Tag Archives: The Crane Girl

The Crane Girl — not dead yet

crane

Despite having a newborn in the house 24/7, I’ve actually had some time lately to work on my novel The Crane Girl again.

Last Saturday (Nov. 5), I decided to try for at least 500 words per day, every day, 7 days a week. (Weekends don’t mean much, anyway, when you have a baby.) So far, I’ve met that goal.

I put a star on my calendar for every 500 words I finish, and right now I’ve got 11 stars. That’s more than 5,500 words in the past week — roughly 22 pages. Good stuff.

I’m doing this part of the book, the second half, a little different than I did the first half. This novel — like other fantasy stories such as Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire — has a number of different plot threads going at once, each focusing on a particular character or characters. Chapters alternate between the various threads. Well, with the first half, I was just writing all the chapters in order. With the second half, I’m writing each thread all at once, getting deeper into the mindset of that part of the story before I move on.

I think I like that better. Hard to say.

Some people actually read books that way. Madness, I say.

Hm…

I don’t think this was a very interesting post. But they can’t all be winners, can they?

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Status Update

  • I’ve started work as a contractor for Dragonfly Editorial – not quite full-time, but a lot of hours, and excellent pay. Mostly business writing. This is a big step up, the kind of break I’d been hoping for. I’m learning a lot, too.
  • Still doing various other jobs, for Creative Sparks Writing and Run Life magazine, for instance.
  • Mr. Trube’s  fractal adult coloring book, published by Green Frog and proofread by yours truly, is now available.
  • Due to growing demands on my time (see above), I am no longer working for Pen-L Publishing.
  • Research and planning for Crane Girl gallops on. My sources over the past few weeks have included, in no particular order: Paradise Lost, the Song of Solomon, the Talmud, Aesop’s Fables, The Time Traveler’s Guide to Elizabethan England, the Popol Vuh, the Rimas of Becquer, Thurber’s “Many Moons,” the Rig Veda, and so very, very much Wikipedia. Yes, I’m having fun.

The paucity of blog updates lately has been largely due to the business and busy-ness outlined above. Life proceeds apace.

Declaration of Interdependence

At some point in my K-12 education – maybe my high school health class? – they taught us that there are three stages of maturity.

  1. Dependence
  2. Independence
  3. Interdependence

The idea is that you start as a child, depending on someone else for all your needs. As you get older, you learn to provide for yourself. The last stage of maturity is to become part of a larger community or team and accept the idea of give-and-take.

Like all psychological models, it’s an oversimplification. In particular, I imagine many people go straight from #1 to #3. But it’s an interesting idea.

I was thinking about this yesterday as a kind of rough guide for helping me figure out my character arcs in Crane Girl. And it occurred to me that the independence phase can be further subdivided.

  1. Dependence
  2. Independence – caring for self
  3. Independence – caring for others
  4. Interdependence

Or, to use a metaphor I just made up: wolf pup, lone wolf, wolf mother (hunting alone), wolf mother (hunting in a pack).

I suggested this to Betsy, and she said there can be a fifth step, too: a return to dependency at the end of life. Good point, and something we might not like to think about.

Still working out precisely how all this applies to character development in the novel. We’ll see how it goes.

“Crazy” is Lazy

In The Crane Girl, I have a character called the Empress. And she’s crazy.

Basically, this means she’s a typical supervillain – megalomaniacal, power-hungry, cruel, manipulative, uninterested in anybody’s needs but her own. She schemes against the heroes, puts them in danger, moves the plot along.

And she’s boring.

One of my tasks in revision is to make her interesting, which means making her real, humanizing her (though she isn’t, technically, human). And that means moving past the “crazy” label. Because calling a character “crazy,” and stopping there, is just as lazy and shallow as calling a character “evil.” It might be true, for some definition of the word, but it’s not very insightful. It’s a reaction, not a description.

“Crazy,” you see, doesn’t tell you what somebody is. It tells you what somebody isn’t – they aren’t mentally healthy. (As if “mentally healthy” weren’t vague enough on its own.)

Describing a character as “crazy” is like describing a car as “not a Corolla.” It’s just a negation, and not a very helpful one. That’s what I mean by saying it’s lazy. It sidesteps the real work of developing the character, turning them into a genuine person.

Having had mental illness myself, I can tell you that it comes in a million different flavors, and even two people of the same “flavor” – depression, schizophrenia, whatever – will never be alike, aside from sharing certain symptoms.

Moreover, the actions of the mentally ill make just as much sense as the actions of the mentally healthy, in the context of their skewed internal parameters. Staying in bed all day, every day, makes sense if you’re exhausted and nothing you do brings satisfaction. Cutting yourself makes sense if it’s the only way you know to break through a universal numbness. Killing yourself makes sense if every second of your life is torture. These aren’t healthy or wise behaviors, and if you’re tempted, you have to fight that temptation with all your strength. But they are understandable behaviors.

