Original fiction project – week of 08/28/2011

Dis/inhibition: Still working on final polish edits of manuscript. I just don’t get time for it as often as I’d like with a new story to write and work being busy. I really want to get this out the door before year end. Still working on the website illustrations with the illustration artist. We are up to illustration 3 of 6.

New story: I think asking the Sculptor to read the chapters of the first draft as I write them was a good plan. I have noticed that things I might have gone ahead and “just done” if I’d been writing it on my own I think twice about with an audience. Chapter 5, which I finished this week, is a good example. This chapter brought in two new characters who know a LOT more about the unfolding mystery than other characters I have featured, and for a while now, I have been angsting about how much of their point of view to bring in, because it would spoil the mystery.

As I mentioned last week, I threw out about 2,000 words written in the point of view of one of them, because he knows too much. Most of what he “knows” is guess work, but he’s too much of an insider for his guesses to be all wrong. The other new character, though, is supposed to be the third in a trio of main characters who solve the mystery. His POV is unavoidable. But he had this one “close encounter” in his past, that if recounted too soon, gives too much away.

I went ahead and wrote that encounter anyway as part of chapter 5, then set aside what I assumed was the final version of that chapter I would give to the sculptor. That has been my practice up to now: finish a chapter, but don’t send it off to the Sculptor before I look ahead a little and see if there is anything else I need to establish in the current chapter. It didn’t take me too long to realize that the gradual mystery that’s unfolding in future chapters would be ruined by what’s revealed in this guy’s “close encounter.” So I could either have him just conveniently not think about an encounter that changed his whole worldview, or decide it didn’t happen to him after all. And I didn’t want to do either of those.

Then it occurred to me to fall back on a(n albeit rather tired) storytelling device that could make it so the close encounter happened, but he doesn’t have to think about it in the chapter: amnesia!!1!1 Which sounds lame, but then I realized that was what most likely would have happened to him. He had this amazing experience, but see, there’s this faction of characters who I’ve already decided go around covering up proof of their existence. And since they have supernatural abilities, they can cloak human memories. And if, as I had already written, my character runs into one of these guys towards the end of his close encounter, that is most likely what the guy would have done to him anyway.

So the problem I angsted over for a year during planning/outlining was solved in a day because I actually started writing the damned thing. It’s like I’m always saying: You can outline ahead of time until the cows come home, but when you start writing? It all changes. Your story becomes the story it was meant to be.

And now I can have my character gradually “remember” his experience, providing Yet More Clues to the Mystery.

4 thoughts on “Original fiction project – week of 08/28/2011

  1. In my case, it has to be someone I really trust, because I want to feel “safe” about making the mistakes and false starts you always make in a first draft.
    And she’s not there for constructive criticism, only cheerleading, but what’s helping me is seeing where she gets confused or what her speculations or assumptions are, which helps guide how I should write things going forward.

  2. even the cheerleading helps. like you said if she’s confused about a passage it’s one for you to look over.
    i’m better off with near strangers since i’m comfortable that they’re not taking it easy on me because readers won’t

  3. I really need support through the first draft to keep my enthusiasm up until a story emerges. Constructive criticism can come later when I try to take all that blither and turn it into a real story. But that end-reader-level quality I think is a little too perfectionist as a goal for the first draft.

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