Thursday, March 8, 2012

First world problems?

Now that I have had some experience writing a story (not that I have never written a story before, but I have never committed to a story as such), I have encountered some problems.

Firstly, killing off the protagonist doesn’t really make much sense. I mean, if he already exists and plays the main role in the beginning, one can’t simply make him dead and start explaining what happened through an another character, changing him into the new main character. While, granted, it is possible, it is definitely not practical. I feel that the protagonist as such should be defined, opened up, before his untimely demise. A sudden death would keep his story per se unfinished. It also raises the challenge of avoiding repetition once a new protagonist has been declared. It is so easy to keep ‘flaming’ that chicken. (bad reference to FOX News)

Secondly, in real life there is a lot of action going on ‘off screen’, so to say. In a story where a main character is the center of the story, explaining things that happen regardless of his actions, during the events he witnesses and becomes part of, becomes a huge challenge. Too much information about backstage action and the reader figures everything out chapters ahead of the main character. Not to mention describing a false interpretation made by the protagonist becomes an impracticable goal and merely describing how the main character find out about the previously mentioned hidden action becomes an annoyance to the author and reader alike. And the other side, too little information, brings up too little explanation of what is going on and why. It takes an another viewpoint to explain why some character is insignificant or why he has the power to hit the whole plot onto a new track. Sure, one method would be telling the story after the important action is already done with. This would lead to either a huge dialogue where people say unrealistically much or an obscenely long narration, the lack of tempo and tension thereof killing much of the mood the author has attempted to create using the aforementioned events.

I do like how authors such as Simon Conway (“A loyal spy”) and Neal Stephenson (“Snow crash”) use switching protagonists as a way of telling a grander story. Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon” goes through the life of two generations of protagonist groups, not to mention including a third generation of significant characters between the ‘more significant’ generations that link the whole story together, forming a genius plot. Alas, this method requires the author to see the whole story before beginning to write it, to have the ability to plan ahead every action hundreds of pages in advance. And then to be able to remember it all… I mean, one could try to write it all down, and that is what one does, it takes a long time to write the whole thing down. And even when all that is successfully completed, the author then has to find mistakes and details he feels do not belong in the story  or do not fit in quite as he’d like. Little lines that have to be trimmed to perfection. One doesn’t simply become an exceptional author, one is born to be one.


“If it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, what is it? What is it? That’s right, it’s a duck! But this duck is a nuclear duck!” – Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu

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