Treacherous (or is it treasonous?) villains

Traitors are usually portrayed as the worst of the bad, as someone who deserves the cruelest kind of punishment. Yet there is a certain poetic aspect to them. Yes, most are villains, immoral backstabbers who would do everything to earn a buck. These are people to whom human attachments and relationships mean nothing. In truth, such people should never receive any real responsibility as they should be recognized as unreliable before that happens.

Then there are those who are serious, upright, strong people. These are persons who have questioned and altered a profound component of their belief or upbringing. It takes strength and courage to do such a thing, as well as a keen mind. From a writer’s perspective, such characters can give you incredible drama and plot twists if their decision and actions affect the story.

I’m not saying betraying and backstabbing is a good idea. Hell, I’ve had personal experience at being stabbed in the back by someone that meant the world to me and I know it’s not pleasant. I’m saying that what could be perceived as treason by some can also be interpreted as a great journey for a character.

Fishing for nuggets

Ideas are like gold nuggets in a river. Constantly traveling past you, most of them without your appreciation. You may reach out and catch one or two but often they will slip from your grasp and be on their way. If you want to hunt gold nuggets for a living, you have to spread a trap for them; a net or a sieve, something that makes it harder for them to escape. But once you break their run, the work isn’t done yet. You have to evaluate them, then put them in the right place.

Unlike real gold nuggets, these metaphorical ones only have their value in the company of other nuggets. Perhaps the size of the nugget is the best metaphor: a small nugget isn’t worth much but a whole lot of them could mean something. Then there’s always a chance of stumbling over that large, huge nugget that can be valuable by itself.

Large nuggets are short story ideas, where a single idea can form a meaningful message. Smaller nuggets clump together to form a novel. One by one, they are not very appreciated but once they become gold dust they each contribute to the entire value.

I knew the odds when I took this job…

This week, I got two reviews of my novella Clockworks Warrior. The first one came from a fellow Hatracker. He said the story was too tight and needs to be expanded into a novel (not the first time I heard that about my stories). He also said that a certain “deus ex machina” appears in it, solving a really desperate situation with in a too easy way.

I can understand why he got that impression. I also know why it made sense to me. I am prone to creating monstrously large stories. When I try to put it on paper, the only way for me to do that is to cut the story in pieces, writing each in turn. What he called a “deus ex machina” is in fact a connection to the other pieces of the aforementioned monster. The next story in line will reveal the same events from a different point of view. This is where that “deus ex machina” will come into contact.

At this point, I sound like that classic bit of defence rookie writers usually make when someone tells them their story could be written differently. “No, you didn’t understand the point I was trying to make.” No, I’m admitting the fluke, plain and simple, because if I couldn’t persuade one reader what my point was, I didn’t do my job as a writer. So yes, I made a fluke. It happens. At least it wasn’t a plot paradox like the one I found an hour before saying: “OK, now Clockworks is done.”

I mentioned two revies coming in this week. Interesting that my brother-in-law who usually doesn’t read books, let alone books in English, decided to give my story a read. He loved it. He could not stop telling me how much he enjoyed that story. He also commented on that same “deus ex machina” and said he loved that too because it came at just the right moment to relieve the desperate moment and that in the epilogue there is a hint why this salvation came along at all.

Today, I have more confidence to write than I did yesterday. The story doesn’t have to be perfect to entertain and to give someone a good day or two. Or three. And there nothing more satisfying than to have someone tell you with that sparkle of madness in their eyes: “Write another one, quickly!”