the prison-industrial complex.

Anyhow, now I know where his policy's coming from, and why some of his existing advice goes the way it does.  From where he's standing, Katy & Co. just threw the Dale-Lords the opportunity of three lifetimes.

And I think he's finally thrown me the master-clue to the Revised Political Plot.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Oy! Still bogged down in the political revision, largely because the Puffin Superior's part in the later story has also had to put out back-roots that will support it - and some of her issues are metaphysical more than political, hence even more bewildering to deal with. This is the trouble with her rise from "plot person who knows something critical to the climax" to "significant major character in her own right". It's only a somewhat outrageous parallel to say that I got three-quarters through the first draft, and then Father Brown stepped out of Chestertonia to join the opposition. The Puffin is not a negligible quantity.

And she seems to have decided that what is best for my soul is lots of lovely work. Pah!

There are only so many hours one can spend on this sort of thing every day, so I've decided to start reserving at least one of them for Chocolate and the Gods, before it starts going all blotchy and bloomy on me.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Slogging away through the diplomatic muddle (I've got up to the first serious engagements now).  The original point of this week's work was just to get the political manoeuvring to make consistent sense from everybody's point of view.  But...

...I think that having come up with my first revision list, I'm going to need to do the character consistency passes for about a dozen major characters before I attempt the actual political rewrite.  There are so many personal agendas and idiosyncrasies mixed right up into the heart of the diplomacy, that rewriting on the basis of what makes sense for the two 'sides' would be vastly misleading and a big waste of effort.

The big revelation so far is Lord Evil, who on review is turning into a much more complex and formidable ratfink than I'd taken him for.  There really is a whiff of Falstaffian tragedy about him, and I am even beginning to sort of understand where he and all his wickedness are coming from.  In some ways his marrow-deep corruption is almost like a mundane and aristocratic mirror of the Big Bad's.  At any rate, I think his final version may actually display the charm of which he has always been supposedly capable.

These new thoughts about the Big Bad have also given me a great  idea for upgrading the Grand Finale, which I ought to try to put into actual prose tonight while it's... hot.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Until I started this comb-through of Lord of the Rings, I'd forgotten just how much of this Tolkien manages to pack in. You can hardly turn around at any point in the first book without falling into another bout of it. The fact that this impression never particularly lingered until I went looking for it, suggests that it's very well integrated indeed.

If exposition by loremaster routes large numbers of secondary stories through a single master-node, peer-to-peer exposition distributes them widely amongst whichever nonspecialized characters are appropriate. The technique can be as direct as having characters walk offstage, and return with a more or less condensed description of what happened while the reader was following the main story; or as devious as having them tell a secondary tale which is only relevant at a slant, at just the point where the reader needs to hear it. Sometimes the story might be more important for what its matter or its manner says about the character, or about a way of looking at the world, than for any content of its own. Sometimes, though not in Tolkien, it affords a convenient way of lying to the reader without making the actual narration unreliable.

Peer-to-peer exposition in Tolkien, and its several subtleties. )

Reflections on p2p, with its uses and absences, in my first draft and going forward. )

General thought. Peer-to-peer exposition seems naturally best suited to broad-canvas stories with large, strongly-differentiated casts and well-distributed character agency. This certainly describes Lord of the Rings. Three Katherines is deliberately a far more parochial tale, but the landscape is deliberately denser; and Killer-Kate has that feeling of broadness to me in a way that Katy Elflocks doesn't, because its threads diverge and rejoin so much. Does anybody else find this connection between the feel of the story and the method of the exposition a natural one?
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Finished reviewing the plotline I'd been avoiding - the tale of the Young Duke, and his better and worse counsellors. Ngh. This may be the one in need of most work.

Not hard to see why - of all the elements in the tale, this one had the worst wellspring: neither a lively part of the original vision, nor a spontaneous outgrowth of the story's unfolding, but a rather passive and cartoony set of antagonists in the original plot, designed more to be important in their circumstances than in themselves. That changed rapidly from the moment the Duke himself burst onto the stage, but the changes are somewhat late-grafted and inconsistent, as I flailed around to make the matter come alive without completely disrupting the logic of the story. So now I'm going to have to go back and retro-fit the lords of Northdales as I came to know them, with the way they are on their first appearance.

Lordly behaviours, the diplomatic dance, and questions of malice and mammon. )
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
"Last night you began to tell me strange things about my ring, Gandalf," said Frodo. "And then you stopped, because you said that it was getting late, and we still had another sixteen pages to go..."


