Today’s post is related to yesterday’s, Getting Lost Is Exactly What I Needed. They both stem from my reading of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series, but I wanted to pull this topic out and give it its own space on the page. One thing that’s always impressed me about Jim Butcher’s work is the pace at which his novels are set. From the first chapter the story just rushes forward, often finding its conclusion within mere days of the characters getting involved, and there’s so much going on that sometimes it’s hard to keep track of which details belong to which subplot.
The Codex Alera is no different. Jim Butcher has built a complicated and fascinating world, and has populated it with people who all have their own desires and motivations. He weaves these people together with such grace and fluidity that it almost resembles a ballet. His stories are complicated, and the characters have to fight tooth and nail for every inch they gain over their adversaries.
My current fantasy project isn’t like that. I understand that I’m not Jim Butcher, and he has so much more experience than me, but I can’t help feeling completely inadequate to fulfill the task at hand. I like the main storyline of my project. But I don’t have much besides the main storyline. I don’t have interwoven characters, and random people who show up from the past, and strange things happening that won’t make sense until the end. I can see these threads in other authors’ work, but I don’t know if I’m capable of creating them myself.
Jim Butcher’s characters get thwarted at every turn. They make a plan, and it fails, and they make another plan, and it fails, and they get captured on their way to some big important event, and someone else has to step in and make sure the important thing happens. My characters have a plan, and they follow that plan, and nothing particularly bad happens to them along the way.
I need to make some changes. I need more subplots, more history to enrich the plots that already exist, more peril for my characters, more roadblocks to throw in their way. I just need…more.
I have the basis for more subplots already, in the editing notes I’ve been making, which I discuss in the post Rewrite Sticky Notes. I want to add in more mythology, and pull in more of Callum’s family history to further define his motivations. But it isn’t enough. I’ve decided to halt my push to finish the first draft. What’s the point of writing the ending if I’m going to have to make significant changes to it anyway? Instead, I’m going to do some planning. Determine what subplots I need to add, and figure out how to incorporate them into the story I’ve already created. Then I’m going to begin rewriting. I don’t feel up to this task. It’s terrifying, and as yet I have no idea how to accomplish it. But, as tends to happen, maybe it’ll make more sense to me once I actually throw myself in and get started.