I’m a ham. Not literally–though my gut speaks to the contrary–but in the sense that I love attention. I’m a theatre kid who loves telling stories and acting and generally entertaining people. It’s a big passion of mine. And it’s why I turned to writing books. It gave me another outlet to entertain people.
All of that is to setup the fact that I’m being torn between Traditional Publishing and Self-Publishing.
Being the chosen one. It’s one of the oldest tropes in storytelling. And I’m growing sick of it. I feel that it’s an easy way out to get your character into the thick of it. “Oh, I need to propel my character into the story and give them motivation. Easy. They don’t have any other choice because they’re the chosen one!”
Sorry. That’s too easy.
Why don’t we attempt to push ourselves as writers. There has to be another way to setup your protagonist in your story. And I would imagine the other choices are far more interesting. There is a perfect example of this.
Original Star Wars trilogy vs the Prequals.
Luke wasn’t a chosen one. He was a farm boy with big dreams. Obi-Wan didn’t come to his house one-day and say “You are the one destined to defeat the Empire! Go forth and do great things.” Kind of the opposite. Obi-Wan was trying to hide Luke from Vadar. If anything, he was trying to keep Luke away from it all.
It was the unfortunate deaths of his Uncle and Aunt that forced their hand. So they buggered off Tatooine. Did they leave to go confront the Empire? No. Let’s be honest. Obi-Wan was trying to squirrel Luke off to another planet. Too bad that planet got blowed up.
All of this created a much more interesting story and character arc for Luke. We get to discover his true past and connection with the big story over time. Which creates a more engaging story.
The Prequals stomped all over this. Anakin was the Chosen One! And so he was just pushed along by everyone around him. The motivation wasn’t really his own. It was everyone else around him. All of the choices Anakin made were coerced out of him by others. And it made the character fall flat to everyone.
I won’t get into how this all could have been fixed for the prequals. There are enough blogs that deal with “what ifs.” And all of them are better than what Lucas did.
But I think the two trilogies illustrate my point.
Anakin was handed a destiny.
Luke made one.
One of my favorite sites is Reddit. For those not familiar, it is a news aggregate that is user supported. People find cool links to news articles or other blogs and submit them. One aspect of Reddit is being able to submit a text link. Basically like a forum post.
One particular subreddit, r/write–a reddit section geared to a specific topic–is geared to people posting their work for critique. I check it out from time to time but never really post there myself. Mostly because I’ve noticed a trend there that I don’t particularly enjoy.
Many people submit something and say this:
Here is my first chapter, should is it good? Should I keep going?
My initial reaction to every one of these is to say, “No.” Even without reading it. I understand a lot of these writers are insecure about their work. I understand that they are looking for validation before spending a lot of time on a piece of work. But there are two things I believe in that would help them greatly.
First off I believe you’re better off finishing a terrible book than writing and stopping one. Because with the former, you have something to work with. Bad writing can be tweaked and nuanced into good writing. It takes thousands of man-hours of writing bad first drafts in order to be able to write good first drafts. Which leads me to the second point.
Of course it isn’t good. It’s your first draft. And showing it off to complete strangers on the Internet isn’t going to get you anywhere. Some will stroke your ego. More are going to smell blood and rip you to pieces. Find a local critique group to meet with and get a focused, well informed opinion.
Basically, I feel these people are jumping the gun. They wrote a few hundred, maybe a few thousand words, and need to show everyone right away.
Take a breath.
Tweak the work over a week and do a few edits. Then show it to some other local writers. Take their notes and then do some more tweaking. There is a reason they say writing is rewriting.