Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Well, Duh.

It's kind of a slog, on a day-to-day basis (I'm still a long way from the 10 pages a day I think of as "normal"), but now that I'm writing the scenes that don't belong in the final book, it's blinking obvious that this is what I've needed to do with this story for the last umpty-ump years since I stalled out on it.

The thing is, since the protagonist's had his memory fiddled with so that he thinks (erroneously) that he knows the solution to the mystery of his missing brother, and is working to cover it up, and since his brother isn't the only person missing, and since the whole story is about his uncovering the truth and confronting a reality that doesn't mesh with his memory of it, a number of vital characters can't be allowed on the stage at all, at least not until the end game. He can't have honest conversations with anybody - either he's lying or omitting information, or the other party is. Yet the off-stage choices of other people, about which he knows nothing, create the situations in which he must act, and his responses to those situations in the context of what he thinks he knows are a major monkey wrench thrown into the work of plot, counter-plot, conspiracy, and detection.

I established a long time ago that the only way I can write a plot is to write from ground-level, scene by scene, and asking myself, Okay, what does this person do now? at every juncture. I have a general outline, yes, and a direction the story is going - I can't start a book till I know how it ends - but the details of what happens, and how character A reaches point B, I can't know until I write the scene.

This method requires that everybody in the story must have agency - there are no pawns in the world in my head. Everyone does things for reasons, whether what they do is flub an assignment, plot or expose a crime, or carry a cup of coffee across the room. So I have to know all the characters to some degree or other.

And I can't know them till I get them on stage.

Since starting the scenes-to-be-excised, I've already learned that Countess Posy, pathetic as she seems to Pelin, and hapless as she often thinks she is, is a good organizer of people and data when she's not overwhelmed by her bad situation; that Colubria is an immigrant keeping her original culture's animistic religion alongside her adopted country's worship of the Triune Goddess, and doesn't see any contradiction there; that Duke Verlui, though promiscuous with women, is faithful to a particular man; and that Hirca's bluntness is at least partly a reaction to the way her anomalous social standing forces her into situations in which she does not and cannot have full participatory rights or a clear role. I always knew she and Pelin had superficially similar self-protective shells; but I didn't know what hers was about.

None of that makes sense to you, but trust me, these bits of info represent huge strides forward in under a dozen pages. Which is pretty impressive when I consider that the first glimmer of this plot and these characters occurred to me in junior high school.

This stuff takes a long time to get ripe, you have to give it the right environment, and most importantly - you have to do it the way you have to do it. Not the way that seems efficient or sensible.

People whose modes of creation are efficient and sensible need to recognize how lucky they are.

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