Writing backwards

I’ve been struggling for months to find a direction for the fantasy-in-progress, without being very happy with any of my attempts. Then a few days ago I started thinking about how it’s only a month to NaNoWriMo, and so I ought to come up with a new story to tackle for November. What to write…Oh! I know!

Over two or three hours at the most, the plot and various characters for a Regency assembled themselves. All I had to do was beg the ideas to slow down a little so I could transcribe them before they got lost. It was so much fun, and so different from picking up hunks of mental debris, turning them this way and that, then trying unsuccessfully to wedge them into chinks of the fantasy-in-progress to serve as a wobbly foundation for the rest of the story.

Okay, it was easypeasy to put together a Regency plot. Why? Well, we know where it has to end: hero and heroine realize that they are both charming people, and every bit as well suited to each other as the readers figured out pages and pages ago. And most of the other characters get happy endings too, suited to each one’s personality.

We don’t automatically know where a fantasy plot has to end. In fact, I’m trying to wrench the ending of the fantasy-in-progress away from that old dull overused trope in which hero and friends defeat the Dark Lord and save what little is left of the world. I’d like something closer to a “regency ending” – I don’t mean the story should end with true love, but it ought to leave most of the characters in situations that fit them well.

Ah. Now I know more clearly where I’m trying to go. Lead character(s), and many secondary characters, achieve a private satisfaction that may have public ramifications (if they’re the kind of people who are born politicians), but does not involve burning down Rome just to make a good campfire to toast marshmallows over. That’s the kind of story that I want to read. Since too few are being written for me by other people, like the Inklings I need to write my own.

I just need to figure out what would be a satisfying situation for Wilm (the f-i-p’s lead character) and friends to wind up in, and then arrange the story so they can get there.

(And so I started making notes about ways in which my characters could live more fulfilling lives, and after half an hour or forty-five minutes, I know how to take the f-i-p from its present state as a challenging, disheartening mess that neither characters nor author know how to fix, all the way to a nicely rounded story that ends with almost everybody better off than they were on the first page. Tomorrow – if I can squeeze out any time at all for writing when I’m already committed to help with a book sale – I know what to write next. Happy dance. Happy dance!)

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