Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writing A Legend (Part II)

I've written a few times about the extreme fear that sets in whenever I get to parts of my story involving Arthur Pendragon.  Considering I've gotten into the meaty middle parts of my manuscript, those ugly fears are rearing their heads quite often.  Sometimes I'll be writing along okay and then it hits me I've had three lines of dialogue from Arthur and I'm not even sweating.

Good for me.  Learning to face one's fears is the first step to getting over them.

The legend of King Arthur means a lot of different things to different people.  Sure, it's a legend with very little basis in fact but it's been the root material for dozens of other legends, movies, books, and TV shows.  I even remember as a little kid listening to Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet singing the parts for the Camelot musical.

Little did I know, ten years later, I'd be taking it on as a book.

I've attempted to write this story for about five years now, even longer than Only Human was in the works.  It was around the time I first started watching Doctor Who (can't believe it's been that long!) that I considered time travel and all the elements it could add to my story(s).  Of course it meant a trip down memory lane to my favorite childhood stories and the idea that I could rewrite them with a modern twist.

I remember starting the Queen of Time for the first time.  I knew I wanted the girl's name to be Gwen and that through some magical or scientific explanation, I wanted her to end up in Camelot.  It's a bit fuzzy since it was five years ago but I'm pretty sure she followed some mysterious guy into the backwoods and stepped through some strange doorway to get to Camelot.  I was always an inventive teen :)

Gwen got to Camelot and then I had the terrifying realization that I'd have to actually write Arthur.  He wouldn't just appear in his kingly element with his perfect words and complete my story.  I couldn't borrow him from a movie or book.  I had to make his character.

My book never went further.  The notebook joined the graveyard under my bed of ideas from long ago (my first novel about a girl named Anna whose Dad lived in a spaceship) and I decided some day, when I was a good writer, I'd make it work.

Funnily enough, good writing doesn't just happen.  It takes hours of dedication and a love for stories and words that only the craziest have.  I've had the file on my computer for a while, complete with the name for almost that long.  I didn't know how I wanted it to end.  I didn't even know how I wanted the middle to go.  I just knew it had to happen.

And now it's really happening.  Probably part of the reason I can't stop the cold sweats and anxiety.

What if it's not good enough? What if the perfect idea in my mind falls flat on paper? I'm not a professional writer.  I barely know the legend.  I didn't even know what language they spoke until January '15.

The big question is, who is Arthur? A warrior? A hero straight out of a romance novel? An arrogant prince?  (Hint: my Arthur isn't the guy on the left. He's not Bradley James either.)

I have to throw away what anyone's done before me.  He's mine now.  I have the right to make him blue eyed, brown eyed, tall, short, warrior, poet, villain.

Every time I sit down, I have to remind myself.  He's mine.  I can do what I want.

Arthur is young in my story, barely into his twenties.  He's an aspiring king, always afraid to let his father and ultimately, his people down.  Unlike the legends, my story relies heavily on a mistake his grandfather or great grandfather made (I still don't have a hard timeline).  Because of that mistake, he lives in fear of letting his people down again.  He has an expectation of himself that he needs to be a king who'll not only make up for the mistakes his ancestors made but never make any himself. Despite the instability in the land resulting from his ancestors mistakes, he's mostly on an even keel in his life.  That is, until a girl from the 21st century shows up.

Gwen embodies the mistakes Arthur is trying to fix.

I've never been expected to rule a kingdom or fix my grandparents mistakes.  I don't get that kind of pressure.  The thing is, this is the kind of pressure Arthur lives with every day.  So I have to remember the balance.  Arthur expects a lot of himself but in the end, he's still a twenty-two year old guy.  He's lost his Mom, he doesn't really have any close friends due to his position, and his dad treats him like a project more than a son.  The guy has a lot of empty spots in his life even if he doesn't know it.

From a certain aspect, he could easily be an injured lonely prince but I don't want to go to far in that direction.  It can turn into a cheesy romance real fast.  Arthur's strong.  He has to be.  Gwen's got a lot of issues at the beginning of the book and he needs to have a background that can handle her.

Arthur's not an additional character.  He's as much of a main as Gwen even though the reader is never in his mind.

Interactions between Gwen and Arthur are easier as the book goes on.  It's not difficult for me to write newly developed friendships but starting them is like pulling teeth.  How would the future king react when a girl from the 21st century shows up? How would a girl from the 21st century react when she meets a legendary king who she thought never existed?

As a character, Arthur has to have some defining points.  In my first draft, Arthur is pretty blunt.  He asks tough questions and he's not afraid to offend people.  He's watched his father be a tough king and even though he wants to be kind to the people, he doesn't want to be soft like his grandfather, the man who let the evil ones in.

In QoT, Arthur has several difficult decisions to make, aside from how he's going to deal with 21st century girl.  He has an impending marriage, failing friendships, dangerous beasts, and a heavy crown which will soon be his.  He'll either have to step up in a big way or go home.

As the writer of his character, I have to do the same thing.

Until next time,

Anna Leigh

Friday, May 15, 2015

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

A while back, I suggested to my family members and a few friends that it might be fun to write some short stories.  I've participated and watched various competitions involving them and the idea to write something short but with a punch intrigues me.  I'm long winded (or worded) enough that once I start writing, that baby isn't going to be done until I've hit about 80,000 words or more. Probably the reason why I've only finished one novel in the nine years I've been writing.

But I digress.

A short story can range anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 words.  20,000 may sound like a lot in theory but my current WIP which has just hit the middle portion, is sitting at fifty-eight odd thousand words.  So yeah, it's not very much to me.  I wrote a novella two winters back and was super happy with it.  I went back to do edits, started adding to the story, and promptly left it half finished.  Sweetheart Bakery is still sitting in my "To Be Edited" folder.  I got back to it a few months ago and realized I never saved the original and all my messy edits were muddying the book.  My final word count sat around 30,000 words.

My short story idea I suggested to my family was to find a picture and base a 3,000 word story off it.  The deadline is May 31st though it's subject to change.  I finished mine today but some trimming will be necessary to bring it down from 4,000 words. I did something with it I've never done before.  I gave it an open ending.  I don't like reading open endings but when I have to fit my great big story idea into a few pages, a tidy ending was almost the first sacrifice.

.Recently, I've been reading about flash fiction.  Flash fiction purists want a story under 100 or even sometimes, 75 words!   More mainstream flash fiction writers tend to allow up to 1,000 words, still quite a small amount.  A few weeks ago I entered a little competition at Go Teen Writers for showing exhaustion in 100 words or less.  It was almost the hardest thing I've ever written.  One of the fascinating things about it is how every word counts.  Even deleting a three word dialogue tag would give me enough space to show something else.
Hopefully everyone has had time to work on their short stories.  I already pushed the deadline back from April 30.

The picture thing was much harder than I expected.  I started a secret board on Pinterest and looked under fantasy/fairy tale genres to find something I wanted.  My secret dream is to write fairy tales.  I don't even read fairy tales but looking at all the fun pictures made me want to write them so bad!

After we all submit  our stories, I'll post mine up on the blog under the short story tab.  If any of my family/friends are okay with it, I'll post theirs as well.  For any curious, the pictures on the side are a few I almost went with but that didn't end up making the cut.

-Anna Leigh