Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Pushing Past the Doldrums...

Man, 4 days since my last update. Sorry to the 1 or so of you that might care... I've sort of been in the literary doldrums lately... I pull up a New Post and I sit there, staring at the window where the text usually magically appears as I wiggle my fingers on the keyboard, and nothing happens.

So where to start? I'm resisting the STRONG urge to talk about 9-11 again. I know it's a touchy subject, and discussions of odd anomalies, strange coincidences, outright head-scratchers and hollywoodesque double-takes when it comes to the "official" explanation of what happened will most definitely rub some people the wrong way - and the last thing I want to do is offend any of my dear readers. Cuz then you'll punch me the next time you see me, and I'd rather avoid being punched if at all possible... still, I've been watching an unhealthy amount of videos and reading articles the past few days, both for and against the official story, and the avalanche of odd details has me in an uproar inside. I tried talking to Wifey about it, but she absolutely wants nothing to do with topic. I even laid a little bit of it on my mom today at work, and I could tell it was a mistake. If I went into it here, and started posting links to articles and embeds of videos, I'll likely turn off most (or all) of you as well.

So what to do with it all, pro and con, when I have no outlet?

Nothing, I guess. I'll just post something funny and move on.

Thats from the webcomic XKCD. Good stuff, but occasionally crude. So I won't link to it!

On a completely (and thankfully) unrelated topic, James Long over at Speculative Horizons had stirred up the hornet's nest by posting his thoughts on the David Gemmel Award (for the best in Fantasy/Sci-Fi), and has had a couple dozen people weigh in, both for and against, including a rather sizable blast by none other than the great Joe Abercrombie himself. Makes for good reading, both the original post and the comments. If that sort of thing interests you, go check it out!

I think I'm going to post an experimental scene from my fantasy novel. This may not make the final cut -- I was toying with the idea of "breaking the fourth wall" with my character in the book. As you all (might) know, my fantasy novel is peopled with tons of folks I actually know in real life - including myself. Yes, that is narcissistic, I get it... in fact, I'm wrestling with killing my character off, or even getting rid of him altogether. Yes, I'm hard on myself that way... if I can't find a good gimmick or reason to keep myself as a character, I'll ditch him/me.

That being said, I thought I'd try a scene where my character in the book has a conversation with me, the author. Tell me what you think... if it works as a gimmick, I'll set up an antagonistic relationship between "us" throughout the story. I have lots of amusing ideas already. But if it's too much, I'll forget it.

Anyway, the scene is a crowded tavern in a village (called 'Biggs') in a vast forest... the characters are Abbie, Vye, Yanni and myself...


