Ideas About Starting a Second Book

Right now I’m starting to flesh out my rather skeletal outline for the sequel to Project Jekribo and I started to make a list of things I needed to accomplish in that book, especially as it needs to be true to the first book but be strong on its own at the same time. The following are a couple of the things I came up with and decided that these ones were worth sharing, in spite of their jumbledness. 

Growth: You need to decide “what did my characters learn” from the previous book, and “where can they still progress?” In other words, what did they improve at in book one and what are some things they still need to learn in book two?

Hallmarks: What things set each character apart from any other character? These things can be speech patterns (very important) or other things, such as ideologies, habits, quirks, et cetera.

Unanswered questions: What sorts of things went unanswered in the previous book? How are you going to answer those questions in a satisfying way? There are several methods:

1)  The “Boromir” Method: In the Lord of the Rings, Tolkien ends the first book with the battle in which the Fellowship gets split up. However, Tolkien ends the book in the midst of the battle. He doesn’t even finish it up. Tolkien starts the Two Towers with the death of Boromir. Honestly, it happens a page and a half into the book. If you haven’t read it or seen the movies, well tough beans, there’s a spoiler for you. (Also, what in the world is wrong with you and why are you reading this if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings?)This is one thing that the movie does better than the books because it brings things to a satisfying (albeit sad) end.

At any rate, the Boromir variety of unanswered questions with its corresponding method of answering them seems to be a dirty rotten trick. Tolkien’s work isn’t a really big deal for us today, seeing as we can read the books all the way through if we’d like, but the intervening five-ish months people had to wait after reading the book in July of 1954 and getting the TWO PAGES that finished up the battle in November of that year must have completely frustrating. (Also, many thanks to Wikipedia for the publishing dates.)

2)  The second method is what I call the TV Series Method. We’ve all watched those shows where the characters have X mystery they are trying to solve (usually for several seasons, often regarding the fate of some parent or another) and Y clue or Z piece of information is always SOOO close, but it never gets snagged. For three frickin’ seasons. Sometimes even the entire series (in which case, they have to make a crappy movie afterwards to tie up all the loose ends).

Just as the Boromir example makes us all go “Wow, really?” because of its cheap trickery-ness, so too should this type of thing make us all simultaneously cringe and break out into homicidal rage. For the record though, I’m not really suggesting homicidal rage as a way of dealing with literary or television-related angst.

3)  The Treat-Your-Audience-Like-They’re-Smart Method: This involves not being a prick and actually thinking that your audience might be as smart as, if not smarter, than you and/or your characters. If you laid all of the pieces down on the board in book one in a heavy-handed “Oh my, this knife suspiciously has blood all over it, and it’s in the dead guy’s enemy’s chambers, but I’m not going to realize the significance of this until the third act” sort of way, then you’re treating your audience like they’re stupid. What you’re really expressing when you do this is that your readers (or watchers) are not going to notice this bit of information or skim over it, only to recall it when you solve the mystery. It doesn’t work that way. Most people are smarter than that.

The other side of this is not making your characters too stupid either. If your characters are supposed to be smart, capable individuals, and you’ve given them all of the evidence to answer your unanswered questions, then you need to reevaluate, because if they’re as smart as you or your reader, they’ll have figured it out.

Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t give your readers information that the character doesn’t have. Maybe the reader has a piece of information from early on in the book that reveals the opinions another character may have to be erroneous. For example, if you’re writing a murder mystery and you have a scene from the viewpoint of the victim identifying the killer as (for example) a male, and later on the protagonist suspects a female, the reader is going to know that the protagonist is wrong. However, this allows you to retain your reader’s respect for your character, as they know the person isn’t just being stupid, but acting rationally on the information he or she has.

And that’s the sharable part of my list so far. I could go on forever about unanswered questions alone, but I don’t think the world needs my book on the subject plastered on my website.

Server Maintenance Tomorrow

Hey all,

I just got an email from the people who do my hosting with the following information:

Tomorrow night, between the hours of 8 – 10 PM MST, we will be performing a kernel update on your server.  We estimate the outage to be approximately 15-30 minutes.

In case you’re trying to get on during that time and nothing comes up, that’s why.

Alrighty folks, that’s it for now!

 

21 January 2014: The Long Awaited Update

Update:

Here’s a few of the things that have been going on the couple months or so:

Last Semester Updates:

First off, I finished up last semester pretty well. Three A’s and one A-, so I feel pretty good about that. It was a tough semester, and my academic brain is thoroughly burnt out, and though the break wasn’t long enough to revive me completely, I feel ready to face the new semester.

Book News:

In more relevant news, I’ve also been reading some good books, and have a few more lined up. Here’s a look at what I have either read or plan to read in the near future. :

  • Haven’t read:
    • Cherie Priest’s Fiddlehead (the last book in her Clockwork Century series)
    • The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
  • Currently Reading:
    • The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (also had to re-read Name of the Wind, since I hadn’t read it since about 2008 or so)
  • Finished reading:
    • Dan Wells’ Partials and Fragments
    • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Family/Holiday Updates:

For over a month now, our baby has been teething, but only on the 19th of December did he cut his first tooth. It’s been an adventure of misery and sleepless nights.

My sister got married to a wonderful man on the 20th, so congratulations to them. However, we also had to set up for their local reception and then travel in wonderful weather (did ya catch the sarcasm there? Eh?) to get to their second reception, but both were beautiful and very much worth it.

We have also been out of town here and there for various reasons. We got to stay with one of our wonderful friends for a weekend to see visit his new place. We are jealous of his granite countertops.

The Christmas and New Year Holidays were both very enjoyable as well. We had a one final holiday shindig on the 11th of this month (yes, January, you read that right), but we couldn’t make it because Kyra got sick with influenza, and we had to take our little guy up to grandma’s house while I stayed home and tended to sick mommy/kept the house disinfected. Really, it was like I was running a level 4 biohazard facility. Happily, everyone is feeling much better now, though we are sad we missed out on this final holiday get-together.

Current Events:

I’m back in school and the semester looks like it’s going to go pretty well. I’m taking an anthropology of war class, the capstone for my History Major, my last German language class and a (dreaded) math-related class that I have to take to fulfill a university requirement. Other than the math, I’m pretty okay with all of the classes I’m taking. What is more, this is my LAST SEMESTER EVER!!! (Yes, I did just use all caps and three exclamation points.) With the knowledge that I’ll be done in just a few more months, I think that I’ll be able to get through the rigors of the semester.

I think that brings me up to date. As with last semester, I make no promises as to how regular I’ll be posting things, but hopefully I’ll be better than I was for those few months. If not, I’ll be back to blogging again in the summer.

Finally, I also am going to try and make progress on one of my writing projects before the end of May. As of right now it looks like I’m going to have a couple of hours to write on campus every day, so if my workload doesn’t continue to be as steep as it currently is (I had a bit of catching up to do, since Kyra got sick), I should be able to get some stuff done here and there.

Now all that remains is to find a quiet space where I can write…