9/02/2003

For the past two days I've been driving myself hard over the third draft of Against Gravity, struggling with the problem of how to integrate a huge amount of expository and worldbuilding information into a story without being overly blunt about it and just hammering the reader with page after page of non-plot-driving exposition. I've hit on a solution: cheating.

It's not really, actually. I took a look through my bookshelves - particularly the Joe Haldeman books, since he's quite good at this kind of thing - and I've begun integrating a lot of need-to-know information into the text in the form of tv interview excerpts, sections from encyclopaedias, court journals, anything that seems to help build a world external to the characters that still involves them utterly.

I've been thinking for a long while that it's the writers who have to struggle the most to get a book deal who actually have an advantage over the rest of us. Look at Iain Banks: he wrote several novels before he sold his first. I can think of a good few authors in the genre who wrote up to half a million words before finally selling a book. Myself, I sold the second book I'd written, the first unlikely ever to be published in its current form. I may actually be at a disadvantage because of this: those other writers, Banks and his ilk, had a few extra years to learn the craft of plotting and storytelling so that by the time they achieved publication, they had overcome certain obstacles that stand in the way of a writer struggling to learn his art.

I do struggle with character motivation, most of the time: I have a bad habit of letting characters get swept away by the plot, so that they're carried along heedless rather than instigating events themselves. I now understand why this is so. When I was younger, one of my favourite writers was Philip K. Dick, and he was a writer who liked to focus on utterly ordinary people much of the time, people with ordinary non-taking-over-the-universe ambitions. I myself prefer the idea of writing about people who aren't exceptionally brilliant, or courageous. However, I am now confronting the notion that in the type of fiction I write, it is perhaps best to focus a story around those who are truly extraordinary, rather than ordinary. I won't bore you by citing examples from books I've read, but I've found plenty of evidence for both sides of my argument with myself.

But I'll get around it. I always do.
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