Well, nearly!

Tolkien loves this technique, as well he might, being no little of a loremaster himself. Lord of the Rings is full of the beggars. Gandalf, Elrond, Tom Bombadil, Aragorn, Galadriel, Treebeard - and Faramir and Bilbo and Merry and Frodo himself, on a lesser scale - all serve this function at some point or another. Loremaster exposition is one of the opposed methods to maid-and-butler dialogue/As You Know, Bob: it allows one character, who knows huge dollops of stuff almost nobody else knows, to helpfully inform the reader in the process of reasonably informing the character.

For my present purposes, the main use of a loremaster is to tell a story, or the selected highlights of a story, which neither their real nor his fictional audience could otherwise be expected to know. Because they are so lore-wise, they potentially have a lot of such stories at their fingertips.

Loremasterly exposition in Tolkien, and its higher mode's aspirations to cover current and future narratives. )

On re-reading Chapter 2, The Shadow of the Past, I find whole new levels of craft in the way Tolkien breaks down this massive infodump, sets it to a compelling rhythm, and controls its tone for fascination, tension, oppression, and release. The only reason I'm not going to analyse it right here and now is a practical one - it's not very close to what I'm trying to achieve. It would be truer to say, in fact, that several features of Three Katherines are a reaction against what it represents. Let's turn now to what I hope to get out of this.

Survey of loremaster exposition opportunities in Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland. )

So I don't get to do much exposition of secondary stories by loremaster at all in Three Katherines - and what I do, is not likely to come from the mouths I expected. My takeaway is to focus on Elegant Elder Sister where that needs doing, and to a lesser and highly specialized extent on: Shiny Lurker, Hero-Father, and Mostly Okay Genius. Hm-m-m!
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Worked on geography and finished notes on the Witchy Wizardy subplot. Overall sense is that it needs a deal of work - but that work done, it could smooth off some of the other plotlines and ideas as neatly as sandpaper.

This large plotline is the most organically grown of all, having been completely unimagined in the story's origin, and by degrees become central to it. It centres around the three pure magic-specialists in the younger generation: Flashy Elder Brother, the virtuoso wizard; and Bonecold Refugee and her friend whom we might call Knife-Rede, the inexperienced witches. The subplot coalesced around a datadump excuse; the need to win two nonmagical tricks in order for Kate to challenge the Dull Tower; and an intended romantic tie-off at the ending, which has now grown implicit and ambiguous. Much was revealed in the telling, as its three central characters came out of the shadows and spoke to me.

Avoiding magus ex machina )

Finally, I've sorted out a bunch of details and raised a few more questions about Bonecold Refugee (by far the most pivotal character of the three, as things turned out), and the relationship between the various known approaches to the Art Magic in the Kateverse. One thing I should certainly have picked up without waiting for the revision for it to smack me between the eyes: Bonecold has the training and the turn of mind to be a most formidable witch - in many ways she is like a Katy Elflocks who got smacked with the predictable reality instead of the fairy-tale - but she doesn't really think in witchy terms more than she can help.* I think her true vocation is wizardry, even though she doesn't know or do any, at least in the main course of the tale.

Wherein it is seen that even the author can miss even the most blatant incluing threaded throughout their own text. Repeatedly. Extensively. D'oh!

* ETA: "turn of mind to be a most formidable witch... doesn't really think in witchy terms" appears to make no sense. What I was trying to say is that she has a mind that can wrangle witchy magical concepts and entities very well - but the directions she takes them in, given any choice in the matter, aren't very witchy at all. Gah, that was clumsy of me!
caper_est: Sharpening the quill (writing)
I've just run across some excellent posts on the subject of Mary Sue and her variously-named male equivalent - that Very Special Character, arising from the world of fanfic, who can scarcely be better described than in these words of [livejournal.com profile] blackholly's:


Spock gets a long-lost daughter with purple eyes who's an even better doctor than McCoy and when she arrives, Kirk instantly falls in love with her and makes her captain in his place. She takes them to the planet of the Sparkle Ponies where she defeats Khan with her beauty and that of her new glittery equine friends.

