Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Book Two Posts, Episode 10: Fixing Broken Chapters

As I've pointed out in previous blogs, I've been having issues with one of my plot lines. For one thing, I just didn't enjoy reading Chapter Eight at all. It was almost painful to read, and I wasn't sure why. When I would reread what I had written to get back into the flow and reached Chapter Eight, I felt like, "Oh, that chapter. Not again." I just hated it for some reason.

When I am dealing with a block like that, usually there is a logical reason, but I can't always discern what it is. In one book, I became extremely bored on certain chapters. Finally, I decided that it was time to "re-imagine" those chapters. Unable to decide what was the problem, I started from scratch on that plot line.

First: I asked myself what this plot line was about. What was the summary of events for that plot line throughout the novel, and how did it tie into the overall story?

Second: I asked myself what had to happen in that particular scene that I was working on. I made a list of things that this scene needed to accomplish, such as, we learn more of the background on X, and multiple reasons why Y is sad are revealed. I also asked myself if Y had to be the one telling that bit of the story. Why did Y have to tell that story, and why couldn't A or B tell the story? What advantage did Y have as a storyteller? Consider all possibilities. When drafting, we often get married to our first ideas. The first idea may be the best, or it's just a stepping stone to a better idea.

Third: Now that I knew what I had to do, I made a short outline of the series of events in that scene.

Fourth: As I rewrote the scene, I added more observations of the five senses. How did something smell, feel, or sound? Adding the senses made it more compelling. I also added more humor and description. Sometimes, in writing, we're only trying to map out the events, but we aren't really being descriptive. We get focused on momentum, and we don't want something petty like description to get in the way. The problem with that is that description is a major aspect of reading and writing. A person could argue that, in many cases, description is tied to character and character development, because what the character notices tells you something about that character. Some of my favorite passages to read have description in them. When I read a book where an author has eliminated most description, it feels incomplete like the author only wrote the framework of the novel. When you skip description, your writing and your characters feel very generic.

In working on Chapter Eight, I asked myself whose story this was. Why did it have to be that person's story in this scene? Why couldn't the other person tell the story. Why did the person telling the story come off as being unlikable? I needed this person to be likable.

For the sake of the experiment, I imagined the scene from the other person's POV. In doing so, something magical happened. When writing as the other character, suddenly the stakes became important, and they went way, way up. The chapter no long felt like, "Insert boring stuff here." In the rewrite of Chapter Eight, I discovered more about the second character telling it. I discovered why the first character was important and was able to introduce another facet of their story. In the end, I decided that the one reason the first character had to tell the story could be moved to a later part in the book. In doing so, the stuff that the first character knew or thought that person knew, would become a mystery. Now, rather than having a chapter that says, "Oh, yeah, and X has a new skill," I was able to add more drama and mystery to that chapter.

I have finished the rewrite of Chapter Eight. Now I have at least two more chapters to complete since I broke up those sections. When I get those done, I'll be ready to continue editing what I've already written.

Sometimes the blocks have to do with the story being told better from a different angle. I have also learned that sometimes, the problem has to do with logic. I don't realize that I've made these events happen when something about it didn't make sense. Sometimes, it's from not being descriptive enough.

At this point, I'm over 104K words, but there is the original chapter that will get eliminated when I've finished this second. So that word count will go down, at least until I write the later chapters in the book where I overly summarized on the first draft.

I'm happy with the way the chapter played out. Sure, it may get edited more later, but I'm satisfied with the change in POV. We're making headway!


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