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Writing about writing

So I have been working on a story about Lady Christina, the one-off Who "companion" from 2009, for about two years now.  (If it's any more than that, I don't want to know.)

I'll admit I haven't done so continually.  I haven't done any writing for the past three months, and very little in 2013 so far.

But I really, really want to finish this story.  I don't think I'm at the point of diminishing returns, don't think I'm committing the "our boys shall not have died in vain!" fallacy.  I think it still could be written, and might even be readable.

But here's the problem.  98% of what I have leads up to the moment she got on that bus.  I even know about the disaster that was her parents' brief marriage, and the more recent contretemps that led to the man she called "lover" being there to be thrown up against the car by police and handcuffed.

I also have some cute bits having to do with her trying to figure out what to do next after finally landing the bus she flew away in, and making a few calls.

I have thousands and thousands of words written.  I have sketches of scenes, passages of dialog, paragraphs of summary and description.

But none of it is a coherent narrative. I haven't the faintest idea how to turn it into one.  There's Christina, and there are a few other people:  her lover, her parents, a professional actor she meets during a brief stretch of employment.  But it all seems, in some way, to be a summary more than a story, and I don't know how to make it into one.

It's like it extends backward as far as I want to go - I even jotted down a few words about a collateral ancestor who wrote a famous account of the news of Waterloo reaching London - but it goes forward to about 9 hours after we see her flying off in the bus, and there it stops.

I do not know what to do.  I feel like I've written down everything I *ought* to need.  Some of it even seems, on re-reading, to be pretty good.

I've always had a holistic approach to writing characters.  I get a "feel" for them and know what they'll say and what they think, what they like and what they won't talk about.  Some people say things like, "Give them a problem to solve!" or "Have someone walk in holding a gun!" but ... that almost seems beside the point, if you know what I mean.  I really don't believe that'll show us what they're made of.  That wouldn't depict their flavor, their smell, their tone of voice.

(Had a flash of insight, there for a minute.  With an OC you get to twist and turn the camera to show them in different ways.  You can give them events of various degrees of drama or seriousness to show them off.  But with Christina, we already have some set facts.  She's wanted by the police and she's just escaped from a distant planet with the Doctor. Writing something about her that doesn't deal with those events in some way wouldn't be fanfiction, it'd be original fiction, and all that would be left of Doctor Who's Lady Christina would be her name.)

I don't know where Christina's story starts.  I don't know how it ends.  I only know the middle.

So there is my dilemma.  If you have suggestions, ideas, comments, or just want to talk about it for a while, please comment.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
glory_jean
Sep. 2nd, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC)
Okay - so I apparently have a lot of thoughts on this. ;-)


Fanfic gives us a cheat; it's both a starting point and a shortcut. Try reading a fanfic, especially a short one, and pretend you don't know the source. (Or better yet try reading a fic from an unknown fandom.) You realize fanfic on its own is entirely without context. The back story is the readership's collective knowledge of what came before. We get so used to format, we forget how dependent fanfic is on that knowledge and how some of the fics we love the most are meaningless without it.

The novel I'm working on was inspired by many other works and did have its start as a vague idea for what could come after a particular novel I love. I've ended up reading and analyzing fanfic from many fandoms (and original novels) for plotting ideas so I've been thinking about fanfic a lot.

Now to your fic. Honestly - it sounds like you've begun to write original fiction with a DW inspiration. Much of the struggle might be trying to reconcile the original fic and the fanfic. If you drop the fanfic parts you'll have to do that part of the world building on your own - and that is difficult. (Worldbuilding is where my struggle is and I even have a beginning and end. It's all that *stuff* in the middle. ;) )

So I think you have to ask yourself:

1) *Is* this original fic? Is the back story *the* story or do you now have to move forward to somewhere as yet unknown?

Or

2)Is this fanfic and do you need to be less ambitious? Does it need to be a series of loosely connected character study ficlets rather than a novel-length story?


np_complete
Sep. 2nd, 2013 11:02 pm (UTC)
"ambitious". I hadn't thought of it that way. But, yes, this is very ambitious. And you're right, it's 99% original fiction.

