Thursday, January 20, 2011

Necessary Rearrangements

At scene seventeen the story began to crystallize into full form, the result of taking a weekend away from the computer to reflect on the issues facing the protagonist.  I wanted to think hard about how he would choose to overcome his difficulties.  At this point I had become very familiar with my character and understood the influences that would affect any decision he had to make.  This had to be his story, told from his point of view.  Just the same, it had to be told in a way that would interest a reader.

To make the story more dynamic yet shorten the time horizon I decided to highlight the key time period in which his most critical decision would be forced on him and how/why he would react to form the epiphany.  With this in mind I sketched out seven blocks of a meta-story arc describing this critical block of time and identified what actions, facts, and problems each should contain. Only three of these were "new" material while the rest were repurposed from what I'd already done.  For each of the new ones I quickly wrote a brief outline, determined their sequence, and wrote an opening line. 

When I returned to the computer I added the new blocks to my corkboard of scenes and began deciding where they should fit into the flow of what I'd already written.  My idea at this point was to have each meta-story arc followed by a related flashback. These latter pieces might or might not be chronologically disbursed as the story evolves for the reader, but that is a decision I chose not to make at this time.

My new concept is to have the meta-arc progress by hours, while the flashbacks would cover years, weeks, or days at a time.  I began the necessary rearrangement, which indicated where I would need brief transitory material, I also combined the new material into previously written drafts, split some existing scenes, and rearranged the overall order to give me a rough arc-sub-arc structure to work with. If this sound confusing that it because it is a messy process that requires one to know the material intimately and work with crossed fingers so you don't accidentally misplace something more than a few times.

To break the intense concentration the rearrangement required I am drafting some of the unfinished scenes, tagging others for later inclusions, and making notes on some details I realize are missing.  With each part completed I feel more confident that I can pull this off.

Once I finish writing and editing all of the scenes to an acceptable level, fill in the things I made notes on, and add missing material I thought of too late to include in the first draft, I will atomize the draft into little bits of action or dialogue that could stand apart from their original placement.  This will give me about forty small chunks of narrative and dialogue to play with.  That done, I will begin the arduous process of weaving these disparate elements into the tapestry of the story and complete my first draft.   That done, the next step will be to smooth out the rough spots, identify discrepancies, and produce something I can turn into a complete second draft.

There is considerable work ahead but at this point I can finally see the end of this project.

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