My code is trying to kill me

Writing experiment 2

13.08.2019In Writing

The first experiment went quite well, I got a nice story from such a boring theme. Let's do that again.

The random article

Gerd-Liv Valla - Nice, a character

  • a Norwegian former trade union leader - Her trade union history could fit nicely to the setting of Shellville as I have this trade theme
  • resigned in 2007 as a result of the so-called Valla affair - An affair - interesting
  • Valla was politically active in a small communist group. The group split, Valla supported the pro-Stalin faction within the group - Great! Communist are always fun. I lived in a communist country and there are still some supporters around me. I'm very against their agenda, leaning on libertarian side, so it would be a good practice to try to make a good case for communism/socialism and put my own beliefs to test.
  • She was accused of harassment and of authoritarian management - There's nice duality here. Aligned with communism and trade unions, she's advocating workers' rights and then being accused of harassment

The approach

Characters are much harder to write than plot. I tried to write some random character scene but I couldn't. To write a paragraph about your character, you have to know everything about them to make it work: their motivations, fears, desires and what do you want to put them through. I was stuck for month on this scene so I need to change my approach. Instead of a scene, I will try to flesh out this character a little. I'll use John Truby's seven key steps of story structure from his book The Anatomy of Story.


Following Truby's advice, I'll start with the most important thing: self-revelation.

I heard that before - George R.R. Martin often quote this:

"The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself" ― William Faulkner. And I didn't really understand it before, but now I think I do. And I get now why I admire Martin's Song of Ice and Fire so much. It's a compilation of self-revelations all weaved into one story.

Why is this so important? If you start with the character's back-story, motivation and desires you can get an interesting character at the beginning of the story. But if their motivation do not lead them to interesting self-revelation you either have a boring culmination or you have to artificially change their motivation during the story which can result in an undefined character.

If you start with self-revelation then you defined the most important thing in the story and can adjust beginning of the story to align with the most powerful culmination.

The Character

Let's name the character: Gerdalla. What are my options with her? There are two main possibilities: she could learn that she can't control lives of others and that she has to let them be free or she learns that she can't help people without control over them.

Former sounds preachy because that aligns with my wishes and it's predictable. She could begin as a moderate authoritarian, grow more and more totalitarian but through failures learn to appreciate freedom.

The second version sounds like becoming-a-villain story but she could be good at it. Let's flesh this out.

Psychological Self-Revelation: Gerdalla can't trust people any more. Moral Self-Revelation: People need to be controlled.

  1. Weakness and Need:
    • Psychological Weakness and Need: Gerdalla is too inexperienced and too trusting.
    • Psychological Need: Gerdalla needs to toughen up and learn to think on her own.
    • Moral Weakness: Her inability to manage allows unscrupulous people to take advantage of people she could protect.
    • Moral Need: Gerdalla needs to find a way to protect honest people and punish those who exploit them.
  1. Desire:
    • She wants to become a stronger person and have more power to organize better society.
  1. Opponent:
    • Those who hold power that she needs.
    • Organization that wants to organize society differently. It can reveal itself at first as just a bunch of traders but it could become more sinister.
  1. Plan:
    • Get more power using her connections with authorities.
    • Organize her domain to protect people.
    • Find out who works again her.
  1. Battle:
    • Conflict with those in power.
    • Conflict with organization.
    • Conflict with honest people who change as soon they get some power.
  1. Self-Revelation:
    • Psychological Self-Revelation: Gerdalla can't trust people any more.
    • Moral Self-Revelation: People need to be controlled.
  1. New Equilibrium:
    • Gerdalla is a pragmatic, cynical ruler.
    • She succeeded in organizing fair society and people are happy.
    • But what she learned about human nature makes her sad and dispirited.