I’m not much of a video game player, but I love leveling up. Especially if they come up with great graphics! But sometimes it’s hard to see which way you’re going, whether it’s in video games or in real life.
I’ve been writing on a regular schedule with one project. When I got a new idea, I thought: Perfect! A new short story! Wow, was I wrong. But I was concerned about whether or not it even made sense, since I wrote it in a three hour rush and spent maybe another three hours editing it.
I didn’t realize it at the moment, but it turns out I leveled up. The new project is not my usual type of fantasy. When I work-shopped it, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. And yet, I spent more time listening to the lone dissenter. I felt he raised some very valid points. Items that I believe if I tackle head on, will make it stronger. However, they all agreed on one thing: it’s not a short story. It’s a novel.
Now I am re-reading what I have so far and trying to seize on just what made this new work level up. If I can figure that out, I think it will make my other project even better…..
4 thoughts on “Leveling Up”
I will be interested to hear what you think constitutes the ‘level up’. There is the traditional advice to work ‘up the lengths’ from short story to novel as your command of the writing craft improves, but it sounds like you have specific ideas about how your craft has improved. FWIW, I recall that this work was presented as part of a novel, so I am not surprised that no one disagreed with you!
For me, the payoffs were several. I varied sentence lengths. I worked in the first person. Normally I avoid that. It can be limiting. The voice turned out to be distinctive–another benefit. But I did “fail” in one respect. When I brought the piece to the group, I had conceived it as a 7,500-10,000 word short story. I wanted something quick. Now, I see it has more potential. BTW, I am thankful for your comments in the group. They are things to ponder and address. That’s giving me more creative fuel!
Since you called the experience levelling up,I’ll say that there is a serious problem in genre fiction that character suffer from extreme level inflation, and the plot does also. Every story has to involve saving the world, or the universe. Every hero is the Chosen One. In contrast, The Hobbit was just ‘Here and Back Again’, and worked just fine. Too much imitation of LOTR and not enough Hobbit, IMHO.
If your minor characters are overpowered, name-recognition characters, it is going to force the main character to step up. For example, if I was writing a tech thriller in which Steve Jobs and Bill Gates show up in the first 10 pages, I’ve set the level pretty high for who the main character is or will become.
Tom Clancy suffered this problem with his recurring Jack Ryan character, who went from junior CIA analyst to President of the US.
What you brought to the group could be a short story, if Meg accepting Bill’s offer was the big turning point and moment of character growth. You can trim scenes and dialog, and still acheive that.
When I was working out the background world and motivations for several character in an SF novel, I wrote a series of short stories where each character was the main character, even if they were supposed to be only a minor character in the novel. Sort of the way an artist might do figure studies for a painting. So a story about Meg and Bill and moving out, moving in, and moving on could be valuable and interesting to read, though it wouldn’t be Clash of the Titans.
I enjoyed both LOTR and the Hobbit, so I can see merits in both. However, you do raise a good point about characters who don’t get to organically grow. I think some characters are larger than life and some are not. As in real life—not everyone can be Alexander the Great.
It may be a good idea to try to take Meg and Bill and create a short story. Fortunately, the idea is also open enough to create a novel down the road. Frankly, the response to Meg surprised me. I did not expect her to be so popular. I guess it just goes to show you never know how readers will react!
I like your idea of short stories/figure studies…it also reminds me of finger exercises for piano or guitar. I can see the appeal and the merit in that approach. Hmm….more ideas to consider.