Thursday, February 21, 2008

Crucible Problems, II

In Part I of this post, I think I may have dwelt too much on the issue of designing a crucible for the protagonist. The fact is, everybody in the story needs to be contained in the crucible, including the antagonist, and all the spear carriers, and the love interest, and tous les ballons de Paris.

The parameters controlling the antagonist are aften the worst-defined: Because he's evil or crazy or foreign or all three seems to be enough. (Though, come to think of it, at the end of The Red Balloon, I find the bullies believable, but I'm not sure I understand the motivation of all the other balloons.)

Actually, I think the typical parameters are what make most books in the thriller genre so damn dull. Usually it's a case of someone, often square-jawed, whose job it is to prevent someone evil and/or crazy and/or foreign from doing something utterly shocking, like...yawn...killing the President. Or there's a formula for, umm, lessee here, yeah, a mind-control drug, that in the wrong hands (which, as far as I can see, would be any hands--with the possible exception of mine), and, with this formula, the bad guys could....ummm......sorry. I fell asleep for a minute there.

Watch out now, I'm going to whine. You're warned. (You were forewarned in Part I, Neil.)

The book in which I'm presently buried--and I use that verb in the most Edgar-Allen-Poe sense--is turning into a crucible nightmare. There's so many options; there's so much wiggle room. There's no MacGuffin. (By which I mean there's no neatly defined object/objective which everyone is seeking or seeking to destroy/avert. For Hitchcock purists, we can delay for another time whether a MacGuffin can actually cover that much turf, or whether a MacGuffin by definition must not have much real meaning to the story other than as a motivator.)

I'm happier when at least some of the characters in my story are stuffed into a physically confined situation. But I'm walking into a situation with this book where the scope is rather unconfined, with big forces in big spaces--and plenty of opportunities, to return to the crucible, for the characters to hang up their hats and go do something sensible. The plot of the book is turning into an inverted Heart of Darkness, but it's spilling onto a War and Peace scale of canvas, and it's really beginning to unnerve me. (I have grown beards at various times, but Tolstoy I'm not. At least he had the crucible of historical movements of military forces to do some of his work for him. Slacker.)

And has anyone noticed how the advent of mobile phones and satellite phones has really screwed up storytelling? So many stories consist of someone needing to convey information to someone and racing against time to do so (gloriously unsucessfully in the case of the Peter Weir film Gallipoli). I mean, where would we be if, after the Battle of Marathon, the fabled Greek runner could have just flipped open his cell phone and let everybody know the outcome? (Of course, when he finished his legendary run, he managed to gasp out his message and then died, which makes me wonder why anyone ever ran a marathon since. It's hardly an auspicious start to the tradition.)

I'm rambling. The point is, this book is killing me. (They usually do.) But I'm not even sure it's a thriller, which is what I set out to write.

The good news is that wrestling with this book has made two other thrillers half-plot themselves in my head, which is 100% more plot than I usually have when I start. If this one doesn't start co-operating, I'm going to write one of the other two.

That'll show it.

13 comments:

Janet said...

I shall decide later whether it is more appropriate to love or hate you. My first draft is finished - finished! - and now you have given voice to the niggling doubts I had about my antagonist's crucible. My only consolation is that at least I'm not on the third or fourth draft.

Isn't being a psychopath a perfectly acceptable reason for doing things? *sigh*

David Isaak said...

If you ahve a truly interesting psychopath, sure...

David Isaak said...

Oh, and congrats on completing the first draft! It's my favorite feeling.

Janet said...

Thanks. Looking forward to the second draft though. I'm forcing myself to sit on it till I get back from a trip to Italy.

I think my psychopath is interesting. What others will think remains to be seen.

David Isaak said...

Oh, finished a first draft and now jaunting off to Italy?

A writer's life is a hard one, I hear. (DOn;t tell people that sort of stuff. You'll ruin our image.)

Matt Curran said...

Hi David

“And has anyone noticed how the advent of mobile phones and satellite phones has really screwed up storytelling?”

I guess this is why the last three books I’ve written or currently writing have been set in the 19th century. These days there’s too much faux-magic in the world to set up story-telling suspense. Technology is so outlandish that to beat it you have to invent something more outlandish. Come to think of it, I guess this also why I wanted to write Isles of Sheffield, a apocalyptic dystopia where technology is on the way out with mankind.

How about setting the book in the 1970’s or 1980’s? Over on this side of the pond, retro-thrillers are definitely in i.e. Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes…

Janet said...

If it makes you feel any better, we shall be accompanying the concert choir of the college where my husband teaches, so the schedule will be hectic. ;o)

Tim Stretton said...

Obviously the kind of stuff I write these days doesn't have mobile phones (although ironically I've used 'magic' to achieve some of the same effects as modern technologies).

I have written sf before where technology must necessarily feature. I don't think it makes things 'too easy' for the characters. How often does technology screw up when you need it? How often is it being used by an idiot in the first place? If technology solved all our problems we'd be living in a perfect world...

David Isaak said...

Hi, Janet--

Ah. Now it sounds like tough duty.

David Isaak said...

Hi, Tim--

I don't care if it makes it too easy for the characters. I just want to bitch when it makes it too tough for Yours Truly.

David Isaak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam Taylor said...

David --

As always, well-timed. I have a short story on my back burners that has a crucible problem -- the problem being there is no crucible. Now that I can see the problem, perhaps I can fix it.

Thanks!

sexy said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,A片,A片,情色,A片,A片,情色,A片,A片,情趣用品,A片,情趣用品,A片,情趣用品,a片,情趣用品A片,A片,AV女優,色情,成人,做愛,情色,AIO,視訊聊天室,SEX,聊天室,自拍,AV,情色,成人,情色,aio,sex,成人,情色免費A片,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,日本A片,免費A片下載,性愛情色文學,色情A片,A片下載,色情遊戲,色情影片,色情聊天室,情色電影,免費視訊,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色視訊,免費成人影片,視訊交友,視訊聊天,言情小說,愛情小說,AV片,A漫,AVDVD,情色論壇,視訊美女,AV成人網,成人交友,成人電影,成人貼圖,成人小說,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人遊戲,愛情公寓,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色小說,成人論壇a片下載,線上a片,av女優,av,成人電影,成人,成人貼圖,成人交友,成人圖片,18成人,成人小說,成人圖片區,成人文章,成人影城,成人網站,自拍,尋夢園聊天室A片,A片,A片下載,做愛,成人電影,.18成人,日本A片,情色小說,情色電影,成人影城,自拍,情色論壇,成人論壇,情色貼圖,情色,免費A片,成人,成人網站,成人圖片,AV女優,成人光碟,色情,色情影片,免費A片下載,SEX,AV,色情網站,本土自拍,性愛,成人影片,情色文學,成人文章,成人圖片區,成人貼圖