Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The More You Know

Hey, remember those cheesy self-help public announcements NBC used to do on Saturday mornings with the soft music and rainbow? Some star would talk to you about self-image or whatever and the tagline was “The More You Know?” Are they still doing those? I also heard a rumor that Saturday morning cartoons don’t even exist anymore. Thanks a lot, Saved by the Bell.

Anyway, I had one of those learning moments about writing where I realized “Boy, the more I know about this, the more I learn how much I don’t know.” The longer I spend searching for things to fix in this draft, the more holes I discover. This is a good thing, I tell myself. The last thing I want to do is try to write a book thinking I know it all. I realize that I do not; but I still continue to amaze myself by learning exactly how much I don’t know.

How about an example? I realized that my character doesn’t really change in the end! How dare she! There is a nice climax, a payoff for the reader, and a decent resolution. But this stuff happens to her. It’s not quite deus ex machina; the climax has been set up pretty decently, following a series of events leading it up to be believable. But Sadie isn’t the one calling the shots in the climax. She should be.

The climax is the place in the story where something’s gotta give; something absolutely has to happen to change the course of events. My character is backed into a corner, and someone has to make a move.

But what I realize is that Sadie has to be the one to make that move. She should be the one to affect change, not someone else. And the choice she makes should be evident of how she’s changed as a character since she embarked on this journey at the beginning of the story.

This all seems obvious as I write it now. I’ve read it in countless writing books, heard it in plenty of workshops. But I didn’t know it was missing from this book until I sat around and stared at my story, going over and over it in my mind.

Does this mean the climax of my story is going to change drastically? No, the end result will be pretty similar. There are only a few options on how the story can end (at least without getting aliens involved).

What I need to do now is figure out how Sadie will change in the end. This is a very big question. It ties into the one I’ve nailed down recently of What does Sadie want? But I’m still fuzzy on the Why does she want it? I have to spend more time with her figuring out her motivation.

To learn more about Sadie, I have to write more scenes for her and see what she does. Then once I know more about her, I can decide (or she will show me, really) how she’s changing or where she needs to change and why. Then I can decide which option for my climax would fit her actions, and go on from there.

And then, hopefully, when Sadie is backed into the corner, she’s going to be the one calling the shots and we’ll all understand why she makes the choice she does.

1 comment:

  1. Lisa,
    I loved the "without aliens getting involved", or time travel, you forgot time travel....and there's always the evil doppleganger...those can be fun.

    If you have Sadie's VOICE and you can close your eyes and talk to her and you KNOW what happened to her at her seventh birthday party...she'll take you to where you need to go.
    It might just be a matter of getting out of your own way and letting the story flow and THEN going back and editing it.
    I find that when I type the words "the end" sometimes I've just begun. so cool.
    Great post.
    Karen :)