“What is it?” Abbie glanced at the stein that Vye set on the tavern table before her. 
“It’s ale,” Vye answered, sitting down in the chair beside her. “Drink it, it’s good for you.”
Abbie wrinkled her nose, lifted the stein and smelled it. Her wince did not dissipate. “I suppose a nice wine is out of the question?”
Vye just smiled and turned to take in the place, sighing with noticeable contentment. He was obviously comfortable here.
Abbie wondered if she looked as out-of-place as she felt. A tavern, of all places! What would her mother think? It was too loud, too dim, the sawdust on the floor was making her sneeze, and there were too many fellow patrons in need of a good bath. She wanted to chase everyone out and give the place a good scrubbing. 
Vye had convinced her to get out and try to unwind a bit. Dave was under guard at the village King’s Men outpost, as the law required, so Abbie agreed to tag along with Vye and Yanni to the tavern, if only to avoid having to sit alone in her rented room at the local inn. If the room at the inn hadn’t needed a cleaning as badly as this tavern did, she would have enjoyed time alone there. But it stank, so she was here.
“Where’s Yanni at?” Abbie held her breath and made herself take a sip of the ale. She set the stein back down, with the hope that the flavor would magically improve by the time she took the next sip. Vye bought the drink; she would feel bad wasting it.
Vye pointed across the room as he took a long pull of his own ale. Abbie looked where he was pointing and after a few moments spotted Yanni in the middle of a group of laughing tavern dwellers, his own stein held high, addressing the group with much animation. As she watched, Yanni snatched a hat off of a nearby head, put it on himself and continued the monologue, much to everyone’s delight.
“I see he’s on stage again, eh?” Abbie glanced at her drink again, shuddered, and left it be for now.
“I think getting some ale in him was a good idea. He’s in fine form.” 
“Well, at least he’s still clothed,” Abbie said, glancing around the place. More people were trickling in through the front door. The place wasn’t that big; it had to be reaching maximum capacity, she thought.
“So we have a plan for tomorrow, then?” She asked Vye, leaning forward, elbows on the table. Vye didn’t hear her over the crowd noise, so she tugged at his sleeve and repeated the question.
“I went over some maps with some King’s Men who know this area,” Vye said. “They showed me some back roads we can take to get to the Realmway quicker, so we don’t have to double back. Should save us a few hours and a few miles, they say. They gave me one of the maps.” Vye lifted the ale to his lips again.
“Good. I want to get this trip finished soonest.”
Along the far side of the tavern, a set of double doors led to a hallway that in turn led to restrooms and an exit. These doors opened and Dave poked his head into the room. He glanced around the teeming tavern for a few long moments before spotting Vye and Abbie sitting at their table, chatting. Dave waved toward them, saying something to himself. They didn’t notice; there were far too many people between them, obscuring their view. He waved again, same result.  His shoulders slumped.
He called something out as he waved a third time, but the noise was swallowed by the tavern din. He took a step into the room and called out louder.
“I’m not trying to signal them, idiot! I need to talk to you!” he shouted.
A thin, bearded man at a nearby table looked over at Dave, an eyebrow raised, pointing to himself.
Dave let out a growl of frustration. “No, not you, moron!” Waving again, this time looking up higher, toward the ceiling, he called out, “I need to talk to you! Hello! The man with the pen!”  Dave paused.
... Tell me you’re not trying to talk to me.
“Yes! Good lord, what do I have to do to get through to you?” Dave said, hands on his hips, glancing up.
You’re interrupting the narrative. And you’re supposed to be at the guard house.
Dave smiled and leaned against the wall. “Yeah, I know. I came to see if you could come over there next. I’m going to have a conversation with one of the guards that could develop my backstory a bit more.”
Are you kidding me? 
“No, I’m not. Come on, you can’t ignore me forever. I haven’t even had a POV chapter of my own yet!”
The bearded man from the nearby table walked over. “Hey. You ok, buddy?”
“O, get out of here,” Dave said, shoving the man away. Turning his eyes back up to the ceiling, he said, “Look, it’s too loud in here, lets duck into the hall for a second.” 
Dave left the main room and went into the hallway, passing a pair of patrons returning from the latrine. The double doors closed and he was alone in the hallway.
“Look, it’s your own fault for making yourself a character in this tale,” Dave said.
That doesn’t mean you can dictate the story. You need to get back to the guard house. Now.
“At least give me an idea if I’m going to make any kind of long-term impact on the story, or if I’m just a maguffin.”
At the end of the hall, a Witness appeared. Dave turned and made eye contact with it. “Oh, come on!” The Witness smiled and disappeared.
You have about 60 seconds before the guards come to get you.
“What a cheap trick,” Dave said, folding his arms and pouting like a little child. “Oh, very funny. I’m a child now, eh?”
Get back where you belong and don’t leave again. I’ll get to you when the time is right. If ever.
“You can’t make yourself a character in this tale and not do anything with him!” Dave strode down the hall toward the exit.
Sure I can. I can even kill you off if you do this again. I’m the Author, remember?
“We’ll talk again,” Dave said over his shoulder, leaving via the side door. He darted off into the city night, back toward the guard house.
Back in the tavern, Abbie sniffed at her cup again, and took another sip.
“Why do you do that?” Vye was watching her.
“Do what?”
“You keep smelling your ale before you drink it.”
Abbie paused and glanced into her pint. “I don’t know. It’s just something I do. Don’t you want to make sure what you’re about to drink doesn’t smell funny?”
“Nope,” Vye answered, taking a big pull of his own drink. “I’m too busy drinking it to worry about what it smells like.”
“I’m very sensitive to smells.” 
“You must love this place then.” Vye polished off his ale and stood. “Gonna grab another. Want anything while I’m up?”
“A clean, warm bed and about 14 hours undisturbed.”
Vye smiled. “How about a dish of salted pine nuts instead?”
Abbie stood and sighed. “I’m going to go back to the inn. Here.” She grabbed Vye’s empty stein, poured most of her ale into it, and handed it back.
“You want me to walk you back?” Vye asked.
She shook her head, patted Vye on the arm, turned and made for the door. It took a while, due to the press of flesh around her. As she reached the door, she turned and saw Vye grab an empty stool near Yanni. Vye looked toward the front door, spotted her and waved. She waved back, then left.


