Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Predictable elements vs iconic touchstones

I'm working on an adaptation of a fairy tale right now, and let's just say I'm struggling through my revision process. Brain bleeding daily.

Even the simplest things like whether the stepmother should be dressed in black, or whether magic wands emit sparks, give me pause.

On the one hand, in the western world, anyway, symbols like black clothing have been used by writers and costume designers for centuries. It immediately sends the signal to the reader: this person is bad. But it makes me think, "this writer--ME--is lazy". And it's not like I don't show this woman being pretty hideously evil -- constantly. Damn. She should be dressed in pink, shouldn't she... Damn.

Same thing with the magic elements in this book... I seem to be using a lot of sparks and balls of fire and bolts of lightning. Heck, even the fact that there are magic wands in my magical world, as opposed to something else, (magic rings? magic bracelets?), makes me feel lazy.

Have I just hit that point where everything about my book feels trite and derivative?

Do you make use of iconic symbols as shorthand in your stories?

Feeling befuddled and bewildered and questioning everything, today....

10 comments:

Kristen Painter said...

Harry Potter uses wands. I think if the storytelling is strong enough, the elements don't matter as much.

Karen Whiddon said...

What Kristen said. You're obsessing over minute details because a) you're a writer and that's what we do, and b) it's just another form of procrastination. I do the same thing.

If it really bothers you and you want to make forward progress, just put two xx's everywhere you think you need to change/clean up something and keep writing. Later, you can do a search and decide if you still hate that item as much.

Just sayin'

Stephanie Doyle said...

Ditto Kristen and Karen.

Maureen don't you know that obsessing is part of the fun? Sort of...

And secret babies, cowboys, alpha males with secretaries are all derivative... unless they're done well.

Then they're genius.

Maureen McGowan said...

Thanks for pulling me back from the ledge, guys. Had a tough afternoon yesterday. Hoping today will be better. :-)

Molly and I have talked about the phenomenon where no matter how out there or interesting or surprising your story is... or your turning points or reversals, you hit a point while revising, where it all seems predictable and boring. I'm hoping I hit that stage and will get past it.

Eileen said...

Oh, sweetie, you've read the damn thing too many times. I am very familiar with the phenomenon.

That said, good for you for questioning some that stuff! It's a pain now, but I bet it's going to be fantastic in the end.

Sinead M said...

Hey, isn't this the point where you send the book to your trusty critique partners....?

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, Sinead. I need a crit so badly, but right now it's almost unreadable. Will be in contact soon. Begging. Plan to ruin all my CP's Christmases. If mine's ruined, why not yours, too. That's the true spirit of the holidays, no? ;-)

Molly O'Keefe said...

oh Maureen - that's the sucky spot talking. Your book is great and I can't wait to read it - you won't be ruining my christmas at all!!!

Maureen McGowan said...

Just re-read Stephanie's comment and realize what my Cinderella story needs. A secret baby!

Molly O'Keefe said...

most stories do....

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