First off, I'd like to drop a plug (again) for Writing Excuses. If you are an author, you should be listening to every episode of this when they come out on Sunday. All the panelists are extremely knowledgable regarding the publishing industry, writing, and nearly every combination of those two you could imagine. They also do well in getting excellent guests that provide even more insight into writing and how to best approach, write, and sell your story. Plus, they've been nominated for a Hugo several times, which means it's quality.
I wanted to make this plug because an episode three weeks ago, The Hollywood Formula, is probably one of the most interesting Writing Excuses episodes yet. Basically Lou Anders from Pyr books does an excellent job in breaking down the basic formula used by Hollywood to pack their stories with an emotional punch. Basically, it's a system that has been found to best resonate with viewers in terms of characters, plots, and pacing. Most movies in Hollywood follow this formula to a degree, but it's main focus is that every story has a protagonist, an antagonist, and a relationship character. These three play off each other throughout the various acts in a certain formula in nearly every Hollywood film.
Point being: it was extremely interesting, but it also made me take a look back on my books to try to figure out who was who (or if the books even had these characters or followed the formula). The general idea is that the protagonist has a goal, and the antagonist (who is not necessarily the "bad guy") plays against these goals.
Humoring my own work for a second, I took a look at Steelgods 1, mostly because it was fresh on my mind. The protagonist was easy: Cevan, our viewpoint. But who was the antagonist?
(note: possible Steelgods 1 spoilers)
Well, Cevan's ultimate goal in Steelgods (and the entire series) can be summed up that he wants to live a normal life. The whole "Destroyer of the World" thing, having to always run away, the troubles with his family; he just wants it all gone and back to how it was before this all exploded. So who is the one ruining this goal?
Well, the book starts with the Peacemakers (the jerks saying Cevan is the Destroyer and hunting him down) kidnapping Devent and Rosemary, Cevan's step-siblings, and holding them ransom for Cevan's life. Cevan ends up training in a secluded town with a smithgirl named April, leaving her and getting into all sorts of trouble before confronting the Peacemaker in an attempt to save his family. Then a bunch of other stuff happens which I won't say because I don't want to go that deep into spoilers.
The thing is, when I tore this book apart, I began to realize something: the Peacemaker might not actually be the antagonist. It's true he is hindering Cevan's goal, but if you really boiled it down, the real ones who are keeping Cevan from having a normal life are Devent and Rosemary. They refuse to let him settle down, even when all three of them are given the offer at the end of the book. Because they are insistant on carting him around they end up getting captured, which also messes up the good thing he had going with April. While they are trying to keep him alive, they are basically thwarting his direct goals. Devent and Rosemary could be the antagonists in Steelgods 1.
This is further accented by the fact they are most assuredly the antagonists in Steelgods 2, but that's a different story altogether (literally).
So who is the relationship character? This is the one that is with the hero the whole time, who helps slowly persuade him/her towards a sort of final conclusion.
My first guess was April, even though Cevan leaves her, because she stays on his mind. But as I thought about it, I realized it could perhaps also be the Peacemaker (either the individual or the group as a whole). They force him to realize who he is, which is something he fights against the entire series. And at the end of the book, Cevan comes to that realization (at least to a better extent than he had at the very beginning). Maybe April and the Peacemaker are some sort of joint relationship character, tag-teaming. Who knows.
Enough self indulgence, but I found that interesting.
With that in mind, I actually structured the general ideas regarding my characters for my next dark fantasy project (which finally has a title) on this three character formula. And, when I did this, I came to a realization: the person I thought was the protagonist was actually very much the relationship character, and the relationship character is the protagonist! It was actually pretty shocking for me, but it fits regarding the plot I had considered. This formula also helped me iron out a good number of details I still had in limbo regarding this plot, which is good.
Oh, and I also got a title for it (woo woo), finally. Book #8 will be...
Naught but Glass
Cool title, right? Yes? No? Well, I like it. It fits what happens, and so we'll take it.
I also realized this book is extremely political. It's a good deal different than any of my previous books (though it might be more in like with Where Gods and Mortals Dance; both have very little magic and focus primarily on political conflicts), especially considering this is my first book ever where the deities don't directly have any influence on the story. Yes, I'm finally going to actually attempt writing a book where some god doesn't play a major role in everything. Granted, I thought Effulgent Corruption was going to be that way (I even killed the stupid gods so they wouldn't show up) and the jerks somehow managed to creep their way back into the story.
I'm also going to try my damnedest to make sure this book stays short; I'm shooting for between 100-150k at the most. The good part about this it it means I might actually finish it before the year ends. The bad news is...I'm going to have to try really hard to keep it short.
Aside from that, I'm currently plotting the basics, re-reading Steelgods 1 and hopefully submitting it soon, getting ready to attend World Fantasy in San Diego, and working. So here's hoping everything turns out for the best.
That's all from me.