Monday, January 14, 2019

The Acktorek Story

No, I'm not going to tell you what it's all about. *River Song voice* "Spoilers." What I want to talk about is the process behind it. This is coming on the heels of last year's second post of the year: My Problem With Writing How-To. And I may tell you some tidbits about the storyline along the way. ;)

Acktorek was born on October 10, 2017. I'd written a super messy draft of the Espionage sequel that year which contained a lot of "I'll write this later" type sections. It was pretty bad. Vannie and Kyle were the only characters that actually had personality. (Thanks to Kendra, I have about three pages from Kermit's POV where I actually figured out who he is, but it didn't really make him come alive in the rest of the book.) Their one-on-one scenes were the only scenes that really had emotion. I could tell my imagination just wasn't alive. Trying to stick to a predetermined structure only made it worse. Writing was like pulling teeth. So I went on Pinterest and looked at dialogue prompts.

This was the prompt I chose. And the dialogue never made it into the story I started writing. 510 words of Emma and her sister Carla. In a destroyed city. The charred remains of aliens/beings from another world around them. Carla, with strange powers, controlled by a force that was not of her. And Mitchell arriving (able to fly?) in a soldier's uniform to stop her.

I went to bed that night, wondering at where the unfinished short story had come from, feeling as if it was the climax of a novel. The next day, I started the book. I decided to throw planning to the wind. I had no idea how long the book was going to be, I had only a vague idea of where I was going with it, I didn't even know if I would finish it. But I jumped in anyway. (And by the way, don't ask where the word "Acktorek" came from. I haven't the faintest idea.)

Normally, I'd let story ideas simmer awhile. Even before I got into the writing how-to. This was because when I'd just jumped into half-baked ideas, I'd run out of steam after a chapter or two, if I even got that far. So it's rather a miracle that I actually finished Acktorek and finished relatively strong.

Now, that does mean that there are a lot of plot holes. When I started the book, I had the idea that there were these beings from another world, called Acktorek, who had accidentally come to another planet in our universe, and were trying to use Carla as a portal to go home. But they were otherwise peaceful. Basically, the idea of the original Acktorek was like if hobbits came through a portal and landed on Mars. Mitchell was actually going to use that analogy to explain it to Emma. I tried to make that scene follow my original conception, didn't work. Mitchell's a much nicer guy than I'd originally thought.

I discovered much along the way. For instance, the other-world race isn't called Acktorek. They're the Zambina, and it's the company Mitchell works for that's called Acktorek. And the Zambina aren't trying to go home, they're trying to come here. But Carla as a portal generator? That's what the whole story is built around.

The dynamics of Emma and Mitchell's relationship evolved in a way I didn't expect. Mostly because I couldn't break through her walls enough to get her to voluntarily go on a date with him. But I like the progression better the way it turned out. It does need work, though. There's a lot about the book that's messy. Like my lack of knowledge of how the portals work until over halfway through. And a Certain Character not knowing anything about certain events that I later discovered he knew ALL about. But that's why it's a rough draft.

And honestly, blazing that trail of discovery is what I love most about writing a book. It's so much work to plan it all out ahead of time. Not that writing a book isn't work, or shouldn't be work. But in my devotion to having everything figured out ahead of time, I forgot how much fun it is to make it up as I go along. To discover new things at every twist and turn. To let a story flow organically the way it wants to be told. The best stuff happens when you just write. I think I've finally kicked my analytical side out of the creative process. Its job is to clean up the mess that my runaway imagination creates. And strangely enough, my runaway imagination creates less of a mess when my analytical side stays out of it.

Now on to the Espionage sequel!

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