Friday, December 12, 2014

Dark and Light (Balance Beam)

When one looks into the greatest stories of our time, there is always a balance between the darkness and the light. There's good and there's evil, there's serious and funny, there's death and life. It's always a delicate balance that's surprisingly difficult to achieve.

As some of you know, I've taken the month off from my main story (The Fate Machine) and been dabbling in fanfiction. Fanfiction, if you don't know, is great for stretching writing techniques and trying new things. There's less pressure to write perfectly and you get to play around in someone else's world, and use their characters. It's a low pressure thing I use to relieve stress and explore new ideas.

Currently I'm writing Les Miserables fanfiction. If you're curious, you can follow my Tumblr blog. Currently I've been planning to start on January 1st of this new year, so I have been drowning in paper for the past few weeks as I try and get some of these fics written ahead of time. I've also been plotting out some of the things that are going to happen, and it got me thinking.

Empty chairs at empty tables
If you've ever read Les Mis, seen the movie, or watched the musical, you know it is a very, very, very dark story. The ending is downright depressing. Spoiler alert: everyone dies.
In the words of Flynn Rider, it's "a bit of a downer". In fact, the whole story is just rather downbeat. It's sad. First you have to deal with the oppression of the poor and convicted, then just when things start looking up the people that were supposed to change everything are abandoned to die in the street (which they most certainly do). Then, to cap it all off, there is no happy ending. Yes, two characters get married, but then another one dies and that's where we end (in the Brick, at least. In the musical, we get a happy epilogue that makes everyone cry).

Anyway, it's a sad story. But still, there is some humor. Now, in the Brick, there's not as much, but in the move musical we get some characters that we like to call "comic relief".

Enter the Thenardiers.

This husband-and-wife duo are innkeepers when we first meet them, taking care of one of the leads when she was a child. They actually play a vital role in the story, inbetween all their sleight of hand tricks and mispronunciations of "Cosette". They're meant to be the lightness, even though they're villains. From all the other characters, we only get a little bit of comic relief (Grantaire's poking fun at Marius, some sassy dialogue from Valjean, Javert's hat). The Thenardiers are well placed as a bit of lightness in all of the darkness of the storyline.

Consequentially, they survive and deliver the heavy line that is, "Clear away the barricades, and we're still there!" (Expect a separate blog post on that soon.)

Anyway, I struggle with comic relief. I am a rather humorous person, thanks to my constant melodrama and occasional witty remark, but I struggle to get that across in my writing. I am a serious, flowery writer of prose, and struggle with clever dialogue. In short, I rather fail when I write humor. I'm slowly finding my niche as far as making my writing more fun to read is concerned (blogging has helped a decent bit).

Now, one of the things I forgot when I set out to write Les Miserables fanfiction was that the story is very, very dark and very, very emotional. It is easy to get carried away.
As a writer, I like writing gut wrenching, emotional scenes. I enjoy that. It's how I pass the time when I'm bored.
As a reader, I enjoy reading those scenes, but I also want something lighter. I get tired of reading when it's just bad thing after bad thing after bad thing. It gets predictable. 
Now, one can add fluff to their story, which is fun to write and fun to read, but it gets to be too much.

My preferred method of adding humor is to drop in a subplot that's just really ridiculous. I mean, inside the plot it should make sense, but give said subplot to some really funny characters and watch how they take care of it.

Incidentally, I have been gifted with the perfect character (thanks Victor Hugo!)

Ultra awkward? Check.
Daydreamer? Check.
In love? Triple check.

I've been writing out a subplot dealing with Marius's search for the beautiful girl he happened to see, and it's really been coming along nicely. It's still an important part of the story, but it's also really humorous, largely thanks to some of the other Les Amis's reactions to the various stunts he pulls trying to find the girl again/get her attention. I'm hoping this experience with fanfiction will help me bring some more humor to my other books/endeavors.

It's a really hard balance to reach, where your novel is both serious and entertaining, but in time I hope I'll be able to get there.