The Great Escape Unedited: Why Fics Stall

I’ve about hit the end of what I had written of The Great Escape. The rest is mostly notes – lots of notes – and some snippets of dialogue. When this fic stalled, it stalled hard.

So, given I don’t think I’m going to be able to overcome inertia and get it restarted anytime soon, I thought I’d at least lay out why I think it stalled. In the interests of, “Here’s a potential Problem when writing that needs to be avoided or fixed. Somehow.”

Long story short, too many moving parts. Way too many moving parts, in characters, plot, and locations.

Characters is the obvious one. The Avengers have six-plus people to keep track of, given you also need to figure in Pepper, random New Yorkers, and stray SHIELD agents coming out of the woodwork. The Sekirei-related characters… meep. Minato’s bunch alone is a dozen people to juggle. Much less the other Sekirei and Ashikabi running around the Big Apple. And then there’s HYDRA loose in the whole mess, because they would be.

I’ve found out the hard way that no matter how carefully I write, I can only keep track of so many people at once. Big battle scenes, no. Complex political/social interactions where A influenced B who’s after C who’s trying to backstab D because of A…. Yeah. Also nope.

Plot ties back to the multiple groups and goals involved. Here’s just some of them. Avengers: Make contact and keep NYC still standing. Minato’s bunch: Stay alive, keep other people alive and free, sneak back into Japan to break Chiho loose. SHIELD: Try to come out on top. HYDRA: Grab Sekirei. Minaka: Screw over everybody. Zed Team: Survive the con intact….

Aaaand then locations. I read a book on moviemaking on a budget once, and it basically said every location you add to the movie takes more time, money, and aggravation. That goes for stories, too. NYC, Avengers tower, the SF convention, the flock’s hideout, more NYC, possibly Japan… geh.

The main problem is that I can’t keep track of who’s where and who’s doing what to whom enough to make sure everything makes sense. The only thing I can think of that could solve this problem would be something like I pulled off with the Logan/Sanada omake – find a way to break certain characters off into subgroups/plots that for some reason just don’t end up interacting with the rest of the mess. I’m not sure how to disentangle it at this point, though.

I have to say that since I stalled out on TGE years back, whenever I write, I’ve tried to strip down story complexity and character numbers so I don’t hit that wall so hard. Because it does no good to make a great and complex braid of story if you can’t finish it.


22 thoughts on “The Great Escape Unedited: Why Fics Stall

  1. I love reading fanfiction, but I’ve found that there are very-very few authors who both manage to create stunningly original plotlines that skip all the usual Hollywood handwaving of making the characters act out of character to move the plot and also manage to complete their stories. You always manage the former and usually manage the latter. Thank you.

    You are the only fanfic author I read whose works I like well enough for me to learn enough about a new fandom that I’ve either never heard of or never cared to follow specifically for the ability to read and understand all of your stories.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Yeah, that’s basically a huge issue with me.

    For a long time in RL, I’ve had issues with both limited capacity for complexity and ambitions well beyond that capacity. I had cycles of overload, dropping everything, putting myself together and jumping into as many projects as possible. I may have finally broken that and started to transition to a more stable way. There were a lot of skills that I didn’t learn, and starting to learn is helping. ATM I’m in a bit of a needing to drink from a firehose situation where those are concerned. I’m having some success.

    For creative writing, I have a combination of bunnies that like situations are especially challenging to do concisely, and a level of ability that can regularly handle the complexity of a vignette. I’ve had a lot of success closing that gap, but that is comparing current ability and ability when much younger. Not in comparison to the gap.

    Current project to implement, I’ve trimmed down to two major viewpoints. I’m going to write A character’s plot as a series of episodes, with the secondary and tertiary characters mostly sized to fit the episodes. Lester Dent’s formula is one of the guiding documents. Then I’m going to go back and write the B character plot episodes. Then revise. Then write the epilogue.

    Previous major project still in need of implementation has a) overall objectives mostly defined b) a database to help me track characters and other things. c) the first few arcs in outline status. Current planned process involves a) record keeping b) brainstorming future arc outlines for awesome c) revising and rewriting arc outlines until they make sense and are really awesome d) writing the arc to the outline e) examining work and revising plan as changes are needed or awesome.

    Thing that feels next is deliberately not being studied. Because I should be frying non creative writing fishes.