Heh! But also not so much heh, because here are some good cases made in that very article and several others within the same conversation, to the effect that 'Mary Sue' has become a lazy and insidious way of dinging on female characters disliked by the reviewer - most especially, female characters written by women - in ways which are both unfair to said authors, and in danger of limiting the public supply of awesome female characters. All sorts of subtleties of the true and false Mary Sue Effects are explored in these discussions, and I highly recommend all of them. In chronological order:


You Can Stuff Your Mary Sue Where the Sun Don't Shine, by Zoë Marriot (Aug 1st 2011)

Ladies, Don't Let Anyone Tell You You're Not Awesome, by [livejournal.com profile] sarahtales (Aug 4th)

Ladies Ladies Ladies, by [livejournal.com profile] blackholly (Aug 7th)

I Know a Little Girl and Her Name Is Mary Mac: the Misuse of Mary Sue, by [livejournal.com profile] seanan_mcguire (Oct 11th)

What Would Mary Sue Do?, by Zoë Marriot (25th October)


Here is my head hitting the desk, repeatedly.

My only real addition to the debate concerns the case where the name's deserved. I think one good test for whether a character is a genuine Mary Sue/Marty Stu or not, is whether they have the defects proper to their virtues - or, indeed, the virtues of their defects. If what is wrong with them has nothing to do with what is right with them, except to serve as a foil for the sparkly shininess of it, this is a warning sign. And if their most salient flaw is wangst, and yet they are in no other way anything of a wanker, that is an enormous neon warning sign flashing DANGER WILL ROBINSON DANGER !

At the age of thirteen, I independently invented the concept of fanfic and the character - but not, alas, the concept! - of Marty Stu, as a side-effect of the dire worldwide shortage of new Pern books. To encounter him at the age of thirty as a known public nuisance was both a revelation and a sort of relief, not to mention a salutary reminder. But if his sister is now being seen more often in pieces of vaguely girl-cootied speculative fiction than the Virgin Mary has manifested in pieces of vaguely toasted bread, then it may be that the pair of them are coming to the end of their useful work as Awful Warnings.

Either that, or Marty is going to have to start pulling more of his own weight. Which one, eh?
caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: Set in order the long and involved story of that most infuriating of my main characters, Prince Lucas the Proud alias Luke Lackland. He begins as an Entitlement Monster, ends as a Selflessness Monster, and it really isn't clear that anything much has changed about him except his fairer appreciation of his place in the world.

Noodling around a great heroic noodle. )

His strange genius for finding heroism by dodging any thoughts or choices that might lead away from it... could explain quite a bit about my Prince Charming manqué. If I come back to his mid-Rising decisions with that in mind, I hope I can get some sense out of them in the rewrite!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (three katherines of allingdale)
I caught one! Right at the beginning of Katy Elflocks, before I knew or thought I'd need to care about the details of the wider kingdom, I had Luke's father give him his ridiculously destructive magic sword as a parting gift - and it is explicitly the case that the old king has borne it into battle and knows what it's like, albeit clearly he doesn't think it's that useful a treasure for a modern monarch. But in the light of the way the worldbuilding subsequently develops, this is slightly more out of context than Henry VII's handing over his invincible Excalibur to his frisky younger son Hal.  I shall have to revisit this, one way or another.

Went through the Puffin Superior's plotline before bedtime. Huge amounts of detail there which will never make the story, but give me a better handle on and a better set of questions about that enigmatical and seriously pivotal character in the latter chapters of Kate. Since I didn't foresee her in Katy, and used her Sisterhood only as a background detail in another context, that's going to be one important place for me to work on foreshadowing and incluing in the earlier story. Also, major worldbuilding chore: finally sorting out to my own reasonable satisfaction how the wider local religion works, both officially and in practice. That turns out to be another matter on which my ideas have changed considerably during the telling.

From last night's belated birthday treat, the memory of a large and luscious Chez Gérard steak followed by pear in red wine syrup is still suffusing me with feelings of tenderness and bounty towards the wide world.


caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Donkey posts are going to do for various forms of donkeywork what wordcount posts did for first drafting, i.e. maintain a sense of progress on my part during a long slogging phase, whilst offering a tag by which readers can easily filter out unwanted wibbling if it all gets too much.

Today I wrote my summary-from-memory of one of the main character plotlines, namely Kate's thirty-year arc from the end of Katy Elflocks onwards. Encouragingly, it hangs together better - with respect to this drama of the final winter - than I expected. Maybe I won't need to cut out quite as many false starts and errant shoots from it as I feared.

I still have those top-level considerations to get back to, but I need to let Tolkien & Co. go on stewing for a bit longer. Meanwhile, on with the reviews of what's actually there, and research into things I don't really know enough about and kind of skimped on for the sake of getting the story out while it was hot, and worldbuilding consistency/inconsistency dumps, and other such stuff that I'm going to have to do whatever other decisions I make.

