What Did I Learn This Time?

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of Toni Comes Home. You can, if you want to, read it here.

You’re more than welcome to give it a shot, and if you do, I’d very much appreciate your thoughts on it. However, you can probably find better ways to use your time. The story has some good bits, and I’m happy I wrote it, but it also has some serious flaws.

That’s why I’m happy I wrote it. I feel like I learned some important things and that I gained some useful experiences. I’ll try and sum that up here in this post.

Things I learned:

  1. It’s good if the reader understands the character’s motivations.
  2. Not everyone will know the words I’m using.
  3. I’m not yet good enough at conversations to make one last the entire second two thirds of the story.

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Character Motivation

There is a reason for Toini to return to Kul Viller – her hometown. That reason is explained in the seventh scene of the story. The story itself has nine scenes. I don’t feel that waiting that long to reveal Toini’s motivation for coming home is very nice. I should have put that in a lot earlier.

Sure, it’s probably natural for the topic to come up in the conversation at the time it does, but it could have been mentioned earlier on in the story. Perhaps Toini and Raoul could have talked about it at some point.

The way it is now, the reader just gets to tag along and see what Toini does, and they don’t have any context to put her actions into. Then when the purpose of Toini’s visit finally is revealed, it turns out it’s not really all that exciting.

Sure, it’s important to Toini, but the reader doesn’t know why it’s important to her. I feel like that’s the main flaw of the story, and it’s something I will be addressing in the next version of it.

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Strange Words

I used the word paladin in the story without explaining what it is. I’m personally very familiar with the word and I have a clear understanding of what it means. It didn’t even occur to me that others might not know the word.

It turned out at least two of the people who read the story didn’t know it. One of them looked the word up and figured out the rest on their own. The other kept on reading, hoping for an explanation, and then stopped when no explanation came.

Being unfamiliar with the word, which is very defining for the main character, in combination with the lack of character motivation made the story confusing and lacking in purpose for the reader.

Imagine it yourself. You’re reading a story about someone and it turns out they are a <something> but you’re not sure what that something is, only that it’s kind of important. On top of that, you don’t know what the character wants to achieve or why they’re doing the things they do. It doesn’t sound like a very fun thing to read – unless off course that’s intentional, but that wasn’t the case here.

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Too Much Talking

I really like writing conversations. I think it’s good fun, and I think it’s a great way to get to know a character. I enjoy it.

Unfortunately, I still need more practice. The bulk of Toini Comes Home is taken up by the conversation between Toini and her sister, and it goes on for quite a while.

I’ve written long conversations before, but I don’t think I’ve done one that’s quite this long. The further it went on, the more I felt like I was repeating myself. I felt like I kept using the same old tired beats over and over again.

There’s a lot of sighing. There’s a lot of raised eyebrows, grins, and eyes sparkling with mischief. I think that within a reasonable limit a bit of repetition can be good, but I feel like passed that limit by a pretty wide margin.

I need to break the conversations up and have something happen between them. Maybe move them to a different location, or add some new props for the characters to deal with.

I’ve often had my characters drink alcohol while chatting. It’s easy. They got a glass of some kind to play with and they get drunker and drunker, meaning the conversation changes and there’s a limit to how long you can keep going.

In this case, Toini and Paivi had a pint of beer each, and then Paivi went to get coffee instead. It kind of worked for a bit, but in the end I don’t feel like it was enough.

For now, the best course of action is probably to not add too much talking at once, an to try and break it up a little more in between.

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What’s Next?

I’ll soon start on the outline for the next version of this story. It will be about the same event, but it will be a very different story. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to address the concerns from this version without overcompensating too much in the other direction.

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What Did I Learn This Time?

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