This was supposed to be where I talked about this process of writing and getting the MFA. And what have I been doing? Spouting off on politics and industry gossip and whatnot. Time to get real.
Actually, things have been very real, I just haven’t blogged them. Since the first draft of the middle grade, novel I’ve been approaching the revisions with a mixture of anticipation and dread. I know it needs work, and I know a lot of the work it needs. It’s where the rubber meets the road that’s been difficult.
I have this chapter. It’s not really a chapter because it isn’t written yet, but it’s going to be a chapter. It’s a new chapter, one that I’m hoping adds a new layer of information and resonance with the main character’s understanding and growth at the end of the story. So it’s sort of important, but that’s the trick of it, because I don’t want it to read like it’s important. It needs to feel as casual to the reader as to the main character so the dots all connect up in the end.
The scene is also transitional. It bridges a gap in time that, on its own, would be fine; the gap would be accepted and the story could trundle on. The problem is that inserting the scene in this gap forces an explanation for why it’s there and not somewhere else.
Why is it there? Does it need to be there?
Well, to my thinking, yes. It has to be fairly early on because that’s when a reader will accept a certain amount of incongruity in the story. You’re still getting into the groove, still collecting information as a reader, your ideas about the character and the story are still in the gelatinous stage. If it comes any later, once you’ve got some solidity to characters and setting, the scene would stick out like a giant piece of neon in the middle of the desert saying NOTE: AUTHOR AT WORK! It needs to be up front where it can be a “Whatever” scene so that later (he hopes) it can be an “Oh, wait! Now I get it!” scene.
And it might not even work. That’s the thing. I’m dropping this in because I feel this is the best way to show (and not tell) what it is I’m trying to convey about a particular character without dramatically altering what I already have. The character in question is secondary and doesn’t require much more, but there had to be something that I could use later on to explain some things.
I hate talking about it like this. It’s like one of those great anonymous pronoun conversations you sometimes hear kids have:
-Did you hear what he said about her?
-I thought they cleared all that up before she called him.
-That’s what I thought, until she called and said he’d told her that they weren’t, you know..
-She called him?
-No, she called me and told me what he said about her that caused the whole thing to fall apart between them.
I guess its because I’m a little superstitious that once I put elements of the story out there I’m going to start hearing “You know what this reminds me of…” followed by the titles of half a dozen books that my book is like (only not as good), which will leave me feeling like I should abandon the book. I know that there are only 36 dramatic situations, and that nothing new has been written in centuries, but I need to hold onto that clear vision in my head of doing something new (or new-ish) to keep me going.
This one scene, that’s all I need. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying too hard, because I know it needs to be there. Like zen enlightenment, once I stop looking for it I’ll find it. So all I need to do is find something else to do to trick my mind into think about something else so it can relax enough to find the right solution.
I thought blogging about it would help. Foolish cheese! I’ve done nothing BUT think about it!
Back to the salt mines.