    Which means that, especially when I’m sicker, I’ve been finding myself working on ‘thing that feels next’ a piece at a time.

    Anyway, industrial creative writing can be worked on with the techniques of industrial engineering. Continuous improvement.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow that does sound complicated.

    And it sounds like The Great Escape has gotten too big for one story.

    Maybe the Chiho rescue should be moved to a squeal? Because being meeting each other without killing each other, surviving the Discipline Squad and whatever else either Minaka or HYDRA decides to throw at our heroes . . .

    Maybe you can see which group you can shuffle off into their own one-shot (or something) separate from the main story like Logan and Sanada and have them get integrated with the main plot at a later date or in a sequel story. The Zed Team sounds like they would work for that.

    *shrug* Just a few ideas. Ultimately it’s your story and you decide what it is best for it. And your sanity. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m really sorry to hear that this might be stalled! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I mean, I understand the issues and why, but that doesn’t mean I won’t cross my fingers and hope you might continue this amazing work one day. Never say never! One day when you least expect it, inspiration will strike, and before you know it you’ll have written two more chapters. ๐Ÿ˜€ I wish you the very best of luck on your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. To borrow from experience with RPGs, this is where an assistant (or more than one) specifically tasked with “keeping track of all the people/events/locations/etc” comes in handy. Not just a Beta, who’s job is to make sure “the story itself is good, and you aren’t messing anything up”, but instead someone who deals with making sure all the trees are in good condition, and ignores the forest.

    One of the RPGs I played in had a GM who ran the game, and an assistant GM who just dealt with all the minutia like making the npcs, the maps, etc. The assistant’s job wasn’t to figure out what would happen, just to hand the tools to the GM so the GM could do so. That game was the one with the most separate parts and plotlines I’ve ever played in, and they actually worked.

    In a less formalized fashion, most of the games I play in I end up helping out in lesser fashion, just because my memory is good at keeping track of the relationship between disparate factors (even if I do have trouble with exact details, simply remembering “this and that are related, and there’s that other odd little quirk” is useful) especially if they otherwise seem unrelated. That, and helping keep track of maps/distances (which despite my normal problem with remembering numbers, is something I do well at). And this usually helps games run more smoothly, even if it’s just a minor bit of effort I’m providing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A while back I looked up how to be a secretary. The book said that it was good practice to have two jobs covered by separate people at meetings. The chair directs the meeting, moderates, etc. The secretary takes minutes, and in some cases prepares and distributes the agenda. Separate people focusing on where the meeting is going and where it has been can give better results.

      There are writers that effectively have a staff to help them manage the complexity of their writing processes. Weber’s being on the formal end. There are writers who personally manage an absurd amount of complexity, and then also bounce things off fans in their forum.

      Of course, authors have huge variations in effective practices. Some folks would have an easier and more successful time on their own than they would by breaking up the work and delegating parts.

      There is at least one discipline that has a major purpose of managing the complexity of projects that are far too much for one person.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I know for gamemastering, I tend to work best with 5 or less npcs at a time. Amusingly enough, I prefer larger groups of players then most people, likely because I’m better at dealing with them separately when they break into groups. The nice thing is, as you get more experience, you get this stable of new characters that you can slot in, or work the three item rule easier(For any speaking role: One thing they have that’s important, one reason to work with, one reason to work against)

    That said, yeah, there were a lot of moving pieces in this fic, and too many with close names, which also makes it trickier. It’s completely understandable. It almost feels like it should be four different fics.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I’ve seen other writers comment that the more POV characters you have the longer the story will be, because each POV makes the writer think they need to make a story arc for that character. Would picking one POV per crowd help cut things down? So, Tony/Bruce/Steve/someone else for Avengers; One of the Sekirei; One Zed team… Then there are three lines to follow, not 18.

    Or what Seawasp/Ryk Spoor is doing with his fantasy – he’s planning three trilogies of interlinked stories. The first trilogy is published, and we see characters from as-yet-unpublished-stories cross paths with the current protaganists, but those stories aren’t (quite) written yet. When they are, they will, I gather, be a braided overall story arc. So for thTGE, break out each thread and write them separately. Figure out when finished if they can be blended, or are better off separate.

