AQATSA Status Update
hermoinejean7 says the proper number of chapters for Alexandra Quick and the Stars Above is 42. So I told her I'd aim for that. :) Except I just split a 10K-word chapter into two, so I'm afraid that number is already in the bin. Sorry, hermoinejean7. At 240K words, I am writing chapter 39 now. My goal is to finish in 5 chapters. We'll see.
Chapter 39 is difficult to write because it involves poetry. Multiple forms of poetry. The idea seemed awfully clever before I sat down to try to write it...
Here is another names wordle (as of the 238K mark). I used a Perl script to extract Proper Nouns from the text, but as you can see, it didn't quite work as it extracted a number of other words as well, for reasons of no interest to anyone who doesn't find Perl regexes interesting. Anyway, time spent writing trivial Perl scripts is time not spent writing, so I couldn't be arsed to fix it.
Click for larger image
Characters behaving badly
There is probably a lit-crit term for this, but I just read books, I don't know nothin' about them. It's a game readers sometimes play (and which causes them to analyze the author) where a character does something, or events happen, and the author does not spell out whether they are good or bad, leaving it to the reader to decide. Which I think is fine, except when it causes the readers to mistrust the author.
To give an extreme example: suppose a character is a big fat racist. Most readers will accept this and not assume that the author is a racist. Unless the character seems to be supported by the story, which is to say, nobody ever questions the character's racism, the character never regrets it or suffers as a result of it, and nothing happens to suggest that the character's views are wrong. In an even more extreme case, the character in fact is the protagonist and seems to prosper and even be validated despite being a racist.
(Before anyone gets paranoid or tries to play detective: I have no specific examples in mind here, and the above example was not prompted by anything in particular, though I'm sure many people could think of examples to fit the above description.)
So, people have different theories on what this says about the author and even whether it should matter, and two readers of the same story will likely disagree about the specific message. I would probably side-eye a book in which a racist hero goes through the entire book being happily racist and never paying for it, not because I think all books must be morality plays in which racist characters are always given a comeuppance and taught that Racism Is Wrong, but because it suggests that the racism of the character has gone unexamined by the author. It causes me to question whether the author is even aware that the character is being a racist and that this is a bad thing.
This game gets played a lot with J.K. Rowling. A lot of it is because people bring so many interpretations of the books into their reading of them, and then become incensed with Rowling based on (a) the subtext they perceive in the books, and (b) their assumptions about how intentional this subtext was. Some of this is valuable and interesting analysis. Rowling seems to consider herself something of a feminist, and meant Ginny to be a firecracker of a character who'd totally hold her own as a witch and as Harry's equal, but in the view of many readers (including me) she failed to make Ginny much more than a prize waiting for the hero at the end. I'm pretty sure Rowling doesn't see it that way (it is hard to see your own characters through others' eyes), and it was one of the things I found disappointing. But I've also seen some rather absurd inferences about Rowling and how she thinks and how her books "failed" (mostly from Snape fans and Harry/Hermione shippers).
Alexandra, as we all know, is not always the most likeable person. I like her, obviously. But I've seen some readers call her an "unlikeable bitch," and a lot of people want her to be slapped a few times. (If you're one of those people, you'll get your wish in AQATSA.) I think "unlikeable bitch" is kinda harsh -- she's just a kid, and she does have likeable qualities, I think. But that is for the reader to decide.
Anyway, every author occasionally writes Unfortunate Implications into the story, the kind that make you wonder whether the author is aware of them. I'm sure I've done a few of those. And then there are the implications that the author writes into the story with full knowledge, and no judgment.
Boy, this is rambly. Okay, let me give a specific example. In AQATSA, there is a scene where Alexandra punches another kid. Specifically, a boy.
Now, she's done this before. But usually her brawls have more or less been "fair fights," or even unfair against her. When she punches Billy Boggleston or one of the Rashes, they're quite capable of punching her back, and they have in the past.
In this situation, the boy she punches arguably deserves it, but it's still a completely inappropriate response on her part. She's getting too old to just haul off and punch people who piss her off. Especially in this situation, where -- while she's not consciously taking advantage of the fact -- she knows the likelihood that the boy is going to punch her back is practically zero.
I don't want to get into a big gender discussion, but it's a situation where it's pretty clear that, if it were a boy punching a girl in the same situation with the same provocation, almost everyone would see the boy as an abusive asshole with a violent temper.
And basically, Alexandra gets away with it. Oh, there are consequences, but they're more long-term and indirect.
So for some reason, I have been turning this scene over in my head. I don't think it pushes Alexandra past the Moral Event Horizon -- in the greater scheme of things, she's still just a 14-year-old girl, she loses her temper, and she lashes out.
I can see, though, how some readers might wonder if I'm letting Alexandra get away with shit that isn't cute and isn't funny because she's my main character and therefore it's okay for her to go around punching people.
Alexandra has certainly done more dangerous and foolish things than this, and in fact she does some things in AQATSA that are, to my mind, worse than throwing a punch at a jerk. I guess the difference is that she gets called out on those other things, or pays for them one way or another, whereas this is an episode of unpleasantness that just happens, and there's no immediate sign that she regrets it or realizes it was wrong.
I was even working on a conversation in my head in which someone does call her out on what she did. But it struck me as too anvilicious. I don't want readers thinking I'm giving Alexandra moral immunity ("It's okay when she does it because she's Alexandra fucking Quick!"), but OTOH, I don't want to feel like I have to justify or clarify every morally ambiguous thing she does to let everyone know that I Get It. So, I dunno. Maybe someone will say something to her about it in the final draft, or maybe I'll just leave it as it is.
Why does Alexandra have white hair?
Why indeed? All I'm saying is, it's not a mistake. ;)
These are different renders with different light sets. One of these days, I will actually master Poser and Photoshop. Oh hell, no I won't. See, I don't even know what makes one set of lights better than another. I have no idea which of these is best. This is why I'm actually paying people to draw characters for me.