Wednesday, 19 February 2014

When 'Good Enough' isn't Good Enough

Struck suddenly the other night with a burst of inspiration (and stomach flu--but never mind about that) I began reworking the opening of Holger Danske: The Graphic Novel.  It seems appropriate that a graphic novel would have a fairly different tone than a series--and, frankly, I think it is one that I am more comfortable with.  A series needs to have built in stopping points. Each issue needs to advance a wider story arc while telling a smaller story within.  I think our story works as a series, but I think it will be better without losing the momentum on the wider story.  Plot driven stories are all about momentum and serialized stories are often lacking in it.  It is the nature of the medium.  A series must follow rabbit trails and tangents while the larger story unfolds in the background in order to carry a smaller story in the immediate.  But there is always a somewhat frustrating sense that the larger story might never be resolved--or, that like that old fable, perhaps the Emperor has no clothes and the plenitudinous build up of a larger conflict is all smoke and no fire.  Television shows often suffer from this fate.  Lots of talk.  Lots of build up.  Lots of talking to the Smoking Man in the shadows--but no satisfying narrative resolution.

And so, despite the inevitable delay, I am pleased to make the changes because I think it will result in a tighter story.  The new opening has a decidedly different approach, in which an intangible whiff of mysticism begins to permeate the reality of Man the Rational Monster.  It feels like digging deeper into the psyche of the story which can only be a good thing for this project--despite the scary places it might take me.  I certainly didn't set out to write horror, but when you find it in the human heart, it is simply no good to pretend it isn't there.   Telling a story is a bit like an archeological dig.  You go deeper and uncover some half buried structure, some truth about human nature.  You brush it out carefully and begin to see how it informs everything and that you wrote it already without even really comprehending it on a conscious level.  It reveals that truth wears a mystical garment--written in your mind and written on the page without intention.

This is the sort of thing that gets me excited about telling stories.  Before I had ever written one, I used to wonder how an author managed to weave so many interesting themes into the narrative.  How did they manage to control each thread to direct it into its place in the tapestry?  How did they keep it from becoming a unintelligible snarl? The answer turns out to be a lot of hard work.  But it is the hard work of delicately brushing out the hidden details that only emerge after many drafts and countless rounds of editing.   That being the case, I suppose I am glad that Holger Danske hasn't been published in some earlier iteration. Sure, the story may have worked--it might even have been pretty good.  But according to someone smart, good is the enemy of great.  So, it's great that our story never went anywhere while it was good.

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