Nanowrimo 2015: 1473

Words per day to finish on time: 1979.

At this rate I will finish on: March 18, 2016.

Well, it’s nice to have statistics that update themselves. It means I can make them change however I want.

I wrote more of my shitty YA werewolf thing and HOLY FUCK IT ACTUALLY SORT OF FEELS LIKE A STORY NOW

I surprised myself with a little twist today. This scene I’ve been writing, probably the most crucially important plot-point in the story, had been going one particular way. I had an end goal, I had really thin justifications for why that end goal was what it was, and I was going to stick to it. After all, I was here to write something generic and predictable, right? Why bother trying to make it good? I just want it to feel like a story, and the kind of story I was interested in telling was a shitty generic one with lots of predictable contrivance. Nothing wrong with that.

But then I realised that doing this wouldn’t just shake things up: it would shake things up by making the story better.

I can’t tell you exactly what I did, but I can use an example from another story. In this case, I will use the example of City of Bones, and specifically the issue of Clary being the main character when Jace is the one who actually, like, does stuff.

Consider what City of Bones would have been like if Clary had been the one who did the things instead. If instead of watching the fight between Valentine, Jace and Luke at the end of the book, she’d actually participated; if instead of just being dragged from Plot Point A to B by the Shadowhunters, she’d come up with ideas on what to do next on her own and, because she’s the main character, the plot and supporting cast followed her lead. But you can’t do that, because conventionally speaking YA heroines remain seated while their boyfriends stand, and that’s How It’s Done.

It’s a contrivance.

Obviously it’s not just a contrivance; it’s a contrivance that is bound-up in cultural perceptions and expectations of women and girls that make it appear valid and normal and not anything to think about, really, because that’s just the way things are. But really pay attention to that story, if you ever have the desire to read it, and consider that Clary isn’t just the POV character; she’s the heroine. She’s the Special. She’s the one around whom the entire plot revolves; and it does. She is important to the plot, because she is important to Valentine’s plans, just like Harry is important to the plot in Harry Potter because he is instrumental to Voldemort’s plans. Gosh, I wonder why that parallel works so well, end obligatory joke about Cassandra Clare and HP fanfic. Clary should be the one driving the action, not driven there by her Draco in Leather Pants chaperone. It would make the story feel more like a story and less like a fantasy.

Now, if Cassandra Clare set out to tell a fantasy rather than a story, there’s no issue with that. I have issues with stories that are blatant fantasies, which is why I couldn’t get past chapter 3 or 4 of Hounded by Kevin Hearne; using Irish goddesses as fuck-buddy cameos does not sit well with me, especially with a lead protagonist as self-satisfied and wanky as the Iron Druid. But it at least had a lead character who did the things rather than having somebody do them for him; it was the other elements that put me off the story as a whole. It’s not something that makes a story good; it’s something that makes a story feel like a story, in the same way that having a good rhythm and catchy tune makes a song feel like a song rather than a messy noise.

The thing is that, with City of Bones, it would have been seen as subversive to have Clary do the things in a lot of ways – not remotely interesting or progressive ways, but it would have challenged ingrained gender stereotypes about what main characters can and cannot do – not just that, but do and do not do – in the stories that we tell. It would have been subversive, yes, but it would also have made for a story that, ironically, felt more like a traditional story. Because in traditional stories, the main character is the one who does the things.

It’s that kind of “subversion” that I surprised myself with today, the kind that is actually far less progressive than it seems on the surface because, when you look at it closely, it’s actually incredibly traditional. It’s just that certain traditions have a gender-wall around them. And when it comes to storytelling, those walls need to be torn down.

I wasn’t trying to be subversive; I was trying to get at the core of my story. And I succeeded. I still think this story is the most normative thing I’ve written or tried to write or thought of writing since I was a teenager, but maybe not as normative as all that.

Anyway I’m feeling good, and even good-er after updating my Nanowrimo word-count to include the stuff I’d written earlier this year, taking my current total up to 23497.

Also taking my “words written today” count up to 22445, and my daily average to 3356. At this rate I will finish on November 15, 2015.

Guys, I’m on a roll. I’ve got the stats to prove it.

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