I would so love to have reached actual rewriting territory by Christmas!


caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)
Working on the plotlines, my first job has been to compile a useful list of the major characters in Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland. One of the issues that came up quickly is a structural issue for the whole of Three Katherines of Allingdale, and makes me think I'll do well to keep the thirty-year gap unfilled if I possibly can. It's the question of what the major political players are doing in it.

Narrative uselessness and structural uses of good royals in an aristo-sceptical fantasy. )
caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 1,300 words of the epilogue. The King's cunning left hand, his young half-sister Clarice called the Clever, arrives at Newborough in another year's spring.

Clarice, whose modest rôle in this conclusion was sketched out two years ago, leaps off the page solid as anybody I know, the moment I meet her. Celebrated  widely as a beauty, because sparkling young princesses always must be, she is really more like a merry female Dick Crookback with the sharp corners carefully tucked away: small, vivid, sort of ill-assembled, and dangerously intoxicating over about a salon-sized radius. I'm afraid this will be the only chance I get to meet her, because Clarice is a diplomat, and much too good at it ever to get herself into anything like a folk-song or a fairy-story.

Now we will see how far the tale has come from the aftershock of the last chapter, to something like a real happy ending.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 240 words.  Kate scores, for once in her life, a palpable hit on Mostly Okay Genius.  Oddly, it is her hit that shows him in a better light than almost anything he is doing or saying in this phase of the book.  Not that he can very much appreciate that...

Lord Evil [aside]: MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 690 words.  Golden Kate has done it to me again, and in a way I could least have imagined from her of all people.  But now it's happened, it's more like her than anything.

And because the Young Duke is, as previously noted, also like her...

...the scene has come fully alive at last, and the fire-tide flows fast to the end.


caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)
Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 1,300 words, finishing the Young Duke's second scenelet.  Most of these I'll have to eradicate in the redraft, but I can't be certain which ones, just yet.  Character and motivation stuff all around, emerging in another of those petty conflicts that are turning up the pressure on him before the Grand Scene.

Also, a very silly Kateverse folksong, The Bungle in the Jungle.

A slight pause may shortly ensue, as travel looms large in my immediate future.


caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 710 words.  The Young Duke's supreme offer.  When he really breaks out, he can achieve an Eddisonian grandeur of spirit to exceed even Golden Kate's.

Of course, my world isn't Zimiamvia, and it was not made for the benefit of any Lessingham, and its heroes and aristocrats are most decidedly not supermen.  This may have some bearing on subsequent events.

But this was his moment of all moments, and man! how he has earned it.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 510 words.  The Young Duke solves a problem with scholarship.  His mother would be so proud, and so uncomprehending.  She's at least as smart as he is, and quite classically educated; but she uses it for pedantry or to help her wrap her head around dangerously unfamiliar concepts.  I don't think it's ever occurred to her, or to many of her former peers, as being of merely practical use.

And now I know about old King Quicksilver, Mercurio, the Kateverse's twisty answer to Roman Numa - and a little bit more about the tradition of Puffins Superior.

Now the Duke need only see whether his solution is any improvement on the problem.  But it takes the most enormous brazen balls for a man like him to dare such a sissy-seeming venture as this is going to look, at all.  He's a strange lad, my golden wolf-pup, and much closer to the centre of the story than I imagined him.

Been feeling a deal more human, today.

caper_est: caper_est, the billy goat (Default)

That would be my weekend's writing, housework, and viewing.  One out of three ain't bad, and the second don't look so tiresome once it's finished, at that.  The other will have to await the redraft for its refreshing pine-scented polish.

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 1,000 words.  The Young Duke, who is much more of a reader than his parents, still needs a governess to patiently spell out the word T-R-A-P when it's written in giant letters of smouldering bone charcoal in front of him.

caper_est: The grey wolf in the red gloaming. (golden kate)

Killer-Kate and Luke Lackland: 1,040 words.  The Young Duke turns towards his best enemy, and entertains even darker suspicions about our other heroes than the ones he nursed already.  He's pulling the chapter out of the line I'd intended, I'm not sure whither.  It was snarkily entertaining to watch the Puffin Superior and her secretary reacting to the Duke in his full-on active mode, and then watch all their non-verbal reactions go whistling right past his ears - his experience not furnishing any place to file them.  There is just this sort of dim inchoate awareness that his words are not being heard quite the way he says them. 

It must be some sort of Nun Thing, eh lads?

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