Monday, September 7, 2009

Taking the Harder Route

I had an interesting time working on my novel over this long weekend. I am now well beyond the beginning where I had to find new ways to cover what I had lost when I moved the beginning of the story forward by six months.

Now a lot of what I am doing is getting rid of speaker labels that are built with adverbs, such as “she said sadly” and replacing them with some form of action that shows how she feels instead of simply telling the reader she is sad (e.g., “she sniffed and wiped her eyes). Much of the dialog in those chapters was already quite satisfactory; I just have to polish up the “speaker attributions.”

Another thing I’ve been working on is getting more “deep point of view” (POV) into the story. Here again it is usually a matter of showing rather than telling. Instead of saying “she wondered if he would come again,” you simply write, “Would he come again?” Deep POV takes the reader more inside the mind and heart of the character, which is good. It took me a some time to catch on to how deep POV worked, but I’m getting the hang of it, and it can be fun to do.

So I was tootling along making progress when I came upon a block of chapters that stopped me in my tracks. Four of the nine of them need to be almost completely rewritten. I had known a couple of those chapters were coming because I remembered them well, but I hadn’t known how many.

Why do they need so much rewriting? Once again it is the issue of showing vs. telling. Those chapters were written in the old style of a narrator telling the story to the reader rather than showing the story happening. In some ways, it is a lazy way to write. It is harder to show things happening and to bring your reader into the heart of your characters as they are living out a scene than it is to simply tell the reader what happened.

Most of these chapters were summaries of action-type things—friends helping someone move, cleaning up the house, then planning a work marathon over Labor Day weekend (really—I didn’t make it up for this weekend; it was written many years ago like the rest of it). Most of those will not be difficult to turn into “showing” accounts, except that I don’t want to blow them out of proportion to how important they are to the story.

One of them, however, is not action based. It was life reflections of an important but minor character who is not and should not be a “point of view” person. (A point of view person is someone in the story through whose eyes you let the reader experience the story—I’ve talked about that before.) I already have a max of POV characters, so I couldn’t make him into one even if his part had been actions rather than reflections. Because it is reflection, that one has been a real challenge to my creative thinking ability, but I now have a plan sketched out that I believe will help me win eventually. How?

You’ll have to read Tangled Strands someday and find out .

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