Laptop Issues

Posted by Unrepentant Escapist

November 23, 2009 -- 10:15 a.m.

On top of my car not working, now my laptop is on its last legs, too. I will have to probably get the screen replaced this week or buy a new one. Things are piling up. So if I don't post for awhile, I haven't abandoned you. My laptop's just in the shop.

My novel is backed up so no worries when it goes. I'm scared about finishing it. Becoming a published author was my dream. It's kept me alive through unemployment, finding out I was dating a sex offender, etc. The idea that I could work so hard and fail is terrifying. Better never to finish than put my baby out into such a scary world.

But if this one fails, there's always the next one, right? It took Brandon Sanderson a heck of a lot more tries than my measly three to get things working. And I already have a cool Y.A. novel thought, and another cool fantasy novel thought. I have more ideas than I have time to work on.

Anyway, the thing that will frustrate me the worst in books is when an author builds up and fails to deliver. For example, I was reading a book by one of my favorite authors, and for four chapters he spends time building up "the Argument" with a capital A, about how mind-blowing it is and revolutionary, etc.

What is the argument: THERE IS NO FREE WILL. It's all an illusion.

And I'm like--seriously? That was the big argument? That's the argument that upsets people?

I discovered that argument when I was 14 years old. It's a natural outgrowth of the nature/nurture debate. Can you actually control anything or are you programmed? If you have a criminal's genes, you're a criminal. Or if your parents beat you, chances are, you beat your children. Do you have any choice in the matter? Or is your choice predestined by your genes and your upbringing?

And you're telling me two intelligent men, a college professor and a neuroscientist, are driven crazy and obsessed with this idea? The fact that human beings are merely a set of buttons, predictable machines who must respond certain ways to certain stimuli, will upset a trained FBI agent so much?

Dude, I figured this out when I was fourteen and it didn't upset me. I thought about it, realized it didn't matter whether free will actually existed or not, because it was to society's benefit to pretend it existed. Because without the concept of free will, personal responsibility goes out the window, and that basically screws up the court system. It also creates a lot of depressed people.

It's like religion. Whether or not there's an afterlife, it comforts me to think that there is an afterlife, so why not believe in it, even if the evidence for it is (naturally) a little limited. Religion is the opiate of the masses, but if (for me) religion has few painful side effects while at the same time giving me an emotional boost and an incentive to believe that the choices I make actually matter, than that's a drug I can sign onto. It's only the people who use religion as a weapon for harm that need to be taken into rehab.

My brother discovered "the Argument" at about the same age. I remember he came home from school one day, proud as a peacock, and told me that he'd spent all his lunch hour arguing about whether or not free will exists. "I took the harder side," he said, "I argued it doesn't exist."

And I asked, "Why is that the harder side?"

He looked at me for a moment, not speaking, then said at last, "I guess it isn't."

Maybe the two of us were super-geniuses. Maybe most college freshmen would blow up at the idea that they're just robots acting out a combination of their genes and their background and that free will is obviously an illusion born of neurochemicals. But I doubt it.

The moral of the story is that, the more you build up a scene, an idea, or a character, the more fantastic it has to be. Because even if something's written well, it can still be a wall-banger if it disappoints your expectations in a fundamental way. And the higher the expectations, the easier it is to disappoint.

This is what happened for me at the end of the Harry Potter series, and will likely happen to me as I watch more Lost.


TITLE: Revelations
TYPE: Character

Write a big reveal scene for one of your characters that shatters their preconcieved expectations. Not just any preconceived notions, but the one at the center of their being. What knowledge would hurt them the most? That their parents are not actually their parents? That the woman he/she loves doesn't even remember that all-important moment when they first connected? That they are a god and the world around them is merely their dream?

Find the most precious notion of the character's soul and rip it apart. If your character isn't a weeping, dribbling mess by the end of the scene, you haven't found the right revelation yet.

This will help you understand the template of your character's soul. It also can possibly be used as a weapon by your villain (a false revelation, or at least a point of attack now that you know where your character is vulnerable) or a twist...if your revelation is realistic and not a cliche--ie, Luke (or Richard Cypher) I am your father...


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