I’m working through a hard part at the moment, the end of a set of scenes that dragged me down for almost two months back in December and January. I’m cutting a lot of fumbling around as my characters try to figure out what to do.
I also cut a vast amount of words that amounted to a major secondary character telling me how much she hated the role she’d been placed in. I remember being surprised by her attitude when I wrote it, and upon getting to it in the revision… well, it’s dull. The end of the previous scene serves as a great place to end a ‘part 1’ of the story– it’s the end of the first act for the entire trilogy and almost exactly halfway through the novel– and this character’s scene represents an almost seamless flow between one scene and the next. But really, it’s dull. She goes places and talks to people she’s not very connected to, and feels sorry for herself. So, I cut it. I don’t think it accomplished anything. I may turn a previous scene from her PoV into one from the PoV of another character present, because it would be easy, and remove her PoV entirely from this novel. Her personal plot doesn’t really kick in until the second book, anyhow. I think there’s one more scene from her PoV, and it also consists of her observing more integral characters and brooding. I just can’t figure out what’s achieved by all the brooding. And it’s all off-script, too. It’s the result of me floundering for content, in sections I assigned…
Actually, that was apparently a bonus section I felt compelled to write that wasn’t even in the outline. So is the upcoming scene from her PoV. I wonder what I was thinking? Well, I’ve taken it into consideration that she hates her life, contrary to plan, but I think that this is also a lesson about letting characters have their head. Heck, I can’t even stay on topic in a blog post without some sort of guiding line.
I know I never even bothered to write another scene late in the novel that I DID assign, since it seemed to be entirely ‘show this third character reacting to news of the other character’s actions’. It felt like if there was no movement in it, it could be cut. What I’ve had to do a couple of times, and boy is it hard, is invent movement to pair with exposition.
I’ve also had to do a lot of updating to keep a few minor characters in line with their personalities, and keep the dialogue and expectations in line with what I eventually decided was true. Since the role of the Blood changed somewhat from beginning to end, there’s a lot of that, and I actually had to cut the end of the scene that led into the PoV I cut entirely. It featured one of my favorite characters acting incredibly out of character, yelling at my protagonist. Had to fix that and it was no longer appropriate for him to be scolding her, in any case. I’m a little worried that I’m removing sources of tension and conflict, and I’ll regret it. I’m also worried about trimming sheer wordcount, since I don’t know how many words the new scenes I’ve outlined will amount to. Sometimes I’m afraid that my story being so short means I just don’t have what it takes. My hope is that the story will feel more focused and thus be stronger but it’s incredibly hard to see the forest for the trees right now.
On a more positive note, I studied some of my favorite author last night and decided to borrow his method of providing a break between scenes and doing worldbuilding. It’s flat exposition, but I’ve decided that flat exposition from a distant third person narrator is much better than close third person exposition of a character thinking about something. It makes stuff feel stronger and closer rather than filtered through a distinct PoV. In general I’m less and less in favor of characters thinking about things. Anyhow, I think this is the first time I’ve lifted a recognizable stylistic element. I’m kind of pleased, actually. Writing-types always say writing like other people is an early part of finding your own voice, and I’ve never been able to figure out HOW to write like other people. I’m also going to keep in mind what Jenna told me about my Writing Descriptions post down yonder.
I write in close third person by default, because it echoes my observations of other people. I’ve often got a running commentary inside about what I believe somebody else is thinking. And while this is interesting to me as it happens, it turns out it doesn’t really snag me when I’m reading it. I like dialogue, I like physical manifestations of emotions, I like conflict with somebody else, all a whole lot more than reading about the highs and lows of somebody’s emotional state (described as such, even: ‘Her frustration spiked but she took a deep breath and calmed herself down’).
I remember a discussion a year or more ago about writing in fanfic vs the standard ‘good writing sense’. Somebody was complaining that JK Rowling never added any close emotional observations to her dialogue attribution (see my example above but add ‘and said’), while her favorite fanfic writers did, and she’d grown to expect and enjoy those details; they added depth to the character-interaction-focused stories that she favored. Somehow romance novels came up, with the suggestion that they actually do utilize more of the close emotional observation. I wonder if that’s true.
Anyhow, this is long enough, and I hope to get another 70 pages (or more) editted today. I think the type-in is going to take a lot longer than the weekend+ I’ve got allocated to it. So the sooner I finish trudging among the trees, the better.