As I mentioned above, “evil” characters often fall into the same boat. Authors slap an “evil” label on their villain, and he’s good to go. Except, nobody’s evil for the sake of evilness. They may do evil things, but there’s always a reason, no matter how irrational or selfish. What’s more, nobody is just evil. Murderers may cry over sunsets and church music. Wife beaters may work sixty-hour weeks to take care of their kids. This doesn’t excuse their terrible crimes, but it hints at the truth: nobody’s all light or all shadow.

We’re all people, with all the sanity and craziness and complexity that implies, and well-written characters are people too. Darth Vader is a cruel mass murderer, but he’s protective of his wife and loves his son and saves the galaxy. The Borg Queen really believes she’s elevating the beings she assimilates. Even Satan is a fallen angel.

So a big part of my revision is about examining my villains, and asking myself: if I know who they aren’t, then who are they?

Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice for heroes, too.

Wednesday Update

  • Editing – This morning I’m working on a sample edit for a prospective client. Thanks to everyone who spread the word about my freelance business.
  • Writing The Crane Girl – 42,000 words and counting on the first draft.
  • Painting the fence – Almost done! My right thumb is sore from holding the roller so long.
  • Bible reading – Still in Genesis, making progress. Betsy and I are up to Jacob now. I’ll do a Genesis post tomorrow if I have time – they seem to eat up a lot of it.
  • Watching Bob’s Burgers – Betsy is now successfully hooked. Mission accomplished. We’re in season 3.
  • American campaign finance system – Still horrifically broken.
  • Writing this blog post – Done!

The Crane Girl – Spreading Its Wings

The path of The Crane Girl has not been a straightforward one. I wrote 60,000 words on an abbreviated first draft and 7,000 words on a second. (For comparison, a typical novel is in the neighborhood of 80,000-120,000 words.) Then all progress halted for over a year as I recovered from illness.

I started up again in April, rebooting the story, keeping a few core elements but otherwise starting over from scratch. I researched history, mythology, religion, alchemy, tarot, fairy tales, and languages, among other things. I still have plenty of research left to do, and honestly, I didn’t think I’d start writing the next draft for a while.

But ideas turn to characters, and characters turn to scenes, and once a scene comes to life in your brain, it demands to be written. So, two weeks ago, I started the first draft of the rebooted story. I’m up to 13,000 words, or about 50 pages.

It’s good stuff. I don’t mean the quality of the writing – though I hope that’s good too – I mean the act of writing, the process of getting it on (digital) paper. It’s not like it has been sometimes before, where I sat staring at a blank screen, sweating blood, wishing I were doing anything else. It’s fun, and it’s not any more difficult than writing a novel is supposed to be.

To paraphrase Dune: “The words must flow.” And they are. The Emperor would be pleased.

There actually is an Emperor in The Crane Girl, though we haven’t gotten to him yet. His wife, the Empress, is the insane homicidal ruler of the High City – and she’s one of the good guys. Their daughter’s job is to watch and wait for the imminent Last Battle, but she’s getting antsy. Ethan, a boy from Earth, is inciting her to rebellion (and – naturally – falling in love with her too). His adoptive little sister, Sara, is drifting toward omniscience. Meanwhile, back in Kansas, Ethan and Sara’s mother is on the brink of losing it because she doesn’t know where they are – and that’s before she gets her magic powers. It’s all leading up to everyone’s favorite shindig: the apocalypse.

See? It’s gonna be fun. Complicated, but fun.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, chapter 9 ain’t gonna write itself.

The Crane Girl Rides Again

Once upon a time, I was writing a novel called The Crane Girl. I had finished the first draft and started on the second, brimming with excitement and ideas. I had learned so much from my last novel, and I couldn’t wait to use those lessons to make this one better.

And then, sometime in the first half of 2014, I stopped.

What happened? Mostly, depression happened. For a few months there, I couldn’t even write my blog or my diary, much less something as exacting as a novel. Hell, I could barely take a shower. I didn’t care about Crane Girl. I hardly cared about anything.

But nothing is forever, except for taxes – I maintain that death is negotiable – and eventually I restarted my engine. First the blog and the diary. Then the Buffy stories. And then…

This past weekend, I received a visit from that gentleman and scholar, my good friend Ben Trube. As always, he was excited about stories. Stories he was reading, stories he was writing – and stories I had written.

I realized it might be time to go back.

Right now I’m tearing apart Crane Girl and rebuilding it from the ground up. The core feelings and plot elements – and some of the characters – will remain, but everything else is shape-shifting faster than Odo on a warm day. Maybe the biggest change is that I’m thinking of shifting from high fantasy to late-1950s-era real world (with fantasy elements). I’ve never done a novel in the real world, so it ought to be fun. At the very least, I’ll learn a few things about history.

Well, anyway. No matter what happens, it’ll be fun.

I’ll keep you posted.