Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Writing Political

Apologies for missing the weekend post. It is week six of the quarter and things are busy. A full working draft of a major paper is due tomorrow, I have a midterm on Thursday morning, and there's a lot of small background stuff that needs to get done. Also applying for jobs in Germany, but I have a good support system for that so I'm less panicked about it than I would be otherwise.

A song that I've been listening to on repeat, in both the English and French versions, for the past hour and a half:

MIKA - Elle me dit + Emily (French/English mashup) from Brainwasher on Vimeo.
Elle me dit / Emily - Mika


On Friday I stayed up until 0400 and finally, finally finished the UM Graz section, which means that yes, the huge major climactic scene of the story is written. I know it doesn't strike the right tone that I want it to--I want an eye of the storm effect, but for that to be meaningful you have to see some of the storm, even if from a distance. In general, the things that I write come out less intense and immediate than when I first imagine them. This isn't just a problem with the last scene that I wrote: the story until that point needs to escalate. More fire and brimstone before they get to the climax.

Two more sections to go until the end of the story: Vienna and Epilogue. I have five weeks of the quarter left, and Spring Break, so I can't slack and might have to shorten Vienna to make it. But it seems that if I can make myself sit down with the story on a weekend night, I can get out over a thousand words in a session. This is the opposite MO of the one that I usually promote (write a little, more often). But six classes + competition team = very little time during the week.

I think I'll make it. If nothing else, I can throw myself into the writing during Spring Break to finish before I go to Germany. I haven't even started thinking about what I'll write there--maybe short stories? I don't know. When you've been living in a story for two years it's strange thinking about other writing projects that are not yet close to critical mass.

On Saturday I went home for dinner to celebrate Lunar New Year. It was good to see my mom, sister, and cat again (my dad was out of town). Sometimes at school it's hard to remember that there's anything outside of school that matters. Looking at people at school, it's hard to remember that they have a story from before they landed here; and it is just as easy to forget that in relation to yourself.

The girl who started writing Ubermadchen in 2014 is vastly different from the person who is working on it now. I won't really be able to talk about this until the story is done, but I think I've become more political since then. A major reason I chose UM over another writing project was because I was disappointed in myself for having such male-dominated casts for most of my other long works. The racial/ethnic diversity of the cast was because a major facet of the magic in this universe is that magical talent is randomly distributed, and it's just that only the ruling classes get it trained. Marilla was lesbian because it just seemed to fit her.

Now, it isn't entirely different. The cast demographics are justifiable in-story, and Marilla (the viewpoint character) deliberately does not get on political soapboxes (although Josefina does). But I'm keeping it in the background of my mind, what it means to have a troop of five female-assigned educated outlaws saving the day by incorporating magical lessons learned from a variety of sources. In revision I'm going to have to consider the political context of the story more carefully, as well as how the events of the story may riff off current events.

But--I can't have this in the forefront of my mind as I write. Maybe other writers can, but I can't. When the one romance I depict is between the metal-magic tank of the group (Katya) and a compassionate, bookish nerd (Levi), the question in my head is not "how can I make this more feminist" but rather "what interaction makes sense given these characters' personalities?" Not that "how can I make this more feminist" is a bad question to ask--just not one that helps me in the moment.

It is a question that I'm asking in relation to Orsolya, however, but even then it's more of a proxy question for "what is going on in the story that is out of character?" Maybe that's what I should do while in Germany, plan out the revision of Orsolya, because the story as written does not go in a way that I like or that makes sense, and the story needs to expand. It's going to get political, and I think that's a theme that shows up that reveals my naivete: how often powerful individuals who don't even work within the system utterly disrupt the status quo. "Screw the rules, I have power."

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