I think the writing daemon and I have got the flood-lights up around this black hole! It’s turned out nothing like I expected from my earlier ideas of how we’d get from this particular A to the upcoming point B, but that’s okay. At least we’re moving again.
Apparently the key to figuring all of this out was to add a plane crash. Who knew? I guess the daemon did seeing as he suggested in, but it was a revelation to me. Suddenly all the characters have reason to be running around doing things they weren’t doing before. Amazing.
You know, I wrote the title for this post and thought that’s actually a cool idea for a story! But no, I haven’t (yet) run off on another project. The black hole I’m referring to is a narrative one I fell into at the end of last week. Because there’s a gap in my story. A dark, deep hole that I’m still dangling a plumb line into to work out the depth.
It always strikes me as funny that the width of the hole can be quite small (I just need to get my character from here to there), but the depth – all the stuff you have to work out to fill in this gap – can be brain-bending!
The good thing in this case, is that I feel like I’m filling in a few further holes that were between here and the end as I go. How do I fill in holes, I hear you ask? I write out lists of questions like:
- If character z knows that the well is poisoned, then when did she find out and does she have an antidote?
- Could character p suspect z knows the well is poisoned? Could they be wrong?
Sometimes I scribble in an answer. Sometimes all the questions that follow indicate I’ve picked an answer. Sometimes they just stay as questions.
I don’t know if anyone else takes this approach, but I find it effective. It stops me from obsessing over finding answers before moving on to developing a new question and strange left-field things tend to pop up as a result. That or my brain suddenly goes “huh! that’s why we have the tame bobcat in the lake scene”.
It would be nice if my writing brain cells could put up hazard barriers or warning signs before I step into these holes, but then I guess the writing daemon and I wouldn’t be having so much fun thinking up new stuff!
Now this won’t come as a shock to anyone who’s read this blog over the years, but I am a bit of a film-fan. I’ve even mentioned before that it’s not uncommon I find books by first seeing the films based on them.
After having watched You before me a few months back and enjoyed it for a wonderful quirky protagonist and a sweet but sad romantic storyline, I thought it would be interesting to read the book. This led to my discovering they really didn’t change much between the two versions, though I liked what they pruned out for the movie.
The book though was interesting for another reason altogether.
It is a largely first person narrative with the bulk of the book in a single point of view. Where it deviates from these two things are curious. Firstly, it starts in third person. For only a bit over a thousand words of the point of view of the love interest. Then it sits in the protag’s first person for ages. Then there’s one chapter in an ancillary character’s POV, also first person. Then back to the protag for a while. Then another ancillary character. Then protag. Then another ancillary character. Finishes, finally on the protag.
Is it just me, or is that weird?
The ancillary characters are all fairly important people in the plot, but their POVs aren’t important at all. They expand on character and extend their different voices, but that’s about it. In the case of the last one – the protag’s sister – this POV change occurs at a crucial emotional and decision making moment for the protag, which I found downright jarring. The other two were harmless.
But what’s with the opening in 3rd? To me that’s really weird. Essentially it is more like a prologue without being labelled as one and, right at the start like that, you kind of forgive it.
Of course it was an interesting thing to read – a romance with an underlying social issue – after reading a literary novel that also mixed third and first. I think Hannah Kent had more justification for her choice, but it’s funny to see these kind of structures in such popular and film-convertable books.
I’m at 58K on the PAR. Happy dancing with the writing daemon has been occurring regularly since we hit 50.
Not that I know for sure, but I think that 60 will be the half way mark.
The only downside to all this volume of new words, is that my pen ran out on the train again. Thankfully I was close enough to my stop (and a newsagent) that there was no anguished cry to make my fellow passengers nervous. There are two spare pens in my bag now!
I am also about to start a new notebook, which just goes to show that this project wants to be hand written in the first instance. The original 30K I threw out was all hand written and about 80% of this draft has been. Which means the electronic draft is looking much more like a 1st draft than a draft zero and that’s nice too.
In the past two months I’ve had a similar conversation with a couple of writers I know and the topic has been “characters who do unexpected things”. It seems a lot of people are have had to break out the whip and chair, circus lion tamer style, to get their characters back in line.
Or not. If we’re honest, we sometimes have to let them wander off and do those unexpected and frustrating things, because strangely they seem to know more about their story than we do! Just to prove that our conscious minds are not as in control of things as we’d like to pretend.
Of course this isn’t limited to characters. A friend complained recently that she’d put a ring in a story, just so a character would have something to fiddle with in a scene, and now the ring is looking for its own series! Oh yeah, it happens.
My characters have been doing a bit of this in the PAR (mostly they’ve been a bit more amorous than expected), but they had been pretty well behaved until yesterday. Then it turned out one of them had been married previously. This I did not know! But I’ve forgiven them for up-ending a subplot. Well, mostly forgiven…still harbouring a little resentment.
Grammar jokes and Star Wars… perfect.
Another beauty from xkcd
It’s been a slow writing year for me in 2016. Most of the past twelve months were spent editing Blurty and then the first of my novellas. So it was probably a lot more productive than I’m giving it credit for, but editing always feels a bit like running on the spot to me.
Then I felt the call of the PAR and decided to blank-page a new draft.
Obviously the good ol’ writing daemon thought this was super fun, because I’m now going to finish the year with about 40K new words! There has been happy-dancing.
What’s more… I’m happy with these new words. They feel solid and very second draftish.
So, a good finish to the year.