Maybe -- for the sake of getting something done in less than geological time -- I should relax some of my artistic requirements. The requirement that it be a coherent whole, that it be tight, that it have internal structure. All the things that paralyze me because I don't know how to get to there from here.

Maybe I should write the clear, well-fleshed-out bits and just put them out there, turn them into mismatched beads on some kind of string. Maybe I should give up on shaping a forest and just grow some nice trees.

I want so bad for this to be done and to be something that people can read. But it is the trees I care about: I just have been assuming that I'd have to compile them into a forest, which has its own requirements.

Thanks. A lot. This was really helpful.
earlgreytea68
Sep. 3rd, 2013 12:19 am (UTC)
My approach to writing is, to be blunt about it, an absolute mess. But I don't worry about the "plot." People will tell you I have one in the stuff I write, and I'm always very pleased when they say that, because mostly I feel like I throw stuff in a cauldron and eventually, finally, someday, I find out what I was writing about. But until that day happens, I just write it, and I figure it'll come together on its own into some kind of cohesive narrative. I don't think that works for everyone, but it could be that you're thinking yourself out of this, in a way. You think you have the middle of the story, and maybe you do, but there's nothing that says that the story has to end with Christina *after* she meets Ten. It could end with her meeting Ten. Maybe the story is her getting to that point. And maybe the story begins with her parents' disastrous marriage. Sometimes, vignettes strung together *are* the story. (That's really all Chaosverse was for a very long time, just a series of days-in-the-life of this family.) And I think accepting that they're the story, that the journey is the destination or some such, could be really helpful? Or not, ymmv. Just my two cents.
np_complete
Sep. 6th, 2013 01:26 am (UTC)
I appreciate your two cents, very much!

Do scenes usually come to you in the order in which they ultimately appear? Or how does that work, for you?

Sometimes, vignettes strung together *are* the story. (That's really all Chaosverse was for a very long time, just a series of days-in-the-life of this family.) And I think accepting that they're the story, that the journey is the destination or some such, could be really helpful?

I think this is definitely worth a try.
earlgreytea68
Sep. 23rd, 2013 02:47 am (UTC)
Scenes usually come to me out of order, but I don't let myself write out of order. I used to let myself do that, but I realized it didn't work for me, I never *finished* anything, I just had all these disjointed scenes. Now what I tend to do is write a quick note at the end of whatever I'm working on, to remind me of a scene that I want to add in, and then I add it in when I get to its appropriate place.

I find I like that better, because it allows me to stay flexible as I go, too, so that if the story morphs away from where I thought it was going, it's okay, I haven't "wasted" a lot of work or anything.
np_complete
Sep. 24th, 2013 02:02 am (UTC)
I never *finished* anything, I just had all these disjointed scenes.

YES! (Forgive the shouting.) THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME!

But, then, how do you know where to start?
earlgreytea68
Oct. 17th, 2013 03:59 am (UTC)
Hmm. To be honest, sometimes, if I'm lucky, the first sentence will come to me. Other times, though, I just...start. Sometimes it takes me a few starts. I can tell if it's *hard.* If it's hard, I've started in the wrong place and need to re-think.

But I am not one of those authors who writes backstory. Everything I write for a story ends up in the story. I'm always so fascinated by people who write, like, outside the storyworld, so to speak. I have never been that way, for whatever reason.
karenor
Sep. 3rd, 2013 05:46 am (UTC)
I read this post earlier, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I only very briefly (and not very seriously) wrote Christina, and I've always been very curious about her. Would it be crazy to try to write it...like a memoir? Maybe even first person?

I dunno, there is something to the idea of ditching the fic idea and going with original fiction... But i'd love to see you tie it into to the Whoniverse.
np_complete
Sep. 6th, 2013 01:31 am (UTC)
I only very briefly (and not very seriously) wrote Christina, and I've always been very curious about her. Would it be crazy to try to write it...like a memoir? Maybe even first person?

Funny, for a while I thought about writing it as a sort of meta-fiction, of sections each headed with some kind of motto, describing various facts and brief scenes about Christina. But then I got the idea that they had to Add Up To Something and was baffled as to what the something was, what its shape would be.
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