A few changes in the works, and a thought on literary time-bombs

I am in the process of changing a few things about my blog, mainly in terms of appearance, starting with the title. “Doug Daniel’s Writing Blog” is what I slapped on this thing two years ago, for lack of anything more creative, when I wasn’t sure what blogging involved or what I wanted to do with it. Well, now I’ve got a much better idea what I’m doing, and the old title is pretty, well, blah. “On Writing, and other forms of suffering” seems a much more appropriate title, although I may try some others on for size. I may work on the themes and other items as well. But it will still be me, worrying and whining about something.

Meanwhile, some of you may recall that in my last post I implied that I might occasionally doodle away at my epic fantasy while focusing on Princess of Fire. Well, Sunday I doodled, and doodled, and doodled, to the tune of more than 2000 words. I finally had to force myself to stop. I really enjoy writing the main character. Mankin is morose, suffering, meaner than a tax auditor on April 16th (when he’s riled), but also smart, compassionate, funny, and humble. And he is a deadly, deadly swordsman. Anyone who is part of the Three Musketeers/Captain Blood demographic would get this character.

But doodling this much on the epic reminded me quite pointedly of one of the main problems with the story line I created for him– there isn’t much there. Mankin has always been something of a character in search of a plot. In his earliest incarnations, he really did little more than wander around and have adventures, like Conan the Barbarian with musical talent (oh, did I mention that?). Even now, after years of noodling about him, I realize that he would be under-motivated for the story I have created. Most especially, there is no sense of a ticking time-bomb– the urgent danger that necessitates him, and others, risking life and limb, and even more, to stop the bomb from going off.

In most dramatic literature, you need that time-bomb, ticking away in the background. In Lord of the Rings the time-bomb is will Frodo and Sam make it to Mount Doom (without getting caught) before Sauron conquers everything and/or Gollum stabs them in the back? Even realistic fiction has versions of this– in Hamlet the time-bomb is will Hamlet freaking make up his mind before his uncle knocks him off first? In most drama, you need some impetus against which the protagonist has to struggle to his utmost. There’s a reason why stories involving literal ticking bombs are usually so dramatic.

So my little diversion with this story did have one benefit– when I do return to it in a serious way, I will need to thoroughly rethink the story, so that Mankin is given something real and important to strive against, as well something good to achieve. In the meantime, bud, sorry, but it’s back in the drawer with you. I have to go help Kathy out. Who, by the way, does have a serious time-bomb on her hands. Simply mountainous….

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