I'm home and back to the grindstone this week, but I promised I'd at least let you know what I worked on for fun.
I spent the most time trying to write a dungeon-style novel of the sort that's popular in web novels nowadays, where the primary action comes from the hero progressing through a dungeon and leveling up. I enjoy reading them, they seem fun to write, and they also seemed easy--if I came up with something, I figured I could actually post it.
But uh...it turns out that when I tried to cut out the parts of the dungeon-crawl genre I didn't like, and add in the stuff I liked, I was just plotting another novel. Whenever I tried to just dive in and write off the top of my head, I couldn't do it--who is my main character? What are they after? Why does the dungeon work like a video game? There has to be some sort of logic to it.
It was fun trying, though, so it fulfilled its objective.
Then I spent some time working on a story where the hero actually accepted the villain's offer of employment (quite a few of you suggested something that got my mind jogging along these lines, including Anil, JP, and Alex). My first scene had the hero walking through the dark lord's burning fortress, and the dark lord actually persuades him to join. The hero was so demoralized by his treatment at the hands of the good guys that he was ready to accept a better offer.
Problem was, he had almost defeated the evil army already. Now that he's switching sides, he's the underdog again, despite his personal power.
...I've read things with similar stories before, as I'm sure have you, but it was fun to work on. It raised a few questions, too: is that the right place to start, or should I take the reader through his journey of being worked and exploited by the light side? Is this a standalone or a series? What series of events leads to an actual video-game style confrontation between the good guy and the bad guy? How does the world work that this became necessary?
Cheese Doodle, Adarsh, and a few other people suggested writing with other author's copyrighted characters and concepts (which I could do since I'm not planning to publish any of this). I tried it, but I couldn't quite crack it.
More specifically, I made a roster for a big 2v2 tournament with famous fighters from all throughout fiction, so that I could pair up people who would never meet and imagine their interactions. Locke Lamora (Lies of Locke Lamora) + Saber (Fate/Stay Night) vs. Parson Gotti (Erfworld) + Kratos (God of War), that sort of thing.
I tried to set up each pair for character conflict and then pit them against a similar team, in the hopes that I could draw some sort of inspiration from imagining their interactions.
Didn't help much. Either I didn't feel capable of writing the characters well enough to model their interactions believably (Parson), or they're so simple they didn't teach me anything (Kratos). There's probably some sort of fanfiction-driven exercise here that I would enjoy, but I couldn't quite get there.
Reddan, I loved the idea of an invent-ery where things are spontaneously invented, but I didn't do anything with it. I'm sorry, I have failed you.
And everybody who suggested meta ideas about a writer writing about writing...that's too convoluted for me. What if the story gets too close to reality and comes to life?
Thanks to everyone who left suggestions! I really did read them all during my vacation, even if I didn't reply.
The Knight Progress:
"I couldn't leave it all to the power of friendship."
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Hey, what about those short stories you claim to have already written?
Apparently they're kept here!