Friday, November 16, 2012

Deja Vu

One of the things about writing that I keep forgetting is this: if you forget any of the basic lessons you learn, you'll relearn them once you start writing again. Case in point: I was struggling with several scenes in Book 4 the other day. What I should have done (and eventually did) was sit down and figure out the issues facing each character and how they would fit into the plot. The plot also needed a little foreshadowing which would give the characters something to react to.

I say this because I had no action or drama for the characters at the time. So what I did was let the characters react or overreact to see where that would take me. This is a perfect fine technique and I've used to get passed blocks in stories. Sometimes it works well and you end up learning things about your characters you never knew.

But the other day, it wasn't working. The characters were just squabbling among themselves -- much like a modern reality show -- so I deleted all that and started over by taking the troublesome scenes in hand and thinking through what I needed to include and where this book was going.

You see, writing fiction is all about including the relevant things and eliminating the rest. So if the characters are going to face the dreaded Jabberwock, then one thing you can do before that fateful scene is have the characters talk about the awesome creature, its strengths, its weaknesses, and strategies for overcoming it. This gives you something to write about and is relevant since it orients the reader -- especially those who have no idea what a Jabberwock is.

So in my case, knowing what I am planning for the characters, I decided to start preparing them for the challenges ahead of them since the events I am planning for are several days in their future. This is a simple enough thing to do. They know, for example, that thieves live in the forest that they are traveling alongside. And the reason they are traveling alongside it and not through is because of the thieves. So they meet a peddler on the road and ask if he encountered the thieves. As they get closer to the point where they will meet the thieves, they start to see things moving in the forest. Is that a wild animal -- there are wolves about too -- or scout from the band of thieves?

Either way, this adds tension and things for the characters to talk about as they move toward their fateful encounter. And I had to remember all this (again) and rewrite, revise, and arrange the characters and the scenes leading up to these events so that when the reader finally sees the story they see nothing out of place.

And now that I've done this, ideas for the story are starting to come. Which is good because I hate to work on a story without some idea of what's next. So I'm going to keep working the novel.

Hope you are continuing to write too.

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