Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Power of Love

     What makes a happy ending?  I've been working on this one hard lately and what I've managed to determine is, regardless of what form you're working in (books, movies, etc.) and almost regardless of genre, it all comes down to one thing: love.  If love triumphs, you've got a happy ending.  If love doesn't triumph, you haven't got a happy ending. 
     The concept of triumph itself is somewhat open to interpretation.  Do the lovers have to end up together for love to triumph?  Not necessarily.  What I mean when I say triumph is that the love is validated, shown to have great value, to empower the people who are in love; that the love ultimately be a good and important thing.  If you've got that, it does not appear to matter if friends die, jobs are lost, families have to move, one of the lovers becomes a vampire or the world undergoes Apocalypse.
     Does this limit our ability to tell or appreciate stories?  Is love all we ultimately yearn for or crave in our actual lives?  Does it say something deeply hopeful about us?  Stories, of course, are seldom just stories.  They are always most interesting for what they tell us about ourselves. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Editing, Stage 4

     One more round of read-throughs and the latest changes are:

1. Laura's situation at the beginning needs to feel a bit more dire.  She's obviously got a problem, but the psychological turmoil of it could be brought out more.

2. Hone the background of a new piece of technology that's introduced here.

3. Eliminate an extremely minor character who figures into the background of a new major character.  This minor character was meant to highlight a sense of betrayal in the major character's life, but eliminating him will, instead, highlight the sense of isolation, which is more valuable.

     Finally, and somewhat predictably, there is still a bit of streamlining and simplification necessary surrounding the antagonist of the piece and his plan.  I myself lean towards a more vague background, but Jason suggests that giving more details could give the character greater weight.  It's a difference, I suppose, between a sense of mysterious unease (vague) and direct threat (specific).  There is a compromise between the two that I am going to strike, intending to create a sense of mysterious unease with a direct threat at its center.  As regards the villain's plan, cutting extraneous bits here and there should make the whole thing clearer and smoother.
     So, we are approaching the nitty-gritty at this point.  It's not all small surgical edits, but it is mainly that now.  This is excellent, because my deadline is a little more than three weeks away.  We're zeroing in here and one or two more edit sessions with my agent Jason should get it ready to go.
     Then, of course, my editor Julia gets a crack at it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We Can Rebuild Him

     Does anyone remember The Six Million Dollar Man?  Apparently Kevin Smith does (he's involved in a new comic book based on his movie script for an aborted cinematic update of the concept).  I do, too, with extreme fondness.  I was just the right age for the slow-motion heroics and to embrace Lee Majors' somewhat stony interpretation of the part.  The concept of a man becoming that intimate with technology (his right arm, left eye and both legs were bionic) did not particularly trouble me.  Cyborgs were already de rigueur in Sci-Fi, familiar even to a wee lad like me.  And, after all, it wasn't as though the technology was having a psychological effect on him.
     I bet Max Barry remembers it, too.  In Machine Man, he takes the central idea of the cyborg and adds in all the abnormal psychology, corporate menace and black humor that The Six Million Dollar Man did not feature.  Barry's wicked and disturbing take on corporate shenanigans was on full display in his excellent Jennifer Government and is not in short order here either. You also get a compulsively readable style, a morally dubious protagonist who Barry magnificently put you fully on the side of, and an unexpectedly poignant love story.  I suppose that it goes without saying that the examination of a world (and a man) that is so willing to integrate itself on the most intimate level with technology is all the more relevant now than it was back in the 1970's.  Unlike the fondly remembered Six Million Dollar Man, Machine Man is not about a cyborg hero, but is all about the psychological weight of the technology we embrace.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Joke

     In an earlier version of Those That Wake, a rather different version of Laura asks a rather different version of Mal to tell her a joke in order to alleviate some of the tension brought on by their situation.  As those versions of Laura and Mal changed, the passage called less and less for a joke.  But it's a good joke and I hate to see it go to waste, so here goes:
     A wild turkey walks into a bar.
     "Hey," says the bartender, "we've got a drink named after you."
     And the wild turkey says "you've got a drink named Ralph?"

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Editing, Stage 3

     The third draft of the sequel to Those That Wake (still, much to my surprise, tentatively titled The Unmade Man) has come back with notes from Jason.  With one exception, the notes this time are more specific and will require less of an overhaul of the entire manuscript.  We have not reached the nitpicking stage by a long shot, but we do seem to be out of the defining what we're doing stage.
     So, notes this time include:
     1. Slightly altering the backstory of a new character who has close ties to Mal and more clearly defining her feelings towards Mal at the beginning of the book.
     2. Delineating Laura's problem at the beginning of the book so that it plays up one of the books major themes relating to how we define ourselves as people.
     3. Sharpening the atmosphere through which we view the future New York City, which has changed in what I'm hoping is a surprising way since the first book.
     The one exception I mentioned in the first paragraph, I'm sorry to say, still pertains to a central element of the narrative that needs more simplifying/streamlining.  That's a more daunting issue than the others and it sure makes you feel the weight of that deadline pressing down (a month and a half from today).
     It's worth noting that all of the editing here and that has gone before is being done with my agent Jason at this point.  The manuscript has yet to be turned into my actual editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.