Anyway, there's tons of stuff that happened before that, and tons that happen after it, but I thought I'd drop a little slice in here, to see what you think of the plot device. If you don't like it, let me know. No, I won't explain what Witnesses are... you'll have to read the book and find out! :P Oh, and the reference to Yanni still being clothed is because his character is kind of cracked, mentally, and has a tendency to randomly disrobe and go about his way naked...

I think I'll post a few pictures from artist Kekai Kotaki and then call it a night.

Check out his website, if you haven't. And his blog too, eh. Great stuff.




havah said...

Ha! I love it, Dave. It definitely made me smile. Most amusing. Quite delicious. I'd keep it.

I love the opening photograph too. That would make the perfect cover for the novel I'm not writing.

Drydoryssus said...

I say ...
You're doing quite well.

Drydoryssus said...

... Well, maybe except that char-author interaction. Doesn't sound like a good idea to me. In fact, I think I'd pummel it hard in its present form, were I a critic.

It kind of hijacks the narration's flow.
And maybe more narcissistic than you'd like, making such a peculiar kind of focus on your char ...

Just my humble and amateur impression. Sorry.
I do understand this is a draft, however.
Your fellow authors might tell you better.

logankstewart said...

Very... interesting. Typically, whenever a writer writes himself into a work, either directly or via Mary Sue, then I get this ugh! feeling in my gut. (I'm looking at you, Stephen King!) Usually, it doesn't work well. Usually, I would not prefer it. Usually.

In your case, and through my little understanding, your novel is filled with bits o' humor and occasionally silly. If this is the case, then I think this scene would be fine to keep. If the book is more on the serious tone, I'd definitely hack it out immediately and save it for a "Deleted Scenes" section.

Either way it goes, I did enjoy the scene.

David Wagner said...

Yeah, I'm torn. On the one hand, you're right, it's a light-hearted, fun, fast read - at least it's supposed to be. In no way does the tale take itself too seriously - yet I also want to sneak a good story in there as well... on the other hand, I'm not married to the idea of breaking the fourth wall like that... there must be a reason authors don't do that, at least that I've ever seen... I don't want people to roll their eyes and stop reading... if I can keep it fun, and have it sort of make sense in the grand scheme, I'll keep it. Otherwise I'll write myself out of the story.

Thanks for all the input. Maybe I should have posted more info about the story before just plopping a scene in here, out of context...

Abbie said...

ahh dave, i love reading this because it amazes me how perceptive you are of our personalities! i totally would be allergic to the sawdust, you obviously have noticed that I smell pretty much anything, edible or not :P and, yes, what WOULD my mother think!?!?! so funny :) and that would so be like vye too, to make sure I made it safely back and stuff. good stuff!

I like the concept of the "fourth wall" as you say it, but I don't necessarily think it fits with the rest of the book. But I think you totally could make that concept work in your next book!!

Rebekah said...

I loved reading your 'snippet.' I'm with Havah. I was grinning the whole way through. Can't wait to read it all!

Night :)

Drydoryssus said...

"Pushing past the doldrums" ? ...
Strikingly similar to "Pushing up the Daisies", is it ?