Friday, January 19, 2007

That Fractious Chapter 6

Chapters 1 through 5 went amazingly well. I predicted that I would have the rough draft of the whole novel written by the end of February. Then came Chapter 6. Folks, I started Chapter 6 a month ago. It hasn't been easy.

See, my "mom" character made a comment in Chapter 3, a totally wrong, out-of-character comment. And then the daughter-in-law responded in a ... well, in a "Waterfall" way. Not cool. Waterfall responses are much too wimpy for novel material. And this response was also an "out-of-character" thing for this particular character.

So I went on to Chapter 4 (which introduces new characters who don't interact with the Chapter 3 characters) and Chapter 5 (which addresses a completely different situation), and then Chapter 6 (where I return to the Chapter 3 characters) ... and I was stuck.

So here's what I had to do the other day: Go back to Chapter 3. Rewrite whole parts of it. Fix a few things in Chapter 4. Don't worry about Chapter 5. And get started (again) on Chapter 6.

So I wrote about 1,100 words of Chapter 6, re-read what I'd written, and thought, "No. No, this still isn't right. Some of it's right, but Main Character (MC) is taking on a characteristic that I find extremely offensive. Not that I'm against creating offensive characters, but it won't work for MC--my protagonist, for crying out loud--to be like this. MC will have faults, to be sure, but I would have a hard time accepting this one.

So I sat down today, sans word processor, and opened my old-fashioned college-ruled notebook. I asked myself some old questions: Why am I writing this? Why does this novel want to be written? What's important in this story?

So. I came up with some answers. They included some creative-writing terms, so I apologize for sounding like I'm in a fiction-writing class. But some of the books I've read lately have been more "plot-driven" than "character-driven," and my vision of my novel from the beginning has been to have it be "character-driven." And I think I was trying to force a "plot-driven" flavor to the scene. I don't know why. I really don't enjoy plot-driven stories nearly as much as character-driven.

I supposed melding the two could work, perhaps, if I were a more seasoned novel-writer, but the result was that the story became more exciting but the characters flattened right out. Not good. I want the story to be interesting enough for readers to want to keep reading, but I don't want to sacrifice the integrity of my characters in the process.

I wrote a rough outline of Chapter 6 (again), but this time I thought seriously about character, about internal conflicts, and less about "plot appeal." The characters can make the plot, if the characters are worth their salt. That's where I need to work on things.

So. I've spent the morning unraveling, then setting things up to start weaving again. I've nothing to show for it on the page, but the pages should come easier tomorrow than they've been doing for the past month.

3 comments:

  1. Just keep reminding yourself how your attention to character is SO gonna be worth it when someone options it for a movie :)

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  2. Rob: I do, I do! I do keep reminding myself! :)

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  3. Nina, thanks for reminding me of why I'm waiting to write the novel that has played inside me for so long. I can see myself going through the same process as you, many times.

    Something I do when I'm stuck in a maze of plot, character, theme, setting, etc. is write a list, beginning each line with: This is a story (or essay, or poem) about ... That list usually helps me see what I want to communicate and accomplish. Of course executing it is another thing again!

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