    Just some suggestions gained from listening over the years, feel free to ignore.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just that there is a third. The second IIRC seems set to cover Xavier’s (and friends) adventure. (At least he’s added more Xavier to PARADIGMS LOST than the original edition of Jason’s adventures did.) The third I haven’t seen him say much about, but Kiri’s sister will get her own adventure and I’m betting that’s in #3. And the whole seems to be aimed at taking out Virigar, who is a very satisfactory villain to be aiming at.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. As long as I’ve known of him, Ryk has always had a long term plot objective of offing Virigar. He may have worked out a different way of arranging the bits over time, which would tie back to the topic. He has used the setting for his fairly extensive gaming, so he probably had quite a bit of stories he considered established canon that he didn’t want to change all willy nilly.

        Thank you.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. The first was the Balanced Sword (Phoenix). The second is The Spirit Warriors (Xavier and his four friends which we see briefly in the Phoenix series). The third is Godswar, and the main characters are Kyri’s Aunt Victoria, her little sister Urelle, and the bodyguards they hired early on, Ingram Camp-Bel and Quester.


      4. With respect to “offing Virigar”, the three trilogies, or at least the first two, are necessary to introduce characters who will be involved in said offing of that monster. His actual death will be at the end of the third (or possibly fourth) Jason Wood sequence of stories, which I tend to call “The Grand Finale” but which will likely be titled _Wolf’s Dominion_.


      5. Nice to see you again. How’d you find Vathara’s?

        Are you more likely to bring out the remaining trilogies and Wood stories through Baen or indy?


      6. Missed this reply, sorry about the long delay.

        “Nice to see you again. Howโ€™d you find Vatharaโ€™s?”

        In this case, egogoogling. I like to see if any of my books, characters, etc., get discussed outside of things people send me or Amazon reviews. ๐Ÿ™‚

        “Are you more likely to bring out the remaining trilogies and Wood stories through Baen or indy?”

        Two books, _French Roast Apocalypse_ (start of a series called “Fall of Veils” conceived by my wife Kathleen and written by the two of us) and _Demons of the Past: REVELATION_ (start of a space opera trilogy “Demons of the Past”, set in the same universe as the Phoenix and Jason Wood stories but only about 18,000 years after the Fall of Atlantaea) were published by Double Dragon.

        For various reasons, subsequent books will be coming from Eric Flint’s new Ring of Fire Press. That includes the remaining volumes of Demons and future ones in Fall of Veils, as well as (I would expect) Godswar, Spirit Warriors, and — coming soon — _Legend_, my own superhero novel.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. One of Tom Simon’s big essays is about the problem of writing a big complicated epic fantasy. Either you prune back the characters and situations (Yup, we’ve left the Forest of Night, so we won’t hear about their doings anymore, until the last chapter), or you end up stagnating in a Wheel of Time situation.

    Tolkien almost let things get too complicated, in LoTR. But if you pay attention, you’ll see that he actually kept pruning back quite a bit. Part of the power of the Mordor chapters is that you’ve gotten used to having all these people around, and suddenly it’s nobody but Sam and Frodo (and Gollum and Sauron, lurking in the background, along with a few orcs and monsters who get encountered almost as a relief from the solitude).

    The obvious thing to do, to reduce complexity violently, would be to confront the BIg Bad, one on one. He’s so in love with his own cleverness that he might do it for you.

    I think it would work better if you didn’t do it too super-quickly — if you got some people out of danger and narrowed it down to a strike team for the rest. You could always have people yakking in their earphones for everything else.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love me some goatgaggers. So I try to write the things. But the goatgagger has an even stronger than usual tendency towards unmanageable complexity, so you have to be really on top of your game to excel.

      Dave Drake’s Lord of the Isles is a good example. He basically sticks to the principle of the same five main characters, introducing them each book almost as if they are new, and making the book very nearly stand on its own. (Leary and the Books of the Elements are also a fairly solid example of his series technique.) Okay, maybe not something to jump into imitating, but he has a lot of craft to learn from.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. They were talking about slowing down on Whatever WNYC’s 9pm Wednesday night show is. Apparently setting things down incomplete and walking a way for a while is a good thing. When things are incomplete you mull them over in the background of your mind. So maybe some day you’ll comeback and cut the Gordian Knot of who’s doing what

    Liked by 1 person

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