Sunday, April 17, 2011

Jackson Jennings Series: Starting From Scratch

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to spend less time blogging and more time working on the story I'd been trying to write on and off for a few years. I've written that exact sentiment multiple times over the years, but this was the first time that it actually led to real progress on the story. Well, sort of.

First, a little back story for those unfamiliar with this particular piece of writing.

I first developed the vague sketch of an idea around this time five years ago. At that time, the only real solid ideas I had in place were the main character, a couple of supporting characters, and the primary character motivations. I worked on it a little bit and eventually got to the point where I thought I had enough to put together a series of stories for a comic book.

Over the next 18 months, that small series of stories turned into 17 completed scripts (running anywhere from 24 to 32 comic pages per script), six more outline sketches, and a series timeline that would have provided another three years worth of stories. However, life got in the way, and nothing ever happened with them.


Fast forward a couple years when I decided to dig the scripts out of the bowels of my hard drive and turn them into short stories (read them here). I got through the first seven scripts (the last of which were two parts that I turned into one story) when I hit something of a wall. The next two scripts were another two-parter, and that ended on a cliffhanger that led directly into the next set of scripts, a four-parter. I realized as I was doing the expanded writing that what I had on my hands was no longer a "short" story, but a full-length novel.

However, converting that story to one that stood alone required completely re-writing the beginning. I'd never really given my characters a proper introduction, in part because in the original comic book plan, I'd intended to reveal the main character's story through a series of flashbacks, and the supporting characters didn't need full stories -- they existed only to support the main character. The novel, though, needed to do a better job of introducing the characters, the world they lived in, and their overall motivations. So, rather than just picking up where I left the story two years ago, I've gone back to the drawing table.

Of course, writing the opening of the story left me banging my head against that same table for awhile. I've always struggled with writing openings, particularly the first sentence. I'm not looking to come up with something as memorable as "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" but I also don't want to end up with "It was a dark and stormy night." Hell, at one point during my frustration, I actually typed "It was a dark and stormy night" on the page, just to see how bad it looked. It was bad.

Long story, well, long... I stuck with it, and ended up coming up with a re-introductory scene to Jackson Jennings that I'm happy with. I decided to start with action, rather than exposition, letting the details come out more naturally throughout the flow of the story. I'm still working on the first chapter, and it'll probably be three or four chapters before I'm even caught up to the text that I have waiting for me, but I'm working on it again, which is all I can ask for.

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