I’ve Finished Editing Chapter Three, Again

I just finished one of the longest, hardest editing tasks I’ve ever undertaken.

Several months ago my writing group reviewed the third chapter of my epic, Gods Among Men, entitled …Warns the Ruling Circle,….

They weren’t enamored. I received a long, long, list of recommended changes. I would like to have ignored their suggestions, but that would defeat the purpose of the group. Besides, they were right about the problems.

I spent a couple of months just staring at the list. Making the changes required to address the problems was a staggering challenge. It required snapping the chapter into pieces and reconstructing it almost from the ground up. Characters had to be reworked and scenes completely altered. Finally I bit the bullet and ripped the chapter into pieces and put it back together one word at a time.

For a minor chapter this would have been a tall order, and …Warns the Ruling Circle,…. is no minor chapter. It is the chapter where I introduce the characters who occupy the hero role in my story, and first reference the character who will be the principle villain. This chapter has to work.

(I know, “What was I doing in the first two chapters if not introducing the heros of villians?” I was introducing the protagonist and the anti-hero. That is a subject for another post.)

I must admit, the group, as usual, was right. The reworked chapter is far stronger. It will likely need another editing pass, but I doubt it will need another wholesale makeover. It still has the elements I need for later in the story, but now it reads like something close to a finished work. There are passages that make me feel proud as a writer, including some that wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t been pushed into making these changes.

Now I need to get to work on their suggestions for chapters 1, 2, and 4.

A MacGuffin Is Not Something On McDonald’s Menu.

Alfred Hitchcock described the MacGuffin as an object around which the plot revolves, something the characters care about but which the audience doesn’t. The characters fight for the MacGuffin, betray each other for it, steal for it, kill for it, die for it. It is the One Ring, the Maltese Falcon, the secret plans vital to defeating the Nazi’s, the valuable necklace someone risks prison to acquire.

In my previous post I told of how I first started thinking about my major story, Gods Among Men.

One day I was having a daydream in which I envisioned a dwarf, dressed in armor, carrying a war-axe, creeping through an overgrown forest. Any player of role-playing games can see where this goes. The dwarf is part of a diverse party, there are monsters nearby and a fierce battle ensues. The party’s wizard is isolated, trapped by an Orc warrior, with no hope of escaping. In desperation he reaches into his satchel and…pulls out a .44 Magnum Revolver and shoots the Orc.

Nothing now remains of that original daydream except for the wizard’s satchel. Not the dwarf, orc, wizard, or gun, just the satchel that the gun came from.

Why the satchel? Without going into details of my plot and mythology or the strange path I took in developing both, making the satchel magical made other problems easier to solve. Giving it special properties with well-defined behaviors made plot twists possible that would have been difficult otherwise. The more important and powerful I made the satchel the easier it became for me to write the story.

Of course, once the satchel became a powerful magical item, it became valuable to the characters. Who has it at any given moment becomes important. If the hero loses the satchel, or the wrong person seizes it, that event creates dramatic tension.

Over many years that satchel became the focus of much of the action in Gods Among Men, became the glue that tied the various plot threads together. It went from a minor detail of a daydream to the item characters fight for, betray each other for, steal for, kill for, and die for.

That satchel became my MacGuffin.

In the Beginning…

Herein lies the history of the Magic City Writers and the purpose of this site.

In March of 2008 I attended the OmegaCon Science Fiction and Fantasy convention in Birmingham, Alabama — the Magic City. OmegaCon was not very good overall, but it had numerous literary panels that, as an aspiring author, I found quite enlightening and inspiring. One in particular was on forming a writer’s group. After the convention I formed a group as quickly as possible.

Without naming names, I was able to find a small number of like minded writer’s and we began critiquing each other’s works on a regular basis. We later advertised for new members under the name Magic City Writers.

In March of 2009, Birmingham was host to ImagiCon, a smaller but much better run Science Fiction and Fantasy convention. There I attended a lecture entitled The 4 C’s. The focus of this seminar was on building a sense of community around your work, and they suggested starting a blog about your work.

Which brings us to this, the first post of The Magic City Writers Blog.

At least once a week I will try to post something about writing in general and Science Fiction and Fantasy writing in particular. I shall regularly focus upon my own works in progress and attempts to become published. Occasionally I shall include excerpts from my epic, multi-volume, story, Gods Among Men, with the hope that the post will inspire comments and discussion. I also encourage other members the Magic City Writers to post as often as they can.

I honestly have no idea where this may lead, but I hope the journey will be fun for all of us.

— R.B. Davidson